Just Meet And Talk

JUST MEET AND TALK

Here in the Philippines, one of the ministries that I am involved in is church planting.  There is one, somewhat unique aspect of the churches that we help start. The churches that we help start all have church covenants.  A church covenant is basically an agreement between church members and God and church members and themselves. The principles in the church covenant are all based on Bible teachings. People commit to the covenant principles when they enter the membership of the church. In years past, many churches in the USA used church covenants. I know there are some churches in the Dodge County area which still have church covenants posted on the wall of the church building. Church covenants are a useful tool to help church members understand their responsibilities in being part of the church.

The following is one of the items listed in the church covenant that we have in the Philippines: “I commit to seeking to maintain unity within the church. In order to maintain unity, I realize the importance of clear communication. If I have a problem with another member of the church, I will go and talk with that person about the problem. I will do this in a nice and gentle manner. I will not harbor hard feelings in my heart against another brother or sister in the Lord.”

Simple put, this is a commitment to “just meet and talk” with a person if you have a conflict with them.  Don’t stay mad with them. Don’t harbor ill feelings in your heart. Don’t avoid the person. Don’t go and “talk about the person” behind their back. Don’t move to another church. Don’t just stay at home so that you won’t see the person. Simply go talk with them and fix the problem. It is a pretty simple thing to do.

Yet, in spite of its simplicity; folks have a hard time with this concept. It seems that it is much easier to just stay mad with a person and to have a gap in the relationship than to go and talk with them. Over the years, I have seen one problem after the other that is related to a failure to “just meet and talk.”

As a pastor/missionary I have found myself often in the position of getting people to just go and talk. Just a few days ago we had some major relationship issues in one of our churches.  After a period of “chaos,” I was able to get everyone together (12 people!) and we talked and talked and talked for about 3 hours!  It was  a tense time at first, but when we finished talking, the situation was much better and relationships had been restored.  That is what happens when people humble themselves and just meet and talk.

I can just about guarantee it that there are some folks reading this column right now who need to “just meet and talk” with someone else. You have a broken relationship or a gap in a relationship with another Christian friend.  You might have had that problem for a long time. Why wait around any longer to fix it? Just go and talk with the person now. Take some action and reconcile with your friend. Just meet and talk!  If we would learn to just meet and talk, we would save ourselves a lot of hardship and pain. Amen!

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Faith And Medicine

FAITH AND MEDICINE

As I write today’s Manna column, a young man from our ministry is graduating from college. This young guy’s name is BJ.  BJ has been part of one of our churches for several years. His mother is also a Christian and a member of the church.  BJ has not always been the best member of the church.  Yet there is something in his story that all of us can learn from. BJ’s story helps illustrate a proper balance between faith and medicine or faith and doctors.

It took place some years back, but I still recall the night.  I guess it was around 10 pm.  Celi and I were in our small apartment located in our main ministry center in a place called Dasmarinas.  We were about to go to sleep.  All of the sudden we heard some commotion downstairs and, if I recall correctly, there was a knock on our room door.  I went to check things out.   It was BJ and his mother.  He was in great pain and was requesting us to pray for him.  It was a very unusual situation.

BJ’s family lived about a 10 minute walk from our ministry center.  That evening BJ had begun to have some major stomach issues.  The pain became unbearable.  His family decided to rush BJ to the emergency room at the hospital!  The family didn’t have a vehicle but they were able to rent a small motorcycle with a cart attached to it in order to bring BJ to the hospital.  They loaded BJ up in the cart and took off for emergency room! But BJ had an unusual request! He wanted to drop by our ministry center in order for us to pray for him first before he went to the emergency room! What an incredible step of faith! That is exactly what we did.  We laid hands on BJ and prayed for him; crying out for God to heal him.  After a time of prayer, BJ and family continued on to the hospital. A few hours later, BJ walked out of the emergency room on his own two feet! He ended up not needing any major treatment!

