About Those Potato Chips

The food that potato chips bought.

This time of year, we take part in a fast. It’s always a very meaningful time where we push back and set our minds on our relationship with the Lord and what He has planned for us in the coming year. It’s kind of a reset button that helps us keep our ears and hearts open to God’s voice. No one enjoys the physical process of fasting, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

At home, we’ve always encouraged (never forced of course) our young children to give up, or fast, certain activities (TV and other forms of media for example) or unnecessary snacks for a period of time. Our youngest is an avid potato chip fan – she knows most of what’s available here and panics when the chip stash runs low. This year, she has laid down the chips and has somehow enjoyed the sacrifice. Of course it’s not a full chip fast but it’s precious nonetheless!

One of the often overlooked parts of fasting has to do with what to do with the money we’ve saved with far less grocery shopping. Do we save it or buy something that we’ve wanted but haven’t been able to afford? Do we pay down bills or put it into savings?

While saving money feels good, there is another powerful element of fasting that has far-reaching potential:

Isaiah 58:6-9 NKJV

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily,

And your righteousness shall go before you;

The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Today the three of us piled into our little car and drove to the store and purchased food and soap that we will distribute among some of the poor in Blantyre where we live. This is actually something our daughter thought of last year after seeing how poor many are in our city. What we purchased today will be bundled into care packages that we will begin distributing this week and she will be front and center putting the packages together. Her joy is palpable and contagious!

Yes, we are aware that this little bit of help will most likely do very little in the larger scope of things to address poverty – but simply because it isn’t enough doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Who knows? This little bit of help might just be the glimmer of hope someone needs to see to light their way in the dark. Obedience in the Kingdom of God goes a long way and translates into miracles.

About the potato chips? That sacrifice will go a long way.

A Lifeline

lifebelt-1458596_1920

“I’ll get even!”

As children, especially those of us who grew up with siblings, getting even was to be expected. Whenever one of my siblings got the best of me, they knew that eventually I would find them and return the favor. I am not sure which one of us was the best at “getting back” at the other, or who was best at the “getting,” as we all knew the other was considered fair game, getting even was to be expected.

“You started it so you deserved it.”

Later on in life I came to understand that I deserved judgment, but God offered me grace which I eagerly accepted and I am so thankful that I did! The truth of the matter is that we all deserve judgment apart from the grace and mercy of God. We who have come to know Jesus live under one spiritual roof in God’s Kingdom and there’s none among us who has been able to earn what we have been given. Yet, I find it strange that for all we have: forgiveness, mercy, grace, love, and more, we carefully measure out our approval to those who have yet to enter the Kingdom. For some reason it seems we feel the less-than-palatable characters of this world “deserve” less than we do because they are so ungodly and when they meet an untimely demise, or tragedy comes to their part of the world, there’s a sense of “they deserved it” that floats around in our circles. How this must hurt not only the heart of our Father, but also hurt those reaching out in those unseemly places.

Ezekiel 33:10-16 TLB vs. 11 “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; I desire that the wicked turn from his evil ways and live…”

Souls are priceless, even those we find to be uncomely, they matter to the Lord and they should matter to us. The call to pray for and go to the nations (see Matt. 9:38 and Luke 15) remains unchanged in spite of this world’s present situation. There are no clauses in those scriptures that excludes us in this present age of reaching out to people, both near and far, whose lives are foreign to us. Once upon a time, and not very long ago either, such were some of us (see 1 Cor. 6:10,11) and we needed someone to extend us a lifeline.

It’s their turn now, they don’t deserve it, but neither did we.

___________________________________

Stay Focused

hand-1248053_1920

My husband Jamie is once again keeping it real in today’s entry – let’s stay focused this year.

____________________________________________

The other day in my daily reading of the Word I read John 20:21 NLT “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”  As I read this verse, I sensed the Holy Spirit impress upon me these words: “Peace is found in fulfilling our purpose.”  What is our purpose? To simply exist and try to be “good” until the day we die? Our purpose is to be “sent.”  Sent to do what?  To win souls and make disciples of all nations.

