Categories
Church growth Church planting Fasting God's call Prayer

Four Things

I’ve asked my husband Jamie to share a bit on the blog today; he’s a walking concordance and Bible dictionary! Many times I’ve asked him over the years for a scripture reference and his reaction is always the same: looking up with squinted eyes he will answer, “You should find it somewhere around…” And of course, he is right nearly every time without fail. When people remark that his energy, enthusiasm, vision, and love for Africa are amazing, I answer, “Yes, he is pretty amazing.”

This entry was written back in 2007 when the first church we had planted in Malawi was not even a year old. The simplicity of these thoughts astounds me as you can attend church growth seminars, read books, spend hundreds of dollars getting church growth “experts” to come and give advice on how to get your church to grow – but the secret to church growth and maturity is found in the few short verses below. Enjoy!

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Acts 2:42, 47NLT“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer…And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”

All the believers in the church in Acts 2 devoted themselves to four things and as a result people were getting saved everyday as well as getting connected into the life of the church – they were being “added to their fellowship.” These four things brought numerical growth and spiritual growth to the church. If we dare implement them today, we’ll experience what they experienced.

1) The apostles’ teaching – This speaks of teaching and preaching the Word. There needs to be solid teaching and preaching present to help believers grow in their Christian walk.

2) Fellowship – This speaks of relationships being established. People were created to be in relationship and that need is met when people get together purposefully to get to know one another and do life together.

3) Sharing meals (including the Lord’s Supper) – This speaks of keeping the cross as our focus because as we partake of the Lord’s Supper we remember what Jesus did for us at the cross – we remember His death, burial and resurrection.

4) Prayer – This speaks of keeping prayer at the center of everything we do; without prayer, our lives will be void of growth and power.

Also, notice it says, “the Lord added to their fellowship…”  We need to stay involved in connecting people as much as possible but when it’s all said and done, “unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…”  (Psalm 127:1) Programs and systems are all void of power to connect people meaningfully to the church unless those programs and systems are God-inspired. Without His hand in connecting people to the church, our efforts will be in vain. The assurance of His involvement in whatever system we implement is found in His presence as we pray and ask for His strategy and blessing.

If we want the results of the early church, we have to do what the early church did to get those results.  There must be a devotion to: 1) The apostle’s teaching 2) Fellowship 3) Sharing meals (including the Lord’s Supper) and 4) Prayer.

Pastor Jamie Peters

Categories
Choices Church planting Destiny Distractions Faithfulness Fasting God's call Kingdom Missions Obedience Perspective

Chasing Donkeys

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What am I doing here?

It’s a question all of us have, at one time or another, asked ourselves. As I wrote yesterday in my now-famous Bollywood entry (no, not really so famous, just famous in my mind), I’ve wondered over the years what am I doing here serving as a missionary? What is it that keeps me here serving and working?

I don’t come from a family of ministers nor do I have any natural talents that this world would think could help out on the foreign field. One might think that to qualify for this work endless degrees and pedigrees would be necessary. While those things aren’t wrong (I do have a couple of degrees) they aren’t what qualified me to serve in Africa. All I needed to do was say, “yes” the day that God called. Personally, I didn’t find answering the call difficult; I found explaining the call of church planting to others difficult.

So, on occasion like Saul of the Old Testament, I find myself running after donkeys (1 Sam. 10:2 – Saul was looking for his father’s donkeys, but he was meant to be king.). Little rabbit trails meant to appear important but actually distract me from my main purpose: to extend the Kingdom of God among those I serve. There have been times when I’ve taken detours looking for donkeys that appear more important than planting churches. This is not a glorious calling nor does it naturally garner a lot of support as planting churches doesn’t seem to be as necessary as establishing larger community outreaches. Isn’t it enough to pray over a lesson, over a student, over a patient? Aren’t there enough churches?

