Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year--Looking Backward


1999-2009 Part One



Are you where you thought you would be 10 years ago? In 1999, when you were looking towards Y2K and the end of civilization as we know it…what else was on your mind? Where were you then…where are you now?

I just had a interesting thing happen to me, in this moment. As I was writing this, I wrote, “On December 31, 1999, I was in my house in Broomfield Colorado.” This motivated me to do a google map search to see if I could find it. I wasn’t positive about the address, so I started high and then tracked the main road to my house.

I am so nostalgic right now. As I looked at those street names, saw the parks my kids played at, recognized intersections and looked at the place my church was…I got teary eyed. I still am. I am flooded with memories of people and events, both good and bad. I was going to write a blog about focusing on the future, and instead I am in a high speed video recapture of my past. So…lets follow this!

Wow. How often do we actually stop and think about what has happened in our lives that has brought us to where we are? I don’t mean the ‘blame-game’ where we identify all of the bad people in our lives and say that our sinful response is their fault. No, the fact is, sinners respond sinfully to sin. My response is always my fault. Jesus has freed me to respond in a way that honors Him, if I truly want to. (oops, sidebar).

What I mean is how often do we actually take the time to evaluate what has happened in our lives, and then what we learned or could have learned from it. As I look at the almost 8 years that I invested my life in Broomfield, Colorado, I am overwhelmed with how I was blessed and how God changed me.

I have an assignment for you. I will have another one probably tomorrow. This is something that I have done on two different occasions in my life, and I really believe it is beneficial.

Draw a number line of your life on a piece of paper, starting at birth and ending right now. Above the line, write the name at the appropriate age of significant people in your life. Don’t overthink this…just look at it and write down immediately who it is that comes to mind.

Then, below the number line, write down at the age that it happened, significant events. Once more, don’t overthink it. When you look at age 10 and remember the car wreck, just write it down. In both cases, write the good and the bad.

That was easy, now comes the contemplative part. Start with the events on another piece of paper.

Event: When I was a teenager, _______________ happened.

My Response: Think about what you did when this happened and write it down.

How God Used This: Once more…this is the thinking stage that has the benefit of hindsight.

How God Could Have Used This: How could you have responded differently.

How This Event Changed My Life: What difference did it make? It was significant enough to remember…why?


Now do the same thing with people.



When I finished this the first time, I actually had about 20 pages of single spaced typing. It was a very rough autobiography, and extremely insightful into my personality and character development. It also allowed me to identify root issues in my life that needed to be carried to Calvary and left there.

The second time, I focused more on another decade, beginning where I had left off the first paper. I had the same response.

The Bible is not a book of prophecy, although there is some in that—and most of them have been fulfilled. It is a book of history. It relates how God wove His Story into the Story of Humanity and then what He can do in our lives today. It is looking at what God has done, and then hearing from Him about what He is doing.

This is what this exercise can do for you, minus the inspired word of God part. It will let you see how God has sovereignly worked in the past, and how He can work right now.

Great way to start the new year.
Talk to you tomorrow I hope,

Joe

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas


This blog is actually stolen from my son, Jacob. He posted it to his facebook, and without permission I am putting it here. Thanks Jake!

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

"Happy Holidays!" said the cashier from behind the counter of the clothing store as I left, merchandise in hand. For some reason I decided to go back and ask why not just say "Merry Christmas".
"Management says not to say 'Merry Christmas' because we might offend someone." he replied, then turned to help the next customer and left it at that. I stood there for a few minutes just thinking about that.

The thought that was going through my head wasn't 'How can we offend someone by saying "Merry Christmas" ', it was "Why is it that only Christmas offends people?".

Why is that you can walk around wishing anyone and everyone a Happy Hanukkah and no one cares, but 'Merry Christmas' gets some people mad? I mean, if you say 'Happy Hanukkah' to someone they CAN'T get upset because then they're offending you and your traditions; but saying 'Merry Christmas' doesn't count? Why?

I believe it's the first part of the word that people are offended at. The part that they've x-ed out. Christ. I think that everyone knows that Christmas is different than other holidays such as Arbor Day, and it makes them second guess themselves and their beliefs.
The world has built so much on what it can see that the thought of someone else 'Out There' who can take it all away scares them; but they see the 'someone else' as someone who He's not.
It's a reverse fear though.

Kids are all afraid of the dark, in every country and continent of the world; so why is it that adults are all afraid of the Light?

The thing that drives most people to run is the same thing that draws us near. Seen in different light, the same thing can look drastically different.

As Christians, we're like lamps for Jesus. The thing is though that if it's dark and the lamp isn't plugged in all you see is a shadow of what it is and the lamp suddenly turns into something obscure, changed, altered into a twisted reality of the same thing. As soon as the lamp is plugged in and turns on though everything is clear, what it is is obvious as well as its purpose and role, and the path of life is easier to walk for everyone within it's glow.

Have we as Christians been turned off or unplugged from God? Does the world see us as that shadow, that twisted reality?

It's our job as lamps not to change what people see, but their perspective of it.
What was once the most terrifying of all creatures in the dark is suddenly simply a sweater on a chair when the light is on. Gods light shows things and people for what they really are, not what is generally seen and that scares people because it shows that they need to be forgiven.
This Christ-x we need to remain plugged in and turned on to the fullest extent of what we can, to shine for God and be a light unto the world.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas For Everyone

I want to finish the story that I started last time, about the shepherds in the field. I am calling this story, “Any Moment” as a whole, because it reveals that God is always working, and that at any moment in your life you may be invited to become part of what He is doing.

This section is Christmas for Everyone. I almost called it the Mission Of Christmas, but coming from a missionary, that seemed cheesy. Let’s read.

(Luk 2:8) In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

(Luk 2:9) And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

Read http://joe-holman.blogspot.com/2009/12/christmas-insights-6.html to get the story and feel of this moment. Now, look at what is said.

(Luk 2:10) But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

“Do not be afraid.” You don’t need to be afraid of this incredible, supernatural event that you are experiencing. This intersection of the invisible with the visible, of the supernatural with the natural, of the normal with the incredible…it is going to be a part of life.

You don’t need to be afraid. You are looking at me. Now listen to the message. I have your attention so that I can tell you something. I am nothing more than a big headline in the newspaper, a trailer to a movie, a cover to a book. My purpose is to point you to the message.

I bring you good news. Don’t we need good news? How often do you hear good news? War. Famine. Drought. Flood. Disaster. Divorce. Death. Illness. Sorrow. Sadness. Hurt. Murder. Theft. That is our news. It is what we hear and see everyday. It is what is talked about. Put yourself in the shepherd’s sandals. Their lives were harsh. Poverty, hunger, and fear were the norm. They were a defeated group in a conquered nation. They were the bottom of the food chain. They had nothing. Good news! Yes!

But notice something before we go on. “I bring you good news of great joy.” This wording is a phrase that basically means uncontainable. The other day, Denise cooked mashed potatoes. When I was helping her clean up, I eyed the amount of potatoes and then a container to put them in. I misjudged and sssqqquuuiiissshhhshsh ssppspslllattttt, the potatoes oozed out onto the counter when I put on the lid. (no problem, I cleaned them up with my finger). This is the idea in this verse. Squished potatoes…you can’t contain this joy in your little life. You may try to put a lid on it, but when the reality of what is happening hits you, the lid will pop off under pressure and others can taste the reality of the truth.

