Missions Is More Than Giving Up McDonald’s

Daniel

Daniel – an elder at Acacia Community Church; a man with a servant’s heart.

Sobering news came this week when an elder (Daniel) in our church here in Jinja and a church leader and speaker (Andrew) were traveling north in Uganda.  Police arrested and beat them.  Andrew and Daniel spoke briefly at church today.  Andrew still has a limp.  He sat during worship songs today and will be seeing a doctor about possible spine damage tomorrow morning.  Both men are married and love Jesus.

These two Christians were arrested by police or military for being thieves, beaten badly, their money and belongings (including their shoes) stolen, and thrown into jail.  One of our Ugandan brothers described the jail cell as a “closet a person would not want to spend one minute in” where other inmates were standing and urine was on the floor.

Our pastor, Terry Nester, reminded the Jinja congregation, many of us missionaries, that sometimes we joke about suffering in Uganda by missing out on McDonald’s or other conveniences and material things.  But when something like this happens with its pain, suffering and tears, it is a sobering reminder that men are evil, the powers of darkness are real, and we don’t play with Barbie dolls on the battlefield.

When Daniel and Andrew were in jail, they shared with fellow inmates that they were not thieves, but preachers of the Gospel.  Ironically Andrew was to start a new sermon series in our church’s early service (a church in Luganda language) on the book of Philippians, which has the theme of joy during suffering (Paul was a prisoner when he wrote the letter).

Please pray for Daniel and Andrew – that they and their families would heal from this physically and mentally abusive situation; for their tormenters that they would come to know Christ; and for good to come from this, even that Jesus is glorified.

On a bit lighter note, this past week Equip Uganda sponsored a training conference for Ugandan pastors about HIV, called HIV Hope.  The one-week conference was held on the outskirts of Kampala at Enid’s place (Enid is an Equip Uganda national missionary worker) and about twenty pastors attended.

Before the event even started Equip leadership received communication that two separate individuals (Ugandans) communicated two separate dreams about the good God would be doing at this conference.  Being from the west, we’re cautious about dreams, but we’re so happy to report the event was a GREAT success and we apparently received a prophetic word before hand.

Jeremy Boone related to me that by the end of the week the pastors were such a strong, unified team.  Someone had communicated to him at the end of the conference that they were not looking forward to the conference, but during the week very much enjoyed it!  The mood was very upbeat and hopeful!  A letter of sincere thanks was written to Duane, the conference speaker.  I hope to share some more information in the future, maybe even pictures.  We praise God for what He did through Duane, Enid and Enid’s family, Jeremy, Luke and the others.  If you prayed, thank you so very much!  Praise God.

Missions (whether overseas or across the street) should always get us past the frivolous like missing McDonald’s and to the real – whether suffering at the hands and batons of abusers or whether understanding the realities of life like HIV disease and placing our hope in a Savior who loves us and taught us how to suffer and still trust God.

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Crazy Obsessed With Jesus Christ

One of my biggest challenges as a person who thinks critically about things and ponders things is the love of Christ coming from the heart.  It’s crazy.  Did you know the word crazy is defined as, “characterized by weakness or feebleness, decrepit, broken, falling to decay, shaky; unsafe” (Webster’s 1913 dictionary – I love that dictionary because Webster used the Bible to define terms and saw his writing of the dictionary as a ministry)? Crazy!  Isn’t that you and I?  That’s us!!!

Love is a challenge to me because it doesn’t come naturally.  Selfishness comes naturally.  As Jesus has revealed more of Himself to me and more of His desires I think I understand love more, but it still fails to make logical sense.  For example, why would a holy and righteous God (who has absolutely nothing to do with sin) become sin so that I can have a deep, intimate relationship with a  holy, righteous God?  He imputes righteousness.  Love poured out to weak, feeble, decrepit, broken people is absolutely illogical, especially when it’s love from the true source of love, the very essence of love – Jesus Christ.  The power and strength of the universe loves the weak!  Simply illogical.

However, there’s something in me that connects when I see crazy stuff people do who love Jesus.  It’s like they’re obsessed with Him.red rose on wood floow - black and white

Here are some behaviors people have when they are obsessed with Jesus (borrowed from Francis Chan’s book, Crazy Love):

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “Thank You!” to God.  An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy.  He revels in his role as child and friend of God.”

