Trusting God in the Pandemic

I Timothy 1:7…For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

May I share my view on the corona virus situation?

My walk with God has always been defined by trust. I have trusted Him through some incredibly hard times. The loss of three of our children through miscarriage, a doctor telling us our youngest son had a tumor on his eye that was probably cancerous when he was less than six months old.  Another doctor pulling me away from my children to tell me there was a great risk that my wife would not live through an emergency surgery.  And there were the financial hardships, medical issues of my own, and the loss of great friends through death or desertion. 

Through all of this I have trusted Him. 

I am concerned for the church at this time. I know as a pastor that it only takes three missed services for a church member to never return. I know that when folks miss church they keep God’s tithe for that week for themselves. And so I know that the current restrictions on gathering in large groups, (and now as small as 10) will do great harm to many churches, missionaries and ministries. 

I’ve been getting messages from friends in ministry. One is a church planter who only has 60% of his support raised, and depends on a part time job for the rest of his income. He needs prayer that he will be able to pay his bills, because the current restrictions mean he cannot work his other job. But he’s going to have more problems when this situation is over. So will I. And so will many of my friends in full time ministry.

When this is over (and this too shall pass) we may be facing a dire situation for Gospel ministries. Many church members will not give while they cannot attend church. Many (most?) churches have little to no reserve. Pastors  will loose salaries, missionaries and ministries will have to cut back severely. All because Christians don’t trust God.

If you are the redeemed of the Lord you have no reason to panic, hoard, or isolate yourself from your church. The government may tell you you cannot assemble (though I question the Constitutionality of an order like that) but your government cannot tell you to loose faith.

God is still in control of ALL events. He is not surprised by this “pandemic.” And He absolutely still has your well being as a priority.

Matthew 6:24-33…No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

And

Psalm 37:23-26…

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:

and he delighteth in his way.

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:

for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

I have been young, and now am old;

yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken,

nor his seed begging bread.

He is ever merciful, and lendeth;

and his seed is blessed.

I just finished preaching at a 5 day faith promise missions conference. This Sunday Morning we had 44 in the service. Wednesday through Saturday we barely broke 20 in attendance. Yet this church trusted God and gave nearly $4,000 to be split among the three missionaries present. They also promised over $1,000 per month for the next year to go to missions. This is money they don’t have. Faith Promise is asking God to give you the money so you can give the money to missions. They did it last year for the first time and ended the year with thousands over an above what they believed God for. Can God set us a table in the wilderness? Yes He can.

You can trust God through this crisis. You can actually thrive through this.

Determine today that this “crisis” will not stop you from loving people, serving your Lord, and giving to propagate the Gospel. Love when people are unloveable. Serve when fear wants to overwhelm you. Give when you aren’t sure you can make it if you do. Do all of this prayerfully and watch God work in mighty ways. “But what if it doesn’t work?” it won’t if you keep asking that. God has determined that the level of our blessings is directly tied to our use of the faith He has given us. As an old preacher once said to a young preacher, “You don’t need more faith, you need to learn how to use the faith God has already given you!”

Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry. 

Just Trust Him.

DAVE MASON

Patience, Part 2

In June of last year, I posted the last original post on this blog. I say original because it was not just a copy and paste of our monthly prayer letter. I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting those too, and I need to get back to that habit. Pray with me I do.

The post from last year I am referencing can be found here: https://fieldnotesjax.com/2019/06/

It was about patience, and a little incident I experienced that, frankly, I forgot all about until I re-read the post this morning.  I re-read it because I want to write yet another piece on patience. It’s a topic very close to my heart. Especially when I recount the history of our building project.

In September of 2017 I announced the building project at our 65th ministry anniversary banquet. Over the course of 2018 we saw God bring in the money, in drips and drabs, and occasionally in floods of generosity. By September of 2018 we were very close to our funding goal and ready to start. Then Hurricane Florence hit and every contractor in the area was swamped with work, we could not find one able to take on the project. By January of last year we were ready again. We hit our funding goal and went through City Council and Zoning board meetings, got our approvals and by February had found a contractor. I jubilantly began proclaiming ‘We will be under roof by Easter!’ and then, ‘By Independence Day!’ and again, “We will be completed before Thanksgiving!’ None of that happened.

