October 6, 2014
We had an early breakfast because Jerry & Jennifer White and Dan & Kristi Rodriguez needed to leave by 8 AM to catch their train to Braunschweig. Jennifer’s email, which came in the evening, said they were able to see her family home, which was only two blocks from their hotel. The Whites and the Rodriguez’ are blessed to be able to see more of the beautiful country of Germany as well as Austria and Switzerland.
John led our final day of team devotions. Paul, who was the chief of sinners, after being redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ, said in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Even with the past life Paul lived, he said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9
In Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians believers he said, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Jesus better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparable great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 1:17-20
Paul encouraged believers like us to, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18-19
He said, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20
Paul prayed, “Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:9-14 John spoke of his desire to live out verse 10 in his life.
John then read Colossians 4:3-4: “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.” John emphasized Paul’s statement that the gospel is a mystery. He said we must explain it clearly so people will know how to receive Jesus as their Savior.
He concluded by reading Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
All of these passages are our marching orders as we seek to share Jesus to those who don’t yet personally know Him as their Savior and Lord. May we pray these scriptures into our own lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
After breakfast the remaining team members were invited to spend time with firefighter families from several local German villages. We were thankful to be in their homes and eat more delicious German food. Some eyes were filled with tears as goodbyes were said. We know that wonderful friends and memories were made. From Jesus’ words recorded in John 15:16, we pray that the fruit that the Lord produced will last for all eternity.
Jerry White and Dan Rodriguez, along with their wives Jennifer and Kristi, got to see Steffen Schwarz one more time before they few home to the states. Steffen, who works for Stuttgart, Germany Fire Service, is a very close brother in the Lord. Jerry and Dan are proudly wearing German Christian Firefighters' shirts.Firefighter Wolfgang Bauer, offering coffee to Simon Hewitt, who took this and many other pictures, is a true servant of God. He willingly chauffeured us around Germany during our entire visit. It was a blessing to have his wife with us too.A forty-seven year veteran firefighter, Jürgen Leibssle and his dear wife, Christa, are a very loving couple. During our time in Germany, they escorted us in their van. They blessed us with wonderful times of fellowship and prayer. Laura, Steffen's daughter, gave her drawings to three of her special firemen. They were among others who were blessed to visit her German home last year. Jerry and Jennifer White so enjoyed their time with Jens and his family.Three of our gracious German hosts: Jens Mueller, Jürgen Leibssle and Wolfgang Bauer. There were others but unfortunately we don't have their pictures. It was hard to say goodbye to such wonderful friends.The remaining team members were driven to their hotel in Dresden. As icing on the cake, Jens daughter, gave us more treats. Our last time together was spent in worship to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The three remaining USA couples left for the airport at 3:30 AM the next morning and Simon and Colleen Hewitt took their flight mid-morning back to England. Thank you for all your prayers. We are partners as we encourage firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ! <>1 - 14
October 4, 2014
Today was a very full day and it started with devotions by Dan, who first read from Psalms 1:1-3: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper." Then from Psalms 19:7-10: "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; ....More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb."
The focus this morning is the Law of God, because an unsaved soul can never understand the need for forgiveness unless he first understands that he is a sinner in need of forgiveness. The Bible tells us that the very finger of God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. (Ex. 31:18) The Law was pretty important to God. The Bible records examples of discipline for individuals who violated one of these commandments - they were stoned to death. (Num. 15:32-36) That's serious business. How many of us can name The Ten Commandments? (Ex. 20:3-17) Here they are (extremely condensed):
1. No other gods.
2. No graven images.
3. Not use The LORD's name in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Not kill.
7. Not commit adultery.
8. Not steal.
9. Not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. Not covet.
Times have certainly changed since these were written, and we live in a much different culture today, so which one(s) do you think God no longer expects us to keep? God does not, and has not, changed (Mal. 3:6). He wrote these for a reason and with an expectation attached. As I apply these to my life, I realize that I violate the fourth almost weekly, but have justified my actions because of my work schedule. God has been challenging me on this and other areas, and I need to make some changes in my life. I certainly don't mean to imply that we are justified by keeping the law, because we definitely are not. Gal. 2:16 tells us, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified." Salvation is by grace alone; a gift from God and not due to any of our 'works' (Eph 2:8,9). Our obedience is a demonstration of our love toward the Father, just as Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." (John 14:15)
Today is Saturday, but Jens arranged for a church service this morning. It started with Steffen reading from Acts 10:34-43, "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all - that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree but God raised Him up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins."
Dr. Jens Mueller then took the podium and spoke from Jeremiah 38:1-13. Before he read, he talked a little about Jeremiah and described him as a true man of God, 24/7, who preached the forgiveness of sins and proclaimed God's word. Jeremiah spoke God's word even when it wasn't the popular thing to do...even if it could result in imprisonment. And Jeremiah had been doing just that.
(vs. 1-6) "Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying, 'Thus says the LORD: 'He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be as a prize to him, and he shall live.' Thus says the LORD: 'This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.' Therefore the princes said to the king, "Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm." Then Zedekiah the king said, "Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you." So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire." (Some translations describe this dungeon as a dried up cistern with waist-deep mud at the bottom.)
Jens commented that such treatment was endured by Jesus, the apostles, and some of our brothers and sisters today. We can't expect too much from man. We may find ourselves in similar situations: bound in affliction, a dire situation, with no visible way out. But God has provided a way out. In Jeremiah's case, a foreigner came to his aid; a word for that is intercession, and this was carried out as a dangerous rescue with simple tools.
(vs. 7-13) "Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin, Ebed-Melech went out of the king's house and spoke to the king, saying: "My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city." Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, "Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies." So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there old clothes and old rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah. Then Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, "Please put these old clothes and rags under your armpits, under the ropes." And Jeremiah did so. So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the dungeon. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison."
Jens commented more, noting that we are all in the same state as Jeremiah, in a deep pit of sin, unworthy, and need someone from the outside (Jesus) to effect our rescue. He asked, "So what do we do with this story? Have you accepted God's plan for rescue? Most of those around you have already made this decision, but have you?"
Jens noted that it is interesting that at the end of this story Jeremiah stays in the prison court. In a like manner, we remain in this life on earth following our salvation. Our mission, as those saved from the pit, is to tell others of our rescue.
After church they prepared a big lunch for us at the fire station in Sosa. We took a quick walk around the village of Sosa, and returned to the station for dessert and coffee. We then went back to the church for the International Meeting of Christian Firefighters and Police Officers.
