Miraculous Answers to Prayer at Pine Ridge and Whiteclay

Miraculous Answers to Prayer at the Pine Ridge reservation and Whiteclay
Stories from a new Transformations video by The Sentinel Group

An edited report from George Otis Shares God Stories.

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Miraculous Answers to Prayer at Pine Ridge and Whiteclay
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Our next documentary, The Gates of Whiteclay, depicts God’s intervention in a small town nestled up against the sprawling Lakota Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. Notorious for selling over 11,000 cans of fortified malt liquor a day to bootleggers and emotionally-broken Natives, the New York Times dubbed it “the Skid Row of the Plains.”
The Times can have their headline, but my own takeaway from eight visits to the area in recent years is decidedly different. God is at work in this place! I have honestly lost count of the myriad redemptive testimonies that have graced my ears during field research and filming. I just know that hearing about the loving deeds of our Heavenly Father has been a sheer delight — something I will never tire of.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your
wondrous works, I will meditate. (Psalm 145:5 ESV)
Many people know about the poverty, alcoholism, and suicide in places like Pine Ridge and Whiteclay. They may even have heard stories of human trafficking, domestic violence, and dark shamanic rituals. That these things exist as a clear and present danger is beyond dispute.
But is this all we know? Is this where we leave the conversation?
Having read countless articles about Pine Ridge in the course of my research for The Gates of Whiteclay, it was the rare author who made his way past the area’s chronic misery and hopelessness. When it came to reporting even a sliver of good news, few could find it… and most didn’t even bother to look.
It is curious behavior that calls to mind the experience of Elisha’s servant at Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-18). When this young man noted with dismay that ruthless Syrian troops had surrounded his city, Elisha responded by asking God to “open his eyes so he may see” (verse 17). This was not out of a concern for the young man’s natural vision. What he claimed to see was really there. The problem lay with what his servant did not see.
When the blinders were removed from his spiritual eyes, Elisha’s servant discovered the Syrian army was itself besieged by a fiery angelic host. Armed with this new perspective he was able to reach a very different conclusion about his prospects.
It is easy to conclude that Pine Ridge, like Dothan, has no discernable way out of its predicament. This is the view of an overwhelming percentage of the reservation’s inhabitants and neighbors. Sadly, it is also a prevailing attitude among local Christians.
I have witnessed this in scores of pre-transformed communities over the years. Christian stakeholders become hyper-aware of longstanding obstacles, and, in the process, lose sight of a far more consequential reality — namely the promises, power, and presence of the Living God.
Evidence of this unperceived reality is present in both Pine Ridge and Whiteclay — and it is as supernatural as the fiery hosts witnessed by Elisha’s servant.
There will always be a handful of individuals who see the works of God before they are fully manifest to others. This has nothing to do with the luck of the draw, but is rather the consequence of earnest tears and importunate prayer. They assume this posture because they are already convinced of God’s willingness and ability to come in delivering power. They remain in this posture until there is evidence this readiness has transitioned into action — a moment intercessors sometimes call the assurance. At the beginning of their petitioning, all things were possible. Now they have become a certainty.
In recent months, a small band of Pine Ridge Natives has been stepping out in this bold confidence. God is present! And he is telling them exactly what he wants them to do.
Not surprisingly, this divine partnership has focused on notable areas of concern for the Lakota people — a list that includes substance abuse, witchcraft, and youth traumas.
Drugs have been a growing scourge aided by organized gangs and corrupt tribal officials. While desperate parents, concerned social workers, and stretched law enforcement want to get on top of the problem, many feel overwhelmed.
Believing that God was ready to step into the breach, two Native women leaned into him for instructions. The assignment was simple and direct: They were to make a list of the top fifteen known drug dealers on the reservation.
Armed with their list, the women then made their way to each house and trailer that was pumping Meth and other poisons into communities like Oglala, Manderson, Porcupine, and Northridge. Standing in the first driveway, one of the women asked God how he wanted her to pray. His reply was instant: “Command the works of the enemy to be destroyed.”
“Then,” she told me, “I commanded the works of the enemy to be destroyed by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.”
For the next forty days, the ladies prayerwalked each location before punctuating their efforts with a late night prayer session. Though few in number, they were opening the very gates of heaven.
Within days, fourteen of the fifteen names on the target list were in jail. The women were jubilant, but they were also confident God intended to complete the task.
A few nights later, the women were out near the last drug runner’s house to retrieve a car — and to pray. The dealer, an ethnic Mexican, was big trouble. Cautiously walking up to his driveway in near-total darkness, the women were startled when floodlights kicked on around them and men dressed in blue jumpsuits and carrying semi-automatic weapons suddenly appeared.
The men asked the ladies to identify themselves and explain their business at the drug house. Given the hour and location, their presence was understandably suspicious.
However, at precisely that moment, additional blue-clad men emerged from the drug house with a heavily-shackled Hispanic man. The ladies recognized him as the notorious narcotics dealer Monito. Suddenly, it clicked. The armed men were not there for the intercessors, but because of them. While the women were quietly praying in the darkness, a drug task force was busy arresting the fifteenth, and last, drug dealer on their target list.
On another occasion, one of these same women was asked by a Christian neighbor to join her in prayer for the drug-ridden community of Northridge. Of specific concern was a dealer who had recently set up shop in a trailer house down the street — an area where lots of young children played.
As before, the women waited upon the Lord for instructions as to how they should proceed. It was not long before they sensed a clear leading to walk down to the trailer house. Then, as they stood silent and yielded in the driveway, the Lord once again commanded them, “Destroy the works of the enemy.”
Responding in confident obedience, they called upon the power of the Holy Spirit to rid the neighborhood of this grave danger. And that was it.
A few days later, one of the women was returning home from classes when she heard her neighbor call out to her.
“Come over here, Norma. I want to show you something.”
As they walked toward a group of kids at play, the woman said, “You know that trailer house we have been asking God to remove? Well, guess what. It burned down today! Just look at it! There’s nothing left but the frame.”
Around this same time, George Dreamer, the adult son of one of the prayer warriors, was driving his mother to an appointment in Denver. As they approached the southern boundary of the reservation, he made a sudden, unannounced detour off Route 87 near Whiteclay. Glancing over at his surprised mom, he said: “I’m gonna show you where the biggest drug dealer lives.”
Driving about a half mile down a dirt road, he pulled up at the perimeter of a sprawling salvage yard. At the center of the property, easily visible from the road, stood a corrugated steel building and two adjacent trailer houses.
“Those buildings right there,” George said, “are the front for the drug dealer. That’s where they weigh the drugs before loading them into kid’s backpacks so they can go sell them at school.”
His mother, Norma Blacksmith, was having none of that. As an Oglala Sioux elder and frontline intercessor, she had witnessed more than her share of death and heartbreak. And she was angry.
“Stop the car!” she barked.
“What are you going to do?” George asked with a measure of concern.
“I’m going to pray!”
Suddenly the air was filled with the same passion that had proved so effective in removing the other drug distributors: “God, destroy the works of the enemy!”
If Norma’s time in Denver was routine, the same could not be said of the days following her return to Pine Ridge. And it all began with a phone call from her son George.