I mean really, do you not want more of that – to revel (to feast in a riotous manner) with God?  Do you not desire that intimacy?

  • “A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”

This is beyond rigid rule and law-keeping!  This is love!

  • “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle.  Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known      and Christ more known (Matt. 5:16).”

OK, this is sobering!  Except where Jesus is exalted – AWESOME!

  • “People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace.”

    Rope Bondage

    Imprisoned and bound by sin and addiction.

So raw, I’m ashamed of what I’ve shared with Him.  But He’s BIG ENOUGH.

  •  “A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4).”

Not here yet.  Work in progress, waiting on Him.

  • “People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own      lives being shielded from pain or distress.”

Really, really, really not here yet.  Long way off.  Pain hurts.

  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure.  Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.”

Man, this is getting harder!

  •  “People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him.  They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (I John 2:4-6, Matt. 16:24-26).”
  • Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo.  A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in  terms of success or wealth on this earth.  As Martin Luther put it,      ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day’ (Luke 14:25-35, Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6).”
  •  “People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden.  Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8).”
  • “People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers.  Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world. (James 2:14-26).”
  • “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently.  Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
Rope Snapping

Bondage snapped by Jesus!

The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, “that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (Eph 1:18).  I think if we better understood and God more intimately revealed that the hope of His calling is confident expectation in the reality of His effectual (quickening, inward and invincible) call (from AW Pink), we would by His grace and power snap all cords of bondage that binds us, shrug off every weight of sin that ensnares us and run with joy – freely, crazy fast and determinately – toward the very One who saves us (Heb 12:2); a people obsessed with a goal; a people obsessed with a Person; a people obsessed with deep, unfailing, unconditional love.  It’s all about Him and He wants you and I to know we have eternal life now!  God gave us an entire epistle to tell us that (1 John 5:13).  Crazy!

As Evil Increases, What Is Our Response?

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
– Jesus in Matt 24:12

One of Equip’s ministries is providing teaching and discipleship in Masese slum.  Michelle (my wife) participates in a women’s Bible study there each week.  Masese can be a difficult place in teaching and discipling people in the Gospel because so much lawlessness can exist in this community at times – abuse, drunkenness, rape, theft, prostitution, poverty, anger, selfishness, murder, etc.

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Bible Study Group

Masese

The Community of Masese Outside Jinja, Uganda

Outcast

Resting in the Shadows

The following story from 2 1/2 years ago illustrates the initial challenges our friends and fellow Equip teammates, Jeremy & Tamara Boone, had as they began work there.  This story is from their blog.   “I remember a man who came to Jinja from his distant home in Karimoja to stay with his sister.  He had advanced TB and was near to death.  The family didn’t want him to sleep in the house and basically refused to touch him.  As a result, he spent his days and nights laying lifelessly on a blanket in the shade of a tree.  He was unwashed and unable to eat or help himself to a latrine.  I got involved and told the family that there was free TB treatment available at the local government hospital.  I charged her, “If you will just get him to the hospital, I’ll make sure the doctors and nurses give him the treatment he needs”.   She agreed to the plan but because of the families negligence and his critical condition, I decided to return to their home the next day and make sure he had gone.  That night, I fell sick with Malaria.  It was 2 weeks before I returned.  The first thing I did was go to their home.  I found a freshly dug grave covered with stones behind their hut.  Neighbors came and told me that the sister had refused to take him to the hospital.  Instead, she stuck him in the chicken house so she didn’t have to watch him die.  Their home and the chicken house is directly across from the (local) church.  Everyone saw him dying.  No one acted. I was outraged and discouraged.” – used with permission from www.boonesinafrica.com.

Just to clarify, please understand part of the ministry in Jinja is to teach, disciple, and encourage the people to love and take care of their own, not just do it for them, although at times Equip does that as well.  There is a ministry, Amazima, now in Masese that checks at least twice a week on Masese community members.

Jesus said, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

Notice carefully in that prophecy, there is encouragement – Jesus said the love of many (implying, not all) would have their love grow cold.  So in striking contrast to the “many,” the followers of Jesus (apparently the few) are to love.

