The Practice of Spiritual Disciplines

How much do you want to get done in life?

How can we be useful vessels that God can use to get a lot done in His kingdom? Self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit, is an essential element in our lives if we want to be fruitful Christians. We make a firm decision, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live it out. Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, daily morning devotions, and a pure thought life will make us vessels that God can use. As we find victory from things such as lust, idolatry, grumbling, and addictions, we can be a soldier in God’s Kingdom. In this message Elisha Byler shares from the things he has learned in his journey with the Lord and from his years of experience working among an indigenous group in Mexico.


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Transcription:

In the early church, in the New Testament, there are several words that are used in description of the Christians. They are called “Christians” first at Antioch. They are also called “believers,” and they are called “disciples.” The word “disciple” is used much more than any other. And as Brother Curt mentioned, a disciple is one who has discipline. So this is something that I feel like God has been working in my heart, but I want a lot more of this in my life.

My desire this afternoon is to serve you. To inspire you. And as a servant leader, I want to do as Jesus did: He stooped and washed His disciples’ feet. I want to wash your feet this afternoon. I want to help you forward. I want you to be inspired. So I’m not here with a desire to shut people down. Now, there are things that need to be shut down sometimes in our lives, but primarily my goal this afternoon is to inspire you. There are a lot of exciting things that can be accomplished by this group of youth. Exciting in God’s Kingdom. Not easy things! But our God is a great God; He is a great King; He is the King of kings, and His Kingdom is the only cause which will last through all of eternity. Isn’t that exciting to be part of the Kingdom of God and the only cause that is eternal. Praise the Lord!

So, I have a number of copies. I left the stack of copies with the ushers. And I’m going to ask the ushers to organize themselves, and to distribute those copies. And if there is a need for more copies, then we will make more copies. I’m going to ask you a favor. Please don’t distract yourself by reading the copies. Hold the copies. I want you to take them home, and I want you to read them at home, but I don’t want you to be distracted from the sermon by looking at your copies.

So, to start out with, if you have your Bibles there, I would like to invite you to turn in your Bibles to the book of Deuteronomy as a foundation, as an introduction to this topic of spiritual disciplines. Deuteronomy 2. This is Moses reviewing the wanderings of the children of Israel. Some of you may think the book of Deuteronomy is somewhat boring, but I tell you, there are some beautiful things in the book of Deuteronomy. We’re going to start in verse 1.

“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days. And the Lord spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.’”

Hallelujah! You have skirted this mountain long enough. They went around this mountain.  Now, what is this mountain? We’re not going to take the time to read the rest of the chapter, but the rest of the chapter describes who is in this mountain. He says they are the Edomites, and they’re your brethren. And God has not given you any inheritance in this mountain. I have given this mountain to the Edomites. We’re in this world, but not of this world. God has not given us an inheritance in this world. So the things that were in that mountain were not necessarily wicked things. They were their brethren, but God had not given them an inheritance in that mountain. And God said, “You’ve gone around this mountain long enough. All right, now, turn and go northward.” And in the Bible, when it talks about northward, it’s often symbolic of turning toward the Lord, and toward His Kingdom, and the things of God.

So, some of you have been going around the mountain. Some of you have been trying to stay out of worldly things. I believe there’s a group of youth here that really have a heart after God. I have that assurance this afternoon. I believe there are people here who really do have a heart after God, but perhaps you haven’t been going northward. Perhaps you’ve been sort of circling around, just trying to stay out of sin, trying to stay out of worldliness. The challenge and the call this afternoon is to go northward. Press forward into new territory.

Some of you do not want to be worldly. I believe you have clean hands and a pure heart. You have not lifted up your hands to an idol nor sworn deceitfully. Probably many of you are like God described of the 7,000 in Israel. They had not bowed their knee to Baal. Hopefully, your phone has not become your master. Hopefully, you are not addicted to pornography or wallowing in these types of things. But perhaps you are still going in circles. Perhaps you have not entered the fullness of the Canaan land. It is time to turn northward.

The theme for this weekend is “The Local Church Faithful and Flourishing.” So this is personal, but it’s also corporate. We want to turn northward personally, but also as a unit, as a group. In our local churches, we want to turn northward, and we want to reach new territory. We want to find God’s will for us. We want to inherit the Promised Land.

So practically, how do I do this? How do I quit circling around? How do I turn northward and go and possess new territory? What does it mean to turn northward and inherit the Promised Land?  Some of that is self-discipline.