“I bring you good news of great joy….” Don’t miss this missionary verse. Missions began with the fall and is the heart of God. The very first declaration of the birth of Christ is a mission verse. Look at it.

“I bring you good news of great joy, WHICH WILL BE FOR ALL PEOPLE.”

Do you see that? Before the shepherds even knew what the news was, they were told that it was for everyone.

If there is a truth that we need to grab ahold of and live out in our lives it is this.

GOD DOES NOT BLESS US SO THAT WE WILL BE BLESSED.
HE BLESSES US SO THAT WE WILL BE A BLESSING.

God does not give you financial blessings so that you will merely have more money. He gives you financial blessings so that you can have and give money.

He does not give you spiritual gifts so that you are gifted. He gives you gifts to give to the body of Christ.

He does not give you anything so that you will have more of it than someone else. He gives you what you have so that you can be used by Him in the lives of other people. Yes you have it. That is the blessed part. Then you share some of it with others..that is the blessing part.

God was about to tell the shepherds the single most incredible truth of all creation. He prepared them by letting them know that this wasn’t a secret, it was an announcement. You see, there is no “Secret Of Living The Victorious Life”. It is a proclamation, not an encryption.

This truth is “will be for all people.”

It is for the addict and the beggar. It is for the gang banger and the prostitute. It is for the Republican and the Democrat. It is for the rich and the poor. It is for the white, black, yellow, red, and brown person. It is for the capitalist and the communist. It is for the upper class and the no class.

It is for everyone…not just you.

If you are not sharing God’s truth with others, then you really don’t understand it yourself.

(Luk 2:11) for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

What is the truth? “there has been born for you a Savior”. The Savior is for you, because you NEED a Savior. God did not send His Son for the abstract, out there world…He sent Him for YOU (and all the other yous in the world). YOUR Savior has been born.

He is Christ the Lord. God has sent His Son…the Lord, into the world to save you.

That is what Christmas is about. Recognizing our need for a Savior and accepting God’s gift of His Son. Then, helping others do the same thing.

God Himself stepped into time so that we could experience eternity.
God Himself became sin, so that we could have His righteousness.
God Himself came to us, so that we could come to Him.

This incredible truth is for YOU and ALL PEOPLE.

Merry Christmas!

Joe

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Politically Correct Holiday Or Not Greeting

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great.

Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tag Your It Continues

After three days of advertising in the newspaper that my tags were stolen, I went back the DMV and showed them the tear sheets from the classifieds.

The man looked at them, then gave me a piece of paper. I have to now take the three days of classifieds and the piece of paper to another office downtown where they will look at the three days and the piece of paper and tell me to come back in a couple of weeks to get new plates.

For the life of me, I do not understand why the first guy had to look at the three days before telling me to go to the other place so that they can look at the three days....the saga continues.

Leia Mais…

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Insights 6

Do Not Be Afraid

As we continue looking at the Christmas story, today I want to take a look at what happened to the shepherds. This will be at least two parts, that as a whole I call “Any Moment”. I am calling this “Any Moment”, because what happened to the shepherds in this one moment not only changed their lives and probably their eternities, was so significant that it has been recorded in the Bible forever.

Why “Any Moment”? Well, I was thinking about this from the perspective of the shepherds. This night which we now call Christmas, was really just another day at the office for them. There was nothing unusual going on at all. The hype of the census was over, and although Bethlehem was still crowded, the excitement of change had passed. They were just ordinary people doing an ordinary job on an ordinary day. They had no idea that God was writing His Story and that He was about to incorporate them into it.

That is how I think it is for all of us. God is telling His Story to all creation. It is not a historical narrative, it is a present experience. It did not just happen, it is happening and will happen. And the super cool, really neat, incredible thing is that the story of God includes you and me! Are you ready?

Do you believe, and/or expect God to use you?

If God did call you right now, how would you respond?

Let’s look at the story.

(Luk 2:8) In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

This is the ordinary part of the story. They were just like me and you. They were living their lives horizontally—doing all that needed to be done in order to provide for their families. Maybe they had dreams of expanding their flocks, or of having their own, or of even someday starting something totally different. These were men and boys living life.

(Luk 2:9) And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

Put yourself in their shoes/sandals/barefeet. They are in the fields on an ordinary night, chatting about life, telling jokes, or just thinking. Then, see that phrase, suddenly stood? That is a phrase that indicates immediately, instantaneously, BAM!

What would you do if you were staring off in space and a man just popped in front of you? He did not walk up. He did not approach. He was just there! But this was more than a man. It was an angel…see the next part. The glory of the Lord shone around them. We know from Scripture that the glory of the Lord is brighter than the noonday sun.

Okay, so here is what happened. They are in the dark meadow just doing their job, and this dude pops into existence. In this exact moment, a light brighter than the sun surrounds them. If you have ever had an opportunity to literally be in the spotlight, you may have a little understanding of this. I have been on stage with spotlights on me, and you truly cannot see anything past the light. It is overwhelmingly bright. Imagine taking all of the brightness of the sun, and condensing it to a 25’ diameter circle. They were surrounded in supernatural and supernaturally bright light.

So, their response? They were terribly frightened. Duhr. I would have wet my pants.

What just happened was that the spiritual which had been there all the time suddenly invaded their quasi reality. They were able to see both what they had experienced, and the reality that was invisible. They could not handle it.

(Luk 2:10) But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

I love that. Do not be afraid.

Yet, you know something?
Although you and I will never experience this type of supernatural event—I think that if we are honest with each other, deep inside we have this fear of God’s will. We think that if we truly, completely, and totally released who we are to the will of God…He may just ruin our lives. I mean, what if He called you to be a missionary?
I believe that one of the impacts of sin in the world is that we have lost our trust…not our faith, but our trust in God. We fear His will. This is the essence of sin, when we think that our will for our lives is better than God’s will for our lives. Isn’t this what the devil was trying to do in the garden as Jesus was praying? Jesus spoke and said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Why did He say that? Was it because the desire of Jesus was contrary to the desire of the Father? Absolutely not! Jesus had said that His meat was to do the will of the Father. He saw what the Father was doing and did it. His entire life was simply following the will of the Father.

I think that as Jesus was contemplating things, He was honest. There were two courses that could be followed. One would result in His death, the other would avoid the cross. Jesus, as a man, verbalized: “Father, Your will for my life is the best thing that I could ever do, even if Your will for my life is my death.”

That is trust.

Let’s stop here with two things: My story and a question.

Denise and I live on the mission field. Some of you have heard our story, some have not. Here is what happened. I was pastoring one of the greatest churches in America (my opinion). One Sunday morning during a sermon, I asked the following question:

“If you told God, ‘Lord, you can do anything you want to in my life, there is no out of bounds’, what would happen in your life?”

In this moment, I clearly heard the Holy Spirit say, “Go to the mission field.”

Now I was not preaching a missions sermon. It was on faith. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the great commission or world evangelism. It was about allowing God to control your life. But here it was, “Missions”. For the rest of the message, the Holy Spirit kept saying, “Missions” to me.

On the way home, I told Denise and she instantly agreed that God had been speaking and showed me something she had written down two weeks earlier that totally confirmed it.

God was saying, “My will is for you to leave everything that you have, everyone that you know, and all that you have dreamed of, and go to a place you haven’t been to do things you haven’t learned with people that you haven’t met.”

I was afraid. Why? Why in heaven or earth would I be afraid of God’s will? Why would I be afraid of the One Who gave His life for me? Why be afraid of my Creator Who loves me? Why was I afraid?

