Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Newsletter 2011-12

Winter Newsletter 2011 - 2012

Dear Friends,

It’s almost the end of the year, so I’d better get this out quick!  Before I forget, Debbie and I would like to wish all of you a blessed Christmas and Jesus filled New Year.  He is the reason for any season and is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.  Blessed be His wonderful name!

We’ve been busy since the last time you heard from us by official newsletter.  We arrived in Manila on September 30 and spent about 10 days in Manila before heading down to Legaspi City, our adopted hometown. We found a new house right away, thanks to Alan, our evangelistic team leader, who had been house hunting for us. It took us about a month to get unpacked and have some modifications made to the house, such as cutting holes in walls for air conditioners, which make life more comfortable for us in a tropical climate.

Once we got settled, the next step in our transition process was to reconnect with pastors throughout the Bicol region.  We also believe that God has spoken to us about reevaluating our entire ministry here with the intent of discovering areas that needed improvement.  Dave devised a couple of questionnaires that would accomplish this task and, over the last couple of months, has been travelling throughout the region to various minister’s meetings accomplish all of these goals.  We anticipate completing this process by the end of January.  We have also taken some preaching engagements along the way.

One highlights of our preaching times was Spiritual Emphasis Week at Evangel Bible College.  What a joy to minister on the baptism, the joy, and the historical waves of the Holy Spirit and to see the hunger in the students and faculty.  One lady student began speaking in tongues and was unable to stop for several days! This reminded us of the story of Agnes Ozman, a Bible School student who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit in 1901 in Topeka, Kansas. She spoke Chinese for three days straight and was also unable to speak her native tongue.  The testimony afterwards of our Bible School student was that she drew so much closer to the Lord during the days she could only speak with Him in the language of the Spirit.  Praise His Name.

Another glorious moment for us was a recent celebration service to rejoice in the results of our combined evangelistic outreach and Church Planting School ministry in one church.  The building was packed full of people, mostly children, whom the church was now ministering to in various locations as a result of these ministries.  Four Church Planting School graduates stood up and testified to the grace of God now in operation in their lives and new ministires as a result of their training.  We are rejoicing in the Lord.

One of our areas of research has been these Church Planting Schools that Debbie helped pioneer back in 2007. The goal has been to mobilize lay people to plant house churches.  Our research has confirmed that we now have around 208 house churches and continue to grow at a healthy rate. Added to the 200 or so traditional churches in the region, we now have around 400 churches altogether.  We praise God for each and every one of them, but we also cry out for more.  We need tens of thousands of them to achieve the goal of planting a church within walking distance of every person in our region.

Thank you for the prayers and financial support that make all of this possible. 

As we close the year, we are still about $400 a month short in monthly support.  If you can help us with a monthly pledge or even a one time, end of the year gift, we would deeply appreciate it.  You can give through our website, or send your check to AGWM 1445 Boonville Ave. Springfield MO 65802, marked for acct number 225600 Dave and Debbie Johnson—Philippines.  Thank you so much.

Prayer Points
1. Wisdom from God to understand the challenges facing us.
2. Open ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying.
3. For God to release the financial resources we need to carry on the work.
May the Lord give you His peace and joy and a great anticipation of His coming Kingdom, whatever 2012 brings us.  We so appreciate you all and we close this year with our love,

Dave and Debbie Johnson

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New Facebook Group

Dear Friends,
I just started a new Facebook group for posting my sermons and devotionals in Tagalog for the spiritual benefit and use of any who would like them. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone who would benefit from it.  The link is, then click on "Mga Mensahe sa Wikang Tagalog" and send a request to join.
Thanks for your help,


Friday, October 28, 2011

A Biblical Perspective on the Filipino Celebration of All-Saint's Day

A Biblical Perspective on All-Saint’s Day
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

On November 1, millions of Filipinos, most of them nominal Roman Catholics, will go to the cemeteries to visit the graves of their departed loved ones.  They believe that on this day every year the spirits of the dead return to the gravesite.  In this sense, the dead remain alive in the consciousness of their families and are what anthropologists have aptly called the “living dead.” My purpose here is to offer a biblical perspective on both the conviction that the spirits return to the gravesites and the worldview that fosters this belief.

While at the gravesite, the family will clean the graves, have a family reunion, light candles, and leave offerings for the dead. Some also offer prayers for the dead, presumably to get them out of Purgatory and into Heaven.  The need to clean the graves is obvious and the opportunity for a family reunion is certainly understandable but, in order to understand the need for candles and offerings, we need to probe a little deeper into the Filipino psyche.  After all, few people do things for no reason, so what’s the point?