At every turn, there were delays. There was a large increase in the funds needed. After all, our estimate was done in 2017. City regulations again threatened to stop us. Sidewalks to nowhere, a single parking space that will cost $5k, and still the possible need for a handicapped lift (That will cost in excess of $10,000- possibly much more) hangs over the project.

Along the way the Lord has sent us great helps. The Jacksonville City Manager has been especially helpful, sponsoring legislation to change the city’s sidewalk rules that would ultimately exempt us from moving a retaining wall and pouring a sidewalk that would cost an additional $12K to build. I have several groups volunteering to come help with finishing the inside of the new addition. I am acting as the contractor for sheetrock, insulation, painting, flooring and trim work (for those of you who don’t know, I grew up the son of a painter and carpenter, I have a lot of experience in these trades). The Marines and Sailors we minister to are incredible encouragements. They are so excited to see this happen.

But it hadn’t happened yet.

Until today.

Last night at 9:05 I received a text from our contractor telling me that the concrete guys would be at the center this morning to start the foundation work. I arrived at the Center 12 hours later to this:

After 2 ½ years of praying and anticipating, setbacks and shortfalls, God is fulfilling a promise he made to me back in 2017. I just finished reading Genesis in my daily Bible reading. The story of Abraham rang true as I compared his journey to mine. Though my promise from God was not as expansive or history making, it was important to me. Abrahams journey helped me in these last few days before the promise became real.

In Genesis 16 Sarah is tired of waiting and gives Abraham her maid to have a child by. Ishmael, the father of all Arabic races was the result and to this day we are dealing with the family feud between the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac. I am reminded not to presume the will of God, but to wait when He sees fit to delay in our estimation.

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 

Remember that Jesus waited about 36 years to accomplish 3 ½ years of ministry.

Paul had to go to the desert for 3 years to be trained by God for the Gospel ministry even though he was already a learned teacher of the Law.

Hebrews 6:10-15… For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.  And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:  That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.  And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 

One of my favorite sayings, which I use at The Center during Bible studies, and in public when waiting in line at stores is “Patience is Power.” Read my previous post for my explanation of that.

Waiting is hard, but it is worth it. Right in the middle of Peter’s admonitions of how to grow and what to do is patience…

II Peter 1:5-8…And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;  And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;  And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Patience, my friend, patience.

Blessings & Opportunities

Introducing Abraham!

It is our joy to announce the birth of our first Grandson, Abraham Maverick Mason! Abraham officially entered this world on June 20 at 8:59 pm. He weighed 8lbs, 3oz and is already 20.5” tall. Luke and Callie are proud parents of course and adjusting well to their new family dynamic. Luke continues to work part time at the Center helping me with web traffic, planning and filling in when Patty and I must be on the road. Luke will have another big announcement soon. Be on the lookout for it!

Return of a Servant

Jonathan Gagel, a Navy Corpsmen that I met while he was in FMTB School at Camp Johnson over 2 years ago returned to Jacksonville this month after his first assignment in Chicago ended. He is now assigned with a battalion on Camp Lejeune.  Jon, his wife and child are settling in, have started back attending the Center and wasted no time in showing their servants hearts. As I write this letter he is pulling weeds from the back of our property. He texts me a couple times a week and asks for tasks he can volunteer for to help Military Evangelism in any way he can. When Jon was last here we were averaging about 6 in attendance at our Friday night meetings. He is overwhelmed by the growth the Lord has given us and he and his wife have quickly made new friends among our fellowship.

Patiently Waiting

The Building Project is… progressing… slowly! We have a contractor, and he has sent out sub-contractors for HVAC and Electrical to write up estimates. We are waiting for the final price and start date. Praise God we are not fretting about the cost (yet!) since our supporters (like you) graciously gave $84,000 over the last two years. That money is just itching to be spent so we can have our expanded center ready. Pray we can complete the project in time for our Thanksgiving Dinner this Fall.