“Mom,” he said with a tone of amazement, “I want to show you something.”
After loading Norma into the cab of his red pickup, the two of them drove back out to the salvage yard. As they pulled up to the spot where just a few days prior Norma had asked God to move in power, the scene looked like a war zone. The buildings that had served as the Meth Lord’s operations center were simply gone – crushed into scraps of tarpaper, wood, and twisted balls of metal.
Something extraordinarily powerful had happened here. It was jaw-dropping.
George said, “Mom, you’re not going to believe this, but right after you prayed, a tornado set down on these buildings and flattened them to smithereens. It didn’t touch any of the surrounding properties. And, Mom,” he said, “tornadoes don’t come in November!”
As breathtaking as it is to see a drug dealer’s property wiped off the map by a tornado driven by divine GPS, Native intercessors report this kind of supernatural display has been on the rise. In addition to targeting ruthless poison pushers, God has also taken aim at those who would harm innocents through witchcraft, religious sexual abuse, and the facilitation of self-mutilating rituals.
In the Fall of 2021, a team of six prayer warriors decided to take a stand against the spiritual darkness plaguing the community. Despite the Lakota’s tenacious adherence to traditional spirituality, violence and youth suicide were getting worse. Medicine men feigned concern, but many were compromised.
In some cases, competition for followers led these self-appointed “holy men” to prey upon the grief-stricken families of suicide victims by claiming a psychic connection with the deceased. Others attempted to lure larger crowds to their Sun Dance events by purveying cannabis and peyote.
There were also financial entanglements with drug dealers, with some even consuming narcotics themselves. The more unscrupulous placed curses — with very real consequences — on individuals they perceived to be challenging their craft or reputation.
God, however, was not intimidated.
As the intercessors made their way out to various ritual sites on the reservation and in the nearby Black Hills, the Lord instructed them how to pray. Touching nothing but the heart of their Heavenly Father, they got down to business.
The last stop for the team was a ritual site situated on a volcanic mountain the Lakota call Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. Long known as a place of power, Native traditionalists journey there both to hear from the spirits (through vision quests and Yuwipi ceremonies) and to covenant with them (in sweat lodges).
Unaware of this, many non-Native visitors report having disturbing experiences on the Butte. One man climbed halfway to the top before turning back because the mountain felt hostile to him. It is certainly no place for the unprepared.
The 2021 prayer team, however, was ready for the ascent. After several days of prayer and fasting, they set off in a spirit of worship.
A forty-minute hike brought them to a clearing where they could see a sweat lodge nestled among pines bedecked with colored prayer cloths and tiny bundles of tobacco. Lifting their hands to the heavens, they called upon the Lord to manifest his authority.
Two days later, a precision lightning strike obliterated that shamanic high place. Within a week, the medicine man who erected the lodge was dead.
Although the prayer team did not request or wish for anyone’s demise — nor was it ever God’s desire (see 1 Timothy 2:4-5 & 2 Peter 3:9) — the Almighty will not sit idly by when so-called holy men deny his sacrifice and exploit his precious children through fabricated stories (see 2 Peter 2:3).
It is hardly surprising then to hear reports that God has left his calling card at various Sun Dance sites across the reservation.
Of all Lakota religious rituals, the Sun Dance is arguably the most important, and is certainly the most public. Those who participate in the four- to eight-day ceremony — typically held in the late spring or summer — do so for a variety of reasons. Most, however, are there to covenant with the powers of the unseen realm.
The entire process begins with the selection and felling of a large cottonwood tree that will serve as the all-important center pole of the Sun Dance. Selected trees are typically 40 to 50 feet tall and about 30 inches at the base – sometimes larger. It takes many men to carry the trunk to the ceremonial site after it has been stripped of its branches.
Upon reaching its destination, the tree is dropped into a deep hole and connected to forked rafters to give it enough stability to withstand the weight and energy of dozens of tethered dancers. As one Native medicine man explains, this is the nexus of power.
It is you who will join us to all the powers of the universe. The power will be placed
on you. The medicine fathers will be there on the center tree, and the Sundancers
will place their hands on you and say their prayers.
After several days of fasting, the male dancers lie on their backs as shamans pierce the skin on their chests and insert small bones attached to a braided leather cord that extends from the center pole. Then, for hours on end, the dancers move in and out from the center pole to the sounds of drums and chanted songs. Many go into a trance where they see visions or take spirit walks.
Many tribes, including the Lakota, burn smudge pots of sage to conjure spirits and help the dancers. Colored flags and tobacco bundles are tied to the tops of willow switches that form the perimeter of the Sun Dance circle. These are offerings to the 405 spirits they believe interact with humans.
Eventually, as twilight approaches, the dancers lean back on their tethers until the bone fasteners are torn out. The bloody, lacerated flesh is then cut off and offered to the sun.
One eminent anthropologist who conducted extensive research among the Plains Indians in the early twentieth century reported being told, “All who take this ceremony die in a few years, because it is equivalent to giving one’s self to the sun. Hence, the sun takes them for its own.”
The proliferation of these Pine Ridge Sun Dances in recent years — my own informants put the number as high as 100 — is cause for concern. While proponents argue the ceremony is simply an occasion to honor the spirits and ask for their protection and provision, the reservation’s deepening addiction, suicides, and impoverishment suggests the return for the dancer’s torn flesh and scars has not been as advertised.
Native prayer warriors felt they had no choice but to take this crisis to the Lord. Weeping and prostrating themselves before him, they waited for instructions. This was a serious challenge, and they didn’t dare to act presumptuously. God would have to go before them in supernatural power.
Finally, upon receiving an assurance their prayers had been heard, they ventured out to declare the word of the Lord at Sun Dance grounds in each of the reservation’s nine districts. Taking their stand, the group felt locked-in with God. “The enemy can’t interrupt anything,” one woman explained, “because God is talking to me. And whatever He’s telling me is not a lie.”
Though many smaller dance sites are limited to a few dozen participants, some, such as the well-known Thunder Valley, can attract five hundred or more. Because the forces behind this latter event are particularly dark, this was where God made his statement.
As the intercessors gathered at the site, they were joined by a humble man from Papua New Guinea who had witnessed God’s supernatural deeds on numerous occasions. An experienced transformation catalyst, he knew how to pray in situations like these.
And what a prayer! Fueled by a sense of God’s deep displeasure with that place, the group asked him to strike the very heart of its deceptive power.
What happened next would send chills up their spines. Shortly after leaving the site, they learned that a powerful windblast had uprooted the sacred center pole and tossed it aside like a matchstick!
For traditionalists, this was deeply significant as it is forbidden for the center pole to touch the ground. Shocked at what had happened, even the medicine men were forced to acknowledge the Creator was unhappy.
“That’s how powerful He is!” Norma Blacksmith told me with the giddiness of a school girl.
But the story was not over. Across the reservation, several other Sun Dance sites began to close for reasons ranging from landowners pulling permission to the deaths of spiritual organizers. Another longstanding site at Red Shirt Table was badly vandalized, including the total destruction of three sweat lodges. To this day, no motives or perpetrators have been identified.
Of course, not all of God’s interventions involve uprooting and pulling down. He is a creator, and as such, is continuously looking to design, build, heal, and deliver. It is the essence of who he is.