That word self-discipline – we’re going to talk about that just a little bit. Now, if it’s self-discipline, it sounds like something that I’m doing myself, right? Let’s turn to the book of Galatians 5 and we’re going to read verses 22-23. This is where the Bible talks about the fruit of the Spirit. [New King James Version.]

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Now in the Old King James Version, it says, “temperance.” And perhaps some of you have read that word “temperance” many times and never really knew exactly what that word means. That word “temperance” literally means, “self-control.” I looked it up in the Greek, and it’s just a very literal translation: self-control.

Now, if it’s self-control, am I controlling myself? But it says it’s a fruit of the Spirit. So is He controlling me or am I controlling myself? That’s a good question. Well, it’s both. It’s my firm decision. By faith, I give myself to God in a complete surrender to Him by faith, but it takes the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to come in and work this in me. I don’t have the strength within myself. I can’t just pull myself up by my own bootstraps. We need the empowering of the Holy Spirit. But there’s got to be self-control in our lives if we’re going to make progress. If we’re going to turn northward, and conquer new territory, and advance, we will need self-control; we will need self-discipline.

Perhaps you’ve been taught that salvation is free. Certainly! The price for the forgiveness of our sins has been paid. Only Jesus could do that. Salvation, the forgiveness of our sins is something we cannot earn. But Jesus never offered free tickets to heaven. Jesus always said that it would cost everything. And today it’s no different. It will cost you everything! The brother last evening talked about the Anabaptists. They did not water down the message to get more people into their churches. They preached the whole Word of God. They said it just like it says it in the Bible: it will cost everything!

Years ago, the Lord opened my eyes to what it was going to cost – at least partially. It’s going to cost everything. It’s going to cost sleepless nights. It’s going to cost fasting. It’s going to cost suffering. Misunderstanding. Poverty perhaps. But the Lord has promised the most glorious victory in all of time! To the Church of Jesus Christ, we are promised a beautiful victory at the end.

We need heroes in our lives. The Bible is full of heroes. I’ve also read quite a bit of history, and there are also many more heroes down through the ages. Let’s think of a few of them. George Mueller, the man who had the orphanages in England. Hudson Taylor, who started the China Inland Mission. Everyone has heard of Hudson Taylor, right? And of George Mueller. And perhaps Charles Finney. He probably had the greatest impact for good in America as anyone ever has had. John Wesley impacted all of England and kept the country from civil war. Charles Spurgeon – his sermons have gone all around the world in many of the languages of the world. Andrew Murray. Think of these heroes of the faith. Do you realize that every single one of them, if you study their lives, they were tremendously self-disciplined? They had this fruit of the Spirit called self-control. But it was not their own strength. It was the strength of the Holy Spirit working within them. Many of these men spent 2-4 hours a day in prayer.

Do you aspire to being a man of God or a woman of God? Or do you just read these stories and think that was cool, and go on with your life? I used to read these stories, and I would go around telling my friends about what I would read. I would say, “Hey, have you heard of so-and-so and what he did?” And one day God gently said, “That was great what those men did, and so what are you going to do?”

So one of the things that God has laid on my heart is the need to get up in the morning and have devotions. So, those of you who have copies there, on the second page, there are three quotes at the top. I’m going to read the bottom one there by E. M. Bounds. It says,

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.”

Now when I was a teenager, some of my friends told me that we need to have our devotions in the morning. I said, “Well, there’s nothing more holy about the morning than about the evening. I can do my devotions in the evening.” And I was pretty stubborn about that. But do you know what would happen? I’d come home in the evening after a hard day of work, and I’d kneel down beside my bed and put my head down, and after a few minutes I’d wake up, and I had fallen asleep. It wasn’t until I was married that the Lord got a hold of me and showed me that if I’m going to make any progress in being a man of God, I’m going to have to get up in the morning and spend at least a solid hour with God, and do it seriously, seeking the presence of God. And I unashamedly tell you that those who will leave an impact in this world for God’s Kingdom, they will probably have their devotional time in the morning. And it will probably be an hour or more. I am really trying hard to copy, to emulate these great men of God of the past.

The top quote there says,

“Spiritual work is taxing work, and men are loathe to do it. Praying, true praying, cost an outlay of serious attention and of time, which flesh and blood do not relish.”