The point, simply stated, is that Filipinos have a deep awareness and fear of the spirit world.  The Filipino worldview abounds with spirit beings that are either benevolent, malevolent, or both.  Filipinos also believe that these spirits can and must be controlled through candles and offerings.  They believe that if the ancestors are not appeased, they can wreak havoc on the living by causing misfortune.  If, however, the ancestors are happy, they will at least not bother the living and may even bring them a blessing through success in business, a wonderful marriage, or general good luck.  Keeping the ancestors happy, then, is believed to be an important task.

Three important observations can be made here.  First, this is one of many examples that could be given where Catholicism and Filipino traditional religious practices intermix. Second, these traditional religious practices are self centered.  The goal is to get the spirits of the ancestors to either leave the living alone or bring them good luck. In other words, people leave offerings for the dead for the ultimate benefit of the living, not the dead.  Man, then, is the center of the universe, not God or even the spirits. Third, underlying all of this is a deep fear of what the spirits might do if not appeased. It may be that this fear, more than any other motive, is what drives Filipinos to the graveyards every year. 

What does the Bible say about all this?  In a word, plenty!  First, from Genesis to Revelation, God is the focus of the universe.  He stands uncreated and without equal. He alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and He alone rules the universe with his almighty hand.

Second, the Bible affirms the existence of the spirit world, suggesting that the Filipino worldview, which is shared by other cultures in varying forms throughout the world, is much closer to the biblical worldview than is the worldview of those of us from Western nations.  The New Testament and, to a lesser extent, the Old Testament, is replete with examples of spirit beings known as angels, Satan himself, and demons. A critical difference, however, between the biblical and Filipino worldviews, is that in the Filipino mindset, God is not totally in control.  If he were, the ancestors would not need to be appeased.  The Bible, however, shows a God who is in complete control of his creation. While numerous passages could be given, Philippians 2:9-11 will suffice here.  The name of Jesus is superior to every other name.  He outranks all others.  Verse 10 is clear that every knee will bow to him whether they are in heaven, on earth, or under the earth—which could be a reference either to dead people or demons, and all shall acknowledge his lordship.

Not only is God in complete control, his character, love, and trustworthiness, is absolutely consistent.  His is not only able to keep spirit beings from harming humans; he is also willing to do so.  Psalm 91 is an excellent example of God’s willingness to keep those who trust in him from spiritual predators. Therefore, we do not need to fear the ancestors or any other spirit!  Offerings to them are not necessary because, in biblical perspective, they can neither harm nor bless us.  All of the blessings we need come from God and even the adversities in life that God allows have purpose.  This is great news to Filipinos!

But the question must still be answered as to whether the dead can return to earth.  Most Christians would likely say no, but the biblical evidence is not that simple. Hebrews 9:27 does clearly imply that when people die, they are finished with life on earth.  The apostle Paul also hints at this in 2 Corinthians 5:8 when he writes that, for the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  Therefore, we can conclude that, generally speaking, the dead do not return to earth. There are, however, a few striking exceptions. Four examples will suffice.  In 1 Samuel 28, the witch at Endor did succeed in bringing Samuel up from the dead but, in reality, it was God sending him to deliver a message to King Saul.  In the New Testament, Jesus raised many from the dead, the story of Lazarus in John 11:38-44 being only one example.  Jesus did these things and commanded his disciples to do likewise as a declaration that the Kingdom of God had come (Matthew 10:8). Another example was the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13 and Luke 9:28-36) where both Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus to discuss his upcoming crucifixion.  The Transfiguration, which occurred at about the midpoint of Jesus’ ministry, was a watershed.  From that time on, he prepared his disciples for his departure. And obviously, the ultimate return from the dead was Christ’s own resurrection. 

A couple of observations can be made from these examples. First, these events were random.  The dead did not return en masse yearly on a specific date, nor did they do so of their own volition.  Second, in all cases God was in control of what happened.  Third, in each situation the dead returned as a part of God’s purpose, not their own or, as in the case of Saul at Endor, the will of the one who summoned them.

The Bible does affirm the existence of the spirit world and the existence of spirit beings, known as Satan and his demons, who would wish to harm people.  Therefore, the Filipino’s fear of the spirits is understandable.  The good news, however, is that God is in control of the spirit world, and he alone is worthy of our offerings, praise, worship, and adoration.  He alone is trustworthy and can liberate us from all of our fears.       


*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “join this site.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Update

October Update
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to provide you with a quick update on our situation here.

We have nearly completed the moving in process.  It took longer than I had hoped but we had a lot to do to get the house the way we need it, and we have both been sick.  Fortunately, we made the decision not to accept ministry invitations until after we are settled.  This has really helped to keep the stress manageable.  The price for overworking last term, among other things, was depression, burnout, and a year long sabbatical from the ministry to deal with it.  We learned our lesson and do not wish to walk that road again.

The next phase of our transition back into ministry here is to reconnect with friends, colleagues, and the district leadership team, and reestablish our relationships after being in the States for 27 months.  This has already begun.  As we reconnect, we will also be re-evaluating our ministry here to see where we fit and where we don’t.  Since Filipinos have a face-to-face culture, such things are better done in person than by other forms of communication such as email or even telephone.