His will was great as long as it did not challenge or truly change me. I was comfortable and happy. I was also capable. Now, I was being asked to do something outside of my ability. It was going to have to be God and not me.

I realized that my faith was in God, my trust was in me. I had to give God everything and allow His perfect love to case out my fear.

End result: In May I will have been on the mission field for three years. It has been the most challenging…and the most rewarding, most enjoyable time of my life. I have grown more in Jesus in the last three years than maybe all of my life combined till now. This would have never happened had we not trusted His will…in reality, Him.

The bottom line is this: God’s will is the best thing that I could ever do! Even if His will for my life meant to die.

That is my testimony, now my question.

I am sure that if you read my blog, you probably have placed your faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
You believe in God.

Do you trust Him?


With your money? Children? Marriage? Ministry? Life? Dreams?

Do not be afraid!

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 12, 2009

English Sours

Leia Mais…

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tag Your It


My license plates were stolen off of my car last week. I don't know when or where it happened. I have a car alarm that is motion sensitive, so whoever did it was a Mission Impossible Agent. However, I have to replace my tags.


So, after a lawyer is consulted and the DMV is talked to, forms are filled out and notarized, I head to a special office of the DMV. It seems that this happens enough to warrant a different office.



I am taken to the office by a Bolivian friend, otherwise I would have never found it. It is on the outskirts of the city, on the side of the Mountain, and hidden behind a cul-de-sac. As there are no street signs in Bolivia, if you don't know where this police station is, you ain't gonna go there.


We get to the station with the documents we were told we needed, only to find out we needed more. No problem, it is 10:45 and I live 15 minutes away, I will be back at 11:15 with the docs. I am told that I cannot come back because they go to lunch at noon. "But Sir, I will be back at 11:15,"I insisted. "No. Come back at 2:00." was his stern reply.



So, at 2:00 I go back to the Police Station with my documents and my manilla folder. (You have to provide your own folders in Government offices.). The officer informs me that my folder is too dirty, so I have to purchase another one. I also have to purchase a particular form that is only sold there in his office, but the person that sells the form doesn't come back to work after lunch until 3:00. AAAGGGGHHHH. He knew I would have to wait an hour...AAAGGGHHH.


So, when the young boy (probably 11) comes back from lunch at 3:15, I buy the folder and form. I am then told that I have to buy another form that a man sitting on the couch has in his backpack. This mysterious form cost $7 and was never used.

After all forms are filled out, I have to go to the Newspaper office and fill out a classified saying that my plates were stolen. This ad has to run for three days. So, then next Wednesday I will take three days worth of classifieds to the DMV. "Will I get my new plates then"? I asked the officer. "No, of course not." was his reply. Stay tuned....

Life goes on.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sending Us Presents--My Favorite Subject

Did you watch our video from last Christmas?

The two biggest presents were pop tarts and Dr. Pepper. When we first moved here, both of these were non-existent. Now they are here, but you have to take out a second mortgage to buy them (pop tarts are about $8/box).

Many people have asked us about sending Christmas presents to us. Here is the basic rule of thumb. We live in a city, so we can buy all of our necessities and many other luxuries (like pop tarts). Denise has an article on her blog about La Cancha (and I have a video of a part of it--meat), and you can see in that article that pretty much everything is available to us except specialty items from the U.S. It is just a matter of paying for it. So, if you are wanting to give us a Christmas present, and my children are hoping that you do :), the best way to do this is this: If the present(s) can fit in an envelope from the Post Office and is below 4 lbs., then it is okay to send. Denise has written about this a couple of times in her blogs:

http://theholmansinbolivia.blogspot.com/2007/07/about-getting-packages.html. and

http://theholmansinbolivia.blogspot.com/2007/09/more-about-sending-packaging.html

I also wrote something funny about our first time getting packages--a must read if you have not ever read it: (we are much better at this now): http://joe-holman.blogspot.com/2007/12/getting-our-maila-cultural-experience.html

If you are wanting something larger or heavier, it is best to give money to us personally. This money is not tax deductible. Paul and Darlene Watson, Denise's parents, manage our bank account (all $50.02) in the States, and you can send the money to them. They can tell us how much and if you want it to be anonymous they will protect your name, if not they tell us who. Their mailing address is:

Paul Watson
945 Jefferson Avenue
Charles Town WV 25414.

As I said, this money is not tax deductible because it is not to our ministry, it is to us. However this means that we can use it however we desire, like buying Christmas presents. Packages are a lot more fun, especially for the kids, but in most cases it would probably be a little more practical to give us the money to purchase the gifts here in Bolivia.

Money given to our ministry is strickly for ministry uses. Having said that, if you would like to donate to our ministry, here is a link to show you how. http://holmanfamily.org/8.html.

Whichever...THANK YOU in advance!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Harvest

Earlier this year, I sent an email to some of my friends about the difference between our Thanksgiving Dinner last year and this year. How many people have left the field and/or died. That got us to thinking, so over dinner we made a list.

In the 2 1/2 years that we have been here, we have known one person who was murdered, two that committed suicide, and two orphans that died of illness.

In the same time period.the number of full time missionaries (including kids) that have left the field that we know (we define know as had a relationship with, ate with, called friends), not just know of...are you sitting down? We can count 53 missionaries that have returned to their home country, and 5 more that are returning in 2010. How many full time missionaries have come to Bolivia in that same time frame that we know? Less than 10.

Why does this happen?

There are bad reasons...no money, life is too hard, conflicts in ministry, cultural problems, family stress, and fear just to name a few.

There are also good reasons such as a change in ministry or calling.

However, I just keep coming back to God’s Word:

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to that Lord of the Harvest that He would send forth workers into His field.”

Many of you have already joined us in our calling and support us through prayers and finances. Join us in prayerful agreement to this as well. Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send workers to Bolivia.

Leia Mais…

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Rest Of The Story---The Burgular


I had several people ask for the rest of the story from my Insights on Mary. Here is the scoop.

I did not have a gun, but I did have hunting arrows. These are razor tips that go on the end of your arrow, like the photo. They are real razors, and bad news. I ran to my bedroom (I don't know why I did not run from the house. Like those idiots in the scary movies...I stayed in the house). I got an arrow and put a hunting tip on it. I then told the bad guy that I was armed and coming for him. I went one room at a time, turning on the lights and opening all the closets until I got to the room that I had seen him run into. I was honestly giving him time to leave...hopefully.

He ran out the back door. I did not chase him. (at least I was that smart).

Now looking back at this event. I was SO STUPID. Mr. Boy Wonder with the arrow. "Hey, I got an idea, lets take on a burgular in a fight to the death in the living room." Duhr.

Praise God that He loves stupid people.

Leia Mais…

Christmas Insights 5


Meeting Our Needs Before We Knew We Had Them

Christmas time is when we open our Bibles and look at one of the most incredible stories again. I hope that this year, my blog is helping some of you experience what I am experiencing and not just looking, but learning and gleaning new insights from this familiar story.

Last time, we looked at the wise men, and at how God leads those who want to follow. Let’s stay with that story for one more kinda cool insight. I want to begin at the point where the wise men see the star and are led to Jesus.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

(Mat 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

(Mat 2:11) After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Look at the gifts. I was once told that these signified the roles of Christ—although I cannot verify if that is true. However, it does sound neat. Anyway, these guys knew that they were going to visit a toddler, and they brought these gifts?