So I want to just make a few more comments about that. We need a place, and we need a time. So the time we already talked about. That’s when you get up in the morning. And I know there’s no – we don’t want to become legalistic. I know there are people who have factory jobs; there are people who work at night. There are many different situations that we can’t put this in a box. But the principle is still the same.

The place. So soon after we were married, we were offered the opportunity of building a house beside our church building, our meetinghouse. So over the next few years, it became my habit to get up in the morning and to go out to the church house, and to have my morning devotions out there. That worked out really nice. I had the whole place to myself. It was quiet. I could walk back and forth. Sometimes that keeps me awake if I walk back and forth. Then we moved back into the mountains with the Indian people and I no longer had the luxury of a private building to have my devotions in. When we moved into the mountains, all we had was a tent to live in, a one-room tent. And so, I was trying to figure out where to have my devotions. So for the first little while, I would go sit in my truck. And that just didn’t work out too well. I’d struggle with sleep, and struggle to stay focused. At the present time, the Lord has provided me with a place – that little room that I have. And it’s really a blessing to have a place. I would encourage every one of you to find a place and a time and stick with it. Self-discipline, self-control, by the power of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord bless us in this. Our morning with the Lord.

All right, on the other side of the page, at the bottom, it says,

“The equation is not information plus inspiration plus will power equals transformation. It takes a life of practice, in community, by the power of the Holy Spirit, because Jesus’ goal isn’t just to inform us but to transform us.”

So, it’s not just making ourselves do it. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to make these things work in our lives.

So we talked about the morning hour.

Now let’s talk about several other disciplines in our lives. Let’s go to Philippians 4:8.  

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Or, think on these things. Our minds. We must learn to control our minds and our thoughts. I remember as a young man, my mind would wander into all sorts of fantasies and daydreaming and things like that. And the Lord convicted me that I need to think on things that are true. Learn to bring your mind into subjection to the Holy Spirit.

The next one I want to talk about is – let’s go to 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.

Now these things became our examples, [talking about the Israelites] to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

So we started out talking about this mountain that they were just circling around, and during that time, these are some of the things that happened to the Israelites. So we have five things that they fell into.

1. The first one is lust. Lusting after food, in particular. It’s been a concern of mine to hear American youth going on long discourses on what kind of foods they love, and what kind of foods they hate, and I can’t stand so-and-so’s burgers, and I just love so-and-so food. That’s what the Israelites were doing, right there. If we’re going to become a useful vessel in God’s Kingdom, we’ve got to get away from lusting after food. We’ve got to be thankful for the food that God gives us. We always thank the Lord for the food before we eat. Then we sit there and grumble about it. That doesn’t make any sense.

The Lord told the disciples that when they go out preaching the Kingdom, “Eat whatever is set before you.” And the Lord laid on my heart when I moved into the mountains with the Indian people to always eat whatever is set before me. I would go into their homes and they would serve me strange foods, and maybe the plate wasn’t clean, or the cup wasn’t clean, and I tried to make it a practice of always eating what was set before me with thankfulness, not doing it with a grumbling heart. And if you grumble about the food, and if you reject your mother’s cooking or your wife’s cooking, you will make very poor headway in becoming a vessel of God. Learn to never grumble about the food. That’s what the Israelites did, and the Lord sent serpents among them. God does not take these things lightly.

2. Idolatry. Ok, so we don’t have idols, right? What about your vehicle? Young men, what about your truck, out there polishing it up on Saturday afternoon? Is that your idol? What about your face? How long do you spend in front of the mirror, admiring your face and fixing your hair?

3. Sexual immorality. So many men have fallen into sexual immorality. I just heard of a tragic case recently of a man and a woman in the same church who fell into immorality. Sometime do a study on this. Look through the Bible and look at how many men were caused to stumble by a woman. I praise God there are young ladies here and sisters here that I believe are a help to their husband, but there are so many women who were not a help to their husband. Eve was not a good help to Adam. Abraham with Hagar. Peter denied the Lord when a maidservant talked to him. On and on and on. Young men, you must be strong. I praise God for the young men who are strong and for the women who are ideal helpers for their husbands. But be very careful. Don’t play with these things.

