Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
The local contact, who is now a friend, suggested we try something. Upon his suggestion, we began to engage people who were exiting the mosque in conversation. At some point in the conversation we would raise the question, “Do you know who Jesus is?” We would pose this question in three different languages to ensure that it was understood. As we engaged those around us, we were unable to find one person who had even heard of the name Jesus. We did find a young Muslim student who said he thought he knew him and asked if he lived in a nearby city.
I was moved that day to pray for these people. I also prayed that God would allow us to somehow be a part of what He was doing there. Now, some years later, there have been 150 new underground congregations started there. These are small house churches that have become quite bold in their proclamation of the gospel, even in a very hostile environment. Some of the leaders of this movement have lost their lives for this bold proclamation of a new kingdom come. The worker that ATC helps support continues to hammer away, training more and more leaders each year. What a privilege and thrill it is to be a part, even though small, of a powerful move of God in that place. God has answered prayer!
This week there is an ATC team in that same city. They will evangelize among a desperate people. They will teach a hungry base of leadership. They will continue to discover what God is doing and how we can be a part of it. Please join us in praying for them. I believe this is close to the heartbeat of God. We can pray in this direction with faith, believing our prayers to be incense before the throne of the Almighty One. He will answer!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I preached in a church this past Sunday in the states. It’s a good church filled with people who are serious about finding God. They have leaders in the midst of them who are diligent to point them in the right direction and who go about it in the right way. During the service the Lord gave a word about fear. Fear of these present days, and more particularly, what God was doing in them in the midst of it. As the word was given the pastor came and asked how many were experiencing this fear being spoken of. I was shocked to witness at least half of the congregation stand in an affirmative response to his question.
The game has changed. Something is different. And God is calling us to respond. He is fashioning a people who will reflect Him in the midst of this change. Is it proper for me to remind us that there remains a world outside of the United States in desperate need of seeing the clear reflection of a God who is pure love and unadulterated righteousness. It is easy in the midst of confusing elections and volatile stock markets to let our world view shrink to seeing no further than our front door. This tendency, while understandable and even normal, is antithetical to the selfless gospel we have embraced and now carry.
It is still true that thousands are being slaughtered in Darfur on a routine basis and that Sudan once again stands on the brink of civil war. This takes place independent of tightening credit markets. This weeks news reports heavy fighting again near our friends in east Congo. This time the fighting displaced 15,000 souls and the death counts are not yet known. Nothing has changed in the Northeast states of Orissa, India. Hundreds killed and thousands flee their homes as militant Hindus launch an unrelenting assault against any one who would dare whisper the name of Jesus.
How are we to respond to this in the midst of a crippled economy and confusion? “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal. 6:9-10) “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
We fare best when we function for that which we were created. In Jesus we have been created for good works, and the reminder to not grow weary in doing good is so that we don’t fall into a downward spiral, brought on by a sole focus of our circumstances. Is it not a focus on self that brings worry, fear, and discouragement? He has “prepared beforehand” good works for us. These good works will bring glory to His name, perhaps especially so, in the worlds darkest places. Interestingly, they will also bring our own hearts peace as we focus on Him and His good plan for our life.
It’s like the jungle I find myself in this morning. They (these good works) flow within a created growing rhythm, in the context of creativity and order, allowing for selflessness that brings with it a heart of peace. That’s a fancy way of saying, it just all works better when we do it His way. Never grow weary in doing good. This is a challenge I often find myself in need of these days. I pray we find blessing in it.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The book of Hebrews states this, “…He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain....We receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken….”
Do you hear this? His kingdom cannot be shaken! No matter what life throws our way, the King of Kings still sits on His throne and He rules; no matter what the TV reports, no matter what the world says, no matter what our great enemy screams! We are heirs to a kingdom which cannot be shaken! His Word cannot be shaken. His love for us cannot be shaken. However, there are things in our lives that do need to be removed and times of shaking are meant to do just this. Ask Him what He wants to shake off of you and out of you. Maybe He has already told you.
We must keep our eyes on the One who is seated above all governments, rulers and principalities of this earth, above political parties, above institutions, above time. He is our foundation. We must build our lives on Him and on the principles of His kingdom. Give Him permission to take His seat on the throne of your heart and live. He will not force His way there. He is wooing and He is warning. I close with the lyrics of Jason Upton.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I am praying that God will give you the spirit of revelation on His heart towards you. It is good. It is love.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
As I thought about where I could get some wood that would actually burn, a friend of mine came to mind. I thought to myself, “I wonder if I could get some wood from Andy.” It was just another thought on the string of many thoughts. After reading a bit, I decided to take my usual morning walk. My walk happens to take me by Andy’s house. Well, guess who was out in his yard on this Monday morning? Yep, Andy and his beautiful family. David and I stopped to say hello and catch up. Something about Andy’s house looked a little different. Come to find out the City of Roanoke had just cut down a large tree on his property. I confess that I had already noticed the huge pile of firewood in his yard. I must also confess a bit of envy at this point. After chatting a few minutes, Andy asked if I was ready for some firewood. I promise I did not ask. I don’t think I even hinted. I also promise this was my usual walking route.