Jens opened with prayer, then Wolfgang read Acts 4:1-20, (note: this is the same scripture that The Lord gave Joe for his devotion on Sept. 30th, when we were still in Sweden) "Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power or by what name have you done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone, which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name. So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
There were several people scheduled to speak, the first was Reinhard Ladig, a Christian police officer from Vereinigung. He spoke on "How God Effects My Life". Briefly, he became a Christian at 14, prayed for direction in his life, and became a police career. After working eight years he quit to go to bible school, obtained his degree, but returned to the police service.
He then read from Jeremiah 29:1-8, "Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon....The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah.... to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed."
Reinhard's message was that ultimately God will have His way in our life. Submit to His plans and be blessed. When he went to Bible School, he was ready to go as a missionary anywhere, but God called him to stay. Be used by God wherever you are. Take your Christianity out of this church and into your neighborhood. And if you can't go, you can pray, for those far and near - your co-workers. Get involved in community and politics. Everyone can do something. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall was a result of people taking action.
Our second speaker was Simon Hewitt (FFC - England) and his message was "One Church, One Body". After a brief intro, he read Romans 12:4-8, "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."
He then read 1 Cor. 12:12-14, 27, "For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many." and (v. 27) "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually."
Simon, speaking of the human body, mentioned that there are about 7,500 different parts, all-important and dependent upon each other. We all have a place and part to play in the body of Christ. Simon encouraged us to know our gift and use it. He pointed out the diversity of the group gathered today, and said that his prayer is that we, as one body, will work together to glorify God.
Our third speaker was Andreas Georgi, a firefighter from Albernau, who spoke on the "Mercy of God". He told a story of a traffic accident he was involved in. While on the scene of an accident, attending to the needs of others, he was hit by a big-rig - and barely survived. His survival and healing surprised many medical professionals. He experienced many miracles through out his twelve surgeries while in the hospital. Whenever people ask him why, referring to bad things that happen in life, he rests assured that God allows things to happen in his life for a reason and with a purpose.
John was the 4th speaker for the night and gave a passionate presentation of the gospel. He began with a quick introduction, telling of his years of experience, 45 years active duty firefighter, and 12 years beyond that as part of relief teams and training teams - 57 years total. His number one concern is saving lives, physically and spiritually. His concern is about people living and dying, and he's seen many people die in the course of his life. The last five disasters John's responded to, 240,000 people died - the equivalent of the entire population of Chemnitz.
He talked about the 343 firefighters who died during 9/11, along with approximately 3,000 other non-firefighters. He talked about Carlos Vasquez, an of-duty FDNY firefighter who arrived on scene afterward to find his apparatus crushed and burning, and his engineer walking toward him saying, "They're all dead." (pointing to a massive pile of twisted steel) "In that pit, dead." Carlos knew about 50 firefighters who died that day. Were they read to die? Were they ready to stand before God? Some were, he knew others weren't. Carlos sobbed. He had the chance to tell them, but didn't, and some he tried to tell wouldn't listen.
John told about Cheyane's near death experience at a structure fire, falling through the roof of a burning building, a 13' drop into the fire. As he was burning, and thought he was going to die, he prayed, "Lord, I'm ready to be with you." He was ready...why? Years ago he gave his life to Jesus. He knew he could not save his own life; he put his trust in God. Jesus came to give us eternal life. As Cheyane was burning, he felt a sudden coolness - water from above. His captain, still on the roof, saw him fall through and thought for sure he would die. But he wanted to preserve his body for a funeral, so he opened up a nozzle and flowed water into the hole in the roof where Cheyane had fallen through. A rescue crew on the street entered the burning building without their hose-line and miraculously found Cheyane, seven minutes after he had fallen into that inferno.
John asked, "Cheyane was ready to die and be with God, are you ready?" He continued with the gospel. The Bible says all have sinned, and sin separates you from God (Rom 3:23). The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ (Rom 6:23). It’s a gift that has to be received. Jesus has to be received in order for you to be forgiven (John 1:12). God showed his love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). He paid the price for our sins that we couldn't pay ourselves.
John spoke of personal tragedy and his dependence upon The Lord. "We all need a savior. He takes us through hard times. When my grandson was in a terrible traffic accident and his brains were scattered on the pavement, I needed a savior. When I got an early morning phone call, and a lady's voice kept repeating, 'He's dead, he's dead, he's dead'...over and over...and realized that it was my son she talking about... I needed a savior. I needed Him to give me peace. We all need a savior."
John continued with the gospel: The bible tells us very clearly, "If you have Jesus, you have life, if you don't have Jesus you don't have life" (I John 5:12). Everyone who receives Jesus has the right to become a child of God (John 1:12). The Bible also says, "I stand at the door and knock...if you open, I will come in" (Rev 3:20). If you confess with your mouth (pray) and believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9) Religions make it complicated, Jesus does not. When is a good time to get saved?...The Bible tells us today is the day, do not harden your heart (Heb 3:15). What time?..."The Bible even tells us now is the right time (2 Cor 6.2) - October 4th at 6:06. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:11-13). John closed with, "If I didn't tell you these things it would be like leaving you at a fire to die. In 45 years, I've never done that. If you have never invited Jesus in your life, you need to. I'm going to pray and you will have the opportunity to ask Jesus into your life." John prayed. Many indicated to him that they had asked Jesus into their lives.
FFC's team and Pat Stilson were blessed to be with Gerhard Bochmann, who has been a German firefighter for seventy-five years. At fifteen he began his career and encouraged his teenage friends to join him. German policemen attended and their chief spoke at the International Meeting held in Sosa. On right, Simon Hewitt, FFC England, exchanged gifts with Sosa, Germany firefighter. Simon also spoke at their International meeting. Early lunch at the Fire Station in Sosa. German and American friends at Sosa Fire Station.A very special blessing for FFC's team was to visit Sosa's community church, which was decorated with homegrown flowers, fruits and vegetables in honor of their German Day of Thanksgiving. <>1 - 16
October 3, 2014
This was our last day at Felsengrund, in the village of Rathen. After breakfast this morning Jerry led devotion and his focus was on unification. He mentioned that today was Germany's reunification day. (The Berlin Wall came down November 9, 1989, but Germany was formally reunited October 3, 1990) Jerry gave thanks for this day (as every German we've met is very grateful for their reunification) but his message was regarding the reunification of his relationship with The Lord.
Jerry became a Christian at the age of 19 when he first heard from a friend that God loved him. This was a short-lived experience though, since a few months later he went off to college and walked away from The Lord. The things of this world can be so deceiving. Years had gone by, before he found a godly woman who helped steer him back to The Lord. He is forever grateful for his wife, Jen, and for the patience and faithfulness of The Lord.
Jerry then read Prov. 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." He mentioned how not only his wife, but the fellowship of FFC brothers has helped him become a stronger man of God.
Psalms 133:1, "A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" God put this verse on his heart because it so strongly tied into his message. This also seems to be the theme of this trip since this scripture was also put on the heart of Jane and Kristi before this trip even began.