Church planting is our call and I’ve given up apologizing for it. While some are called to open hospitals and universities, our grace lies with the planting of local churches that have always been found among the poorest of the cities we find ourselves in. God’s given us a vision to see 1,000+ churches planted on the continent and perhaps even beyond. We believe that God’s arm in the earth is extended to the world through the local church. We love starting churches from scratch that grow by reaching out into surrounding communities with activities that address the felt needs of those around us. In Malawi, where we are at this time, those types of activities include community health teaching, football games for youth, adult literacy classes, to name a few. The needs faced here differ from those found abroad – but to touch people and gain their trust, we need to speak to areas where they feel a need and this is exactly what we work for.

Once we have established ourselves in communities, the rest falls into place naturally. Not only are churches born but from the churches come the “classic” outreaches we so long to see: schools, adult education, leadership academies, etc. The difference we see in working this way is the spiritual covering and growth that comes with the churches provide a solid foundation for all that comes afterwards. If the foundation is not solid, how can hope for churches and outreaches that will live beyond us?

What makes this kind of mission difficult is the time that it takes to see these things come to pass. We are now many years into planting churches (we moved to Africa in 1987 and planted our first church in 1992) and are just now beginning to see an acceleration in growth.

Yes, I’ve been guilty of chasing donkeys – things that I think would “enhance” or in some way speed up the process of what we’re doing. The problem was, however, in chasing those donkeys I got sidetracked and my progress was hindered.

Let the donkeys take care of themselves in whatever you’re doing. As Samuel said to Saul, “the donkeys you’re looking for have been found” (1 Sam. 10:2), meaning, those issues you’re pursuing will take care of themselves, they’re not meant for your time and attention.

Remember, you’re meant to be a king.

Categories
Courage Fasting God's call Uncategorized

When I Danced Bollywood

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Have you ever wanted to be someone you’re not? Or be able to do something you’re not naturally talented to do?

I’ve tried my hand at many things: embroidery, cross stitching, making small rugs, pottery, many different crafty things but the very best (futile) attempt I ever made was at Bollywood Dancing. Yes, you read correctly – I tried my best to fit in with Bollywood. (For those who might not have heard of Bollywood dance, it is a form of dance from India.) The story goes like this:

I’m a lifetime fitness enthusiast; I have exercised everywhere I’ve lived and that has often presented me with some challenges but I’ve always been ready for a challenge. When we lived in Lilongwe, Malawi, I found a small group of ladies who welcomed me to exercise with them and it was wonderful! I truly enjoyed the classes and I was also offered the opportunity to share Christ with a group that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.

It was with great hope then, when we moved to Blantyre, Malawi, that I looked for a similar group to join. With the advent of social media, I quickly found several groups but only one piqued my interest. It promised 30 minutes of cardio training and 30 minutes of strength training. While I’ve grown accustomed to working out alone, I do like finding others who have the same fitness interest as me. The class met on a Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 pm; I waited anxiously for the day of my first class to arrive.

Finding the venue wasn’t too difficult, even for me, the most directionally challenged in our family. There were many cars parked out in front of the house where the class was to take place. I entered a bit gingerly, unsure of where to go but was ushered in by a very kind lady who I later learned was the instructor. The garage of the home had been turned into an exercise studio of sorts and everyone scouted out and claimed a spot. I found an inconspicuous corner in the back of the room, spread my exercise mat out, and waited for the class to begin.

As with most classes, we began with a stretch which was nice; I was pleased that I managed all the stretches with everyone else. Once we had finished with stretching, the background music changed from a slow warmup pace to something much faster and a bit foreign to me; it sounded a bit eastern and it was fast. Suddenly the instructor said, “Alright everyone, it’s time to Bollywood dance!” The atmosphere changed and everyone began moving in ways that I had never even thought was in the realm of possibility for me. The instructor and other ladies in the class tried their best to show me, to encourage me with the steps but it was to no avail – any hopes I might have had up until this point to be a Bollywood dancer had been thoroughly dashed.

