Category: Sharing the Gospel

The Best Gift

Earnestly desire to prophesy!

When was the last time you received a word of encouragement, one that consoled you during a time of loss or simply gave you a quick “nudge from behind” to keep moving in spite of your discouragement?

Reading the Scriptures, particularly the Apostle Paul’s teachings in I Corinthians, we see clearly that God desires to give us these kinds of messages through the ministry of fellow believers.  He does so by empowering believers through the Holy Spirit’s “spiritual gifts,” which are listed in the following passage:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (I Corinthians 12:7-11).

According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, these gifts were demonstrably manifested through the believers in the Early Church:

how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3-5)

Have the Gifts Ceased?

In recent years, comparatively at least, many dispensational Bible teachers and their disciples have taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer given after the age of the Apostles.  This teaching is primarily based on the following passage:

 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part;10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:8-12).

This seems clear enough according to a superficial reading:  based on Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts in this passage, therefore, it is believed by many in the Church today that the gifts are “childish,” not intended for mature believers, for they are “partial” and imperfect.  As Paul writes, “We see in a mirror dimly” (II Cor. 3:12).  It is believed instead that the “perfect” has come to the Church through the completion of the Holy Scriptures, so we no longer need the Holy Spirit’s gifts to teach us and lead us, and the “partial” has been done away with because the “perfect” Bible has been completed. 

However, we must read all of the Scriptures in their contexts, particularly those written by the apostle Paul.  Consider the following passage:

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.  But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [metamorphosized] into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:15-18)

It seems ironic, therefore, that the Apostles and Prophets of the Early Church who exercised these “childish” and “imperfect” spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit were also the very ones who thoroughly read the books of the Old Testament (“Moses is read”), and wrote the books of the New Testament.  I can only conclude that the dispensationalist interpretation of Paul’s message is incorrect and misleading. 

Looking Into the Mirror

Instead, the “mirror” references in these passages reveal that the  “perfect” that was predicted is not the New Testament itself, but instead is Jesus Christ when He comes again.  He is the “perfect” Who is coming, and when He appears, we all will be instantly transformed and metamorphosized into His image, for we will see Him in all of His glory.  When this happens, we will be “like Him”:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:1-3)

What is the Outcome, then?

We must not be like those sons of Israel who hardened their hearts and heard the reading of the old covenant (Moses) with a “veil” over their hearts.  We must turn to the Lord, who takes the veil away from our hearts, and He will give us liberty.  Read again Paul’s exhortation:

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:12-18).

Since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” Paul further exhorts us to be used by the Holy Spirit through the “gifts of the Spirit”:

So also you since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. (I Corinthians 14:12).

In the Book of Acts, Luke the author and disciple of the Apostle Paul writes this description of Peter’s message to the curious onlookers when on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the gathered believers:

 “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).

In context, therefore, the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us in the same way, for the promise is to “all who are far away, as many as the Lord calls.” When we are baptized in His Spirit, therefore, we will find that we will experience the gift of speaking in tongues, plus all the other gifts when needed, if we continue to follow Him (1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14). These are God’s gifts of power to enable us to accomplish the tasks to which we have been commissioned.

These gifts have been abused by many, unfortunately, even by some in the Early Church, according to the Apostle Paul’s admonitions in the “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13).  If the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not operated in love, Paul writes, we align with the following description:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

Nevertheless, we should not take lightly the Lord’s words to us provided in John’s Gospel.  Clearly, we need today the “rivers of living water” Jesus promised us:

…Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified). (John 7:37b-39)

Finally, the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to “earnestly” desire the best spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1). 

What are the “best” gifts?  They are those that are most in need at the moment.  We should be open to being used by the Holy Spirit at any time in any way He chooses.  And Paul particularly recommends that we desire to prophesy,

 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. (I Corinthians 14:1-4).

He makes this recommendation specifically because prophecy is a gift that we all need to experience, for spiritual encouragement.  

One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (v. 3)

In addition, the Apostle Paul also reveals another reason why prophecy is important in the Church:

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.  (I Corinthians 14:24-26)

I experienced just such a moment early in my ministry when, while leading a home group meeting, I was praying and a word of knowledge came to me.  I spoke the revelation with my eyes closed, and when I opened them, a young woman whom I had never seen before was standing in front of me weeping.  “How did you know those things about me?” she said.  I asked if she wanted to invite Jesus into her life to be her Lord and Savior, and she readily agreed, praying for salvation that night.  

We must understand, therefore, that the gift of prophecy is not intended to “predict the future,” as so many believe.  It should not be connected with occult astrology, fortune telling, or divination by any means.

Another Example

Just yesterday in a women’s Bible study and prayer group here in Hopkins, Belize, my wife Jan received a “word of knowledge” and spoke to a young mother who tended to be very shy in the group.  In effect, Jan said to her, “Do not be troubled about what you will say when you are led to speak to someone, for you love Jesus and you only need to let His light shine through you to others.”

The woman was so moved by this message that she began to weep joyfully, for she indeed had been encouraged, edified, and exhorted.  

Final Comments:

Please note that the Apostle Paul does not denigrate the gift of speaking in tongues, for he tells us that he speaks in tongues more than anyone else.  He does so because through the Holy Spirit he is able to pray “in mysteries” when his mind does not know how to pray.  Consequently, he is personally edified.  He only stipulates that this gift must be used properly and in love.  Paul also states that its use in the Church must not be forbidden:

 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. . . .39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (I Corinthians 14:4-5).

Marveling at the Miraculous by Jan Jenkins

A Miracle!

Peter and John are going to the temple to pray when at the temple gate they hear a man calling to them.

It appears that this forty-year-old man is lame and depends on handouts to support his existence in his disabled condition. What the man does not realize is that his condition can actually be changed so that he need not continue to beg.

This story is a reminder that God often sees a greater ailment in our lives that may need changing that is far deeper than what we may be asking or praying for.

