Do you love me?

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Last week I made reference to the movie/musical  Fiddler on the Roof.
I drew attention to the scene where Tevye is asking his wife Golde if she loves him.  They had been married the traditional way, by a matchmaker. They never saw each other until their wedding day.  His parents had told Tevye that they would grow to love each other.  He hadn’t thought about that much until it was time for his daughters to be wed.  They had each fallen in love and did not want to be married to someone chosen by the village matchmaker.  They were breaking tradition because of the love in their hearts for someone else. Tevye gives in to their request, but now he is wondering, does his wife love him. Tevye : “Golde, Do you love me? Golde responds: “Do I love you? With our daughters getting married,and this trouble in the town you're upset, you're worn out.  Go inside, go lie down!  Maybe it's indigestion.” Tevye persists with his question: “Do you love me?” Golde responds to his persistence:  “Do I love you?  For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow, after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?” Tevye   wants an answer, “Do you love me?” Golde,  speaking to herself: “Do I love him?  For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his.   If that's not love, what is?”
Tevye jumps at his chance: “Then you love me?”
Golde   “I suppose I do”
Tevye  “And I suppose I love you too.”
They both seem quite satisfied to know, & then they sing together:  “It doesn't change a thing, but even so,  after twenty-five years it's nice to know.”
Yes, it is nice to know.  We all need to be loved & to give love in return.  Jesus summarizes the whole of the law of the Old Testament with 2 great commands in Mark 12:28-31
quoting Deuteronomy 6, the Shema.
28      …“what commandment is the foremost of all?” 29      Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30      AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31      “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” I have a good handle on what it means to love others.  Not that it is all that easy.  Some are easier to love than others.  That is not so much a judgment on them as it is me.  My love needs to do a lot of growing here.
But the 1
st 
command, to love God with all my heart, all my soul, my mind, and my strength, now that is where I have a problem.  I have no issue loving my wife, my kids and my grandkids like this.  But to be honest, I struggle emoting those kinds of feelings towards God.
After the resurrection Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee (John 21:15-17) where Jesus asks Peter three times in a row, “Do you love Me?” Each time John responds in the affirmative, & each time Jesus tells him to “take care of Jesus’ sheep”.   I take this to mean that our love for Jesus is shown to Jesus when we do what he wants us to do. He says as much in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” And then in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” In John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” And then Jesus closes out this section by saying in John 14:25 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Based on what Jesus has taught in these verses, then I can say with Golde when God asks me if I love Him, “Yes, I suppose I do.” My answer does not come from my emotions, it comes from my actions, living my life in obedience.  I gave up my dreams for my life & accepted God’s will for me to preach and teach His Word, and to tend His flock by feeding them. Although I must say I have struggled to bring them in from the field. Sheep are a stubborn lot, and many prefer to just stay out in the world for whatever reason.  But for those who come I have tried my best to feed them not only the milk, but the meat of the Word of God.  And I also believe that at Pathway we have done a good job in fulfilling His greatest commission by leading His sheep into the uttermost parts of the world in order to love people and share the life changing Gospel, the good news of salvation to all who would receive. Not everyone has the same calling.  Some are called to do other things than the things that I have done.  It makes them no less or more important than me.  We are all children of God, on equal footing, seeking to be faithful to serving God’s particular call upon our lives.  The trick is in discerning what God’s will is.  What is God calling you to do? Have you been obedient to all that God has asked of you?  I can’t say that I have.  I know that I have messed up quite a bit.  But I do keep trying.  I need to lean a little more on the “teacher” “my Helper”, the Holy Spirit of God.  (John 14:26) I still struggle with the emotional part of this.  Some followers of Jesus seem to have this incredible deep “feeling” of love for God.  I wish I could experience that.  Maybe it’s my personality.  I’m just not an emotional kind of guy.  I don’t have the answer.  But I do know that I am hungering for more of Him. Mike Samarkand 1024x768
“That all may Love Him”
Pastor Mike


