Saturday, March 31, 2012


While working as a missionary in Mexico, I once observed with intrest (and dread) as a group of pentecostal 'missionaries' breezed into the town in which we were laboring. They were there for only one week. They held services every night with relatively large crowds attending. People were attracted to their meetings by the loud, up-beat music, and by the bold (but false) promises of miracles and healings. By the time they left at the end of the week, they had a thriving work established with a local pastor who had just been converted during their week-long meeting. According to them, it was miraculous.

I must confess that when I saw how easy it seemed to be for them, I felt discouraged with the little I had been able to accomplish. We had been living in that particular town for about two years, during which time, we had encountered political, spiritual, and religious opposition . I was trying to be faithful to pray, witness, and teach the Word of God, but with only occasional visible results. My congregation was small and my converts few in comparison to theirs. I began to question in my heart:" Why is it so easy for those who are, to say the least, mis-representing the gospel, while it seems so difficult for me?" I had no doubt that I was preaching the truth, but hey, it kinda makes ya wonder.

I needed help. However, for me, there was only one source to which I could turn for help...And that was to my Lord and to His Word. He gave me the help I needed from the very same Bible that I was using to teach others. I remembered how Jesus often used agricultural metaphors in His teaching ministry. One of the most familiar ones is found in Matt.13:3-9. In this parable, which He explains in v.18-23, Jesus tells of a Sower, His seed, and the soils. Jesus is the Sower, the seed is the Word of God, and the soils represent the people who hear the Word.

In this parable, all the seed that fell ON unprepared soil eventually perished. Some never took root at all, some sprang up quickly, some even lasted a while, but all the seed on the unworked soil perished. However, the seed that fell INTO the good (prepared) ground, not only survived, but brought forth fruit.

Someone had worked long and hard preparing that soil to receive the seed. It was not over-night success, or even one -week success. It took time, dedication, and hard, back-breaking work. But the work didn't end with the preparation of the soil. In order for the plants to survive and bring forth fruit, they had to be faithfully tended. That means even more time and work.

Here is what I believe the Lord was saying to me: God does miraculously establish His work through the preaching of the Word. But in the words of A.W. Tozer, "The miracles follow the plow." The wilderness and the weeds will grow just fine by themselves, but to have a real and fruitful crop, we must work for it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


(Pro 27:20) Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

The term "Hell and destruction", in this verse, refers to the place where the departed souls of the lost go after death. A place of conscious suffering and acute awareness of eternal ruin as well as separation from God. You would think that every person who has heard of it, would try to avoid it. However this verse reveals an irresistible pull that hell and destruction have. This pull is explained by the comparison given in the second half of the verse " the eyes of man are never satisfied." An avalanche of blinded humanity daily slides off into the abyss of eternal want. One would think that after thousands of years of multitudes daily entering, it would be full, but it isn't. There is still room for all who will go there today and tomorrow and the next day. Room to be alone. Room to be abandoned. Room to be lost. They were never satisfied while on earth; they will never be satisfied in Hell.

The second half of the verse says"...the eyes of man are never satisfied." That sounds like hyperbole, but it isn't. When we consider how that we seek to be satisfied with the fleeting pleasures and temporary treasures of this world, we know that this statement is very true. We see things and we want them. We think that if we could just acquire that one thing, then we will be happy. However, once we get it, it doesn't satisfy. After a while, we want something else, and that doesn't satisfy us either.

Living in an area where there are many tourists, I often see older people who have worked and saved all their lives to be able to enjoy their retirement years. I see them going from one attraction, or event to another, frantically trying to find something new to enjoy. Why are they looking for something new to enjoy? Because what they enjoyed before didn't satisfy. So...they keep searching. The problem is,they are searching in the wrong place. While they have sought with touching dedication for true joy, they have missed it completely. The "god of this world" has"... blinded their minds" and Hell and destruction drag at their souls. They have been and always will be LOST.

As I said, the Scriptural statement "...the eyes of man are never satisfied." is not hyperbole. However it isn't the whole story either. The fact is, there is a Place, a Person, a Possession in which one can be satisfied. Jesus said this to a thirsty, outcast woman:
Joh 4:14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
What was He saying to her? He was saying (Metaphorically) "You are thirsty and you are trying to satisfy your thirst the wrong way. You cannot be satisfied by religion or by immoral relationships. You can only be satisfied in Me."

