Monday, July 27, 2015

MORE PICS






 If you look by the bushes, you can see a monkey!




 Learning an African card game with the missionaries
 Raven and I braved watching a goat get cooked
 Then I tried the goat. That's Papa Jet :)






 This sweet girl braided my hair. 
 African sunset
 Baby wraps!
 Cape Coast slave castle 

Secrets of Success




On our last Sunday on site, our team split up to three different village churches to speak and encourage the local believers. Half our team was sick and had to stay back so three of us went with a missionary to each church. I attended a village church that was only a year or so old. Previously, the village had been unreached. What a privilege to be a part of a developing congregation!
Below is the outline of the message I gave. Once again, it arose simply from what the Lord is teaching me and I don’t pretend to have mastered it. These are points in which I want growth. Perhaps God will use it to encourage you as well. (*I credit much of what I have learned here from the pastor at my home church. I’m so grateful for his biblical teaching).

Joshua 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discourage, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Four things stand out to me in this passage.

1)    God is bigger than our circumstances (vs. 1-5). Moses, a mighty man of God, dies. But God isn’t set back. He isn’t distraught. He doesn’t miss a beat. He can use whomever He chooses. And He is faithful to preserve His remnant.

1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah, a prophet living during a time of rampant idolatry. He becomes discouraged and wails to God that he alone is the only one left serving the Lord. The Lord reveals to him that in fact, He has reserved 7000 who have not bowed their knees to Baal.

The Lord will do the same in our day. He will always preserve His remnant. My heart has been so encouraged by my time in Ghana. I have seen pockets of the Ghanaian church that is alive and well! God is faithful. He will do it.

2)    We are called to be strong and courageous (vs. 6-9). In the span of a four verses, the Lord repeats this command to Joshua three times. Such a call suggests that the task ahead of him would not be easy. He was about to head into war.

Courage is important to the Lord. Faith is what pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6). In the gospels, we see that what impresses Jesus the most is faith (see Luke 7). The Bible tell us 365 times to not be afraid. The rest of the world fears. We stand out when we don’t.

3)    Abiding in the word is the key to success (vs. 7-8). In America, success is a popular topic. You can read books on it.  You can even pay people to coach you on it. Here in Ghana, success may be about getting an education or a visa to America. But God tells us the secret to success! We need to abide in the word (see Psalm 1). When we mediate on it and obey it, then we will be successful and prosperous (see Ezra 7:10).

Studying the word is an unnoticed discipline. But it is the daily, unnoticed disciplines that make us who we are.

At our last ministry site there were two young men who volunteered with the mission work. One day they will be mighty men of God. Right now, they are being discipled. They are serving. They are doing the tasks nobody else would want to do. One day people will look at them and wonder how they got to be where they are. It is because they are being faithful in the small things.

Exodus 33:10-11 is a telling verse as to why God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites in Moses’ absence: “Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshipped, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”

Joshua abided in the presence of the Lord. He was not campaigning among the people. He was seeking an audience of One. Notice that he did this while he was young. Youth, if you have dreams of being great, commit to the secret place. Know the word. Abide in His presence. That is the key to success.  

4)   The presence of the Lord makes all the difference (v. 9). The reason we do not have to fear or become discouraged is because He is with us. That “for” is the hinge word of this verse. If the Lord is with us, we cannot fail. If He is not, we can’t succeed.


Matthew 28:19-20. The reason we can be sent out and carry this gospel to the ends of the earth is because Jesus is with us. We don’t go alone. And His presence makes all the difference.


Photo from http://en.freejpg.com.ar/free/info/100008291/book

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Vignettes - July 13

Several days ago I was feeling tired and weary. I withdrew to be with the Lord and in His kindness, He reminded me of a simple truth: Be thankful. Remember the blessings. He brought me to 1 Chronicles 16: 8-12

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him, tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done.

I began to remember and list blessings the Lord had given. These are just a few…

Holding a little girl, one earbud from my ipod in her ear, one in mine, dancing

Watching souls commit their lives to Christ

Mountains

Shooting star!