Guess what?  This wasn’t the only time that BJ came by our ministry center for prayer on his way to the hospital/emergency room! He came by at least once or twice more.  On still other occasions, BJ requested prayer almost any time he had a physical ailment.  And, folks,  BJ had a lot of physical ailments. Once his appendix burst inside of him! Yet he survived without even having to spend time in the hospital.  BJ also had some heart issues. Yet, God brought him through all of that! Now BJ is graduating from college and he is basically fine with his health.  He is a testimony to God’s faithfulness and healing power.

What is the principle here for us?  Well BJ understood that doctors and medicine are simply instruments of God. God has definitely used doctors and medicine.  But BJ didn’t put his faith in those instruments.  He wasn’t trusting doctors and medicine for his healing.  He put his faith in God.  BJ still went to the doctor.  At times, he still took medicine.  Ultimately, though, he was trusting God to bring healing in whatever way needed.  Friends, I think there is a lot for us to learn from BJ’s story.  Let us think about it more.  Amen!

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Should Versus Want

A few days ago a friend of mine named Ricky approached me and shared about what God had done in his life.  It seems that Ricky had entered into a true relationship with God through Jesus Christ over the past year or so.  He experienced true salvation and a change had taken place in his life. This was very encouraging news to me.  As Ricky continued sharing, one thing that he said really stood out in my mind and that is the subject of today’s column.

Ricky told me that many years ago when he was young, he had “accepted Christ” and made a profession of faith. But that profession of faith had not really brought a change in his life. Many folks do that here in Dodge County. They “walk the aisle” and come forward at the altar call when they are young and then are baptized and become part of a church. Yet, often there is no evidence or fruit of real salvation.  Anyway, Ricky made that early profession of faith but it was only an outward profession not really an inward profession.  There was an outward action but no inward change.

Hence Ricky began a life of “should Christianity.”  He would go to church, because well you should go to church. He would sit through the church service, but his mind would be far from what was taking place. Ricky would go through some of the other motions of Christianity because that is what you “should do.”   The “should christian” follows the outward acts of Christianity even though his heart is actually far from God. There are a lot of “should christians” in the “Bible belt” where Christianity is part of the culture. Folks, “should christians” are not true believers because their hearts have never really been renewed.

Things changed, though, in Ricky’s life when he experienced true salvation. Now that Ricky is truly saved, he no longer does things because he should do them; he does them because he wants to do them. Ricky now goes to church because he wants to go to church; not because he should go to church. He now reads the Bible because he wants to read it; not because he should read it. Ricky has moved from being a “should christian” to being a true Christian.  He has become a new creation in Christ Jesus. He has been given a new heart and new desires.

We read the following in Psalm 119:16 – “I delight in Your decrees; I will not neglect Your Word.”  Friends, that is the heart of a person who has a true relationship with God. The true believer delights in the decrees of God; the Word of God. The true Christian delights in going to church and fellowshipping with God’s people. The true Christian has an inward longing for the things of God. The true believer follows God because he wants to do that. God is the delight and joy of the true believer. It is not just an outward action; it is an inward change and desire.

When I got saved many years ago nobody had to tell me that I should go to church. I automatically wanted to go to church. In fact, I would attend any Christian meeting that I heard about. I longed for God and thirsted to know more about Him. God had changed me on the inside. Such is what happens with every true Christian.

So Manna readers, how about you? Are you just a “should christian?”  Or have you become a new creation in Christ Jesus and now delight in the things of God? Examine your lives closely. Amen!

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Shy Is Not An Excuse

Once again I headed out to the streets to share the Word of God in one form or the other. On this particular day it was raining really hard almost the whole day. My options were limited so I took a stack of tracts and my umbrella and stood by a main road where the traffic tended to jam up. When a jeepney (public transportation vehicle) would come by and stop in front of me; I would give a tract to the person sitting on the passenger side of the open-air vehicle. Because of the bad weather, I didn’t stay out very long. Yet it was a good time of distributing tracts.