Another Salvation!

One of our regulars told me recently he was talking with another Marine after Chapel on Camp Geiger and had the opportunity to lead him to saving faith in Christ! He said he shared the Romans Road (which I taught on in our studies just a few months ago) and shared some pertinent facts about Biblical trustworthiness and the Marine was convinced the Bible could be trusted, and then trusted Christ! This makes two salvations in as many months as our Marines take what they are learning at The Center and share their faith with others!

Call for Help

Recently I received an email from a Chaplain in Norway. It seems one of our regulars left one of our invite cards in the barracks and the Chaplain found the card. He contacted me looking for help, and I want to share his request with you.

The PX in Norway is not well stocked and few of the Marines in his battalion (1/8) are getting care packages from home. He is asking for help to provide these young men and women with some necessities and some luxuries as they are so far away from home.  Here is his list of items they need:

Beef sticks
Chips (little bags)
Various packages of nuts
Trail mix (little bags)
Cookies (little packages)
Cheese crackers
Peanut butter crackers
Toothbrushes
Toothpaste
Little bottles of hand sanitizer

If you can help and want to send along a care package just send it to our P.O. Box. Or you can make a donation and mark it “Deployment Boxes” and we will fill the boxes. We will also be adding a New Testament and Gospel literature to each package.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED FINANCIAL AND PRAYER SUPPORT OF MILITARY EVANGELISM.

Patience

This morning I got to do the one thing we all love to do. Visit the tax office to settle a dispute. Not a dispute really, just to let them know we are a non-profit and as such are not liable for the property tax bill the ministry just received for a vehicle recently purchased. 

As I entered the building I made a serious tactical error if I wanted to get out of there quickly. I held the door for a little old lady, followed her onto the elevator and let her exit first. I was supposed to meet Patty at 11:45 for lunch and had this timed just right. 

One clerk available. And a little old lady with a much more complicated situation than mine. The available clerk, and several who were tied up all apologized several times for my wait. The little old lady apologized. I just made my standard statement when in such situations. “Patience is a virtue, and virtue, in Greek, meant power. So patience is power!”

Mark 5:30…And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

Luke 6:19…And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

The word virtue in both verses (and in Luke 8:46) is the Greek “Dunamis” and is translated 77 times in the Bible as “Power.” Its a word that we get english words like “Dynamo” and “Dynamite” from.

So if the old proverb is to be believed, Patience is Power. The phrase “Patience is a virtue” is not from the Bible. It probably dates back to the Canterbury Tales, or further back to a poem called “Piers Plowman”, but it has gained traction as a saying. And as the meaning of words changes in English, (“Let” used to mean stop something, now it means the opposite) so the meaning of this proverb can be thought of as fluid.

I’ve appropriated the proverb and gave it my spin from the Greek New Testament, because it rings true to me. Patience is power. I could have gotten upset, fumed a bit, let my anger well up at the AUDACITY of this little old lady stealing precious minutes from me I could be spending with my wife. Or I could practice patience.

James 1:2-4…My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

2 Peter 1:5-8…And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Patience matures us (perfect work). Power is the first thing we are told to add to our faith. From power comes knowledge and temperance (self control). These lead us to patience which bears the fruit of godliness, kindness and love.

I’ve learned through 22 years of ministry to be patient. The last 3 as a Missionary especially. It took 15 months to raise the funds for our building fund, 80% coming in the last two months of the fund drive. My goal was to be under roof to feed Thanksgiving last November. Then to be breaking ground in March and done by June 1. It’s June 4. The HVAC Mechanic just visited to day to measure and work up an estimate. We may break ground by September. We may not. And along the way there will be many more setbacks, delays and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. 

But patience is power. The power to trust God. The power to bring even more to Him in prayer. The power to act like a grown up and wait my turn. 

By the way, I left the Tax office at 11:46, one minute after I was to meet Patty. I left my phone at home and she was going to return it at lunch, so I couldn’t call her to tell her I’d be about 20 minutes late. She got to practice patience and experience its power too.

