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Thoughts on 2 Corinthians 8:1-2

vs. 1. God gave grace to the Macedonian churches, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to know about it.

vs. 2. The Macedonians experienced a severe trial. Out of this trial, they had both an overflowing joy and extreme poverty. Somehow, these welled up in rich generosity.

This is contrary to what we would expect. We would expect people in extreme poverty to be sad, not joyful, and to cling to what little they have, not to be generous. However, I have seen numerous examples of this overflowing joy and generosity in the midst of extreme poverty right here in Honduras throughout the past 11 years.

It’s important to also note that these are Christians who are experiencing this severe trial. Jesus said we would have trouble in this world (John 16:33), and this is just one example of that. We must remember though, that God said:

“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” –Hebrews 13:5b (NIV)

O Lord, help us, we pray, to never lose sight of the joy that we can have in you, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Help us to remember that we can best tell the world that we are your disciples when we show our love to each other, especially as we give out of our own need. Thank you for always being with us and not abandoning us, even when we fail you. Amen.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:35 (NIV)

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Reflections, Scriptures

 

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Reflections on Romans 8

It started with the lesson on Sunday afternoon in my English-speaking church in Honduras. The text was Romans 8. By Friday morning, there were posts from Romans 8 from four U.S. ministries in my Facebook newsfeed. That is not exactly a common occurrence. So, I thought I should re-read Romans 8 this morning. This is the result…

Reflections on Romans 8

I am not condemned! The law of the Spirit of life has freed me in Jesus from the law of sin and death. God did what the law could not do. He sent His own Son, in the likeness of man to be condemned in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the law could be fulfilled in me, if I walk according to the Holy Spirit. Because I live according to the Spirit, I set my mind on the things of the Spirit. This gives me life and peace. I must never set my mind on the things of the flesh, for that cannot please God.

The Spirit of God dwells within me: the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead! Through this same Spirit, God gives life to my mortal body!

I am not a debtor to the flesh, so I will not live according to the flesh. This would only lead to my eternal death. But, through the Spirit of God, I will kill the deeds of the flesh so that I can live! The Spirit of God leads me because I am a child of God. I have been adopted into God’s family. I do not fear. I am not a slave to sin. I have been adopted into the family of Almighty God! His Spirit bears witness with my spirit that I am God’s child. Therefore, I am an heir of God! I am an heir with Jesus Christ Himself!

However, receiving the inheritance requires that I suffer with Christ, so that I can be glorified with Him. I cling to the hope Paul gives in this passage. I believe that the glory waiting to be revealed to me will far surpass any sufferings I might experience in this life. All of creation is waiting and longing for restoration, for being set free from bondage to corruption. Even I groan inwardly and long for the day my body will be redeemed, the day I will receive my resurrection body as a child of God. It is in this hope that I was saved, and I wait for it with patience (and sometimes impatiently).

It is God’s Spirit who helps me in my weakness. I certainly don’t know how to pray as I should, but the Spirit intercedes for me according to God’s own will.

For everyone who loves God and is called according to His purpose, all things work together for good. There may be some sufferings, some trials along the way, but those are the very things that will help to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. God has predestined this conformation, so it will happen. The process might not always be pleasant, but the result will far outweigh the pain along the way.

God called me to be reconciled to Him through the death of His Son. He gave me the faith to believe, to obey, to trust, to follow Jesus. Because of Jesus’ shed blood, God has justified me. In His eyes, I am righteous. Therefore, He will one day give me a resurrection body for my eternal spirit. This is as certain as if it had already happened. Therefore, I can say with Paul that He has already justified and glorified me!

In light of all this, who can be against me? What does it matter? God will give me everything I need. Can someone bring a charge against me? It doesn’t matter. God justifies me. Can anyone condemn me? Only God could have condemned me, but He has justified me through His Son. Jesus is now at God’s right hand, interceding for me. No! No one can condemn me! Who can separate me from the love of Christ? No one. Nothing. No power on earth can separate me from the love of Christ. I am more than a conqueror through Jesus and nothing is able or will ever be able to separate me from the love God in Christ Jesus my Lord!

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the words of truth You give us in the Bible. Most importantly, thank you for the Truth you gave us and still give us in Your Son, Jesus, who made it possible for us to be reconciled with You! In His precious name I thank You and I worship You. Amen.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Reflections, Scriptures

 

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Breaking the Heart of God

Unused resources

Unused resources

I have been in the United States for almost four weeks now. Although I am enjoying myself and getting some work done, I also find myself contemplating the unjustness. Today, this image was in my newsfeed on Facebook. It depicts what I’m feeling. We have the resources needed to feed the world, to raise people out of the depths of poverty, but we only make surface attempts to help, using only what we decide we can afford to give up.