Thus ended my Bollywood career. No matter how hard I might have tried, I simply wasn’t able to follow the steps. I even tried to go back a second time – and it was worse than the first time! It was back to working out alone for me, but it can never be said of me that I didn’t try Bollywood dance.

The call of God, thankfully, doesn’t depend on our natural talent. If serving in Africa depended on our natural talents, I’m afraid the work here would be sorely lacking. What is there that we can offer to the people of this continent that can bring change to their lives? When we first landed in Zaire in 1987, we were overwhelmed by the need that surrounded us and the crushing poverty of the people. Where were we to start? What were we to do? How could we possibly help? We didn’t have any natural abilities that could bring any substantial change; what had we gotten ourselves into?

It wasn’t until I understood that God isn’t looking for talent, He’s looking for obedience. He then supplies whatever we lack to get His work done. The key here is understanding that the work He calls us to do is His work, it’s not our own.

1 Samuel 10:1-10 gives the account of the choosing of Israel’s first king: Saul. He didn’t come from a rich or popular family. In fact, when he was anointed king, he was on his way to find his father’s donkeys that had gone missing. Imagine, a king looking for donkeys! What Saul did, however, was follow instructions at that point and when the time was right, God changed him into what he needed to be for the task assigned to him:

1 Samuel 10:6 NKJ “Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”

The work of God clearly can’t be done if we qualify for clearly, none of us qualify! The needs of this world are devastating and without Jesus at the center of it all, it would be impossible. Without God’s power empowering us, we’re just out looking for donkeys!

Today, allow God to exchange your lack for His abundance, your weakness for His strength, and your nature for His. It won’t be like Bollywood dancing was for me, flipping and flopping all over the place. You’ll find yourself keeping pace and walking in step with His plans and seeing things done that only He could do.

“The call of God is an expression of God’s nature, not ours.” Oswald Chambers

Categories
Faith Fasting Journey Missions New Year Fast Questions The Unexpected

A Zacchaeus Moment

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I have a friend who loves to put puzzles together; she’s amazing. She has the patience to work any puzzle to the end. She will often talk about her puzzles, describing how long she works on them to complete the picture. Every piece is studied and put aside on the table – to be used when it fits in its rightful place. Oftentimes those pieces won’t fit for days or weeks as other pieces have to be fit first. In due time, the puzzle is completed and every piece in place.

I’ve had things happen to me in life that I couldn’t explain and there are still some things I can’t explain; they still don’t have a place to fit into in my life. So, those pieces just sit out on the periphery of the puzzle, waiting to be fit at the right moment. They are prepared for the time they will be needed. Yet, until that moment comes, those pieces won’t make sense. Like my friend, they have to sit on the side of the puzzle table until they fit.

Jesus went to a city called Jericho (Luke 19:1-10) and in that city, there was a man named Zacchaeus. I remember being a young child in Sunday School singing, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he! He climbed up in a sycamore tree the Lord he wanted to see!” The problem Zacchaeus had was greater than his lack of height; he was a tax collector and leaping over his despised status among his countrymen was no small task (pun not intended).

How was this short man, who no one wanted to help (really, even today who wants to help a tax collector?), supposed to get a glimpse of the Lord Jesus as He passed by? He didn’t even consider that Jesus would stop to change his life forever – that would be impossible for he was nothing but despised by all who surrounded him. Why would Jesus consider stopping for him? However, Zacchaeus did hope to at least get a glimpse of the Lord as he passed through the city.

If you read Luke 19:1-10, you’ll see that Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus as he was quite short – he needed a boost. Sitting in the tree, Jesus drew near to him and engaged him in conversation and from that point on, Zacchaeus’ life was forever changed. He restored money to those he had stolen from, his character changed from the inside out.