Practice patience today.

THE 300

Thank you for your support, financially but especially prayerfully. Through your faithful partnership we have cleared all but one hurdle to making our building expansion a reality. Approval from the City has happened, blueprints are finished and submitted, and we have paid our plan fee and submitted blueprints to the city. Praise God that a building contractor has our blueprints and is working on his estimate at this time. PRAY that his estimate is within our budget and that we can begin building very soon. My great desire is to have the construction done and in use before Thanksgiving. Having that extra space will make it feel like a home away from home for those we feed at the holidays.

Setting the Table for the Seder

On Good Friday, this year I again presented my “Christ in The Passover” Seder dinner. We set out a full Seder plate and taught how Jesus used the third loaf of bread on the table, which is pierced, striped, broken, wrapped in a linen cloth, buried, ransomed and redeemed at the Passover table. And then He had the Disciples drink from the Third Cup, which is the Cup of Redemption. Everyone, even those who were here for last years, said they learned a lot and came away with a greater appreciation for the importance of The Lord’s Table.

Two of our regulars, Kevin and Kimberly, came back this month after Kevin’s extended cold weather training out west. We are thrilled to have their fellowship again. April also saw an influx of new Marines, as Ethan, Michael, Dylan and Kazeto visited and have become regulars at The Center.

We would ask that you Pray for our Deployed Marines: Bryan, Ryan, Michael, Oscar, Jayson, Greg, and Nic are overseas serving our nation for the next half-year. We can’t wait for them to return, but in the meantime, keep them in prayer that God would keep them close to Him and that they would remain safe and faithful.

It was great having Janice visit Faith Bible with us!

At the end of the month we returned to Faith Bible Church in Elkridge, MD. Faith was one of the first churches we visited when we took on this ministry 3 years ago. One of our Marines at The Center, Janice, was on special assignment at Walter Reed Hospital that weekend and she was able to join us. She gave a great testimony of God’s work in her life through The Center. It was great to see old friends and to meet their new Pastor, Dr. Sung Cho. We had a great time of fellowship and thank God for their Partnership.

If you follow us on Facebook, then you already know about “The 300.” It is our fundraising campaign to eliminate our monthly budget deficit. If you already support us we ask for nothing more, just your prayers that God would raise up an additional 300 supporters at $10 or $20 per month. At $10 we can operate in the black month to month. At $20 we could hire a full time Assistant Director (We already have a great part time A.D. in Luke, and he is more than willing to come onboard full time) With a full-time Assistant, we could add more Meal and Bible Study times throughout the week, reaching more Marines and Sailors. Basically, we could run TWO Centers in the same building, effectively doubling our outreach. But first, let’s get our budget fully funded, then, as God permits, we will expand and help even more of our Troops Find and Follow Jesus Christ.

If you know anyone who you think would like to partner with us and become one of The 300, please direct them to our Facebook or webpage.

Milestones, Deployments and Zoning Hearings

March came in like a lion and looks to go out like a bigger lion @MFCJAX! We had many personal landmarks in March, including our 26th Wedding Anniversary, Luke’s 24th Birthday and Luke and Callie’s first Wedding Anniversary. We are also preparing for the Birth of Abraham, our first grandson in June of this year.

At the Center we also experienced several landmarks. Brian, Ryan, Michael, Jayson and Oscar left on deployments to Japan, Norway, Spain, and the Middle East. Ezekiel finished his time with the Corps and went home to Colorado (He plans to enroll in Bible College this fall). Wesley got married and brought his bride Ashton home to Jacksonville to begin their life together. Micah and Paul left for Arizona for few months of training. Throughout it all though, God keeps sending us new Marines. Hardly a week passes that we don’t have a new visitor to the Center.