Having an ice cream cone when I never expected there to be ice cream

Riding over red dirt roads in the bed of a truck, wind rippling through my hair

Laughing so hard over the silly things

Climbing trees

Monkeys

Little Rhoda falling asleep in my arms

Goats, sheep, chickens, cows

Bucket showers

Falling in love with Jesus

Heart to heart talks

Tears shed over lost loved ones

Playing volleyball and soccer with the kids

Taking pictures and hand-clapping games with the kids

Teaching handshakes to little Ben and T

Watching the Africans dance!

Dancing with them J

Silly songs

Facetiming with my family

Timely texts, phone calls, words of encouragement

The ocean

Passionate prayers

The missionaries, their love for the word, the lost, and the gospel

Worship music

Sunrises and sunsets

Clean laundry

Hard goodbyes

Safe travels

Morning runs and walks

Village churches

Gideon – a 14 year old boy who came to Christ


Awakening again to the joy in Christ

Running With Endurance - July 12

Two weeks from today my team and I will be boarding a plane on our way back to the States. We have less than two weeks left of scheduled ministry. We’ve been at our second site for ministry for a week now. We are tired. It’s tempting to feel burned out.

In a way, this trip reminds me of the Christian life. Like my pastor says, this Christian life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s an endurance race. Moreover, God calls us to run with endurance.

Earlier on this trip, I wrote a message titled “Running with Endurance.” It is even more applicable to me now. As I share it with you, I’m preaching it to myself, praying my heart will live it.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The Christian life is likened to a race. It’s active, intentional, not passive. It’s not something we can be lazy with. It calls for perseverance. This implies that it is not easy. If it were, we would not need endurance. We must keep seeking the Lord, keep praying, keep reading His word, keep living righteously. We are called to abide…or we will never bear fruit (John 15:4).

Many of you are farmers. I don’t know a lot about farming, but it’s my guess that you have to tend the farm on a regular basis if you are to have a successful crop. It wouldn’t be realistic to work the farm for an hour a week and expect bountiful results. Instead, you work diligently so that you can harvest a good reward.

Back home my father coaches a university baseball team. They have to undergo intense training so that when they play their games they are prepared. They wouldn’t have hope of victory if they didn’t practice and practice diligently.

It’s the same way in the Christian life. If we want to see fruit in our lives, if we want to live victoriously, then we must have endurance.

This leads to the question, how do we get endurance?

From this passage in Hebrews, I see two things that will fuel our endurance. Both are found in this single answer: by fixing our eyes on Jesus.

1)    Follow the example He set
·      He endured the cross
·      He endured opposition from sinful men

How did He do it? For the joy set before Him. He knew the pain that He would endure but He also knew the joy that was waiting for Him on the other side. In the same way, when we are feeling fatigue or a lack of motivation or weariness or burn-out, let us remember the joy waiting for us. We have an inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4). We will be filled with joy and eternal pleasures (Psalm 16:11). When we are tempted with sin, let us remember that the treasure we have in Christ will be far more satisfying than the temporary pleasure of sin. Consider Hebrews 11: 25-26

[Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

The world tells us to live for the moment. But let us choose the best over the good. Let us live for an eternal reward that won’t perish, fade, or spoil.

2)    Remember that it is Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

We do have responsibility in this Christian life. But we shouldn’t fall into the thinking that everything depends on us. Jesus is the author of our faith. He is the one who saved us. We did nothing to save ourselves (see Ephesians 2:8-9). He is also the perfecter of our faith. Philippians 1:6 “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (see also Hebrews 10:14). He will see us through. He is the perfecter of our faith. Consider 2 Timothy 2:11-13:

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

Even when we are faithless, He is faithful, for he cannot disown himself. He is committed to his purposes. He won’t lie. He has made a guarantee and He will see it through. He is more committed to His purposes than we are. So if we want to be holy, He wants even more for us to be holy. If we want to honor Him, He wants even more for us to honor Him. 2 Timothy 1:9, “[He] has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.”