I think that they were expecting to find Jesus in a palace, not a small carpenter’s home with a poor family. They probably thought that their gifts, while they were good, would also fit right in with the rest of the decour so to speak. Instead, this would be like me giving a Crystal Chandelier to one of our Quechua friends in the Campo. They have no water, electricity, or sewage. Their home is a one room dung wall building. “Gee, thanks for the chandelier pastor Joe”.

But, they persevered and gave these palatial gifts to the poor family. After all, there were no Toys R Us nearby, whaddyagonna do?

After giving their gifts, they receive a supernatural sign, only this one is not a light in the sky, it is God in their dreams.

(Mat 2:12) And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

So, the plot thickens. Now they are probably sick to their stomachs, thinking that they could have led the very enemy of Jesus to Him. In their innocence, they had proclaimed His existence, His birthplace, and His age to the most dangerous man in the land. They had practically put Jesus’ head on a plate for Herod to consume. How do you think they felt? What was going on in their minds? This was such a big deal that GOD HIMSELF spoke to them. God had spoken to Mary through Gabriel. He had spoken to Joseph through an angel in a dream. But this says that they were warned BY GOD not to return to Herod.

The danger is real. It is imminent. Joseph had not been there the night before, but he had returned…maybe in time to see the Wise Men leave, maybe not. However, he arrives and hears the story of what happened hours before, and then looks at the gifts. It is time for bed, so the family of three hit the hay so to speak. Then.

(Mat 2:13) Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

This is an emphatic command. It is a demand. It is an order from God Himself. Get out of bed and GO!!!

(Mat 2:14) So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

Joseph wakes up, grabs his family and what little they can carry, and they take off in the middle of the night. Now put yourself in his shoes. They had set up home here in this small village. It made sense. No one there would know, except the priest himself, that Mary was pregnant before they were married. All the townspeople would know was that this nice young couple came in town for the census and liked it…so they stayed. Joseph had developed some relationships or connected with distant family in the village and was now living in a home, and working in the town. He had safety, security, and a future. It was a short walk to the Holy City. How much sense did that make? Let’s raise the Son of God within a stone’s throw of the City of God, we can take Him to the Temple. He can get to know the Priests. He is the most important man that has ever lived, and is being raised outside of the most important city. This is all good.

Then, Joe has a dream. It is no mere dream, it is the angel again. He wakes up with adrenalin pumping.

You are in your house. It is a little after three in the morning. Suddenly, you wake up and know that you have about five minutes to get your family out and on the road or the bad guys will kill you all.


This scene happens over and over on the mission field. You have to be ready to go NOW. We can slightly relate to this, although without any fear of life. But we keep an evac pac on hand with money, passports, and other critical things. We must be ready to leave with a day’s notice…and with the reality of loosing every possession but life.


What do you do in this scenario? What would you take? You have to leave with your family now! You have no savings account. No credit cards. No network. Probably no horse, donkey, or carriage (a carpenter starting out would not have these things).

Look back at what he was told. Go to Egypt!

They have to flee in the night, right now. They are going to a place where they do not know anyone, have no possessions, no job, no relatives, and no real direction. They are fleeing, not traveling. Think of the horrid conditions of refugee camps all over the world where people have fled without anything in order to save their lives. This trip was a refugee flight. It was a race for life, and there was nothing on the other side of the finish line.

What did they use for money? How did they live there? Buy food? Pay for a home? Get established? How could Joseph, Jobless Joe, support his family in Egypt?

He had gold. He had frankincense. He had myrrh.

God met the need before Joseph knew that there was one.

He has done the same thing with us. Before you were born, Christ died for you. Before your first birth, God had provided the means for your second birth. Before you could comprehend what sin was, God had provided salvation from it.

This Christmas, do you know what you need? God does.

You need Jesus. And God has already given Him to you.

Joe

Leia Mais…

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Insights 4

Seeing The Invisible

Let’s go back to our Christmas Play again. We watch it every year. Joe and Mary have experienced the angelic visions—those guys (in most plays they are girls) in the super white robes with the halo above their head have told them both that the Baby is Jesus. Joseph and Mary get married, and then head out to Bethlehem. On the way, Mary goes into labor and Joe goes into a panic. He has to find a way to get Mary off that Donkey! They find an innkeeper who permits the young couple to stay in the barn with the animals, having to barter the price over the screams of the lady in labor. The baby is born. Above the manger is a star shining down a beam of light into the manger and lighting up the scene. They wrap up the baby and place Him in a manger filled with straw, and suddenly visitors start to show up. First the shepherds and the drummer boy, who are quickly followed by the three Kings from the Orient with their procession and gifts. They all bow to the Newborn Messiah and worship Him.

Great story. Just wish it was in the Bible. :) I truly do not know why, but when we began to produce Nativity Plays, we felt that we had to write a screenplay that did not agree with the book. I think we should put in our bulletins, “adapted from the Bible”, produced by J.J. HOLMAN. (if you did not get that joke, don’t worry about it) In the above scenario, the only thing truly accurate was that the shepherds did come and find the baby wrapped up in cloths and in a manger.

Today we are going to look at the Three Kings from the Orient.

1. How many Kings were there?
2. Were there any Kings at all?
3. Where did they meet Jesus and offer gifts?
4. How old was Jesus at the time?
5. What was the star?


First of all, the easy stuff, then I want to see a pretty cool practical application. How many Kings? Don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say. There were three gifts mentioned, and we know that there was more than one person giving them…so we surmise three, but that is just a guess. Also, they were not Kings. They were philosophers and astronomers. They had seen something in the heavens and concluded that it had to be a sign from the Gods.

Now, where did they meet Jesus? It was NOT at the stable. Jesus was about two years old, and was at home with Mary while Joseph was gone somewhere when they arrived, but He returned the next day. He was probably working. It was in Bethlehem, but by this time Joseph had built or purchased or borrowed a home to live in with his young family. Look at the Bible.

(Mat 2:1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

(Mat 2:2) "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

(Mat 2:3) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

(Mat 2:4) Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

(Mat 2:5) They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

(Mat 2:6) `AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH, ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.' "

(Mat 2:7) Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

They saw the star the night Jesus was born, then it disappeared, this is why in a few verses they are filled with joy when it appears again. How long ago was it?

(Mat 2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

This word, “Child”, is not the same Greek word as baby. This would be equivalent to our word, “Toddler”, and referred to a young child of around two years of age. It is used consistently through the passage. Then, notice how old the children were that Herod had killed, the last verse…two years old and under.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

(Mat 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

(Mat 2:11) After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.


There is no mention of Joseph here. They saw the Child, who was most likely asleep at this time of the night, and His mother. They worshipped Christ, then left.

(Mat 2:12) And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

That night, God tells them to not go back to Herod. So, they circumvent Jerusalem on the way home.

(Mat 2:13) Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

After they have had their dream, woke up and gone home the next day, Joseph has come home. He hears all that has happened and sees the gifts, then they all go to bed that night. The angel appears to him in a dream and says to get out of town before sunup and run to Egypt.

(Mat 2:14) So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

Joseph wakes up, grabs his family and what little they can carry, and they take off in the middle of the night.

(Mat 2:15) He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

(Mat 2:16) Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.


