Posted in Bible reading, Faith, Fame, God's call, Perspective, Popularity, Purpose, Success

Only Then

 

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Success. It’s what everyone dreams of and hopes to achieve in life.

To be honest of my own aspirations, I dream of one of my blog posts go viral one day. I think anyone who pours themselves into their writing (or any craft they devote themselves to for that matter) hopes that their efforts will be recognized.

Musicians strive to record the best songs, post them on YouTube and hope someone will recognize their talent.

Athletes will train for years dreaming of making it to the Olympics.

Preachers prepare and work on their messages hoping that their congregations will receive them well and even congratulate them on a job well done afterwards.

Just a side note here: Props to all preachers out there who spend hours preparing every week to preach a message to their congregations. Most of them are not the televangelist type. They are unknown, uncelebrated, not on TV, paid very poorly, if at all, but have a real desire to bring messages of substance to their congregations. They are the unsung heroes of the church world, ministering week in and week out to the people on the ground. My husband is one of those faithful preachers and I watch him prepare sermons weekly in a language that is foreign to him (this sometimes takes days) in an effort to reach the wonderful people God has given us. It’s mostly a thankless task but let me just say “well done” to him and all others out there who give their all for their congregations with hearts of integrity. Rant over and back to the subject at hand. 

When probed about our dreams, we’ll often take the “humble” route, saying we’re ok with whatever happens. However, truth be told, every time our efforts don’t produce the results we hope for, we feel the sting of disappointment.

I’ve read countless articles on writing and blogging; there are many topics I have read that have ranged from how to blog successfully, how to be a successful blogger in 90 days, 1-2-3 steps to a successful faith blog, monetizing your blog, and of course the blog articles with the most “bling” attached to them are the ones promising great income if you pay for their online course. Being the skinflint that I am (I’m not totally blind to the “click here to sign up for my paid course” gimmicks), I’ve signed up for free courses, free emails, and poured over articles about various ways of using hashtags, hyperlinks, and social media posts.

Just like you, when my efforts don’t reach my aspirations, I feel disappointed which then brings me to question why am I doing what I’m doing when it’s not been “successful?” This is the point when, if we dare to look beyond what is popularly defined as success, we can find true success. Instead of reading everyone else’s “how to” manual – we already have The Manual (the Bible, God’s Word) that has been tried and tested, but usually sits unread on our shelves and coffee tables:

Joshua 1:8 NLT “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”

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In the Kingdom of God, the way to success leads us in directions that often run crossgrain to what society popularizes. Success in the Kingdom is measured not by what appears on the outside but the changes that are produced internally when we change course and dare to become people of The Manual. God’s Word is meant to be a Manual for Living as the words in it, when we take them in and saturate ourselves with them, transform us.

Hebrews 4:12 NLT “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

This juncture of reaching success in the Kingdom is where many of us struggle – how can we be successful in this world we live in by living according to a different set of rules? The difference is found in what the 2 systems produce: this world’s definition of success relies solely on appearances, resulting in a great deal of stress and disappointment when unfulfilled, while the Kindom’s definition of success relies on the integrity of God Himself, resulting in a sure path to prosperity and success.

What is posperity and success in the Kingdom? It probably isn’t what most of us would consider prosperity: a fat bank account, stock options, a viral blog, or our own TV show. Success in God’s Kingdom is born from a heart trusting in His ways and following The Manual that leads to Him taking care of each and every step we take in this life. I’ve found this to be true in my own life as I live by The Manual, I am sure of God’s care for me. While I’ve not amassed much in this life compared to others, I’ve never gone to bed hungry nor have any of my children lacked food, clothes, a roof over their heads, a bed to sleep on, or an education to help them move ahead in life. If my Father has gotten me this far, I’m certain He will take care of me and my family to the end.

Is that not enough? Is that not success?

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, Missions, Obedience, Offering, Thankful, Vision

Living the Dream

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Maybe this comes with age and experience, of which I am now a possessor of a bit of both. How much age and experience? I won’t divulge exactly how much but certainly enough to get me into trouble, of which I have had a fair share.

As I write this, a new season has dawned on us and I find myself for the first time in longer than I can remember feeling anticipation for the days that lie ahead. Anyone who has worked for any length of time in a specific field deals more with the discipline of reaching for a dream than the joy of attaining it. I believe that the discipline of reaching towards something is simply faith made real. Faith is not only something that dwells in our hearts, faith is something that we do, it is what we live by – it’s what gives us our very breath (see Rom. 1:17).

Moving from that discipline of faith to actually enjoying what we are working for by faith before we see it’s fulfillment is where we will find longevity in whatever it is God has called us to do. Those moments when we see with our physical eyes the fulfillment of what God has promised us have, at least in my own life, taken time to come to pass. If we wait to rejoice until we have seen with our eyes what has been promised to us, seasons of drought could very well push us to give up on the dream.

Have you ever come to the place where you’re thinking of giving up on your dream? I have and it isn’t at all pleasant. I have found myself in those places most often when I’ve been disappointed that things didn’t turn out the way I thought they would.

Had I known it would turn out this way…

I wasn’t expecting this much resistance…

 No one understands or cares about what I had to give up …

 Slowly but surely, the temptation to give up, fueled by my own self-pity, takes a seat in the forefront of my thoughts until a crossroad is reached and I must decide if the dream is worth it or not. Will I fan the flames of despair in my dry desert or will I fan the flames of God’s gift, His dream, to me? The former is, at the onset, much easier to do but in the end leads only to more regret.

What would have happened if I hadn’t given up?

What would have happened if I had chosen to stay?

What would have happened if I had given the dream one more chance?

After a bit of time and experience, again I won’t admit to how much of either, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to simply tolerate reaching for the dream. The dream has to be cherished, guarded, and enjoyed! Hidden in the discipline of obedience one finds the deepest joy that life has to offer: a satisfaction that goes beyond the simple emotion of happiness when a goal is reached.

The dreams we carry have been entrusted to us by God and we have not only the responsibility but the honor of reaching for their fulfillment. Their success or failure doesn’t depend on our abilities but on His ability in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJ  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The dream isn’t given for our own glory or acclaim; it’s for His glory and acclaim and He is well able to make it come true. Whether or not any of us are recognized on this earth for what we have done for the Kingdom is irrelevant – we’re reaching for the prize that has heaven as our home and what more could we ask for?

The dream is also a treasure that God has chosen to entrust us with; whatever your treasure is, cherish it! Fan the flames of your dream (2 Tim. 1:6) and see your passion for the treasure that it represents grow; don’t allow the work of the dream and the disappointments you face along the way to blur its figure into a mere shadow of what it once was.

I’ve been guilty of giving up, feeling sorry for myself, and wanting to give up on the dream – more times than I care to remember! Each time I’ve thrown in my towel and called it a day, the dream calls me back for I know there’s nothing else for me to do but live the dream.

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot

 

 

Posted in Choices, Church planting, Dreams, God's call, Vision, Waiting

A Welcome In My Heart

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

I would like to be known as someone who has given others the benefit of the doubt; to be someone who gives others the grace that I so deeply crave. Instead of being someone who doubts that incredible things can be done, I hope to be a cheerleader for others whose dreams are as crazy as mine.

The world is full of stories of those who have risen from incredibly difficult circumstances and gone on to do great things. The world is also full of those who would diminish the out-of-the-box plans of dreamers. How many dreamers have had their aspirations snuffed out by what’s reasonable, what’s expected, and what’s deemed feasible by those around them?

Matthew 12:20 NLT“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…”

When our hopes lie in the approval of those around us, we are certainly setting ourselves up for disappointment. Much has been said and written about the negative impact that society’s expectations places on us; I cannot hope to add more to what’s already been said by those whose qualifications far exceed my own.

Despite my own limitations, I am sure of one thing: while I cannot control the opinions or reactions of others, I can control my own.

As parents, my husband and I have tried to instill in our children a faith to believe for the unbelievable. Over the years, we have read books like Heaven’s Heroes by David Shibley and some of the series of Christian Heroes Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge to open our children’s hearts to believe that if God used ordinary people in the past, He can use them in their lifetimes to do amazing things. We believe that there are enough “naysayers” in life; we want to be their cheerleaders.

This doesn’t mean that their, or our, lives have been a cakewalk. On the contrary, I have often felt like that weakest reed and flickering candle in the scripture from Matthew above. The amazing thing about God is that He is cheering for us to reach beyond our wildest hopes and dreams.

In 2001 my husband came home from a conference in the USA (I remained behind in Africa with our children) and boldly announced to me that God had spoken to his heart that we were to plant 1,000 churches. I’d like to say that I latched onto that word and fell into complete step with him in that declaration. I did know enough to say, “Well, if that’s what God said, then, I’m OK with that.” In saying so, there was no enthusiasm to be found in my voice or demeanor. Instead, my mind was swimming with questions:

We only have one church we have planted, how can we plant 999 more?

Where will the money come from?

Where will the leaders come from?

And so on.

I found myself in the category of those naysayers not with open disagreement, but in thinking “How can we possibly?” when God clearly wanted me to remember that He makes the impossible possible.

Things went from bad to worse before we saw our next church planted. We were unable to plant a new church in the city we had set our sights on and left dejected. Two churches seemed impossible, let alone 1,000 – and it indeed was impossible. Until my eyes were opened in the next city we moved to where our church was approved in a matter of weeks and we quickly found ourselves surrounded by a new congregation.

Could it be that God had plans for us?

One day during family devotions, as we read from Heaven’s Heroes I listened as my husband read of David Livingstone’s trek across Africa. He faced lions, death, lack, and naysayers but he persisted because he saw something no one else did: God never fails and he was sure that God would not send him on a fruitless mission.

Hebrews 11:13 NLT “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it from a distance and welcomed it.”

My heart had closed itself to hope, and as long as my hope was lost, there was no room for faith in my heart to receive it. The vision needed a welcome in my heart and this only came when I closed down my own doubt and decided it would be better to receive the promise in faith – even if that meant I were to die before its fulfillment.

We are still 900+ churches away from 1,000 naturally speaking, but my heart has already welcomed each of them. How it will get done is the adventure I’m waiting to live. As we work and wait, we keep climbing, keep reaching, and keep opening our hearts in welcome for the vision.

In 2020 we hope to reach for those 1,000 churches and climb an impossible mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It is 19,300+ feet high and as I look at my own inability physically and financially to even think of it, I see the climb for 1,000 speaks to me more than anyone else. I’m welcoming the vision and will climb for it, 1,000 here we come!

Isaiah 60:22 NLT “The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

Posted in Choices, Courage, Destiny, Faith, Fear, God's call, Kingdom, Perspective, Popularity, Purpose, Resurrection

Things Aren’t What They Seem To Be

Play it safe.

Don’t push too far.

Be careful.

Should we chose to follow all safety precautions on every product we buy or activity we take part in, there are still bound to be unforeseen, unplanned, and unexpected complications that will meet us along the way. We simply can’t avoid trouble, it comes with the territory of life.

I’ve said it many times and still hold to this: the safest place to be is in God’s will. There, I find protection, provision, joy, and comfort. There’s nothing that can reach me there; I’m in His pocket ( 1 Sam. 25:29) as it were, close to His heartbeat. From that place, I hear what stirs His heart and I find the courage to reach for things I never dreamt of before, because things aren’t what they seem to be when you’re in the will of God.

John 14:27 ESV “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

It would appear that Jesus was coaching His disciples to really open their eyes to the possibility of things not being as they would appear when He said, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” At the time being described above in John 14, Jesus had entered into Jerusalem and was preparing His followers to understand that in the days to come, events would unfold that would appear to say, “It’s over.”

The crucifixion was on the horizon, Jesus knew it – but He also knew that the Resurrection was soon to follow on the heels of what would appear to be His end. He knew things weren’t going to be at all as they seemed. Jesus also knew everyone would flee and that He would be left alone to face the cross, yet He did it anyway. Why would He suffer and die when all would leave Him? He also knew that after His Resurrection, no one would believe in Him right away. It took quite a bit of work after He rose to convince those who had fled, that He was really alive. If it had been me making the choice at that juncture, those who had fled would not have been in the running for those chosen to be the leaders of the early church. Yet, by grace, Jesus chose to look beyond what the rest of us would call “the obvious” because He knew that nothing in His Kingdom is as it seems. Jesus knew that those who had fled weren’t at all as they appeared. They were born for something more, they were meant to turn the world “upside down.”

Acts 17:6 ESV “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.”

I see a pattern throughout Scripture where those who dared to live close to the Father’s heartbeat never played it safe. They understood that being led where God took them was the only truly safe place to be – even if that path lead them to a place where it would seem their end was imminent.

Daniel chose the lions.

Paul chose to go to Rome.

Joseph chose to take Mary.

Each one (and many others) could have chosen to follow an easier route, but they didn’t. They knew the worst that could happen would have meant losing their lives, which would only put them in the presence of God; where would the the loss in that have been? They chose His safe place, and as they did, they lived amazing lives of adventure, seeing impossible dreams come true that they didn’t even know they had.

This life and all of its trimmings would have us to believe that living a life of adventure for God is unsafe, unreasonable, and even foolish. For those who don’t know the Father, I can understand those feelings. Still, there’s a thirst in me to see more than a life colored safely in the lines of what seems to be safe places, for in reality nothing is safe apart from God.

My choice is to live far from what seems to be safe; I want to live close to Him and far from things as they seem to be.

“The worship of God is not a rule of safety; it’s an adventure of the spirit.” Alfred North Whitehead

Posted in Contempt, Courage, Despair, Destiny, Dreams, Faithfulness, Forgiveness

From The Pit To The Palace

Apologies for the inactive link in the last post! The link is now working!

Today I’m connecting with our podcast, Africa & Beyond, so you can enjoy this amazing message that Jamie has been sharing with our church in Blantyre, Malawi.

It may seem life has settled into a pit or a prison – but be encouraged, there’s a palace in the future!

You can hear the message by clicking the link below.

https://leakpeters.podbean.com/e/from-the-pit-to-the-palace-1517497315/

Posted in Dreams, Hope, Missions, Provision

Dream On, Little One

 

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I photographed this little boy this past Sunday. He is one of millions in Malawi – may they dream and live for better times.

I remember daydreaming in math class and being rudely interrupted from my reverie by my 3rd grade teacher.

“Lea! Stop daydreaming and pay attention!”

In my defense, she wasn’t the easiest teacher to listen to at the time when I was an easily distracted age of 9. I don’t remember what I was daydreaming about, but it certainly was more interesting than the droning on of Mrs. Parker and math. My daydreaming in math class continued for a couple of years and there was a consequence. I ended up having to go to summer school for math in 5th grade – my teachers attributed my falling behind to my daydreaming. I couldn’t help it that math wasn’t as interesting as daydreaming about being a princess over a huge kingdom where I could order as many pizzas as I liked.

I learned my lesson and began paying attention in math class, but I still wanted those unlimited pizzas!

Growing up, my daydreams gave way to other, more grown-up dreams. I dreamt of doing something for God with my life, going to be a missionary in Africa and doing whatever I could to help people, children specifically. Maybe I would be a nurse? Doctor? Those were removed from my list quickly as the sight of blood and other undesirable chores that nurses or doctors have to do changed my mind.

Years later, all grown up, I find myself as a missionary in Africa working in church planting and community outreach, mostly to women and children. I hadn’t dreamt of half of what I have gone through – but I have lived my dream.

This weekend at church was a busy one; I taught an early Sunday morning class, we had our regular service, and afterwards we had a baptism service. It may not sound busy, but believe me, these weekends keep us on our toes. I smiled this morning as I thought about the weekend, there were so many lovely moments: from having a nearly full class with almost perfect attendance to hearing my husband preach a great message (he is my favorite preacher), and finally watching people get baptised.

Then, I remembered the little children I watched playing around the periphery of our church tent where we meet (yes, our church is definitely no frills). I watched them cartwheeling, playing, and caught one of them looking off into the distance as if to daydream. I wondered what that little one dreamt of.

Here in Malawi, most children have their dreams snuffed out before they even have a chance to dream. For most of them, their dreams consist of not going to bed hungry or hurting or alone. They dream of not being abused or of their parents not dying and leaving them orphans. Their dreams are simple ones that those of us who have food security, families that love us, and have at least had the luxury to dream, cannot understand.

I can’t fathom being hungry for my entire life. Here in this part of Africa, 46% of our children under 5 suffer from stunting, which is a prevailing hunger that prevents proper growth in children. When I look at our children whenever we meet, most of them come from the poorer communities around our church, I realize just how serious the situation really is. Children are visibly smaller than they should be, and my heart aches knowing that many won’t reach adulthood and for those who do, chances are they won’t be able to have sufficient education to afford them the luxury of dreaming for a better life.

