Posted in Fasting, laundry, New Year

Laundry

There’s something in life that will never leave you, something that will always be requiring your attention, can you guess what it is? What I’m thinking about isn’t something as life-altering as you may think it is, but it definitely has impact on us daily.

It’s laundry. Laundry will be with us for the rest of our lives. We will never be free from the scourge that is laundry. We may find better or easier ways of doing laundry, we may find “new and improved detergent,” but laundry will be part of our lives from now until we step out of our earth suits into eternity.

I feel like I’m forever washing clothes.

Really, washing clothes isn’t a horrible chore…if everyone who threw their clothes into the clothes basket would think about not winding them up in knots or leaving bubble gum and ball point pens in their pockets.

So I’m forever washing clothes and as I wash them, I’m unwinding them, checking pockets, sorting colors, hanging them, and then folding. Laundry is always there for me, making sure that I am aware that it will wait for me every day.

In the same way we work to keep our clothes clean every day, we work to keep ourselves right in our walk with the Lord.

Revelation 22:14 LB “Blessed forever are all who are washing their robes…”

In this verse I see the continuous tense of the word “wash” being used implying that we are always to be making sure that all is well with us and our Lord. This doesn’t mean we live in fear of making mistakes and have to live life as if we are walking on eggshells. It simply means that  we are aware that we are “but dust” and that would naturally mean we are prone to getting “dusty.” The laundry needs to be washed.

Take some time today to dust yourself off from the effects of yesterday. It seems laundry will be with us for a long time to come – but that’s just fine as He helps us unwind everything that has become knotted and clear out the clutter of our lives.

Genesis 18:27 NLT “Then Abraham spoke… ‘I am but dust and ashes.'”

 

Posted in Holy Spirit, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Relevance, Relevant

I Got It All Wrong

A little over a year ago, just for fun really and because I thought we could contribute something interesting and useful in the area of working overseas in missions, I started a podcast. It really didn’t enter into my mind whether or not there was a special technique involved. “It’s so easy to start a podcast” was the message out there and I felt encouraged to soldier on into a new world of communication. I knew ours would be a simple endeavor considering my setting (we live in Burundi, Africa). I read up on the basics of podcasting: how to submit your podcast to iTunes, adding it on to social media accounts, among other things, and simply got started.

Of course I’ve been told I’ve “gotten it all wrong” because “everyone else does it this way” i.e., translated a way other than what I was doing. Had someone said this to me when I was much younger, it would’ve bothered me quite a bit. You see, one of the benefits of growing older is learning to let go of any negative effect that the opinions of others have on us. I’ve learned to listen, make corrections, and even ignore comments made that have no bearing at all on what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve gotten so many things wrong according to what “they” say – but each and every time I’ve fallen for what “they” have said instead of allowing God to weigh in with His say, I’ve ended up miserable. Through that wonderful school of hard knocks called “life,” I’m finally at the place in my walk with the Lord where I know without a shadow of a doubt that what God wants from me is far more important than what anyone else would like to see me be or become.

So our podcast is so very simple; some may call it “dumbed down” to nothing. I don’t have any intro music, nor do I have facy fade-ins or fade-outs. I’m not against giving it a bit of polish but considering where we are and what we have technology-wise, having one as simple as ours is a victory!

As our world becomes increasingly desensitized to God’s voice in its pursuit of all the bells and whistles of remaining relevant, we risk being swept away in the current of sacrificing the message for the sake of being relevant. In this place of pressing to be accepted and current in society, things like prayer for those who need Jesus gets pushed farther and farther into more secluded areas in order to keep people comfortable. The Holy Spirit has become a ghostly phantom rather than a powerful presence. We slowly get lulled into a spiritual slumber thinking that if we draw bigger crowds then we are surely becoming more successful.

Jesus spends most of Luke 12 warning those following Him of the dangers of flowing with the crowd and allowing even a little bit of the world’s “yeast” to enter into our lives. That little bit of compromise, that little bit of trying to please everyone and not sound crazy might lead us somewhere we would have never dreamed of going.

**On a side note I’d say a lot of what we see in society today is itself pretty crazy so those saying we’re crazy don’t have much to talk about but that’s another entry for another day.

Luke 12: 51-53 MEV “Do you suppose that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For there will be from now on five divided in one house, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, and mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” 

Jesus’ desire isn’t for people to be in conflict, but in stating that His message would bring division seems to be in conflict with the “Peace on Earth” message (Luke 2:14) we’ve just come from celebrating during Christmas. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) so how can a Prince of Peace cause division? He knew that people would not readily lay down their own ideas in exchange for His. He knew that people would reject His message that results in ultimate peace. He knew His message would run cross-grain to all cultures all over the world throughout many millenia. This is largely a result of our desire to be in charge; after all, we know better than anyone else what works in our culture, right?