For example, the Church Planting Schools that Debbie was instrumental in launching four years ago were ably led by the Filipinos themselves while we were gone.  Since our goal is to empower them and see this ministry expand, we want to be very careful about how we get involved.  Getting their input is critical—and we expect this to happen as we reconnect with them.  We will also evaluate the effectiveness of our evangelistic team and make changes as the Lord leads.

Also, over the next couple of weeks, for the first time ever, I will be writing my philosophy of ministry, reflecting both on becoming the man of God that he wants me to become and the work which he has called us to do. I will then write some short and long term goals. I believe that God has spoken to us to be slow, deliberate, and intentional about what we are doing on this time.  We are not at all timid or afraid of the future, just cautious.  We are, in fact, quite excited about what the Lord is doing in our hearts and lives.

I start preaching again on November 6 at an anniversary celebration for a church pastored by our district treasurer.  This is consistent with our goal of reconnecting with the district leadership.  At some point in November I will rejoin the evangelistic team for some of the outreaches. Other events will be scheduled according to the priorities I have listed above, but we will keep light in order to do the writing mentioned.
Prayer Points
1. Please pray for our continued transition.  I’d prefer to let the Holy Spirit guide you regarding the details.
2. Also, we are still about $350.00 a month short in our pledges.  Please pray for this and, if possible, let us hear from you. A pledge form can be downloaded at

Many thanks,


PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “join this site.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Healing Through Pain

Healing Through Pain
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

We argued for four hours.  For months my wife, Debbie, had been saying that we needed counseling, but I disagreed.  Denial is a dangerous word with potentially dire consequences.  We had just returned home from our third term of missionary service in the Philippines and were attending a series of missionary renewal services sponsored by our mission sending agency, the Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). While there, we had been invited to attend a caregiver’s seminar immediately following the meetings.  Thinking it might help us, Debbie wanted to stay.  I did not. The argument was intense. I won the skirmish but, in retrospect, nearly lost the war.

The upshot of the argument was that I finally realized that Debbie was right.  We needed help and began to search for a place to go. Within a couple of months the Lord led us to the Missionary Renewal Asia Pacific (MRAP) ministry, also known as Ministry Resources International, an Assemblies of God missionary care ministry in Kirkland, Washington. AGWM graciously granted us a three month sabbatical, and we packed our bags.  Three months ultimately became a year.  Had we not dealt with the issues when we did, I am convinced that within a short time we would have emotionally crashed and perhaps have been permanently been lost to the ministry.

At MRAP, our counselors, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, began to push and probe into the issues that brought us there.  A physiatrist that works in partnership with them diagnosed me as depressed, and Debbie was dealing with a more moderate case of depression but also had burned out.  Not surprisingly, we had some marriage issues as well. Dealing with these kinds of things, some of which required deep repentance on my part, is like peeling an onion.  The problems we faced, which were far too many to enumerate here, had multiple levels that had to be exposed and dealt with in order to be healed. Like peeling onions, they also provoked a lot of tears, and I experienced more personal pain than I have ever known.  I had to make a choice of facing my pain or running from it.  Facing pain is hard, but it is the path to healing.  God chose to heal me through the pain, not from it.

For me, some of my issues stemmed from my mother, a wonderful Christian lady who suffered from being manic-depressive.  Over the course of 31 years I estimate that she was hospitalized in mental institutions at least fifty times, lasting anywhere from two weeks to ten months at a time.  I had no idea at the time how deeply this affected me.  Somehow my family managed to cope.  Under Spirit led counseling during the sabbatical, however, I discovered that the disruption to our lives caused by her absence bred in me a subconscious sense of abandonment since we never knew if Mom would be there when we needed her.  This fear led to a felt need to control circumstances and people around me—an understandable but unhealthy emotional defense mechanism. For years Debbie and I have known that I have had an anger problem and prayed that God would reveal its source and bring healing.  While it would be far too simplistic to say that my fear of abandonment was the sole cause of my anger, I do believe that the roots of the problem stem from there.  As God has healed my emotions, the level of my anger and my sense of abandonment has been greatly reduced. We’re still praying for the completion of my healing!!

As God brought healing to Debbie and me as individuals, he also began to heal our marriage.  As a Christian, I have hope.  2 Corinthians 5:17 is clear that my past doesn’t have to define my future.  I cannot change what has happened, but I also needn’t be enslaved to the past—especially the things regarding my mom, over which I had no control. As the Holy Spirit, my counselors, and I confronted the issues (so did Debbie, but her story is not mine to tell), God began to heal my inner being.  It didn’t happen overnight, and it still isn’t complete.  After a year of full time counseling, Debbie and I were able to return to missionary service, which in this case meant visiting our supporting churches in the States.  We still maintain regular contact with MRAP and made two return visits.  God has continued to heal us even as we have now just returned to the Philippines.  We still have our disagreements as a couple and are still people in process, but God has brought much healing through our pain.  Glory to his name!! 