4. They tempted Christ.

5. They complained. I want to tell a little story of a young man that went hiking with me. We were hiking. We hiked for several days, actually. And it got dark on us. We camped out along a little stream in a little flat area, and we laid down in our sleeping bags there and our blankets, whatever we had. And it was getting dark, so we laid out there. It was a peaceful quiet evening beside a stream there. And we went to sleep. The stars were shining overhead. About midnight it started to sprinkle, and I woke up with raindrops on my face. And I pulled the blankets over my face, and I just hoped that it wouldn’t keep raining. And it didn’t. It quit raining, and I went back to sleep again.

About 2:00 I woke up again and it was raining, this time a little harder. Again, I pulled the blankets over my face, and I just hoped that it would quit raining, and it didn’t. It kept on raining, and it got harder, and it rained harder. And I was just hoping that the blankets would keep out the water, but they didn’t. Pretty soon the water started coming up from the bottom and the first thing I knew I was completely soaked. And the young man that was with me (I think he was about 16 or 17 years old) he was in the same situation.

It was in an area that we didn’t know. But before we had gone to bed, we had seen a little tumbledown farm shed not too far away. So we went over there and found this little shed. About three-fourths of the roof had caved in, and in the one corner it was still dry. So we crawled in there and one blanket was not as wet, so we wrapped ourselves in the one partially dry blanket and just shivered with cold. And so we started singing. And we sang for a long time. We had several hours till morning. And we couldn’t sleep the rest of the night.

The next day, we built a fire, dried everything out, and hiked all day. That young man, 16-17 years old, never said a grumbling word that whole trip. Not a single complaint ever. He didn’t grow up in a Mennonite home. He grew up without a dad. A broken home. I don’t think he ever knew his dad. He grew up in the city in a completely heathen home. A Christian pastor reached out to them as a family, and he became a Christian. He gave his heart to the Lord at 13 years of age. And by 16, he was out preaching, trying to start a church. And today he’s living in the mountains there with the Tarahumara people, and he’s very very active in Kingdom work.

Never murmur. Never grumble. They say that John Wesley took young men with him on his travels. If a young man ever grumbled, John Wesley would not invite him back. We’re talking about disciplines.

The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. They had a slave mentality. After they came out of Egypt, they were no longer slaves. But they still had a slave mentality. A slave typically is dependent on man, lacks vision, typically is unthankful, and is a grumbler. The Israelites had a slave mentality. It got them in trouble. God had to eradicate a whole generation and bring the next generation in. And so what were they doing during that time? They were circling this mountain, going around and around. Some of you have been going around and around. Let’s get up and march. Let’s go forward. God has great things for us in His Kingdom.

Some more disciplines:

Money. Many years ago, soon after we were married, we had some changes in our financial situation, and I ended up opening up a small carpenter shop. I didn’t have customers, and I didn’t have much experience in exactly the line of work that I was doing. We went through a number of years of scarcity. But during that whole time, the Lord laid on my heart the verse in Romans that says, “Owe no man anything.” By God’s grace, we never have got into debt. Learn to handle your money, with God’s grace. If you can’t handle your money wisely, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, God will probably not use you greatly in His Kingdom.

Years later, my carpenter shop was doing much better. And I started looking around at other carpenter shops. They were expanding; they were hiring workers. They were going to expos, getting orders, and turning their carpenter shops into factories. And I started thinking about turning my carpenter shop into a factory, and God said, “No, don’t. You just keep working by yourself. I have something ahead for you.”

After another year or so, the Lord opened the door for us to go to a completely unreached area. And it has not been easy back there. But I tell you what – that has been absolutely amazing to bring the Gospel to people that never heard the Gospel before, and to see people that were completely lost in drunkenness and in drug addiction and immorality and witchcraft, to see the Lord change some of those people’s lives, to see families transformed, and to see a church rise up out of that. It’s been beautiful.

But I had to make decisions before that. The Lord had me in a school before that. And part of that was learning to discipline myself so that God could use me in the future. That’s what I want to stir your hearts with. There are so many beautiful things out there that God can do with you, but you will need to prepare for that.

You know, I was thinking, there are a number of men that are alive today that are, I would say, heroes in my life – older men that have spent a lifetime of serving God, preaching the Gospel, working in missions. And what is really interesting to me is what age those men set their course. Many of those men set their course at about 13 or 14 years of age. Now, some of those men are in their 70’s maybe 80’s and they’re still burning with a passion for God. But those men set that course when they were about 13 or 14 years of age. Now, God can save people on their death beds. God has used many older men and women. They’ve gotten saved in their old age (praise God for that!) but the ones that have gone out and done the most, many of them set that course at a really young age. I challenge you with that.