So, here is how it happened. On the night that Jesus was born, there was a supernatural sign in the sky that God allowed a few wise men from real far off to see. They spent the next two years traveling in the direction of the ‘star’ that they had seen. Somehow, they had connected the dots and even though they lived a two years journey away, knew that it meant something to the Jews. They arrive in Jerusalem, discover that they are now seven miles from the two year old event. They must have still been somewhat discouraged, because there was an assumption being made. The baby was not recognized or known as the King, and had been born two years ago. How in the world would they know if He was in the village, and if so, how would they find Him? So..that night the star appeared again. They followed the star and went right to the house.


Now, I have an opinion about the star, and then we will see the application. I called this lesson, “Seeing The Invisible”. This title comes from what I believe about the star.

I do not think that the star was an actual cosmological star. I think it was the supernatural, spiritual glory of God. I actually think that there were only two groups of people in the world that saw this…the Shepherds and these wise men. I think that when the angelic host with the glory of the Lord all around them began to praise God in the Highest…this spiritual glory was seen by the shepherds…and by the wise men thousands of miles away. No one else.

Why do I think this? Well, a couple of reasons. What would happen in your town if in the middle of the night, in the sky, there was a light like the noon day sun (a Biblical description of God’s glory)? What would people do? Would 99% of the population of your town…and then again of all the surrounding towns, cities and villages…would 99.9% of the people simply ignore it? Yet this is what happened in this story. The shepherds saw the angel, the angels, and the glory of God…but nobody else seemed to know anything had happened. Only the shepherds went to find the baby, and they had to tell their story. No one said, “Oh yeah! I saw that light also!”

The wise men saw this ‘star’ (light in the night sky) and knew that it was a supernatural sign. They knew that it was sent from God. It was more than just a reading into the star chart…it made them take a two year journey.

But notice something else about the star. They saw it once, two years ago, then it vanished.

(Mat 2:2) "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

They were NOT following the star. They had seen it. Past tense. Look at what the King asked…’When did you see this star?”.

(Mat 2:7) Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

Why was the King having to ask this? Why hadn’t anyone in the entire realm seen the star? Why were there no reports of celestial signs in Jerusalem?

And, if the wise men were following the star…then why would Herod need their help finding Jesus? It would be like a grand opening of a mall or something where the spotlights are scanning the sky…only in reverse. Just follow the spotlight and kill the kid. No problem.

Only, no one in Jerusalem had seen the star two years ago, and there was no star in the sky right now. That is why the wise men had to…

(Mat 2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

The king did not say, ‘Keep following the star’. He said to go and look for the kid. There was no star to follow. Then a miracle happens.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

The light in the sky was back! The star once more was in the sky…only more than that. It wasn’t a stationary light.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

It was a start leading them. It had movement. They did not perceive a direction, like the North Star or the Southern Cross. This star actually moved ahead of them in such a way that they could follow it over a small seven mile journey. This is a pretty precise beam of light if it could lead them with such detail.

(Mat 2:9) After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

It took them to the exact house and shined down on it so they knew that they were there. But notice that no one else was seeing this. They were the only ones. Also, look at their response..

(Mat 2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

They knew that God was leading them. This was the same sign that they had seen and it thrilled them. But, there were no curious neighbors, no frightened villagers, no wide-eyed children, and no angry soldiers following the same spotlight. Why?

Because the wise men could see the spiritual. They could perceive the invisible. They could in this moment walk by faith and their faith had sight. I believe that for some reason, well the grace of God, He allowed this men to find the Savior and He led them to Jesus by this spiritual light of glory.

When you know Jesus, when you truly follow Him, then you too can began to see things…maybe not like this but you will begin to understand from a spiritual point of view, to see from spiritual perspective, to react from a spiritual desire, to live spiritually.

This Christmas, are you looking and walking by faith?

Joe

Leia Mais…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Insights 3

Encountering God


Go back to our Christmas story, and the typical church pageant or play that we enjoy at Christmas time. Here is a young lady named Mary. She is walking around doing whatever it is that young and holy girls did in that day, and BBBAAAAAMMMM, the Angel of the Lord, clothed in brilliant white and shining like the sun, with the voice of James Earl Jones (for those outside of North America think really deep bass notes), prophecies about what is going to happen.

Is that how you envision it? Is that how the play portrays it. By the way, a few years ago…I think in 2005 or 2006, a movie came out called “The Nativity Story”. While it does not stay true to the Bible…it is closer than any other I have seen. I highly recommend it.

Go back to the play. Is this what happened? Well. The part about the Angel appearing is accurate…but his appearance, voice, and basically everything else is screenplay not truth.

Let’s look at what happened.

(Luk 1:26) Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,

(Luk 1:27) to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

(Luk 1:28) And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."


A young girl, who (based on history and culture not Bible) is probably in her mid teens is alone in the tiny home of her family. She is doing something, but no one else is in the house with her. She hears someone at the door, and a strange man enters the house, univited. This frightens her. Imagine for a moment that you are a 15 year old girl alone at home. You look up, and there is a man opening the door. He walks into the house. What would you do? What would you think?

When I was 16 years old, I went home at about 10:30 at night. No one else was home, nor would be. I knew that I was going to be there by myself for the weekend, due to the fact that my parents were out of town. I came home, and went immediately to the bathroom (TMI). As I came out of the bathroom, I saw a man run down the hall and into the living room.

Dude…I was so scared I could not spit. I was home alone and a stranger was in the house! (end of story…you have to make a comment on my blog to hear the rest).

Mary was frightened. She was not afraid because of the brilliant white clothes or the face shining. She was afraid of the uninvited stranger. Keep reading.

(Luk 1:28) And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

(Luk 1:29) But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

Mary wasn’t freaked out by the appearance of a Heavenly Being. She was confused by the strange greeting. In Bolivia, everyone greets everyone else. Typically, you say, “How are you doing?”, and “Good Day”. Now, once more imagine that someone you have never met before, nor even seen in the small town that you live in where everyone knows everyone; in this setting a stranger walks uninvited into your home and says:

“Hello! You are chosen by God. He has favored you above all other people. God is with you”.

Truth time. I am a former pastor and currently a missionary. If someone walked up to me on the street and said this…forget about waking into my house…if you walked up to me and said, “Greetings Favored One. The Lord is with you.” I would think you were a nut case and seek to get as far from you as possible as soon as I could.

This is what was going on in the mind of Mary. This is how I know the angel looked normal. She wasn’t taken aback by his appearance…it was his words that threw her. What in the world is he talking about, who is he, and why is he in my house?

He answers her unspoken questions (remember, she pondered them, not stated them).

(Luk 1:30) The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

(Luk 1:31) "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

(Luk 1:32) "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

(Luk 1:33) and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

Mary is listening to him, probably looking for a weapon or a way out while doing so. The angel proclaims that Mary is to be the mother of the Incarnate Lord. The angel then states the Scripture that this promise is based upon. The Bible has prophesied that someone, someday, somewhere will give birth to the Messiah. This man is telling Mary that she is the one. However, Mary has a pretty legitimate question.

(Luk 1:34) Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

Mary is not arguing with the Bible. She knows the prophecy. She is just confused as to how she can be the one to fulfill it due to a very poignant fact…she has never had sex and therefore cannot be a mother.

However, at this point I want to see something. Mary was not denying that God was going to do this…nor even declaring that she could not be the one God was going to use. She was not debating her favored status, or the possible truth of the opening salutation. She was simply wanting to understand a little more.

(Luk 1:35) The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

God answered her question. It will be a miracle. He then went one step farther and revealed to her that He had already began to prepare her for this miracle by working another. He was going to make her pregnant before the time of pregnancy (sex), just as He has allowed her aunt to become pregnant after the time of pregnancy.