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Struggling With Failure

Struggling with Failure
By Debbie Johnson
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

My inability to accomplish all I think I should right now reminds me of these words of Jesus.  “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt 5:48).

One of the most obvious things about Jesus teaching is that He expected His followers to live a righteous life, right in God’s eyes.  His statement commanding us to be perfect or complete came near the end of  the Sermon on the Mount .  Perfection, according to Jesus, included power to avoid saying or doing anything in anger against another person, freedom from looking at anyone with lust, ability to stay in marriage, to keep our word, to turn the cheek at evil, to give to those who want to take from us, to truly love everyone, including our enemies (Matthew 5).  This perfection went way beyond the letter of the Old Testament laws.  In short, being perfect or complete is being like God “who makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45).

During my teenage years I read this chapter and was tempted to give up on being a Christian.  If this is what following Christ is all about, I have no hope,” I thought.  I fell far too short of the glory, the standard, the righteousness of God.  As the apostle Paul said in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But if I had studied this verse in context, it could have helped me then:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. That was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:21-26).

In other words, God’s righteousness is revealed in His mercy and love when He freely rescues people from the consequences of their sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  There is no distinction between those who try to keep all the rules, those who try to keep all the Old Testament laws, and those do not.  We are all sinners, all deserve death under God’s law, but God in His righteousness offers us all life.  God justifies us all, makes us all righteous, when we put all our faith in Jesus, not our good works, for our righteousness.  We don’t deserve to live forever with God.  But it is a free gift.  That is the wonder of the message of Christ.   He, the only righteous person who ever lived, died for us, so that we could be made righteous before God.
Two years ago Dave and I had been back at our missionary itineration for three months when I realized that we were falling apart.  Dave was quite depressed and I was in burnout.  Being full of uncertainty during this dark time, I really wasn’t sure God had too much use for us.  But I forgot something so important.  God made us loved and accepted and forgiven and in right standing with Him, not because of our performance, but because of our faith in what Jesus did for us.  Yes, Dave and I had our struggles to work through, and we stayed at it for a full year. But because of God’s great love, our standing with the Lord never changed.  He cherished us even though we felt we weren’t much good to Him at the time.  He simply loved us.  We were always right with Him, complete and accepted because of the testimony of the blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf.   
It is so easy to look at our own incompleteness or that of others and judge. We see the same struggles in the disciples.  Peter boasted that He would die with Christ and then denied His master before the Romans. The disciples fought over who would be greatest in the kingdom.  James and John wanted to kill people with fire from heaven.
But everything changed in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples.  Peter stood boldly before great crowds and preached about the resurrected Jesus.  We no longer see the apostles fighting and John became the apostle of love.
This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the key that helps me now. Yes, Jesus wants us to be perfect, complete, lacking nothing as He said in Matthew chapter 5.  His vision for His followers is much greater than we have for ourselves.  But He never intended we would do it in our own strength.  Jesus promised us another “Helper,” the Spirit of Truth to be with us forever who would live with us and be in us and teach us and help us to remember all that Jesus taught (John 14:16-17, 28).  The Holy Spirit, the gift of the Father, is the Helper who transforms our lives to be more and more like Jesus’ life.
Where I get caught is when I view the difference between my life what Jesus taught and despair because I know I can’t do it.  On one hand, I forget that I am absolutely loved, accepted, forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice for me and therefore I am right before God, regardless of my performance.  On the other hand, since I know God wants His people to be holy I get frustrated, forgetting that God never meant me to become like Jesus on my own. He gave us the Holy Spirit, our constant Companion and Teacher, to give us the grace to live like Christ.
I know what I need to do.  I need to humble myself, and instead of taxing my own small resources to the limit, I am slowly learning to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance, strength and transformation in my work and the details of my life.  The Holy Spirit works in me by His love and wisdom so that while I am in this sometimes messy process of becoming complete, I remain in perfect right standing before God because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  What amazing grace the Lord offers us every single day!
 The Holy Spirit now is my counselor at the beginning of my tasks and my teacher at the end, the One who never leaves me alone to my own resources. If I will only ask Him, He will help me with people, projects, work and even the things I do to enjoy this life He has given me.
I am His new creation, (2 Corinthians 5:17), and as I continue to cooperate with His guidance, He continues sculpting me into His vision for me--someone beautiful for His glory.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Leaving, Grieving, and Embracing

Leaving, Grieving, and Embracing
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

Saying goodbye again.  It began a couple of weeks ago when we invited a few friends out for lunch.  Other occasions with more friends and relatives followed. Finally, we had a tearful farewell at the airport a couple of hours ago. Goodbyes.  As much as I dislike them, they are a part of life, especially for missionaries. 

