Month: November 2016

Providence… criminals… miracles… and me

Our current message series is exploring the topic of the providence of God out of the Book of Ruth. It got me thinking about how God orchestrates millions of details and circumstances together each and every day to achieve His plans and purposes…which is nothing short of miraculous.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more my mind has drifted toward the miracle that happened in my own life in 1973. That was the year I placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I know that the word “miraculous” is normally not used when referring to someone becoming a Christ follower…but why not? Life transformation is a miracle.

In my next several posts, I want to share with you my story…it has to do with providence, criminals, miracles and me.

This past September, while visiting one of our church planting partners in Europe, I snapped the below photo in the Nave at the Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude in Nivelles, Walloon Brabant, Belgium just outside of Brussels. This 11th century church stands in the heart of this quaint community of 28,000. It’s hard to miss the intended central focal point as you enter the room. It…He…definitely gets your attention.


I stood there awhile taking in the solitude and solemnity of the place. The biblical accounts of Christ’s death on the cross began running through my mind.

Luke’s gospel account tells us, “And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke 23:33)

Criminals were crucified with Him?

Sometimes we forget about these two men. Understandably so…given the centrality of the cross of Christ to our faith. We don’t often see them included next to Jesus in paintings or in sculpted images. But they’re not insignificant.

The gospel accounts do not provide a lot of information about them…but Luke records a brief, fascinating exchange between the two of them:

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.
And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'” (Luke 23:39-43)

I think about how fortunate these criminals were. They actually were pretty “lucky”. Do you think being crucified next to the Savior, the hope of the world was accidental…merely happenstance…or was God about to do something amazing in one of their lives?

My vote is for the amazing. This momentary, albeit dramatic, experience had massive eternal implications. One day either side of this particular day…opportunity lost.


One saw it, the other didn’t. One responded in humble submission. The other in vile contempt. So then there’s me…you. Condemned criminals convicted justly before a righteous judge of high crimes. Sentenced to death.

I was stirred anew over my journey to the cross during my time in Europe.

A Historic Moment

Jeanne Austin, long-time supported missionary of The Compass Church, serves with Wycliffe Bible Translators and began work among the indigenous Popoloca people of Mexico during the early 1980’s. At that time, the Popolocan language was not in written form, it was an oral language. Jeanne’s work began by creating an alphabet, grammar and ultimately, a written form of Popoloca. Her team then began translating the New Testament into Popolocan. In addition, they began literacy projects that enabled the Popoloca to read their own language for the very first time.

Summer and Fall 2016 marked a historic moment as the New Testament in two of the Popolocan dialects were presented to their respective communities. A presentation of the third dialect translation will be on December 4th.

At one presentation, over 200 members of the community joined in the celebration. One Popolocan man traveled more than 10 hours to come to the dedication and purchased six New Testaments to take back to his home! There were speeches, hymns sung in Popolocan, a shared meal, and 200 New Testaments distributed. In the evening, there was a special service of combined churches where Scripture was read and preached in Popolocan. The main churches are now planning to hold reading classes to enable widespread use of the New Testament.

Christians from an evangelical church in the lower part of the village march up the main road to the top of the village where the presentation was held. They came carrying banners, singing songs in Popolocan and carrying boxes of New Testaments

Christians from an evangelical church in the lower part of the village march up the main road to the top of the village where the presentation was held. They came carrying banners, singing songs in Popolocan and carrying boxes of New Testaments

We are thankful that the Popolocan people now have the New Testament in their own language! We are deeply grateful for the faithful service of Jeanne and her team (some who have gone to be with the Lord before the completion of the work) over these many years.

Please pray that many Popoloca will grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and that many more will come to know Him. In addition, pray for the unhindered reception of final presentation in the village of San Luis on December 4th.

Pray for Cuba

For most of my life, Cuba has been shrouded in a dark curtain of mystery and associated with frightening words like communism, sanctions, and dictatorship. After reading Pastor Rick’s posts about his visit there this summer, I felt like I was getting a peek behind that curtain.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. But what I saw so clearly, is that God is not limited by the status of diplomatic relations, by government, or by the lack of religious freedom. His purposes have always been and always will be to bring the nations to Himself.
I was also reminded that all of us can participate in God’s work in Cuba, right from where we are. Most of us may never have the privilege to travel to that nation, but we can pray. Through our prayers, we can support our brothers and sisters who are living out their faith in difficult circumstances. Our prayers can make a difference! Please take a moment to click on the link below and pray for Cuba today.

“Cristo de la Habana”


Standing on the hilltop of the San Carlos de la Cabana fortress in Cuba (the place where Che Guevara was appointed supreme prosecutor), I recently took a picture of “Jesus of Havana”. On Christmas Eve 1958, the statue was placed here overlooking the bay to the city. Just 15 days later, Fidel Castro marched into Havana with a proclamation of victory for the Cuban Revolution.