We have children growing up in orphanages because there aren’t enough people in the body of Christ who are willing to adopt orphans. We have millions of families living on $1 USD a day because we won’t spend the time or money required to investigate the true causes of poverty in a location and work with the local population to develop sustainable programs that will eliminate those causes. We won’t give up our second, third, or fourth car so that we can send an impoverished child to school. We won’t sell our luxurious houses and live in a modest house so that we can provide funds to build houses for those whose houses are literally falling down around them or whose family lives with five other families in a single 16-foot by 20-foot room with a leaking roof. The causes of poverty are many and complex, but God has given His people all the resources required to eliminate poverty in our lifetime. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most professing Christians act as if they believe that God has blessed them so they can live a happy, carefree, luxurious life, not so that they can be a blessing to others.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.” -Zechariah 7:9 (NIV)

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. -Micah 6:8 (NIV)

What would Jesus do? I think He would cry. I think He would cry over the injustice and poverty in this world and the lack of a concentrated, united effort among the people who profess to follow Him to resolve a problem for which the Creator of the Universe has given them all the resources required. Then, He would take action. I think He would go to the poorest person He could find and spend time with him, getting to know him and finding out why the person is living in poverty. Then, I think He would give the person a hand up until he reaches the point at which he is able to support himself and his family. Then, He would find another poor person and do it again. He would use all the resources at His disposal, not just what He can “spare”.

Why is it that we don’t raise a finger to prevent 19 people from dying from diseases caused by poor sanitation every five minutes? Why don’t we work together to prevent the deaths from malnutrition of 88 people every five minutes of every day? Why is it that people in the United States will consume 12,842 pounds of food every five minutes, while 760 million people will not have even one meal today, one billion people will only have one meal today, and another 1.1 billion will only have two meals? Why is it that every five minutes, Americans will spend $459,000 on humanitarian aid to other countries and $785,000 at Walmart? As a society, we are swimming in plenty, while the rest of the world drowns in poverty. Oh, how this must break the heart of God.

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. -Mark 16:16 (NIV)

What breaks the heart of God even more? His eternal separation from the people who die in their sins every day. There are approximately 2.2 billion people in the world who profess to be Christians, out of a world population of about seven billion. If we assume that those who say they are Christians truly are, that means there are about 4.8 billion people in the world who are lost and on the road to hell. They are dying at the rate of approximately 96,850 people per day. Why? Because many of us who say we are Christians have stopped following Jesus. We’re on the path; we’re just not moving forward. I believe that breaks God’s heart all over again.

What are we, God’s adopted children, going to do about that? What will we do to bring those lost people into God’s family?

God, help me, please. Help me to do all that You want me to do, not just some of what You want me to do. Help me to be who You want me to be. Show me the next step and, by Your grace and Your strength, I will take it. Amen.

 

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in Honduras, Reflections

 

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“Megan’s Secrets” Available Now

It was several years ago when I first heard Mike Cope speak at Stream in the Desert in Midland, TX. Not many weeks had passed since the fatal car crash that injured his son. I still remember Mike talking about the funeral of the young boy who had been sitting next to his son. I no longer remember the name of the elder who spoke, but I remember the verse Mike said he repeated over and over. Proverbs 3:5.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”

What a perfect verse. When you are at a loss for words to explain a tragedy, this is the verse to hang onto.

Prior to this incident, Mike went through another difficult time: the death of Megan, his mentally disabled daughter. I have heard some great stories of the joy Megan brought into her families life, so I am looking forward to reading Mike’s new book Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life.

I’m waiting for the Kindle edition to be released, but for those of you who like print copies, you can get a copy of the book from Amazon and support my mission work at the same time. How? By ordering through this link: Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life. You will still get the usual Amazon discount and I’ll get a small commission. I’ll have the Kindle edition available when it’s released.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Reflections

 

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How Much Longer? Aren’t We Done Yet?

It is interesting how much shorter the prayer time is at some other local churches than at Westside Fellowship. Why must even our time for prayer be hurried so we can finish the service “on time?” On whose time? Ours? What happened to God’s time? It still belongs to Him. Why don’t we let Him tell us when it’s time to end our prayer time?

The cry of my heart the last couple of years has been for the American church to slow down and quit rushing through worship services so we can get to our favorite restaurant before the crowd from other area churches arrives or get home in time to watch our favorite sports event. Can we not give God one day a week where we take time for Him, where He is the center of attraction?

May God have mercy on us for what we have done with the time He’s given us.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in Reflections

 

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I Want to Live With Them

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.” — Henri Nouwen

I want to live with the people of Tegucigalpa. I want to know the names of my neighbors and to share meals with them. I want to listen to their stories and tell them mine. And yes, I do want to “let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs” that I do not just like them, but truly love them. When they ask me why, I will tell them of the love of God that transformed my life and can transform theirs.

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Honduras, Reflections

 

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Another Mile Marker

It’s New Year’s Day, January 1, 2011. Another mile marker along the road to Honduras. This is my last New Year’s Day in this house and probably my last in the United States. I say “probably” because I cannot see the future. I have given God a blank check to my life. He is free to send me wherever He chooses. If He someday leads me back to the U.S. to live, then I’ll be back. I do not expect that to happen, but, as I said, I cannot see the future. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I know it will be far greater than I anything I could hope or imagine! I am content with that knowledge.

