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DELIBERATE GOD - Part One
by Steven Ray Bragg
2/20/2017 / Missions
“For who has known the mind of the lord, or who became his counselor”
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I am learning to walk without fear, in confidence that my sovereign God is working His purpose. No matter what happens, if I am in His purpose, this life and the one in eternity are good. I share my observations and experiences to encourage you. What I have come to know about God and His working in my life is spectacular. I want to give Him praise and glory for the mighty things He is doing in establishing His Church in the Philippines through the ministry His gives us.
I am a missionary serving our Lord in the Philippines. My family and I arrived August 2011. We plant new Christian churches in remote barangays (small neighborhoods with governing councils) and their associated smaller neighborhoods called sitios. Many are accessible only by dirt road or footpath, sometimes hanging bridges or crossing rivers with no bridge. Often, they are many kilometers from a town and paved road.
The remote barangays often consist of people, who are malnourished, have little or no education and typically no healthcare. These are our target locations where there are no other Christian churches. As of the end of 2016, we have planted twenty-eight new churches. Of these churches, seventeen have a newly constructed church buildings and parsonages, and eleven are house churches. We call these churches River Rock Church Philippines (RRCP).
However, most importantly, these are the new congregations in barangays that have never had a church before. Most hear the Gospel for the first time from us.
Each church has its own pastor who lives among them, teaches and loves them. False religion, superstition and witchcraft are being replaced with the truth of God and His love for them. Prevalent is hopelessness in these barangays. It is being replaced with hope. “And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love” (Romans 5:5 NLT). Thank you, Lord!
The God I Have Come To Know
“Teach me Your way, O LORD, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence” (Psalms 27:11, 12).
Our ministry is establishing His Church in remote places of the Philippines. In each church we have met the roaring of the enemy trying to keep us out, discourage us from starting, and many times trying to destroy the church once established. Jesus said about His church “And all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT).
As I have fellowship with God and come to know Him. This is what I have come to know about Him. He is the Lord God Almighty as revealed in His Word the Bible. Dana Williamson said, after visiting the ministry in the Philippines, “He is not a God locked in the pages of a book but alive, powerful, and active.” He does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the Creator of heaven and earth and all that has life. He is life. He is the I Am, the Alpha and Omega. He is the God of Abraham, Isaack and Jacob. He is my Savoir and Lord; my God. He is the God I serve in this ministry. He is the God that goes before us, with us, surrounds us with His power, providence, and all the while revealing His Glory!
"The roaring of the lion and the voice of the fierce lion, And the teeth of the young lions are broken. "The lion perishes for lack of prey, And the whelps of the lioness are scattered” (Job 4:10, 11).
God’s interaction with us as we move in faith is powerful, sovereign and absolute. This is why the enemy can only roar. This is why the enemy has no teeth. This is why we are victorious in what He has given us to do.
It is not a surprise that many times the greatest enemy we face comes from religious leaders and institutions. It was the same in the time of Jesus. Unfortunately, it is the same today. “Do you remember what I told you? 'A slave is not greater than the master.' Since they persecuted Me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to Me, they would listen to you” (John 15:20 NLT). It was the religious leaders who persecuted Jesus. It was his people; Even His own family.
There are some denominations in the Philippines who come against us calling it “in Jesus name” to try and thwart the work we do of planting new churches and caring for God’s people.
Three denominations here have tried to cause us the great of harm. One of them claims the filling of the Holy Spirit with evidences of convincing people to vomit out demons and sicknesses. They claim angelic presences in their worship services. They claim these angels were given the names of God like YAHWEH-JIREH: "The Lord Will Provide" and YAHWEH-RAPHA: "The Lord Who Heals" and so on. I believe the absurdity of this is self-evident.
Another denomination claims to be the largest Christian denomination in the Philippines. Yet they have targeted us and all their attempts have been overpowered by our Lord. They have claimed publicly that they will take over our churches including land and buildings. They have sent imposter attorneys, impostor surveyors and been caught falsifying documents. The enemy is cunning, but our Lord is absolute and sovereign. His will prevails! I have learned not to stand against them or try to battle them. If I do then the fight is between them and us. Therefore, we give the battle to our Lord, and then He is always faithful and thwarts the enemy!
I am reminded of the seven sons of Sceva.
“But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:13-16).
There are some people and even churches that claim the name of Jesus, but in reality, do not know Him. When they try to exercise power over us claiming in Jesus name it has in every case been reversed on them or they have been embarrassed. Some have even become sick.
A third and truly the largest most powerful of denominations is more covert. It is the Catholic Church. They attack us behind closed doors in Politian’s chambers. They try to take our churches from us. Many times after a church is built; just as it is finished, comes the challenge to take the building from us. We are well prepared for this. All our legal bases are covered and secure, but still, the attempts comes. It is the enemy roaring without teeth. Another tactic because they own the only cemetery in each area is to refuse Christians to bury their dead in the only available cemetery.
As to some of their motives, the Apostle Paul said there are those who preach and teach from selfish ambition. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment” (Philippians 1:15-17).
I pray we are also the latter of good will and love. I believe we are and God moves with us accomplishing all that is done in this ministry. If we were not attacking the darkness with the Light of the Gospel: If we were not establishing His church in the strongholds of the enemy. If the lost were not being saved, then the enemy would not be against us, but would welcome us with open arms. In our experience, the enemy has always been conquered and even humiliated. His Church and His Gospel has always been victorious. The Light, Jesus Christ, always expellees the enemy’s darkness.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” John 1:5 NLT).
