Every Tongue, tribe and nation and church attendance

Were you in church last Sunday? We all face the temptation to take Sunday worship for granted. It can feel at times like a tradition, even something we do without giving it much thought. Many Christians will admit that they haven’t made it to church in a while. Others will acknowledge that they don’t currently have a church. Maybe it is a sunny Sunday morning and the beach is calling, or a rainy day and it is hard to get moving. Perhaps the kids have a sports event. Whatever the reason, it can seem like a challenge to make church a priority. But how often do we think of the bigger picture, how our participation in the worship service exalts the God of the universe?

This past month we had the blessing of worshipping in a couple of churches in Montevideo. As our all-night flight reminded us, Uruguay is far from the U.S. In fact, this Uruguayan city is the southern most capital city in the Americas, being roughly the same latitude as Kansas, but in the southern hemisphere. And just like whatever city you call home, there are Christians from a variety of denominations and traditions setting aside Sunday to worship the Triune God. The same is true of every country that has a Christian church all over the world both today and throughout the past 2000 years.

I was particularly moved during one worship service in which a visiting pastor from Brazil was preaching. He spoke in Portuguese, and our Brazilian missionary colleague translated into Spanish. That morning the Word of God spoke powerfully to me as I heard it preached. It was just this past May that Ray and I had the opportunity to travel to Belize and found ourselves worshiping with the Belizean believers. We sat under the preaching of a local pastor in a morning service and an elder at an evening service. The evening sermon in particular spoke powerfully to the trials in my life. In fact, you or I could go to any country in the world on a Sunday and, as long as the sermon is given or translated into a language we understand, it will speak to us just as powerfully as the sermon given in our home church. Our Great and Mighty God works through the preaching of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit in every nation on earth!

Church in South Carolina

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, the apostle John has a vision where he sees a multi-cultural church service from the end of the age. He describes it like this: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'” (Rev. 7:9-10). This powerful scene is from the end of the age when there will be worshipers from every part of the world uniting as a group to honor and adore the God of all creation. This is the goal of missions and the consummation of all things. Christianity doesn’t belong to one country, one continent or one language but to all peoples.

Worship service in Uruguay
Church service in Uruguay

There is very real sense in which, on a smaller scale, this verse is being lived out every single Sunday, in all parts of the world. During this one 24 hour period, each and every week, believers are meeting together to worship and to be encouraged in the Word. Some churches are large, others are tiny. Some meet out in the open and include among their members powerful political leaders. Others meet in fear and in secret hoping not be found out by the government. What unites them? Worship of the Triune God. On this one day each week, God is hearing from His people all over the world. Each and every week, there is a foretaste of that day in the future when we will be united all together. Sure, now, this Sunday, we will be separated by geography, by language, by denomination and even by the age in which we live. But whether we gather with fifteen believers or 1500, we are still gathered with a multitude giving God the worship due His name. On that day in the future our numbers will be larger. There will be believers from each age from the time of Adam and Eve. There will be peoples from every tribe – even tribes that only number in the thousands. There will be people with strange languages and different customs. There will be people whose nations were once at war with one another, now united.

A church In Belize

There is a real sense that when we meet each Sunday, we are privileged to be joining the chorus of voices that also meet that very day all over the world. We are making a joyful noise to our God as we remember with our singing, our prayers and our sermons, that He is the Creator and we are the creature (Ps. 95:6-7; Ps. 100). We have the privilege to do this every single Sunday. We don’t have to check our calendars and see which day we might be able to squeeze the service in. No, this has been the command and custom of all churches since the Apostles.

We are united with all believers even if we aren’t with them in the same room. And this is also why so many churches remember to lift up the persecuted church in their pastoral prayer each Lord’s Day. We remember our brothers and sisters that meet as they are commanded to do, and yet they do so in fear and concern. We may fight against the temptation to get a couple more hours of sleep or to be there in body but with thoughts that are far away. They fight against the temptation to stay away for fear of another bombing or a police raid. But for them just like us, this our privilege to give our God the sacrifice of worship that is due His name and it is our honor to be part of this great cloud of witnesses (Rom. 12:1-3; Heb. 11 & Heb. 12:1-3). And when we meet, we are not just joining in with our group of 50 or 200. We are joining in with the literally millions of Christians who are meeting on this very same day in a worship service that is both shockingly similar to ours and also strange and foreign, testifying to the greatness of our God.