As often is the case, people stared at me as I stood there beside the road. And, as usual, I felt very shy in standing in front of all the people. I had to push myself to get out to the road and give out tracts. It wasn’t easy for me to do. The truth is I am very shy person. I am an introvert and don’t have a very outgoing personality. Going out and sharing the Gospel does not come natural to me. I would prefer to sit by myself and read a book. I am content being alone in my room. Yet God has called me to be a missionary and to go and share the Gospel with people in the Philippines and other places. My shyness has to take a back seat to the calling God has given me. I can not use being shy as an excuse to neglect the will of God.

I have been shy for as long I can remember; from the time I started kindergarten until I graduated from Dodge County High School in 1983. I wasn’t given any awards when I graduated, but if there was a recognition given to “Least Likely To Become a Missionary” then I probably would have received that honor. Along with being a “weekend drunkard” I was also probably one of the shyest people in the whole school. I didn’t attend the school prom my junior and senior year because I was too shy to ask any girl to go with me. I would get nervous anytime I had to get up in front of class or a group of people.

During my first year of college I became a Christian and my life was radically changed. Yet, having Christ in my life did not cause my shyness to just disappear. I had to overcome my shyness by the power of God. In 1991 I was ordained into the Gospel ministry and was pastor of a church in Dodge County. Yet I still remained shy. I used to literally memorize my entire sermons in order to overcome the shyness that I experienced when preaching.

It has now been over 25 years since I first became a Christian and over 18 years since I have been in full time ministry; yet I still battle shyness. I have to daily overcome shyness by the power of God. My being shy will not disappear. It is built into my personality. Yet the power of God is greater than my personality and hence I have been enabled to share the Gospel with others and preach to crowds of people.

The reason I share these personal things with you is because I know there are probably a lot of shy, introvert type people reading this column. Friends, don’t use your shyness as an excuse for disobeying God. Sometimes folks never do anything for God because they are too shy. But friends, through the power of God, shyness can be overcome! The shyness might not ever really leave you; but God’s power will give you victory over it. I know this from personal experience and what God has done for me; He will also do for you. Amen!

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Slavery Today

Periodically I got to a search site on the internet named “Google” and do a search for “Eastman, Georgia.” I search the news because I am curious if anything major has happened in the Eastman area. I also regularly go to the Dodge County News web site to check on things in Eastman. Recently, as I have done searches for Eastman news, I have come across articles concerning the confederate flag controversy. It is amazing how Eastman gets written about in the Atlanta paper and other papers concerning that issue. From what I can understand, it seems some folks have been protesting the flying of the confederate flag in the court house area. The flag, they say, is reminder of the times of slavery in Georgia.

I am not going to deal with that specific issue (the flying of the flag) in today’s Manna column. But you know what? I am over here in the Philippines, yet almost every single day I see things that remind me of slavery. Slavery still exists in the Philippines. And guess what, it also still exists there in Dodge County. But it is a slavery not related to one’s skin color. Let me explain what I mean.

Each day as I go around the Philippines, I see people that are still slaves. I walk down the road and I see a couple of men getting drunk almost everyday. Those guys are slaves to sin; slaves to a bottle of liquor. I see some other youth in the community. They look spaced out and wild-eyed because they are on drugs. They are slaves to illegal drugs. I see other men in the community who are always fooling around on their wives. They are slaves to sexual immorality. Still other men are slaves to pornography. I listen on the street and hear a housewife shouting and screaming. She is a slave to an uncontrollable temper. Other ladies are always going house-to-house sharing the latest gossip with their friends. They are slaves to gossip. Friends, slavery still abounds today. Millions of folks are slaves to sin.

We see this type of slavery clearly mentioned in the following passage of scripture. But notice also, there is still another form of slavery mentioned.  Romans 6:16-18 -  “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  17) But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18) You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”

Brothers and sisters, every single person reading this column today is someone’s slave. You are either a slave of sin or a slave of righteous. And, again, it has absolutely nothing to do with the color of your skin. It is an issue of what your heart is like. So whose slave are you? Are you a slave to sin? Does sin own you? Do you obey its every call? Or have you been set free from sin by Jesus Christ? Through Jesus Christ are you now a slave of righteous? Do you love righteousness and seek to always obey and follow God? Friends, you are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteous. It is one or the other. I ask you again, whose slave are you?