But have you ever considered that long before Zacchaeus climbed the tree, God planted it to meet his need? He placed a piece of the puzzle in the right place so at the right time, Zacchaeus would encounter Jesus. Until that time, it was a random tree that at best offered shade for weary travelers on warm summer days. It wasn’t until Jesus walked through Jericho and met Zacchaeus that the real purpose of the tree was revealed: it was meant to bring Zacchaeus closer to Jesus.

I imagine Zacchaeus had no intention of even speaking with Jesus and might have even scurried off in fear had Jesus begun walking towards him. In the tree, Zacchaeus was cornered on his branch. He had nowhere to hide.

There are pieces of the puzzle that will fit into our lives just at the moment they are designed to fit; we simply need to leave the pieces alone until the Zacchaeus moment arrives.

It will fit perfectly.

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Psalm 18:30 NLT “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to Him for protection.”

 

Categories
Beginnings Choices Fasting Kingdom Missions New Year Obedience Questions

A Captive Audience

We are taught from an early age to “think for ourselves.” Indeed, having the ability to reason a situation through is something best learned early on. My youngest daughter is in 4th grade and she is learning how to think before answering; when she thinks first and processes the work, she generally gets a better grade which makes everyone happy!

Solving math problems definitely requires more brain power for some (like me) more than others. Thankfully, my daughter has learned this skill at a much faster pace than I did. I wasn’t the automatic math genius in school – I spent a great deal of time training my mind to think problems through. Once I finally mastered this skill of reasoning and thought, my grades improved. What I wasn’t prepared for in daily life as an adult when facing life issues was understanding that reasoning life problems through like algebraic equations won’t always produce the correct results.

All of that work to train my thoughts in a certain way had to change.

2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

In my mind, as I learned to navigate this path called my walk with God, I often found myself arguing with the issues I faced.

Trusting God for His wisdom when facing civil unrest? My mind told me to run but my heart said stay; there was an internal argument taking place in my mind daily in those days. My old debate class lessons quickly found their way back to the forefront of my mind.

Trusting God for buildings when our tent where we meet keeps blowing over? Where was the money going to come from? Math arguments come in handy here, I’d tell myself hundreds of thousands won’t multiply from zero as zero times anything still equals zero!

Much like the lessons I learned at school, lessons of reasoning, I’ve learned another lesson: mentally working out how to walk with God simply won’t work. Much like you can’t apply algebra to conjugating verbs, earthly reasoning cannot apply in our walk with God.

This year as we begin afresh once again, I’ve set my arguments aside. Arguments of why it can’t be done are now my captive audience as I surrender to the process of solving problems in a much more effective way – in the way of the Kingdom. My feeble attempts at solving don’t amount to much anyway in the face of issues that are obviously far beyond my pay grade: comforting the bereaved, growing new churches, expanding into new countries, and loving those who don’t love me back.

My thoughts are captive. I’m listening. I’m learning.

Categories
Bible reading Correction Devotion Fasting Prayer

Day 21 – We Made It!

We made it to day 21! Congratulations!

This has, for me, been an amazing 21 days; it has been a very good fast. You may ask, “How can a fast be good?” The benefits of fasting far outweigh the discomforts and inconveniences we face when on a fast. Fasting is a time that we set aside to turn our concentration away from the noise of daily life and set our hearts to hear from God. This is what we’ve been doing and God has surely been speaking to my husband and I and our churches in Africa.

What we face as we return to “normal” life tomorrow is keeping the revelations of the fast before us instead of forgetting them when life hits us in the face. If we aren’t watchful over the ground we have gained spiritually during the fast, we will lose it very quickly. In spite of the fact that life is now going back to normal, we can’t live life as we did before and hope to preserve the treasures we have found during this time.

Proverbs 1:29-33 TLB “For you closed your eyes to the facts and did not choose to reverence and trust the Lord, and you turned your back on me, spurning my advice. That is why you must eat the bitter fruit of having your own way and experience the full terrors of the pathway you have chosen. For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid.”