Matthew 28:19 NKJV “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, many people, including Christians, are involved in many activities, even “Christian activities” that don’t have their purpose at the center of what they are doing.  The result of this leaves them unfulfilled and because of this, they are frustrated and lack peace.  The answer to overcoming their frustration and lack of peace is to simply re-focus and get back to the main thing being the main thing: being sent to win souls and make disciples.  Once they do that they will find true fulfillment and peace because peace is found in fulfilling our purpose.

Jamie Peters

 

 

A Special Reason

PIC_0172

Our work in Africa has required us to file many official documents for the purpose of registering the work legally in the countries we are serving. Each country has it’s own specific procedures in place for those wanting to pursue registration; we have gone through this process successfully in several countries on the continent of Africa (Burundi, DRC, Zambia, and Malawi) and have had to study each nation’s process before making application. In 2005 when we first filed for registration of the work in Malawi, we submitted our application at an office called the “Registrar of Societies.” From there, the file entered the system  and we waited for its approval, which took less than 6 months. At the time of our filing, there was no congregation, no building, no outreach – all we had was faith to sustain us. Now, nearly 12 years later, we have 5 churches in Malawi alone not to mention the other community outreaches that are ongoing.

Today, as I ponder what God has done over the years in this country alone, I struggle to find words to describe what’s going on in my heart. What made God choose us? We are an extremely ordinary couple with nothing extraordinary that would “qualify” us for something like we have seen take place over the years.

It may be that being extremely ordinary we found our journey to the extraordinary.

1 Chronicles 14:2a TLB “David now realized why the Lord had made him king and why he had made his kingdom so great…”

David who was King of Israel at the time that this scripture is referring to, came from an ordinary family. He was, perhaps, the most ordinary in the family as he was a shepherd. His work was to care for the family’s livestock. When the time came for a new king to be chosen for the nation (see 1 Sam. 16:1-13) David was out in the fields watching over the flocks for his father (vs. 12). No one expected someone so painfully ordinary to be considered for the extraordinary job of leading the nation. Yet, it was David, the ordinary one, who was chosen over all his brothers.

In choosing David over anyone else, God demonstrated that what He sees as qualifications required to serve Him far outweigh anything found in this world’s definition of success: a job with a large salary and benefits, a large bank account, land, education, presitge, honor in society, to name a few. God saw something in David that none of this world’s experiences could provide: someone whose eyes were open to others.

1 Chronicles 14:2b TLB “…it was for a speacial reason – to give joy to God’s people!”

David’s interest throughout most of his reign as King of Israel was focused on leading God’s people well; his interests came behind those of the people he was ruling. Whenever he veered from this, he experienced chaos. Thankfully, he learned this lesson quickly and the nation grew strong and prospered under his rule.

The moment any of us think outside of the realm of ourselves, we will quickly find the extraordinary taking place in our lives. This doesn’t mean we will live lives without test and trial. On the contrary, I have often felt as if we have bounced from trial to trial with not much time to breathe between the opposition that comes for the souls of men and women. What I have seen in the trial is miracle after miracle – miracles of provision, protection, and peace.

Jesus Himself chose to be born to an ordinary earthly family and had an ordinary profession as a carpenter and rose to see the extraordinary happen. With no formal training, He served His generation faithfully and lowered Himself so that others might experience joy. The result of His sacrifice for others carries on to our generation and now the challenge to us is: can we live for that same special reason, the joy of others?

The Keeper

bird-feather-2505306_1920

 

History was written on His face – not old – but ancient,

The lines told a tale older than time,

He was the Keeper.

 

Entering the room, lined with shelves that were stacked with volumes of books,

His calloused and beautiful hands gently caressed the bindings of those stories,

Eyes passing gently over each one, He knew them in detail.

He then stopped and I heard Him say, “Now, it’s time for you.”

Reaching a hand into a pocket on the front of His coat right next to His heart

He took out a book and in it

Was the story of me.

 

Pulling out a chair, He sat down

And rested this poorly written piece on a table and then opened to chapter one.