Peter stops and tells the man that he does not possess what the man is begging for; however, he does have something far greater. Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” He then grabs the man’s right hand and raises him up.

Luke, the author of the book of Acts writes that “immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened” (Acts 3:7).

Not only is the man strengthened and upright, but he begins “walking and leaping and praising God” (v.8). People who saw him were astounded because they knew something miraculous had happened, knowing that this man was the one who had been carried daily to the temple gate to plead for sustenance.

Peter’s Message

At this point, Peter answers the amazement of the people by preaching his second recorded sermon. He assures his listeners that faith in the name of Jesus has brought strength and healing to this man (Acts 3:16). He then reminds the people whom God’s prophets had foretold of “this Christ” and that by repenting of their sins they may experience His presence and “times of refreshing.” Consequently, this is a reminder to us that we need to repent and make sure we can approach our Savior with a clear conscience and a clean heart.

Next, the priests and Sadducees who have also been listening to Peter, see to it that John and Peter are arrested since this is the only immediate way they can keep them from speaking the truth.

In spite of this arrest, as many as 5,000 men who had heard the message believed! When given the opportunity to testify the next day, Peter again states that the man (who is standing there next to Peter) was made well “by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10).

Peter tells the high priest and the others of “high priestly descent” that there is salvation only through Jesus. Peter’s words are a reminder that it is through the power of the mighty name of Jesus that we are made whole. Not our good works, our power, our religious knowledge, or our social or political standing.

Peter’s message leaves these educated leaders speechless, and they are unable to reply. They begin to talk among themselves, trying to decide what should be done with Peter and the other men with him. They even admit that a “noteworthy miracle” has happened, and therefore they “cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16). In a feeble effort to control Peter and John, they command them not to do any further teaching about Jesus. They answer by saying that it is impossible for them to stop speaking about what they have “seen and heard.”

It is natural for us to want to share our experiences with others, whether they involve a fabulous vacation, a newborn baby, or career advancement. How much greater is the urge to share the good news of salvation and healing to those who are seeking answers or to those in perilous situations.

So, what did the officials do? They “threatened them further” (Acts 4:21), but their threats were empty. They couldn’t punish Peter and John because of the crowds of people glorifying God! When the apostles were finally released, they went back to their companions to report what had happened to them. Additionally, they prayed together asking to speak God’s word with confidence while He extends His hand to heal in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:29 – 30).

They are absolutely aware that it is the power of God through the name of Jesus that is the source of these signs and wonders.

Finally, when they had prayed, the building was shaken and they were once again filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness. Accordingly, the only way we can share God’s message is through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Steps to Growth and Faith

Therefore, what are the steps in the process of growth and faith as evidenced by this story?

  • First, we recognize that God is in control and we are to trust Him to guide us when we speak to other people while knowing that what that person wants may not be all that God has for him or her.
  • Second, making sure we have a repentant heart and a clear conscience so that we may clearly hear the voice of the Lord when He is leading.
  • Third, we learn that it is the power of the name of Jesus that makes us whole. It is not about us and our good works.
  • Forth, it is desirable for us to maintain a close relationship with the Lord through His word and by hearing His voice, so we can share with others the “signs and wonders” that we are experiencing.
  • Fifth, it is God “who works in us both to will and do His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
  • Sixth, the only way we can truly share God’s love and His good news to others is through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Wrangling, Part II

A Brief Follow-up

Shortly after posting my last article, titled “Wrangling About Words,” I had a dream.  

I was out fishing with some friends in a boat near where we are currently living in Belize.  One of the fishermen wanted to give a fish to one of his village friends, but he couldn’t remember which fish it was he had caught.  He said something like, “You know, the one that looks like a large trout!”

An argument arose, each man naming the fish by a different name.  After a very intense discussion, I finally held up the fish itself and said, “Surely, we can agree on what to call this fish!”

I was relieved that the argument was over when I awoke from the dream, even though we still hadn’t named the fish.  I lay there in the darkness thinking about the final message, and I was reminded of my recent blog article.  

First, I realized that the fish itself was more than a name, more than just a word.  Instead, it was a vital piece of food for someone in the Belizean village who needed subsistence.  Arguing about what it was called and even agreeing on a name wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of the recipient.

Second, I recalled that Jesus called some of his new followers to be  “fishers of men.”

18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”20Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20).

I realized that arguing over the name of a fish will not catch a fish, any more than arguing over Church doctrines will bring people into the Kingdom of God.  Instead, wrangling about biblical teachings only convinces non-believers that Christians are deceiving themselves into thinking that they truly know and understand the Scriptures that we claim to be the Word of God which we have personally received.

Let us all agree to cease arguing over doctrines and teachings.  Surely, we can agree on what to call Jesus: the Messiah and Savior, Who came into the world to redeem us from the bondage of sin.


Moving For Purpose, Part I (by Jan Jenkins)

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Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  Is. 40: 29 – 31

At times the days go by slowly, and at other times they seem to go by very quickly.  Our whole family was together for Thanksgiving, which felt so good, and then the surge of the Christmas season passed quickly.  After the first of the year, 2016, Chuck and I felt apathetic. He had had surgery the previous October, and the recovery took longer than we expected because of some difficulties in the operating room, so we were so thankful when he was feeling much better.  A follow-up appointment in January showed that he was doing very well, and all his following appointments since then have been encouraging.  In fact, we had much to be thankful for, so why the lethargy?  Family, home, health, church, and friends were all a blessing to us.

We began praying that we would know God’s direction and that we would discern the plan and purpose God had for us.  Was retirement going to be settling down, finding some new hobbies, or taking an extended vacation?  Charles retired from the University in the spring of 2014, and for over a year we had reveled in the freedom we had to go on short camping trips in our new travel trailer whenever we wanted.  Now, there was an inner sense that there should be more for us.  Where was our place?  Where did we fit?  We had helped with leadership in the church home groups for a couple of years, but this ministry appeared to have ended since we never received further guidance.  I don’t remember how many times I asked the Lord what our purpose was. 