Let’s go to 2 Timothy 2:4. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” If you’re going to be a soldier in the Kingdom of God, you must not entangle yourself with the affairs of this life.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27     

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

The apostle Paul believed in disciplining his body. Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, let’s do all to the glory of God. (See 1 Corinthians 10:31.) Learn to eat and drink to the glory of God. Recently, there was a man that – actually it’s the man who invited me into the mountains there, a Christian brother. But I guess he didn’t understand the dangers of not taking control of his eating, and he had, I guess you would say, an addiction to soft drinks, and he ended up getting diabetes and passed away a few months ago. I would say he pretty much killed himself by drinking coke. Whether we eat or drink, let’s do all to the glory of God.

I know that an intake of soft drinks – Jesus said whatever goes into the mouth doesn’t defile the person. We’re not going to lose our salvation by drinking coke, but I tell you what. If you have a coke addiction, you probably will not be very useful in extending the Kingdom in a very major way.

Adoniram Judson was a young man who moved to Burma years and years ago. He suffered incredibly. He was very disciplined. At the end of his life he said, “You know, the cost was a lot greater than I expected. But the fruit was beyond my wildest dreams.” I could echo that with my work in Mexico. Yes, the cost has been probably more than I calculated as a young man, but the rewards – not just the amount of souls that have been saved, but the rich spiritual experience that I’ve been able to walk in, has been great, has been beautiful! Let’s give ourselves to the work of the Kingdom.

Now, what is God calling us to? Many of you probably have grown up in a sheltered home, maybe have not traveled the world, maybe don’t know what’s out there in the world. But I just want to give you a few things to think about. William Carey said, “To know the will of God, we must have an open Bible and an open map.” How can we know about the needs of the world if we never make ourselves aware of the needs? Someone else said, “Facts are the fingers of God.” When we know the facts, we know about the suffering, and we know about certain people groups, and we know about conditions, God uses those things to touch our hearts and to make us feel a need to go, feel a compassion.

Let’s turn to Proverbs 24:11-12

Deliver those who are drawn toward death,

And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”

Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it?

He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?

And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?

Many of us don’t know about all of the needs and situations around the world. We don’t know about all the unreached tribes, and we don’t know about all the horrible things that are going on in this world, but we cannot wash our hands and say, “Well, I didn’t know about it.” We have got to inform ourselves. We have got to go and find out where the needs are.

There are probably big needs in your home town. There are probably needs right around you. I remember as a young man doing construction work, and we were working on an apartment building, and on the top floor, the third floor of that apartment building, there was this old man. I think he was probably the loneliest person I ever met in my life. And to this day, I think of him from time to time. I wish I could have done something for that old man. But they’re living right around us, right here in Pennsylvania. That was in Pennsylvania.

So, how much do you want to get done in life? How far do you want to go? Do you want to dream big? Do you want to attempt great things for God? Discipline yourself right now. Learn self-discipline. But not self-discipline in your own strength. Self-discipline, self-control in the power of the Holy Spirit. Start by getting up in the morning. If you get up in the morning and spend the first hour with the Lord in sincere Bible Study and prayer, I can pretty much guarantee that God will begin to use you in some way in His Kingdom. It won’t be easy, but God will use you.

Let’s think about a cause. A cause is something around which a group of people gather, and they want to accomplish something. There are many causes in this world. Some good and some bad. Where I live, there is a drug cartel. Their cause is control and money. Young men join that cause. They pick up a machine gun, join that cause, and they lay down their lives for that cause. I think most young people want to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves, something that they feel is worth laying down their lives for. Those young men are completely deceived and led astray.

Many young men have laid down their lives for a cause in this world. Some sort of political cause. Many young men have gone to war and laid down their lives. And they’ll do it! Many young Anabaptist youth have suffered accidents and perhaps laid down their lives for sports. I see that young people are willing to suffer and lay down their lives. Are you going to do it for your sports? Are you going to do it for a political cause? Or are you going to do it for Christ? All the other causes are going to pass away. Everything is going to pass away except the Kingdom of God.

Daniel 2:44 is one of my favorite Bible verses.

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

Praise the Lord! This is the only kingdom, the only organization, the only cause, the only thing that’s going to last for eternity. Invest everything into the Kingdom of God. Give it all you’ve got! I don’t care if it takes suffering and giving our lives for this. This is worth it! I preach this in Mexico. I tell them that God has promised to come back for His people. And then I go home, and I think, “Wow! How sure am I that this is really going to happen? I know the Lord promised it, but you know, is this really sure?” And then I think, “I have chosen to give my life for this cause.”