Hebrews 10;24,25, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."
As we left the little village of Rathen, we drove to Dresden, the Saxony state capital, for a short tour of the historic city center. This city was founded in the 13th century, so we saw many old stone buildings; government buildings, churches, museums, centers for the arts, etc. It was far too much to absorb in a single day, let alone a short couple hour walking tour. We saw a statue of Martin Luther in front of 'The Woman's Church', a large stone building that had been destroyed in WWII, but recently restored. Lots of history, plenty of cobble stone, and several street performers. We had lunch there and were off to Chemnitz to visit a fire station where Jens works.
Chemnitz is a city with a population of about 235,000, so they have full-time paid, professional firefighters; about 350 of them. They also have a volunteer force of about 500 volunteer firefighters. There are three main fire stations and 15 smaller stations. The station we visited was 150 years old and it was gigantic! If you are familiar with the LAFD, this one station was larger than both 'old' and 'new' 27's AND both 'old' and 'new' 4's. It had seven apparatus bays, all two rigs deep, used for emergency apparatus, and another five bays in the rear yard. Specialized apparatus varied, but included a 21-ton crane. The equipment storage inside the compartments on all the rigs were engineered beyond anything I've ever seen. There were drawer slides, hinged panels, and specialty doors that resembled a 'transformer' as they opened, unfolded, or slid out to access specific tools. The building was two-story, three-story, and four-story in height, and had pieces of fire department history hanging on the walls, or displayed in glass cases in the hallways throughout the building. There are 21 firefighters and six dispatchers on duty at a time. It was impressive.
We left Chemnitz and headed for another small village called Sosa, population of about 2,500. This is another picturesque village in the midst of rolling green hills and small farms about 45 minutes out of Chemnitz. It is a very beautiful country village with everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, perfectly put in its place. There is not a wooden slat out of place on a single picket fence, the firewood is all cut exactly the same length, sorted to size and stacked perfectly vertical - not a stick out of place. I don't think a single cobblestone was out of place. The town is absolutely immaculate! Jens and Sandra, and their two kids live in this beautiful little community. He arranged for us to stay in a nice hotel/restaurant in the center of this little town. We had dinner and called it a day.
Our German hosts kindly escorted FFC's team to Dresden's Frauenkirche, a symbol of the suffering of German civilians after its destruction in World War II bombing and now of reconciliation. Drill Tower at Chemnitz Fire Station Our beautiful hotel in the picturesque Sosa, East Germany. Laura, Steffen's daughter, brought much joy to our time together in Sosa. <>13 - 13
October 2, 2014
After a wonderful night's sleep we woke to a light fog covering this mountain village of Rathen, met for breakfast, and then had a time of worship and devotions. Wolfgang Bauer led and read from a morning devotional book of his called, "I am with you - 366 love letters from Jesus.” The reading was based upon Luke 12:7, John 1:12, and Romans 10:13. It talked about the intimate knowledge God has with his creation (us), that He has given us the opportunity to become part of His family, and that we become saved by calling upon the name of The Lord.
Wolfgang then read his testimony. He is 60 years old, married for 38 years, 3 kids, and 5 grandkids. Years ago he had been involved in leadership of a Baptist church, had his own metal construction company, and was a volunteer firefighter in the local fire brigade. God blessed him in many ways. During Germany's unification, there were some hard financial times, and his work took him throughout Europe as a welder and welding inspector. During this time, Wolfgang experienced tough times. He shared about his disobedience to God and his failed health.
On a trip to Israel, in 2011, two born-again believers (on separate occasions) told him that soon he would no longer need the multitude of medications he was now taking. In 2012, through a Christian mentor, he re-dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and was healed. He found medical treatment based upon 'Christian practices' of fasting and a change of diet that enabled him to lose weight and stop nearly all medication. He now has much more energy and feels 20 years younger.
He then read Isaiah 40:31, "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." He mentioned his thanks to God for his healing and his trust that The Lord will complete the work He began in him. He also said that what God has done for him is available to anyone who calls upon the name of The Lord. He ended with Psalms 145:8, "The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy."
This morning we visited a local volunteer fire station in Koenigstein. We learned that in Germany only cities with a population greater than 100,000 have paid professional firefighters. All others utilize volunteers. There are over 1,000,000 volunteer firefighters in Germany. The shift supervisor showed us a nice tour and showed us some of their equipment and rigs. All their vehicles are four-wheel drive, have a real short wheelbase, and high ground clearance; definitely built for the snow and narrow streets (many the width of our driveways). After the tour, we all had lunch at the station. For a very small village, this is a huge fire station; their kitchen could easily accommodate our group 25.
After that we toured a castle, Festung Konigstein, originally built in 13th century high atop a mountain overlooking the River Elbe with fortress walls over 100' tall built all around it. The chapel, an original building over 400 years old, is one of about 50 buildings in the compound. There is a very impressive hand-dug well about ten feet in diameter and about 450 feet deep that is bored through solid rock, the second deepest well in Europe.
Our day ended back at Felsengrund with a wonderful barbeque dinner cooked by Wolfgang.
The great blogs you are reading are written by Dan Rodriguez. Dan said, "This is a big rig for a small village."Konigstein Fire StationLanguage is no barrier when you are brothers in Christ!Wonderful lunch at Konigstein Fire StationKonigstein Fire Family, who hosted FFC's team at their station. Castle wall Castle wellAfternoon German Chocolate Treat TimeJeremias Mueller will soon be 16 years old. He and his sister Kirstie are outstanding young people! BBQ Dinner SiteWolfgang's BBQ cuisine<>1 - 14
October 1, 2014
Today was a travel day. We were up early, met in the lobby at 0445 so we could catch a flight to Frankfurt at 0600. We had a very quick transfer at Frankfurt (our luggage wasn't quite quick enough) and took another flight to Dresden. We were met at the airport with such a warm greeting from Jens and Sandra Mueller, and their kids, Jeremias and Kirstie. We also met Andreas, a good friend of Jens who offered to help drive our large group. They drove us in two mini-vans to the small mountain village of Rathen.
This small village is located in an area of Germany know as Saxon Switzerland. A sheer rock formation rising from the valley floor across the Elbe River gives you the feeling you're in the Colorado Rockies. It is very picturesque. We were brought to a Lutheran retreat center called Felsengrund, which is a complex of four large guest houses. In the afternoon we took a ferry ride across the river for a walk through this little village. It is a holiday get-away destination for locals, far off the beaten path, so not many international tourists ever find it.
When we returned to Felsengrund, we met a few new people added to our group: Wolfgang and Karin Bauer, Jorgen and Krista Leible, and Steffen and Laura Schwarz. This international group keeps mixing it up as we travel from one location to another. We all had dinner together, then spent some time in fellowship and worship before calling it a day.
