SÃO JOSÉ DOS CAMPOS, Brazil (BNC) — This morning I posted a mission newsletter to our ministry website, noting that as of last Nov. 28 — also the American Thanksgiving Day — my wife Vicki and I had celebrated our 35th year of life and work in Brazil.

When we arrived, our oldest son was a year and a half old. Two more children were born to us here. After 10 years in Belo Horizonte, we moved to our present city, where we’ve been now for 25 years. We’ve lived in the same house for 22 years. I worked out of the same rented office for 17 years. Last year I converted a bedroom and closed off our back varanda to set up a home office.

Vicki and I are now empty-nesters and loving it, for the most part. I joke that, if she hasn’t killed me yet, we must be doing pretty well.

While I work up old historical details for what promises to be another unfinished book, I’d like to mention in brief a few lessons learned in our experience with God over these many years.

Setting out those aforementioned details, I’ve come to put God at the heart of our experience. Whether at moments of supreme submission or hours of hard suffering, when like Job we’re ready to argue our case before the Supreme Judge, the Lord is front and center in our faith and work.

So we must see our Heavenly Father as the prime mover of what is happening here. I’ve listed what he does.

  1. God cares for his own.
  2. God breaks and remakes his own.
  3. God empowers his own.
  4. God fulfills his mission through his own.
  5. God glorifies himself in his own.

That may or may not sound like much of a list to you. This is the way he works on Planet Earth. There’s nothing new here, really. It’s basic New Testament teaching. But the richness of these truths shines forth in each detail of our lives and of yours.

Each of us revels in seeing God move in the moment. We render thanks to him that he is true to his promises. Our praise climbs a notch in volume each time we remember a manifestation his goodness.

You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.
Psalm 119.68 NLT

Besides the goodness of God, some other lessons have been reinforced for us.

One, is the simplicity of not only the message of salvation, but of the methods and means by which it is made known. We love our programs. We believe in large scale. Jesus, however, did not go that route. He handpicked 12 men to spend time with and to invest in through personal time and teaching. One on one. Up close.

Ever wonder why the Heavenly Father did not send him to us in the 21st Century, with all the advantages of mass media? There was a strategic, divine timeline for the coming of the Messiah. He hit it just right.

No wonder that today people are flocking to the minimalism movement. Life has gotten too complicated. We want to downsize, since things are dominating us. People are sensing that something has gone wrong with the materialistic dream. They haven’t figured out yet, though, that the Lord Jesus teaches us what is the One Thing that cannot be taken away from us.

It’s a spiritual lesson even people of God need to learn. I know. I was involved for many years in Christian camps, Christian childcare, Bible schools and training programs. And there’s nothing wrong in these, per se, as long as they permit us to do the personal work of the Lord. They often don’t, however.

See, this alone I found: God made human beings straightforward, but they search for many complications.
Ecclesiastes 7.29, CEB

Another thing I’ve learned which Jerry Hill expressed so very well. I’m reading his account of their work in Guatemala. Around the year 1967, he observed:

These exciting times helped us conclude: when the gospel is preached, there are going to be conversions; when the gospel is preached more, there are going to be more conversions.

Jerry was so right. We’re in some exciting times right now. If we’re going to have many conversions, all of us have to be speaking a good word for Jesus more and more. His is a true and valid statement wherever we are, whether Guatemala in 1967 or Brazil or the USA in 2019.

You see it in the first-century church. The “church members” (what a horrid phrase! — try instead, “the disciples”) went everywhere proclaiming the message, Acts 8.4. Everybody took responsibility. Everybody felt deeply the constraint of Christ’s love. They made it happen without mass media, because they possessed then what so few have today — humility before the supreme sovereignty of God, love and gratitude before the cross of Jesus Christ, and power and speech before the transforming Spirit of truth.

Those are the resources, the methods and means, that I want.

And you thought I’d have some earth-shaking insight, didn’t you?

For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died.
2 Corinthians 5.14 CSB