Faith Promise

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A Reflection on the Promises of God & the Faith of His Children   Romans 4:13-16 NASB 13     For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 16     For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all   What was it that Abraham wanted more than anything else?  As many men, he wanted a son to carry on his name.  In his time and place it was much more critical than in ours.  They knew that in order to have a male survivor to carry on the family name, to take over the leadership of the household through inheritance, one would have to have many children.  With little understanding of disease and cleanliness, health issues were a huge problem.  At one time in history 1/3 of the world’s population was killed by plagues in a matter of a few short years.  Most children did not survive to adulthood.  Warring tribes were a constant threat to life. Children were killed mercilessly or worse yet, taken into captivity to begin a life of slavery that would surely end in pain and suffering.  Abraham wanted someone from his loins to be the great inheritor and carry on the family name and tradition.  And then his name would be remembered long after his body had returned to dust from which it was created.   Of course God knew this. He knew that Sara was barren & could not have children.  But Abraham was the one who had followed God down into this strange land simply because God wanted him to.  Because of his obedience, God told Abraham that if he had faith, if he could trust God to give him a baby boy, it would surely come to pass.   Now poor old Abraham, he had two-fold troubles that were only going to multiply on him.  First of all, he had a tough time believing God could do this, but he was willing to give God a shot.    But years past, decades, and still no baby.  The further the time advanced, the less likely that they could have children.  Had God forgotten?  Sara surely thought so.  She hounded Abraham and made his faith even more shaky.  That was his second problem, his wife.  She proposed giving Abraham her hand maiden that he might have children through her.   I know it does sound a little odd to us.  But back in that day, it was a common practice, (everyone was doing it – that is, those women who could not have children).  Just let your husband take another wife of her choosing. Now Abraham had a bigger problem, a wife and child that was not in God’s plan.  And then when Sara did bear a son, Isaak, she didn’t want her hand maiden hanging around.  Sara made sure that Hagar & Ismail were kicked out of the clan.   Certainly Abraham did not want his son to suffer and die. But the wives thing was only creating more and more problems for him.   Lack of faith and trust in God can lead to all kinds of messed up lives.  And this particular mess up is still with us today. Some of the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar, are the Islamic people of today who are literally trying to tear our world apart.  If only Abraham and Sara had enough faith to wait for what God had promised.   When we read the story and from our perspective, we can criticize them for their actions.  But it is rather an unfair criticism as we have Jesus & the Gospels and the Holy Spirit to fill us and inspire as and increase our faith.  Indeed, we know how the story ends.  We know about the power of faith.  It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, especially when you’re sitting next to the Ultimate Pro-Bowl Coach (aka Holy Spirit).   So just how strong is your faith?  Let’s not debate other’s faith or lack of faith.  What about you?  What have you been trusting God for lately? I’m asking for specifics.  Is there something in your life, that God promised to give you, that you are waiting for in good faith.   Let’s begin with the promise.  What has God promised you lately?
What have you asked God for, that He seemed to give you the assurance that He would provide?  Are you intimate enough with God that can talk with Him this way.  If not, don’t feel bad.  Most Christians in America are not used to talking with God like this.  But that does not mean that you can’t learn how to hear His promises for you in this life.  What then, is the “desire of you heart”?  You know what Abraham’s was, what is yours?  Do you think that your desires matter to God?  Take a look at Psalm 37:3-5
NASB   3      Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. 4      Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. 5      Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.   Pretty incredible isn’t it?  So let’s try this out.  Let me teach you how to trust God for the desires of your heart.  Let’s begin with something that you know is close to God’s heart, reaching those who are lost in the World.  God wants us to share the Good News about Jesus and forgiveness & eternal life with them.  Not everyone can become a missionary.  Chances are that you are not called to go over to the 10/40 window and spend your life witnessing.  But others are called.  So how can we help them go?   We can help by making it financially possible for them to live over there.  That is why we do our Faith Promise Missions conference every year, so we can help those who are going, to live over there.  God has called them to go, but God has called us all to be a part of their going by praying for them and then contributing to their cause.   Most of us don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around to give to missionaries, but God does.  He has holdings all over the world, so money is not a problem for Him.  The problem God has is finding people like Abraham, who are willing to trust Him (by faith) for a promise that He wants to give. That’s right, God needs people who are willing to trust Him for money that He wants to put in the hands of missionaries.   Some would say, “Well if that is true, why doesn’t God just give it to them directly.”  And I would say, yes He can.  But God chooses to do things a different way.  He knows they need the money.  They have followed Him expecting that God would take care of them.  But God loves to work through ordinary people like you and me to accomplish this.  “Why?”, you ask.  Because He wants us to learn how to walk with Him and talk with Him, that we too would be able to trust Him for the provisions of life.   That is what Faith Promise giving does.  It provides money for the missionaries.  But more importantly, it helps you and me, (who could get along just fine using our own wits and resources) learn to ask God for a Promise and then have enough faith and trust, to wait on Him to provide it.   So I pray, “Lord, I know you want to use me to help support those Believers who have followed you out into the world to do Your work amongst those who are lost. So Lord, just how much money do you want to give through me?”  It takes communication with God to discern what it is that God wants to give through you.  God wants all of His children to be able to trust Him in this way, not just for missionaries, but indeed for our own daily lives.  It is a way of life that is taught and learned in the Christian community.
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Sola Fide,
Pastor Mike