On the way home, I was telling David about my thought process regarding firewood that morning. What are the odds that I would have a string of thoughts related to firewood that morning, a Monday morning, the same Monday morning that Andy had taken a day off from work; the same Monday morning I would walk by Andy’s house where he just happened to be outside at the moment of my passing? I did not pray and ask God for firewood. I just had the desire for it. And the desire stayed inside my thought process, never making it to my journal as an official request for God.
I realized on my way home how much God is with me. He is a part of me. I am communing with Him all the time, even when I am not conscience of it. He is so intricately involved in my life. We are inseparable. He knows all my thoughts before I speak them. He knows all of my desires before I ask and even when I don’t ask. He calls me a friend. He is not some distant, far-off, supreme being waiting to hurl his wand of disapproval if I mess up or get it wrong. He doesn’t have a thousand rules for me to follow. He doesn’t punish me when my mind wanders during my quiet time. He is love. And He is in love with me. I am His daughter and He is my daddy. He has qualified me to share in His inheritance. He is in me and my life is hidden in Him.
I hope and pray that you know this God. He not only loves you, but He is IN love with you!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is more than my mind could ever contrive and more than my heart could ever contain. I can’t imagine my heart being that full of love; enough love to offer one of my children for payment of another’s sin.
God’s plan for the church, (the people of God) is more than I can fathom. To think that it is through the church that the manifest glory of God would be displayed throughout the earth is mind boggling! Does it not blow your mind that the church is the fullness of Christ Jesus? Ephesians tells us that it was in accordance with the eternal purposes of God that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This is a huge calling on the church that I am still trying to wrap my mind around.
God’s plan for my life is nothing like I had imagined it to be. I married a man who had a degree in business and thought I would be living the life of a business man’s wife, and a successful one I might add. God surprised me early on when He called my husband to seminary and then to inner city ministry. That was a far cry from my plans. 6 years ago my husband envisioned building a center where people working in difficult places would come for training in order to return to their homeland stronger and more equipped. He was confident this was what God was calling us to do. I remember thinking, “OK, sure, maybe in about 15 years we will do that.” 4 months later we were doing that. I was like, “You have got to be kidding God?” God wasn’t kidding. I kept screaming, “I am not the visionary! I can’t do this! This is bigger than us! This isn’t practical!” I could only see the why’s and how’s of why it would not work. And according to the economy of man, I was right. However, God works according to His own economy and loves doing the impossible in and through the improbable, accomplishing the unimaginable in and through the unthinkable. All He needs from us is our willingness.
Many people want to meet Moses, Paul or Peter in heaven. I want to meet Noah’s wife. I want to ask her, “Were you tempted to give up? Did you think your husband was crazy? Did you care about what all the people were thinking? Did you believe God would really bring the animals, male and female, 2x2 to board a boat? Was it chaotic? Or was it clean and orderly like we church people like it?” In the last several years, I have often thought of Noah and his wife's journey of faith to build the ark.
If God were to give into my whining and my need to see the whole picture ahead of time, I am sure it would overwhelm me. But more importantly, I would miss out on the great adventure of coming to know God through faith. I am learning from my friend Dr. Tarter that the faith of a mustard seed has to do with growth and increase. When the mustard seed is sown, it grows and increases greatly. According to Tarter, “Powerful faith is faith that has increased. Increased faith comes from an enhanced trusting relationship with God.” I don’t just decide to “have faith.” I can’t create it or work it up! According to Romans 12 we are all given a measure of faith. Each believer starts with a measure of faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed, it is still a measure. When Jesus rebukes His disciples for the littleness of their faith in Matthew 17, He was basically rebuking them for the lack of increase in their faith. God is always at work to increase our faith; therefore, we will always be given opportunities to grow in our faith. Faith is what pleases God.
God was so kind to give us a glimpse this summer of what He has in store for the center. Nearly 75 people came to work, rest, enjoy fellowship and experience more of God. We hosted four short-term teams, seven short-term missionaries, people from the Middle East, and our first discipleship program called Generation of Promise. My faith increased this summer. And this is just the beginning!