It would seem that the clear answer to increased lawlessness is either more law or better implementation of the law.  But that is not the way to look at it.  Notice that the writer of Hebrews encourages us to be stirring up one another in love and good works, and so much more as we see the Day approaching (Heb 10:24).  This is my desire in this post, to stir us up as Christians to love and good works in the midst of increasing lawlessness.

This stirring one another can happen in various ways, but most effectively in the following two ways (I plan to post a third way later): 1) Go to the source, God’s heart; and 2) Resist the temptation to put law in place of love.

We are constantly hearing more and more about lawlessness and sin.  I had a lady write me a few months ago from the States who was so discouraged about the paths people are taking and the way the world is going.  It seems to be a losing battle and we can be negatively affected by the cold air of lawlessness.

The reality is, the truth is, as lawlessness increases, we cannot fight this battle on our own strength.  When we are weak, many will move into to a self-protective mode and demand more laws and security from our governments.  Others will cry for more obedience to God’s laws – those perfect, unmoving, secure and stabilizing decrees, which are God’s holy righteous standard.  This is not the right move.  The right move is to know God’s heart and spend time with Him each day.

Mother & Child

God’s Love for Us Is Deeper Than the Love a Nursing Mother Has For Her Child

God’s heart does not delight in the death of wicked sinners. Even the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel records God’s Spirit moving him to write, “I (God) have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek 33:11). Rather as illustrated graphically by the prophet Isaiah, when we think God has forsaken His people and forgotten us because of the abounding of lawlessness and evil, God tells Isaiah to tell His children, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold (an expression of surprise! Look, examine, what God is about to say is extremely important) I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:15-16). He has taken us – sinners – and as a sculptor chisels the law into stone, our awesome God has chiseled our sins into the palms of His nail-scarred hands on the cross through the love of His Son, Jesus Christ.

If this is not enough God further reveals His heart to His people through the prophet Jeremiah in Lamentations as they suffer and lament their pain, affliction, and discipline, “Though He causes grief, yet will He show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies, for He does not afflict willingly.” The Hebrew for “willingly” means, “from the heart” (Lam 3:32-33). At God’s heart is not affliction and judgment, but compassion – the very fulfillment of the law found in Jesus Christ Himself compassionately living amongst sinners, serving and loving them.  God doesn’t do away with the law, but fulfills His perfect law with love.

This leads us to the second point:  resist the temptation to put law in place of love.  As I wrote above, the natural inclination is to fight lawlessness with more laws or better implementation of laws.  That does not work.  If God’s heart was His law, He never would have sent His Son Jesus!  He would have held to His law and let it condemn sinners.  God rescued sinners by sending His Son.

God gave the law, and then He gave us His very best – His Son – who fulfilled the law and took on our sins.  If we reject God’s gift of love, His very best and very own Son, Jesus Himself says the result is condemnation (John 3:16-21).

I am greatly concerned that as things in this world get more and more lawless and evil, that we Christians will start moving toward the form of worship of God through the law. That is, starting from the point of keeping the law in attempts to merit good is not love!  Rather it is selfishness and pride.  One must start from Jesus (God’s full expression of love) in order to fulfill the law – namely loving your neighbor and loving God.  Love through the power and person of Jesus Christ and His Spirit, that fulfills the law.  That’s why it’s important to spend time with God each day – to strengthen and grow from the source of Love.

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16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
18“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” – Jesus (John 3:16-21)

The answer to lawlessness and evil is not more law, not more morality, not more “spirituality.”  The answer is the love of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of God’s law found in Him, the light, life and truth. His commandment is love.  He is love.  He is the source of our strength, not the law, not morality.  He will not fail us. When the Light comes into our hearts, change takes place and love eventually conquers all, beginning first with us.

What Motivates You?

On Thanksgiving Day (Nov 28th) I posted a blog entitled, “Are We Seeing Prophetic Signs?” It is my desire that we, “…think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works,” especially “now that the day of (Jesus’) return is drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25 NLT). New King James states it, “as we see the Day approaching.”

Yesterday (Saturday morning, 15th) we got the news here of yet another school shooting in Colorado, even on the anniversary of Sandy Hook. Friday’s terrible event reminds me of the shocking and sobering Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in April 1999.