Jens Mueller, his wife Sandra, and children, Jeremias and Kirstie, along with their firefighter friends and families richly blessed FFC's team during their time in East Germany.FFC's beautiful guest house in the mountain village of Rathen.The Elbe river and ferry.Beautiful village of Rathen. <>1 - 5
September 30, 2014
Today was our last day at the Ombergs Golf Hotel, just outside Odeshog, since we are heading to Stockholm this morning so we can get an early start tomorrow. Joe led devotions, using the story of Peter and John preaching and defending the faith found in Acts 4:1-22. He read from v.13 but gave a quick backdrop of what had just transpired. Basically, Peter and John had healed a man and were preaching in Jesus, the resurrection of the dead (5,000 men believed). The priests and Sadducees didn't like it so they arrested them. When questioned the next day by the high priest and others, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit told them that the man that had been healed was healed by the name of Jesus, and that "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Joe then read starting from v.13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, "What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name." So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
When Joe thought of these guys, as 'uneducated and untrained', he though of us. He hoped that when others see us that they would recognize that we had also spent some time with Jesus and that they would see Jesus in us. When Peter and John were ordered not to speak or teach about Jesus, Joe thought of some of the fires he had been on; how sometimes he had been told what he could, or could not, do by those who didn't really know his crews capabilities. He felt that if they just told him what needed to be done, he and his crew would take care of it. Sharing the gospel is often like that, with artificial barriers inserted by ourselves or others, yet our responsibility is to remain obedient to what God has called us to do; 'to speak the things which we have seen and heard'.
One barrier we often encounter is language. Many of our trips are to foreign countries where English is not the national language. On a recent trip to Panama, one of the leaders on their department spoke very good English. When asked how he learned, he replied, "By watching movies." God can even use Hollywood for His good. Our ministry is often to encourage the saints and warn the sinners, and in the process, hopefully some of the sinners become saints.
John retold a story of our relief trip to Japan following the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear plant disaster a couple years ago. We were given a cultural awareness orientation as we arrived, which included Japanese etiquette. We were told there will be no pointing, no shouting, no touching, no preaching, etc. John violated all of them in our first contact with an elderly man when we arrived at his destroyed home to help salvage and recover some of his belongings. The man was not offended when John put his arm around this man, yelled and pointed for an interpreter to come over to him, and prayed for this man. Instead, he was very appreciative, and a bond was made. At a later encounter at a temporary shelter where this man was living, he invited John into his families cubicle and introduced him to all his family. This man sensed genuine love, heard the truth of the gospel, and on third encounter prayed to receive Jesus.
We packed up and said our farewells to Annelie, what a great hostess! We all love her so much and the ladies really enjoyed their special times together with her. Kjell drove us back to airport; about 3 1/2 hours each way - what a servant! Thanks for all you've done, Kjell. We had a quick meal together at the airport, then said our farewells to the Scotts in our group, Karen and Ross.
FFC ladies were throughly blessed by the loving heart and hospitality of their Swedish sister in The Lord, Annelie Zingmark. Lt to rt: Colleen Hewitt, Connie Stilson, Jane White, Annielie Zingmark, Jennifer White, Karen Macvicar, Kristi Rodriguez, Melinda Lindaman. Ross and Karen Macvicar blessed FFC's team with their presence. They became friends with Colleen Hewitt from England while ministering side by side during the World Games in Northern Ireland last year. Lord willing, they will be together again in the near future. <>1 - 4
September 29, 2014
Simon led devotions this morning and began in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." He started with this just to say that previously he would have read through this without much thought, but lately it has brought new meaning in his life. His message was titled, "Salt and Light" and he read from Matt 5:13-16, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Since we are described as the salt of the earth, he described some of the uses of salt: as preservative, for flavoring, for its healing properties. He also mentioned that there are different grades of purities, and contamination can void its usefulness. He followed up with Colossians 4:6, "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one."
We are also called the light of the world, so he mentioned some of the properties of light: illumination, guidance, warmth. Just as Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path", we are to be a reflection of this light to the world around us.
Keep your salt pure, and don't cover your light. Use this trip as an opportunity to open up and share the light.
This afternoon the guys went to visit the fire station in Jonkopings Kommun, while the girls went to visit the shopping mall. In Sweden, each town or city has their own fire department, but they have a national training center which all firefighters attend, so every firefighter has the same basic training. The stations we visited also had those who are trained in specialized operations, such as swift water rescue, hazmat, and technical rope rescue (in Odeshog they train to perform rescues in turbine-windmills up to 400' above ground). It seems that larger incidents in smaller communities have access to support from adjoining agencies, similar to our mutual aid. Jonkopings Kommun is a bigger town than Odeshog and we were given a station tour by their rookie firefighter, Adam, who has a couple of years in the fire service, but less than a year working for this department. This station has fifteen apparatus bays with a variety of specialized apparatus in each bay, and only eight firefighters on duty per shift. He gave us the full tour, and like other firefighters around the world, we have so many things in common. Daily routines, training, exercise, team sports, joking and teasing. John was able to share with Adam, and a couple other guys who inquired, a bit about FFC and why we are here. He handed out a few CDs, tracts and patches, in the process. It was a good visit. We joined the ladies for lunch and then Kjell took us on a nice ride through the country back to Odeshog.
This evening, the girls met at the local Baptist church for a "ladies tea" while the guys went to the Odeshog fire station for dinner. This tea ended up being a rather special evening for the ladies. The pastor of this church, Kerstin Olszon, had a message prepared for them and spoke
from Exodus 3, about the burning bush. She gave her testimony, which includes a rich family history in the faith, as both her parents and grandparents served The Lord. She was born in the heart of Africa, while her parents were serving as missionaries. She knew that faith is a matter of choice and decided that if the Bible is true, that she wanted to follow The Lord, and at the age of fifteen, she committed her life to Christ and never looked back. After serving in a variety of ministries over the years, including three years with her husband as missionaries in Africa, she felt called to teach, pursued her education, and is now pastor at this church. One lesson her mom taught will always be with her is, "Dust on your Bible is dust in your soul." They spent some intimate time in prayer for each other, and some special bonds were made. There were specific prayers for healing, as Karen has been dealing with some pain issues for some time now (and the next day, those prayers were answered.) And of course, they had their hot tea, with a variety of Swedish cookies that Annelie had baked prior.
