Remember those in prison

The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.   He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.  Isaiah 57:1-2

It has been a disturbing few days as I have been made aware of the plight of two honorable men who have fought the good fight of faith for a lifetime, and have been unjustly thrown into prison—yes, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  One of them took a bold stand years ago as a first term Congressman in a battle for which I gave a decade of my life.  Though our paths crossed in a significant way, I had lost touch since our ministry has drawn to its twilight years.  I have read with horror the details– this man never stopped fighting for justice to the great irritation of the Obama justice department.  He languishes in a prison cell under the vaguest of charges, laughed at by one side, and abandoned by the other.  It is gut wrenching.

I don’t know the other man personally, but I have heard him tell his story.  The two men are friends.  He spent his life in ministry, and was harassed, endured multiple lawsuits, refused to plead guilty to avoid prison time, and now, separated from his wife and children and grandchildren, he takes his stand.  He will be released in a couple of years, only to face additional civil lawsuits.

These stories have gripped my heart this week.  Why them?  One Christian writer reminded me that the apostle Paul’s greatest years were spent in prison.  It seemed rather trite for him to say from his multi-million dollar empire where he enjoys the adoration and approval of Christians who have no time for such things in the frenzy of December.

This week I have prayed for these prisoners and their families, and as I have so many times before, I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to me how such injustice could prevail.  Peace finally came after days of travail.

I was reminded that life on earth has a definite beginning and a definite end.  Isaiah declares that merciful men are taken away from the evil to come.  We are called to endure only the years that God has set for us.  Some will be called to martyrdom.  Some will be called to lose all of their resources and their reputations as my friends have willingly done.

I am grateful to hug my children and grandchildren a little closer in light of the evil that has robbed some of that privilege.  Isaiah declares at the end of this chapter that the wicked who have imposed their will on the righteous are much worse off.

But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.  There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.  (vv. 20-21) 

Today I will remember those who are in prison.  May they enter into peace, and rest in their beds, as they walk in uprightness.  Steve and Philip, I admire you greatly.  Well done, good and faithful servants.

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To the Praise of His Glory

Ephesians 1:  To the Praise of His Glory

He blessed us…He chose us…He adopted us…to the praise of the glory of His grace (v. 6)…so that we might be to the praise of His glory (v. 12)…to the praise of His glory (v.14).

God speaks clearly and often to me in Ephesians 1 that I should be to the praise of His glory.  I have been thinking about this for many days now.  How can something God repeated so often just draw a blank when I ask myself what that looks like?

I was thinking about something the Colonel told me many times over the years while we worked to restore God’s law to public policy.  He would say, “You have to be strategic before you get to tactical.”  As a war hero Marine, he always saw way down the road and could articulate what victory would look like (strategic) long before we had the steps to get there (tactical).  Being “to the praise of His glory” is an utterly strategic concept.  I can’t list ten steps to a life that is to the praise of His glory.  I sit again this morning, and I look into the glory—beyond light, beyond words—the glory that made John fall on his face as dead (Revelation 1:17); the glory Moses was only able to see in the shadows (Exodus 33).   Moses understands the dilemma.  When he asked God, “show me Your glory,” he did not know what he wanted to see.  So God passed by Moses.  That glimpse of glory energized him.  He spent 40 days and 40 nights without food or water in God’s presence, and then had to wear a veil on his face because of the brightness of the reflection of God’s glory!

So we need only to get a tiny glimpse of the shadow of God so we can be to the praise of His glory.  It is the sustenance of life, and the promise of eternity, now seeing through a glass darkly, but then face to face.

I am going out today to live the gift of life, but I do not have a “to do” list of things I could do to reflect God’s glory.  My mind is captured in the seeing.  God will reveal all I can possibly see and still live.  And I revel in the fact that all I see is a shadow; yet from me, even with so small a revelation, can reflect the praise of the glory of His grace.

There are some hints in Ephesians 1 about the grand strategy for being to the praise of His glory.  I will walk today as a daughter of the King.  I am blessed, chosen, predestined, adopted; I am destined to see Him face to face one day.  He reminds me that to reflect the glory of His grace, I must trust him fully.  He has the power, the desire, and the indefinable Father love to work everything for my good.  And if one single word comes out of my heart or my mouth that falls short of the praise of His glory, He reminds me of my inheritance, which the Holy Spirit has sealed.  He stirs my spirit to see it; mere shadows—it is all I can bear.

Can I live today to the praise of His glory?  I am abiding under the shadow of the Almighty, and when I dare to look, I can see I am already there.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

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God’s Eternal Choice

I am still working through the truth of this great chapter of Ephesians 1.  There God lays out His eternal purpose for me.  It is grander than you could imagine.

I was chosen in the past before time.