I used to be na├»ve enough to think that leaving would get easier as the years passed, but the thought of possibly losing aging parents makes it increasingly difficult.  Leaving means grieving, not only for those who leave but for those who remain.  But the positive side of these emotions is that we have people that we love and that love us. It’s the kind of love that only deepens through the years. 

I’m writing this from a Frontier Airlines flight from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Denver, where we will connect to a flight to Seattle, Debbie’s home area.  We will spend about two weeks with Debbie’s family, going through the same leaving and grieving process all over again before going on to the Philippines to begin our fourth term of missionary service with the Assemblies of God World Missions. With Debbie’s family, the grieving is accentuated by the fact that Debbie’s mom has Alzheimer’s and there is no assurance that she will remember us the next time we come home.  Hard times like these give us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the beautiful relationships we have with family and friends in America.  We cherish all of them and carry the memories with us back to the Philippines. Even while we are overseas these relationships remain a vital part of our lives, and the advent of Internet communications allows us to remain in close touch. 

In our case, leaving and grieving also mean embracing.  First, it means embracing our pain.  We have a choice to acknowledge our pain of loss or deny it and bury it deep inside—an unhealthy but all too common response.  Embracing our pain means understanding that this is simply a part of following Jesus.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had the choice to endure the pain of the crucifixion in following his Father’s will or walk away from it all.  Fortunately for us, he chose to own his pain and take the path of the cross. While our pain is far less dramatic, it is, nevertheless, just as real.  Like Jesus, I have to choose to acknowledge my pain and deal with it, or try to ignore it although, unlike Jesus, I cannot really escape it. Putting these thoughts in writing has helped me deal with my grief in a positive way, and gives you an open window in the soul of a missionary. I also have the assurance that if I will face my pain, He will walk with me through the difficult moments.

Leaving, grieving, and the pain they cause is much easier to endure if there is a purpose.  In our case, leaving family and friends also gives us an opportunity to embrace the future.  We look forward to being reunited with a host of friends and co-workers, missionaries and Filipinos alike, in our beloved adopted country.  We look forward to again engaging the ministries that we left behind when we came home for itineration.  We eagerly anticipate the new doors that God has waiting for us as we continue to walk with Jesus in a land that has increasingly become our own.  Whether at home or abroad, following Jesus can be a great adventure, and we’re looking forward to what God is going to do in our lives. The future is indeed as bright as the promises of God.

Leaving, grieving, and embracing call for engaging a variety of emotions on many levels, and these emotions are real. But so is the opportunity experience God as he walks through the trials of life with us and takes us into the great future that He has planned.          

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflections on a Visit to a 9/11 Memorial

Reflections From a Visit to a 9/11 Memorial
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

What would they have written about me?  Or you?  On the evening of September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, my nephew, Tim, and I visited a memorial of that horrible day at the Cannonsburg Ski Area, just north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, my hometown.  The skiing hill hosted 3,200 American flags, one for every person killed on that disaster.  As we walked among the flags, we noticed that many of them had a card attached, giving the name and bio-data of someone who was killed on that day.  The bio-data also included where they worked, things about which they were passionate, or, if they were young, what they looked forward to in the future.

Those cards reminded me that those who died were real people, with real jobs, real interests, and real dreams.  They were just ordinary people going about life. Lives that were cut short like a movie that breaks in the middle of the plot leaving only a freeze frame of the last scene on the screen.  Theirs were lives that, humanly speaking, were unfinished.  Naturally questions arose in my mind of how a good God could allow such unspeakable horror, an issue that even the Reverend Billy Graham mentioned in his remarks at the memorial service at the National Cathedral just a few days later. He didn’t have the answer, and neither do I.

But the memorial did cause me to stop and ponder the reality that no one knows how long they will live.  We may live a full life, but we may not.  And Hebrews 9:27 is clear that we don’t get a second chance.  What we do have, however, is the opportunity to live today.  From my perspective, the question that must be raised is how should we live? Many would answer this question by saying, like the old beer commercial, “You only go around once in life, go for the gusto.” While I certainly agree that life should be lived to the fullest, the question then, is, for whom do I live or to what goal or purpose? The answer to this question depends on one’s worldview.  If I have only one life to live and no guarantee as to how long that life will be, the thought of living only for me leaves me feeling cold.

I have two choices that I can make everyday.  Will I live for myself or for God?  Will I be hell bent or heaven bound? Will I be selfish or selfless?  Will it be my path or God’s way?  My dreams or his? And if I should suddenly die or be killed, what will others write about me?  Or you?

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 


Friday, September 9, 2011

Daniel in the Palace Part I Overview

Daniel in the Palace Part I Overview
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the first in a series of blogs that will examine the book of Daniel.  At the outset, I am uncertain as to whether I will cover the entire book or only the first six chapters.]

