Posted in Grief, Hope, Kingdom, Loss, Missions, Motives, Serving, Sorrow, Success, The Call of God

All Over The World

This past week a cyclone hit the coast of Africa mostly affecting Mozambique and Zimbabwe. So far, according to reports, approximately 126 people (some reports say higher) have died as a direct result of the storm. In Nigeria, 120 people have died in recent attacks in local villages. There have been shootings in New Zealand leaving 50 dead and an Ethiopian Airlines plane went down last week killing all 157 on board. This short list of news is a only a small fraction of what goes unreported every day. Estimates vary, but there are about 151,600 people that die daily and most of those deaths go unreported in the news. 70,000 of these deaths occur in nations that are closed to the Gospel.

All over the world, people are crying.

Normally, my blogs are a bit quirky with a snippet of sarcasm and dry humor so I apologize if my departure from my usual self seems, at first, to be gloomy. It’s not my intention to leave anyone depressed today and I truly hope you don’t feel hopeless by the time I finish my little diatribe.

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As this world’s media picks and chooses what stories to cover and what stories to shelve, but the truth remains that thousands of families have spent the past several hours and days mourning for lost loved ones. Death is no respecter of persons and all of us will one day shuffle off this mortal coil in exchange for that which is eternal; what we do with our time here before we have that final meeting is what really is of value.

I won’t pretend to be educated enough to address the issues that others put under the microscope and take their limited time to rant on over social media. I find it sad that many of us choose to spend the limited time we have on this earth arguing with others on a platform where those you are sparring with are most likely going to remain unknown to you. It’s amazing how vicious some people have become with the advent of social media.

Romans 12:21 NKJ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Some justify their vitriol and even invoke God’s name when they do so, but as I know God, He still loves the world and all the people in it (John 3:16). In fact, the only time Jesus is seen weeping in scripture is when He looked over a city (Luke 19:41). He wasn’t crying over the buildings or land, He was crying for the people; some of those in that city He knew were the ones that would take part in His crucifixion. I don’t know how many of us would now have heart to do the same over our own cities where at times we face brutal criticism and attack for the cross that we bear and represent. Oh, that I might represent that cross well!

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This hopeless hour we find ourselves in could very possibly be the greatest opportunity the church worldwide has ever known. As a lifetime missionary, experience has taught me that when people are most vulnerable is when they are most open to the Gospel that brings love and hope.

Last week, we held an outreach into a local area here in Bujumbura, Burundi called Buterere. About 20 years ago this area was little more than a trash dump and rice fields. After the war here in the mid-late 1990s, people who had been displaced by the war moved to this area. It was a horrible situation; there was little to no sanitation, no running water, nothing to serve the people. 20 years later I found myself again in Buterere surrounded by a growing community that is slowly finding its way. The surroundings are still very basic and due to its low-lying situation, it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. At the outreach, we held disease prevention classes teaching on topics like malaria prevention and basic hygiene. At the end of the teaching we distributed, to 200 families, mosquito nets, basins, soap, and a book by Joyce Meyers called, “Tell Them I Love Them.” We gave an opportunity for people to receive Christ and 45 people raised their hands. The reports coming back to us in the past few days have been full of words of appreciation and thanks for showing what God’s love is really all about.

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Will all of those 45 follow through with their decisions? We will do our best to follow up on them and encourage them but the large majority probably won’t – but who follows through and who doesn’t isn’t what motivates me to reach out to them. What motivates me is God’s love for them and we do what we can do in any given situation so that some may come to know Him (1 Cor. 9:22). While we work to encourage those making commitments, the results aren’t my responsibility and truth be told, if I was moved by results or popular opinion I would have resigned from my position many years ago.

So how do we, then, speak out? How do we behave honestly, yet lovingly, in this upside down world?

Ephesians 4:14-16 NKJ that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”

God loves the world and the motivating factor for what He does is love. I believe it’s only out of His love for the world that it hasn’t already fallen off its axis! We can say the right things but with the wrong motivation; the right thing said for the wrong reason is the wrong thing. God doesn’t need to have His reputation defended for His reputation is intact no matter what people think. Jesus understood this:

John 2:24,25 NKJ “But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”

I hope today in some small way in my little world in Bujumbura, Burundi I am advancing the Kingdom of God by speaking the truth, not to justify who I am, but out of love for those who need to hear the truth. I can make what I say and do sound and appear righteous, but if my motivation is not loving the people, then I am only looking to raise my own righteous profile and not God’s.

“Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines—as well as upon works!” John Newton

Nothing I’ve written has ever gone viral or been popular, but on the off-chance someone reads this little piece and it gives them a bit of hope for this lost and dying world – it’s a win. If it makes someone upset, well, take a number and the staff (me) will attend to your complaint at its earliest convenience.

Rant over. Time for coffee.

Posted in Church planting, Endurance, Faith, Fasting, God's call, Motives

A Special Reason

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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?

Posted in Choices, Devotion, Faith, Motives, Obedience, Sacrifice

You Get What You Pay For

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In my opinion, I am a cheapskate; I believe I am circumspect in how I spend money. However, it may be that my husband Jamie has a different opinion on the matter altogether. It’s funny how two people who have been married for nearly 33 years with as much in common as we have, can value things as differently as we do. Jamie doesn’t care at all about shopping; he could care less if he ever saw the inside of another shopping center or mall for the rest of his life. It’s very difficult, to put it mildly, to get him to shop for clothes and shoes. When I succeed in getting him to try on some clothes or shoes, the expression on his face is one of exquisite pain. You can probably imagine the next thing that happens – he peppers me with questions and commentary:

Jamie: “Is this on sale?”

Me: “Yes, dear.”

Jamie: “What’s the price?”

Me: “It’s 35% off.”

Jamie: “Isn’t there anything cheaper?”

Me: “This is the best price.”

Jamie: “This doesn’t feel right.”

Me: “You look great!”

Jamie: “There’s nothing in black?”

Me: “No, but this is dark blue and everything you have is black.”

Jamie: “Can’t we come back another time?”

Me: “NO WE CAN’T COME BACK ANOTHER TIME!”

I, on the other hand, enjoy getting out to go shopping. Since I live in Malawi, where shopping as we know it Stateside is non-existent, I enjoy shopping on the rare occasion I get to go. I enjoy the process of finding the best price for what I’m looking for. I don’t see the point of paying full price for anything (and am not of the budget to do so anyway), as there’s always a sale somewhere. If it’s not on sale, I am not interested – I’ll find a substitute somewhere else.

So you can understand the problems we have when it comes time to do any kind of shopping, there’s an immediate conflict of interests. He’s interested in getting out as soon as possible and I’m interested in staying in and finding what I want for a good price. Christmas, birthday, anniversary, or any kind of shopping – it’s a challenge! It’s too painful to watch Jamie endure more shopping than he has to; his usual position is head buried in his hands, lying on a bench somewhere. Our solution? I keep him away from shopping as much as possible and have learned to enjoy going alone so his life (and mine) can be stress-free!

There’s always a price to be paid. Much like going shopping for things we need, we pay according to how we value the item, experience, or relationship. When purchasing groceries or other items, budgeting our money is wisdom. Yet when we are working on intangible, spiritual things, the same logic doesn’t apply.

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” Thomas Paine

I have had the privilege of being a missionary and church planter’s wife for 30 years. I didn’t know, when we first started out in missions, what life would look like in years to come. I was a young wife and mother just trying to get from one day to the next, one meal to the next, one homework assignment to the next with my kids. In the middle of my trying to figure my roles out, we planted our first church. There was no one to teach children’s church, no one to oversee feeding the hungry, no one to counsel young women with HIV – except me. I didn’t consciously begin doing all those things, they simply came upon me and I knew they needed to get done so I did them. At night when my children would go to bed after dinner and sleep after a day at school in a clean bed with parents who love them, I would lie awake and wonder what was happening to the children in the refugee camps or the young women in the hospital with no one to watch them. What about them?

I began to value them, value who they were, and who they could grow up to be, and who they might raise. I began to look at them with the same eyes I look at my own family with and paid the price to do what we could to help better their lives. I’m sure that many have done more, have done better than I – but no one has valued those God has given us more than we have.

How much value do we assign to those who cross our paths? Do we serve them as “cheaply” as possible? Looking for some kind of sale so we don’t have to invest so much of our time or of our emotional, and spiritual energy? How much do we invest in our relationship with God Who spent everything He had for us to have a relationship with Him? Is all we want out of our faith a cheap drive-thru version of a deeper 7-course experience?