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Gospel Rejected

Ezekiel 2:7 – “You must speak My Words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

Over the past several weeks, God has been moving in my heart concerning this passage of scripture. This was God’s call to Ezekiel. God commanded Ezekiel to speak His Word to the people no matter what their response would be. It didn’t matter if they listened or failed to listen. Ezekiel’s job was the same; to speak the Word of God. As it turns out, a majority of the folks ignored Ezekiel’s message. Still Ezekiel’s responsibility was to be faithful to the task that God had given him.

As I considered God’s call to Ezekiel, I realized that God has basically given the same type of call to Christians. We are commanded to share the Gospel with the whole world. (Mark 16:15).  We are to do this no matter what the response of the people is. The reality is most people reject the Gospel. And, naturally, it is not easy to face rejection. In fact it is a very hard thing to do. Yet, if we are to be faithful to the call to share the Gospel; we must be willing to face rejection.

A few days ago I went to a local coffee shop to spend some time in prayer. I regularly go to coffee shops specifically to pray and read the Word because they are some of the few quiet places in our town. Coffee shops typically have air conditioners, as well, and that makes them peaceful, relaxing places to pray at. After spending some time at the coffee shop, I walked to a nearby busy street corner. There were a lot of people walking in this area and I decided to spend time simply handing out Gospel tracts. I stood there on the corner with a pile of tracts and offered them to people as they would pass by me. Quite a few people received the tracts but a number of folks totally rejected them. From the look on their faces, you would have thought I was handing out cow manure or cyanide capsules. People didn’t even want to look at the tract. When people would reject the tract, inside I would cringe a little bit. Yet I would still try to smile and sometimes silently pray. There was really nothing I could do about their response or rejection. I couldn’t make them take the tract. All I could do was to offer it to them. Such is the life of a person who shares the Gospel.

I continued giving out tracts for over an hour. My guess is that maybe 40 percent of the people rejected the tract. But, praise God for those 60 percent who accepted the tract. There were also some people who actually approached me and requested a copy of the tract. One man got a copy, sat down and read it and then came back and requested a few more copies so he could give to his friends.

I believe the fear of rejection is a hindrance that keeps many Christians from sharing the Gospel as they should. But folks, if you are going to be involved in sharing the Gospel, you had better get ready to face rejection.  Don’t fear rejection; expect it and face it. It will happen. It might even happen a lot. Yet the fact of rejection should not keep us from sharing the Gospel. We should share the Word of God with people whether they listen or fail to listen.  Amen and Amen!

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Someone Is Still Waiting…

Philippians 2:4 – Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend focusing on your own interests? Stop right now and consider that question. Do a few calculations in your mind. If you are like most people, you spend a majority of your time on yourself and your own interests and concerns. Yet, friends, God calls us to go beyond ourselves and our own interests. He wants us to also have a focus on the concerns and needs of others.

This truth is taught in the scripture mentioned at the beginning of the column. Paul essentially says, “Hey folks, don’t just spend all of your time on yourself! Give some time to help others and reach out to them.” There are a pile of people out there with a lot of needs and concerns and God wants us to help them and minister to them. The question is, are we willing to stop focusing so much on ourselves and instead consider the interests and needs of others?

In last week’s column, I touched on this very subject. The column was entitled, “Someone Is Waiting.” Someone is waiting for you to visit. Someone is waiting for you to write or contact them. Someone is waiting for you to give financial help to them. Someone is waiting, but we are often too slow in taking action. Maybe this is because we are too often focused on our own interests.

This past week I have been trying to apply what I shared in last week’s column. As a missionary to the poor, it seems I am always focused on the needs of others. But I knew God wanted me to go further. So a few days ago I texted another American missionary here in the Philippines who is also from Georgia. His name is David and I haven’t had any contact with him in over a year. I texted him and spent time encouraging him. And guess what, that was exactly what David needed! At that very time, he was in need of encouragement. Here is what David said in one of his texts to me. “Thank you Derek. I really needed an encouraging word today. The Lord used you. Thanks.” David was waiting for encouragement from someone, anyone. And God used me as an instrument for that purpose. Praise God!