When we arrived at the fire station, about thirty firefighters were all in a meeting and the chief was covering some department business. We felt a bit intrusive at first, but took a seat in the back and waited until they were done. When they finished we all introduced ourselves and John said a few words about FFC. Then we passed out the rescue straps and carabiners (our gift to them) and John started telling fire stories and talking about the various uses of the strap. Some of John's stories were related to his experience at 9/11 and Cheyane's near-death experience falling through the roof at a structure fire. They guys were very engaged and most ended up taking the 9/11 CD and the FFC tract with Cheyenne's story inside. They made us feel very welcome and afterward provided dinner for us; the traditional sandwich cake (smorgatorta?) By the end of dinner, we were passing gifts back and forth. The chief gave us T-shirts, hats, and patches, and we reciprocated with our T-shirts, patches, and a New Testament. They even gave us a ride around town in their fire engine; which was a very smooth quiet ride. When we finally left, the chief approached John with a big man-hug, and each gave an affectionate farewell. It's been a good stay in Sweden.
FFC team had dinner at their local fire station. The guys were great hosts!Brita is 90 years old. She showed our FFC ladies herSwedish Cookie Recipe Book from many years ago. A young man, who works as a firefighter and a youth pastor, was very encouraged by the prayer he received by Joe and Jerry after Sunday's church. Others prayed to receive Jesus as their Savior. Pastor Kerstin Olszon prayed and spoke powerfully to us from God's Word during our Ladies Tea. Ladies Tea Swedish sisters in The Lord! Exodus 9:16"But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth." (Exodus 9:16 ESV) <>1 - 20
September 28, 2014
Kjell drove Steffen, Mark, and Robert to the airport early this morning. Since Steffen gave his devotion last night, we had a free spot available and Karen offered to put together a message for us. She read from Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." She wanted to note that often times when we see the word 'us' and 'we' we tend to generalize and the meaning is sometimes diluted. She re-read that same scripture and replaced her name in place of those words and the scripture then read with more impact, as it made it more personalized toward her. She did the same with another persons name and encouraged us to insert our own names when we read.
She added that we didn't have to do anything to obtain God's love. God loves us the way we are, in the condition we come to Him, but He brings about change in our lives to make us more like Jesus. Sometimes a child wants to do things to earn their parents love. As a parent, what we want most is that our child has a relationship with the Savior. She then went to Hebrews 10:5-14, (I'll condense) "Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, .... we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.... But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,...He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."
Karen has had some challenges lately, as a single mom and with some health concerns. She hadn't been sleeping well but read a post on a FaceBook site recently that said, "Give it to God and sleep." She decided to "Let go, and let God" giving to Him all her concerns. She got the rest she needed and felt refreshed. She applied Philippians 4:6,7 to her situation, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
Pray for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Today is Sunday so we headed off to church. Both Joe and John spoke. Joe started off and gave his testimony and a short message. He began his testimony by explaining that he left home when he was 18 and began working in the fire service on a camp crew. One of the men who he worked with had a book about Revelations, the last book of the bible, and asked Joe to read it. Although he grew up religious and attended church, he never had a relationship with Jesus. He read that book, and at the end, there was a prayer that explained how to receive Jesus. He didn't know a lot about prayer, but knew that prayer is talking with God - your heart talking to God's heart. And so, as sincerely as he knew how, he prayed and ask Jesus to come into his life. After praying to receive Jesus, he knew his sins were forgiven. He knew that even future sins would be forgiven because Jesus paid the price in full. He trusted that God would continue to change and re-shape him into the man God called him to be. But most importantly, he knew that when he shut his eyes for the last time on earth and woke up on the other side of eternity that he'd be in the presence of The Lord. As it turned out, he began his fire service career the same time he began his new life in Christ.
There were many times since, when God's hand has been on his life. At one large brush fire, when he and three others were trapped inside a vehicle with fire surrounding him, some wanted to bail out and make a run for it. He knew better. They needed to stay inside the vehicle to survive - that's what his training had taught him. Another group of guys inside a vehicle directly behind them got out of the vehicle to try and outrun the fire. Three of them died. They failed to follow what they had been instructed. The bible is our instruction book on life. If we follow God's word, we will be saved from eternal death.
He pulled out a rescue strap and gave a brief description of its use. The strap was tied to other straps in a long line and continued out the door. This was a visual aid to compare our life vs. eternity. He said to imagine that this end (held the carabiner at the end of the strap) represented your life on earth, and the rest of this strap represented eternity. And imagine that this strap continues out the door and goes on for eternity, farther than we can even comprehend. Most people work, worry, and plan for this short, temporary time on earth. Our focus is often set on retirement, and that may end up being just a few short years. What about all of this? (pulling out additional strap) Don't be short sighted. This life is short, eternity is forever. Don't miss a God-ordained opportunity to introduce someone to Jesus.
John took the pulpit: The lady introducing John had mentioned that she had a dream last night and dreamt that he would be speaking Swedish today (so she could understand him without an interpreter) In response, John said, "I won't be speaking Swedish today, but maybe one day...it's happened before. One time in Mexico I was speaking to a group about The Lord, and there was a man who approached me afterward who told me he had heard me speaking perfect Spanish."
He then introduced himself as part of FFC team on a short-term mission trip to England, Sweden, and Germany. Often people ask, "How can I be part of God's ministry?" First, ask God to give you a burden for the lost. God is waiting and wants to use you to reach the entire world for Jesus Christ. And it starts right here at home. John then went on to tell several stories.
In the early 1970's, John met with another fireman at work each morning for prayer. This prayer meeting eventually spread to the other shifts. Men started giving their hearts to Jesus. One day things changed. Two ladies, twins, asked how they could pray for firefighters. When John answered them, he meant to say, "Pray that this prayer group would extend throughout the nation," but instead, the words out of his mouth were, "throughout the world." A week later, they had a visitor at their fire station who had just arrived from New Zealand. He had come to Los Angeles to study our dispatch system, and would be staying in a room at the fire station - the same room they had been using for their prayer meeting. This visitor walked into the room as they were praying. Surprised, he said, "Before I left for the U.S., my wife prayed that I would have Christian fellowship when I arrived. But I didn't expect that they would be praying in my room when I got here." How can you be used? Pray. Maybe you can't go, but you can pray.
Earlier in John's ministry, as he was working with the youth at a church he was attending, an older lady during a prayer time motioned for him to come to her. She was physically unable to get to church often, but had been brought by others to this meeting. She told John that although she couldn't get out to tell others about Jesus, that she was going to send John out on her behalf. He would be her 'lips and legs', to tell others about Jesus. From the front room of her house she would labor in prayer as John shared the gospel. For the next three years people were being saved everywhere he went. He once took her to Mexico so she could see the results of her prayers. After years of very fruitful ministry, he felt something missing. A few days later he found out that this praying woman, Hulda, had died. Jesus said it very clearly in Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." But we must be obedient to what The Lord calls us to do.