In 2 Samuel 24 there’s an account of King David, God’s choice to rule the nation of Israel, and his sin in having a census done. God did not want the Kings of Israel to do a census, to see how much strength they had on their own, for He wanted His people to trust in Him and not their own strength. When David performed the census, it was a cheap substitute and shortcut for trusting a faultless God.

Once King David repented of his sin and judgment had been pronounced, he was instructed to build an altar at the threshing floor of a man named Araunah. When the King approached Araunah to purchase this piece of property, Araunah immediately offered it to him for free together with things that would be needed for offering the sacrifice that God required.

King David’s cheap thinking changed during this process of judgment over his sin. He refused the generous offer of Araunah. Myself, I don’t know if my reaction would have been so noble! I would’ve probably thought, “Praise God, He has provided!” rejoicing that I would save money instead of spending. Instead of thinking cheaply as I most likely would have done, the King declared boldly:

2 Samuel 24:24a NKJ “Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing…’”

Offerings and sacrifices really aren’t doing anything for us if they are cheap or free. There are no “roll back” deals on our offerings to God, nor are there any “buy 1 get 1 free” deals in what we give to Him. An offering isn’t an offering, nor is a sacrifice a sacrifice until it has cost us something. What happens when we choose to pay the price instead of looking to get something for nothing?

2 Samuel 24:25 NKJ “And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.”

It turns out that the old adage we have heard is true – you get what you pay for.

 

Posted in Motives, Uncategorized

How Dare You?

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Have you ever wondered how someone could question your motives? Felt as if all you do is spend your time trying to prove yourself?

Early on in relationships, there is something to be said for proving oneself. New employees must show themselves worthy of their employers’ trust, new friends earn trust through the test of time, and a fiancée must prove him/herself faithful throughout a time of engagement to prove they are deserving of a lifetime commitment. There is a place and time for proving of motives.

Unfortunately, many find it difficult to move past proving and into trusting and fall into a lifetime pattern of making people prove themselves to us. As a parent of 4 children, I have watched my children pass through times of proving themselves – to me, their friends, teachers, and as they have matured and married, to their spouses. Initially, times of proving for young children are as simple as trusting them to brush their teeth, clean their rooms, and do their homework without being told. As they progress, our confidence in them grows. They are proving themselves.

It’s normal to have moments along the journey of proving ourselves that we fail, and as my kids learned, there were consequences to those moments. I felt badly for them when they faced consequences for their actions: no TV time, early bedtimes, to name a few. Their sweet faces pleading with me to “pleeeease” forgive them. Forgiveness wasn’t the issue, their father and I explained, they were forgiven. They still had to pay the price for their actions.

I remember how angry they were with me as they grew older when I would pepper them with questions, “Where are you going? Who else will be there? How long will you be gone?” To which they would reply, “Don’t you trust me?” The pain in their eyes betrayed their feelings, and it was then that I knew it was time to step back.

As they grew and matured and spread their wings, I cringed when they made certain decisions that I knew were off. I learned to bite my tongue, pray, and see them grow and follow the wisdom that we had instilled in their hearts when they were growing up. Witnessing this process was perhaps the greatest privilege I’ve had as a parent. All of the self-doubt that had plagued me throughout their childhoods was put to rest when I saw them following right paths. They grew up wiser than I could have hoped, smarter than I ever was, and gained reputations of being faithful in whatever capacity they were working or serving in. I am just a little bit proud.

I remain with daughter number 4 at home; she is our “bonus” baby coming home when the 3rd born was nearly 15. All of the lessons I learned with the first 3 have come back to me vividly as I pray to lead her down the same road of learning the importance of her facing the consequences of her actions.

There was a time when friends, close friends, of King David scorned his trust in God. Surrounded by enemies at a time of intense distress, they told him to “give up and run away.”

Imagine how God, Who had faithfully given David and his men victory after victory, must have felt when those who surrounded David, who had seen His power, told him to quit. I wonder if God wanted to ask them, “Don’t you trust me?”