Let's observe something at this point. This inability in humans to be satisfied is in many ways a gift from God.In a secular sense, just imagine what our world would be like if those who came before us, had been satisfied with the status quo. Politically, economically, and materially our lives are much easier than they would have been had there been no ambition in our fore-fathers.
From a spiritual perspective, that inability to be satisfied with the things of this world is one of the things that God often uses to draw us to Himself. Not only so, but having been drawn to Him, we are then possessed of a longing to know Him in a more and more intimate way.

Therefore, when the dissatisfactions of this world drive us to Christ; we find in Him a never ending source of continual fulfillment. He is to those who come to Him, an artesian well of satisfaction that not only fulfills the immediate need of the new birth, but also the continuing desire to know more about Him.

We, like the woman at the well come for a drink, but leave with the well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I love to write about my experiences as a missionary in Old Mexico. I have written several posts concerning my philosophy of mission work, but in this post, I would like to introduce you to one of the most amazing Christians I have ever met. If I didn't write about him, you probably would never hear of him. He is an impoverished, uneducated, and, as far as this world is concerned,an unknown child of God who is living in a remote village in the state of Vera Cruz, Mexico. His name is Ranulfo Coto.

I did not have the privilege of being the first to bring the Gospel to Ranulfo. He had been a Christian for about 15 years when I met him. I had come to an area of Mexico that I assumed to be totally un-evangelized. However, sometime in the fall of 1993, I began to hear of a man who was preaching the "evangelio" in a village called Boca del Monte. I determined to go find him and see for myself if he was really preaching the truth. I seriously doubted it. I convinced a friend, named Ramon, to go with me and help me locate this alleged preacher of the Good News.

I will spare the details of the dangers and adventures we experienced that day, but I will say this: To say that Boca del Monte is remote is no exaggeration. However, we were able to find the village without getting lost. Upon our arrival, we asked the first person we met if there was a man there who preached the "evavangelio"?" Without hesitation he said, "Yes, his name is Ranulfo Coto and he lives right across the river (the river was actually a shallow stream.) in a house of sticks."

We waded across the "river" and climbed the steep bank on the other side. Again we asked where Ranulfo's house was located, and were pointed to it. Just as we had been told, the walls of the house were made of the hard spines of palm branches tied together with wire. At each of the 4 corners of the house a rough-cut, semi-strait tree trunk was set in the ground to support the roof and to which the walls were attached. The roof was made of a corrugated, tar-coated cardboard. A burro was tied at the door. Chickens, a pig, a cat,and several children ran in and out of the structure, as if this humble shack was the center of the world.

As we approached, a slender man stepped out of the dwelling and moved toward us. Ramon told him that we were trying to find Ranulfo Coto. He replied, "I am Ranulfo Coto (and about a half dozen other names) at your service."

I began to explain to him that I was a missionary from the "Estados Unitos", come to preach the gospel of Christ. I told him that I had heard that he also preached the Word, and that I wanted to know more about him and his work for Christ. I guess I expected him to break into a chorus of praise because I had come from afar professing to preach the Gospel, but he remained politely reserved as he said,"Yes, I would like to know more about you too." That was my first clue that this was no emotionally-controlled, jump-on-the-bandwagon man who could be easily impressed or easily influenced by anything other than Bible truth.

Just like a "Gringo", I pridefully assumed that I was there to check out his doctrine and methods. I was quite surprised to learn, however, that he was not going get too chummy with me until he had checked out my doctrine and methods.

In the interest of writing short posts that you will have time to read, I will continue the story in several posts. Stay tuned!


In the last post, Ramon and I had finally found Ranulfo Coto, who had just come in from the field for his mid-day meal and siesta. He graciously invited us into his house with a "bienvenido! Mi casa es su casa." He introduced us to his wife who was simultaneously nursing a baby, heating tortillas on a piece of metal laid over an open flame, and yelling at the kids to run that pig out of the house.