So whether you were or were not in church last Sunday, as this Sunday approaches, may you allow these considerations to shape your decision about what priority the worship service will have in your life.

Saying goodbye to Uruguay

The Call family spent most of the month of July packing up, getting things ready to ship to our new ministry in Belize, selling furniture, saying goodbye to friends, sightseeing, and doing ministry.

The first week was really sad because we will miss this great nation of Uruguay and it is always hard to say goodbye. But we threw ourselves into the work, while seeking the Lord at the same time. As the month went on, we learned how to give thanks to God for our time ministering there and for all the fruit that God produced through the ministry of the Word.

God gave Ray the opportunity to preach at our church plant in Montevideo – Iglesia Presbiteriana Salvos por Gracia. It was a blessing to gather together with God’s people there once again! Michele was able to spend time with friends and leaders not only in the Presbyterian churches, but in the evangelical churches at large – other godly women who love the Lord and are serving Him in various ways.

We were pleased to hear that God is raising up leadership for the church plant as they announced their first elder candidate. He and some other men in the church have begun an online radio program, which carries quality content as well as a radio show where they deal with important passages in the Bible. Ray was interviewed and also gave a short devotional.

Our dog Canela!

This trip was also a temporary reuniting with our dog Canela! She is a Boxer and we have had her since she was a very small puppy about four years ago. It was a sad goodbye as we adopted her to a nice family living on a farm out in the country. We hope to see pictures and videos of her enjoying farm life!

As we said goodbye to friends and brothers and sisters in Christ, we also said goodbye to the city. What a beautiful city it is. We spent a whole day downtown – mostly in Plaza Independencia and the old part of the city called Ciudad Vieja. Aside from visiting a museum, walking the streets, and buying souvenirs, we had a delicious lunch at Mercado del Puerto – plaza with several indoor and outdoor parillas (grilled meat restaurants). Most of the family ordered the Uruguayan national dish: chivito. This is a dish with a cut of filet mignon usually piled with lettuce, tomato, egg, bacon, ham, and possibly other ingredients! The two options are usually on a plate or in sandwich form. Ray opted for the grilled lamb – all meat is grilled over embers from an open wood fire.

May the Lord bless this city and may its inhabitants, as well as all the people of Uruguay! And may they all hear the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ and be reconciled to God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone!

Uruguay from the air

MTW Hubs and the 1%

A while ago MTW created what we now call regional “hubs” in the U.S. These hubs are arms of MTW located within geographical regions (e.g. West Coast or Midwest). The idea is to have MTW personnel closer to where the people are in order to facilitate church involvement in world missions. This is really important given MTW’s goal that the PCA would send out 1% of its membership onto the missions field. When I first heard this goal a couple of years ago I was skeptical. My “glass is half empty” side kicked in: Where would we find these people? How would our denomination fund these new missionaries? How will our home office be able to keep up with the growth?

Though I don’t know how the Lord will work out all the details, I now believe it is certainly a worthy goal because there are so many around the world who have not had the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel message. There are men, women and children who are perishing apart from Christ. They need to know the Savior. We need more folks to go and share the gospel message.

If I’m not mistaken, it was William Carey (“the father of modern missions”) who said “attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” While we shouldn’t presume God will answer our every request, we do know that He is both powerful and sovereign and that He is at work expanding His Kingdom. In light of that and because of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), this goal of sending out 1% of the PCA as missionaries doesn’t seem insurmountable. My wife Michele was just sharing with me the other day of how she heard Dr. Lloyd Kim (MTW Coordinator) talking about this goal. He spoke of it in terms of revival and said something to the effect that if we are to realize this goal, then we will need to pray for a great revival work of the Holy Spirit. Amen brother Lloyd. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). If we are to see God raise up more laborers, then we must ask Him to both send them and also uphold them once they are sent. It must be a work of God if we are to see the nations reached with the Good News.