Having spent a good deal of time on Pine Ridge in recent years, I have encountered this side of God’s résumé many times. This has included interviewing both eyewitnesses and direct beneficiaries of supernatural healings, resuscitations, deliverances, and other miracles. The evidence is plentiful.
However, I have also found that such things can be difficult to convey — not only because so few people have encountered them, but also because (in this case at least) of the sheer volume of these stories. Job calls them “marvelous things without number” (5:9 ESV), while David, who wants to talk of them, laments “they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5 ESV).
So I have decided to conclude my storytelling with a lovely account of God’s intervention on behalf of a young Native girl facing a life-threatening crisis. I offer it not only because it is beautiful in its own right, but because it serves as a fitting representation of the kinds of things Jesus has been doing on Pine Ridge.
It all started innocently enough.
Eleven-year-old Annetta Littlebear and close friend Charlotte Thunder Horse, looking to add a little excitement to a typical lazy day on the Rez, had decided to navigate a bike into the rough and wooded terrain near Wounded Knee. It was quite the picture: Two girls, one bike, no shoes.
Charlotte was doing the pedaling while Annetta, snug at her back, dangled her legs on either side of the rear wheel. The carefree girls screamed and giggled as their bike bounced along the makeshift trail. It was sheer bliss.
Then, in a killjoy moment, an unexpected bump caused Annetta’s right foot to become entangled with the wheel spokes. A second later, her screaming lost its lighthearted tone.
As the bike jolted to a stop it was immediately evident Annetta had a problem. Her foot had been skewered by one of the mangled spokes that had broken off. Blood was everywhere.
Charlotte ran off to get help.
“I was home when one of the kids came running in,” Annetta’s mother told me. “Charlotte was out of breath and trying to explain what had happened.”
Hearing the commotion, Annetta’s dad and brother Michael sprinted out the door. When they arrived on the scene, they found the spoke had not only punctured her foot, but had become attached inside. She was one with the bike.
When Michael finally managed to remove the spoke, Annetta’s father scooped her up in his arms and brought her home. Belnita Littlebear, Annetta’s mom, didn’t like what she saw. “It was really a deep, deep gouge. So I took her to the tribal hospital.”
After bandaging her wound and providing crutches, the hospital released a very tired Annetta back to the custody of her mother. For the next week, Belnita kept vigil over her daughter and changed her dressing. As the days passed, however, Annetta’s recovery seemed to have stalled.
By the weekend, Belnita was tight on money but needed to get out to find some food. Someone, possibly a neighbor, told her a group of Christian women were providing food, clothing, and health care just eight miles up the road in the town of Porcupine. Liking the sound of this, she left Annetta in the care of family members and headed north.
In her interaction with the team, Belnita mentioned Annetta’s accident and worried aloud that she did not seem to be improving. Group leader Lisa Nelson, a big-hearted woman who for fifteen years had been making the 12-hour journey out from her home in Illinois every few weeks, offered a suggestion: “Bring her to the service tonight and we’ll pray.
But prayer was not the only benefit the group had to offer. Robin Rose, a trained oncology nurse at Northwestern University who frequently volunteered on missions to Pine Ridge, agreed to assess Annetta.
“When I saw the wound, it was pretty significant. So I cleaned and dressed it, and told Annetta’s mother where I’d be for the next few days. I was also praying against infection because the wound was wide open.”
At one of the evening services, Belnita led Annetta into the building on crutches. Walking over to Lisa and Robin, she informed them her daughter was struggling.
“I could see that she was pale and lethargic,” Robin told me during a late 2019 interview, but I kept getting pulled away by other duties and wasn’t able to get back to her until the worship started.” By then, however, the fever had spiked.
By then, however, the fever had spiked, and Robin was seriously concerned. Annetta was manifesting all the symptoms of sepsis. If allowed to go unchecked, there was a real risk of major organ failure and even death (septic shock). “So I gathered her in my arms and carried her up to the altar.”
After the ladies prayed and sang over Annetta, she went out. The only question in Robin’s mind was, “Is this Holy Spirit, or is it sepsis?”
She did not have to wonder long.
Keeping an eagle eye on Annetta’s breathing, Robin noticed something was changing. Though the young patient remained unconscious, her color was returning.
“I went to this most beautiful place,” Annetta later recalled. “There was a playground with kids all around. I wanted to stay there, but the people told me it wasn’t my time yet.”
Suddenly coming to, Annetta sat bolt upright. The blissful playground delights gave way to a surrounding chorus of prayer. It wasn’t heaven — and yet, there was a connectedness, a sense of compassionate presence and unfolding miracle.
“My foot was uncovered and there was skin growing over the wound,” Annetta recounted with wonder undiminished by time. “It was healing before my own eyes. I never seen nothing like that in my life!”
Belnita was slack-jawed. “I seen that skin growing back over the deepest part of the cut,” she gushed. “I looked at everybody like, ‘Is this really happening?’”
Robin, with her trained nurse’s eye, found it amazing that the skin grew according to a natural pattern — but in fast forward.
“It began with the subcutaneous tissue, the fatty tissue, appearing like little starbursts — chu, chu, chu! Then, in quick succession, came what we call granulated tissue. It’s a very bloody, pink layer if it is getting good circulation. That’s a sign of healing, and we look for it when we change dressings. Last, we watched as a thin layer of outer skin, the epidermis, formed. It appeared kind of shiny. “I’ve seen healings, Robin added, “but never anything like that!
When the process was completed, Belnita looked at her daughter and asked, “Did that hurt? And she just said, ‘No, mom. It was tickling me!’”
When Belnita got home that night, she had Annetta lift up her foot so her unsaved husband could see it. “Look at this!” she said. “Look what the Lord did!”
Stunned at the sight of his daughter’s foot, whole and without even the hint of a scar, he began to weep. It was one of those moments when the heart wants to speak, but the lips refuse to cooperate.
Eventually, surprised and overwhelmed by true majesty, he blurted out the truest thing he had ever spoken: “He’s real! He’s real!”
Ask Annetta about that day and she will tell you the events quickly became a community discussion topic. Genuine miracles will do that. “It’s the best feeling to have someone love you unconditionally,” she says with an ear-to-ear smile. “And its so amazing what He can do!”
I have taken the time to send you this account of God’s recent activity on Pine Ridge for two reasons. First, that you might be encouraged and edified by the Father’s wonderful works, and secondly, to ask you to help me spread this news to others so they might be similarly blessed and enlightened.
As I have often said, If God is shorn of his fullness, our audiences may be informed but they will never be awestruck (see Psalm 145:3-6). Techniques and shortcuts are a poor substitute for divine wonders.
So while a lengthy report, such as this one, may fall victim to the delete key, I have elected to accept the risk. If you are still reading these words it is likely because your heart has been captured by expressions of divine power that you were previously unaware of. And if this has happened, I am sure it has caused you to love him more.
Imagine the hope these stories can inspire in other towns and reservations beset by similar brokenness. I want to see this!
So, again, I am going to humbly ask you to consider sowing into the completion of The Gates of Whiteclay video. The first installment of this two-part presentation is due for release between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Part two is set to follow in America’s late spring or early summer of 2023.
A supportive foundation has generously offered to match all donations up to $40,000. This is a big deal and could provide everything we need to complete this wonderful story — on schedule!
One thing I have learned over a quarter century of documenting revival is that God loves it when we proclaim his exploits.
With deep gratitude for your love, constancy, and prayers.
George Otis, Jr.
Producer
Donate online by credit card or PayPal. Any amount will be doubled and will help in reaching our goal of matching $40,000. When you donate, choose “Projects” to designate your gift for The Gates of Whiteclay video.
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Science Recognizes the Power of Prayer