His attention was fixed on the pages as He started to turn

The book was worn and old, pages stained and sad.

“Who will read such a sad tale?” I called from the back of the room

“No one has wanted it, no one has cared.”

 

“I’m reading,” said the Keeper, “Come, let’s read together,

Take time to see what your book says.”

I sat with Him and we flipped through the pages one by one,

I felt ashamed He would read the words that were written there.

His tears began to flow freely and fell on the pages as we read –

But a smile crossed His face each time

My name was written there.

 

The print was faded, the letters had smeared

But He understood each word.

Lifting His head, His tears mingling with His smile,

The same beautiful hand that had touched

Those wonderfully written books on the shelf

Reached to wipe from my face

Tears from the hurts of lost time.

 

As the pages came to an end, there was no happy ending

No fairy tale magic or magic rescue,

There was only sadness and loss.

I dared to turn toward Him and asked,

“Why take all this time for me?

There’s no way to rewrite history!”

 

Eyes that read far deeper than times past

Reached into the darkness of my story and saw beyond my pain,

He drew me to His words as He spoke and said,

“But you are wrong dear one,” His voice as gentle as the morning sun,

“I am the Keeper and I’ve kept something for you.”

 

He then opened a drawer in his table and pulled from there

A new pen and inkwell –

And began again at chapter one.

On those pages of my book He wrote words fresh and new

The volume came to life on pages written in my heart.

 

Dipping His pen in red ink each time He wrote a phrase

The blood of the Keeper’s Son would never fade!

And as He wrote, He said “Without doubt,

I am the Author and I’m changing your story

I have a new plot in mind.

Won’t you stay here with Me a while?”

 

The stained pages blew away with one stroke of the pen

And when He was done I said,

“How wonderful! Will my story be together

With all those marvelous books on Your shelf?”

 

“No, My child,” said the Keeper, “This story is special – I will keep it with Me.”

And He returned the book to the front pocket in His coat

Close to His heart and said,

“Yours is My favorite to read,

Won’t you let it stay with Me?”

 

In the volumes of Your book, it is written of me.

 

Psalm 40:7,8

Hebrews 10:5-7

 

6 February 2013

 

 

 

 

What About Lystra?

Stepping off the plane for the first time in Burundi, I seriously wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. I stood with my husband and children on the airport tarmac after our plane landed. It was warm, the sun was hot, and there was no one waiting for us. There was no air conditioning in the airport terminal, I remember being thankful for the breeze that blew through the baggage collection area. With my left hand, I held tightly to my 5 year old son’s little hand and balanced my 1 1/2 year old daughter on my right hip. We were all tired of living out of suitcases; we had spent nearly a year in France studying French prior to our arrival that day in Burundi. From France, we flew to Nairobi, Kenya and, after a short time, made our way to Burundi where the adventure of our lifetime was about to begin.

Time and again I’ve relived that same scenario; going somewhere where I’ve not been before to start a church from nothing. Where would we start? We never knew until we got there. Who would work with us? We would find them. When would we leave? When the time was right.

It took us 9 years of hard work to see the church grow to a place of maturity where we were able to leave to go plant a new church in a new nation and start the whole process all over again. Now, 18 years and a number of churches later, I have learned a few things about stepping out in faith into the unknown – and I’m still learning! In our affirmation-driven society where many in Christian circles have rarely seen the raw faith that’s required to face the world head-on for the cause of the Kingdom, they find they are ill-prepared for the reality that awaits them when they do step out. Often, they fall victim to discouragement, even despair, when the enemy meets them head-on (believe me when I say that he will seek you out the moment you say “yes” to the Kingdom’s call).