Matthew 11:28-30 MEV Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. For I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

What everyone all over the world have in common is that they labor, they are heavily burdened. What those labors and burdens look like from country to country vary; in Africa the majority of the population labor simply to have enough money to feed themselves and their children. In the developed world people labor to maintain what they have accumulated. No matter what the labor – it is labor and it burdens us and causes us to work, sometimes frantically, to ease the burden we bear.

True rest comes from letting go of our own opinions in exchange for His.

This year I want to rest and that will look like I’m getting it all wrong – and that’s fine by me.

Posted in Choices, Missions, New Year, Thankful, Thanksgiving

Of Power Cuts and Enchiladas

The power is off again.

Does this surprise me? Of course not!

But I can hope for power, can’t I?

I’ve endured, since 1987, many weeks and months of electrical blackouts. Living in Africa it’s part of the deal; there will be many opportunities for us to go without power. Some years ago our family lived 3 months straight without electricity, I call this period of time in my life a “bad hair quarter.”

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I complained quite a bit in those days until one day while wrapping up things after a Sunday morning service I commented to someone in the congregation that the power had been off for some weeks. Their reply to my insensitive remark was, “Oh, we never have power at home.”

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The darker sections of the map designate areas with less power. Click here for more information.

A large part of the world’s population, about 1 billion, does not have access to electricity. I’m sure I’m not smart enough to grasp the reason why so many go without power; I simply have learned to be thankful for the power that I’m blessed to have, even when it goes off periodically.

I know Thanksgiving has passed, but I keep thinking of how shallow I allow my thinking to become from time to time in light of the suffering of those who have less than I do. On Thanksgiving day, our power was cut (I’m so thankful for my gas stove). We had invited our Burundian friends over to celebrate with us and took time to explain to them what the day was all about: giving thanks for all of our blessings together with family and friends. Family from the States called and it was one of the best Thanksgivings we’ve had overseas.

**On a side note to make this story interesting, we couldn’t find a turkey so we opted to make enchiladas instead. No, nothing was store bought, nothing came in a package – it all came from raw ingredients. That’s the whole enchilada (pun intended)!**

The power stayed off for nearly 5 days after Thanksgiving. Due to the fact that we don’t have a backup generator or solar system to help us during power cuts, we lost everything we had in the refrigerator and freezer; an expensive cut for sure. When power was restored, I gave thanks for having a clean refrigerator and freezer.

Knowing full well that the power might cut again quickly after being restored, I decided not to be in a hurry to restock the kitchen. Then last night about 10:00 pm, the power went off yet again. We do have a small battery backup that lasts some hours but the fans turned off around 4:00 this morning. Temperatures began to rise and sweat ran down my temples; my first thought was how glad I was to have waited to get groceries.

Even as I write this post, I’m using my battery power hoping that somehow this power outage won’t be as long as the last!

Checking my attitude at the door, I gave thanks for the running water (which is also known to be cut from time to time) and a roof that doesn’t leak. We’re at the onset of the rainy season and life could be a whole lot more miserable if I didn’t have a roof for shelter.

My husband is a preacher and he’s never afraid to address tough issues. One of my favorite quotes of his is, “No matter how bad you have it, there’s always someone who is worse off than you are.” It’s so true; the things we complain over rarely (if ever) are worthy of the energy we put into them by complaining.

I pray this coming year to have my eyes open to not only the blessings that I have but also to really see those who go without – and to do, give, and make whatever difference I can.

It may be little, it may not be much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s my offering.

Still, a little power couldn’t hurt…

 

 

Posted in Courage, Goals, Grace, Missions, New Year, Rest

Goals and Grace

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Setting goals. It’s what everyone does at the beginning of every year; we make lists of “resolutions” or “goals” for the year. I have a laundry list of things that I wash, rinse, and repeat every year: be a better wife and mom, get healthier, read more, give more, work harder in the mission, the list goes on. I have gotten very specific at times, to the point where, at the end of the year when I see that my list fell woefully short of completion or success – I got discouraged. Lately, my goals have gotten non-specific in order to keep myself from feeling totally defeated on December 31st.