Before God created the heavens and the earth, prior to recorded history, before time began to be measured, God chose a mid-twentieth century girl to live life on the earth He would create, to carry out the Kingdom mission He had already designed, and to finish faithfully and live with Him forever.  The height and depth and length and breadth of God’s choosing has settled in my spirit as I have read once again the precious truth of Ephesians 1:  “In His love, He chose us in Christ, selected us for Himself as His own, before the foundation of the world.”  (Ephesians 1:4 AMP)

What was He thinking!!  He thought about helpless babies, and vulnerable children, and struggling adults before He turned to creation, and He decided we all need His adoption.  And so, He predestined us to be adopted to Himself (v. 5).  God invented my adoption as His daughter before He got around to creating the world.  How could it be?  It is because His intention, before the foundation of the world, is love, and kindness, and taking pleasure in me, the one He has created in His mind before time, made to be accepted as His beloved  (vv. 5-6).

I am chosen in this life.

Fast forward…I can’t say how long, because there was no time when God was thinking all of this…  We call it 1954.  My brief moment on the stage of history has finally come.  The eyes of God are upon me.  Seventy years, He says, perhaps more, though the Psalmist prayed, “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).  No one told me wisdom is attained, not through years of higher education, but by turning one’s heart to the One who has thought about me for centuries.  I think God is delighted that my time has finally come.  While my footing seems sometimes unsure, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  I realize He is blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ just as He promised! (v. 3)

How do I know His choosing in the present?  I hear Him singing over me with joy! (Zephaniah 3:17).  He forgives and heals, He redeems your life from destruction.  He crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercy, and oh, how He satisfies (Psalm 103:1-5).  He personally comforts me when I am cast down (II Corinthians 7:6).  His mighty hand lifts me out of anxiety!  (I Peter 5:6-7)  He is full of grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).   I am awed as I witness Him finishing the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).  He is merciful and gracious and slow to anger (Psalm 103:8)  I am the apple of His eye! (Deuteronomy 32:10)  He has engraved my name on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).

His choosing is undeniable and sure.  I am a witness.  Its truth is eternal in Ephesians 1, and now apparent in every moment of my earthly existence….and His choosing will never cease.

I am chosen in God’s future plans.

God has promised that He will bring all things together in Christ, both in heaven and earth.  (v. 10).  Whichever place His timing finds me is of no consequence.  His plan includes me, His eternal choice.  I am His inheritance; He has assured me so by placing within me His Holy Spirit (v. 14).  It is His will that I might know and cherish the hope—the riches of His glorious inheritance (v. 18).  So He has given me an immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing great measure of His power (v. 19) as I live out my numbered days in this phase of God’s eternal choice.

Stand strong my fellow chosen one.  The Father has put a ring on my finger, and shoes on my feet.  He has prepared a feast for us.  Let us join Him, resting in His choosing, always vigilant to hear His voice, completing in faithfulness the works He has prepared for us.  Hear His marching orders in the Book.  Time is of the essence.  Or perhaps not.  God’s thoughts towards me began before time.

 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:11-12

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Letters to Ephesus and to Linda

In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

I remember a hymn from my childhood that said, “I love to tell the story, for those who know it best, seem hungering and thirsting, to hear it like the rest.”  There is a new hunger in me to hear the words of this book like they are brand new.  I often quote the words of Ephesians if I wake up in the night, or need to refocus.  And the wonder of God’s love for me settles over me in warmth and joy in a way I cannot explain.  Paul says we are quickened to sit with Christ in heavenly places.  That’s about as close as you can get to putting it into words.  I never want to lose the wonder.

So I am spending a few days absorbing the profound gifts found in Ephesians 1.

I am blessed (v. 3).  I am rich in spiritual blessings.  His presence is life giving and energizing.  Blessing is my perspective.  Every area of my life is touched by God, and directed according to His perfect will.

I am chosen (v. 4).  As a kid, I was the ugly awkward non-athlete that somebody had to put on their team to make it fair.  Today, I wear the ring, and the robe, and the shoes, as an heir in my Father’s house.  I am chosen as His child, and I am also chosen for a Kingdom mission.  I have purpose and dreams that God has planted in me, and He is bringing them to completion.

I am adopted (v. 5).  Two of my children are currently neck-deep in the foster care system.  I understand in my gut now why God used this metaphor.  He took me out of the rejection shelter and placed me in His family.  I left oppression and darkness and hopelessness far behind; I moved into His big house with lots of food and trampolines and swing sets and a swimming pool.  I love the big eyes and giant smiles of our foster kids, and when these precious children wrap their arms around my legs and declare, “I love you, grandma,” I know more deeply how much God loves me.