I remember that day very well. The Holy Spirit used that terrible event to impress upon me my responsibilities as Columbine Librarya father and husband. I remember where I was when I got the news. It was a Hospice of McDowell County volunteer appreciation banquet. The thought that crossed my mind was, “We are losing our children. What am I going to do?” As I prayed God used that evil event to more powerfully impact the life of my family and me than thirty years of men preaching the law to me.

Our daughters had just turned four and Joshua was only a few weeks old. It was that tragic event that caused the Holy Spirit to burden me and move me to commit my family to daily family devotions with our children. It’s something that has forever changed our lives.

Do we have it all together? Of course not. You all know us – sins, issues and problems. We have experienced marriage problems, sins and struggles just like other people.

Watch, pray and love Jesus and others. Change takes a commitment and discipline. Change may even see struggles and failure. We went through periods of time when we struggled through family devotions. But you know what? Our marriage has been like that too. Michelle and I have had some awesome times together, but there have been serious challenges when we have failed one another, sinned, struggled and felt like giving up.

It’s only the grace of Jesus Christ that has faithfully pulled us through. Some people think that is a trite answer. But it’s not. It’s the Gospel – Jesus has pulled us through when we’ve sinned, failed and wanted to quit. I never want to stop telling that truth. If Jesus is too simple to us, if He’s just not enough, if He’s not sufficient for our problems and failures, if He’s lacking or offensive, causes us to be ashamed, is too sweet, too syrupy, has to be enhanced or modified by something, a turn off, too common, too radical, only a good teacher, then He’s more than likely just another religious leader. That’s not the real Jesus.

sunThe real Jesus is life, grace and truth. He rescues failures and sinners. He is faithful, promising to never leave us or forsake us. He’s coming back and there’s still time to get to know Him even better. What do you think He wants you to do? Ask Him, listen and then use the gifts He has given you to love Him and love others.

What is the writer saying in Heb 10:24-25? I think he is saying: 1) we as followers of Jesus are watching, as Jesus exhorted His disciples to do in Luke 21:36; and 2) that it’s not us who is doing the exhorting, but the Spirit throughSpine of a Bible us. Of what eternal value would it be for us to try to motivate others? But God’s Spirit working through us places gifts amongst each of us so that we can be unified, grow to mature in Christ, glorify Jesus and avoid deceitful and destructive lies (Eph 4:11-13). Let’s love Jesus and use our gifts to love others.

Good Samaritan Clinic

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Enid’s Good Samaritan Clinic and Pharmacy

Here are photos of Enid’s Good Samaritan clinic that we visited on Saturday.  Joshua stands in front of the sign.  “Eddwarliro” is the word for “hospital” in the Luganda language.  The clinic has two rooms in the back with two beds in each room where assistance can be provided to patients.  In the photo Enid, Michelle and Alexis are in front of the clinic.

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Enid caring for a baby with malaria.

A four-month old child was in the clinic with a case of malaria when we visited.  Enid said the child presented with convulsions from malaria the night before and was on IV medicine.  The child was initially sleeping when we arrived and when we came back through, she had woken up.  Though crying a bit and hot, she was doing much better this morning and was responsive to Enid’s voice.

Enid is from Uganda and has had connections with Equip in Marion and Canada for a number of years.  Each month she takes a 3 1/2 to 4-hour taxi ride from her home to Jinja for our team meeting and then returns in the afternoon.  It seems she almost always has a smile and something to talk about.  If you’re around her for any amount of time, you’ll learn she is a woman of prayer.

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Enid and a staff member in the pharmacy.

As we traveled from her home to the clinic (about 1 kilometer), we passed three private schools.  She and her staff will visit neighboring schools to check on students.

Enid is well-respected in the community and at the larger nearby hospitals.  It’s a blessing to have her ministering with the hands of Jesus to those in need.

HIV Hope at Community Care

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Equip Uganda Team Members: Enid (front row, left), Luke Anderson (in back with cap) and Wise Family

One of our Equip Uganda teammates, Enid (see photo, in front on far left), is a well-respected medical leader in her local community just outside Kampala.  She specializes in HIV care, treatment and education.  Our family visited Enid’s home and clinic on Friday and Saturday.   Enid is a strong widowed mother with three children (Isaac, Psalms, and Victory) who cares for twin girls who are two.  The twins’ mother died during childbirth, the father would not care for them, so Enid took the twins into her home.

