Persecution is a Part of the Process

2 Timothy 3:10-17: God has reminded all week this week that persecution is going to come. If I am a child of God it will come because it came to Jesus who showed us the example of how to handle it. Paul writes to Timothy, 11″What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All Scripture is inspired by God Lit breathed out by God ; the Scripture is the product of God’s Spirit working through men; and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ”
When we go through persecution or trials of any kind, we need to know enough of God’s word to hold onto during these difficult times. If you are not in a bible study now, I would greatly encourage you to find one. It is through feeding daily on God’s word that you will be equipped and ready for anything that comes your way. Come and join me. I would love to have you study with me. No matter where you study or how, as long as you are feasting on God’s word you will find strength you don’t have.

Rature Ready

Luke 17:20-37: wonder what would happen if each of us prepared for the second coming of Christ like our part of the world has prepared for the eclipse that will happen on Monday. How many people have you seen looking for glasses? How many have asked where you will view the eclipse from ? How many have planned out exactly what they will be viewing so they are knowledgeable about what to expect? Luke 17 reminds us that though some will be ready others will be doing life as normal. They won’t even be aware that Jesus is returning. One will be taken up and the other will be left right where they are. I can’t imagine how that day will unfold, but I want to be ready. No special glasses needed, just a heart right with God. I am looking forward to the eclipse, but I am really looking forward to Jesus’ return. Are you ready? The easiest way to prepare is daily spend time in prayer talking to Him, confessing all sin, and living according to what He taught. Then we will be ready no matter the hour. Praying we all are rapture ready!

Fan Into Flame

2 Timothy 1:1-7: It is easy to get discouraged when you see all of the evil that is going on in our world. There is much good going on as well. I think of two of the young women who went with us on mission who know that God has called them into ministry. As I read 2 Timothy today I could not help but think of them and our children who are all serving the Lord. The verses that stood out the most are, “6Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze Or to rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God has not given us a spirit Or us the Spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”
During our last day in Swaziland we went to a church service where I sat down beside a young man. He was maybe 10 years old and had his bible in his hand. I asked him what his favorite bible story was. He said Daniel and the Lion’s den. We exchanged more small talk. Then I ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said a pastor. I smiled and told him my husband, my father, and my sons were all pastors. I told him each Sunday I pray for them as they prepare to preach. I told him I would pray for him too. I haven’t neglected to do that each Sunday. I can’t wait to see how God will use this young man. Before I left that day he gave me a note with several verses. He also included 2 witnessing tracts. That young man shows so much potential! May he too fan into flame that which the Father has placed within him.
As you get ready and go to church today pray for your pastor and for those who are coming behind that will be future pastors and godly lay men. There are many good things going on even in our world where evil abounds.

Coming to our Senses

Luke 15:11-32: The story of the prodigal son has always captured my heart. today the verse in it that jumped off the page at me was when it said, “and when he came to his senses.” How often I have needed to come to the point that I “came to my senses”. It is so easy to be carried away by my own self interest or selfish desires. It is not that what I am doing is always bad. It is just doing what I want or directing my life in my own paths instead of going with God. I find myself discouraged or down hearted because the end result of sin is always separation from God. It usually comes to a point where my heart is empty even if my stomach is still. filled. What a great reminder to us all. If we come to the point we just feel down or empty we may need to check to see if we are still on the right path. If we find we have strayed away from a daily walk with the Father, communion with the church family or even having allowed sin to separate us that we know we should not be involved in. Take heart my friend. God is still there waiting for you to return home. He still have a fattened calf and a robe in your size waiting for your return. He wanted to hold you and remind you that you are His. Thank you Jesus for paying the price so I could come Home.

Keeping Away from Adultery

Proverbs 7: I don’t believe anyone wakes up in the morning and thinks, I want to become an adulterer today. Just as people don’t wake up thinking today I want to become an alcoholic or any other sin that can so rob you of peace and true life. It is usually a slow fade to those places. It usually starts with a conversation or even a simple compliment that turns one’s head and heart slowly from what is the right path. The only way to overcome this is to stay away from the path. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and on what we know is the right path must be our priority. Prov. 7 paints the picture of a man who sees the woman and then listens to her pleas to come and lay with her. That man could have and should have stopped at the glance, but when you allow your heart and mind to stay in places it should not it is not long before your feet follow.
May we all check our glances and when temptation comes our way quickly divert our eyes and minds back to the things of the Spirit. It is the only way to prevent following the things of the flesh.

