Ten things I’ve loved about the Coronavirus lockdown

Coronavirus is scary.   Certainly a few important questions come to mind:

When will it end?   Will we survive? How will we pay the bills? How will I survive the boredom of being stuck inside with nothing to do?

The good news is that God ordered Israel to stop often…not just once a week. There were good reasons for that. Here are a few tips I have come up with from my first week of lockdown:

  1. Spend more time with your children and spouse.
    • Make memories!
    • We played Dodgeball as a family in our small yard.
    • Noah and have time to play Chess
    • We have played FIFA on the Playstation (but not too much)
    • We enjoy cooking together
    • We are praying together (more later)
  1. Get ahead with your reading while enjoying a nice fire
    • Readers are leaders!
    • My goal is 40 books this year! I track my reading with Goodreads.
    • Video courses are good too! Melodee and I are signed up to a thinking course and I am signed up to a coaching course and a course on the book of Romans.
  1. Catch up on sleep
    • Ahhh..the elusive eight hours of sleep!  Its amazing how much better I can think when I take care of my sleep!
    • Enjoy the break!  Trust in God!  Rest is an act of faith in God’s ability to meet our needs.
    • Sometimes our sleep deprivation is not due to an actual need, but to bad choices. Netflix even admits that they’re main competition is with sleep!
  2. Catch up on your housework
    • Put stuff away finally! Or get the kids to put their stuff away!
    • Declutter your life. Evaluate what you have, what you actually need, what you could get rid of.
  3. Care more about those who are at risk with the virus
    • We have several in our congregation that are high risk.  We pray for them and keep in touch with them.  Unfortunately many older people have died because of the indifference of people toward keeping the virus from spreading.
  1. Family worship
    • We had an extraordinary time of worship Sunday as a family. Melodee played the piano, I played guitar, Noah ran the PowerPoint off our TV and Eva stood up and sang her heart out!  Of course the kids enjoyed choosing the songs, and Noah even read us a Psalm!
    • Our kids loved it!  They want to do it again!  I only asked why we had not done this sooner…it took a worldwide pandemic to make this possible!
Technical difficulties
  1. The opportunity to team up with others
    • Daniel and Danilo worked feverishly to get something up for our team.
    • Wednesday night’s test run was incredibly well attended and there was very good interaction.  Danilo’s sister even recorded herself singing along with the worship songs!
    • You can see the service here.

You can join our services too! Click here!

  1. Encourage others
    Make time to encourage others or to show the love of Christ, even to unbelievers. People are more then ever hungry to make sense of all this. They are more than happy to receive a verse of encouragement in a time such as this. Make the most of every opportunity! Ephesians 5:16
    1. Use Facebook
    2. Connect with Whatsapp. Here in Italy most people use this way to send text messages, video conference calls and audio message, as well as Bible verses!
    3. Make a phone call (novel idea!)
  2. Realize how much you love your church
    • Our church people are writing up a storm of encouraging messages!
    • Our people would have been willing to be infected by the virus to spend time together!  Fortunately with today’s technology that is not necessary!
  3. Stop to realize how much you love and need God
    • Get your prayer life and devotional life back on track.
    • Read some deeper books about life. Journal.  Pray.  Meditate on God’s word.
    • Read some puritans, or even better read through the Psalms, or Romans! Or Job!

Don’t get frustrated if you don’t get to do all that you hope to do.

You have to roll with the punches a bit, especially with children, but I guarantee that it will be a memorable time that God can use in your life!

What is your list? Feel free to come up with your own list and share it here!

Football Outreach Update

Thank you for praying for the Football Outreach!
What an exiting day!  How can I keep it short?

Even before we got to the field we could sense God working.

Here are a few highlights:

When I first walked in to our church building I saw several ladies of our church already busy preparing tables and decorations for the dinner with the football players in the evening.

As we were waiting for the bus with the Christian NFL players to arrive, Daniel and I were able to share the reason for our faith with some journalists that had come to do a documentary on the event for NFL films.  One of them in particular asked many great questions.  Pray that God would use God’s Word in her life!

We had several teams from different cities in Italy participate in the training and outreach with these Christian Pro Athletes.  The enthusiasm was in the air.

We were able to give away several Bible calendars, Bibles and books on the Gospel.

In the training huddles the players shared their faith as well as their skills.  In particular I enjoyed listening in as Jeremiah Sirles share quite clearly and the players were quite engaged.  Being a hopeless Buffalo Bills fan since the Superbowl days I was doubly excited to see him here.

After the training, another player, Justin Simmons shared a testimony about how God has worked in his life.

We concluded the evening with Daniel sharing the Gospel.  People were quite engaged and even applauded at the end!

After the camp we invited the team of NFL players and their sponsors from Olive Baptist Church to have Pizza with the Perugia team at our church.  More fellowship ensued until almost midnight!

Needless to say, our hearts are full for what God did here.

I am sure God used your prayers.  Many of you told me you were praying before, during and even after the event!
We serve a mighty God!
Pray that the seeds that were sown will blossom into an amazing work in the hearts of the many who had never heard the Gospel before.

Thank you for your part in this adventure!
Eventually I’ll have time to tell you more about Foligno and everything else that is happening!

Keep praying! Prayer is the key.

Please continue to pray for tomorrow’s service.

This message on prayer from Colossians 4:2-6 has hit me hard.

Prayer is crucial to the future of this church and to God’s glory!
Pray that God will do what only God can do!

In 1995, when the vision fore prayer started and in 2002 when it bloomed God blessed.  We need that same spirit in our church now if this work in central Italy is to go forward.