Getting Acquainted with Belize in 2006


A number of years ago in 2006, we had visited Hopkins, Belize, a predominately Garifuna community in Central America, and we loved it there.  The tropical sunny climate, the beautiful Caribbean Sea, and the enchanting rainforest with the howler monkeys were a joy.  The history of Belize and particularly the Garifuna people is intriguing. For many years Belize was inhabited by the Mayan civilization which accounts for the incredible Mayan ruins that can still be seen today.  Currently, Belize is home to the Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo (Spanish and Native Americans), Mennonite (Amish) peoples, as well as a blend of many other cultures.   The Garifuna came from the inter-married Arawak Indians and Carib Indians of St. Vincent Island.  After the British tried to subdue the native people, a minority of survivors were deported to Roatan, Honduras.  However, the Garifuna were again forced to flee and landed on the southern coastline of Belize in 1832. 

In a victory over the Spanish in the Battle of St. George’s Caye in 1798, the British were given control and British Honduras became a British colony.  The name was changed on June 1, 1973, to Belize, and on September 21, 1981, Belize became independent.  In 1954 all adults could finally vote in Belize, and in 1986 the first university opened there. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Garifuna culture a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2001.  This proclamation was made to raise awareness and protection of the Garifuna culture.  The government in Belize is a parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy.  The prime minister is the head of the government, and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. 

Chuck and I decided to look at airplane fares and reservations to see if another trip to Belize looked possible.  After doing some research, we decided to plan a trip for the following April 2016.  This trip would give us something to look forward to and plenty of time to plan, look for flights, and find a place to stay. 

We chose to go back to Hopkins, Belize, which is a small fishing village on the southern coast of Belize in a district called Stann Creek.  It is a small multicultural community consisting mostly of Garifuna people with a few Mayan people, and a small expat gathering.  English is spoken with a beautiful rhythm and is relatively easy to understand for native English speakers.   Spanish is also occasionally heard among some of the people.  They are a happy, contented people and very friendly to everyone.  The first time we visited Hopkins, we stayed at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, which is a beautiful resort located right on the Caribbean Sea that specializes in diving, snorkeling, and various tours of the area including the rainforest.  This time we felt confident enough to stay on our own in a location in the village of Hopkins itself.  After much internet searching, we found a small house, or cabana, to rent in the center of the village facing the Caribbean Sea. We made reservations for April 19th to the 26th.     

Seeking Direction    

As excited as we were to return to Belize, we still were grappling with purpose and God’s direction for us here at home in the United States.  We began thinking that maybe there was a higher reason to revisit Hopkins Village than merely a time of vacation.  We were both still searching for that answer.  I began looking at all the activities there were to do in the Hopkins area. 

On our first visit we had stayed for a few days in the rainforest in a beautiful resort called Lamanai Outpost Lodge before going to Hamanasi.  We hiked all around Mayan Ruins, climbed to the top of the magnificent Lamanai Mayan ruins, gone with a guide to hunt and tag crocodiles on the river, enjoyed the Howler Monkeys, taken an all day hike in the rainforest to beautiful Antelope Falls, where we went for a swim, and we had gone snorkeling along the Barrier Reef.  Now in the village area, cave tubing, river rafting, a Jaguar Reserve, zip lining, and sea fishing were available.  Initially, I thought we could plan one activity for each day since when we were there previously we had focused mainly on adventures and sightseeing. 


This time, however, we decided to see if we could find a church in the village to visit. I researched the area and found a church called Ligilisi Lareini Bunjiu, in Garifuna, and in English, “Church of Grace.”  We decided that we would try to find the pastor after we arrived.  With this first decision, it felt like God began speaking to us more about our visit.  Chuck had a vivid dream one early morning in which we were in Belize actively involved in ministry.  He woke up excited to share it with me.  Now we talked more about mixing with the Garifuna people and looking for ministry opportunities

By April, we additionally began to discuss whether, or not, God was actually calling us to a longer ministry in Hopkins Village.  Both of us believed that God had a higher purpose for this visit, and we needed to be in prayer for His guidance and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, our home here in the U.S. began to feel a little uncomfortable.  We had just attended a semi-annual Home Owners Association (HOA) meeting, and when the discussion focused on getting a large bank loan to repair the private road for our community, we became very unsettled.  Our plan since the early days of our Christian ministries, and God’s plan for us, is that we stay out of debt:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who  his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

This loan, however, would put everyone in the association in debt for the next 20 years.  If they were able to get the loan, it would only take a majority vote to commit all the families in the association to this large debt.  The majority at the meeting didn’t want simply to fix the eroded and cracked places, but also to resurface the whole road.    I felt the Lord speaking to my heart saying that we were “unequally yoked,” with unbelievers who were making financial decisions we didn’t agree with. This situation, along with the upkeep on our house on six acres, which was becoming more difficult, made us begin thinking about downsizing.  Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  

Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  Meanwhile, at the very least, we would have a nice vacation in Belize, we could have some time away to think about our situation more, and finally, perhaps, we could come to a decision about our house.

We remembered many years ago hearing a speaker talk about the eagle’s nest.  The parent eagles prepare a comfortable home for their eaglets with soft, downy feathers, and they carry plenty of food to them.  When the eaglets grow their juvenile feathers and become more ready to leave the nest, the parent eagles rough it up so that there are irritating sticks surfacing instead of the soft covering of feathers and other plant life that had made their home so comfortable.  This new discomfort makes them want to leave the nest.  We concluded, perhaps, that because our nest was becoming a bit scratchy, it was time to make a move.  Now we began thinking that if we were able to sell our house and move into something smaller, we might consider having a house in Belize.