Thank you, God, for this past year and for the year that starts this day. Help me to combine what You have taught me in the past with what You will teach me in the future so that I will become the person You want me to be. Lord, on this first day of 2011, I give You anew my life. Take it and use it however You choose. Thank You for calling me to Honduras. Help me to follow the path as You set it before me. Please, don’t let me stray from Your path. I don’t want to do this in my power, my strength, or my wisdom. If I try that, I will fail miserably. So, please, help me, Father, to let You guide me and work in me and through me. Let all that I do from this day forth be done in Your power, Your strength, and with Your wisdom.

Help me each day, Lord Jesus, to surrender to You afresh, giving You absolute, total control of my life. In Your most holy and precious name I pray. Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2011 in Honduras, Reflections

 

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The Last Time

“This is the last time you’ll be here for Christmas.” No one had said it until tonight. I knew it, of course, but hadn’t stopped to think about it. Actually, this is the first Christmas I’ve been in San Antonio since 2003. The other years, I’ve been out of town on a personal writing retreat. It had become a tradition for me, one that I broke this year. This year is very different.

Unless God brings me back, this is likely to be the last Christmas I spend in San Antonio or in the States. It occurred to me that there will be several more of these “last time” occurrences before I get on that plane to Honduras in June. One might think that might be depressing, but it’s really not. Rather, each of these “last time” events will be mile markers along the path God has set before me. As each one passes, I will be ever closer to the moment I set foot again on Honduran soil to start what I expect will be the most difficult, challenging, exciting, and rewarding time of my life. This is not a time to dwell on what I will be missing when I leave, but rather, I look forward with great anticipation to the work God will do in me and through me. I know that for everything I leave behind here, God will give me something far better as I serve Him wherever He leads me.

So, tonight is my probably my last Christmas Eve, and tomorrow my last Christmas Day, in the States. I am thanking God for what the future holds for me.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2010 in Honduras, Reflections

 

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What’s Wrong with This Picture?

I just drove by The Forum Shopping Center. At 2:00 p.m., there were four lawn chairs and two men waiting outside the store for tomorrow’s “Black Friday” sale at Best Buy. Best Buy is not a food or clothing store. It’s an electronics and entertainment store. So, why are people willing to spend over 14 hours sitting outside a store to ensure they get a chance to buy some piece of electronic equipment at a greatly reduced price, rather than spend that time at home with their family on a day that is particularly meant to be spent with family? What’s wrong with this picture? If the family is happy about this situation, then again I ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Has the average American fallen so much in love with the trinkets and gadgets their money can buy that he or she puts a higher priority on getting them than on spending time with their family and friends? Is this what the American dream produces? I thank God for calling me to Honduras, a place where family still comes before buying more stuff.

As you sit down to your Thanksgiving meal today, I pray that you will recognize the many blessings God has given you throughout your life and will spend some time thanking Him and asking Him how He would like you to help meet the needs of those in your neighborhood who need help. God hasn’t blessed us so we can hoard those blessings. We are to share those blessings. Who will you share with?

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in Reflections

 

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Why Do I Love God?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love. By this was God’s love revealed in us, that God has sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him, and he in God. We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because he first loved us. -1 John 4:7-19 (WEB)

A rather disturbing question came to mind as I prayed during the communion service. As I thought about God’s love for us, I also thought, “Why do I love God?” Oh, it wasn’t really the question that was disturbing, but contemplating the answer certainly was.

Sure, the Apostle John says, “We love because He first loved us,” but is that the whole reason? Do I love God because He loves me, or is there more to it than that? Do I love God for my own selfish reasons? Do I love Him because of what He can give me? Do I love Him because I get to spend eternity with Him? Do I love God because only He can meet all my needs and make me happy?

If the answer is “yes” to those questions, then, in the paraphrased words of Isaiah, woe is me, and what a truly wretched person I am! I’m not sure I know the answer to those questions. I’m not sure I want to know.

What I do know is that I want the answer to be “no.” I want my love of God to spring forth from a heart so overflowing with gratitude that I can’t help but love my God.

We read in Genesis 1:27, “God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them” (WEB). In the verses right before John said, “We love Him, because He first loved us,” we twice read that God is love. Since God is love and God created man and woman in His image, surely that means we have an overwhelming capacity to love within us. That thought gives me hope that at the root of my love for God is not my own selfishness, but true love overflowing from both a grateful heart and a wellspring of love that God created within me!

O, Lord God, I cannot comprehend the enormity of Your love for all of mankind, Your love for me. Father, where there is selfishness within me, please remove it. I don’t want it. I want to be absolutely unselfish, like Your Son.

I don’t know the answers to all of my questions, but I know You do. You know why I love You. If my love is not from pure motives, if it is not from that wellspring of love You gave me, then please change me. Help me, Father, to love You purely and completely. Help me to love You for who You are, not what You can do for me. Help me to love You because You are good, because You are love, because You are perfection, because You love me. Help me, Father. Give me a pure love that knows no selfishness.

I ask this in the name of the most unselfish being who has ever walked this earth since You stopped walking in the Garden of Eden, Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2007, Star Ferdinand.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2007 in Reflections

 

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