I Will Follow Him

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It was the time right after Jesus had brought Lazarus back from the dead.  Jesus had just come into Jerusalem riding on the back of a young colt,  while the crowd shouted their Hosanna’s & laying down palm branches, welcoming the King coming into the Holy City of David.
Many people in the crowd had just witnessed Jesus latest and probably the greatest of His miracles, the raising of Lazarus from a grave where he had been buried for four days.  They were telling everyone.  The news was spreading like wildfire.  For this reason, many people were coming to Jesus, to see and hear the man who had conquered death.  The Pharisees and other leaders who had opposed Jesus were beside themselves.  Jesus was becoming much too popular.  How were they ever going to kill Him if such words continued to spread. That is when they began to plot seriously about how they were going to destroy Him and His followers.  But they were going to need some help.  They needed someone who knew where they were going to meet, and where they would be, especially at night when no one would notice their actions.  Satan had already chosen the right man for the job, one of Jesus own, one of the inner twelve. Their plan was to catch Him in the middle of the night, then they could call the right people who did not believe in Jesus, hold a quick trial & be done with Him.  Then they could turn Him over to Pilot for the death sentence. No doubt they were the ones who brought in the crowd before Pilot. That was the crowd that sided with the Pharisees and shouted “Crucify Him – Crucify Him!”  If the Romans were crucifying Him, no one would dare interfere.  The masses hated, but feared the power of Rome.  The average person would not challenge the soldiers.  Jesus would be gone, & the Pharisees could simply say that it was the work of the Romans against a traitor to the Empire. Their hands would be clean in the eyes of the citizens. It was in the days after Palm Sunday & before Thursday (Passover dinner – the last supper with the Disciples) the night of his arrest & mock trial. Some non-Jewish folks (Gentiles) were there for the Passover.  They were folks who had been converted to Judaism.  & they heard all that was being said about the Lazarus miracle.  They wanted to meet this Jesus.  Philip and Andrew agreed to try and arrange a time when they could meet Jesus. What they didn’t realize was that time was running out.  And so it is with many in the world.  They believe in God, and someday they intend to get a little more serious about their faith & belief.  But time is of the essence.  We all are allotted only so much time in this world & that time passes so quickly. Most will wait till it’s too late. Do you want to see Jesus?  He speaks of His own death & in doing so He references our death as well. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 For Jesus this means that His death will provide access to Forgiveness, Justification & Glorification with God.  The fruit will be enormous.  Millions would come to Him over the years to receive this free gift.  People all over the world are still coming to Him today. But our lives, the old lives we used to live before coming to Christ, must die as well.  And it is only when the old life dies, that we are given a new life,  a life of Righteousness as a free gift from God.  And then He begins to work through our lives.  After Jesus ascension & glorification He now works through His followers to lead others to Himself.  And so it is that our own lives begin to bear fruit for God and His Glory. Dying to the old life is not easy.  You have to reach a point in life where you are fed up with, sick and tired of, the old way of living.  You think to yourself, there must be something more, there must be a better way. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” John 12:25 And then He gives us this incredible command.   “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also.” That is what salvation is all about, being with Jesus for all eternity.  And we don’t have to wait for this body to give up our spirits for this to happen. He wants us to follow after Him in the here and now. He is working out in the world and He wants us to come alongside Him and join in His work. The opportunity to work with Jesus won’t be here for very much longer. “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36      “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.”  John 12:35-36  
“I will Follow Him, wherever He may go” – You might remember this oldie but goodie song from the 60s.  Take a listen & watch an updated version on YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FcLF5wopyjo
 It is inspirational.
  That all may Know Him, Pastor Mike