Enid can be contacted 24-hours a day.  In fact, Friday night after a delicious dinner, some conversation and at her request some prayer, she was called out to the clinic.  We found out the next morning.  It’s about a half mile from her house, and she walked to it at night with her son.  This was a good night as she was able to return to her house by about 10 pm.

On her land Enid has a house (see the photo, her home is to the right of the parked vehicle we’re IMG_6458driving), a building for guests to stay overnight (not pictured, but to the extreme right), outdoor latrines (not pictured, but to the extreme left), and a building (to the left of the vehicle) that serves as a nice room for educational conferences, meals and/or a sanctuary. Equip Uganda is assisting Enid and her family in holding a 1-week HIV Hope Conference at her place for twenty pastors from around Uganda in January.  Her building and grounds make great use of rain, as she has every roof collecting the rain water in large containers.  She has solar power for her house and buildings, although the solar is not currently working in the conference building.  She hopes to add electrical power to the conference building before the January HIV conference.

We ate dinner, talked by candlelight and slept in the conference building.  The IMG_6453meal consisted of rice, potatoes, peas cooked with sausage, chapatti (flat) bread, g-nut (peanut) sauce, eggplant and cabbage.  It was delicious.

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Conversation by candlelight.

We rigged up mosquito nets for the night – I used some rope, chairs and the vehicle’s jumper cables suspended from the upper beam of the building to hold the nets up.  It’s amazing to see how God prepared our children for the Uganda experience.  They did not complain and seemed to enjoy the trip.  After visiting Enid’s clinic Saturday morning (I’ll post more pictures Monday or Tuesday), it took us about five hours to travel back to Jinja from Kampala in the heat due to traffic and construction, a trip that should take about three hours.  I ended up with a severe headache Saturday night, probably due to not drinking enough water.

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Conference Room has beautiful paintings in it. The most dramatic is the one of Jesus “Calming the Sea.”

Overall an enlightening experience with great hosts.  More photos tomorrow or Tuesday.

Prayer requests:  for the

* HIV Hope Seminar / Conference in January;

* Strength for Enid as she cares for her family and cares for others in the community;

* For the patients, many of whom have HIV – for hope, for the power of Jesus to minister to each of their individual needs, for encouragement, for peace, for healing.  Enid sees many young girls pregnant, too.  A young Ugandan man told me a couple weeks ago one of the biggest problems in Jinja for prostitution is the boda boda (motorcycle) drivers who carry passengers around town.  Girls who cannot pay with money are solicited for sex as payment.

* For getting power to the buildings before the pastors’ conference.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Are We Seeing Prophetic Signs?

African Full Solar Eclipse November 3, 2013

African Full Solar Eclipse November 3, 2013

Four Blood Moons, Disasters, Major Weather Events, Comet ISON and Meteors, Economic Uncertainty, Fukushima Nuclear Waste disaster, Iran & Israel, Etc.

Today (Thursday, November 28th) marks the American holiday Thanksgiving, marks the second day of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah and the comet ISON’s hairpin loop around the sun.  Not sure if there’s any significance in those events other than the last two being rare.

Another rare occurrence (according to NASA) and much more significant in my opinion – four blood moons with a full solar eclipse in the middle – begins happening next year, for two years:

April 15th, 2014 Blood Moon on Passover (the time Jesus was killed)

October 8th, 2014 Blood Moon on Feast of Tabernacles

March 20th, 2015 Full Solar Eclipse Nisan 1 (beginning of Jewish calendar)

April 4th, 2015 Blood Moon on Passover

September 28th, 2015 Blood Moon on Feast of Tabernacles.

Feast of Tabernacles pictures Jesus’s millennial reign on the earth.  Blood moons are apparently very rare and may fulfill a prophecy quoted in the book of Joel and restated by Jesus in Matthew as signs prior to His return.  John Hagey (see YouTube videos) has written a book about these four blood moons and what happens when they occur.