John told another story about a friend of his, who was once a very successful piano player, who played in world-renowned bands. He eventually got involved with drinking and drugs, became an addict, and soon the only work he could find was playing piano at a sleazy bar. One day he saw an old man walk into the bar wandering around as if looking for someone. Apparently not finding who he was looking for, he wandered out. As he was leaving, the piano player noticed a book under the stranger's arm, and recognized it as a bible. He remembered his mom telling him every answer to life lies in this book. Needing some answers to life, he left the bar and ran after this stranger, but couldn't find him. He walked up to the home of a pastor, who lived behind a small church a few doors down from the bar. He knocked on his door, woke him up, and expressed his need to get right with God. This piano player meant business, was ripe for harvest, and got saved. He never returned to the bar that night, and soon after headed to Mexico to start a mission. Within ten years he had started about 100 missions in Mexico and hosted thousands of kids from college groups to do short-term mission trips. The old man who walked into the piano bar that night must have felt as though he were acting in obedience to The Lord, but he never knew the results of his obedience. In eternity he will see the impact he had, as thousands have come to know and serve The Lord.
John emphasized that the time is short. The last five disasters he went to, a combined total of over 240,000 people died. At 9/11, in New York, over 3,000 people lost their lives - 343 were firefighters. One FDNY firefighter, Carlos Vasquez, off-duty at the time of the incident, arrived at ground zero afterwards to find his apparatus - crushed. An engineer from his crew was walking toward him and said the rest of the crew died in the tower. They later estimated that once the tower started to crumble, they only had about seven seconds before their floor was flattened. Seven seconds to make any decisions whatsoever. Ten of his crew died. Of the 343 firefighters who died, Carlos knew about 50 - and only a handful of them knew Jesus. Contrary to some of the politically correct teachings these days, not all who die are going to heaven. Of all the twisted steel that was found in that pile, one perfect cross was found 80' down in the bottom of the pit. (pointing to the picture on the back of the FFC bible) Two smaller crosses were also found, but without the publicity. These crosses are a reminder of the decisions made that day. Like the two thieves on the cross, one made a decision to repent, the other died cursing God.
We all need to be part of reaching the lost for Jesus. Some go, others pray, but we can all be prepared to share with those we come in contact with. We can all carry a simple gospel tract and share The Lord with others.
After the church service, we had some fellowship in the church basement, where they have a kitchen and meeting area. We had some rest time in the afternoon and then Kjell brought us over to their home where Annelie had prepared a delicious dinner for us. We enjoyed some time at their home and returned back to the hotel. This was another very full day.
Firefighters were encouraged to live their lives for Jesus at a wonderful breakfast meeting held in Sweden. Kjell and Annelie Zingmark hosted our fellowship, which included firefighters from Northern Ireland, Germany, Sweden and the USA. Hebrews 10:24-25John White related salvation story. Karen Macvicar represented our Scottish brothers and sisters in Christ from Scotland.Kjell Zingmark, FFC host The Mayor greeted firefighters at breakfast meeting Pat Stilson spoke on Mark 4:13-20 Northern Ireland brothers, Robert Harley and Mark Foster, blessed us with their presence in Sweden.<>7 - 7
September 27, 2014
Today was a full day. Kjell picked us up this morning, drove us to church, and also put together a message for us. He spoke from Zeph. 3:17, "The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Kjell was very expressive as he emphasized that God is THE creator of ALL things, who is with us (and in us), and He is REJOICING to see you!
John reminded us that prayer is the most important part our mornings devotion and critical for the start of each day. We prayed. Afterward several people spoke of various times in their life or ministry where prayer was really evident. John told about his ministry trip to Russia when the town square in which they were witnessing was covered in prayer and people were receiving Christ, yet others who were witnessing just outside the area in which they prayed felt heavy spiritual oppression. Mark told how praying for Robert throughout his career was instrumental in him coming to Christ shortly after retirement. Others spoke and told stories and shared experiences on how prayer, obedience, and blessings are all inter-connected.
We then met with several firefighters for breakfast who traveled from as far away as four hours to get here. Annelie and Kjell (mostly Annelie) put together a very traditional Swedish breakfast. It included some meats we don't often see at home; reindeer, wild boar, caviar, and pickled fish. They also served crackers, homemade breads, cheeses, eggs, and other breakfast items we are familiar with. It was a very nice spread. After eating, Kjell put on a slide show and introduced the new Swedish firefighters bible he put together. It is customized for the fire service and includes many inserts of testimonies from people within the fire service. John, Kjell, Steffen, and others are included. It goes to print next month and his goal is to be able to print 10,000 copies and distribute to every firefighter in Sweden. He has been working on this project for two years.
Pat then took the podium and spoke on the Parable of the Sower. He first related a couple of terms used in wildland firefighting - "probability of ignition" and "receptive fuels". He has a recent story concerning this, as his mom's home burned to ground last fire season (even though she had three sons who were firefighters). In a wind-driven wildfire, the application of a hot ember blown into a dry attic (receptive fuel) will result in a high "probability of ignition". The spiritual application is that the gospel presented to an open heart will result in a high probability of conversion.
Mark 4:13-20, "And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble. Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."
Pat further explained that most parables have one central truth. Little is said about sower...he sows. The seed is the word. There are four kinds of 'ground'.
1. Wayside: the area around the field, walked upon, hard packed - results: the seed never penetrates.
2. Stoney: has some viable soil on the surface, but rocky underneath - hears the word, receives it, but endure only for a time - tribulation/persecution causes them to stumble.
3. Thorny: choked out by the cares of this world and deceitfulness of riches (in many places, this is the world we live in today) - unfruitful.
4. Good: hear, accept, bear fruit.
The Parable of the SOWER also focuses on the condition of the soil, not the ability of the sower. D.L. Moody was once criticized by a lady who didn't like the way he preached. He agreed with her that he didn't particularly like the way he preached either. When he asked her how she preached, she said that she didn't. He responded that he liked the way he preached better than the way she didn't. Keep sowing.
John took the pulpit next: He was looking forward to what God is going to do with this new firefighters bible that Kjell is putting together and soon to distribute. He re-told the story of the rescue depicted on the cover of the FFC bible, and how that rescue saved the life of the little boy. He also told the story of his trip to Russia and how a little girl prayed to receive Jesus and was saved. He compared the two rescues - temporary vs. eternal. He knows he will one day see that little girl again in heaven, but will only see that little boy again, if at some point in his life he receives Jesus as Lord and Savior. He then read 1 John 5:11-13, "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."
We then visited the local fire station and Kjell gave us a tour. They have some interesting apparatus, tools, and operations. They are four-wheel drive, equipped for the snow, and quite high-tech.
