Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Spirit and In Truth…

I have had the privilege to worship God in 7 countries and three languages: English, Spanish and Arabic. I am still amazed that people all over the world worship God in the same way… reverently, excitedly, with arms raised, clapping, looking up, crying, laughing, and so on.

We have been in The Spanish Language Institute for about 4 weeks now trying to improve our Spanish. I think I have gone from what I used to call a 3rd grade level to the 4th grade! I hope to be in junior high by the time we leave!

Today we attended an all-Spanish worship service for the 5th week in a row. I still don’t understand everything we’re singing (even though the words are on the overhead), nor do I fully understand the full message form the pastor (although I’m getting better). Since the words are on the overhead, with a slow song I can get all the words out at the right time; with a faster song, my tongue and lips sometimes get messed up and it comes out garbled, if at all. Fortunately the band is loud enough most people don’t hear my garbling!

What has become clearer to me over these past few weeks, however, is the passage from John where Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman: God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth – John 4:24. That’s what it’s all about – worshiping in spirit and in truth! I know my savior, I know the truth; I can worship Him in spirit and in truth even if I don’t know the words on the screen and even if I don’t know everything the pastor is saying (although the more I know the better the worship experience, certainly).

I believe that is how followers of Jesus all over the world worship the same way – they worship in spirit and in truth, not through reciting words from a book. What an awesome God we serve, amen? Amen!

Friday, September 18, 2009

What's In A Name?

Names don’t matter; it’s what’s in your heart, right? Then why does scripture place so much emphasis on names, God’s name in particular?

I remember my pastor, Vance Pitman from Hope Baptist Church in Las Vegas, describing the 3rd commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. How long did I think that meant don’t curse using God’s name? Well, there were Hebrew words for cursing and that’s not what this verse is talking about. Webster’s dictionary includes the following for name: “a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing”, and “reputation-gave the town a bad name”. When a man and woman get married, the woman normally “takes” the man’s name as her own (when Sandy and I got married, Sandy became a Stevener and now represents us!). When you become a Christian, you take on God’s name, Christ, and from then on, you represent Him! The commandment also says to not do this “in vain.” Vain is something that “has no real value.” Don’t take His name lightly! It means something. His name has value! How do we know this?

I am reading through 1 & 2 Kings now, and came upon something I hadn’t noticed before: Solomon said Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God - 1 Kings 5:5. As I continued to read, from chapter 3 through chapter 8, that idea is repeated: Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel – 8:17… too many references to list here: read it for yourself! David intended to build, and Solomon built, the temple for God’s name.

Deuteronomy 16:2 says You shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name; in verse 6: the Lord your God chooses to establish His name. Note the Lord chooses to establish His name, not His power or His rules. When Moses was sent to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, he asked God for His name (Exodus 3:13-14).

Skipping to the New Testament… Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved - Romans 10:13; at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – Philippians 2:10; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved - Acts 4:12.

So, what’s in a name? It depends on the name. If it’s God’s name, that’s everything!

These ideas were written by several different people, 2000 years apart, in different languages... who can look at this book (the Bible) and seeing consistent themes like this, NOT realize this book indeed had a single, special author, God Himself! Praise God!

Monday, September 14, 2009

School Daze

I thought you might like some photos around our school, the Spanish Language Institute, or as it is known here, ILE: Instituto de Lengua Española. This is the main administration building.
Here is a quick switch between classes (5 minutes).
Sandy talking with Paul and Chrissy during a longer break.
Here is the computer lab: 3 computers, an inkjet printer, and the Internet. 200 colones to connect to the Internet for up to 30 minutes, 200 colones for a color print, 100 for a black and white (100 colones is about 17 cents).
Here is the mailroom with assorted notices. You can send us cards, letters or packages if you like: Bill (or Sandy) Stevener; Instituto de Lengua Española; Apartado 100 – 2350; San José, Costa Rica; América Central (remember to use international postage!).
Here is our snack area, with a good variety of treats; they also have a hot meal everyday for about 3000 colones (about $5).
Finally, here are pictures of us in the classroom. We are taking the same classes, but were placed in different classrooms based on previous Spanish language experience. We each have two classes with 4-5 students each (Fonética and Lenguaje) and one class with about 9 students (Gramática).
Bill and a classmate (April Dice):

Sunday, September 6, 2009


How much bible knowledge do you have? Can you name the books of the bible? Can you find specific verses without thumbing through the rest? Do you know the original languages of the bible? Can you occasionally come up with a verse someone is thinking about? Can you correctly apply specific verses to given conditions? Do you know the bible as well as Jesus did?

There’s nothing wrong with knowledge, but I don’t think that should be our goal. Check out these verses:
Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them” - Matthew 9:36
“When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them” - Matthew 14:14
“When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her” - Luke 7:13
“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion” - Luke 10:33

Do you see it? Do you see the theme here? In every instance, before the text says Jesus, or the Samaritan, felt compassion for someone, they SAW someone. That tells me that knowledge is not enough. Certainly Jesus had all knowledge, yet it was after He saw people, the text says, that He had compassion for them. Certainly Jesus had compassion for all mankind, but it became more personal as He saw people.

Who do you see that might need compassion? Note that the people that Jesus and the Samaritan saw were not their close friends, or even people they normally hang out with.

What’s the point? This: part of our growth as Christians is to constantly be mission-aware. We don’t all have to go to foreign lands to see this (although some people should), but that is a great way to see God’s activity outside our normal comfort zone. Another great way is to get involved with outreach activities already happening at your church, activities that take you away from the church building and into more of God’s kingdom. It could be a children’s ministry, a street ministry, a prison ministry… any type of ministry involving God’s call on your life to get out and see who needs compassion.

Scripture says that after Jesus saw people, He had compassion on them. Are you following in those footsteps?