As if all this weren’t enough, the end of the Blood Moons on September 2015 coincides within days of the end of a second seven-year time period since 9-11-2001.

According to CNN Money article (http://money.cnn.com/2008/09/29/markets/markets_newyork/), the first trading day after 9-11 on Monday, September 17th the stock market crashed by 684 points.  Seven years afterward, the stock market crashed on September 29th, 2008 by 777 points and the Great Recession started.  The number seven is God’s number of completion in the Bible.  That day (9-29-2008) was the Jewish holy day, the Feast of Trumpets (picturing the trumpet blast prior to Messiah’s coming see 1 Thess 4:16).  September 28th, 2015 ends the second seven-year time cycle.  Rabbi Jonathan Kahn (a Christian Messianic Jew from the Jewish priestly tribe of Aaron) has noted dramatic and interesting details about the events since 9-11-2001.  He lists nine (9) harbingers of God’s warning to America.  It’s more than I can include here.  Search his name and the word harbinger on the Internet or YouTube.

Now mix with these rare and unusual events the fact that the United States, Israel’s biggest supporter, is now negotiating nuclear peace terms with Iran.  This action is apparently disappointing to Saudi Arabia, upsetting to Israel and causing members of Congress from both parties to question the wisdom of these moves.  A few people have even drawn comparisons with Neville Chamberlain negotiating with Adolph Hitler prior to WWII.

Combine the peace treaty with these other concerning events: the fact that significant elements of three of the world’s largest religions are expecting the end of the age as we know it to happen soon (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity); earlier this month evangelist Billy Graham expressed concern over the direction of the United States in what may be his final message; increasing weather and natural disaster phenomena; economic uncertainty; large leaps in scientific breakthroughs; the Fukushima nuclear waste problem in Japan.  One would think people would seem to at least be interested in watching over the next couple years.  Or maybe not.

Some (both Christian and non-Christian) dismiss such phenomena, linking these occurrences to other failed speculations such as:  the transition from 1999 to 2000; the end of the Mayan calendar or other end-of-the-world warnings (a list is provided by Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events; As an aside, one might consider including Jonah’s “failed” prophecy on this list.  Jonah predicted the megacity Nineveh would fall in 40 days, and God spared that wicked city when they repented – fascinating story).  Others see these events as religious lunacy.  Still others believe phenomena such as these have been happening for centuries and millennia and will continue.

Hagey’s blood moons, Kahn’s harbingers, extraordinary leaps in science, economic instability, the lunacy of building nuclear facilities in earthquake zones, the power of the Internet and the Middle East tensions have me watching for sure.  Things are just too volatile to continue “as is” for decades.  Similarly before Jesus actually arrived on the scene as a baby years ago, people were highly anticipating a great event.  We’ll see what happens.

Whether these are true prophetic events heralding the soon-coming return of Jesus Christ remains to be seen.  Surely from the list of failed prophecies, it causes one to at least be a bit skeptical and others probably a bit more interested or anxious.  But know this truth from the closest friend of Jesus who was Jesus’ only follower of the eleven to avoid being murdered, the great apostle and prophet John, “…the essence (the fundamental nature or quality) of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” Rev 19:10 Prophecy and prophetic events should point us to Jesus and cause us to evaluate our lives in how we are loving our neighbors and loving God.  Are we sober minded or are we spiritually asleep?  Are we about the business of Jesus?

How many times have you heard Christians say, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming back because He comes as a thief in the night”?

That statement, I believe, is only partially true.  Read carefully.  Get the context – see 1 Thess 5:2.  Paul says Christians know “perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.”  Then he gives some signs to watch for.  Now notice verse 4 – “you brethren are not of the darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”  So yes, we know the day of the Lord will come as a thief, but no, we should not be taken by surprise like the rest of the world.

Jesus returns as a thief in the night to those who are of the night – those who are drunk and sleeping!  I believe it is high time to sober up and be busy about the work of Jesus.

What is that work?  Jesus tells us.  His work is Kingdom work – making disciples, preaching the Gospel, loving others.  But notice what He tells His disciples in the context of His return in Luke 21:34-36 (NLT):

34“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware,

35like a trap. (In other words, for some people it is possible it will not catch them unaware, they will know and expect it, although it comes upon everyone.)  For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth.

36Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

Those who are Christ’s should “watch and pray” as NKJV translates it.  We are to be about the business of Jesus.  The world will be drunk on material things, on pleasures, on cares of life, on riches and on sin – all these are “deceptive desires leading to a lifestyle without discipline resulting in the dizzy hangovers of drunkenness” as one Bible dictionary describes it.  These are careless, negligent, and extravagant lifestyles resulting in lack of discipline and control.

More pointedly, will American Christians be overspending tomorrow (on black Friday) in a lifestyle of charging things and going into debt?  Are we overeating without disciplined restraint today?  Are we lying in front of the television or computer entertaining ourselves without restraint?  Is life just one big joke?  Are our children, sports and work driving our lives to the detriment of our relationship with Jesus?  These things ought not be!

But rather than just point out possible prophetic signs and be quite critical of people’s selfish behavior, what can Christians do to prepare for Jesus’ return?  The first and foremost proactive step is don’t get discouraged or give up.  Rather, Jesus says drop the things that weight us down!  Draw strength from Him.  Jesus wants to empower His people with strength.  Are we having our quiet times and listening to Him in His Word?  Are we daily praying, memorizing, reading God’s Word, developing a healthy relationship with Jesus?  The time seems to be drawing much closer.  All of us seek a closer relationship with Him.

Next, watch faithfully!  Watch what?  Watch our disciplines or our bad habits.  Again, spend time with Jesus.  Start a Bible study or family devotions.  Get a spiritual mentor to hold you to the disciplines.  A missionary friend of mine wants to memorize a small book of the Bible.  He recently asked me to hold him to it, and he’s holding me responsible for a disciplined commitment I have made.  Join us in starting something disciplined, whatever it is.  It’s a great adventure.  If my friend makes it, great!  If not, he has at least started, and memorized something. Then after your relationship with Jesus, watch events soberly, faithfully, and prayerfully.

Pray!  Pray for what?  Pray for opportunities to shine the light of Jesus and truth, for opportunities to witness, opportunities to use our spiritual gifts.  Pray for world leaders and governments.  Pray for the body of Christ – those who are strong and those who are weak.  Pray for salvation for friends and families.  Prayer for some of us, especially when we are tired, leads to sleep.  That’s discouraging if we let it discourage us.  But it challenges us to pray more often during the day.  Pray that you will be counted worthy to escape the horrors coming on this earth.

Brothers and sisters, we are of the day and light!  Many of you pray for us!  Thank you so very much.  It has made such a positive impact and I have shared some of these stories here in our blog.

Finally, brothers and sisters, I will close with Paul’s exhortation in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “Do not despise prophecies.  That can be easy to do, especially given all the failed ones.  Rather than despising or getting discouraged, test all things. Hold fast to what is good – who is pointing to the real Jesus, not some false idea.  And finally abstain from every kind of evil.”  Isn’t that awesome?

Take these possible prophetic signs, and test them by watching and praying.  Evaluate our lives.  Seek out and find Jesus – He is good and all prophecy should point to Him.  Cease and desist from evil.  Regardless of what happens, love Jesus and love others.  Later blogs on this site have other proactive steps to take, like stirring one another up to love and good works.  It’s high time to be about His business!

Week of November 11 2013

This past week Joshua and I visited a home cell Bible study in a local community where there is a large concentration of non-Christians.  A new church plant started in this community that is distantly connected with Francis Chan’s church.  We met on the front landing of a lady’s home.  She smiles often and shares her gift of hospitality.  Our time of worship begins with a welcome from an older teen who lost both his parents in the last few weeks.  Death is a harsh reality in Uganda.  After the welcome, he asks one of the ladies to lead in singing.  There are no instruments, so she sings and claps with joy and a smile.  We all join in, a song in English and one in Luganda, while another one or two locals provide an offbeat clap to give some variety and rhythm.  A few small children from the community who are passing by and watching with much interest, begin to dance.  I love the ability of the Ugandan people to worship and sing joyfully without instruments.