I have given everything basically, for this cause, myself. I invite you to do the same. Let’s give our lives for this cause. We must be willing to lay down our lives. I never had to lay down my life, but I thought I was going to one time, several times. I remember one time I was out praying at about 4:00 in the morning on the sidewalk of a city, of a town. A young man walked up to me and pulled a pistol out and cocked it and pointed it at me, and I thought this was it. But you know, we’re part of something that’s bigger than ourselves, something that’s eternal. Let’s fight for this cause; let’s give everything for this cause. There is so much to do.

All right, this is all I have. So take these copies home with you. Is there someone who did not get a copy? Raise your hand real high. All right, good.  Take these copies home. I just want to explain something yet. Not all of these quotes on here are by Christian people. There are quotes on here by Benjamin Franklin, for example. Why did I put that on here? Do you realize that there is a lot of teaching out there nowadays in Christian circles that teaches us that we as Christians don’t have to put forth any effort? It’s all a free gift, and you just sit back, and just coast your way into heaven. The sons of this world, Jesus said, many times are more wise than the sons of light. There are business people out there; they realize you can’t just coast along in business; you have to put forth effort. Some of those men have made more progress in their world than we have in our kingdom. And so, may they in some way inspire us, but this is obviously not the Bible. Take these quotes home. Read over them, and let these things inspire us.

So, to end this, I would like to ask us all to stand to our feet, and let’s take our copies and let’s read this poem by Amy Carmichael. It’s the last thing on your copies. Let’s just read this out loud in unison.

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on me,
From fearing when I should aspire
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow thee.

From subtle love of softening things
From easy choices, weakenings,
Not thus our spirits fortified
Not this way went the Crucified
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire
Let me not seem to be a clod
Make me thy fuel, Flame of God!

Praise the Lord! You can be seated. It was a strong struggle in my life, and I was stubborn, but the Lord won. And thanks to my parents who helped me, I gave my heart to the Lord, surrendered my life to the Lord at 13 years of age. About a year later, I started doing construction work. The school system that I was part of did not provide any higher education than that, and so I was expected to go to work at 14. And the first job that I worked on, the Lord convicted me so powerfully of the need to share the Gospel with the owner of that property. And I didn’t do it, and I felt so bad, and I wept and I repented, but the Lord got a hold of me with just a powerful grip that I NEED to share the Gospel. And the Lord showed me that if I was going to refuse to share the Gospel with people, I had no reason to think that I would make it to heaven. And that was a very very powerful thing that happened in my life. So, from then on, I would put Gospel tracts in my pockets, and I would pass them out at work.

When I was 21 years of age, I felt a desire to pursue something across the seas or some sort of cross-cultural foreign mission work. So I talked to my parents about it. And that was really interesting. All I did was mention it to my parents, and then door after door just swung open. And there was a brother in the church that gave me a list of contacts. I contacted three people in Mexico. One brother responded and invited me to come. And at that point, I wouldn’t say that I was really that spiritual. I did not have a very disciplined life in my morning devotions and all of that. But I had a sincere heart. I believe that I had surrendered everything to the Lord.

So I remember traveling to Mexico, and I had committed to go for at least one year. And as I was on that trip, toward evening the sun was going down, and it was a desert down there in the southwest of the United States, and I thought, “Oh, no! What am I getting myself into? A whole year! And no possibility of marriage, and I was already 21. And I thought, “Wow! This is going to be a long year!” And I said, “Lord, I surrender! If you want me to be single the rest of my life, I will submit to that, and I will be happy.” And I really meant it.