On April 17, we made a decision to phone a Real Estate agent and ask her to look at our house.  She was available to come out that afternoon, so we showed her around.  She thought the house was “saleable” and was willing to do a “soft listing” while we were in Belize, which meant that while we were gone she could show the house to anyone interested, as well as to colleagues in her office, to get a feel for the market.  Incredibly, after living in this house nearly 21 years, we felt very peaceful about our decision.

We did some frantic house cleaning, packed, and left for Belize two days later on April 19.  Since we hadn’t flown out of the country since 2006, we had forgotten some of the steps we had to take to get through customs, and we were sometimes mystified at the rude attitude of the TSA officers.  When we boarded the airliner to fly from Miami to Belize City, we felt relieved that we had successfully made it through all the checkpoints. 

At one point, when our plane began to taxi to the runway, suddenly there was a screeching of brakes, skidding, and a loud noise at the back of the plane as the plane came to a stop.  All the passengers were jerked forward, and I half expected the oxygen cups to come flying out!  We looked back and saw that all the metal cupboards in the back of the cabin had flown open and the big bin of ice had sailed off the shelf and hit the flight attendant in the head.  She was bent over in pain, and all the attendants from the front of the plane came running down the aisle to assist her.  Behind them, a woman came hurrying down the aisle saying, “I’m a doctor, let me help.”  After giving the woman immediate first aid, the pilot decided to take her back for medical attention at the airport.  Over the intercom, he explained to all the passengers that this meant a “few minutes delay” while they found a substitute flight attendant. 

Nothing was explained about why the sudden stop was necessary, but later we learned that another plane had been headed in our direction because the tower had neglected to notice that both planes were given clearance and were taxing at the same time to the same runway.  About an hour later we were finally ready for take-off again. 

This was the second time we were flying to Belize, yet the first time we had another unique experience when we were certain of God’s protection.  In 2006 we had a layover at Atlanta.  When our boarding announcement was broadcast, we saw two Arab men hug one another and say their good-byes.  As we boarded the plane, we saw that our seats were directly behind the one Arab man who had boarded ahead of us.  He didn’t have anyone seated next to him so he spread his prayer cloth on the seat and began reading a book. 

I peeked through the two seats and saw the title of the book written in English:  Journey of Death.  This was alarming, but I kept thinking how God was sending us on this vacation and that He surely would protect us.  Even if something horrific happened, I knew where we were going, so I tried not to think about it.  None of the attendants seemed to notice him.  I realized later that I should have said something to a flight attendant, but at the time I didn’t want to call attention to him if he were innocent.  I said a prayer, though, for protection as we got ready for take-off. 

After leaving the runway, I peeked again between the seats and saw that he was asleep.  He slept through the whole flight and didn’t wake up until we landed.  God used this experience to remind me how He protects those who trust in Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me. (Ps 23:4)

We had a good flight to Belize City and went through customs.  The Belize International Airport is small and crowded, but it is fun to arrive and feel that immediate immersion into the culture.  There are several small shops that sell souvenirs and snacks around the perimeter of the room, with a tight seating area in the middle. We saw a sign for a restaurant, but never could find it in this small area!      2017-01-24_1029.png

Our next flight to Dangriga, Belize, was in a small Cessna that carried only six passengers, and after only 10 minutes we saw that we were landing again.  When we landed, the pilot said nothing to us, but we looked out and saw that they were loading several large boxes of vegetables onto the plane.  When they finished a couple of workers boarded, and then we were off again!  This time we landed in Dangriga Airport and we were picked up by a driver who took us to our small, colorful rented cabana in Hopkins Village. 

 2017-01-24_1030.pngIn the kitchen we noticed that all the knobs on the stove were labeled in Spanish.  We later found out that many of the “Mabe” appliances are made in Mexico and sold in Belize.  The cabana was pleasant, with a wonderful Caribbean breeze off the sea coming through the windows.  Occasionally, we would spot a gecko crawling along the wall.  We were told they eat bugs, so we left them alone.  We also saw beautiful Frigate Birds flying over the sea.

 We initially had a couple of days of adjustment to the tropical weather and the general environment.  It was hard to believe we were back in Belize, and we were even a little disoriented with all the activity around and the differences we immediately felt as a result of being in a different culture.  We were in the center of the village, so there was noise, and people, and children all around.  Out on the veranda, we would see an occasional small Iguana scamper across the sand.  They were fun to look at because when they run, they stand up on their two back feet.  Later, on a drive we saw one that was almost three feet long.  At night we could hear drumming at one of the nearby clubs.

On one side of the cabana, a crew of construction workers were building a house.  One evening we decided to try to knock off a coconut from one of the trees.  We found a stick but it didn’t reach high enough, so we tried jumping but couldn’t dislodge one.   One of the construction crew was sitting watching us and probably laughing inwardly at our technique.  Chuck asked him in Spanish if he could help us. The man found a longer piece of wood left over in a pile, and he was able to get us two coconuts immediately.  Between our limited Spanish and his limited English, we had a brief conversation and found out his name was Roberto and that he had probably traveled from Guatemala for this job.  After that, whenever we saw him, we greeted him in Spanish, and he would always greet us in English.


In the Garifuna language, the words for the village, Yugadan, Balisi, are translated “Hopkins, Belize.” In the village are many beautiful seafront properties with very small make-shift wooden homes that have been owned by families for generations. It is not uncommon for trash to be thrown outside on the sand, where it is then occasionally raked up and burned, along with sea grass that washes ashore. 


Hopkins is a small village with perhaps 1200 residents, many of whom are employed at the local resorts that have been built up over the years.  Many people own cafes or souvenir shops, or they just set up tables along the main road to sell food daily to tourists or school children for lunches.  One night we bought “burritos” from a woman who had set up a table.  To us, they were more like tostitos than burritos, but they were very tasty, nevertheless.