In our day and age, we relish in the activity more than we do in those engaging in the activity and that, at least for me, has bled into how we perceive ourselves as successful or not. Don’t get me wrong, having well thought plans and goals are good. Without maintaining some kinds of goals, we risk stagnation in every area of life. However, if we place too much weight on the side of the scale of goals, it could interrupt the balance between goals and grace, we may find ourselves striving to achieve rather than running the race with endurance.

Hebrews 12:1b NKJV “…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

I believe we have exchanged what is meant to be the prize, being told, “Well done, enter in!” (Matt. 25:21) for what we can achieve in the here and now. The measures of success in God’s Kingdom have to do with His grace, not our works (Eph. 2:8). By His grace we are enabled to endure and finish the race, and if we learn to run in the cadence, as it were, of grace we will go far and see much accomplished for the Kingdom.

This year as I set my goals I’m making a change. I’ve decided that His grace is great enough to help me see Him do great things through me – not the other way around. In myself, the little that I can achieve isn’t even mediocre in comparison to what He can do with His great power if I just sit back and let Him take the driver’s seat.

Acts 4:33 NKJV And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.”

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Posted in Distractions, Endurance, God's call, Honor, Missions, New Year, Perspective, Rewards

Unseen? Maybe. Insignificant? Never.

As we’re coming to the end of January and our season of fasting closes, we stand face-to-face with 2018 and the work that lies ahead. Today, Jamie (aka my husband/sweetheart) reminds us how to keep our focus on serving God throughout 2018 without looking for recognition. When the work is hard and the day is long, we often wish someone would say, “Good job.” Most of the time, the day-to-day sacrifices we make go unnoticed by those around us and this can lead to discouragement. However, there is Someone Who notices everything.

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John 12:26(b) NKJV “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” 

Our service to the Lord Jesus Christ guarantees us honor, not the honor of men, but the honor of God the Father.  Of course, when God honors us, often it comes in the form of “favor with men.”  Luke 2:52 NKJV “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  However, whether we’re ever recognized and acknowledged by people or not, it really doesn’t matter, what matters the most is God’s recognition and acknowledgement of us.

Our service to Jesus is expressed in many different ways.  We can’t even give a cup of water to a disciple and it not be recognized and rewarded, even something as “little and insignificant” as this in the eyes of the world, is seen as service to Jesus!  Matthew 10:42 NKJV “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

So we should take courage today in whatever service and ministry we’re involved in for the sake of God’s Kingdom; our names may never appear in Charisma Magazine, we may never be invited to speak on TBN (Christian TV), we may never even receive recognition by other churches, but as long as what we’re doing is as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23 NKJV “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”), our Father in Heaven is taking note and one day, one way or another, He will honor us.

Also, this truth will encourage us to “not grow weary while doing good” (Galatians 6:9).  When we realize it’s Jesus we’re serving, no matter how menial the task may seem, we’ll not give up because we know one day, one way or another, God will make sure we’re honored.  And if it’s God who’s making sure we’re honored, we’ll truly be honored!

I believe this word will be a blessing and encouragement to you, not only now, but also in the days ahead, as you serve God in your area of the world.  

Posted in Distractions, Missions, New Year, Purpose

Stay Focused

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

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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

 

 

Posted in 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.

Posted in Beginnings, Kingdom, New Year

The Kingdom Has Come

Today, January 1, 2018, journals, blogs, newspaper articles, tweets, and conversations will inevitably turn towards expectations and hopes for the New Year:

A new job.

A new car.

A new romance.

A new house.

A new fitness regime.

A new Bible reading plan.

A renewed dedication to God.

There’s something in the hearts of men and women around the world that looks for renewed hope; we eagerly look and wait for God to make all things new (Rev. 2:15). Thinking of the new and better comforts us in the middle of our not-so-comfortable current surroundings.

I watched an interview on a news program last night where the person being interviewed (Trevor Noah a TV personality and comedian) discussed his viewpoint on achieving success. He rose from poverty to a life of notoriety and fame. Something he said stuck with me; he was asked how he handles “living the dream.” His response went something like this, “Living the dream isn’t about the next newest thing we can get; living the dream is being joyful or happy in every moment. Doing otherwise we mortgage our happiness and in doing so will never achieve our dream because we’re always reaching for more.”

The truth is that we won’t achieve anything more in life that can offer more than what we as believers already carry in us: the Kingdom of God. What more could we hope for? Within the Kingdom is found the things the world can’t possibly supply: righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17) and the very Presence of God Himself as His Kingdom is in us (Luke 17:21).