SCIENCE RECOGNISES THE POWER OF PRAYER

God’s Word clearly tells us to ‘pray about everything.’ Today, science is beginning to recognize the value and the power of prayer. Researchers investigating the role of faith in health are discovering evidence that’s hard to refute.

For example, a 2014 study conducted by The Mind Health Report confirmed that people who engage in private prayer, intercessory prayer, and church activities are healthier and live longer.

Here are some additional benefits:

(1) Florida State University researchers found that praying for somebody increases your readiness to forgive them. When a group of men and women prayed for the well-being of a close friend every day for four weeks, they were more willing to forgive not only the friend but people in general. Forgiveness is associated with better overall health and satisfaction with life.

(2) University of Miami researchers discovered that prayer and religious practices improve your ability to pursue and achieve long-term goals. Prayer affects regions in your brain that improve self-control, and people who view their goals as sacred are more determined to attain them.

(3) A research study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded that victims of abusive relationships recovered a positive self-image and reduced their emotional pain when their lives included prayer. (4) Columbia University researchers found that people who value religion and regularly attend church are 90 percent less likely to suffer from depression than their non-religious peers. That’s pretty strong evidence in favour of prayer, wouldn’t you say?

Source: The Word for Today

See Also


The Lion of Judah: The Ministry of Jesus


Prayer and Miracles

Ghana: Jesus Film Riders on a mission

Ghana: Jesus Film Riders on a mission

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Ghana: Jesus Film Riders on a mission
Renewal Journal – a chronicle of renewal and revival: www.renewaljournal.com

The ministry recently released a video featuring the Jesus Film Riders.

Five young men in Ghana spend their days riding motorbikes across the country on an important mission. Each of them carries a projection kit to show the JESUS Film in different villages, some of them unreached with the Gospel. They are called the Jesus Film Riders.

All of these young men are college graduates, devoted to sharing Christ. Their mission is not easy. They must ride across rugged terrain, often for hours, to reach remote and isolated villages. Each Jesus Film Rider must be willing to go anywhere, sleep anywhere, and eat anything.

Before they can show the JESUS Film in a new village, a visiting Jesus Film Rider has to establish relationships in the village. Sometimes they are able to provide water filtration units to meet practical needs and open relational doors. Once they have built trust and get permission from a “man of peace” in the village, the Jesus Film Rider is able to share the JESUS Film.

OneWay Africa Field Director, Mawunyo Kuuku Win-Tamakloe says, “They can’t believe that the Jesus they’ve heard of can speak their language. It’s always heartwarming when they find out.” Each film showing ends with a time of prayer and an invitation to follow Christ.

Since OneWay’s Jesus Film Campaign began in 2016, over 225,000 villagers have seen the JESUS Film. And 28,226 have committed their lives to Christ.

However, the ministry doesn’t stop there. After showing the JESUS Film, the rider will continue small group discipleship meetings in the village using tools such as the Bible Plus audio players. Eventually, the small group grows and often establishes a new church. Over several months, the Jesus Film Rider continues to support the village and trains new believers to disciple others. Then he moves on to the next village that needs the Gospel.

See a video featuring the Jesus Film Riders.

Source: Lyndsey Koh, JESUS Film Project

Joel News # 1266, July 12, 2022

SEE


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The JESUS Film


Ghana: Jesus Film Riders


Radicals can’t stop the Jesus Film

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The Life of Jesus: History’s Great Love Story – Blog
The Life of Jesus: History’s Great Love Story – PDF

Contents of The Life of Jesus

Preface
Introduction
1 Birth and Boyhood
2 Ministry Begins
3 First to Second Passover
4 Second to Third Passover
5 Passover to Pentecost
Conclusion
Discussion Questions
Appendix 1: Chronology Chart
Appendix 2: The Feast Days
Appendix 3: The Gospels
Appendix 4: Alternative Chronology 
Appendix 5: The Shroud of Turin 
Appendix 6: Publications   

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BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS AND ALBUMS)

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The Life of Jesus – Appendix 3: The Gospels

An Appendix from the new book (free PDF)

The Life of Jesus: History’s Great Love Story

Appendix 3: The Gospels

 

The Life of Jesus: History’s Great Love Story – PDF

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The Life of Jesus provides a brief overview of history’s great love story. It gives a summary of the birth and boyhood of Jesus and describes his ministry through three Passover Festivals.
The book includes a detailed chart of a chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry and examines why such a popular, loving, and compassionate young leader would encounter intense hostility and opposition causing his crucifixion.
The mystery and wonder deepen because his resurrection transformed his followers and millions of lives. We date our diaries and calendars from the time of his birth.
The Life of Jesus: History’s Great Love Story

Contents

Preface
Introduction
1 Birth and Boyhood
2 Ministry Begins
3 First to Second Passover
4 Second to Third Passover
5 Passover to Pentecost
Conclusion
Discussion Questions
Appendix 1: Chronology Chart
Appendix 2: The Feast Days
Appendix 3: The Gospels  
Appendix 4: Alternative Chronology 
Appendix 5: The Shroud of Turin 
Appendix 6: Publications   


Model of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time

Appendix 3: The Gospels

The Gospels are not a biography, although much of their good news is biographical. They tell the story of God’s love revealed perfectly in Jesus.

Matthew tells the love story

A despised, hated tax collector for Rome, Matthew admired Jesus and left his lucrative business to travel on foot with Jesus and the growing crowd of his followers. A staunch Jew, Matthew likely wrote his love story in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Middle East at that time.

They copied their Scriptures (our Old Testament) in Hebrew scrolls, but from the time of the Jews return from captivity in Babylon, around 538 BC, they spoke Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew, which spread through the Middle East. It became the native language of Palestine used by Jesus and his followers.[1] Matthew quotes liberally from the Hebrew Scriptures, showing that Jesus fulfilled their prophecies. Matthew’s story was reproduced in common Greek, used widely at that time following Alexander the Great’s conquests.

Matthew the evangelist wrote especially for Jews.  He begins his gospel presenting Jesus Christ as the son of David, the son of Abraham.  He ends his gospel with the Great Commission declaring that Jesus sends his followers into all nations.  In Jesus, God’s covenant embraces the whole world.

This radical evangelistic missionary gospel shocked traditional Jews.  Matthew insists that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, backing up his claims with many quotations from the Old Testament.  He argues that Jesus did not do away with the Scriptures, but fulfilled them.[2]  He emphasizes the missionary nature of Jesus’s ministry and of his church.

This gospel continually confronted the Jewish Christian community as well as other Jews.  Here is a persistent and urgent call to mission.  The good news is for all people, not only for Jews. Matthew begins his Gospel telling of the coming of Jesus the Messiah who proclaims God’s kingdom.  The figure of Jesus the Messiah is announced by John the Baptist, as prophesied.

The beginning of the ministry in Galilee shows Christ’s design for life in God’s kingdom, again fulfilling prophecy.  Chapters 5-7 gather the words of Jesus together in The Sermon on the Mount in which we are challenged to seek first the kingdom of God.  Here is the kingdom charter, the ethics of kingdom living.  The chapters that follow demonstrate God’s kingdom in the works of Jesus.

Matthew gathers the discourses of Jesus as teaching segments throughout his narrative.  He often uses the phrase “kingdom of heaven” for kingdom of God in typical Jewish reverence for the word God.

Jesus’s ministry is summarised in Matthew 4:23 as teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness.  This statement introduces the words and works of Jesus in chapters 5-9.  Then in Matthew 9:35, the same statement is repeated.  Here it introduces the mission of Jesus’s followers.

The mission discourse, commencing from Matthew 9:35, tells of Jesus’s plan for the spread of God’s kingdom.  His disciples will continue his ministry.  They will proclaim the kingdom of God.