“The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined" Matthew 4:16 NLT).
“To open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God's people, who are set apart by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18 NLT).
Indeed the enemy is great and powerful and he roars fiercely. He is not to be underestimated. However, our Lord is the Creator of all and He is the only God and there are none who prevail against Him. “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do His will. And I know that I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7 NLT).
Our mission prevails not to our praise, glory or purpose, but to His praise, glory, and purpose. These are His churches; this is His work: His harvest. We, to our surprise and satisfaction, are just simply His workers in His harvest. What a privilege, thank you, Lord!
God is awesome, magnificent, glorious, supreme, sovereign and absolute.
He accomplishes He will.
In every event or story in the Bible, God is causing the events: Always revealing His power, will, sovereignty, and glory. Sometimes He does so obviously, while at other times He is more subtle. He is sovereign to work His will in each situation. “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me. Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:9-10 NLT).
God has revealed Himself throughout history. When He acts, He is a mighty and powerful God revealing His glory and majesty. “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like Me.” Indeed there is none like Him. For me, the act of creation revealed just how awesome He is. Even today, science has not explored or come to the end of understanding the boundless work of creation. It unveils His glory.
We see His love in creating a perfect paradise world; creating man in His own image; the gift of creation to man; His providential working in the lives of people and nations; His life on earth full of compassion and love; His contempt of religious hypocrisy; His demonstration of love on the cross; the power of the resurrection; establishing His Church; His infinite patience with the disciples; on and on and on. We need to remember His providence, love, patience, and miracles in our own lives and the lives of those around us. REMEMBER ALWAYS HE IS OUR ONLY GOD: THERE IS NONE LIKE HIM!
“I do whatever I wish.”
I think most people object to those words. We want to put God in our box. For instance, the Bible says that He is good: “For the LORD is good: His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalms 100:5). And also, all His ways are just: "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He” Deuteronomy 32:4).
Our Notion of God
However, we want God to be what we perceive to be good. We want God to be just, as long as it fits our notion of justice. We want God to be what we want Him to be.
This may be a key to why there are so many religions. Each religion has the god or gods that its worshipers want. Indeed, it may be a key to why we have so many denominations. Sometimes “theologians” stretch or ignore scripture to meet their personal ideas of God. They twist scripture and God to meet their own ideas of the church and salvation. Some interpret scripture based on their preconceived notions of God. They interpret scripture based on loyalty to a teacher or creeds rather than an honest search for their Creator and loving Savior. Here in the Philippines, many claim the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and yet they are completely ignorant of what the Bible says. They have little or in most cases no education or training in God’s Word. Whatever emotion they feel or thought that comes to mind they claim it from the Holy Spirit and act accordingly.
We cannot put God in our box. He is much too immense. We cannot understand God even minutely. As we study scripture; as we contemplate the workings of God in the lives of people in the Bible or people throughout history, or those around us and even our own lives, we can begin to see God and understand Him. But it is only from a finite discernment. The apostle Paul said “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).
Because God IS good, just, faithful and righteous, He sets their standard. He, Himself is the definition if these. If we judge these then we judge God: we judge his very nature; His essence. Or worst yet, we become God and define them.
As I share God from my understanding, I am at best, understanding God “partial and incomplete.” I am sharing God from my puzzling mirror. However, this is how I see God as one who walks closely with Him as a missionary in a life wholly dedicated to Him. I walk with God through trials, tribulations, and dangers. I walk with God in victories, joys, divine protections and witness His providence up close and personal in all I do. I share God based on my honest understanding of God’s word, my experience with Him, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. These can never come in conflict. They must validate one another and be in harmony. There is only one God, one truth, and one purpose. In my walk with God, I pray to know Him as He reveals Himself through His Word, experience, and working of the Holy Spirit. I am not dogmatic about what I am sharing. I leave room for error. However, this is how I understand my Lord. I pray what I have come to know about God will inspire you as it does me. I pray it will give you peace and confidence as you face life with God.
God Is Not Surprised
Through serving in the Philippines, I come to realize that one, God is sovereign. He does whatever He wants. That is the reality and lesson of Job’s story. “Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:1-2). I trust His sovereignty. Second, God is not surprised. This is also what I find in my life; ministry. God knows what will happen from eternity. He knows every detail of my life and this ministry. He is not reacting to situations and then working it out to good and His purpose. His purpose was established from eternity past and is now and will be in the future.
More and more as I experience the providential working of God, I come to understand there is no coincidence of events or luck. There is only a divine orchestration of events established from before time and assured by Him as the present events unfold. As God opens doors for something to happen, we see in our limited way how God has been working sometimes decades to the success of events that are in His purpose of establishing churches. I see since my birth God’s hand in everything and in all things. Even my rebellion was working toward God’s purpose of my life. I see Him allowing me to be a part of His divine purpose. Truly, I see Him causing not responding. Seeing this in my life and ministry is only a minuscule part of His grand scheme of His purpose and good.
I'm a missionary serving in the Philippines as a church planter. To date we have started 28 new churches in the remote areas. My story is one of grace. Thank you LORD! You can follow our amazing ministry here: http://www.riverrockchurchphilippines.com/
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