In the evening of our first night, though, we walked to a cafe called “Innies.”  We ordered a traditional Garifuna dish called Hudut, which is fish cooked in a coconut broth and served with a mound of mashed plantains.  When our bowl of soup, or stew, arrived, along with a plate with a huge mound of mashed plantain, we had no idea how to eat it.  We asked the waitress for help, who giggled and looked at her family gathered in the kitchen; they also thought our question was funny.  She then told us how to take the plantain mash and dip it into the “fish soup.”  This was our first experience eating plantains, and later we also had them fried, similar to French fried potatoes, or “thick chips.”

Since we were last in Hopkins ten years before our trip in 2016, a gracious expat had opened a Humane Society to help with the homeless animals that roamed the village.  Today, veterinarians donate time to provide vaccinations and care as necessary, and the services are all free.  On Sundays, The Lucky Lobster, a local eating establishment, has “Bow Wow Sunday,” a time when they invite customers to purchase a specific dish or drink, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the Hopkins Humane Society.  While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, who we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, whom we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

Holy Family Roman Catholic School


From walking around the village and having conversations with people, we found out that the village school is what we call a “public school” in the US, but operated by the Catholic Church in Belize.  English is taught in the schools in Belize, but Garifuna is spoken among friends and family.  The children wear uniforms and generally walk to school or ride bikes.  For lunch they come back home or purchase food from women who set out tables of food along the road.  It was fun to sit outside at one of the cafes and watch the children go by. They’re somewhat shy, but responsive to a smile or wave.  I quickly found out that they love lollipops!

We learned that at the house next door to our cabana the owner rented bicycles, so we walked over to rent two of them.  All the bicycles we saw were “fat tire” bikes with peddle brakes.  However, now we could do a little more exploring of the village area.  We first biked to the north end of town, the home of the Drumming Center, where Garifuna drummers entertain and teach any willing visitor how to drum.  The Garifuna drums are hollowed out from solid trunks of Mahogany, Mayflower, or Cedar, made into a cylinder-shape, and then sanded smooth.  The skin of a deer, sheep, or goat may be used to cover the top of the drum, with cow skin for the larger drums, using rope and vines to secure the skin to the drum.  Eight pins are used to tighten the rope and these are used also to tune the drums.  The drums sit in the sun to dry and the skin is sanded smooth.  A drum called “Primero” is usually twelve inches or less in diameter providing a high sound, and a “Segundo” drum will be fourteen to eighteen inches or more and providing a bass sound. 

Lessons at the Drumming Center


Chuck was given a drumming lesson when we were in Hopkins the first time, and they had him drumming so long that he felt like his fingers were going numb!  It truly takes lessons and practice to beat the drums correctly.  

It was fun to visit the Drumming Center again and see that it was larger now, and easily accommodating more people that before.  The man in charge was just as friendly and talkative as the first time we visited.



We also met a Mayan woman who owns a souvenir shop selling both Mayan and Garifuna items.  She took us around her property showing us various edible fruits, as well as some that are medicinal.  One of the most unique fruits was the noni, which is used to make juice that the people believe kills cancer and many other illnesses.  Juice is made by letting the ripe noni sit in a glass jar in the sun making the juice seep out of the fruit over several weeks.  She says she drinks the juice every day, and she gave us one so we could try it.  The fruit is also eaten raw or cooked.  We tried the juice, and found it had a very bitter taste and the smell was pretty unpleasant.  The “free range” chickens in the village, however, like the ripe, softened noni fruit!

Seeing Golden Again!


We also saw a souvenir shop named “Golden Gifts.”  We remembered that in 2006, when we were there in Hopkins, we had a guide named Golden who took us on a hike to a beautiful waterfall called Antelope Falls.  We remembered him because of his name and because he was so informed about the plants, trees, and animals of the area.  We had a welcoming reunion with Golden, who now owns his own shop and has his own tourist company called “D Golden Tours.”  We’re so happy that Golden has been successful in his business since he was such a good tour guide.  On the way back to the cabana, we saw a woman washing a huge pile of clothes using a large bucket of soapy water and a washboard.  We waved as we rode by, and she waved back.

View From Driftwood Plaza

On another day we went on our bicycles up to the north end of Hopkins Village to eat at a highly recommended café called Driftwood Pizza.   It was a cute place, scenically located right on the beach.  There were tables inside and outside with a volleyball net on the sand and a few hammocks (the first choice for relaxation in Belize).  We ordered pizza from the waiter with several toppings, including coconut.  We saw the cook go out, knock a coconut off a tree and then take it to a place near the kitchen where she cracked it open with ease.  She got some coconut and began grating it to be put on the pizza.  Right before the pizza was done, she brought something rounded and light brown in color and placed it on our napkins.  We thought it might be some kind of a bread roll, so I asked her what it was.  She explained it was a rock to keep the napkins from blowing away in the light Caribbean Sea breeze!  Surprised, I told her I thought it was something to eat!  She and the waiter could hardly stop laughing!  Silly gringos!


 After a couple of days in the cabana, we started having young visitors every night selling cakes their mother had made during the day.  There were always two or three little boys who would knock on the door or look in the windows to get our attention.  They were lively and always wanted to try on our shoes which we always left outside the front door!  I gave them lollipops which probably encouraged them to come every night, and it was impossible for us to refuse to buy a cake!



2017-01-24_1051.pngOn Thursday afternoon we went out for another walk and decided to see if we could find the church and Pastor Herdie Castillo.  Everyone we asked knew him, and eventually we found the church, but there was no one there.  The double front doors were locked, and the wooden shutters around the whole building were all closed.  We then began asking for directions to his house.  The people have what for us was an unusual way of giving directions.  They are so familiar with their village and where everything is that they simply list off several landmarks to watch for, and always what you are looking for is “close by.”  Most roads off the main street are made of dirt, so we never could tell if “three roads that way” included dirt paths or dirt roads since most of the roads have no names that we could see.  Finally, after three or four directions, we found Pastor Herdie’s house. 