After singing, we prayed, and I led the Bible study.  One of the leaders of the church translated for me.  As we wrapped up and were leaving, the sun settled over the western Africa horizon.  Joshua seemed to enjoy the time there, so as we traveled back home I asked him what he thought.  I was expecting him to politely request to stay home next time, which would have been OK.  But he said he really enjoyed it.  The locals make you feel welcomed and appreciate that we are learning their language.  A new home cell group starts this week in the same area!

English Class

Three weeks ago I started teaching English at a local seminary on a

Equipping Pastors in English

Equipping Pastors in English

volunteer basis to almost twenty pastors.  The opportunity presented itself and after speaking with my supervisor, it seemed clear that this opportunity matched the goals of our mission agency, Equip Uganda, in equipping locals.  These pastors come from various east Africa countries.  They take about twenty-three English sessions, while they work toward their theological degree.  I taught one of the twenty-three English sessions for 1½ hours a day, six days a week, for IMG_6391three weeks.  It was enjoyable.  Alexis visited the class to snap a few photos.

As this week begins and as the Spirit reminds you, would you be so kind as to pray for Alexis?  She has had some pain with her teeth moving as two wisdom teeth have formed, but not yet erupted through the gum.  So we had a dentist from the States, who is visiting Jinja, look at Alexis’s teeth.  Because it would involve surgery, he recommended another dentist that he would personally use. This dentist has a great reputation with missionaries.  So we plan to see that dentist this week about extracting her two wisdom teeth.

Wises Update – November 3rd

Just a brief update since most of you received our October newsletter last week.  This past Tuesday, I began teaching English to 18 local pastors at Uganda Baptist Seminary.  This is a 3-week course (like the 3-week course I taught at Western Youth in Morganton for 2 years), but these folks are so friendly – and humble, with an interest in learning.  The class is 6 days a week for 1 1/2 hours.  This gives me an opportunity to teach, which I enjoy doing.

I also visited a newly planted church today in a nearby small town.  This was its 3rd Sunday and a young man was saved.  You should see the smile on his face.  He is going to change his name to a Christian name.

Eclipse

Total (almost total) solar eclipse in Africa today at 5:22 pm (9:22 am EST). Photo by Jen Recotta Photography (Jen is a friend of ours who attends our Home Bible studies)!

Just before the church began, nearly 60 people made decisions to accept Jesus in a highly concentrated non-Christian area.  I thought this may be a good opportunity for discipleship to new believers, so I visited.  The leadership there seem capable.  So we’ll see how it goes.

Eclipse Lookers

Tamara Boone with the kids looking at the total solar eclipse through x-rays (thanks to Anna & Patrick). Photo by Jen Recotta Photography. Thanks!

Finally after our Sunday afternoon Bible study this evening we got to watch a total solar eclipse from about 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm.  That was neat.  The last one I remember seeing was the summer (June) of 1984 about 11 am in Morganton, NC.  That day I never dreamed my family and I would be living in Africa nearly 30 years later.  God sees things much differently than we do and leads us in ways we do not expect – all for His glory.  Take some time to see what He wants you to do.

Building Blocks of the Kingdom

On Friday (25th), we completed six months here in Uganda!

This past summer I was invited by a local pastor (Jabel) to share a devotion with about 20 or so pastors here in the Jinja area at their monthly micro-finance meeting.  The presentation is just over an hour.  The pastors are giving great Building Blocksfeedback and I enjoy this kind of teaching and interaction.  They seem to enjoy it, too.

The topic I was led to present is what I call, “Essential Building Blocks of the Kingdom” – laying the foundation of a life structure with the purpose of glorifying God; Jesus being the chief cornerstone.  Since July we have covered the weightier, foundational topics of truth, trust, stewardship and this past week, humility (not an easy one).  We plan to continue with other key topics, too.

Something I learned during the humility presentation was, “Distance ourselves from our daily practice of religion by turning our hearts (a cup and vessel empty and void) to the Lord Jesus that He may secure His presence, His fullness in our lives by abiding in and yielding to Him.  Then, and only then, will the world begin to see God.”

Tomorrow is a Bible study for young college-age men and administrative work for Equip.

A couple other discipleship opportunities have opened up this past week, which I may be able to share later on.  Brittany joined our church’s worship team, and she is enjoying that ministry.  Your prayers for safety and protection for our Equip team are much appreciated.