At that time, Ranulfo and his wife had 7 children, the oldest being a young man of about 17 years old.(I regret that I didn't write these things down as they happened. As a consequence, I have forgotten the names of the family members.) Ranulfo wasn't sure, but he judged himself to be about 35 years old.

Ranulfo, like his father before him, was a share-cropper. That means that he did not own the land that he worked. He was allowed to work the land for the owner, who allowed him to take a percentage of the harvest as payment. He planted, tended and harvested two crops per year of corn. He would sell a small portion of it to get a small amount of cash for the necessities that could only be bought. Some of it was traded for rice, beans and such. The rest of the corn was used for food for the family. Ranulfo had never been to school a day in his life. His father had taught him to read, and had taught him rudimentary arithmetic.

As we talked that day, I learned a lot about Ranulfo's faith that really impressed me. I also learned much about the reality of God's faithfulness to His Word. Ranulfo had been saved about 15 years earlier when a missionary came through that area preaching the gospel. I don't recall the missionary's name, but he evidently had a great impact on people as he came through the country preaching the Word of God (During my time in Mexico, I heard of him several times).The missionary stayed only a few weeks, but as a result of his preaching, a number of people in Boca del Monte professed faith in Christ. Ranulfo was one of them.

After providing Bibles to those who wanted them, the missionary left the area. Ranulfo obtained a Bible for himself, his wife and one for their young child. When I met him, he had personally worn out every one of them and the last one, that he was still using, was in pieces.

After the missionary left, Ranulfo studied the Word diligently. He had a hunger for it and a desire to encourage others to love it too. He spoke to all those that had professed Christ while the missionary was there and encouraged them to read their Bibles. He attempted to keep them coming together as believers to encourage one another in the Word. They said "Why should we come together with no one to teach us? The missionary has abandoned us." Ranulfo responded, "I don't know much, but I will try to teach you what I learn from the Bible."

For a while, some of them came together to hear him teach, but little-by-little, they drifted away. Some went back to the Catholic church. Others just quit religion all together. However, Ranulfo stayed faithful. He spent whole nights on his knees with his Bible open, begging God for understanding and praying for his neighbors. Though none of his neighbors would come to hear him preach, he didn't quit. He diligently taught his family. Each of his children could quote large portions of the Word from memory. Even a three year old toddler, whose baby talk I understood not a word, would quote whole Psalms.

Eventually, in the providence of God, a man from a village 7 kilometers farther back in the hills(Sorry. I forgot the name of it), came and found Ranulfo. He said they had also received the Gospel of Christ, and there was a small group of believers that wanted to be taught from the Scriptures. From then on, they would alternate Sunday services in each village. One Sunday Ranulfo and his family would make the 7 kilometer trek to their village, and the next Sunday, the believers in that village would walk to Boca del Monte.

More to come. I hope to get the next one up a little quicker.


When I first met Ranulfo, he had been ministering to his small congregation for a number of years. I was impressed with his faithfulness and determination, but I needed to know more about the content of his teaching. While we certainly didn’t have time to examine and debate every facet of theology, I wanted to know 2 things, initially, in order to assess whether or not we had any common ground on which we could fellowship. First off, I wanted to know what he thought about Jesus. Ranulfo didn’t disappoint me with his answer. He had a remarkably well thought -out understanding of the Trinity. Secondly, I wanted to know about his view of salvation. Again, I was amazed at his clarity of understanding and ability to explain how he believed that God saves men by grace alone through faith and keeps them by His grace, on the basis of Christ‘s saving work alone.

From that day on, I was privileged to spend much time with Ranulfo, observing his Christ-like spirit and ministry. Since I had other missions where I preached on Sundays, I was never able to attend their Sunday services. However, we made arrangements to have special services once per month, so that I could worship with them. These times of worship and fellowship with these humble believers were a great encouragement to me in my ministry.

The very existence of this little group of faithful believers was testimony to the sovereign grace of God. The way in which they had come to faith, and the way in which God had raised up a pastor to lead them is an example of what God can and will do through His Word alone.