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California Dreaming: A Wedding, Medical Appointments and a Different Kind of Ministry

Hello Los Angeles!

Bridal Shower

Goodbye Uruguay

Three weeks ago our family set foot in beautiful California. After four years in Uruguay, we have just begun our year long home ministry assignment (HMA). Praise God that we made it! We are living with Michele’s parents in Orange County, California for the first few months.

Continue reading California Dreaming: A Wedding, Medical Appointments and a Different Kind of Ministry

The Rise in Crime

What do grocery stores, armored cars, ATM machines and my back patio all have in common? Theft.

Over the course of 2018 we have seen a rise in crime. There were at least three attacks by gangs of armed criminals on armored vehicles transporting money. That is quite an undertaking as each armored truck has two armed men with a car full of armed men following behind. Unfortunately, they were taken by surprise and some of the guards were shot. If my memory serves me well, I do believe that the men recovered, though I imagine that there must be lingering effects from their wounds. Two of the robberies were within five blocks of our home. The first was at a bank on the corner and another took place in the parking lot at the mall – both within broad daylight. Even more striking, the third robbery took place very close to the Uruguayan seat of government – the Palacio Legislativo (Legisltative Palace)!

One of the most tragic crimes took place at a grocery store a few miles away where two men entered a supermarket, robbed it and then shot and killed one of the employees on the way out. The victim was a young mother. Later, the shooter was found by police which ended up in him being shot and killed. A friend of mine had met this young man years ago – an example of what a small world Uruguay can be at times.

Very recently, I have been seeing news of ATM machines being blown to bits so that criminals can steal the cash. Some ATM’s are even equipped with an anti-theft ink system which sprays the money with ink so that it will be recognized – making it hard to spend. Sadly, sometimes the ATM machine is the only one in a small town and it can be difficult for the retired folks living there to withdraw money if the banks decide not to install a new one.

One day last month I woke up and went to the kitchen like normal to turn on the burner so that I could cook up some fried eggs. Eggs are my favorite breakfast. But to my surprise, the flame would not start. I thought that was odd and I eventually had the idea of checking the propane tank just outside the kitchen in the back patio. It was missing. Not only was it missing, but the valve and another empty propane tank were gone. Someone had climbed our roof, descended into our back patio and carried out two propane tanks! They are not easy to lift either! I filed a police report, but nothing much came of it.

As we heard news of these various crimes, we prayed – asking the Lord to be at work. Begging God to change the hearts of the criminals. Praying for healing, comfort and peace for the victims and Continue reading The Rise in Crime

Praying for the Children

What if the children in Christian families today would grow up to live lives of radical obedience to Christ? How would that change the world in which we live? What would it be like if these children had a passion to share Jesus with their friends at school? When our baby was born with health problems two years ago and I was with him in the hospital, I became reacquainted with the ministry of Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch). This is a ministry devoted to getting moms together for the purpose of praying for their children and their children’s schools. Many of you may be familiar with the ministry. For those who aren’t, Tim Challies does a great job describing it on his blog, here. For me, I was feeling helpless to fix our baby’s health problems, and helpless with some of the struggles my children who were at home without me were experiencing. It was a time for me to remember that we serve a loving and powerful God who cares more about our children than we do, and who is eager to answer the prayers of His people.
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Short Term Team Leads English Club!

God blessed our recent four day intensive English Club outreach here in Montevideo. We had over 26 adults come throughout the week as well as several children from our church and the community.

Each day there was a gospel presentation from the Scriptures and a call to trust in Christ during the break.

The team was composed of folks from Little Farms Chapel OPC (Michigan), Holy Trinity PCA (Tampa) and Spring Hills PCA (St. Louis) in Missouri. We are grateful the Lord Lord and to this team for blessing our church and the community with Continue reading Short Term Team Leads English Club!