The book of Daniel is rich in history and cannot be understood apart from the cross currents of the events of his day.  Daniel, the statesman-prophet, the author of the book that bears his name, was born circa 622 B.C., in the latter days of the southern kingdom. Palestine lies along the major trade routes of the Middle East.  Not only did merchants travel along these routes, so did kings with their armies—and some that did so deeply affected the children of Israel. 

Not only is the book of Daniel rich in history, it comes in time in which Israel had at least four other writing prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Haggai.  On the broader world scene, Daniel was also a contemporary of three other significant religious figures Confucius, Buddha, and Zoroaster, the Persian religious reformer, although it is not likely that, with the possible exception of Zoroaster, Daniel would have been familiar with them.

The book of Daniel must also be understood within a certain theological framework.  At this point in history, the Old Testament canon was not yet complete.  Daniel was obviously familiar with the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible penned by Moses, the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel and probably I and II Kings, the Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon), and some of the prophets. Isaiah predated Daniel by about a century.  Daniel quotes from the book of Jeremiah and was probably also familiar with Lamentations.  Since Ezekiel was a contemporary who lived among the exiles in Babylon, Daniel would surely have been familiar with his work.  Among the “minor” prophets, he would have known of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk.  Since Nahum may have been written late in the 7th century B.C, he was mostly acquainted with it.  Haggai was a younger contemporary of Daniel’s and his prophecy was recorded during the second year of Darius the Mede’s reign. Since it was recorded in Judah and Daniel, by this time, was an old man, there is a small possibility that he may not have known Haggai’s work, but since there was an obvious free flow of communication between Judah and Babylon, it is more likely that he did know it.  He would not have known the books Esther, I and II Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, Zechariah, Malachi, as these were not written until after his death.  

Seismic shifts also took place in the children of Israel’s religious practices during this time.  By Nebuchadnezzar’s order, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. Sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood were abolished.  Even the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from the pages of history, most likely destroyed along with the temple.  All of these were iconic aspects of Jewish worship.  The beginnings of the synagogue can be traced to the time of the captivity as well as the birth of the Pharisees—the evangelical preachers of the day, who appear to have been a far cry from the Pharisees of Jesus’ day in terms of their attitudes.  A positive result of the Babylonian exile was that the Israelites were forever cured of idol worship.

With this broad overview in place, we now proceed to a review a more detailed historical backdrop of Daniel’s day in the next post.

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

News From Dave and Debbie Johnson

Dave and Debbie Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionaries to the Philippines

News from Dave and Debbie
Fall 2011 Edition

Packing and Parting

Our offices have been in chaos.  Dave’s is worse than usual, if you can believe it.  Why?  It’s that time again as we are preparing for yet another move to the other side of the world.  We’ve already shipped six huge boxes, and we will send another one or two before we leave.   We will leave Grand Rapids in mid September  and spend a couple of weeks with Debbie’s family in the Seattle area. Then, we will continue on to the Philippines near the end of the month.

Our first order of business in Legaspi will be to find a house and reestablish our relationships with our Filipino brothers and sisters. We will also take some time to assess our role the ministries we have left behind and get some direction from the Lord regarding where we fit in.  These ministries have been handled well by Filipino leaders while we have been gone, so we want to approach our reintegration with great sensitivity and appreciation for the great leadership they have given. The evangelistic team continues to be ably led by Pastor Alan Esplana, a Filipino that has been working with Dave for fifteen years. The house church planting program that Debbie and the Filipino district leadership launched in 2007 has grown to fifteen church planting schools and at least 191 house churches!  Praise the Lord! 
While we are excited about being reunited with people we love in the Philippines, we dread leaving friends and family, especially our aging parents, here in America. In times like these, we just have to draw closer to Jesus.

Knee Benders

1.  Please pray for both us and our families as we separate after more than two years at home.
2.  Please pray for our reintegration to life in
the Philippines.
3.  At the time of this writing, we still need $456.32 in monthly support and would appreciate your prayers.  If you can help us please let us know.  A pledge form can be downloaded from our website, Thank you!

Reflections on Itineration

Over fifteen months of itineration, we have visited around 150 churches and met with numerous pastors over lunch or coffee.  Here are a few observations:

1.  We are blessed to be part of such a wonderful fellowship with a deep commitment to missions for which we are grateful.
2.  In 28 years of ministry, I (Dave) have never seen more bi-vocational pastors.  The recession has affected our pastors deeply, but I never heard one complaint. Some have even taken jobs in order to avoid cutting their churches’ missions budget.  This has humbled and touched us deeply.
3.  We share the heartfelt burden of many of our churches that are on a plateau or in decline.  On the other hand, we have seen some great revitalization of churches.  The concept of a strong mother church sponsoring the renewal work seems to work quite well.
4.  We have seen a great increase in the number of churches doing need oriented community evangelism, and we believe that this is a key to the growth in our churches in this generation. We also believe that is one antidote to the marginalization that Christianity has experienced in American culture.
5.  In the last few months we have been in some new church plants in Michigan or met with pioneering pastors over lunch, and we are excited with what we have seen.  In almost every case, the pastor was under forty years old and doing non-traditional things that are working!! I hope those of us “older” folks will make plenty of room for this younger generation to express the creative gifts that God has given them.  They are the future.