Swaziland 2017: Devotions for Day 10 (Final Day)

July 31

Today’s Tentative Plan: 5:30 game drive all day@ Kruger

Please Read Psalm 150
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;

praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Take in the beauty of God’s creation. Praise Him all day long. You are about to see things that few in America ever see. Allow God to show you rich lessons and truths all along the way.

Focal Passage for Today
Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Theme: Admonishing One Another
Encourage each other today. Share a verse or a song that is special to you. As you go on the game drive keep your eyes open to God’s own chorus of praise in the beauty around you. Enjoy!

Swaziland 2017: Day 9 Updates

Thank you all for praying. We are not all 100% yet, but many are feeling some better. A week of being with runny nose children with sore throats will do this for you. We would not trade the experience with our children even if the end result is stuffy heads and somewhat sore throats.

As I right this evening I am sitting out in the cool night air at a poolside next to Kruger National Park in South Africa. We got here early enough to watch the sunset over the mountains as we watched elephants come to bath and large antelope type dear graze. Even now I can hear birds, animals and crickets make their night time sounds. People who don’t believe in God must have never been to a place like this. The verse that we read today in worship was “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Indeed!

Today we worshiped with the people of the Bhalakane Community. Pastor Walter was the preacher today. Crystal Baltimore and Squeaky, I sent him your greeting and he returned the love. Pastor Walter was one of the men who started care points in Swaziland as a way to feed and care for the many orphaned children. He started 8 of these feeding centers which has now grown to over 38 sites and 7400 children. His message today was powerful as he preached about suffering from the life of Job. He talked about how righteous and faithful people WILL go through hard times. He said God says to satan, see my faithful servant and He fills in your name. Then He talks about how we too would be faithful. It was especially powerful when he talked about how men are concerned when their material possessions are removed, but women even more so when their children die. He talked about how Job’s wife told him to just curse God. I wonder how many Swazi women he has heard voice the same sentiment. How many Swazi and American families have fallen apart when the hard times come. He reminded us that all followers of Christ are going to go through hard times. It is what we do in those hard times that truly reveals the realness of our faith. He said when Job came to this point he responded “I brought nothing into this world and I will leave with nothing. Yet I will still praise God.” Could we say that? Suffering is not about one culture. It is kingdom wide. We suffer to bring God glory. As he would say here, “Hallelujah!”

What a strong message it was! Then he prayed over all that wanted or needed to be prayed for. Oh how we need revival among us and to be found faithful even in the most discouraging times!

As we leave our friends in Swazi and head to the next steps God has for each of us we leave a piece of our hearts. We also receive and sew into our hearts a piece of the hearts of those in Swaziland. It is so hard to put into words how you can become so close in such a short amount of time. Maybe that is why we value it more because we know it is limited. Maybe it is also because God purposes our heart to meld to remind us of many things. We are all one family. We serve in different parts of the world, but one God. We will spend eternity together and the choice of heaven is given to all of us today. Our part is to tell others. The other part of this equation is that from both sides of the world we are lifting up prayers for each other. As I told a sweet group of smiling faces this week, when it is dark here it is light where I live and when it is light here it is dark where I live. Day and night prayers are being offered in thanksgiving to our God. Praise Him from whom all blessings flow!

As I close tonight the half moon is shining above me with a scattered cloud to hide it, the night sounds are all around with trilling and howls far away. Most of all there is a still sense of God’s presence right here. I hope you have sensed it too. Thank you for journeying with us. Please continue to pray for good health and rest. We will wake when you go to bed ready to witness the wonder of God’s creation on a Safari. I will try to paint you a word picture tomorrow if the internet allows. Until then, rest well my friends and good night from Africa.

Swaziland 2017: Devotions for Day 9

July 30

Today’s Tentative Plan:
Church at Bhalekane,
Depart for Kruger,
Lodging at RioVista

Please Read Psalm 149:
1 Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise in the assembly of the godly!
2 Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
3 Let them praise his name with dancing,
making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats
and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 To execute vengeance on the nations
and punishments on the peoples,
8 To bind their kings with chains
and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 To execute on them the judgment written!
This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord!