The chapters following the mission discourse show the radical nature of the mystery of God’s kingdom.  This mystery is revealed by Jesus to those committed to him, but concealed from others, as indicated in the parable discourses of chapter 13.

Matthew, the only gospel writer to use the word church, points out that Jesus’s church has his authority.[3] The church is the agent of God’s kingdom, and manifests the kingdom in the world.

Tensions with the keepers of Israel’s traditions reached flash point and boiled over into Jesus’s arrest and execution.  That is the volatile setting in which Jesus pressed his authority and invitation as the ministry ends.  The king is crowned with thorns and crucified.  Apparent defeat in death is then turned into the amazing victory of resurrection.  Christ the King reigns.  We all ultimately acknowledge his reign in the end.  In Jesus’s victory we see God’s kingdom fulfilled.

Mark tells the love story

Probably as a young man in Jerusalem he knew and hung around Jesus and his followers. His love story is a condensed version, the shortest account, and possibly the first cab off the rank. It’s likely that Matthew and Luke both used much of Mark’s story in their similar stories, now called the three Synoptic Gospels.

Mark may have been the young man he alone refers to who ran off leaving his linen sheet with the mob who grabbed him in Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested late at night. His family may have lived in a big house where many met to pray and it may have had the large upper room where Jesus ate the Passover. Mark, possibly known as John Mark, joined Paul and Mark’s cousin Barnabas and then joined Barnabas again on missionary journeys, and was with Paul in Rome. He travelled with Peter who called him ‘my son’ and most likely gave him most of the information he used in his Gospel. Jerome, a leader in the early church, told how Mark established the church in Alexandria in Egypt. [4]

Mark gives a vigorous, concise account of Jesus.  The narrative moves swiftly.  A brief prologue leads immediately into Jesus’s ministry as he appears proclaiming and demonstrating the kingdom of God.  Kingdom life fills the pages.

Central to that drama is the cross.  Mark has been described as a passion narrative with an introduction.  Jesus is introduced as the Son of God in the first verse.  Chapters 1‑8 reveal the mystery of the Son of God seen in Jesus’s three year ministry, based in Galilee.

Then the drama shifts in chapter 8, with Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.  Jesus immediately predicts his death and prepares his disciples for it.  The Messiah must sacrifice his life.  The way of the Son of Man is the way of the cross.  Chapters 11‑16 describe that final week in Jerusalem.

Holy Week, the last week of the earthly life of Jesus, may be summarized this way as a general guide.  The different Gospels record different events, each one telling the Gospel, the good news, in their own way.  So this arrangement is just an estimate of the sequence of the momentous developments in Holy Week.

This summary of events in Holy Week follows the outline in Mark’s Gospel:

Palm Sunday  –  Day of Demonstration
Mark 11:1-11 (Zech 9:9)  –  Jesus enters Jerusalem

Monday  –  Day of Authority
Mark 11:12-19  –  fig tree rebuked, temple cleansed

Tuesday  –  Day of Conflict
Mark 11:20  –  13:36  –  debates with leaders

Wednesday  –  Day of Preparation
Mark 14:1-11  –  anointed at Bethany

Thursday  –  Day of Farewell
Mark 14:12-42  –  last supper

Good Friday  –  Day of Crucifixion
Mark 14:43 – 15:47  –  trials and death

Saturday  –  Day of Sabbath
Mark 15:46-47  –  tomb sealed

Easter Sunday  –  Day of Resurrection
Mark 16:1-18  –  resurrection appearances

These passages remind us of events from the most momentous week in all history, and indeed in all eternity.  The Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, took our sin upon himself, died in our place, and conquered death. He alone is the Saviour of the World.  All who believe in him, all who trust him, will not die but live for ever with him.

Luke tells the love story

Physician and historian, Luke gives us unique accounts of the earliest days in Jesus’ life. The only Gentile author in the Bible, he addressed his two books, Luke-Acts, to his Gentile friend Theophilus. He provides carefully researched historical insights into Jesus and his followers. He alone records Jesus’ famous and confronting parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son.[5]

Dr Luke carefully researched the accounts of healing and miracles. He joined the teams on Paul’s second and third missionary journeys though Turkey (then called Asia or Asia Minor) and Greece, and on their fateful trip to Rome which included being shipwrecked on Malta. He carefully described those adventures in the ‘we passages’ in Acts. Paul valued him highly.[6]

Luke wrote with a different emphasis from the other writers of the New Testament who all grew up steeped in Israel’s traditions.  He writes especially for his community.

Luke the historian describes Jesus’s central place in human events.  Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world.  No one is excluded from God’s offer of salvation in Jesus.  The poor, despised and outcasts (such as Gentiles) are especially invited into the kingdom of God.  Luke gives a clear, ordered account of the spread of God’s kingdom in the ministry of Jesus (Luke’s Gospel) and in the early church (The Acts of the Apostles).

Luke the traveller makes “journey” a strong theme in both his books.  He tells of events along the way, on the road.  This especially applies to Jesus’s final journey to Jerusalem.  That last journey began after Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus explained that terms of his death and resurrection.

Luke the missionary, who often accompanied Paul, tells of the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, first in Jesus, then in his followers, and then in the church’s missionary expansion. Luke refers to the Holy Spirit often in both his gospel and The Acts of the Apostles.

Luke the doctor, emphasizes Jesus’s compassion and healing power for all who came to him.  His gospel abounds with stories of Jesus’s care for people.  He includes many accounts of Jesus’s compassion for the poor and for outcasts.

Luke the evangelist, tells of Jesus’s saving power and includes some of the most famous parables which summarise the good news of God’s kingdom.  Parables of the prodigal son, the lost coin, the good Samaritan, the rich man and Lazarus, and the rich fool are unique to Luke’s evangelism story.  So are the accounts of the Samaritan leper, the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’s feet, and Zacchaeus.  These were despised people who responded to Jesus.

If you have a Bible with section headings containing cross-references, as in the Good News Bible and New Revised Standard Version, you can easily locate the passages unique to Luke.  They have no cross-references.  Those passages give a feel for Luke’s emphasis in telling the good news about the kingdom of God.

John tells the love story

He may have been Jesus’ young cousin, a son with his older brother James of the successful fisherman Zebedee who employed others in his business in partnership with Simon and Andrew. John’s mother may have been a sister to Jesus’ mother Mary, identified by early church leaders as Salome. She wanted Jesus to allow her sons to sit beside him in his new kingdom. She was with John and with Mary at the crucifixion where Jesus committed his mother into John’s care. John writes about the disciple whom Jesus loved, usually identified as John himself, who reclined on Jesus’ chest at the last supper.[7]

John’s Gospel and his three letters emphasize God’s love revealed in Jesus. Famous verses like John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16 describe that love:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1 John 3:16)

John was an eye-witness to the ministry of Jesus.  He belonged to the inner circle of disciples with his brother James and with Peter the natural leader.  John may have been the youngest of the disciples.

Throughout his Gospel, John emphasized that he recorded what he had seen and heard.  He states early in the Gospel that he, with others, witnessed the life of Jesus the Christ, the Logos, the living Word of God.

John describes how he was there at the crucifixion witnessing that stupendous, agonizing death. He emphasizes that he wrote so that his readers would believe in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

 [1] Matthew 1:21, The Passion Translation.

[2] Matthew 5:17.

[3] Matthew 16:18-19; 18:17-18.