Dave’s Blog

God has been doing some refreshing work in Dave’s life as a result of the healing God brought while we were on sabbatical.  One of the results is fresh spiritual insights from a renewed passion for studying the word of God.  He has been sharing many of them through blogging.  He has done a series of blogs on Moses and the gods of Egypt, God and Abraham, the Tower of Babel and, most recently, the Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry in Luke 4:16-30.  His next series will be on understanding the book of Daniel in its historical context, and he is really excited about it.

If you are reading this by email, you are most likely receiving these blogs. You can ensure that you will continue to receive these even if you change email addresses if you will go to and click on “to follow.” If you are not receiving them and want to do so, you should do the same. 

Thank you with all our hearts for all your prayers and support.  We could never do this without you!

In His grace,

Dave and Debbie Johnson

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part VI The Resistance

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part VI The Resistance
(Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[To read the previous blogs in this series, please go to]

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” intoned Jesus in Luke 4:21.  A more provocative statement and audacious claim has never been made and, as Jesus well understood, the proof was in the pudding. As Jesus surely expected, his hearers were not receptive to this statement.  The question is what was it that so deeply irritated them? Was it that he claimed to be the Christ? Was it the way that he handled the passage from Isaiah?

To understand their response we need to remember that Nazareth in Jesus’ day was a hotbed of Jewish nationalism.  They were looking for a Messiah who would lead a revolt against Rome, establish the kingdom of God on earth, and execute justice against their enemies. In their estimation, the son of a local carpenter, whose family they knew well, did not quite fill the bill, but this may not have been the deepest cause of their irritation? Kenneth Bailey (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, 162ff) takes issue with the translation of Luke 4:22, saying that the people bore witness against Jesus, not for him.  While Bailey’s thoughts fit the context well because they did turn against him, his implication that the Bible translators made such an egregious error is a bit difficult to swallow.  But even if they were for him in the beginning, they quickly turned against him.

But what was it that rubbed them the wrong way? In Luke 4:19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:2 about proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, but does not go on to complete the parallelism by stating that the day of God’s vengeance had also come. Bailey is excellent on this point.  Instead of calling for rebellion against Rome, Jesus advocates compassion and mercy and cites the widow of Zarephath and Naaman, who were both foreigners, one of them being a sworn enemy of the Israelites.  He is saying that if they would follow him as the Christ, they would need to love the Romans, not hate the—an announcement that didn’t exactly thrill his audience.  This is one of many examples of how countercultural the gospel message really is. But there is more.

According to Bailey, the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that the Isaiah 61 passage from which Jesus quote promised material blessings to those who were believers.  Jesus turns this expectation on its head in the verses that follow with the stories of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath and Elisha and Naaman. As Bailey notes, both the widow and Naaman responded in faith and that faith, not ancestry, was the key to following the Messiah.  He would not be the Messiah for the Jews alone, but for whosoever believes in him.  To the nationalists sitting before him, these statements were outrageous and blasphemous.  With their anger at a fever pitch, they rioted and tried to throw him over a nearby cliff, but he eluded them.

But the question as to whether Jesus of Nazareth did in fact fulfill the claims of the Isaiah passage remains to be answered.  For this we turn to a story in Matthew 11:1-6.  John the Baptist, by now sitting in a Roman jail for labeling Herod as an adulterer, had some doubts about Jesus and sent some of his disciples to verify if Jesus really was the promised Christ or if they should wait for someone else.  When John’s disciples asked Jesus about his Messianic claims, he replied in vv. 5-6: Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me. Sound familiar? In other words, Jesus was telling John that he had, in both word and deed, fulfilled the claims of the Messiah outlined in Isaiah 61:1-2.             

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning


Yesterday we had our last missionary service at Central Family Worship Center in Coopersville, MI.  We are looking forward to wrapping up itineration once our fundraising is complete.  We still need $448.32 in monthly support and more in cash.  We are praying that all of the pledges will be in by this Wednesday, our formal deadline, even though we can continue raising funds by phone and email after this date. 

Today, I'm planning to pack a couple of large boxes for shipment to the Philippines.  We don't leave Grand Rapids until September 15, but we are trying to avoid waiting until the last minute to get everything done.  The harder we work now, the less we have to do in the last few days before departure.  We will be in the Pacific Northwest (Bellevue, WA, with a few days in British Columbia) before leaving for Manila on September 29.