Giving Ezekiel his Challenge Coin from The Center

On March 3 we were blessed to visit and preach at our home church, New Life Baptist in White Marsh MD. The next week a missions group from Word of Life Chapel in Bainbridge, PA came to the Center and installed new doors, edged our lawns, and fixed and cleaned up one of our storage sheds. They were a great blessing. Thank you Word of Life! After that we traveled to Calvary Baptist in Denton, MD where Pastor Don Reynolds was hosting a pastors conference and he allowed us to present our ministry.

The work crew from Word of Life

There were two important meetings with the City of Jacksonville this month regarding our building project. First the city planning and zoning board met and voted unanimously to forward our application for rezoning to the city council. The next week the city council voted unanimously to allow the rezoning and building permits so we can move forward with the project. We have one contractor seriously looking at the project and hope to have a firm yes from him in the next few weeks. Please pray that next month I can write and give you a start date for the building expansion.

On the last day of the month we had the awesome privilege of baptizing one of our own. Jayson came to Christ just a few weeks ago after coming to the Center for over 6 months. He is deploying soon and wanted to be baptized before he deployed. We baptized at the church he is attending, Brookwood Baptist in Jacksonville. Thank you to Pastor Ryan Hearn and the congregation for allowing me to be the one to baptize Jayson.

Baptizing Jayson at Brookwood Baptist

Here is a sneak peek at our next project. We are currently operating on only 70% of the support we need on a monthly basis. We are putting out the call for new supporters. 300 new supporters. Back in the 70’s our deputation director Dr. Donald Dibble started “The 100 Club” – looking for 100 people to give $10 per month. Recently we were contacted by one of the original “100” and told of what a blessing it was to be part of the ministry. So we are relaunching this program for a new century. Just as 300 Spartans held off the Persian Army ( a battle every Marine studies) and like the 300 brave souls God left Gideon, we are looking for 300 soldiers for Christ to commit to supporting Military Evangelism at $10 or $20 per month. Thats $120 or $240 per year. Will you be one of the 300?

Challenges, Opportunities & Blessings

Everyone at the Center wants to thank you for your prayer and partnership as we meet the challenges in the new year, especially our building project. I have been in contact with many contractors but still have not found one who can take on our project. Please continue to pray that God would send us a North Carolina licensed General Contractor who has the time in his schedule to take on our project.

We recently re-launched our podcast “Field Notes with Dave Mason” which is available on iTunes, Stitcher and SoundCloud. This third season of the Podcast (which started with Episode 44) features a new and exciting format. Each week I am recording our Bible Studies held at the Center, along with the questions and answer session that follows. Now you can sit in with our Marines and Sailors as we study the Bible and discuss the lessons together.

Recently, Micah, one of our regular female Marine attendees, started a women’s Bible Study at a local coffee shop under the supervision of Patty. They meet for just an hour each Monday night, taking turns leading the study and fellowshipping. It has already grown to 14 participants.

At the end of the February we hosted the North and South Carolina Baptist Bible Fellowship Pastor’s Conference at the Center. About 25 pastors attended. Pastor Josh Newton, who sits on our Board of Directors, and I preached, our Assistant Director Luke Mason introduced our ministry, my youngest son Ben led worship and one of our Center Marines, Micah, sang a special song. Another of our Marines, Mason Montoya also gave a testimony. Speaking of Mason, I was honored to stand with Mason’s pastor, Ryan Hearn of Brookwood Baptist here in Jacksonville, and pin his chevrons on as he was promoted to Corporal.

During one of our regular Friday night meetings, a visiting Marine spoke up after the Bible Study and wanted to share a verse of scripture his Gunny had given him that day. The Scripture was John 3:16 and he read it like we all would having first discovered it. This young man is searching and I believe will soon find the free gift of salvation in Christ. Later that night (around 11:00 pm) many of our Marines were gathered in worship, playing guitars and singing in our Rec Hall. Another Marine asked if he could speak to me. God was gracious to allow me to lead him to a saving knowledge of Christ that night. As for the time, you read that right. Our Marines are staying at the Center till nearly midnight (sometimes after) each week. They don’t want to leave. It just shows me that God has brought about my prayer that we would truly be a “home away from home” for these Marines.

Keep Praying for us, God is just getting started!

Dave Mason