Monday, March 31, 2014


In the 1860's David Livingstone returned to Great Britain on his first vacation after 16 years of traveling in the interior of darkest Africa. Livingstone was asked to speak at the University of Glasgow, but perhaps he would have declined if he knew what was in store for him. It was the custom of undergraduates those days to heckle the speakers who came, and they were well prepared for this preacher. They had peashooters and trumpets and rattles and noisemakers of every description. David Livingstone walked out on to the platform. Here stood the man who had walked 11,000 miles all over Africa. His left arm hung limply at his side having been almost ripped from his body by a huge lion. His face was dark and leathery brown from 16 years in the African sun. His face was furrowed with deep lines from African fever that racked his emaciated body. Savages, as well as Turks who hunted Africans to sell as slaves had attacked him. Livingstone was half-deaf from rheumatic fever and half blind from a branch that had slapped him in the eyes in the jungle. The students stared and they knew that here was a man that was literally being burned out for God. Not a rattle moved, not a foot shuffled and a hush crept over the vast auditorium as they listened in total silence as David Livingstone told about his journeys and the tremendous needs of this vast African population. "Shall I tell you," he said "what sustained me in the midst of all those toils, hardships, and incredible loneliness? It was a promise. The promise of the Lord that "I am with you always even to the end of the world." It was this promise that Christ would be with me personally right next to me every hour of each day that gave me the courage to continue day after day," Livingstone said
For David Livingstone Jesus Christ was with him, and Livingstone lived as if Jesus Christ was right next to him each moment. In Livingstone's diary we find his tremendous prayer, "Lord send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me; sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart." And Jesus said "David, I am with you always". Livingstone's wife Mary finally came to meet him in Africa, and for months she sailed on the ocean and then she cruised up the steamy mosquito swarming rivers. Soon after she greeted her husband she contracted African fever. Night after night, day after day David sat up with her and wiped her fevered brow. And slowly she worsened and finally took her last breath. Mary was dead. David Livingstone buried her under a huge tree and then he fell on that mound of dirt and wept. The Lord reminded Livingstone of his prayer. Sever any ties but the tie that binds me to Your service and to Your heart. His body was broken, his loved ones were gone, and he seemed alone and discouraged. He was overcome. How did he deal with sorrow and grief? This is what he wrote in his diary. "My Jesus, my King, my Life, my all. I again consecrate my life to you. I shall place no value on anything I possess, on anything I may do except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ." When he arrived back home he found that natives had stolen his food and worst of all they had stolen his medicine chest with the quinine and other medicines to alleviate the pain of those terrible African fevers. For Livingstone the loss of these essential things was a death sentence and he cried out to God. "Oh, God you promised to be with me." Then he heard the sound and he looked up from his prayer. For five years he had not seen the face of a white man, and now, in the midst of the interior of Africa he looked up and he saw a white face walking toward him. Behind this white man was a whole caravan and above them flying in the wind the American flag. It was Henry Stanley who uttered those unforgettable words, "Dr. Livingstone I presume". For four months Stanley lived in the same hut with Livingstone. He nursed Livingstone back to health. Stanley had been an atheist but after those four months living with Livingstone Stanley became a Christian. Livingstone refused to return to civilization with Stanley. Instead Livingstone plunged deeper into Africa. For Livingstone the end was approaching. His diary said, "Lord help me to finish thy work this year to thine honor." And so he did. He came to a place where his strength was completely spent; his feet were lacerated and ulcerated with boils. He had nothing to eat but hard maize (dried corn) for months. Gradually all his teeth became loosened and fell out. He was deserted by everyone with the exception of three of his followers who tried to carry his very sick body back to England. Livingstone could not walk, he couldn't stand, and he couldn't go another step. His response was simple: Livingstone commanded his friends to put him on a stretcher and carry him onward. "I will not swerve one hairs breadth while I still have life." Deeper and deeper he plunged into Africa on a stretcher. Propped up, he proclaimed the riches of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all with whom he came into contact. And then there came a day when Livingstone couldn't even be moved. It was pouring rain. A small temporary hut was quickly made. Livingstone was lying on his cot in the middle of the night when the servant boy who lay across the doorway to keep out wild beasts heard Livingstone stir. The servant boy got up and saw Livingstone agonizingly roll out of his cot and on to his knees and with his hands folded in prayer. After a while the boy went back to sleep but in the morning when he looked on Livingstone he saw him still in prayer. Several people came asking for Livingstone but the boy told them that Livingstone was still in prayer not to disturb him. Finally the boy became concerned and said to Livingstone softly "Sir", no answer. "Sir" still silence. He crept closer to him and touched his cold cheek. Livingstone died on his knees in prayer.
David Livingstone died in a village in Zambia, on 1 May 1873 from malaria and internal bleeding caused by dysentery. Britain wanted the body to give it a proper ceremony, but the tribe would not give his body to them. Finally they relented, but cut the heart out and put a note on the body that said, "You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa! Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree near the spot where he died, now the site of the Livingstone Memorial. His body together with his journal was carried over a thousand miles by his loyal attends and was returned to Britain for burial. After lying in repose his remains were interred at Westminster Abbey Livingstone had lived his life in the presence of Christ and he left this life in the presence of Christ. Jesus said, "I am with you always" and He had kept His promise.
Livingstone's life consisted of 39 years, traveling 29,000 miles across Africa bringing light to darkness. Two million Africans were brought to the Gospel and the light he brought continues to shine to this day. For every mile Livingstone walked or was carried, he was strengthened by Jesus' promise: "I am with you always".