[4] Mark 14:12-16, 50-52; Acts 1:12-14; 12:12, 25; 13:5, 13; 15:36-39; Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; 1 Peter 5:13; and http://www.ldolphin.org/johnmark.html.

[5] Luke 1-2; 10:25-37; 15:11-32.

[6] Acts 16:10-17, & 20:5-21:18, & 27:1-28:16; Colossians 4;14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24.

[7] Matthew 20:20-21; 27:56; John 13:23; 19:25.

See also


Kingdom Life in the Gospels


The Life of Jesus

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The Life of Jesus

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Review Comments

* This is a very informative, amazing, and powerful book. Thanks to the author for investing hours of research, expressed with his masterful command of language. ~ Alex Johnson (5-stars)
Be enriched. A most helpful telling of the life of Jesus using the biblical text and adding some background and charts. Anyone using this book will be enriched.
~ Rev Dr John Olley (Amazon 5-stars)
* This is a wonderful book and can be read over and over. Thank you. ~ Kerry Rawson
* This is a great read. Simple and easy language that even my children can read as a guide, and have a better understanding of the Life Journey of Christ, as they read it in the Gospels. Thank You. ~ Florence
* Good clear language for a seeker to read and understand the life of Jesus. ~ Duncan Gibb
* Geoff Waugh has written a very helpful devotional book about the Saviour of the world who is also the loving presence in believers. Having known Geoff for over sixty years I can testify that every word written proceeds from his own heart of love for Jesus and for all God’s children. Geoff has avoided trying to manufacture some theory or new twist to make the book more colourful. He has used Scripture as his main source and has been faithful to both the divinity and humanity of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels. His use of chronology for headings and the many sub-headings makes the book simpler to absorb, even for an enquirer or new believer. It reminds me a little of Leon Morris’s beautiful book The Lord from Heaven. I warmly commend this book. ~ Rev Dr Tony Cupit, Former Director of the Baptist World Alliance.
* I keep this book with my Bible. It is especially helpful when reading through the Gospels. ~ Cathy Hartwig
* This book is for those who question Jesus’ reality as the Son of God, and for those who search for the details of His amazing life on this earth. ~ Judith Abrey
* The book is beautifully written and I have learned and understood a lot. I am recommending this book. ~ Kattie Mayson (Amazon 5-stars)
* I read your book last night. This is a great book. Thanks for writing this for all of us. ~ Nabeel Sharoon from Pakistan, now translating it into five languages: Urdu, Hindi, Pakistani Punjabi, Indian Punjabi, and Sindhi. A gifted translator, Nabeel works on his phone, so if you can donate towards him serving God with a laptop, add a comment.
Other Translations in preparation.
The Life of Jesus in Sindhi, Pakistani Punjabi, and Indian Punjabi.
 
Video

The Life of Jesus provides a brief overview of history’s great love story. It gives a summary of the birth and boyhood of Jesus and describes his ministry through three Passover Festivals.
The book includes a detailed chart of a chronology of Jesus’ life and ministry and examines why such a popular, loving, and compassionate young leader would encounter intense hostility and opposition causing his crucifixion.
The mystery and wonder deepen because his resurrection transformed his followers and millions of lives. We date our diaries and calendars from the time of his birth.

Contents

Preface [see below]
Introduction [see below]
1 Birth and Boyhood
2 Ministry Begins
3 First to Second Passover
4 Second to Third Passover
5 Passover to Pentecost
Conclusion
Discussion Questions [see below]
Appendix 1: Chronology Chart
Appendix 2: The Feast Days
Appendix 3: The Gospels
Appendix 4: Alternative Chronology 
Appendix 5: The Shroud of Turin 
Appendix 6: Publications   

Model of Jerusalem in Jesus’ time

Preface

Why would such a good man who loved so profoundly and helped so many people be killed? Why did he provoke opposition?

If God walked among us in the person of his Son, why would people want to kill him? Why did so many vehemently oppose him?

That puzzled me as a boy. It still does.

The greatest love story the world has ever seen led to the excruciating death of crucifixion.

Many people have given their lives for other people as soldiers do in war. They die for others, defending home and country. But Jesus’ death was different. God’s Son chose to die for us because of his immense love for us. He took our place. His death gives us life. He is the perfect, sinless, eternal sacrifice for us. His blood cleanses us from all our sin as we trust in him. We are forgiven.

But why did so many good people, good religious people, hate him? That puzzled and fascinated me, so I explore that mystery in this book. I wanted to write a summary overview that people of all ages could read.

I always believed in Jesus. Even as a small boy I loved to hear and then read stories about him. He was so unique, so different. I believed his story as a boy and trusted in him. I still do and I hope you do too.

Jesus did what was good. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, set people free from addictions and evil, performed miracles, and even raised dead people. Huge crowds followed him and wanted him to be their king.

Now billions follow him, captivated by his love, the greatest love story of all. You can do that also. I invite you to simply pray something like this: Thank you Lord for all you’ve done. Forgive me for any wrong in my life. I trust in you and give my life to you.

Introduction

The year on our calendar or diary reminds us of when Jesus was born, approximately. We count the years from his arrival. So when you look at your diary or calendar you can be reminded again of Jesus.

They called him Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) of Nazareth, the same name as Moses’ famous general who led God’s people into their Promised Land. Yeshua means God saves, or God is salvation.

That name comes to us in English through many translations from Yeshua or Y’shua in Hebrew and Aramaic, then translated into Iesous in Greek, then to IESVS in Latin and later as IESUS as printed in the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611. Later that century ‘J’ replaced the ‘I’ so the English name became Jesu (vocative) and Jesus (nominative) but eventually just Jesus in English. Other languages have translations such as Jesu, Yesu, and Isa.

English translations of the Bible used the name Jesus for Joshua/Jesus of Nazareth, and the name Joshua for others with that same name.[1]  So in English, the name Jesus became unique and sacred for Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. The angel Gabriel announced his name before his birth to both Mary his mother and to Joseph who married Mary.[2] Gabriel explained that Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) had that name because he would save his people from their sins.

The great love story had begun. Jesus came to save us and give us eternal life.

His followers recorded that story of his life and his love in the good news of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The rest of the New Testament explores the mystery and wonder of that amazing life and love.

Scholars have a bewildering array of theories about the Bible and about who wrote what, and when, and where, and why. I’m content to run with traditional explanations that have been used throughout most of history.

Jesus’ unique and wonderful life, his brutal death for us, and his powerful resurrection, all reveal his and God’s eternal love for us all. You could pause and thank him right now even as you read this.

John’s Gospel emphasizes God’s eternal love revealed in Jesus. It includes the most famous passage in the Bible:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17, NKJV).

That love, powerfully shown on the cross, has transformed billions of lives, restoring believers to an intimate and eternal relationship with God and with others.

Three physical metaphors help me to be constantly aware of, and grateful for, God’s presence with us always:

(1) Light surrounds you. By it you can read this. The sun always shines, even when it’s hidden from us. Light shines around us though we may be unaware of it. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. We can live in his light.

(2) Blood pumps through your body right now, cleansing and healing. We may be unaware of it until reactions like alarm alert us to our beating heart. Jesus’ blood cleanses from all sin, always. We can trust him for he is with us.

(3) We may breathe without being aware of it, or we can be aware and take deep breaths, as you may have done just now! Breath purifies our lungs and body. God is Spirit and like breath or fresh breeze, he can purify us.

May the light of God’s love breathe life in you right now.