In Acts 14, we read the account of Paul ministering on a journey that had taken him through several cities. In one of the cities, Lystra, a man was healed (Acts 14:10) and the crowds went nearly crazy over the great miracle they had seen: a man who was born crippled, was healed and walked. It was amazing! Paul and his partner, Barnabas, could hardly restrain the people from making sacrifices to them, calling them gods. One would think that this great miracle would open great opportunities to the city; however, that was not what happened. Shortly after this miraculous occurrence, the same people who Paul ministered to were “stirred up” (Acts 14:19) to stone Paul. He was left for dead but, in another miracle, got up and went on to another city called Derbe where many received the Gospel and a large number of disciples were made. Later on, Paul returned to Lystra and other cities where he had preached, encouraging believers along his way.

In reading this account, I was taken by the fact that first Paul was almost worshipped as a god and then he was stoned by the same ones who wanted to worship him the day before. The emotions he felt must have been extreme. In studying Paul’s life, I’ve noticed he was someone who didn’t require a lot of maintenance; he worked to support himself by making tents and never is he seen in the scriptures asking for expensive gifts. His main focus was the Kingdom’s advance in the earth and he wouldn’t let himself get sidetracked by the peripheral things of this life.

Nevertheless, Paul was human and I am sure at this time, and many others, he must have felt conflicted, even tempted to be depressed over the rejection – but he doesn’t even make mention of any anguish over this ordeal in the scriptures. He was simply concerned to build the Kingdom, grow the churches he planted, and be faithful to his call. Affirmation would come later in abundance simply by hearing the words, “well done.” However, until that time, he fought the fight of faith and kept his faith.

Our service to people isn’t based on their merits or their appreciation of our call to serve God. I’ve found that if I can keep this front and center in my own life, I’m not easily disappointed. However, the moment I let my focus on the Kingdom fade, that’s the moment I fall into discouragement. Whether there are people to meet me at the airport or not, I’m moving forward. Whether someone thanks me or not, my eyes are fixed on the prize. Whether what I do looks successful or not, I’m already a success in my Father’s eyes, for His approval already rests on me.

“Wherever God rules over the human heart as King, there is the Kingdom of God established.” Paul W. Harrison

Of Milk and Bicycles

When I was a teenager, my mother would often send me to the neighborhood grocery store for a gallon of milk. She would ask me in the afternoon after I had gotten back from school. Since this was in my pre-drivers license days, I would get on my bicycle and peddle the 10 minutes to get the gallon of milk. This wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, my preferred chore. The milk would quickly become heavy, the plastic bags were useless and would tear on the way home. I would end up holding the milk in one hand and steer with the other. Sometimes the change would fall to the ground, other times my bicycle’s chain would fall off, and often I’d find myself walking home with the milk in one hand and pushing the bike home with the other. Under the hot Florida sun, I would find myself figuring out how I could avoid another gallon-of-milk bicycle run.

When my mother passed away in September 2008, and I was flying back to Florida from Africa for her memorial service, I remembered those afternoon grocery store errands. I thought of how, as a teenager, I would groan inwardly when I heard my name called in the afternoon for the inevitable grocery store run. I understand those teenage sentiments were normal, but in the stillness when all is quiet, I wish I could hear her voice calling me to get her the gallon of milk. I wouldn’t mind her asking me to go again, in fact, I wish she could.

Psalm 86:11a TLB“Tell me where you want me to go and I will go there…”

In much the same way, God sends us on errands. Sometimes they are simple things like being kind to someone in the store or helping loved ones move house or telling others about this wonderful Father Who sends us on errands.

The problem is our attitudes that inevitably arise when it’s not convenient or easy or pleasant to take care of those things that God has asked of us. Like me when I heard my mother’s voice telling me she needs milk, we groan inwardly and try to find a way out of running the errand. Would that we’d understand that we aren’t in disposable in this journey, for another could just as easily have been chosen to take care of the task, but God chose us when He didn’t have to.

Hebrews 4:2-4 TLB “For this wonderful news – the message that God wants to save us – has been given to us just as it was to those who lived in the time of Moses. But it didn’t do them any good because they didn’t believe it. They didn’t mix it with faith.”

Our feet follow our hearts, that is to say, what is in our hearts (our faith or lack thereof) will ultimately be what spurs us on to complete the task or find a way out of it. So go ahead and get the gallon of milk, it will do you good.