My last question to Noah’s wife will be, “what did you feel when all the animals showed up; when the rains came and went?” She will only be able to answer this question because she was willing to walk in powerful faith, faith that was increasing.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
One of my heroes, Pastor Desire from Congo, has been around some recently. He came to bring Julie home. This is a little girl who has been a victim of war in east Congo. A year ago, she was in the states to receive needed specialized surgery. Her host family fell in love with her, and now she has come home to be with them forever.
After being in the states for nine months, she returned to the unsafe environment where she started, deep in the bush of Congo. It was from here that my hero, Pastor Desire, rescued her. My hero left his responsibilities of leading ten congregations, two feeding centers, and a major construction project to go locate and rescue this one little girl. He spent seven weeks trekking through countless villages and forests filled with rebel soldiers.
At the face of it, it doesn’t make sense. My question to my hero when he arrived victoriously in America with his prize was, “Why?” Why, in the face of danger, inconvenience, and at the neglect of heavier responsibility, go after the one? When I asked my “why” question his answer was simple. With some dismay at my silly question, he answered quietly, “I love Julie.”
Do you see it? Love is the trump card. Love provides the solution to many unanswerable questions. Why would God come chasing after you and me? Why pay for charter planes to take the gospel to un-reached people groups in Africa? Why expend the resources it has required to create a place of rest and refuge for pastors who have suffered in difficult places in the world? Only love makes this make sense. Love is the Trump card.
The great thing about this game is that all of us who are His, find ourselves in possession of this trump card. The card can be played in a multitude of ways. I am learning it is usually played in humility. It is played in the form of forgiveness. We can play it in almost any situation because it has been played for us.
As you play it, play it with humility, but also play it with joy. This defeats our enemy. It’s a trump card. When we play it, He can’t win. His goal to steal, kill, and destroy is defeated. I have even seen him get up from the table and walk away at the point the card is played knowing that the game is over.
I think I am going to start looking for opportunities to play. May you also find many such opportunities.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Several years ago ATC took a team to D.R. Congo to hold a pastors conference and to minister to women who were victims of such violence. What they found astounded them. Expecting 35 or 40 women at the conference, they were surprised to find 200 women waiting for them. While in the city of Bukavu, the team also visited Panzi Hospital where 400 or so women land every month needing surgical repair due to the damages sustained during their attack. There was a warehouse behind the hospital filled with women who were waiting their turn for surgery. Among those 250 women was a beautiful little 4 year old girl who captured the hearts of the entire team. Her name was Julie. She was one of the many waiting for surgery.
The team arrived home committed to finding a way to bring her to America for the reconstructive surgeries she would need. After several months of planning, speaking with doctors and congressmen, arranging for passports, visas and airfare, Julie arrived. She was cared for by a couple who loved her like their own. After 9 months of medical care Julie had to return to her country. Those who loved her grieved at her departure. What would happen to her? Who would look after her, care for her and protect her? Would we ever see her again? What did God have in mind? These were only some of the questions.
The couple began to pray asking God for a miracle; a miracle that would bring her home. By this time Julie had returned to her village far into the bush. They contacted the pastor in Bukavu whom we work alongside seeking to know what the chances were of retrieving her and bringing her back. Our beloved Desire began putting things into motion. He went to great lengths to figure out how to get to her village. Would it even be possible to get in touch with the village chief to get permission to bring her back? His journey included a boat ride, a plane ride, bus rides, days without food and many nights just waiting for the next step. Desire spent seven weeks away from his family and responsibilities to journey across the fields, jungles and vast lands of Africa to rescue one little girl. He found her, retrieved her and brought her all the way to America to her new home.
This presents such a picture of what Jesus did for us. He left his homeland and came to foreign soil. He left comfort. He left His father. He left His glory. He went to great lengths, suffering adversity, persecution and even death to rescue us and bring us home. He scooped me up and carried me away far from the pit of despair, sin, and evil. He adopted me into his family taking me as his very own. He gave me new clothes to wear, a new home, a new life to live, and an inheritance worth more than all the money in the world. Just for me. And just for you!
This Friday we aren’t just having a concert to raise money for a shelter for women who are victims of rape. We go to honor God and celebrate the story of one! Come join us.
Friday, May 2, 2008
So, where does this leave us? It leaves us in a place of dependence and this can be a bit uncomfortable. To a large extent I can control my mind as I engage in taking thoughts captive. While there is some truth to the heart following the mind, it is also true that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to change the heart. Faith that falls short of this comes perilously close to behavior modification; however, behavior modification was never the goal. Heart transformation is what it is all about. This is where I find myself lately. The Lord has been clear in pointing out the things I believe in my mind but have yet to embrace in my heart.
Will you join me in prayer for the Sudanese? Pray they will be set free through a divine revelation at the depths of Christ’s great love. I pray as Paul prayed in Ephesians, “I keep asking that God…give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation…that they may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith…they being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
God has a purpose for each of us. As we seek first the Kingdom of God He will put desires in our heart, desires that He intends for us to pursue and fulfill. What would it look like for the body of Christ to begin walking in the reality of who they really are and in the callings God has apprehended them for? What is it that your heart yearns for? What is it that you, as a spiritually bred person, desire to do? I admonish you to do as Paul did, “forgetting what lies behind and reach forward to what lies ahead; press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.” Pursue the King today! He loves you, has called you, and has prepared in advance good works for you.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
While this all sounds very ethereal, it becomes in fact, quite practical. This is especially true for those of us who have been granted eternal life and have been issued eternal calls. Our call must be viewed through the lens of a spiritual reality having eternal significance or there is little divine spark in it. This is especially true in the arena of missions, which may best be defined as the extension of the kingdom of Jesus and the exercise of His authority in the darkness of this world.
All of this is philosophical language that points to what we were taught in Sunday school as little children; prayer is primary. It may be that we adopted this truth without understanding all that lay behind it, relegating us to not exercise it. I believe more and more that the primary work of missions is prayer and worship. Through these we enter the “real” realm where the Kingdom of God is brought to bear.
Part of the work God has called Answering The Call to is predicated on this philosophy. We are to go into new fields dominated by authoritarian governments and dark strongholds. We must recognize that what is immediately observable is a mere shadow of a greater spiritual reality namely the strongholds of rulers and principalities in heavenly places. We are to go and pray. We are to worship, pronouncing that His Kingdom has come. We then become participative observers of the deliverance that King Jesus brings. We will continue to go. Come with us!
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
My favorite of these specialty items was one by way of my good friend who has accompanied me to Sudan many times. I don't want to give away his identity but I can tell you we call him "Dandy Don." It seems that Dandy Don has developed a healthy respect, or fear, for poisonous snakes. Dandy Don especially had this healthy respect/fear for the black mamba. As often as I have had the opportunity I have tried to reinforce and even encourage this healthy respect/fear of the black mamba. In response to this, Dandy Don dedicated a fair amount of financial resource toward obtaining a pair of snake proof boots to wear to Sudan.
These boots were not from Wal-Mart. They were the best that money could buy. It was absolutely certified that the boots were constructed with fabric that could not be penetrated by the poisonous fangs of the black mamba. The boots were also designed for comfort. This was no easy task given that the top of the boots extended all the way up to the lower knee.
You can imagine the fun the team had with Dandy Don as we left Roanoke en route to Sudan. Several members of the team, and especially me, were merciless as we teased him about his boots. You might think we tired of this fun after 48 hours of travel into Sudan; however, we did not.
In an initial meeting with tribal elders and chiefs more opportunity for fun with Dandy Don emerged quite naturally. As the meeting closed, I addressed the chief asking him to observe and evaluate Dandy Don's boots. There were snickers in the group as Dandy Don stood to show off his new apparel. The chief took the task serious as he studied the boots in order to properly evaluate them. A verdict was reached and the chief in very diplomatic fashion told us, "I have never seen boots like these and I like them." It was clear to all who snickered that the chief had more to say. Dandy Don on the other hand, stood taller beaming with pride. The chief finished his evaluation saying, "but there is one problem: the mamba strikes you here (motioning to the chest) not here (motioning to Dandy Don's boots)." I am not sure the chief understood our culturally inappropriate laughter and rolling on the floor over his evaluation.
The Bible speaks of another protective covering that we are to wear. You probably know where I am going with this. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul gives instruction to the believers. He tells them, "put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil." One piece of armor is the breastplate of righteousness. This breastplate is much more effective against a much craftier serpent than Dandy Don's boots.
I have been thinking lately about how often we charge forward with the right motivation and to the right places, but try to make our stand in and with our own righteousness. The breastplate of righteousness that Paul talks about is not ours, since we have none; but rather, the righteousness of Jesus, the One and Only, whose righteousness lights up the city of God. It is His righteousness that is our breastplate. Charging on to the battlefield without that protection is simply ludicrous.
His righteousness covers our heart. Fully realizing it is His righteousness in which we stand, we are protected from a proud heart and humility, the most effective of all spiritual weapons, can wield its effect. This breastplate forces us to move and act in His strength rather than face failure and destruction in our own efforts.
It is really a matter of shielding ourselves with relationship instead of religion. Religion looks to our own righteousness while a relationship rests in His. I have even had the thought that perhaps this is why so few really experience the rest that Jesus is and promises to be.