We’ve been made in God’s image to have an eternal, loving relationship with him that even transcends death. We can know and experience God’s unconditional love no matter how far we stray from him. Those who stray most are often the most grateful for his forgiveness and love. We all stray in many ways and we all need forgiveness and we can and should be truly grateful.

God knows and loves us as we are. That makes praying or talking to him easy because he already knows our failures and struggles and welcomes us just as we are. The more honestly we come to him the more he can transform us.

If we have trouble believing we can at least say, “God, if you’re there, help me.”

Some thoughts may get in the way when we pray or want to talk to God. Just give him those thoughts. He already knows all about it and loves us as we are.

If we reject God’s love and mercy by ignoring him and going our own way, we condemn ourselves to eternal darkness away from his light and love.

If we accept his love and forgiveness by believing in him, by trusting him, he gives us life, his eternal life. That makes us new. We are transformed.

Vast numbers of people worldwide of all faiths, and of none, have prayed the prayer in the popular hymn by Charlotte Elliot, ‘Just as I am’ which includes these adapted verses:

Just as I am, without one plea
But that Your blood was shed for me
And that You bid me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fighting and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

God welcomes us and we can all pray that prayer. A title for Jesus, as in that song, is the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away our sin.

The Life of Jesus is a vast topic with millions of books written about it. I hope my small contribution gives you a helpful overview. I quote from the New Revised Standard Version unless indicated otherwise, and include many footnotes that you can explore to discover more.

Best of all, of course, are the inspired Gospels now in over 700 different languages in Bible translations and a further 3,500 languages have Bible portions, especially the Gospels. Read and respond to those Gospels.

[1] Iesous (Yeshua) is translated as Joshua in these verses: Luke 3:29; Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8.

[2] Luke 1:31; Matthew 1:21.

Start of Chapter 1

It began at the beginning, this great love story, for “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”[1]

Why did he do that?  For us.

He did it for you. He loved you so much he created you to know and enjoy him now as you read this, and forever. He offers you intimate, infinite love. He created you through the wondrous union of your parents’ ecstasy.

He made the earth for us to inhabit and care for and rule. He made the heavens (plural) for us to inherit, the physical firmament and also the realms of vast, eternal glory prepared especially for us.[2]

He created us free to accept or reject his astounding love. Sadly we went our own way. We all, like sheep, went astray. We all turned to our own way. So God laid on his Servant, his Son, all our iniquity.[3] God saves us through his Son in their great love for us all. You could pause and thank him now as you read this.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate, unashamed relationship with God and each other. Then, like us, they believed lies and went their own way, losing Paradise. But God still blessed and sustained them and their descendants who chose to love him and live for him. Sadly only a few did.

Noah and his family loved and obeyed God and he rescued them from the great flood. People ridiculed him for obeying God and building a huge boat on dry ground – not even in a dry dock. The rainbow became the sign of God’s covenant to Noah and his descendants including us.

Abram, a wealthy sheik from the wide fertile Tigris and Euphrates valleys in western Asia, north-west of the Arabian Peninsula (now Iraq), loved and obeyed God. Renamed Abraham (God’s friend) he journeyed to the Promised Land, now called Israel, from the name given to his grandson who wrestled with an angel or with the Lord.[4] Circumcision became the covenant sign for them and for their descendants through whom God would provide his salvation for us all.

Abraham and his descendants walked that verdant Promised Land, as did Jesus and his followers. So did our family for a month in December-January, 1981-82.[5]

[1] Genesis 1:1.

[2] John 14:1-6; 1 Corinthians 2:9.

[3] Isaiah 53:6. See Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the fourth Servant Song, along with Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-7.

[4] Genesis 17:5; 32:28; 35:9-10.

[5] See Exploring Israel in General Books and Biography on renewaljournal.com

 

Conclusion

The life of Jesus is history’s great love story. The overview in this brief book points you to the great good news of who Jesus is and what he did. That story is told best in the Bible, God’s inspired word.

I hope this brief commentary points you again to that God-breathed living word. It gave me fresh insights as I researched the harmonized story of these gospels.

Many writers discuss the popular five love languages: affirmation, service, gifts, time, and touch. Jesus demonstrated all these in various ways.

He affirmed and admired faith, especially faith in him for healing and help.
He served daily and showed it dramatically by washing his disciples’ feet.
He gave his life for us and ultimately he gives eternal life to all who believe.
His three years of quality time with his followers prepared them to serve.
His touch brought physical and spiritual healing and freedom to multitudes.

I love the way John summed up the reason for writing his Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

That is my prayer for you, my reader. Here is my echoing sonnet, penned over fifty years ago.

Sin stalks the soul, and permeates the whole
Of life lived here where we, while bound by fear,
Hunt far and near for freedom to appear
From pole to pole with our minds in control.
That worthy goal seems mockery.  Sin stole
Our freedom dear, left pain and woe to sear
Each life, a mere heartache, or sob, or tear,
Like a lost mole, blind, dirty in its hole.
God’s love stepped in to fight and conquer sin
Through Christ who bled and died and rose as Head
Supreme of all who claim Him Lord.  Our fall,
Clamour and din may end in Him.  We win
Release from dread, freedom, life from the dead,
Unbound from gall, in answer to His call.

        

Discussion Questions (for use in groups)

Chapter 1: Birth and Boyhood
1. What is one of your favourite Christmas carols and why?
2. What surprises you most about the Christmas story?
3. What challenges you about the boyhood and youth of Jesus?
What would you like people to pray about for you?

Chapter 2: Ministry Begins
1. Why do you think Jesus’ public ministry began after his baptism?
2. What puzzles you most about Jesus’ ministry? (eg casting out spirits)
3. What challenges you about being a disciple of Jesus?
What prayer would you appreciate receiving?

Chapter 3: First to Second Passovers
1. Why do you think John 3:16 is so popular and well known?
2. Who can you identify with in Jesus’ early ministry (eg Nicodemus, Samaritan woman, disciples, religious leaders)
3. What do you think challenged Jesus’ disciples?
What prayer would encourage you just now?

Chapter 4: Second to Third Passovers
1. What impresses you most about Jesus?
2. What challenges you most about Jesus?
3. What surprises you most about Jesus?
What prayer would help you just now?

Chapter 5: Passover to Pentecost
1. What shocks you most about the crucifixion?
2. What helps or challenges you about Jesus’ death and resurrection?
3. What interests you most about the Holy Spirit?
What prayer support would you like now?

Map in the book

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Argentina: Faith flourishes behind bars

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Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison
Prison Revival in Argentina

 

In Argentina between 2008 and 2019 the percentage of Evangelicals grew from 9% to 15.3%. This revival is most remarkable in the nation’s prisons.

The evangelical advance in Argentina occurred, as in most Latin American countries, in all sectors of society, but especially “in the most vulnerable, including prison inmates,” says researcher Verónica Giménez of the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET). There are similar developments in Brazil, where the huge Universal Church of the Kingdom of God has 14.000 people working with prisoners.

As an example, 40% of the approximately 6,900 inmates in the province of Santa Fe live in evangelical wards, estimates Walter Gálvez, Undersecretary of Penitentiary Affairs, who is also a Pentecostal. The Puerta del Cielo (‘Heaven’s Door’) and Redil de Cristo (‘Christ’s Sheepfold’) congregations are among those that exert strong influence in Santa Fe’s prisons. They began to evangelise inmates in the late 1980s and today have more than 120 pastors working inside prisons.