Then yesterday I found out about a 23 year old girl in another part of the Philippines that has a bad case of leukemia. Kate is the girl’s name and she had reached the point of hopelessness and almost depression because of her situation. I don’t even know Kate, but someone gave me her number and asked me to text her and share with her. It was kind of an unusual situation, but I thought I would go ahead and try and see what happens. Guess what folks? I now have a new friend named Kate! She responded to my initial texts and for the past day we have been texting. I have been encouraging her and sharing also with her about God. Please join with me in praying for Kate. She is in a very difficult situation with the leukemia, but we are trusting and believing God to work a miracle in her life.

Friends, someone is still waiting for you. Will you take action? There are needy people all over the place. Let us stop looking only after our own interests and consider also the interests and needs of others. Amen!

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Someone Is Waiting….

I had several other ideas in my mind for this week’s Manna column, but just as I was about to start writing, this topic came into my thoughts. My prayer is that the Lord would speak to some of you through today’s column. Folks, someone is waiting for you.

II Timothy 4:16 – At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.

Paul was at a time of need in his life. He had been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He had to face a trial. He needed someone to help him. Actually he needed many to help him. Yet, everyone deserted Paul. No one came to assist him in his point of need. Paul was waiting, but no one came.

May I suggest to you my friends that this very day someone is also waiting for you. There is a person or people somewhere that need you and they need you now. As Paul was waiting for someone to assist help him; there is a person waiting for you to help them. Will you take action? Will you do it now?

Someone is waiting for you to visit them. They are either in the hospital, the nursing home or even in their own house. They are lonely and down and out. They are longing that someone would come and see them. They are waiting for you. But you have many excuses for not going. You say there is just not enough time. Or you think, “That is the job of the preacher.”  In your mind, you reason, “One day I will go and see them.” But that “one day” never seems to come. So the person continues to wait, so lonely and depressed. Waiting for you to come, but you don’t take action. You keep delaying. Will you get up and go now? Why are you so slow? Must the people who need you, wait continually? Friends, could it be that someone is waiting desperately for you to visit them? Go now!

Someone is waiting for you to write them. It seems the days of writing letters and sending cards have become a thing of the past. Even with high speed internet and email and all the modern communication, most people still have great problems in writing a simple letter. But you know what? Someone is waiting for you to write them. They need a word of encouragement. They need an exhortation which will help them get through a difficult time in their life. They crave to hear from someone; to get a card, a letter, an email. Each day they look in their mail box but there is no letter there. Each day they open their email box but all they find is junk mail. Someone is waiting for you to write them. Can’t you find the time to send a simple letter? Is it too hard of a thing for you to compose a few sentences of encouragement and stick it in the mail? Friends, someone is waiting for you to write them. Will you do that today?

Finally, someone is waiting for your financial or material help. They are in a tight situation financially. They are wondering how they will make ends meet. They are about to give up hope. They are filled with anxiety about their future. They are waiting for someone to offer assistance. They are waiting for you. Will you help them? Will you take your surplus and be a blessing to another who has a shortage? Friends, someone is waiting for your help. Will you take action today?

Friends, someone is waiting. Let us take action today! Amen and Amen!

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Planting The Word

1Corinthians 3:5-9 – What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6) I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8) The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9) For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Yesterday a young lady named Daisy showed up at one of our churches. I knew Daisy was coming because she had been texting me. Actually she has been texting me with spiritual related questions for some time now. Daisy had gotten my cell phone number off of a Gospel tract that was given her several months ago. When she read the tract she became convicted about some sins that she was involved in. Daisy wants to leave her sin and have a true relationship with God. We look to meet more with Daisy and help her grow further in her knowledge of God.