Eventually, I became convinced that God wanted me to help Ranulfo build a meeting house. Although services were only held in Boca del Monte on alternating Sundays, the congregation was having to meet in the very small “house” (hut would be more accurate) of Ranulfo and his family. Therefore, the new building would double as a more substantial dwelling for the family and also as a place of worship. When I spoke to Ranulfo about this, I was sure that he would be excited about my plans. He, however, was cautious. He said “Yes, brother, that sounds good, but we need to spend time in prayer to be sure that it is God’s will.” At first, I was a little hurt by his response. Didn’t he think that I knew God’s will? How could that not be the will of God?

My hurt feelings were quickly mended as I remembered the kind of man Ranulfo was. He was not only content with his place in life, he was convinced that much of the prosperity that his neighbors seemed to be continually seeking , was a danger to the soul. Don’t misunderstand. He would be happy to be able to provide adequately for his family, but he didn’t want them to ever come to the place where they did not sense their utter dependency on God. On the few occasions that Ranulfo visited my house, he was doubtful of me, that I could live in comfort and still depend totally on God and look forward to heaven. This was something new to me. I was used to looking on the poverty of the Mexican people and feeling pity for them, but here was one of the poorest of them having pity on me because of my abundance.

So, when Ranulfo didn’t leap for joy when I told him about my plans, it wasn’t because he did not want a better house for his family and a better building in which to worship; it was because he wanted to be sure that having that would not injure his soul. He eventually did come to the conclusion that it was okay for us to build, however that lead to more learning experiences for me. STAY TUNED!


As we began to make plans to build a more substantial building that would both provide Ranulfo a better house and provide the believers a place of worship, a number of problems needed to be considered. One problem was how to get the materials to the site of the proposed building. I personally had doubts about a large delivery truck's ability to even get to Boca del Monte. Ranulfo reminded me that there were other concrete houses there, so it was possible. However, the materials could not be delivered to the construction site, because there was no way to cross the river. That meant that everything would have to be dropped off on the other side of the river, and we would have to bring it across little-by-little.

It was cheaper to make the block ourselves than to buy them pre-fab, so, we bought the sand, gravel, and cement, which we had delivered to the edge of the river on the other side. We had to carry everything across. We carried the sand and gravel in buckets; the bags of cement by hand. We also had to carry water from the river. We mixed it all by hand with pick, hoe and shovel. We poured/packed the mixture into forms and laid the homemade blocks out to dry. Meanwhile, Ranulfo worked his field and dug the footer for the building. He had his older children looking for rocks and bringing the biggest ones they could carry to put in the footer along with the concrete.This was brutal, back-breaking work.

I usually worked with Ranulfo and his 17 year old son 2 or 3 days per week. We would work 4 or 5 hours in the mornings before it became unbearably hot. Ranulfo and his older children would work later in the afternoons when he returned from the fields. After awhile, the believers from the other village began to come over and help, so I kinda faded back and let them do it. I'm a pretty lazy guy, but I didn't back off because of my laziness. I believed that they needed to do it for themselves. Also, at that time, I was preaching and teaching 9 times per week.

Those were the physical issues that we faced as we began to build. However, there were several other philosophical and spiritual issues that had to be addressed. This is where I got some more education from a guy who had never been to school a day in his life. That will require another post (or three), so stay tuned.

BTW, mission work is not just translating, teaching and traveling. It also often involves strenuous physical labor. Pray for the missionaries that you know, and don't begrudge the small financial compensation they get. I promise you, if he is a faithful missionary, he earns his pay.


I apologize for the length of this post. I hope you will read it anyway and give me your thoughts.

As I mentioned in the previous post, our building project was faced with much physical difficulty. However, there were other issues to be faced that were more on a philosophical and doctrinal plane. There was the issue of the Boca del Monte church's status as a church as defined by government regulations. Also, the identity of the Church doctrinally needed to be addressed.

For us who live in the U.S.A., where we still enjoy a great deal of religious freedom, the government regulations with which missionaries serving in foreign countries must wrestle are hard to imagine. As a missionary working legally in Mexico, I had a special permit known as the FM3. It gave me legal status as a missionary to preach the gospel anywhere and everywhere in the country. There was no restriction as to the content of my preaching. Under this permit, I was required to be in the country under the ministry of a church that was recognized (registered) by the government of Mexico. That church would be responsible for my actions and I would be accountable to them. According to the government, the registration of churches was not for the purpose of government control, but for the purpose of protecting the property rights of churches, and protecting the right to freedom of religion which is guaranteed by the constitution of Mexico. Therefore, any church that I started, had to be started as a mission of the church under whose ministry I was working. Also, it had to be registered.