Fasting for Lent

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Jesus instructed his followers to pray and fast in secret. Chances are you are among the massive majority of Christians who rarely or never fast. It’s not because we haven’t read our Bibles or sat under faithful preaching or heard about the power of fasting, or even that we don’t genuinely want to do it. We just never actually get around to it. Part of it may be that we live in a society in which consumerism is all encompassing. That’s what we do as Americans. We consume. Even the poorest of Americans consume far more stuff in far greater volume than anyone in the world. The poor of the world look with envy at what American’s call “poor”. By the world’s standards, America’s poor are rich. Fasting is voluntarily going without something, any regularly enjoyed good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose. It is markedly counter-cultural in our consumerist society, like abstaining from sex until marriage. If we are to learn the lost art of fasting, and enjoy its fruit, it will not come with watching & listening to our society. It only comes when you are growing close to God by diving deep within His Word (Jesus, or the Bible if you prefer). Then the concern will not be whether we fast, but what & when. Jesus doesn’t say “if,” but “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16).
And he doesn’t say his followers might fast, but “they will” (Matthew 9:15).
It is our own cravings and ache for comfort that keep us from the discomfort of fasting. But there are good reasons for fasting. We fast in this life because we believe in the life to come. Fasting is for this world, for stretching our hearts to get fresh air beyond the pain and trouble around us. And it is for the battle against the flesh and weakness inside us.
We are longing for more of Christ & less of the joys of this life. It can be used for spiritual insight, discerning God will, gaining victory over some bad habit, refining your communication with God, etc.
The Middle Age practice of observing “Lent” was present in many Christian groups. Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days in commemoration of the forty days which Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry. He was fasting in the desert, enduring temptations by Devil, the fallen angel Lucifer. Normally it begins on “Ash Wednesday” - 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter. The ashes are taken from the ashes of the burned palm branches that were used in the previous year to commemorate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. As folks begin their Lenten fast, those ashes are used to mark a cross on their forehead. It is a sign and seal that the coming fast is in memory of Jesus, His life & ministry, but especially, His suffering, death and subsequent resurrection. So in a sense, we are dying to ourselves by fasting during this period of time. Many Christians have abstained from fasting at any time thinking that it is a work and not of faith. And it surely can become a “work” just like attending church. You just do it out of habit, not with any sense of stepping into the presence of Jesus and glorifying Him with your fellow believers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to make it something glorious, something powerful, something life changing. And so it is with fasting. Let me challenge you on today, Ash Wednesday, to begin a fast for the period of Lent that might possibly alter the course of your life. At the very least it will draw you much deeper into to the presence of God. So decide, today, what will you be fasting from as you anticipate the celebration of the life, death and resurrection of our Lord & Savior Jesus? It needs to be something that would truly be a sacrifice to you. Food is always a good one. Think what a difference it would make in your life if you were to lose 10 or 20 lbs. Maybe if you just gave up sweets. What about television? Think how much time that would save you. What about some nasty habit that you have longed to be rid of? You can do it. It is just 40 days. Maybe your language needs sprucing up. How about your attitude towards some certain folks or individual that you can’t stand? Could you show love to them for a month or so? With God’s help, I know you can.
What if you were to give up one 30 minute TV show & use that time for praying for the World’s unreached peoples? Or maybe just reading God’s Word deeply for 30 minutes.
Whatever you give up, it must qualify as a sacrifice to you. For some people giving up ice cream would be piece of cake for others of us it would be monumental. The goal is to use it in order to focus on Jesus. So when you tummy aches, when your just dying to know what happened on your show, you turn your thoughts towards Jesus & thank Him for His goodness, graciousness and sacrifice for you, realizing that your sacrifice during these 40 days, as hard as it may be, is only a fraction of what He sacrificed for you. Laus Deo – Pastor Mike