Talk to you soon!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Dear Friends,
I'm writing from Bloomington, IN, where I have been spending the last few days.  Tonight is our next-to-the last missionary service before wrapping up itineration in Coopersville, MI, this Sunday. Debbie is working in our home office in Grand Rapids to help pave the way for a smooth transition back to the Philippines.
God has been moving and another $115.00 a month has been pledged since I wrote last.  Only $686.32/month to go.  We are confident that God will take care of this.  If you can be a part of this miracle by picking us up for support or increasing your pledge, we would certainly be grateful.  A pledge form can be dowloaded from our website,  It would help if you can act now.
Many thanks,
Dave and Debbie
Assemblies of God Missionaries to the Philippines
PS If you are interested in theology, missions, and spirituality, please check out
For a free chapter of my book, "Led By the Spirit: The History of the American Assemblies of God Missionaries in the Philippines," please visit to read online or download.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Inauguration of Jesus' Ministry Part V: The Year of God's Favor (Luke 4:16-30)

The Inauguration of Jesus’ Ministry Part V: The Year of God’s Favor (Luke 4:16-30)
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the fifth in its series.  To read the first four, please visit]

In this blog, we move to the fourth parallelism that Jesus quoted in Luke 4:19 from Isaiah 61:2, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.  Isaiah’s parallelism, however, does not end there.  He goes on to say “And the day of vengeance of our God.”  That Jesus did not quote this is significant.
The “acceptable” year of the Lord can also be translated as the year of the Lord’s favor.  This phrase was understood by the Jews as a reference to the Year of Jubilee, which was set in place by God through Moses in Leviticus 25 and was to be held once every fifty years.  Consistent with the theme of liberation that runs through the passage we are considering, the year of Jubilee called for rest, relief and release that had both economic and social implications. There were four requirements:

1. The land was to lie fallow for one year, giving the land a Sabbath rest. (Leviticus 25:11-12)
2.  All debts were cancelled (Leviticus 25:31, 40-41, 54)
3.  Any Israelite who had become an indentured servant to another Israelite was freed (Leviticus 25:40-41).
4.  Ancestral lands that had been sold were returned to the original owner, serving as a reminder that the land was ultimately God’s (Leviticus 25:27-28) (m/gospel-jubilee-luke-4-19-bible-commentary-for-the-new-baptist-covenant-cms, accessed 15 August 2011.)

Practicing this would bring two positive results.  One, poverty would be greatly alleviated, if not eliminated altogether as no family would lose their most valuable asset—their land.  Two, all Israelites would live on approximately the same economic level, with no one having the economic leverage to oppress others.  Like the other commands that God had given to the children of Israel, the Year of Jubilee had been forgotten or ignored over the years.  Jesus’ statement in Luke 4:21 that this passage was being fulfilled strongly suggests that he was unilaterally instigating a Year of Jubilee as he spoke.

But what kind of Jubilee would it be?  Jesus’ hearers certainly would have expected it to be a Jubilee much like the ones in the past of which they had heard.  In order to enact a Jubilee, they would first have to get rid of the Romans and establish their government. That Jesus never lifted even a finger against Rome’s rule suggests he had another kind of Jubilee in mind. 

The Jubilee Jesus had in mind involved the cancellation of sin’s penalty and power.  Mankind would indeed be released from slavery—the slavery to sin.  At the Cross, as the old hymn goes, “mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me.”  By finishing the reading of the text here, he was emphasizing what the focus of his ministry would be.  But there is a deeper reason why he did not finish the parallelism.

In I Peter 1:9-12, we learn that while the Old Testament prophets did understand part of their prophecies, they did not know the time or manner in which they would be fulfilled.  This is especially true in regards to Messianic prophecies where the prophet could not tell the difference between the first coming of Christ and his second advent and would often mix the two in one prophecy. They saw the two advents of Christ like mountain peaks.  From a distance the peaks appeared to be right next to each other.  From the prophet’s vantage point, they could not see that there was a wide valley in between them.

The implications of this for all of Jesus’ followers in our generation should be abundantly clear.  We are still living in the Jubilee, the time of God’s favor.  Now is the season or day of salvation.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts in taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.  What we must do, we must do quickly, because judgment is coming. When Christ returns he will come as King of Kings and Judge over all the earth. Just as sure as he can the first time, he shall remain.

The fact that Jesus did not include the last part of this parallelism was undoubtedly part of what irked his listeners.  Ardent nationalists that they were, they longed for the Messiah to come and throw off Rome’s oppressive rule. But this part of the story, as well as a summation of Jesus’ claim to be the expected Messiah, are still ahead of us. 

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

PLEASE NOTE: Permission is hereby given to forward, print, and post this blog as long as it is done as a complete blog, and its authorship is acknowledged. Thank you for your cooperation.  For automatic notification of future blogs please visit and click on “follow.”

Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson