On Earth As It Is In Heaven

Compromise, it’s the cornerstone of all meaningful relationships. Each party in a relationship is to compromise in order to accommodate the other. I learned, and am still learning after nearly 34 years of marriage, the major relationship in my life, that compromise is the “secret sauce” to success in marriage. I didn’t commit myself for life to a relationship to see it fail so I work to make concessions as it were, and so does my husband (even though there are times I’m loathe to admit it – ha). We have decided to work at it and we’ve made it!

In our free societies, our culture has engrained within us that we aren’t to give in and surrender our rights no matter what the reason. Of course it’s a blessing to live in places where such freedoms of expression exist and are protected. The problem we as Christians encounter is understanding that as we serve in God’s Kingdom, our earthly freedoms don’t translate into His Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom it is “His Kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10)

I’ve written a fairly recent entry entitled, “My Kingdom Go” where I discussed the importance of having to say “My Kingdom Go” before I can pray “His Kingdom Come.” However, even in that statement I have further discovered that I’m thinking of myself more than I ought to think. Praying “My Kingdom Go” is an essential part of praying for God’s Kingdom to come, but it is a very small part for when I’m praying His Kingdom Come, I’m praying that anything opposed to God’s Kingdom will go so that His Kingdom would come.

This may sound foreign to our freedom-loving minds; don’t our opinions count? Not really for there is Someone Who has a greater understanding of everything that’s at play in this world and it’s not us. That understanding doesn’t come from natural governments or minds that have been educated at the best and most progressive and prestigious universities. God’s understanding comes from a viewpoint that embraces truth from end to end of time and space; I don’t think we’ve quite arrived at that place yet. We still lag far behind the wisdom of our Father.

The prayer of Matthew 6:10 doesn’t allow us the luxury of praying “Your Kingdom Come” as far as what’s reasonable or acceptable by earth standards. The prayer simply says, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” I have a part to play in this relationship, but it is far different to any relationship I have had on earth. God accommodated Himself to us in sending His Son (John 3:16) and Jesus accommodated Himself in being willing to submit Himself (Phil. 2:5-8). Now it is up to us to accommodate ourselves and bend to that same level.

Indeed, His Kingdom Come.


Further reading: Chris Tiegreen One Year Heaven on Earth Devotional

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

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.

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

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.”

 

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.

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