A Harvest is ready in Iraq

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I really didn’t know what to expect in Iraq. Over the last 16 years Iraq has been associated with tyrants, terrorism, Al Qaeda, and now ISIS.  It has been synonymous with war and even holocaust.  No wonder folks were rightly concerned when I told them I was coming to northern Iraq, know here as Kurdistan.  I arrived in Arbil just 50 miles from Mosul, now controlled by ISIS.  It is the capital of Kurdistan & with Mosul and Baghdad one of the 3 largest cities in the country of Iraq.

 

Let me say first of all that in my 6 days here, I never felt afraid or even had a reason for being afraid, with the exception of driving in Iraq.  For centuries the Iraqi people road donkeys on these roads.  There was no left or right, no stop signs, no turning lanes.  They all just road their donkeys the shortest, easiest way possible.  Today they drive their cars as if they were on their donkeys!  Sidewalks?  Fair game!  One thing for sure, it will increase your prayer time and strengthen your faith.

 

I have spent most of my time with Kurdish refugees from Syria, Iran and some Yazidi folks from Syria.  I have been warmly welcomed into their homes with love and kindness.  Whether it was in a tent, an abandoned portion of a half destroyed building, or a make shift shelter made of pieces of scrap wood and plastic.  It was always spotlessly clean inside, and I ate their food and drank tea with them. It was wonderfully generous of them.

And I never had a bad meal!

A bond of affection was so easily formed.  They are a warm and loving people, always ready to share what they have.  I don’t think I have been so readily welcomed anywhere else in the world.  We laughed, shared stories, and always prayed before I left.  I prayed in the name of Isa – Jesus. They are a people who have been victimized and hated by other factions of Islam.

There is not much love loss.  They are open to the Gospel.  They don’t hesitate in wanting to hear stories from scripture and what they mean.

As I ate and fellowshipped with one particular Yazidi man & his two sons, he told the story of how his wife and his own mother, along with his brothers and many other family members were murdered by ISIS in very cruel ways.  They escaped with only the clothes on their backs.  He has a Master’s degree in engineering and had a comfortable living with a small ranch home.

But now he is a refugee with no job and no options for the future.

Life has dealt these people a very cruel hand, and yet they are rising above, refusing to let themselves sink into self-pity and despair.  They do their very best at whatever opportunity comes their way.  They don’t feel like society owes them anything.  They are not just sitting waiting for help.  They have taken a nightmare scenario, and are trying to make a living for their children and grandchildren.  Sometimes that means begging on the streets or selling various household items for someone else, for a small share of the profit.

They are not looking for a hand out, they want a hand up.

 

Here is a “field white unto harvest”.  God is sending as many believers as will go to this land of darkness and hardship, in order to reach these who have had to leave everything they knew behind them in order to start life over in a new country. They respect the New Testament & have a high view of Jesus.  It does not take much to lead them down the road to salvation.

 

May all the Glory go to God.  His Spirit is moving mightily in this land where Abraham began his journey, 2000 years before Jesus.  Where Jonah came to preach repentance, the Holy Spirit is inspiring a new generation of believers to come and share the Good News of a loving God, contrasted to the cruel god of the Islamists.  The one true Living God who wants to forgive, heal and restore. Who will God send?  Who will go on His behalf?