From hired killer to pastor

Rosario, a city with 1.3 million inhabitants, has high levels of poverty and crime. Violence between gangs seeking to control territory and drug markets has helped to fill its jails. Eighty percent of crimes in Rosario are carried out by young hitmen who provide services to the drug gangs, whose bosses are imprisoned and maintain control of the criminal business from the jails.

Jorge Anguilante from Piñero prison was sentenced to 12 years for murder. He has been allowed to head home every weekend to minister in a small evangelical church he started in a garage in Argentina’s most violent city. As he leaves, the former criminal-turned-pastor greets the guards with a single word: “Blessings!” His violent life is behind him, the word of God made him “a new man.”

His story, of a convicted murderer embracing an evangelical faith behind bars, is common in the dungeons of Argentina’s Santa Fe province and its capital city, Rosario. Many began selling drugs as teenagers and were caught in a spiral of violence that sent some to their graves and others to overcrowded prisons divided between two forces: the evangelicals and the drug traffickers.

In a church service in prison pop-style hymns blared from loudspeakers while three TV cameras recorded the ceremony for other worshippers watching at home via a YouTube channel. “No one else is going to jail. Not your children, not your grandchildren,” the pastor shouted to the crowd. “Change is possible!”

Inmate Ruben Luna, who is serving a 14-year sentence for murder, embraces Sebastian Monje, who has been in prison for eight months for attempted murder and robbery, before being baptised inside an evangelical cellblock at the penitentiary in Pinero.

Each evangelical unit at Pinero is run by 10 prisoners who have about 15 assistants for the 190 inmates. They’re in charge of controlling everything and keeping the peace. “We don’t use knives, but the Bible to take over a cellblock,” says Pentecostal pastor Sergio Prada. Prisoners who want to be allowed in must comply with rules of conduct, including praying three times a day, giving up all addictions and fighting.

Oasis inside prison

For the past 20 years, Argentine prison authorities have encouraged, in one way or another, the creation of units effectively run by evangelical inmates, sometimes granting them some additional special privileges, such as more time in the open air. The wards are much like those in the rest of the prison: clean and painted in pastel colors, light blue or green. They have kitchens, televisions and audio equipment, here used for prayer services. But they are safer and quieter than the regular units. Violating rules that prohibit fighting, smoking, alcohol or drugs can get an inmate sent back to the regular prison.

“We brought peace to the prisons. There were never any disturbances inside the evangelical wards. And that’s better for the authorities,” said Rev. David Sensini of the Redil de Cristo church, one of Rosario’s largest Pentecostal churches. Access is controlled by both prison officials and ward leaders who function as pastors and are wary of gang attempts to infiltrate.

Source: Evangélico Digital

Joel News International, # 1248, February 22, 2022

Revival behind bars
How God’s grace transformed Los Olmos, Argentina’s largest maximum-security prison. This inspiring e-book describes in detail how the revival in Los Olmos prison started, which changes it brought, how inmate leadership emerged and how the prison church was organized. Specific attention is given to the role of the prayer watches and how the revival influenced other prisons across Argentina. Detailed growth statistics are included. | order here

See also

Prison Revival in Argentina

Argentina: The amazing transformation at Los Olmos prison

Christian missionary tortured in prison led 40 to Christ

Iran: How two women brought hope in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison

Remember those in prison

GENERAL BLOGS INDEX

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3 Community,   4 Healing,  
5 Signs & Wonders,
  
6  Worship
7  Blessing,
   8  Awakening,  
9  Mission
,   10  Evangelism

11  Discipleship
,   12  Harvest,  
13  Ministry
,   14  Anointing,
15  Wineskins,   
16  Vision,  
17  Unity
,   18  Servant Leadership,  
19  Church
,   20 Life

*

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Mexico: Thousands of migrants meet Jesus at the border

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
– Matthew 25:40
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Mexico: How thousands of migrants meet Jesus at the border

When Gustavo Banda opened his small church in a poor neighbourhood in Mexico, little did he know that it would become a refuge for tens of thousands of migrants on transit to the USA.  

Six miles west of Tijuana, and a short distance from the U.S.-Mexico border, lies one of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods. There are no paved roads, no sewage system. The hillside is strewn with garbage and crime is rampant. “When we moved here there were only people with a lot of needs,” pastor Gustavo Banda recalled. In 2011, he and his wife, Zaida Guillén, moved to Cañón de Alacrán, or Scorpion’s Canyon, after hearing from the Lord in a dream. “It was a clear mandate from God to move here even though there was absolutely nothing in this place.”

The Mexican couple was touched by the overwhelming needs of the community. “Most folks here were poor subsistence farmers. God gave me a dream that I had to build a church. We worked for eight months, day and night. We knew God was going to do something special, but nobody had a clue about what was really going to happen.” That year, Templo Embajadores de Jesús, or Ambassadors of Jesus Church, was born. Banda held services on Sunday, then hit the rugged roads the rest of the week going house-to-house, ministering to physical and spiritual needs.

‘We knew God was going to do something special, but nobody had a clue about what was really going to happen’

In 2016, the church’s focus drastically changed when thousands of Haitians, escaping poverty and back-to-back natural disasters, began to carve a dangerous 7,000-mile path through Latin America to the U.S. Many landed on the church’s doorsteps, less than 30 minutes from the San Ysidro border. “Within months, 22,000 Haitians had arrived in the city of Tijuana.” The church became a place of refuge. “I did not know, nor did I ever imagine, that there would be so many people in the church.”

Since then, Banda provided a refuge to migrants from all parts of the world. “It started with migrants coming from Haiti, Africa, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Today, we mainly have people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Colombia, and some from Mexico. We estimate about 35,000 people have come through the church. We feed them 3 times a day. We try to help them with all their needs. At nighttime, the entire church becomes one big giant dorm where everyone sets up their beds on the floor.”

Jaqueline Ortiz, 24, from Guatemala is here with her two girls. She said, “I’m so thankful to God because without the church, I don’t know where I would be. I don’t go hungry here, my daughters don’t go hungry, we have a warm place, we have a roof. All thanks to God and to the people that help us.” Most migrants stay here an average of six months before trying to legally cross the border.

‘We feed them, are family to them, baptise them, and send them on’

Church volunteers run a school for the children, oversee computer training and provide other skills that will help migrants prepare for their new life in America. Area churches and NGOs also pitch in with food and other essential supplies. “The most important thing we try to provide to the migrants is hope and to be a family to them,” Banda said. “We have only little time with them, so I want them to know as much as they can about Jesus, baptise them, and send them on.”

Banda once had a desire to be a missionary to Haiti, but Haiti came to him. And after Haiti came, all the other nations followed.

Source: George Thomas, CBN

Joel News International # 1242, January 14, 2022

GENERAL BLOGS INDEX

BLOGS INDEX 1: REVIVALS (BRIEFER THAN REVIVALS INDEX)

BLOGS INDEX 2: MISSION (INTERNATIONAL STORIES)

BLOGS INDEX 3: MIRACLES (SUPERNATURAL EVENTS)

BLOGS INDEX 4: DEVOTIONAL (INCLUDING TESTIMONIES)

BLOGS INDEX 5: CHURCH (CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION)

BLOGS INDEX 6: CHAPTERS (BLOGS FROM BOOKS)

BLOGS INDEX 7: IMAGES (PHOTOS AND ALBUMS)

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Mexico: Thousands of migrants meet Jesus at the border