What we have experienced in the past has, at times, looked and tasted like “bitter fruit.” This happened because we didn’t choose to reverence the Lord, honor our relationship with Him. We became familiar with what is holy and we chose to turn away from Him and His advice. The journey of life lived this way is increasingly bitter and full of “terrors” because of our choices. It isn’t God Who brings destruction – our own complacency, lack of passion for God, that brings destruction.

Like you, I’ve heard it said many times we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. A fast like this one we have been on is meant to get our eyes off of our own opinions and to turn our focus onto God’s opinion. If we go back to living as we were before without making adjustments, life will certainly return to the way it was before the fast.

There are a few practical ways I’d like to share with you on what you can do to keep the “spiritual edge” you have gained during this special time. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Create a vision board – where you post the things God spoke to you for this year. As a family, we have done this this year. Our vision board is in a prominent place in the house where we will see it often (Habakkuk 2:2,3). Ishah Whipple, one of our guest bloggers during this time, wrote a wonderful piece about vision boards. Click here to read more.
  2. Be diligent to spend consistent time in the Word of God and prayer. There are many Bible reading plans available online and in books, I encourage you to find what works best for you and stick with it. Prayer is not as difficult a discipline as we might think; prayer is simply communicating with God. God just wants to spend time with you. Write your chosen time in your daily planner – the time that works best for you – and stick to it.
  3. Create spiritual goals for the year that are attainable: reading books by solid Christian authors, taking a Bible class online or at your home church, and finding something that keeps you challenged spiritually.
  4. Be consistent with your attendance in your local church. If you’ve never taken notes during the sermon, maybe now is a great time to start.
  5. Involve your family in setting “God goals” for the year.
  6. When you fall short at some point, don’t give up. Pick up where you left off and keep going.
  7. Take short breaks for fasting during the year. For many years, I’ve fasted on Wednesdays to keep myself spiritually sharp. This past year I didn’t fast on Wednesdays as much as I would have liked – but that will change. I will be fasting more consistently on Wednesdays once again.

One of the main reasons people cite for not spending more time with God is that they “don’t have time.” Well, we make time for the things that matter to us. I encourage you to review your timetable and delete those activities that keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

I’m truly blessed that you have journeyed with me these three weeks, thank you. Now that the fast is over, I look forward to a wonderful vision-filled year! I’ll still be here, writing as The Cultural Misfit, talking about laundry, kids, church planting, coffee, and whatever else inspires me. I hope to find you here.

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Ah, now it’s time to go and get something to eat!!!
Categories
Fasting Organization Preparation

Day 20 – The Laundry

Are you a planner? An organizer? Someone who likes things to fit into neat boxes? I like to plan and organize as much as I can. I find if I can keep things as orderly as possible, life proceeds a bit more smoothly. I’ll make mental lists of chores to do for the day – I’ll add memos to my phone, write sticky notes to remind myself of “things to do” for the day. Unfortunately, when I resort to using sticky notes I forget that I’ve written them until days later.

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One of the things in life that needs to be done regularly is laundry. There’s no panic quite like the panic of needing school uniforms only to find they are all dirty, or for a preacher to wake up on a Sunday morning only to find that there are no shirts for him to wear! Then the manic digging through the laundry hamper begins – trying to find a shirt that isn’t “that dirty.”

I’ve seen shirts pulled from the laundry, sniffed and sprayed with deodorant and declared fit for use. The image of this ever happening on my watch as main caretaker of our laundry makes me shudder. When I was first married, my mother drilled it into my mind that the state of my family’s laundry was a direct reflection on my character. Now, I know that’s not true, that my people are capable to figure out their own laundry, but somehow I can’t seem to accept that truth at my core. I’m the “laundry police” and am almost obsessed with clean laundry.

This mentality of mine, for clean laundry, has been further drilled into me living here in Africa. With the ever-present threat of water shortages, I take care of getting the laundry done as often as possible because it is likely that at least one day in the week the water will be turned off.