Following that, he took us to a popular spot for hiking, biking, or a simple drive in the country. Annelie prepared a light lunch for us and Kjell arranged a tractor-pulled wagon ride. It was great fall weather for a ride through the country. This road wound about a large hill (not quite a mountain) and had several lookout spots with a view of Lake Vattern (second largest in Sweden). It was a very nice afternoon activity.
After a short rest stop back at the hotel, we regrouped back at church for dinner.
Steffen gave his devotion tonight since he will be leaving early tomorrow morning: His overall message was about listening to God's voice and being obedient to his leading...and...delayed obedience could result in a missed opportunity. He read from John 10:1-6, 27. "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. v.27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
He told a story when he was out on his morning run, and as he was running past a man he felt The Lord say to him, "Tell this man Jesus loves you and desires a relationship with you." At first he thought, "Lord, is that really you?", but he stopped and did as The Lord instructed. Immediate results are not important, but being obedient to what The Lord is telling you to do is. Your obedience becomes part of God's plan in the lives of others. He relayed another time where his obedience to The Lord required him to leave the fire service so he could attend a bible school. That one took a little time for him to follow through on, but he did...and God blessed him for it. He was later called back into the fire service and is now being used to reach firefighters for The Lord.
Immediate obedience is often critical. While attending a Swift Water Rescue course in the alps, he was waiting on the rivers edge for the victim to come by when God reminded him not only of the importance of obedience, but not to delay when instructed to act. As he was thinking of this as his victim came by and he almost missed the opportunity of a rescue...instilling the lesson God was just then teaching him. Listen to the Good Shepherd...if he calls you to take action...jump!
September 25, 2014
Our time at the Emergency Services Show in Birmingham has come to an end. Its been a good experience for us and we believe, beneficial for the Kingdom. We received an email from an attendee who was very thankful for our presence there. He mentioned his conversation with a few of the guys at the booth and was very thankful for their advice. They had been very influential to him, and he would be following us on the website. Simon was able to gather contact information from several firefighters in the area interested in being part of FFC and he also made contact with a couple chaplains in the local police service. For everyone involved, it was it was a great time of fellowship, strengthening the bond between the U.S. and the U.K.
Today started very early. We needed to be out the door at 0400 to catch a 0630 flight to Frankfurt, enroute to Stockholm, Sweden. Paddy and Wendy arose early to see us off, as they are ending their trip with us to spend a few days with their daughter, who drove down to meet with them. There was a bit of a shuffle switching planes in Frankfurt, but we arrived with all our luggage fine and had a warm greeting in Stockholm. Kjell Zingmark (Sweden) was there to pick us up, along with Steffen Shwartz (Germany), Mark Foster (Northern Ireland), and Robert Harley (Northern Ireland). Kjell arranged first-class transportation to our accommodations at a really nice golf resort - what a beautiful setting!
We met up again for dinner at Kjell's church, where we met his wife, Annelie, and one of his firefighter buddies, Johan. They served us what was described as a traditional Swedish dish, (translated) "sandwich cake". They explained this was a meal for special occasions, such as weddings, parties, holidays, etc. I really enjoy exploring other cultures and traditions. The food was very good and the hospitality wonderful. Kjell arranged a time to celebrate communion afterward, and a time spent in prayer. He has arranged a full schedule for the next couple days and it looks like our time in Sweden is going to be great. Tomorrow we are going to have a breakfast meeting at his church for the firefighters in town, visit a fire station, and take a ride through the countryside.
Kjell Zingmark treated FFC's team to a delicious lunch of hamburgers and fries. Steffen Schwarz from Germany, Karen & Ross Macvicar from Scotland and Mark Foster & Robert Harley from Northern Ireland have joined the team. Our Swedish hostess, Annelie Zingmark and Melinda Lindaman Jerry White (USA) & Steffen Schwartz (Germany) in Swedish Baptist Church Joe Lindaman, Steffen Schwartz, Pat Stilson John White & Kjell Zingmark Mark Foster (Northern Ireland) & Jerry White Ross, Karen Macvicar's son, is a joy to FFC's team! He will be seven years old October 10th. Far left, Andreas Karlberg and Roger Gillberg drove four hours to be part of the NFKB (Network For Christian Firefighters) breakfast. Simon Hewitt (center) came from England. Special treat for FFC Team's first dinner hosted by Kjell & Annelie Zingmark. Kjell Zingmark, FFC Sweden <>10 - 10
September 25, 2014
Recapping the morning devotion is both a challenge and a blessing, trying to rewrite a message spoken by another, while maintaining their original intent. It requires some time to go through my notes, ponder what was said, and hopefully put into words what the author intended to speak. This morning, Paddy Quinn had the honors, and we were blessed. He read from Luke 23:32,33, 39-43, speaking of the crucifixion, and titled it 'How love wins in a secular world.'
Luke 23: 32,33, "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on the right, the other on his left." vs 39-43, "One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
How is it love wins in this secular world? First off, we must be aware that God is everywhere. Even in people that to us seem so far removed from God, we need to look beyond the exterior shell of the individual and see the God-potential within them. God's love wins in the end.
Lets look at the three crosses. From one we hear a criminal ridicule Jesus; angry, disrespectful, and without any fear of God. While from the other we hear a guilty party acknowledge his own sinfulness, proclaim Jesus' innocence, and humbly place his trust in him. And from the center cross we hear Jesus speak consoling words of truth and assurance.
Paddy used three small crosses as a visual aid and motioned that someone who might be on the one side of Christ, might not even have an awareness of God. Our goal might be to get him to the 'other' side, where he would at least acknowledge God, and perhaps even sense a feeling of shame. But our ultimate goal would be to lead a person from a point of mere belief in God, to a point of acknowledging their sinfulness and shame, and eventually to a point of surrender and trust. Paddy said that the center cross (Christ) is the point where 'shame' and 'grace' collide.
He used another example of how God can be found in the secular. His daughter brought to his attention a Bob Marley song, "One Love", that has lyrics that could be mistaken for a church hymn.
"Is there a place for the hopeless sinner?"
"One love, one heart, lets get together"
"Give thanks and praise to The Lord."
Today, and everyday, continue to help that secular person arrive at the place where shame and grace collide.
At the Expo, overall attendance was less today than yesterday, but we still had quite a few people stop by the booth, take some CDs, New Testaments, or other material, and engage in a bit of conversation. Most of the ladies took a field trip to the ruins of St. Michael's Cathedral, which was bombed during WWII. Afterward they went out for a spot of tea. After clearing out our booth at the Expo and regrouping at the hotel, we said our farewells to Robert and Kate; they head home tonight. Tomorrow we pack up early and head off for Sweden.