Psalm 11:1,4 TLB “How dare you tell me, ‘Flee to the mountains for safety.’ When I am trusting the Lord?…But the Lord is still in His holy temple; He still rules from heaven. He closely watches everything that happens here on earth.”

“How dare you?”

That’s what David’s response was to those mocking him. Anger filled his heart; he was outraged with their doubt. Hadn’t God rescued them time and again? Why did they need more proof than what they had already seen?

He knew God was faithful, God had proven Himself time and again. He wasn’t going to be silenced into defeat – he told everyone who was near him that God didn’t need to prove Himself. No, he wasn’t going to run away in defeat.

How dare we?

When we have seen God come through for us time and again, question His character by failing to trust Him? It’s as if we have amnesia when trouble comes; we forget all of the miracles, all of the times God came through for us.

How dare we?

I’ve decided that God doesn’t need to prove Himself to me again; I have seen His power, I have experienced miracles that are too numerous to list. I’ve decided not to allow the doubt of others creep into my experience and cause me to question God’s faithfulness. If this means that I alone trust God, as David did, so be it. There is no other that has proven himself to me as my Heavenly Father has – He is closely watching me.

Joshua 1:9 TLB Yes, be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

 

Posted in Motives, New Year, The Star, Worship

Follow the Star

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Christmas is over and this morning I woke to a New Year; as usual, I, together with most of the world, look forward with hope for a better year than the last. It is natural, at the end of a period of time that has had its ups and downs, to look forward with hope – yet I wonder why so many times I have felt disappointed by the end of the year rather than fulfilled?

As we went through Christmas, my attention was drawn as it always is to the account of the birth of Jesus. What an event it was; announced in hope and, as His life unfolded, it was filled with miracles. I imagined the joy those felt who visited the newborn Christ and their awe as they actually saw the beginning of the world’s redemption.

Matthew 2:10,11 TLB “Their joy (wise men) knew no bounds! Entering the house where the baby and Mary, his mother, were, they threw themselves down before Him, worshiping.”

The long-awaited promise of the Messiah had finally arrived after centuries of waiting (and I complain when I have to wait a week)! The wise men had followed the star announcing the birth of Christ and had come to Herod, asking him where to find the newborn King (Matthew 2:2). Herod, afraid he would lose his authority to a baby, schemed to kill Him before He even had a chance to live. As we know, his plan was thwarted, as the wise men didn’t report to him after finding Jesus.

These wise men were indeed wise, not because they didn’t report back to Herod (God takes credit for that one, He warned them in a dream Matthew 2:12) they were wise in their understanding of the event that had unfolded; their joy “knew no bounds!” Even before they saw Him, when all they had was a dream, a star in the sky, their joy overtook them. They knew the promise had come; God had come through before they even saw Jesus.

Their joy went a step further when they finally found the baby and His mother. Once they saw Him they “threw themselves down before Him, worshiping.” Their joy wasn’t only a feeling but was expressed in worship. Imagine, Jesus had yet to turn water into wine, heal the sick, and raise the dead but they saw the promise.

For the larger part of Jesus’ life, He lived in obscurity. He was not a famous evangelist or political figure. He was first a child in Nazareth and eventually became a strange itinerant preacher for a short 3 years, whose message was one of love, not political, military, or financial conquest. The 12 disciples who followed Him expected a conquering King, instead they had a willing Sacrifice. How could the star that they had followed, that all of Israel had hoped for, not give them an amazing victory over their enemies? Even after Jesus’ amazing resurrection and appearance to them, they still held out hope for their King to put all their enemies to shame:

Acts 1:6-8 NKJ “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ ”

Jesus, yes a King, did conquer. He conquered something far more powerful than legions of soldiers. His conquest was one over the power of sin that held the world captive since the beginning of time. His star was meant to lead all people to that place of conquest, where sin could be forgiven. The power that was given in the book of Acts wasn’t meant to shame the world, it was meant to win the world. Yes, the star always led them back to the humble beginnings of the King Who came to save, not condemn, the world.

Like the original 12 disciples of Jesus, most of us look forward to the New Year as a star, leading us into a better year than the last, a time to bury past failures.

What am I looking for in 2017? What star have I followed and what have I hoped that star would bring? Finance? Success? A new job? None of these things are bad, but they are not the star; they are not what I worship or why I worship. Perhaps this is the reason for so much disappointment in years past? Have I followed the stars and withheld my worship unless and until I saw what I thought was the promise?