A year and a half later, I married my wife. She was born and raised in Mexico, from Mexico, part of the little mission church there. So we lived in that area for ten and a half years. At that time, I spent the first year or so learning Spanish, and we started doing outreach in the area around there. So we had different mission projects that we tried. Not all of them were very successful. We went to a village. We traveled about an hour across the mountain to a village. And we did that every week for four years. And they told us they didn’t need us to come back, and that was the end of that. (chuckle)

The Lord has taken me through a number of deep valleys, emotionally, in church relationships. I don’t know why I’ve had to go through all of that. Perhaps I’ve been a hard learner, I don’t know. My wife almost died three times with pregnancy related issues, and uh –

Anyway, 15 years ago, the church wanted to send us to an unreached area with the Tarahumara Indian people. So, the Lord had done a lot of preparation in our hearts. A number of years before that (this is one thing I really do want to share) the Lord put in me just a tremendous hunger and thirst to know God and to feel His presence, and to have His Holy Spirit flowing through me. Before that, I would share the Gospel, and I’d talk with people, and there wasn’t always much response. And I thought, “If only I could explain it better. If I could just be more clear in explaining the plan of salvation or the Gospel message, they would surely understand, and surely they would give their hearts to the Lord.”

And little by little I began to realize that no, it’s not about logic; it’s about the Lord touching their hearts. And I began to realize what they need is for God to get a hold of their hearts and convict them of sin. And I really really had this intense desire to be a vessel that God could use. I began to do just a lot of fasting and praying. I would get up in the night and just walk out on the road and just pray and cry out to God. And God is good. God does hear and answer prayer.

So the day came whenever the church wanted to send us to the mountains with the Indian people. And so we moved into the mountains. We had four small children, and we could not find a house to live in. No one trusted us. They would not rent us a house. I tried renting a house. Nothing was available. So finally, we built a tent, and we lived in a tent for three and a half months. A storm came through, and I think we were really in danger of our lives at that point, but the Lord protected us, and sent His angel to keep us. Many times over the years, the Lord protected us in miraculous ways from death. Many many things I could share.

One outstanding situation was a young man who – how would I tell this story? So there was sort of an extended family. They were the first converts. And he was married into that family, but he didn’t accept the Gospel. He was against the Gospel. And at one point I invited a number of them to go along out to a different area to work, and so they went along, and he wanted to go along, too. His name was Porfirio. So he went along. So every evening I had Bible Studies with them. And he never made any profession or didn’t act interested or anything.

And probably a year went by, and one day I was coming home, driving home back there on those dirt roads, and I was still about an hour from home. And the village people were out fixing the road with picks and shovels. And at night they just slept out there on the ground. So I stopped in to give the one man some groceries that he had ordered. And this Porfirio came out, and he said, “Can you pray for me? I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept for three nights. There are voices that keep talking to me, and just telling me all sorts of crazy things. I can’t sleep.” I said, “Sure, I’ll pray for you.” So I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed for him, and went on home.

The next morning at 7:00 he was at my house, and he said, “Can you pray for me again?” I said, “What happened last night?” Well, he said, “The voices left, but they came back again. I want you to pray for me again.” I said, “I can pray for you, but I tell you what, Porfirio, you’re going to have to become a Christian and get baptized.” I don’t know why – I guess that’s what the Lord put on my tongue at that point. I said, “You’re going to have to get baptized.” He said, “That’s what I want.” And I was really surprised. Anyway, he went and got his wife. We got a translator. His wife didn’t speak Spanish. So we explained the plan of salvation to them. They prayed. And the following Sunday, I believe, we had a baptism. He was completely miraculously delivered from schizophrenia.

Later, he was in an accident, a bus accident. He had gone out to work, and the bus was coming back, and it slid down a mountain, and he was killed. We don’t know why those kinds of things happen. But I still am so happy for that story, that testimony of what God did in his life.

And so every one of the people who are part of our church now were at one time completely lost in alcohol, drugs, immorality, witchcraft.  A few years ago, our church service had just dismissed, and we have a fellowship meal after every service. And we were getting ready for the fellowship meal, and this drunk staggered into our group there, and started talking to the brothers of the church. He had long hair. He had not taken a bath for a long time. He was completely drunk. And he was talking to the church brothers, and it was just astounding to look at the difference between the church brothers and him. The church brothers were all bathed. They don’t have expensive clothing; they’re poor. Maybe old clothing, but they were clean. Every one of them was clean; they had their faces washed and were sober and in their right minds. Suddenly, it hit me. Every one of those church brothers used to be exactly where that drunk is today. And they’re all a beautiful testimony of God’s saving power.

So, it’s been a long journey, but we’ve been blessed. It certainly hasn’t been all to my credit. My wife has done a lot of sharing the Gospel with the women. She has a lot of Bible studies with the women. She has put forth an incredible amount of effort in learning the language, because most of the women don’t speak Spanish, and so she has had to learn the indigenous language, and God has been good to us.

Thank you.