We run a feeding program in Lilongwe, Malawi, about 5 hours away from Blantyre. We have seen an amazing difference in the children who have been eating at the site regularly. A few years ago, a medical team from Joyce Meyers Ministries (who has been helping us feed in Lilongwe since 2007) came to hold medical checks in various places throughout the country. Their findings were, among those they surveyed, that ours were the most nutritionally secure children in Malawi.

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In a country where 45% of the population is under 16, you can understand that the scope of the problem is greater than 1 feeding program can handle. While we can’t reach them all, we can reach some. We are working on opening a feeding outreach in Blantrye, financing another feeding program of course has been a great hindrance but also the red tape involved has prevented us from receiving some food aid that has been promised to us. We continue to pray for solutions; this is proving a challenge, as the country itself is not producing enough to feed its own population.

So we reach those we can, feed those we can, and bring education (our newest outreach) where we can. But I can’t help but feel for the little ones who have yet to dream, for those playing around the church this past weekend. For that little one standing alone, I pray we find a way for him to dream on.

Matthew 25:40 AMP The King will answer and say to them, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it for Me.’”

 

 

Posted in Dreams, Easter, Resurrection, Vision

Dream On

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Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your dream, your purpose, that you have lost the thing that “makes you tick,” or, have you ever lost your ability to dream? There are few experiences as painful as losing your dreams and visions or your ability to dream. When we lose our dream, it can feel as if we’ve lost our very life’s breath. I’ve heard it said that if we’ve not found anything worth laying our lives down for, what are we living for?

Early on in life, I knew that Africa would play a big role in my history. When asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I never had the normal answer to offer: doctor, lawyer, teacher, businesswoman…no, my answer was “I want to be a missionary in Africa.” My answer would be met with a smile, pat on the back, and the words, “Aren’t you just so sweet?” No, the journey to Africa wouldn’t be an easy one, but it was that dream that gave purpose to everything else in my young life.

My vision for missions made me a kind of oddball from day 1 (a real misfit). At first, most thought it was a childish dream, but as the dream stuck, it was what served as my life’s map. It is what made me feel out of place with my peers and it is what made me feel comfortable in my own skin even though it seemed no one else knew what to do with me. The same purpose brought my husband and I together and ultimately had our feet land on the continent for the first time in 1985. The rest, as “they” say, is history; we’ve been inextricably linked to this continent.

Early on in our missionary career, when we were preparing to plant our first church, we set our eyes on going to Burundi. We had heard many horror stories of people working in that small nation – stories of loss and hardship. In our youthful zeal we packed our two young children and ourselves in a plane and flew to this strange land full of hopes and dreams.

Initially, the task of planting a church seemed straightforward: register the church with the government, secure work visas, and off we go. We quickly learned that is not the way things get done – the process was a long and arduous one fraught with sickness, resistance at every corner, and the usual financial strain missionaries face. The dream was nearly lost to us before it began but suddenly, miracle after miracle, we experienced healings, approvals, and somehow the finances were there and our first church plant began.

Time after time over the years, the dream was tested. From civil war to refusals for the church to be registered, there were times we were sure the dream had ended and dreaded what we would wake up to, yet here we are – we’re living the dream.

Did you ever thing you would be part of something like someone else’s dream? Most of us don’t think that anyone would be so interested in us that they would be willing to put everything on the line just for us. The good news is this: there is Someone Who gave His dream up, so that we could live and dream on.

Philippians 2:5-8 NKJ Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Our dreams now pattern after those of Jesus Whose dreams appeared to die when He died – but when He rose, His dreams rose with Him:

Ephesians 2:4-6 NKJ But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…”

Before we even knew that we were part of a dream, God made a way for those dreams to come true in Christ. The things that try to extinguish God’s dreams in us are little more than distractions because when the Dream came alive on the first Resurrection morning – He gave life to the rest of the dreams He would live through us in times to come.

Ephesians 2:7 NKJ  “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

What gives you a passion for living? If you’ve lost that passion, it’s time to dream again. God has a dream for you to make life so very much worth living.

It’s time to dream on, dear one, dream on.

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