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Maranatha Lord Jesus,
 
Pastor Mike


The Rebirth of the Church in Uzbekistan

rebirthI shared a bit of history with you last week.  It is important if you are going to understand the church & the culture of Uzbekistan.  Back in the middle ages the church in Europe had become corrupt, immoral and heretical, much like many churches in the mainline denominations today in America.  True Believers in God’s Word sought to reform the church bringing about the protestant reformation.  But while European Christianity struggled, the Nestorian Church in central Asia was blossoming.  Indeed, this place of Uzbekistan and surrounding countries were the flower of Christianity in those years.  It was a vibrant church, deep in faith & bringing enlightenment in the areas of medicine, education, astronomy, and business.  The math they learned from India, was adopted by the Muslims and later became known as the Arabic numerals.  It was India and the Nestorian Christians who advanced this.   Islamic leaders like Timur “the Great” (mentioned in my last blog) took all of this knowledge and wisdom from the Nestorians & then laid siege to them.  Timur was one of the chief despots who was responsible for the complete destruction of Christianity in Central Asia (from India to Moscow & eastward into China). He was the “ISIS” of his day. Christianity was literally wiped from the annuls of history until 20th century archeology discovered the evidence of this great Christian movement.            Now fast forward to the late 1990’s when Korean missionaries came to this land and planted the seeds of Christianity after the collapse of the USSR.  A new generation of Christians has emerged in Uzbekistan, discipled in the faith, nurtured by the spirit of God.  Then the Atheistic government discovered what the Korean’s were doing & had all the missionaries deported.  But it was too late.  You can still see & experience the impact of Korea in the culture, (I ate in a Korean restaurant last night).  But more importantly you see the fruits of their labors in a fledgling church.           Imagine the heavy hearts of these new believers as their leaders, their fathers & mothers in the faith, were taken from them, exported (not back to Korea) but to other countries in Central Asia were they continued their evangelism and church planting.  This is one of the greatest missionary efforts of our age.           One might think that the church in Uzbekistan struggled after that, but it did not.  They rose to the challenge.  They took the leadership reigns and organized themselves into a tremendous underground movement connected with other underground churches in the world.  They meet in houses throughout the country, intentionally keeping each “church” small in order to avoid detection from the government.  It is better to have hundreds of small house churches than to have larger churches that could easily be found and disbanded by the government.           The believers that I have met have all had skirmishes with the police, being arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or humiliated and released after some time.  But God’s spirit has given them courage and they are not afraid.  The authorities realize they are not afraid and can’t figure out why.  As a result, arrests are fewer and the beatings have pretty much stopped. Indeed, many of the police are curious as to what makes these followers of Jesus so committed to their faith.  But there is always that threat of arrest & the followers of quite aware of it.  They are very cautious and take great measures to keep their schools of faith & training hidden.  They continue to share their faith energetically, knowing that each time they might be compromised.  They smile about it.  “God is in charge”.           Therefore, it is not surprising to me that they never let me meet with one of the house churches.  They kept me away, and I met with the leaders in their homes for training and encouragement.  To be with them is an experience like I have never had before.  We reclined at a low table with pillows and cushions. There is always great food, and hot tea or coffee.  It is so relaxing, not like a formal teaching setting with chairs and a lectern. I would share, someone would translate and we would dialogue back and forth.           Their faith is genuine and their love for each other is so evident in all that they say and do.  It is like a big loving family has gathered together for fellowship in the midst of learning.  It was like the early church of Acts, reclining at a table.  We were breaking bread in a small room with the joy of Christ in their faces & the love of Christ in their voices.  I was touched and ministered to in a profound way. I came to share, but they gave me far more than I could ever impart to them.            They have the heart of Christ in their church.  They have the passion for the great commission in their minds.  They are reaching out to surrounding countries. They are strategizing and in a very organized way, they are bringing the Faith back to Uzbekistan after 500 years of silence. It is power-filled.  It is humbling to be with them and yet I felt like I was a part of their family.          Now it is on to Iraq.  – Love and Blessings, Pastor Mike