Because our salvation does not rest on ourselves, but on God’s purposes, and because we know that He is committed to His purposes and that His purposes are sure, we can run with confidence, with perseverance, with endurance.


I find it interesting that the first 9½ chapters of Hebrews are spent making a case for the supremacy of Christ. It’s not until the last 3½ chapters that the author makes a strong exhortation for endurance. It is because of Jesus that we can have confidence. It is because of Him we can run with endurance. And endurance will never come until we see Him. When we see all that He has done, that He has championed the race ahead of us, and is interceding for us even now, then the burden is lifted. And we can run.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

More Pictures

 We rode this truck to one of the remote village churches. It was so fun!
 Worshiping at a village church 
 Raven and Megan praying for a woman
 Praying at a village church 
 Climbing trees!
 Our team (minus Tinese :(
 Feeding monkeys!
Teaching at a school 

The Surpassing Beauty of Christ

How do I put into words the journey on which the Lord has so graciously been leading me? Have you ever seen something or felt something so beautiful that words escaped you and you wish you could just impart the knowing of it to those you love? When I’ve gazed at the Smoky Mountains or stood under the night stars or listened to the sound of snow falling I’ve had those moments. I’ve had a similar experience in my time here and ask for patience as I grapple for words to communicate it to you now.

During my team’s first week or so of on-site ministry, we all encountered challenges. Some faced acute attacks while others simply struggled to fight distractions and be fully present. We faced sickness, as half our team contracted malaria and none of us felt 100% healthy, and one team member even had to leave us for a few days to go to a hospital. We have battled sin in our own lives, feelings of inadequacy when sharing the gospel, and have felt irritated and tired. Through all of these things the Lord has shown Himself faithful. He brought healing. He is delivering. He has provided people to come alongside us. At my weakest moments, when I felt most discouraged, He brought a phone call, a text, or a word of encouragement from a team member.

We have seen Him work in so many ways. During one of our door-to-door evangelism times, two of our girls led a sick man to Christ. A few days later they returned to check on him, prayed for him, and watched him take his last breath. They ushered him into eternity with Jesus!

We have shared the gospel at many schools and with individuals outside of huts. So many have prayed to receive Christ. It is not ours to know how many of those were genuine but the Lord knows. And He is the worthy one we are proclaiming.

We are growing in our own walks with the Lord. We have been so challenged, encouraged, humbled, and inspired by the missionaries here. Their heart for God and for the lost is powerful. The missionaries have taken time to have discipleship sessions with us and have prayed with us and for us. Their service to us has amazed us. Here we were coming to serve on mission and they have catered to our every need and done so with cheerful attitudes. They know Scripture so well and inspire me to learn the word more.

The last week in that village was particularly growing for me. Several challenges seemed to come to a head all at once and I found myself crying out to God for His help. I have felt a dependency on Him here like I never have before. And it is such a sweet place to be. I love leaning on Jesus. He is so strong! On the next to last morning in this town, I woke early, sat outside under a straw pavilion, and looked at the mist-covered mountains. I read His word and it was alive. He filled me with joy in His presence. The last few days of ministry were especially good. I had a love for the children we encountered. I felt my heart knit to that place and pray that one day I’ll be able to return. I loved even the simplicity of the lifestyle there.

Early Friday morning we loaded the van to return to the capital for a few days of “retreat” before we start ministry at our next location. It was hard to say goodbye to the friends we made there. I am so grateful that we got to be there though.

The Lord has been teaching me a lot here. I’ve been reading His word more and praying more than I did back home. I’m seeing how good and beautiful Jesus is and want my life to be spent loving Him with all I am. It’s my prayer that when I return to the States that passion will be “burned on my heart like a seal, that in the famine of His presence, in the flood of persecution, in the comfort of the culture, it’s the real” (John Thurlow, “Fully in Love”). I’ve been reading verses about the joy in Him and also about suffering. It’s my heart to be so satisfied in Him and His joy that my life displays how good He is.

He is our savior, bearing our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). He is the “lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 19-20). God willed that through Him we would be saved. “And by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Because of Him, we have “an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4).