When I began to try to explain this to Ranulfo, well... he didn't hit the ceiling, he went through it. (It was only tar-coated cardboard.) He said,"No, brother! We will never register with the government!" Bear in mind that this was a man who had no access to history. He knew nothing of John Bunyan, nor did he have any clue as to the debates that had taken place in the U.S. over government intervention in church affairs. He didn't even know about his own country's rules on the subject until I told him.

In true reformer fashion, he declared (referring to his little flock) "Jesus died for them, the Holy Spirit called them, I'm preaching to them and we are building the building. The government can't own it!" Also, he said things like,"The government didn't call me to preach, God did. Therefore all the registration I need is in the Lamb's Book of Life!" He said a lot of other stuff too, but I think you get the drift. I was again amazed at his clarity of thought and his understanding of issues that often take others years of study to evaluate. He understood that government oversight of a church equals government ownership of a church.

I was 100% in agreement with him. I didn't like the rules any more than he did. The thing is, that he was a citizen of that country and I was not. If he wanted to civilly disobey unjust laws of his country based on spiritual convictions he could do it, just as we do in our own country. The outcome of this discussion was that it would not be a registered church.

The next issue sprang from my mindset as an IFB'er (Independent Fundamental Baptist) . What would be the name of the church? Of course, I had an agenda. I was flexible on the name as long as it included the label "Independent Baptist", or at least "Baptist". I hadn't considered that Ranulfo knew nothing whatsoever about denominational divisions among Christian believers. So, when I said, "What will we call it?" he began to suggest a variety of possible names. For example, La Iglesia de Dios (The Church Of God), or Iglesia de Cristo (Church Of Christ). I patiently listened to his suggestions and smiled indulgently, realizing that I would have to explain to him why it had to be a Baptist church. (Do you sense my gringo pride?)

My explanation didn't go as I expected. When I began to tell him that it had to be a Baptist church, he said, "Why?" I said, "It has to have the name of Baptist on it to identify it. To distinguish it from other denominations." He asked me to show him scripture for that." Well," I said, "it's not so much spelled out in scripture, but it just makes sense that you need to be identified by a statement of faith and a system of belief." He responded,"My statement of faith is the Bible." I could see that I wasn't going to get very far with that approach, so I said, "I am a Baptist missionary, sent by Baptist churches to establish Baptist churches. Any church that I establish will have to be a Baptist church." Brother", he said, "You didn't establish this church. Jesus did. So, let's just call it by His name." So, I tried yet another line of reasoning. I said," Well, Brother, in reality the earliest Baptists didn't call themselves by that name, it was a name given to them by their enemies and it stuck." "Then, let my enemies call me what they will, and if it sticks, let that be the name."

As you can see, I was not making much head way in my reasoning with Ranulfo. Being a hard-headed Independent Baptist, though, I couldn't loose the argument. After all, we have all the answers. Right? So at this point, I brought out the big gun. This would be the volley that would win the day for my point of view. I said, "Ranulfo, that is fine for right now. You are healthy and faithfully teaching your people, but there will come a day, if Jesus doesn't come very soon, that you will no longer be here to guide and to protect your people. When you are gone, if they are not identified with a sound, doctrinal name, a false teacher could easily come in and lead them away from the truth." He had a shocked look on his face. I assumed that meant that I had finally made him understand that I was right about this. I was mistaken. His response was, "Brother! Are you saying that after God chose these little sheep before the foundation of the world, sent His Son to die for them on the cross, called them by the gospel and is keeping them by His grace now; that, just because I am not here, He would allow some deceiver to come and lead His sheep away? No Brother! That cannot happen!"

The result? There is a small church in Boca del Monte. If it has a name, I don't know it. I do know this: God raised it up, and He has given them the wonderful gift of a wise and faithful pastor. O, for the simplicity of uncontaminated Christianity,