To keep things flowing at the “laundry level” it means there’s a price to be paid! Laundry has to be washed regularly. But, it’s bound to happen, that the odd, unforeseen emergency pops up. Maybe the water won’t go off but something else is bound to complicate the process. What to do when the baby dirties each and every bib in the house or the dog messes on the folded laundry or the children track mud everywhere? We pay the price and get the laundry done if it means we stay up til midnight so that life can carry on tomorrow.

Psalm 68:19 ESV “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.”

I’d like to think that when the unforeseen happens, our Father helps us step up and get things done that need doing.

In this New Year, as we prepare to end our 21 day fast tomorrow and set our faith in alignment with the will of God for us this year, we need to keep in mind that just like the laundry – the unexpected will happen. It’s very easy after an intense and amazing season with the Lord to forget that on the other side of this time, there will be tests and trials of the vision God gave to us during this fast.

This year’s wash is bound to have a few unexpected dirty t-shirts. The Father’s there to bear us up when He needs to. He has all that we need to help us not get behind with the laundry, we don’t have to do this alone.


Categories
Change Faith Fasting Vision Words

Day 19 – What Do You Want?

Here is a conversation that I regularly have with my husband Jamie when I want to do something on a Friday, which is his usual study day:

Me: “What are you doing on Friday?”

Jamie: “Oh, the usual, it’s my study day. I’ll be preparing my Sunday sermon.”

Me: “So you’ll be home all day?”

Jamie: “Of course, I need to study!”

Me: “Fridays are important.”

Jamie: “What do you want???”

I’ll usually keep making my “faith hints” until such a time, as Jamie is so exasperated with me that he needs to know the real reason for my hinting. My questions have nothing to do with his studies or what day of the week it is; I just have something I need to do and I’m “testing the waters” to see if they will stir them in my direction on a Friday. Jamie says I always manage to get things my way; hmmm, I must have some amazing skills that I have honed over the years.

In Mark 10:46-52, a blind man, Bartimaeus, was sitting on the side of the road. He was begging, as this was the acceptable practice for the disabled to earn a living in that time. When he heard Jesus was coming, he “began to cry out” for Jesus to “have mercy” on him. He was told to quiet down but “he cried out all the more.”

Jesus called Bartimaeus out of the crowd, and I find it interesting that the crowds, who had initially told him to be quiet, turned to him and said, “be of good cheer, He is calling you.” Isn’t that just like people today? One day you are discouraged for reaching for your apparently crazy dream (as Bartimaeus was reaching for his dream to see), and the next day, when it seems your initially crazy dream is getting some attention, you are encouraged. When God gives you a dream, don’t expect it to be celebrated when it’s only a dream. You’ll go through a season of “blindness” when your dream is just that: a dream. Be patient until the time comes for God to bring it to pass (Habakkuk 2:2,3). Once it does, it will be a witness to all, but in the meantime, don’t be discouraged when you’re told to “be quiet.”

When Bartimaeus finally found his way to Jesus, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” My initial impression is that Jesus already knows what he wants; Bartimaeus wants the obvious – he wants to see. Why did Jesus ask a question with such an obvious answer?

In times of blindness, we cry out to God in spite of everyone telling us to “be quiet.” If we can persist past the criticisms and rejection of people and cry out, “all the more” to Jesus, He will call us and ask us as He asked Bartimaeus, “What is it that you want Me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus didn’t ask Jesus why He asked what he wanted, he didn’t make any “faith hints” like I do when asking Jamie to do something on a Friday. He simply replied, “That I may receive my sight.” Jesus answered, “Go your way; your faith has made you whole.” The scriptures go on to say that immediately he saw and followed Jesus on the road.

We are now in day 19 of our 21 day fast and I have heard in my spirit the Lord challenge me with those words, “What do you want Me to do for you?” He already knows what I want but I need to hear myself say it. I need to “cry out all the more.”