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

But Once

Hebrews 9:27   And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

         He was a high school friend.
         I couldn't really say that he was a best friend, or even a close friend, but I did count him a friend. When we were both 16, we occasionally hitched rides together during the summer, thumbing our way to the beach. On various occasions, we would encounter one another at a Friday or Saturday night party. His name was David Smith.
         We weren't best friends, couldn't be called good friends, but we were friends. 
         We were standing outside a local hamburger stand in Whittier, California, directly across the street from the high school we had graduated from just the year before. He was talking with some friends, and I was talking to some other friends, and though I knew he was there, I hadn't spoken to him.
         As I turned to leave, Dave called to me and said "Hey, David! Catch you later!" I can remember turning to him and saying, "Yeah, we'll see you around!" 
         That was the last time I saw him alive. 
         Later that same day, David Smith climbed on to his Honda cafĂ© racer motorcycle and, after taking a variety of drugs, drove face first into a pick-up truck parked by a curb. 
         David was killed instantly.
         We had a party immediately after his funeral. One of our friends remembered David saying that he didn't want a sad gathering at his funeral but that he would rather have a party. A good sized group of his high school friends got together that day, and we all partied, drank, and cried. 
         David Smith was 18 years old.
         Though I wasn't a Christian at that time, I distinctly remember feeling that life was getting increasingly shorter. As a teen, you can feel invulnerable. You can feel like you will live forever. Because of this, it especially strikes home when one of your friends dies. It has a way of waking you up. It reminds you that you aren't in control. You are not the captain of your own ship or the master of your own destiny. In reality, like the Bible says, you are simply a vapor, a temporary blip on the screen.
         You are here today, you will be gone tomorrow.
         David's death made an impression on me. It was eventually one of the ingredients the Lord used to bring me to Him. It is appointed unto men once to die, the scripture says.
         And after death, the judgment. 
         How grateful I am to know that, if the Lord should tarry and I should die, that my way has been directed towards the Lord. Today, we will inevitably come into contact with many we expect to see tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. The fact is, tomorrow is promised to no one. Let us endeavor to keep that in mind the next time we come into the David Smith's of our lives, the ones who are waiting to meet the Lord. God help us to lead many to the saving knowledge of the Lord. Let us lift up heavy hands, and continue leading people to Jesus, today.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Place for You

John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

         He was my uncle, my father's younger brother. He was dying of cancer. 
         At one time he was a big, strong, truck driver. He was handsome, with thick black hair, a trimmed mustache, piercing green eyes, a broad strong back, and muscular arms developed over the years he had worked so diligently to provide for his family. As a little boy, I was a bit afraid of him because, like all the Rosales men, he had a loud voice and a gruff way of speaking and when he spoke to me, he would speak so loudly it would scare me. Still, I loved him. He was my Uncle Ray.
         But now, he was dying. Cancer ravaged his once strong body, and treatment had removed his beautiful black hair and his trademark Rosales mustache. My father had called me and had said "Son, your Uncle Ray is about to die. If you want to see him before he passes on, then you should get to the hospital as soon as you can". I remember driving to the hospital that night, thinking of how much I loved him, and how much he meant to me. As I sat in the waiting room, I looked around and gazed at my other uncles and cousins. I especially looked at my uncles; honest, hard-working men who carried the name of their father with dignity and who owned the values he worked so hard to instill in them. Men who knew what it was like to rise early in the morning to work a long and hard day. Men who refused to complain, and who would not entertain the thought that somehow they ended up with less then they deserved. 
         I thought of my father, who had done the best job he could to instill those values in his own family, in his own sons, and how I owned those values and was doing my best to pass them on to my children.
         I left the visitor's room, and went to see my uncle.
         Lying on the bed was a living skeleton, a shadow of the man he once was, devoid of his hair, skin that was yellow, sunken cheeks, eyes closed. Lying on the bed was a grain of seed, being prepared for the Resurrection. As I approached his bedside, his wife said, "Mijo (my son), your uncle is unable to respond. He hasn't spoken all day, and I don't know if he will hear you or talk back to you. Speak to him like a Rosales, so that he can hear you!" Instantly I remembered the trait of my family, as we all speak loudly, and I smiled. I approached his bed and said  "Uncle Ray, I have come to pray for you". Immediately he mumbled "Pray", and I took him by the hand, and I said "Jesus has gone ahead, and has prepared a place for you. He is waiting for you, and soon, you will be with Him in glory". And I prayed my last prayer for my beloved Uncle Ray. In a few short hours, he went home to be with Jesus. A few days later, on a Sunday afternoon, I preached to around two hundred of my relatives, encouraging them to have what my Uncle Ray had, a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Uncle Ray was now beholding the face of Jesus, and his desire would be that we all would one day do the same.
            Just think. We have a place waiting for us, prepared by Jesus Himself. How I look forward to being there with Him. But until that moment, I have decided to take as many people with me as possible. Today, remember, Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a place for you. Let us not be selfish, let us not go to heaven, alone.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pick Up Your Cross Daily