When we got there, he was watching the NBA playoffs on television, and we were apologetic for interrupting him.  The house was very small and simple, but there was an atmosphere of peace and contentment even though there was truly a whole houseful of people.  He came outside to talk to us.  Young and older children were all around, and he introduced us to several of them who were his children and grandchildren.  They were all attractive with beautiful smiles.  His lovely wife Victoria came outside so we could meet her also.  They told us a little about their ministry, and we told them we wanted to visit the church on Sunday.


We left Pastor Herdie’s house feeling like God might indeed have a ministry for us in Hopkins Village.  Pastor Herdie was a quiet, unassuming man who obviously had much wisdom and love for the Lord, and we were drawn to his humble, godly spirit.  Later, while reading the word the following scripture “jumped out.” 

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony go God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.  I. Corinthians 2:1-5

These verses resonated with us because they provided confirmation of some of the things that Pastor Herdie had talked to us about.  He shared that the best way to become immersed into the village is by quietly observing and listening to the people.  One must come into the community with humility and listen as God provides opportunities to share the gospel, while also, relying on the Holy Spirit within us to give us His power without being concerned about our weaknesses or fears. Finally, we could depend upon Him to work through us.

We walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.  He then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about it.

Friday morning, we went out for a swim in the sea.  This morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana. We then decided to do more exploring in the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize. We picked a few small carvings that would fit in our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay him.

On Saturday, when we went out for our morning swim, we talked about Charles’s dream again and whether, or not, we were ready to make a decision regarding a purchase in Belize.  We formulated a tentative plan if the Lord should bring us back to Belize.  After talking with Pastor Herdie, we felt that we would be there initially to Pray, to Listen, and to Watch.  The following scripture ministered to us beginning with Paul’s prayer:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as though with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Part of our discussion was the connection we felt with the Garifuna people of Hopkins Village because we sensed their need for the Truth to set them free.  The Garifuna people have cultural traditions that remain very strong, so they aren’t necessarily interested in accessing the truth of God’s Word.  When they commit their lives to Jesus, they must disown occult traditions like witchcraft, including the belief in mediation with departed ancestors.  The precious Garifuna Christians, who have let go of those religious customs, have a joy and love that is amazing, but they also deal with pressure and misunderstanding from family and friends who are without Christ and who feel that these Christians have rejected their Garifuna roots.  Charles and I are both trained, professional teachers, and we felt a desire to teach the Word of God so the people might “be firmly rooted and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), while being mindful that “no one takes them captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men”  (Colossians 2:8).

We also discussed our concerns about our family and being gone from them for longer periods of time.  It would take time and much understanding for them to comprehend our vision.  It was not easy to think about being this far apart from them, and it would be a difficult separation for us.  Furthermore, we couldn’t plan this journey without thinking about how old we are, even though foreign mission work has been something we have always wanted to do. 

We Had Always Wanted to Be Missionaries

When we were first married, we wanted to be missionaries.  We traveled over two hours to Long Beach, California, for an appointment with a representative of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  The representative told us that even though Charles had a bachelor’s degree, as well as teaching certification, and though I was a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), we would still have to go to Bible College, and it would be at least seven years of study before we could even think about going to the mission field.  This news was overwhelming since we were in our twenties, and we were eager to move into ministry.  A while after that, we thought maybe we should apply to join the Peace Corp.  We had Christian friends who were in Africa with the Peace Corp, so we filled out the application.  We never heard back! 

Was it possible that after all these years God was finally sending us to ministry outside the US?

Later, we went to see John, the realtor and asked him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was to happen He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to change the direction of a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm119:105).

Worship Platform and Pastor Herdie 2017-01-24_1059.png                

Sunday Worship Service

Pastor Herdie’s Church service begins at 7:00 PM on Sundays in order to accommodate the many people who work at the local resorts on weekends and are not off until Sunday evenings.  We walked and had to ask for directions a few times since we couldn’t remember exactly where the church building was.  Again, everyone we asked was familiar with the church location.  When we arrived, we saw that the double front doors were wide open, all the wooden louvers were open at the windows (no glass), and all the lights were on.  The chairs were the plastic lawn chairs that are common here in the US.  Ceiling fans were on, and a couple of floor fans were turning.  There was a low stage with the traditional Garifuna drums and a guitar. We were a little early and saw the pastor slowly walking around the room praying.  We talked briefly with him and sat down.  

As the people entered, we noticed the smiles and general joy of the people.  The women all wore colorful dresses or skirts.  The children were shy, but would smile at us.  I had lollipops for a few of them too.  A woman sitting close to me came over and asked if she also could have a “sweet.”  I first assumed that she just wanted one because she saw the kids with them, but she explained that they made her stomach feel better.  She was in the early months of pregnancy and had been very sick.  I gave her a lollipop, and then later in the service, I gave her another one.                     

Now the church was just about full.  I would guess around 90 people.  We were so happy to see our friend Golden come in with his family.  It turned out that he was one of the two drummers who play for worship.  Pastor Herdie played the guitar and led the singing with two women as back up.  Because they have all the doors and windows open and use amplification, the sound carries out into the village.  What a testimony to hear and see these people sing out with all their hearts, each one worshipping as though no one else is there.  The songs were sung in English, and many of them were familiar to us.  They don’t have the words written out, so the songs are memorized.

                     Anointed Prayer                               

Next, a woman who was recognized as a prayer warrior came to the microphone and led us in prayer.  The power of the Holy Spirit in her as she prayed was amazing.  She opened her Bible to Deuteronomy 28:2-8 and declared these precious promises in her prayer for all of us who were there:

All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.  The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.  The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. (Deuteronomy 28:2-8)

Her prayer was a declaration of faith in the Word of God, and there was no doubt the Lord heard this prayer which was prayed with faith and the agreement of the congregation.  This was truly a lesson in praying and believing His promises in the Word of God, as opposed to praying a “pleasing” prayer that just sounds good for listeners.