Mark 11:23,24 NLT I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.  I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

Faith works this way: you must believe and speak. It is how we receive our salvation once we have repented (Acts 3:19; Romans 10:9,10) and it is by faith that we live (Habakkuk 2:4) and receive anything from God.

Words have power as we have discussed already in Day 6 – Words. We activate our faith in God as we speak His Word and agree with Him instead of agreeing with our feelings or what appears to be real. Now is not the time to be hinting in faith about what you need – tell God and expect Him to have the answer!

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So what is it that you need from God? What does God say about it?

Do you need the doctor’s report to change? Do you need a healing? See 1 Peter 2:24

Do you need God to provide for you? See 3 John 1:2; Philippians 4:19

Do you need God’s protection? See Psalm 91

Whatever you need, there’s a promise for you in God’s Word. He has promised it and since He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) you can trust Him to take care of those needs.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) what will you choose today?

I challenge you to make 2017 be a year of breakthrough faith for you, I know I am ready for the challenge – are you?


Categories
Destiny Fasting

Day 18 – Twists & Turns

Today I’m honoured to have a dear friend and coworker in the ministry, Hattie Asberry, giving us a bit of her wisdom for the day. I encourage you to take in all that the Lord has given her as a deposit for us on day 18 of our 21 day fast. Her contact information and ministry website are listed below, please take time to visit her site and take in the wonderful work the Lord is doing through her.


twistsLife is an amazing journey filled with tremendous twists, turns, trials, tests and triumphs. The fictional character Forrest Gump says it best “My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” His mama taught him the ways of life and left him to choose his destiny. The movie depicted how Forrest faced many tribulations throughout his life, but he never let any of them interfere with his happiness. From wearing braces on his legs, to having a below average IQ, Forrest continued to believe that good things would happen and he followed his dreams. He turned each setback into something good especially when he struggled to get his leg braces off and discovered that he could run faster than most people.

His mom also taught him that, “You have to do the best with what God gave and you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.” Such great advice. But, unlike Forrest, we have a true and living God who abides in our hearts to lead and guide us. You and I know that we can easily get stuck in our fast-paced life with inevitable distractions, disappointments and undelivered promises from people. Looking to people to affirm us and approve of us. Looking to people to make our wrongs right. Looking to people to be the friend to us that we have been to them. Looking to people to fill voids in our lives that only Jesus can fill. We often find ourselves forgetting our purpose to serve and worship our Lord…because we are focused on the twists and turns of life better known as distractions.

Distractions are tricks of the enemy to keep us from the call and focus God has ordained for our lives. There are so many things in this world that fight for our time: money, relationships, health, career, education, worries, fears, busyness, social media, internet, telephone, texting, church and family. If you are always busy or on the phone how will you hear God when he calls? Even people, places and things that appear important or things that we classify as could not have been helped can all filter under the distraction trick. Satan appears in many shapes, sizes and fashions to continue to steal your time, kill your dream and destroy your relationship with Jesus Christ. Recognize him and stay focused! Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).

To focus means to center our attention and concentration upon a certain thing. For the Christian that thing would be Jesus who is our Lord and Savior. Like Forrest Gump, life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. Last year was one of the most challenging years of my life…but my constant self-talk was run your race [Hattie run your race, run your race I whispered morning, noon and night]. Regardless of life’s circumstances I knew that God was with us and I kept my eyes focused on Jesus Christ. We can choose to focus on the negative or we can focus on the positive. “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).” Focus your attention on what is most important in your life.

In the midst of life’s twists and turns…how can we resist distraction and keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus Christ? In 2017 reposition yourself closer to Jesus. Commit to reading your bible daily, improve your prayer life and spend time meditating on God’s Word. Talk to God and allow him to talk to you. Learn to listen to God and understand the varying ways he communicates with those he loves. Build an intimate relationship with Jesus (fall in love with him) and know that He is your protector. Seek God and not opportunities then opportunities will come. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Take control of your thoughts, for as a man thinketh in his mind so is he. What you believe will determine your destiny. We become like the things we focus on. That’s why it is important to focus on beauty and godliness. Recondition your mind to focus on these things as Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Guard your heart, bring your life into focus and allow Jesus to fill your mind.