We have other mission churches in a place called Montalban. A few months ago our pastor in Montalban received a text message from a lady who was interested in having Bible study. This particular lady had also received one of our tracts. She was already a Christian but had only recently relocated to the Montalban area and did not have a church home. She longed to have fellowship with other Christians so when she received the tract she went ahead and texted the number on the back of the tract. A Bible study has now been started in that lady’s home and she is in the process of becoming a member of one of our churches in the area.

These two stories illustrate how God is using Gospel tracts in our ministry here in the Philippines. Over the past year or so we have been writing and printing our own Gospel tracts. These tracts are basically small and simple. For about twelve US dollars, we can print 2000 tracts. The tracts have my cell phone numbers on the back for those people who have questions and want more information. Many members of our churches are involved in distributing the tracts all over the place each week. Tract distribution has become one of our main ministries here in the Philippines.

This ministry is beginning to bear fruit. Almost everyday, someone texts me with spiritually related questions. I have received texts from all sorts of people in all sorts of places. People have asked me about “everything under the sun.”  Some folks have started confessing various sins to me.  Sometimes people text me several weeks or even months after originally receiving the tracts. Other times, people text me from far away places. Some way or the other our tracts have even reached other provinces (states).

Giving out a Gospel tract is a simple way to plant the seed of the Word of God in a person’s life. A person reads the tract and the seed of the Word is planted in his life. Later on, God brings someone else along to water the seed. And folks, God makes it grow! Sowing the seed of the Word of God will have an impact!

Friends, I challenge you to get some good Gospel tracts and begin sowing the Word. Any Christian can do this. Anyone can give a tract to another person. Sow the seed of the Word and trust God to cause it to grow. Begin today! Amen!

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End Of The World?

I am sure most of you were aware of the predicted “end of the world” which was forecast by Harold Camping and his followers to happen on May 21. That day came and went and the world is still pretty much as it was before. The rapture didn’t take place. There were not any major earthquakes on that day. A volcano did erupt in Iceland, but other than that things were basically “business as usual.” Harold Camping was proven, once again, to be a false prophet. He had made a similar prediction back in 1994 and that also failed to take place.

This predicted “end of the world” generated an immense amount of media attention and made international news. It was in the news here in the Philippines and there were articles in the major papers. What are we to make of this situation? Are there lessons for true Christians to learn from this event? What follows are a few things that came to mind as I considered this false “end of the world” prophecy.

First off, Christians need to be very careful about setting any exact dates about when the end of the world or the rapture will come. Well meaning folks have been setting “dates and times” for many, many years and not one of them has come true yet. And for that matter, it seems every generation of Christians gets this idea that their generation will be the last generation or that during their time the rapture will take place. I believe much time, energy and discussion has been wasted amongst Christians speculating about when the end will come. I personally believe that the Lord Jesus will come back one day. I believe the world will come to an end one day. I believe the Bible teaches this.  But I have no idea when that will be and I don’t want to waste my time worrying about that. I prefer to use the time God has given me here on earth to share the message of salvation with the lost and in helping the poor and needy.

Although the end of the world did not happen on May 21; the end of the world for me and most people reading this column will happen within the next 50 years or less. Some time during that time period most of us will die and that effectively is the end of the world for us. Everyday it is the “end of this world” for over 150,000 people who die around the world. Everyday it is the “end of this world” for over 3000 people who die each day in the USA. When the “end of this world” happens to you, you had better be ready for the next world! You had better have a right relationship with God while you are in this world in order to prepare you for the next world. Ask yourself, are you ready for the “end of this world” if suddenly you had a heart attack and died in your sleep tonight? That is a very serious question and you should give full consideration to it.

Finally, although I thoroughly disagree with Harold Camping and his “end of the world” followers; at least his group did live consistent with what they believed. They believed the end of the world would take place on May 21 and they urgently spread that message all over the USA and the world. In a short time frame, their message was spread to the ends of the earth. Even here in the Philippines, their message was spread over the whole country. This group had zeal without knowledge. My prayer is that true Christians would be just as zealous for the truth of the Gospel and see it as an urgent task to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Amen and Amen.

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