As I read this Psalm my mind went back to the times we have worshiped with our Swazi friends. We have literally danced down to take our offering. We have sung without instruments and the voices sounded like a heavenly choir. There have been times that as the pastor preached he would speak another language, but the message was clear even before the interpretation. There is just something about worship that transcends the spoken word.
Today as you prepare your heart for worship ask the Father to help you to hear from Him.
As you sing, sing for an audience of One.
Take in all of the sights and sounds around you.
What you will experience is a touch of heaven here on earth. “One day every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
We have the rich opportunity to get the party started early.

Focal Passage for Today
1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Theme: Fellowship with One Another
Enjoy this day of fellowship with other believers. Capture in your heart all that you experience. Enjoy the time of fellowship with your team members as we travel. You are probably worn out by now and yet we have a couple more days to go. Take in the beauty of the people God places in your path.
Pray for those we will leave behind in Swaziland.
Pray for spiritual growth and development.
Pray for God’s richest blessing on staff, children, and those who minister to the children daily.
Thank God for each person He has put in your path this week.
During our debrief time be ready to share about someone who stood out to you this week and why.

Swaziland 2017: Day 8 Updates

What do a giant jump castle, plastic eggs, cotton balls, and 500 pieces of meat have in common? If you said Big Fun Day you would be correct. Today we had so much fun singing, watching the children dance, decorating cupcakes and playing games with all of the children. They LOVED the jump castle. The eggs, cotton balls, gum, blasters, and crackers were all used for relays. These children love to have fun and today was all about the bounty of God’s goodness. Two of my favorite mental pictures were of a little boy about 4 years old laying down with his knees under him sound asleep while about 350 children jumped, sang and cheered all around him. I knew how he felt in being tired, but I am sure it would have been very awkward for an old woman to join him. lol The second mental picture was of a little boy about 3 years old. He had a runny nose and was sucking on his fingers as he walked into the performance hall as the children did their program. As he passed by me I saw a huge smudge of frosting from the cupcakes on the side of his jaw. He must have loved his cupcake! That makes me smile again because so many had never iced or eaten a cupcake. If you cook over an open fire you don’t often have baked goods. Oh my what I take for granted.

The children had worked every afternoon here preparing a program for us today. They did traditional tribal dances. They sang with the most beautiful voices. They have no musical instruments, so the human voice is the only musical instrument. The children learn from a very young age to sing harmony. I can’t help but believe heaven will be much like what we heard today as they sang Hallelujah! You will all want to hear the recording I have of the all care point choir singing Jingle Bells. They sing it “Jingly bells jingly bells”. It is precious. So precious I bought 3 CDs. lol My Christmas will be so precious with them singing Christmas Carols!!!!

Our final goodbyes were mixed once again with lingering hugs and tears. One of our team members said it so well when she said “We never know if they will be here when we return, but we know we have given everything we had to them.” Most will be here as we return next time. If you have ever wanted to come on mission please know you have an open invitation. You don’t have to be a member of a specific church. You just need to love the Lord and want to serve Him on mission. Both Highview and Westwood will probably be coming again next year and they would love to have you join them.

We will worship with our Swazi family tomorrow then depart to South Africa for a safari on Monday then travel home on Tuesday evening. Not sure that internet will be available, but we sure cherish your prayers. As my daughter would say, thank you for joining us as we have traveled “To the Ends of the Earth.” Until all know Him we will continue to tell. Praying you will join us next time and until we get home remember us in your prayers.

Swaziland 2017: Devotions for Day 8

July 29

Today’s Tentative Plan: Fun day at Bhalekane

Please Read Psalm 148
1 Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

What a great Psalm to read our last day of ministry at the care point. No, we can’t fix all problems. We can’t even identify all of the problems, but we have shown the love of the One who is their constant help in times of trouble. He is worthy of all praise! As you pray and prepare your heart for the end of the day, choose to focus on the good things God has done this week. Focus on the children’s love for the Father and for us His children. Use your words today to speak life into as many children as you can. Tell them what you see good in them and affirm any great traits they might have. Always lead them back to the Lord and how He is there for them to lead and guide them. They only need to look around at creation to know His goodness. Love them well!

Focal Passage for Today
1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Theme: Encourage and Build Up One Another.
Know that as we prepare for our time today that there are many who are lifting us up in prayer. Allow God to use you to help the children have fun and be encouraged. Look for those who show leadership and affirm that in them. Remind them that God has put that gift in them to use for His glory. Watch for those who have genuine joy and speak words of encouragement to them. Let them know that their joy is contagious and to never let the enemy steal it. Love with your whole heart today and don’t be afraid.