Birthday presents: early, on time or belated?

 

Noah's birthday joyWe all love birthday presents. 
Personally, I don’t even care if they are early, on time or belated.  I just love a good surprise!
Most people like to celebrate their birthday, one way or another.
(I say most because I have discovered that there are a few out there that really don’t love birthdays…I can’t say I can relate!)

I have had many memorable birthdays, but there are two that are related to my adventures as a cancer patient. 
One was a belated present.  A second one was a day early.

I remember my birthday in 2010 like it was yesterday.
I was still healing from my first tongue surgery. It was a perfect day for grilling.  As I savored my steak with family I just had this feeling…there was something wrong in my tongue.
The next day I got the call we had not hoped for.  The lesion that they had taken out of my tongue was squamous cell carcinoma. Classic tongue cancer.
They scheduled me on the spot for another surgery because they were afraid it could have spread to other parts of my tongue, or worse, to my lymph nodes.
This time they took out more tongue and most of the lymph nodes on that side of my neck, leaving the rather conspicuous scar that I admire when I shave.
God allowed that call to come one day after my birthday. You could call it a belated birthday present.  I was able to enjoy my birthday without considering all the ramifications of life after cancer diagnosis.

Six years later here I was, waiting for more news.
How ironic… another birthday diagnosis! This time it was the day before my birthday.
Dr. Riccio is a hard man to read.  He knows how to joke around, but when it’s time for the important stuff, you couldn’t find a more serious person.
He felt around my mouth and neck silently, then re-read the ultrasound report, went over six years of charts. Now we awaited the conclusion.

He finally spoke up after a few seconds of eternity. Here goes… *Gulp*
“Six years have passed since your first diagnosis. Only the first tumor was invasive.  The other three tumors were “in situ” tumors , therefore non-invasive by definition.
Since it’s been over five years since your first and only case of invasive cancer, you are considered statistically and clinically in remission!
Your lymph nodes were a concern, but both the ultrasound and the checkup confirm that they are just reacting to a less than perfectly functioning system.  After all, we can try to fix you up, but your tongue, salivary glands and lymph nodes work poorly. Only God creates things to work the right way!”

I am not sure what excited me more: hearing that the odds of a recurrence are slimmer every day, or that he acknowledged our Creator as the only one that truly can do things the right way!

So what now?
We will continue regular checkups.  But now only twice a year.  My job is to always be on the lookout for what is going on in my tongue and neck for any suspicious changes.

One last blessing from the day.  Probably the most important one.
I thank God for good health news.  It seems that for the time being, death is less imminent. Unfortunately, sooner or later, unless Jesus returns, death will take us.  As the common saying goes: “it’s like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic”.
But oh, that God would use us to bring souls into eternity with Christ!
There is more celebration in heaven for one sinner who repents than for ninety-nine good health reports!

Please…don’t stop praying for us! We pray that we can make the most of every opportunity.


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Pray forever!

[8] And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.                 (Revelation 5:8 ESV)

Did you know that there is no expiration date on your prayers?The Whitmans

In the words of E. M. Bounds:
God shapes the world by prayer.
Prayers are deathless.
The lips that uttered them may be closed in death,
the heart that felt them may have ceased to beat,
but the prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them and prayers outlive the lives of those who uttered them; outlive a generation, outlive an age, outlive a world.

Desperate times call for desperate praying. 
Frankly, the greatest weakness I find in our church and in most churches I have visited in America is not a lack of sound doctrine, but a lack of sound, perseverant and desperate praying.  We are so drawn to Bible study, to testimony time, to singing, but when it comes time to prayer, few stick around.

My mentor, a veteran missionary that I affectionately call Uncle Eric, once asked me: “Do you want to be a part of the problem or part of the solution?”
I want to be a part of the solution.
And I am convinced that if you are reading this, you do too.

The world needs your prayers.
America needs your prayers.
Italy needs your prayers.
We need your prayers.

This week we desperately need your prayers.

  1. Any day now my sister Elizabeth could give birth to their daughter.  Her husband Daniel is the only other pastor here with me at the moment, and he is also in charge of Radio Luce.
  2. Tomorrow morning I take Noah to Assisi to have his adenoids removed.
  3. Two days ago Luigi, a member in our church, was hit by a car.  He has multiple fractures in his spine, a head trauma and a broken pelvis.  On top of that he is usually caring for his elderly wife, who is blind.  Pray for us as we lead the body in ministering to each other, even in times when our own families have pressing needs.

On top of these three urgent prayer requests there are a few more that are on our hearts.

  1. Please pray for our training of leaders.  All we have invested in 40 years of ministry as a family would be for naught if we are not able to equip Italians to replace us.
  2. Please pray for our witnessing, especially in the neighborhood and at Noah’s school.
  3. Pray for the management of our time and resources, especially now that I have taken on the bulk of the preaching.
  4. Pray for our Vacation Bible School outreach this summer.
  5. Pray for my health too. I have a cancer checkup soon and my oncologist is a little concerned over the health of my lymph nodes.  I also have a potential re-do on my hernia surgery.

Desperate moments call for desperate praying. 
America is facing a critical moment in its history.
The world is facing a critical moment in its history.
Our ministry is facing a critical moment in its history.

Together we can be a part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
Your prayers will forever be a pleasant sacrifice of praise to our God.

Will you join me on your knees?

Love in Christ,
Jon, Melodee, Noah and Eva,
and your brothers and sisters of the Centro Evangelico Battista

CEB people praying

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