(Luk 1:36) "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

(Luk 1:37) "For nothing will be impossible with God."

Now, what follows is what I believe is the most incredible statement of faith in all the Bible…in all of eternity. It is one that we should mimic.

(Luk 1:38) And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Mary had learned from childhood that God was going to use someone one day. That is just like us. We know that God uses people.

I believe that the hardest thing in the world for us to believe…is…

You know,

I can believe that God exists.
I can believe that God created the universe.
I can believe that God created and loves humanity.

I believe that the hardest thing in the world for us to believe…is…

I can believe that humanity…that I, sinned against God.
I can believe that God became a man.
I can believe that He lived a sinless life.
I can believe that He died on the cross as my own, my personal Savior and substitute for sin.
I can believe that on Calvary He forgave me.
I can believe that He rose from the dead.

I believe that the hardest thing in the world for us to believe…is…

I can believe that He is coming back to reign forever.
I can believe that He is going to use people as His instruments, and out of a love relationship with them, He is going to change the world.

I can believe all of this.

However, I believe that the hardest thing in the world for me to believe…is…

God can, will, and wants to use ME.

I can believe that God can, will and wants to use you.

But, the hardest thing for me to believe is that God can, will and wants to use ME.

Mary heard the truth of Scripture, and then heard that this verse applied to her. That God was going to use her to change the world. That she was the mother of the Messiah.

And she said, “Okay.”

What a statement of faith. God is going to use someone, why not me?

If it is of God, does it matter what I have to offer Him?

All things are possible…even using YOU!

Have you ever thought about being used on the Mission Field? God is going to use someone…why not you?

IN Jesus,

Joe

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Insights From Christmas Part 2


Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover


This insight is really little less than a ‘correction’ for lack of a better word, to what we typically see at Christmas time.

Let me start off with a question.

When did Joseph find out Mary was expecting?


Here is the typical story:


The angel appears to Mary and she becomes pregnant. She is stressed out over how to tell Joseph, but she does. He freaks out, throws his carpentry tools around, and wants to leave her. God tells him to chill out.

Then there is a census from the Government and Joseph and Mary have to travel to Bethlehem. Mary has a basketball sized belly as she sidesaddles the donkey and Joseph walks beside her. They arrive in Bethlehem, but it is almost too late. Mary had her water break down the road in Jerusalem and the last several miles have been horrible. She has been having serious contractions on the back of a donkey while riding sidesaddle down an ancient trail. That sir, is no picnic.

They arrive, and find to their dismay that there is no room in any of the hotels. They can’t believe it! Finally, one inn-keeper who is somewhat kind but still pretty selfish, lets them borrow the stable and minutes after the baby is born, the star shines on them, the wise men come and offer gifts, and the little drummer boy drums.


What is wrong with this story?


Well….almost everything, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why we thought we had to change the story to fit our screenplay. I guess the story of the infinite and holy God taking the form of a single cell and then growing into a baby in order to live a finite life among sinful people before going to the cross and dying for the sins of the world was just not exciting enough?

We will look at what really happened between now and Christmas, but today let’s go back to that question.


When did Joseph find out that Mary was pregnant?


Most of us say that it was there in Galilee. It was not. Look at Luke’s story, focus on verse 5, I will put it in bold font.

(Luk 2:4) Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,

(Luk 2:5) in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

(Luk 2:6) While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

(Luk 2:7) And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Did you see that? On the road to Bethlehem, Mary was already pregnant. We all know that, remember the basketball belly on the donkey? But look at what it says again. She was engaged to him. On the road to Bethlehem they were not yet married.

Now go to Matthew 1. I will once more bold the part to focus on.

(Mat 1:18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

Mary is pregnant and only engaged. The engagement was a permanent contract that could only be broken by divorce. It was a legal relationship and was practically a marriage minus sex and living together.

(Mat 1:19) And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

We will come back to this after I make my point. He planned to send her away secretly.

(Mat 1:20) But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

(Mat 1:21) "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

(Mat 1:22) Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

(Mat 1:23) "BEHOLD , THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."

(Mat 1:24) And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

(Mat 1:25) but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Did you see that? Joseph is going to legally break the engagement in private to avoid disgracing Mary, but the Angel of the Lord tells him to marry her. So what does he do? Look back at verse 24.

“…Joseph awoke from his sleep…and took Mary as his wife.”

As soon as he discovered she was pregnant, God gave him a vision in a dream, supported that vision with Scripture, and followed it with a command. Marry her. Joseph got out of bed and went to the Priest to be married.

But…on the road to Bethlehem they were still engaged.


So…lets put the pieces together:


Mary hears from the Angel the Word of God, which the Angel supports with Scriptures and signs. She believes and becomes pregnant with Jesus. The part of the story we have not yet read shows that she immediately went to Judah and stayed with her Aunt Elizabeth (see last Insight) for three months. After John was born, she returns to Nazareth, so she is now in her fourth month. No one other than Elizabeth and John know that she is pregnant. She returns home to her family and her fiancée.

At this time the order went for everyone to go to Bethlehem. I do not know why, humanly speaking, but Mary went with Joseph, but she did. He does not yet know that she is pregnant--because the day after he found out he married her.

How could he not know? I remember when Denise became pregnant with our first son. She was 21 years old. She did not start wearing maternity clothes until she was in her sixth month. She was young, and her body was slow to change and slower still for others to see the change. She actually started wearing maternity clothes because she wanted to, not because she had to.

Mary was younger than Denise when she became pregnant…probably in her teens…and she wore the long, loose, flowing robe of the day. No one would be able to see that she was pregnant until she was very late in the pregnancy. I actually knew a girl when I was in High School that got pregnant and did not tell anyone until her 9th month! No one knew...they just thought she was putting on a little weight. Mary would have easily been able to hide her pregnancy until very late in the game.

They arrive in Bethlehem. Go back and look. The Bible says that “While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth”. She did not go into labor five hours away from the city and desperately find a stable. It was normal custom in those days for people to stay in stables and barns when there was a large event in the city. Think about all the places people stayed for the inauguration of President Obama. Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, a small town, and like many others they had to stay in whatever offered them shelter.

I believe it was in this cozy situation that Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant. She was unable to hide it any longer. So, he was going to break the engagement secretly to avoid giving her disgrace.

How could he have done this in the small town of Nazareth? Everyone knew everyone else’s business. There was no way he could protect her from shame and disgrace, or divorce her privately or secretly. However, in Bethlehem no one knew her and very few knew him. Joseph could go to the priest, break off the engagement, and then send Mary back to Elizabeth or someone else.

But God appeared to Him and he obeyed. He awoke from His dream and took Mary to be His wife….right then and there. Matthew says this….and Luke says that it wasn’t before they were on the road to Bethlehem.



Okay…now so what?


You can’t judge a book by its cover. Joseph had every right to feel betrayed, lied to and used. Mary was pregnant and he knew two things.

1. You don’t get pregnant without having sex, and

2. He had not had sex.

He forgot the third and most important thing. God is at work in the world, and He does amazing things. Joseph did not even consider any other option that what His eyes were telling him.

We are to walk by faith, and not by sight. So…the lesson today? Two things: One—why change the story? I think the original history is way better than ‘based on a true story’ like most of our nativity plays are. Two—seek truth from God and His Word…not how you feel or what you think. God may just be doing something incredible.

IN Jesus,

Joe

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Insights From Christmas Part 1


Tired Of Waiting

I was reading the Bible the other day, and a verse jumped out at me.