2 <>2 - 3
September 24, 2014
Following an early breakfast this morning, Robert spoke and his devotion was on the relationship between Paul and Timothy. He began in Paul's letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:1-2 NIV, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Robert expounded upon the meaning of "my true son" by referring to 1 Corinthians 4:14-17NIV, "I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Paul urged Timothy to "imitate me". How does Timothy remind the Corinthians of Paul? The way he walked, talked, and his manner of life.
Robert jumped back into Acts 16:1-5 and read how this relationship of Timothy and Paul began.
"Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."
How did Timothy become like Paul? By journeying with him. Not just on a short term mission, but by following him and spending time with him. Time is an essential component of building a significant relationship with another. Jesus spent three years with his disciples, yet Philip still didn't quite know who Jesus was. In John 14:7-9, Jesus chides Philip when for not recognizing who he is. Jesus said, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."
Robert closed by presenting us with some questions.
1. Who are you imitating?
2. Is the example you are living worth being imitated by others?
3. Who are you taking on the journey?
4. Will those spiritual sons/daughters remind others of their fathers way of life?
John added Phil 4:9, "Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Our team went in different directions to run various errands but regrouped at the FFC booth for the start of the Expo. The booth started out a bit slow in the morning; actually the entire convention floor was less than I had expected, but it picked up considerably by noon and was busy all afternoon. Walking around, I would say that our booth had more interaction with attendees than most of the other booths. Many people stopped by, engaged in conversation, and took some of the handouts. We had a variety of contacts; believers, agnostics, non-believers, etc., but all went well. Paddy and Wendy Quinn, from Northern Ireland, arrived this morning and a bit later Karen Macvicar and her son, Ross arrived from Scotland. We now have quite the international team and are really enjoying the fellowship.
September 23, 2014
We slept in this morning since our schedule today is relatively free and we are still adjusting to the new time zone. Following breakfast, John led devotion. He spoke from a variety of scriptures that The Lord had put on his heart leading up to this trip. He began by saying that we are sitting here today because of prayer. Two ladies promised to pray for this ministry and prayed specifically that this ministry would be taken throughout the world.
The apostle Paul prayed for us. In Colossians 1:3-14 he wrote, "We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
And to the Ephesians 3:14-21 he added, "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Because of what Christ has done for us, and our relationship with the Father, we have access to the throne of God through prayer. 1 Pet. 2:9 "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." John told a story of how, in desperation, following an extreme emergency involving his daughter, he was able to see the throne of God described in Revelation 4 and present his daughter before The Lord in prayer.
God is looking for those willing to serve, through whom He will perform His work. 2 Chron. 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."
Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power , after the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Matt. 28:18-20, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen."
Psalms 96:1-3, "Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples."
We have the opportunity to tell the nations. Matt. 12:21, "In his name the nations will put their hope." We have had, do have, and WILL have opportunities to impact God's kingdom!
John reminded us of the many mission trips that FFC has been part of over the years (Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Northern Ireland, Japan, Panama....here), and that we may never know the impact we've had on the souls of others.
Pat added a quote from the late English Evangelist, A.W. Pink, "History belongs to the intercessor."
We met up with Simon and Colleen Hewitt, from Suffolk, England, this morning. We now have 14 in our group and headed off to the NEC to unload Simon's car and set up the booth. The convention hall was very busy with all the final touch-up details still being done throughout the floor. Our set-up was relatively easy and half the group set off for a walk about town afterward for a little sight seeing, while others ran a few errands. Tomorrow we start.
September 22, 2014
Our team started out with five couples from the U.S.; John and Jane White, Pat and Connie Stilson, Jerry and Jennifer White, Joe and Melinda Lindaman, and Dan and Kristi Rodriguez. Our travels to the U.K. were very smooth and uneventful with one transfer in Frankfurt. We arrived in Birmingham this afternoon and met at the Novotel Hotel, right in the center of the airport, literally across the street from the vehicular traffic of those picking up or dropping off travelers. It's a nice convenient location, especially since a real short ride on a free tram takes you directly to the NEC (National Exhibition Center). The NEC is a very large complex of 20 Halls (each the size of the Los Angeles Convention Center), as well as the LG Arena, a theater, 30 smaller meeting areas, and plenty of eateries all under nearly two million square feet of indoor space. It dwarfs any other Convention Center I have ever seen. They host over 500 major events each year. The Emergency Services Show is an annual event and this is the first year that Firefighters For Christ will have a presence here.
This afternoon we met up with Robert and Kate Blair from Northern Ireland, and afterwards had a team meeting following dinner, where John and Jane spoke. John retold a story that Rick Warren wrote explaining the impact that his dad had on his life. It is a short article that Rick wrote and posted on his FaceBook page that I hope you will be able to read in it's entirety at this link: http://www.facebook.com/pastorrickwarren?ref=hf In short, Ricks dad served The Lord for 50 years as a church planter, pastor, and builder of church buildings all over the world. Rick estimates his dad built over 150 churches in his lifetime. Just months before his death, while in his 80's and undergoing treatment for cancer, he told Rick, "Son, I think I've got one more church inside of me to build." He did, and his final church was built in Siberia. One of Ricks favorite picture of his dad is him on the roof of this building, hammer in hand, placing shingles during a winter storm. A short time later, as Rick's dad neared death, he was confined to a bed. While lying in bed drifting in and out of consciousness, he kept trying to get up to do something. When told he couldn't get out of bed and asked what he needed to do, he responded, "I've got to save one more for Jesus." Over and over again he repeated the need to reach just one more for Jesus...just one more for Jesus... That legacy and conviction was passed on to his son, Pastor Rick Warren, as he leads Saddleback Community Church, one of the largest churches in the U.S. and continues to reach "just one more for Jesus." The message from John was simple. It's our calling as Christians to reach just one more for Jesus.
Jane spoke of a scripture that The Lord had place on her heart for this mission trip. It was Psalms 133:1, "Behold, how good and pleasant is is for brethren to dwell together in unity." Kristi interjected that on the gift items she brought to give to some of the other ladies she wrote that same exact scripture on them. Surprised? Of all the scriptures that could have been written, Jane and Kristi had been impressed by The Lord to use the same exact one. What a great scripture for this International mission trip as we extend our fellowship across the Atlantic with our brothers and sisters in the U.K. and Europe.
The U.K./Europe Team
Prayer: I'm a day late in sending this and the show is only a two-day event. Our first day is today, September 24th (we're eight hours ahead of California time) Pray that we have good visitation at our booth, for God to send us those with open hearts prepared to receive the Gospel, and that we are led by the Spirit in conversation.
Jerry & Jennifer White, Pat & Connie Stilson, Joe & Melinda Lindaman, John & Jane White, Dan & Kristi Rodriguez are heading to Birmingham, England to share Jesus at the Emergency Services Expo. FFC members from Northern Ireland, England and Scotland will soon join their USA brothers and sisters.