As I come into this New Year and I follow the star, may I follow the real star of promise, of love and hope. May my joy grow into unfettered worship when I see the promise before it has come to pass; just as the wise men threw themselves down and worshiped when they saw the babe before He had worked any miracles. They knew the greatest miracle wasn’t to be His great healings or even raising the dead, His greatest miracle was to come and save the world.

2017, a year of promise, promise of Him coming into my circumstances, the world’s circumstances, what more do I need? This year will be different, this year will be the year that I see that the end will be better even than the beginning.

Ecclesiastes 7:8a NKJThe end of a thing is better than its beginning…”


I would like to specially invite you all to follow me for the next 21 days as I blog during a 21 day season of fasting. I have several guest bloggers joining in at that time. Please feel free to like, follow, comment, and share. It will be a very special time. Blessings! Lea

Posted in Motives, New Year Fast

Choices

I woke up facing lots of choices today: whether or not to ignore my alarm, whether or not I’m going to wear my glasses, brush my teeth, the list goes on. Some of those choices I don’t consider choices unless I think about them. i wouldn’t imagine going the day without brushing my teeth or wearing my glasses (or contacts). Not choosing them would have more negative than positive consequences for sure.

“IIsaiah 58:6a NASB “is this not the fast which I choose…”

Usually in reading the above verse about fasting, I go on and read the description of what happens when I fast. But I was stopped in my tracks this morning when I read the first few words: “Is this not the fast which I choose…”

Fasting this time of year is nothing new to me. We have had a first-of-year fast for all of our married lives. Every year, we discover our Father fresh and new when we fast. And then this morning, at the first of this year’s fast, I read “the fast which I choose…”

Every year I choose a certain way to fast. Some years I’ve done a total fast for the first few days and then modify it afterward, or a Daniel fast, or a media fast. There are many choices I’ve made over the years we have fasted – but this year I began to ponder my choice of fasting. What will my choice be?

The past weeks as I’ve considered the fast, I was a bit taken by how much we tend to magnify the effect on our bodies while we fast. Yes, there’s physical effect on our bodies – but this year I want to concentrate less on how I feel physically and more on how I grow spiritually.

This year, this is the fast which I choose: to be closer to Him, to think less of myself and how I feel, and to think more about Him and how He feels.

This is what I choose.

Posted in Motives

Fire and Water

I’ll do anything! Go anywhere for You God!

Many of us have, at one time or another, uttered those words. In moments of great blessing, when we’ve seen God come through for us in a great way or in moments of personal commitment to Him, we’ve declared our deep desire to please Him and do what He desires. I have quoted Jesus’ words, “Not my will but Yours” not realizing that He is so very ready to take me up on those words. Do I really want to do His will and not mine? When the rubber meets the road and I’m faced with a “real life” challenge, I’ll find out what my real motives are!

I would rather curl up and lick my wounds.

I would rather withdraw from people because people can bring hurt with them.

I would rather figure out life without being bothered to tell others about the hope I have in me.

It’s too inconvenient and dangerous to really do His will and not my own.

Psalm 66:8-12 ESV “Bless our God…who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For You, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid a crushing burden on our backs; You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water; yet You have bought us to a place of abundance.”

It seems there’s a process here of “fire and water” that ultimately leads to abundance. When reading Psalm 66 the trend seems to be difficulty over blessing. I don’t believe He prefers difficulty over blessing – I believe He understands that in this fallen world we are surrounded by a world that rejects Him and has rejected Him for generations.

2 Corinthians 1:3,4 NCV “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is the Father who is full of mercy and all comfort. He comforts us every time we have trouble, so when others have trouble, we can comfort them with the same comfort God gives us.”

When we have trouble, when we are going through the “fire and water” He has mercy and brings us comfort. Maybe in the form of someone coming along to provide support or a scripture or a message preached on a Sunday morning. He faithfully brings opportunities for comfort and we, in turn, become that vessel of compassion for Him when others are going through their own fires and waters.

Victories aren’t victories if they aren’t fought for and won. However, the process of the battle is painful and messy.

“There are no victories at bargain prices.” Eisenhower