(Luk 1:13) But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

A pretty cool thought occurred to me, one that I once had while preaching this very passage. Look back at what the angel said. “Your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…”

Okay, that’s cool, but so what? Zach and Liz had asked God for a baby, God heard them and said, “Sure deal.”

So what? Stuff like this happens all the time.

Well…let’s think about it, and I will ask a question to stimulate your thought.

When do you think Zacharias had prayed this prayer that he was now being told was being answered with a ‘Yes’?

When was the last time Zach had asked for a son?

What prayer was God talking about?

Lets think about the context for a moment. In this culture, marriages occurred in early age, and children were considered a blessing. Birth control was unheard of. Children were a blessing. They were a retirement plan. They were a sign of God’s favor. They were social security. Every family wanted a bunch of them. Zach and Liz were probably married before she was 18 years old. The Bible emphasizes that they were righteous, and he was even a priest. They were a young couple, living for God and excited about what was going to happen in their lives. They could not wait till Zach Jr. and Little Liz appeared on the scene, soon to be followed by 7-8 other little kiddos. After all, everyone knew that children were the blessing of God and proof that you loved Him.

The first few months went by and Liz wasn’t pregnant. Then the months turned into a year, and the young couple probably began to pray. People were asking about a child, and constantly expecting her to be expecting.

The year became two. Now they were hurting. I have known many couples who discovered, after years of trying, that they were infertile. The pain cannot be understood by someone who has not experienced it. Add to this truth, that in this culture, the lack of children was a curse. In this society where children were known to be a blessing, an unfortunate by-product of this truth had come to pass. An open womb was a blessing, a closed womb was a sign of hidden sin. People began to talk.

By now, the couple had been married a few years, and every month there was a reminder of the silence of heaven. The stained truth that they still would not have a child. They were heartbroken. They fasted and prayed…nothing came in answer to their prayer other than another few days of sadness. They began to dread the end of the month, and felt their hope slowly becoming dread. Anger and disappointment, blame and questioning became the norm at least once a month.

The months had become years, and the years decades.

At what point do you think that they stopped asking for a child? After 5 years? 10 years? 30 years?

Now, Elizabeth has passed through menopause. We do not know exactly how old she was, but three times it is stressed that she was way too old to have kids. Not only that, but she was so old, that her pregnancy was used as the sign, the miracle that God gave to Mary to prove He could do anything!

I don’t know about you…but I probably would have stopped praying after year 2 or 3. I know for sure that after 10 years, after 120 failures or disappointments, I would have KNOWN that it was God’s will for me to not have kids.

And yet…what did the angel say? “Your prayer has been heard…”
I am giving Zach the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he prayed faithfully for 25 years. However, that means it was 25 years ago since his last prayer! He had not only quit praying, he had also given up hope and lost his faith….when the angel said the answer was a yes, Zach argued with him about it. Not only had God said “No” hundreds of times…now it was impossible to receive a “Yes”.

But what Zach did not know was that God had heard him….over 50 years ago God had heard him. Only God had a greater plan in mind. God wanted to give them a son, but not just any son. God was going to give them the greatest man to ever live apart from Christ, the fulfillment of prophecy, and use them as a divine sign of omnipotence.

God was going to use their story and record it for all eternity.

But all they felt was silence.

Are you tired of waiting? Have you been praying for something that you feel is indeed in the will of God, but it is not happening? Are you wanting to give up?

Zach can teach us that not only does God answer prayer…He exceeds our expectations and surpasses our hopes…IN HIS TIME.

This Christmas, how about renewing your faith, restoring your hope, and trusting in Him to meet your needs?

IN Jesus,
Joe

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Year End Blessings And More Than Blessings


We have a family in the States that used to support us with a large gift each month. Then, unfortunately, the husband lost his job. He wrote us a letter explaining his circumstances and expressing his sorrow at having to stop giving. We felt and understand his pain and sorrow, and grieved over the stress in his family and life due to this event. I too have been laid off and know not only the financial hardship, but the emotional pain this causes a husband and father.

Sadly, this story has been repeated hundreds of times across the mission field in the last year, and thousands of times throughout mission history. We fully understand and God provides for us through other means. But, my friend’s story does not end here. I honestly feel like Jesus must have when He saw the Centurion’s faith and declared, “I have not seen faith like this in all of Israel.” Our friend just sent us an email, last month. Here is what it said.

"I wanted to tell you that I was recently offered a part time position with a Christian Ministry. And we will begin supporting you again, asap. I am putting my financials together and will get on board with supporting you again right away."

Did you see that? He has been unemployed for some time, and now is working part time for a Christian ministry…but what is his priority? He will begin supporting us again asap. What a commendation of his priorities in life. Not giving us money, but making sure that supporting the work of God is a priority in his life. (Although the giving us part is cool too).

In a time of economic hardship, we almost always stop our giving before we stop our spending. I believe that compounds the hardship. God blesses us as we give, not as we spend. My friend understands not only the purpose of money, but the principle of giving. It humbles me to watch him obey God.

I called this article Year End Blessings And More Than Blessings. Here is why. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

We want you to be more blessed! That is not a tongue in cheek, sarcastic play. I truly believe the Bible and when it says that it is more blessed to give than to receive, that is a declaration of truth!

Here is how it works, according to God. Now, if you asked me—from my perspective—it would seem that God has it backwards…but isn’t so much of the Bible contrary to what we actually think? A leader is the servant of all and the greatest is the least. Humble yourself to be exalted. The first shall be last. The most important thing you can do in eternity is…nothing because Jesus did it all. So, here is what God says.

We receive money from you and are blessed.
You give money to us and are more blessed.


So...if you are thinking of a year end gift, a Christmas gift, or a project for your church or homeschool group, I know of a God Honoring, Christ Centered, Spirit Led, and Bible Believing ministry you can send money to! If you have not been thinking of giving, then let me challenge you to pray about it. Christmas is a time when giving is on our mind, so why not give to the Lord by giving to His mission work around the world? Let us bless you by receiving your gift this Christmas season!

To see how to give through SIM, check out this link.

http://holmanfamily.org/8.html

If you desire to give money to us personally, without a tax deduction, email us and we can give you the address of Denise's parents...they can deposit things in our account.

If you want to mail us something, please see Denise's blog on this:

http://theholmansinbolivia.blogspot.com/2007/07/about-getting-packages.html


So, in advance of being blessed by you....GOD BLESS YOU!!!


Joe

Leia Mais…

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thanksgiving


Last January I visited my father. We had learned that he had terminal cancer, and I wanted to see him before he passed away. He had been giving about 18 months to live. I spent three days with him. In this time frame, he and I had an opportunity to open up our hearts to each other. We expressed our love for each other, forgave anything that needed forgiveness, hugged and cried. One of the most emotional events in my life was standing on his carport as I was saying goodbye to him. I told him, “Dad, you know that I will never see you again in this world. This is the real deal. This is goodbye in the absolute sense of the word.” I am crying again as I remember that moment. I drove off and about three miles down the road had to pull over and weep, I could not see to drive through the tears. I was so overcome with grief that I decided to not stop at Krispy Kreme on the way to the airport…that should put things in perspective for those of you that know me. :)

Dad surprised everyone and went home to be with the Lord just a few months later…he did not even live a year after the prognosis.