The Kingdom seems so far away, it is easier to fall victim to circumstance and live from day to day with the same mentality of this world – happiness will come when I reach “the next level” or have the newest gadget or have more money. All of these things are lacking in the thing we seek: God’s presence and power. It is in His presence lack and need fall to the wayside so what we need isn’t a new list of goals. What we need is to expand the Kingdom in ourselves and in this world.

The Kingdom has already come near to us, dare we enter? Dare we partner with the King to see His Kingdom come? This will mean, if we truly pray for His Kingdom come, we must pray our kingdom go.

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

Posted in Bible reading, Christmas, Church planting, Judgment, New Year, Offense, The Call of God

He Was A Missionary

We are at the end of 2017. One could say it’s the end of an era; at least an era lasting a whole 12 months.  Every year I find myself saying the same thing, “I can’t believe another year has gone by” and while it feels like a tedious saying, it’s nevertheless true.

It is nearly 2018 and I don’t know where the days went, how 12 months could tick by so quickly. The year has been full of activity and I hope most of it was productive. The older I get the more I wonder how much of what I’ve devoted myself to was really what mattered.

Did it matter that the power went off? Oh, the power did go off a lot in the past year but we’re still here.

Did it matter that the water went off? It was very inconvenient and smelly, but we’re still here.

Did it matter that our Blantyre church still meets in a tent? The floor is dirt and money to build is still in realms of prayer, but we’re still meeting.

What have we done that mattered his year? What have we accomplished that held any eternal value in the face of an ever-complicated world situation?

I find myself asking these questions and understand a bit more every year that what matters most isn’t encompassed by what we would naturally consider valuable or important.

In my devotions, I have come across the story of Jonah. The book of Jonah is one of my favorite books in the Bible because Jonah resembles me in so many ways: he’s sent to a country not his own, he’s not a “qualified” prophet, and the circumstances he faces causes him to have a bit of an attitude. Now, I know no one else reading this ever has attitude problems, but I find myself battling them daily as I walk on this road of life.

Jonah, as many of us know him, was a runaway prophet. The city of Nineveh was a city that was a fierce enemy of Israel, Jonah’s nation. They were well known for pillaging Israel at every chance they got – but God had called Jonah to prophecy to them, to give them a chance to turn and repent.

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As the story goes, Jonah runs from his call, gets swallowed by a fish, begs for mercy in the fish, is himself delivered, and brings God’s message to Nineveh. The people collectively repented and God’s wrath was held back. This turn of events angered Jonah; when you read the story, you could initially be dumbfounded by Jonah’s reaction. Why would Jonah resist God’s command to the point of running away and facing all of the consequences that he did?

I wonder if the Ninevites, in their pillaging of Israel, didn’t touch Jonah’s life? Had he lost property or loved ones in the raids? Surely, he was effected somehow, if not even himself directly. It was no wonder he struggled to obey God’s call to the Ninevites, his enemy.

Even after his infamous stay in the fish, Jonah grudgingly preaches God’s message. He was so angry when God’s wrath was held back; he seemed to have wanted the people to suffer at God’s hand:

Jonah 4:1-3 NKJV“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

Jonah, if we were to take him at his word, would’ve preferred to die than seeing God show mercy on his enemies, people who he felt didn’t deserve God’s mercy. What Jonah didn’t understand was that God had a greater understanding of the people; they weren’t even what today’s Christians would call “God’s people” but God loved them and said to Jonah:

Jonah 4:11 NKJV“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left…”

God saw something that Jonah didn’t see; He saw the hearts of people. He knew the people’s hearts were ready for a change and He was willing to offer them the change He knew they were ready for. He also knew the condition of Jonah’s heart and knew the only remedy for Jonah’s bitterness was to be sent on this mission of mercy to those who had no right to it. What Jonah didn’t see was the condition of his own heart that, without the same mercy, would also have been deserving of God’s judgment.

As I consider the goings-on of the year, and the hiccups that came along with the year’s events, I hope my attitude hasn’t been like Jonah’s of times past. It would be easy, if I listened to the loud rhetoric being sent across the airwaves and internet to judge others less than worthy of God’s goodness – but thank God, He is not that way. He was not that way with me, I therefore, cannot be that way with others whether or not I understand God’s love for them.

What mattered this year is if I honestly represented my Lord and His Mission as I went about my days, if I reached out with mercy and grace, even when I’ve not been offered that same courtesy.

My prayer as I look forward to 2018 is that I might value what God values and be true to The Mission of extending mercy where it is undeserved – and that understanding starts with me.

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