Golden on Drum and Pastor Herdie on Guitar

They had a greeting time, a time which always makes me nervous, but as the worship leaders sang and played the drums and guitar, it seemed so natural.  In an unselfconscious way, everyone, including the children, went around to one another for a quick hug and simply saying, “God bless you.”  It was not a time for conversation, but a brief blessing for one another.  There didn’t seem to be any hesitancy about including us in their blessings.  It was wonderful to feel so embraced.

One of the issues Pastor Herdie faces is the occult traditions of the Garifuna people.  He understands the hold the enemy tries to keep on these Christians.  In his message, Pastor Herdie spoke about this struggle and strongly urged the people to cease these practices which include trying to “hear” what their ancestors are saying.  He exhorted them, saying that our Savior, Jesus Christ, gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us, and He is the only one we should be listening to.  He encouraged people to live in righteousness and to listen to the Holy Spirit. 

At the end of the service, the pastor asked two or three people to come up for prayer.  One of the women was Kendra, to whom I had given sweets and who was truly suffering from morning sickness.  As he prayed for each individual, everyone in the congregation prayed too.  I was so blessed by this prayer time because I had been feeling all through the service that Kendra needed special prayer.  After this, all the people sang Happy Birthday in Garifuna to one of the men.  It was delightful to hear it sung in their language.

As we walked home, we felt spiritually refreshed and confident of God’s calling.  We were so excited.  Later, God gave us the following scripture:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face[s], and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you. (II Thessalonians 3:9-11)  

The following Monday morning, we went for our early swim and had our habitual sharing time, believing that God had spoken to us through Peter the Lord’s disciple.  Like Peter, we have always been somewhat impetuous and have never held back from making instant decisions when we felt God was calling.  We have had home Bible studies, pastored churches, and been professional teachers in the public and Christian school systems.  We have moved our family several times when God was leading, and the last big move we had made was from California to Pennsylvania. 

Peter, the disciple, is an ever-present example of someone who is not afraid of making a mistake, but who fearlessly jumps at every chance to be near Jesus.  For example, Peter recognized that he was “all in” with Jesus.

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)  

Peter also made his confession of faith to Jesus when Jesus asked the disciples,

        “Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). 

Peter didn’t always understand the mission of Jesus.  When Jesus told the disciples that He would have to leave them, 

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord where are You going?”  Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now?  I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:36-37). 

Furthermore, Jesus spoke to the disciples telling them that He must suffer, be rejected, and be killed, but after three days He would rise again. 

And He was stating the matter plainly.  And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s”  (Mark 8:32-33). 

Again, Peter didn’t understand.  However, Jesus never gave up on Peter even though Peter tended to be impetuous, even cutting off the ear of one of the guards had who come to arrest Jesus (John 18:10-11).  And on the Sea of Galilee, upon seeing Jesus, Peter jumped out of the boat when he and the disciples were fishing. 

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net of fish.  John 21:7-8 

Any other disciple could also have easily jumped out of the boat to be with Jesus since they were so close to the shore.

Peter was also blessed to be one of the disciples taken to the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but not comprehending the significance of the event. 

“And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ –not realizing what he was saying.” (Luke 9:33) 

Peter, as imperfect as he was, loved Jesus. 

He [Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 

As Peter grew spiritually, however, he became a powerful evangelist after he was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the Father. 

His boldness and power were evidenced in the following passages:

  • At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty person was there together).  (Acts 1:15)
  • “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them:  ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.” (Acts 2:14) 
  • “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ( Acts 2:38)

In the stories of Peter’s life, we find wonderful lessons about how God loves and directs our lives, both through our wise decisions and even decisions made impetuously without much forethought or prayer.  I have always liked the way Peter was comfortable enough with Jesus that he could make mistakes, speak out, and even question Him, knowing that Jesus loved him unconditionally and would keep him safe.

Finding Peace in God’s Will

While we were in the sea, we saw John, the real estate agent, drive up to the cabana.  We quickly got out of the water believing that he had good news for us.  Instead, he told us that our offer had been rejected because another one had come in sooner.  We were surprised and initially wondered if we had been too impulsive.  John suggested we go out and look again at the lots.  So, we trusted that if the Lord had a lot for us, he would either show it to us, or we would know that we should stop moving in this direction. 

We quickly showered and got dressed.  John then took us for a drive to look at properties we hadn’t taken notice of before, and about an hour later we made an offer on another lot.  A phone call was made to the owner who accepted our offer over the phone while we sat in the Real Estate office.  We were excited but a little overwhelmed.  Our Heavenly Father had actually prevented us from getting the first lot, and we not only got this lot for $9,000 less, but also it was a little closer to the village and partially cleared.







Were we really doing this? God spoke to our hearts about Peter again, this time from Matthew 14:23-32.  Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus went away to be alone and pray.  The disciples went out on the sea in a boat.  In the middle of the night, Jesus appeared to the disciples walking on the water.  They were frightened so Jesus said, “Take courage it is I; do not be afraid.” 

No matter what is happening to us, good or bad, at any given moment, we can have courage because we have Jesus in our lives. 

Peter then said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “Come.” 

Peter didn’t let any distractions deter him as he climbed out of the boat.  I can only imagine what the other disciples were thinking, but Peter was focused and wasn’t about to listen to their concerns.  Peter left his area of comfort and safety and chose to be with Jesus.  He got out of the boat and walked on the water.  He only began to sink when he became afraid. 

The important message in this passage is that when you “see” Jesus and keep on seeing Him, there is no fear.  This was our time to step out of the boat; to step out of our comfortable lives and home.  Our confidence was that we were where Jesus was, and even if we began to sink, he would stretch out his hand and hold us, just like he did with Peter.

On Tuesday, we left Belize and flew home to Pennsylvania.  We made it home at about 3:00 AM.  It felt good to be back, knowing we would soon see and talk to our family.  That week we talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace, and we were determined we would keep our eyes on Jesus.