I am accepted in the beloved (v. 6).  When God says His will (decided before the world began) is for us to be holy and without blame, it causes a little panic.  That sounds like a mountain of work in my life.  So God reminds me that I am accepted as His beloved.  Preachers tell you it’s simple—you are saved by grace to do works.  It is not so black and white.  Let it be a mystery.  Be so lavished by the acceptance of your Beloved that you begin to dream His dreams for your family, your nation, and the nations.  If you get too complacent about your acceptance in Christ, get out of Ephesians and into James….

I am redeemed (v. 7)  The blood of Christ has paid an awful price to translate me from darkness into His light.  You are not your own; you are bought with a price.  He broke down the walls.  He loved the world.  And my redemption is complete.  What a Savior!  When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.

I am forgiven (v.7)  When I think about heaven where our works will be judged, the slightest tinge of fear indicates unforgiveness.  I must forgive myself, I must forgive others, I must fully receive God’s forgiveness, and trust in the blood of Christ that has paid the full price for my redemption.  I walk in newness of life.  His mercy is as high as the heavens, and my sins are removed as far as the East is from the West.  Thank God, I am forgiven!!  All is well.  I cannot brood over what might have been, or the missteps that clouded my life.  He has chosen me and ordained me to bring forth Kingdom fruit.  When I truly understand I am forgiven, I can walk in His high calling without worry.  Soon I will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  My inheritance is sealed and waiting for me when my work is done.

There is so much more in Ephesians 1—He has revealed to us the mystery of His will; we have obtained an inheritance; we are sealed with the Holy Spirit; we have wisdom, revelation, understanding and power; and we are VICTORIOUS!!

Paul understood all these things because He sat with Christ in heavenly places and they were revealed to him.  You are invited to join in that place and experience the sweet inner Voice that will speak to you.  Sitting in heavenly places…but that’s chapter 2.  I don’t want to rush there.  God is speaking the promises of chapter 1 into my spirit, and I want to stay in this secret place of the Most High for a while.

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Uganda 2018

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.  Ephesians 1:9-10

We have been back in the US for a few days.  It takes a few nights to readjust to American time, and of course, every year it feels like we leave in the summer and return in the winter!  Between coming back to the whirlwind of business and family, I have thought about this verse in Ephesians 1—the fullness of times.  God’s will is sometimes a mystery.  His pleasure and purpose are always carried out.  But He gathers together things in both heaven and earth, and suddenly I realize I am walking in one of God’s “fullness of times.”

It was one of those times in Uganda this year.  We began seven years ago with a vision of preaching and teaching to church leaders in a rented tin building, where we distributed Bibles and bicycles, and gave a few dozen children food and shelter.  Seven years later, we are working to be instruments of God’s favor in establishing a bustling orphanage and school, businesses that will support five churches, breaking new ground in a neighborhood where many have never heard Jesus’ name, and enabling a television ministry that will reach six nations.  We have felt the pleasure and purpose of God as we have built on the growing ministries where God’s pleasure and purpose are now apparent—a magnificent pig farm that supports a church, miracle ownership and renovation of a church in the poorest neighborhood in Kampala, a new church plant where people responded immediately to the gospel, sewing shops where people are trained and new jobs created, seven buildings with teachers and joyful children on a hillside of picturesque rolling hills and cisterns, and a leap into television ministry for a faithful Bishop of Kampala.  Those are just the little pieces of the mystery that has become clearer than ever before this year.  God’s favor, His kindness, His abundance, His lavish grace—Spirit led believers are rising up in Uganda and the whole nation is prospering because of God’s people.  Such success always seems fragile to me as I look around and see clearly that there is much opposition.  But it is not fragile at all.  It is the good pleasure and purpose of God to lead His people into fullness of times when all the circumstances of seven years of sacrifice and faithful work begin to pour out fruit.  A growing season is not so long.  We will reap if we do not grow weary—and I know from experience this year that God’s promise is true!  As I have enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables from the lush gardens and fertile soil of this country, so I have enjoyed the fruits that come in one of God’s “fullness of times.”  How beautiful it is to walk in the mystery of His will!!!!

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Finishing Well

Today we finished where we began, in ministry at Prayer Palace.  While we have been here, the roof has been completed on the first section of the building, but the walls are temporary or nonexistent, and today it was chilly.  It rained all night.  I prayed for Lewis and his first Sunday services at Nyanema.  We had managed to buy enough bricks and mortar to put up a four foot wall on the foundation, and it greatly cut down on the water rushing through the church, but the red clay road had deep ruts and standing water.  We went by after our services at Prayer Palace to see the wall, and to encourage Pastor Lewis.  It was amazing how much they had built in a day!