Why am I telling this story? In the United States, this week is thanksgiving. It is a time for us to give gratitude to the Lord and to others for how they have impacted our lives. As I was thinking of what I am grateful for, several things came to mind, but this event was the first and foremost. I am so grateful that God nudged my heart and the Holy Spirit spoke to my wife and told us that I should go visit my dad, no matter what the cost. I am grateful that our mission allowed me to go. But words cannot express how grateful I am for the most intimate time of my life with my dad and the chance to say things that most of us wish we had said but never did. I am thankful that my dad is with Jesus, but that before that I was with him.

I am also so thankful to the Lord for you. I echo the words of Paul, I thank my God every time I think of you.

We are able to faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ because YOU ARE FAITHFUL to Him. We have a large number of people that every month sends us money. I almost feel like I did at dad’s house as I try to express my thanks. Sometimes how we feel simply cannot be expressed. It is like trying to compress my heart into a word.

Thank you for your monthly gifts, your occasional gifts, your large gifts, and your small gifts.

Thank you for your cards, emails, and packages.

Thank you for your prayers, daily and as the Holy Spirit brings us to mind.

Thank you for your friendship.

Thank you for your love.

Thank you for the honor of being trusted by you.

Thank you for being such a role model to us.

Please know, this Thanksgiving, that not only are we thankful for you, we will be praying for you.

May the Lord allow you to see and experience some of the ways that He has already blessed you!

Grateful In The Lord,

Joe For The Holmans


Leia Mais…

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Calling All Geeks I Need Help...


I am on the board of directors of a really GREAT ministry here in Bolivia. It is called Apoyo. That is the Spanish word for 'Help". The missio is to "Serve The Servers". Check it out:
Anyway, here is what we do. We basically do everything to help pastors. We provide no interest loans of up to $3,000 to build them houses, since many live in, well, squalor. We help them find jobs, provide resources, give training, family counseling, networking, etc., and right now are seeking to expand into microenterprise.
Now, why do I need help?
I want to raise money for them by connecting with Latino Churches in the United States (Or England). However, I cannot find any type of 'list' with addresses or emails or even names of Latino Churches.
Could someone, more than one, anyone, who knows how to find things on line better than I can, lead me here? I want to have a list of at least 100, but the more the better, Spanish Speaking churches that I can contact to share our vision with.

I have googled, lycos, and big mamma'ed. I have done all I know. Could you help me help this incredible ministry?
Thanks
Joe

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My First Spanish Dream!


It finally happened! I have had a gazillion I can't speak Spanish and mess up....I am in Spanish school...people think I am a terrorist because of my bad Spanish dreams.
However, last night I had a dream and I spoke Spanish...correct Spanish!
Here is what happened. There were these two guys that did something, so I turned to them and told them in great Spanish that they needed to do something else.
They looked at me and said, "Sprechen sie deutsches?"
Even when I speak Spanish in my dreams, I can't communicate!

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Need A Sunday School Teacher...


Last week I had a great time teaching the Adult Sunday School class of Blue Ridge Bible Church in Purcellville Virginia. We talked about what it is like to live in another culture outside of the Western Worldview, about specific Bolivian customs, looked at 1 Kings and the story of Elijah, then had about 15 minutes of question and answer.
It was a lot of fun.
And I did it all from over 4,000 miles away.
We set up a skype video call. I was at my dinner table in Bolivia, and they were in Virginia. The video was slightly behind the audio, but just enough to add authenticity to it. :)
Technology is cool. Technology is awesome when you use it for God's glory.
Anyone out there interested in doing this again? Sunday School, Small Groups, Mission Conferences....you name it.
Joe

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Candy Wars

Tim lives in England and thinks that the stuff they call 'sweets' is better than real American Candy. In order to try and prove this fruitless and hopeless thesis, he is sending packages of supplies to my children to test.

This is the first of the candy wars.

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mom Is Home!

Leia Mais…

Monday, October 26, 2009

Praying

Pastors praying at a conference I led.

I had a fantastic time this past Sunday. Every last Sunday of the month, our mission team gets together from 3-5 for prayer. For me, it is a time of refreshing.

However, yesterday I noticed something, and for those of you there, no judgement just an observation.

We divided into groups to pray, men and women--we usually don't but we did this time. When we divided, I went to the restroom during the commotion of switching chairs, and then had something on my mind so I stepped behind a wall to look at a Bible passage. I decided to wait until the men stopped talking, and then sneak into the back chair to join in the prayer.

Now, I could not see them, but I knew exactly when they started praying. Before praying, their voices were normal, relaxed, conversational. Then, the prayer voice started. Now I do the same thing, but it just struck me as strange.

Why is talking to God so much different than talking to you? Sure, He is God, but He is also my Dad, my best friend, my husband, my groom, my lover, my brother...all of those are Biblical images of Him. He is to be the most intimate relationship of my life. Now, I am not talking about those moments when we are worshipping or confessing...I am just talking about talking. Why do we talk to God in a different tone of voice than with our spouse? Why do we use different vocabulary and phrases (bless the hands that prepared this food for the nourishment of our body and give traveling grace to those who are with us only in spirit as they journey to...). Why do we go into our prayer mode?

Once more, I do it also...but why?

I think I need to focus more on my love relationship with Him...then maybe I will begin to speak more to someone I love than to someone I know of...maybe that is why I go formal with God. I am not comfortable enough to be informal?

Just a thought,

Joe

Leia Mais…

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Delivery

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Package From England

Received a packaged today from a friend that I have never met. Enjoy

Leia Mais…

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dining In La Cancha

Check this out...it will give you a new perspective. By the way, the shaky camera is not an artistic endeavor, it is a hidden cam...I did not want to be huber obvious.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Travel Documents


We had another fun time with getting things done. Denise is taking Jacob (19 year old) back to the states. Jacob is going to start working to save up money for college. She is also taking our 1 year old daughter with her.

Bolivia has a law that does not let a parent travel alone with a child unless the other parent has given them written permission. This is more than a letter. You have to do a gazillion things to get it....or do you?

We were given a list of things that we needed to take. We went to the Custody of Children Court to process things. The man showed us a list of about 25 things that we were supposed to do, including proving that our certified original birth certificate is a certified birth certificate by having the people that certified it certifiy that they certified it. (Honest)

After chatting with him, he told us that we did not have to do all of the things on the list, or on the list that we had been given. But we did have to do something else. We had to go get 3 photos of Mercy with any color background we wanted. Only, we could not get it done before lunch, so we had to come back at 2:30. Now this was at 11:20, and the one minute photo place was across the street, less than 20 yards away. Why could we not get this done before lunch? Because he showed us that his clock was 30 minutes fast and that was what he used for lunch.

So, we got the photos and waited for three hours. When he came back, he filled out all of the forms, but first I had to pay for the form to fill out, 20 bolivianos. After the form was filled out, he said that we needed three copies, so I had to take the form and go to a copy center and get three copies. I did that. Came back. He said I needed an extra copy of Mercys passport. I had to go get a copy. I did that. Came back. He said I needed to go purchase a manilla folder to put my paperwork in so that he could put it in the filing system (a pile of papers wrapped with a string about four feet high, dating back to 2002...honest). I went and purchased a folder.

He put all the documents in the folder, put the folder on his desk, and told me to come back on Monday.

I went back on Monday. He opened up the folder...an apparantly untouched folder, and gave me the original document that I had to have the three copies made. The other copies were still in the folder.

Oh well. Now Denise has permission to travel with Mercy and without me, but only for one month.


Fun Fun Fun.

Leia Mais…