(To Be Continued:  Part II in next Blog Post)

Reaching Intellectuals for Christ

(The Traditional site of the Areopagus at the Base of the Acropolis in Athens)

Paul at Athens

Due to the persecutions inflicted on the Apostle Paul, as well as those endured by his friends Silas and Timothy, as they sought to proclaim the Gospel to people in Thessalonica and Berea, many of whom were not at all eager to receive the Good News, Paul was escorted to Athens by those he had been ministering to, where he waited for Timothy and Silas to join him again.

It was in Athens that Paul faced a unique challenge.  Rather than being confronted by hostile Thesallonian gentiles or agitated Jews who opposed his teaching, Paul found a number of ancient intellectuals, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers, who delighted in demonstrating their mental skills to one another and sneering at those who disagreed or couldn’t follow their arguments.  

Here is the story from the Seventeenth Chapter of The Acts of the Apostles, written by Luke:

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17 So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18 And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:16-18).

Significantly, Paul first shares the “Word of Truth” in Athens to the receptive Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, those people who were anxious to receive Paul’s message.  Significantly, Luke writes that Paul “was reasoning” with them, not condemning their beliefs or arguing with them.

Nevertheless, a number of Athenian philosophers sought out Paul to discover what “strange deities” he was proclaiming.  This phrase (“strange deities”) is exceptionally ironic, given the context of the culture in ancient Athens, which Luke describes as a “city full of idols,” so many idols that the people even had an altar dedicated to the worship of an “unknown” god (as we will soon see in the passage below).  

The Areopagus in Athens

First, however, the Athenian philosophers brought Paul to their gathering place (click here to learn more about this ancient site: “Areopagus“).  These intellectuals wanted to hear what Paul had to say, for as Luke describes them, these intellectuals used to do nothing all day but attempt to discover new ideas and teachings, a common approach of many intellectuals still to this day:

19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21 (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

Their request is significant, for they seem to be open and receptive to Paul’s new teachings, even though their true attitudes are soon revealed.

Paul’s Sermon on Mars Hill (at the Areopagus)

Of course, most people today would never believe their homes and cities to be filled with idols, or objects of worship. However, this distinction is merely a matter of definition.  Please see the following poignant site for clarity on our own objects of worship in today’s culture:

22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
Notice that Paul does not attempt to enter into an intellectual discussion or engage in a debate with these philosophers, an approach that they would not only enjoy but also one in which they would be proficient. Instead, Paul commends them for their religious propensities, while raising a provocative question about their lives and beliefs:
“I see that you have an altar in your city that is devoted to an unknown god.  Since you are apparently ignorant concerning spiritual truths, I will reveal to you the secret, or mystery, that has confounded you” [paraphrased].
In order further to engage these philosophers and entice them to listen to his words, Paul tells them that the “unknown god” they worship is the very one he himself has been declaring in Athens.  He then continues to reveal God’s attributes, specifically that God does not conform to their solipsistic  (click to see definition) notions reflected in their many idols throughout the city:
24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;
Paul then cleverly appeals to their own Athenian interests and beliefs, at least those of their own Athenian poets:
28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’
Paul then provides a significant insight that reveals how insufficient their temples and idols are in worshiping the one, true deity:  God should not be worshiped through the things He has made, reformed images made of gold and silver, or worshiped in temples made with human hands.  And all humans, regardless of their origins, were created by God to seek Him and find Him:
29 Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
Finally, Paul concludes his message by revealing the proof of his claims about God:  Not only is God in control of all things, but also this God may not be found through idolatry, using manmade objects made with natural elements.  Consequently, this same God is calling all men to repent of their idolatry, for all will be judged by His messenger, the One Paul proclaims who was raised from the dead as proof of His divinity.  
According to typical reactions of intellectuals who solipsistically tend to believe as factual only what they see and hear, Paul’s message, one that hinges on the possibility of a human’s being raised from the dead, is the point when the audience divides into two groups: those who immediately reject even the possibility of such a miracle and those who follow Paul’s ideas as worth pursuing and learning more about.       

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.”

Did all of the Athenian philosophers become believers in Jesus Christ?  Having delivered his message, Paul simply left the results with God;

33 So Paul went out of their midst.

Having planted the seeds of the Gospel, however, Paul soon saw that a harvest of souls was the result:

34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.


What may we learn from Paul’s message to the Athenian Philosophers, the intellectuals of his day? And how do we share with those in our midst today who claim to know better than others what to believe?

Clearly, we need to deliver a message of love and hope, just as we would to any seeker.  Messages filled with the fires of Hell or eternal damnation usually only alienate those who may be listening.  And see below how Paul includes the message of judgment, but not in a non-loving way.  

Speaking personally, one of the most miraculous conversions I have experienced from one of my intellectual friends in the academic world came not as a result of debates or arguments, but instead as a result of compassion and willingness to pray with that person.

Here are some additional strategies to consider:

  • Most people, specifically those we label as “intellectuals,” are not moved to change their lifelong, strongly-held beliefs as a result of debates or arguments.  Usually, these strategies only serve to strengthen them in their own beliefs and ideas.
  • We must avoid what are termed ad-hominem attacks when addressing or sharing with unbelievers.  In our society today, these attacks are common, yet they serve only to alienate those being addressed, and to do so is to commit the worst of all logical fallacies: (see ad-hominem fallacy definition by clicking).
  • We must strive to find “common ground,” while also sharing the truths of the Gospel.  Paul does this when he commends the philosophers of Athens for being “religious in all respects”:22 So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:22-23)  
  • Notice in this passage Paul’s declaration that the Athenians are worshiping in “ignorance,” a statement that seems to be an ad-hominem attack.  Instead, however, Paul is merely repeating their own confession of their ignorance, for the altar is dedicated to the worship of the “UNKNOWN GOD,” presumably to ensure that they do not mistakenly leave any particular god out of their lives of devotion.  
  • Finally, Paul makes clear to the philosophers that listening and adhering to his message will benefit them greatly, as he delivers a warning that they need to repent of their ignorance in preparation for the judgments to come.  

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