Direct your focus and run the race God has planned for your life! If Forrest Gump, a simple-minded but kind-hearted Alabama boy can succeed in life through a mixture of luck and destiny…what about YOU?


 

By: Hattie R. Asberry

CEO of Essentials For Godly Living

Website: http://www.Essentialsforgodlyliving.com

Email: Essentialsministry@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Beginnings Destiny Fasting Uncategorized

Day 17 – Beginnings

four.jpg
We started with plans for 2 or 3 – those plans turned into 4. Photo taken 2009, they’ve grown since then! Clockwise from the top: Mandy, Steve, Andreya, and Tom
I remember when my husband and I were young newlyweds (seems it wasn’t THAT long ago) and we were in “discussions” over how many children we hoped to have. Initially, I wanted three children and he wanted two. In the end, neither of us had our way; we have ended up with four wonderful kids. We couldn’t imagine life without any of them. Now, 3 of the 4 have grown up and moved on, 2 are married, and we have 1 grandson – this is far from what I imagined what our family would look like when we “entered into discussions.”

Beginnings are like that: we think we can plan everything out and see the end from the beginning. It’s overwhelming, thinking of how off-track that kind of thinking can be. How many of us were ever planned up enough to face marriage, raise children, to live life in the face of an ever-changing culture? If someone has found the secret to being prepared for life, please let me know!

I married into a pastor’s family and my husband was an associate pastor at our home church at the time. I wasn’t prepared to be a pastor’s wife, not by a long shot, let alone prepared to be a church planting pastor’s wife in a foreign culture when we moved to Africa as missionaries three years later. I didn’t come from a family of preachers or ministers; we were just regular folks, so when I managed to hook the preacher’s son I was in way over my head. There are no handbooks on how to be a minister’s wife or how to follow the call of God. Neither is there an “exit strategy” built in to this call. The ministry, I have learned, is not a vocation. The ministry is a call that goes far beyond vocation. It is part of your soul. It doesn’t matter if we are paid or unpaid for what we do because we can’t shake the call.

Somehow I find myself wondering how, almost 33 years later, I am still partnering in the call with my husband and dreaming for the future, dreaming about church planting, feeding children, and raising up national leaders to help fulfill the vision of planting 1,000 churches in Africa. How many times did we need rescuing throughout those years, I cannot count. Those rescues range from facing sickness, trusting God to keep us safe in war, to the normal financial stresses of raising a family. However, God’s rescue came faithfully each and every time.

Every deliverance, every rescue, has to start somewhere. Those beginnings often go unnoticed by us. They can come in the form of a relationship forming, educational opportunities, chance meetings, all appearing to us as being “normal” occurrences in life. However, the Father, unbeknownst to us, uses those instances as “beginnings” of our rescue.

Judges 13:5 NLT “…he will begin to rescue Israel…”

There will be times in all of our lives when we are aching for rescue. Maybe, like Israel, you are already at the point in your life of needing a rescue. At the writing of the above scripture in Judges, God began to deliver Israel. He was working their rescue out before they even knew that He had heard their call. His answer came subtly, humbly, in the form of a child named Samson born as an only child to his parents who had not been able to have children. Samson’s rescuing of Israel wasn’t manifested until many years later – but the moment he was born, the rescue began.

The beginning of a rescue comes to us in much the same way as the deliverance of Israel by Samson – in small beginnings, God connections, chance occurrences. The work of God in our lives doesn’t come by accident; He is always preparing a rescue for us because He knows exactly when we will need it.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

You can be sure that somewhere in life your rescue began and, as sure as there is a beginning, there is an end! The Rescuer is faithful; you will see the tide change in due course.