Is serving the Lord difficult? Some might say that it is not, but often the reason they may say that is because frankly, they really don't serve Him that often. In reality, serving the Lord can be tough to do. I was reading something recently about John G. Paton, who with his young wife left the British Isles and went to the New Hebrides Islands, to a place that had had no missionaries.  Earlier, two missionaries had landed on one of the islands but were killed minutes after they landed, and were eaten by cannibals prompting Paton to write: Thus were the New Hebrides baptized with the blood of martyrs; and Christ thereby told the whole Christian world that He claimed these islands as His own!

Someone wrote: He and his wife arrived on the island of Tanna November 5, 1858, and Mary was pregnant. The baby was born February 12, 1859. "Our island-exile thrilled with joy! But the greatest of sorrows was treading hard upon the heels of that great joy!". Mary had reaped attacks of ague and fever and pneumonia and diarrhea with delirium for two weeks. Paton wrote: "Then in a moment, altogether unexpectedly, she died on March third. To crown my sorrows, and complete my loneliness, the dear baby-boy, whom we had named after her father, Peter Robert Robson, was taken from me after one week's sickness, on the 20th of March. Let those who have ever passed through any similar darkness as of midnight feel for me; as for all others, it would be more than vain to try to paint my sorrows"! He dug the two graves with his own hands and buried them by the house he had built. Once again, he wrote: Stunned by that dreadful loss, in entering upon this field of labor to which the Lord had Himself so evidently led me, my reason seemed for a time almost to give way. The ever-merciful Lord sustained me . . . and that spot became my sacred and much- frequented shrine, during all the following months and years when I labored on for the salvation of the savage Islanders amidst difficulties, dangers, and deaths. . . . But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed to me there, I must have gone mad and died beside the lonely grave!

Ministry can be tough. It must have been unbelievably difficult for him, as after burying his wife and baby he had to sleep on their graves every night lest the cannibals come and dig them up.

Today, people think serving Jesus is difficult because nobody seems to know their names, or never seems to appreciate their time and sacrifice, or even criticizes them when they try to serve the Lord. Still, the Lord calls us to be faithful, and to remember that He is the One who sees, remembers, and yes...even rewards. I think a hymn written by Isaac Watts says it well: Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb? And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak his name? Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease, While others fought to win the prize and sailed thro' bloody seas?

Lord Jesus, I am ashamed to admit I am not as faithful as I could be. Forgive me, and may I serve You with greater love than ever before.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Friend of Sinners

Matt. 9:11-13 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

         I couldn't believe my eyes. I had heard a knock on the door, and had gone to open it. Standing directly in front of me was an old friend, a friend I hadn't seen since I was 15 years old. We had attended elementary school, Junior High, and up to the second year of High School together. We went through our rebellious teens together, and had experimented with drinking and taking drugs together. We lost touch when he was a sophomore in High School, and it had been eight years since I had seen him last. Now, I had been saved for three years, and he was back in my life. Standing right in front of me.
         "How's it goin', man? What's been happening in your life?" he asked. By the way that he spoke to me, I could see that he was under the influence of some drug, or alcohol, or perhaps a combination of both. It turns out he was under the influence of a combination of alcohol and a barbiturates known as seconal, (or reds as we used to call them). "I'm going to walk to the corner, to the Liquor store", he said. "I'm going to buy some beer. Would you like to come with me? We can rap about old times, and you can tell me what's new in your life" he said.
         Immediately I thought about my reputation in the neighborhood. For several years, my neighbors knew me as a pretty wild kid; drinking, taking drugs, and basically just running wild. Since becoming a Christian, I had done my best to erase that memory, and really wanted to keep my new reputation for being a Christian untainted. How could I do that, and be seen walking down the street with an old friend, who was staggering drunk?
         At first I was tempted to just have him walk to the store alone. I thought that I could have him go buy his beer, and then have him come into the house when he was through drinking it. But something inside me prompted me to walk to the store with him. The Spirit clearly was reminded me of how Jesus was called a friend of sinners. I certainly was no better than Jesus, so I did what I felt He would have me to do at that time. I walked with my friend.
         When we returned, I shared the love of Jesus with Him. That day, after a lengthy time of sharing God's word and God's love with him, my friend bowed his head in prayer, and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. As I had the joy of praying with him, I could not help but thank God, because indeed, He still is the friend of sinners.
            Today, you will have many opportunities to minister the gracious love of Jesus to those who are quite obviously sinners and others who hide their sin well. Do not be afraid of loving those who obviously are not aware of the gracious love of God, in Jesus. Why not take the opportunity of introducing this loving Savior to those who have yet to understand God's gracious love towards them. Remember, as Paul said, "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!"