Prayer Palace has an EARLY service from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m.  It got started late today because of the heavy rains.  When the motorcycles can’t get through, it hinders movement in Kampala.  The rain was soaking until about 7 a.m.  So the first service ended about 8:30.  I spoke in the second service,  which ran from 8:30 to 11:00, and Judy spoke in the late service that ran from 11:00 to 1:30.  They also have daily prayer meetings from 4:30 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. that are well attended.  Pardon my lack of faith.  I don’t think that would fly in America!  Grivas had prepared some boiled eggs and coffee for a quick bite between first and second service.

Prayer Palace has a magnificent choir and an indescribable worship leader.  I am overwhelmed with the Presence from the moment I walk down the concrete steps into the open building, across a small drainage ditch, up a 2 inch step–watch your step!  Oh, the music!  It is just a heavenly place.  I stood to speak, and I had to spend a minute taking in the glory before I began.  I enjoy the freedom here.  I preached an hour, but no one is tied to a clock. You can speak from the heart, hear from the Holy Spirit, and walk in heavenly places.   Some people stayed for the third service, a few attend all three.  Judy brought people to their feet with a stirring message about bringing the future promises of God into the present.  God’s blessing is all over this place, but there is also great sacrifice.  A thanksgiving offering at the beginning, and a tithe offering, and a free will offering, and then many stepped forward to promise funding for the building.  They will bring their building offering on Monday evening.  The people are joyful, and God has given them a great work, and a greater vision.

Please pray for George, a delightful young man who is part of the worship band at Prayer Palace.  We got to know him in Mubende last year when we worked in the crusade there.  On Saturday, he was on the back of a motorcycle in a Kampala jam, and was hit by two cars.  Motorcycles are the taxi here, and they drive so crazy.  There is never more than a foot between moving cars, and the motor cycles will turn sideways and drive between cars, and even in the ditches to get around the long jams.  We have not seen many accidents.  George’s leg was not bending, and he was moving so slowly.  His faith and his grin are both contagious.  He loves God so much, and he has been spared by a miracle of mercy.

Grivas took us to a local Ugandan buffet for lunch.  I ate chicken steamed in banana leaves, papaya, pineapple, avocado, tomatoes, cabbage, baked pumpkin, some root vegetables I couldn’t identify, a bit of a leg of goat, and some spicy peas.  Art took pictures of my plate–no sermons on gluttony; I couldn’t help myself!  My favorite drink here is a mix of beet root, passion fruit, and carrot juice.  They bring a couple tablespoons of fresh squeezed ginger juice to pour in it.  Wow! It’s amazing.  Grivas has an organic powdered ginger that he puts in his coffee.  I asked our driver to get me a bottle of it.

We came back to the hotel and met with a young couple who want to start a clinic here, and they wanted advice on business start up with Art, who was happy to meet with them.

We have not made it over to see Pastor Steve’s sewing operation, which he has expanded successfully since our sewing machine donations.  We will go over in the morning.  A couple final meetings with pastors in the afternoon, and we leave for the airport at 5:00. It seems like we arrived just a few days ago.  I will try to write down some reflections on the plane and post a final blog from our trip when we get home–it’s about 31 hours of travel time, not counting the 4 hour Kampala jam that is unavoidable on Monday at 5:00.

Continue your prayers that the seeds planted, the many people that have been saved, the healing services, and all of the plans for building the Kingdom of God will move forward as we begin our long distance partnership with these vital Ugandan ministries.  Until next year….

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Catching up in Uganda

I am taking a break after a couple of long days, and it will be wonderful to have a night in at the hotel.  Our all day meeting at Faith Tabernacle Church was wonderful.  We watched the sky, and this time, the rains threatened, even some bolts of lightning, but we stayed dry.  Pastors Steve and Gordon came and lent their support.  It was so great to have them.  There were many children there, and they seemed a bit restless, so I suddenly had an idea.  When my children were growing up, they often asked to hear the story of the lost sheep and the Good Shepherd.  Over many years of telling it, I embellished the details and added lots of motion.  They never got tired of it.  So I asked Lewis’s permission, and pulled a chair into the middle of the pile of kids, and told my story.  Just like my grandchildren, they were counting the sheep and listening for the faint baaaa in the thicket.  It’s a cross cultural story.

The adults began gathering in and Judy gave a profound word of encouragement based on the story of Gideon.  Did I mention that five goats also came to church?  One stepped up to the keyboard and I thought he was going to sing a solo.  We prayed for the people and anointed them with oil.  We left just before 5 to figure out how to beat the jam and outrun the rain.  Lewis said the people stayed until 6:30 asking for prayer.  He has set Tuesday and Thursday for prayer and praise from 4 to 6, and will have Sunday services at 10.  I believe we have had a small part in birthing a new church that will bless Nyanema and beyond.  Doesn’t it make you want to jump on the next plane to Uganda?  There is such glory here!

A few more donations have come in, so we have commissioned Pastor Steve, who has excellent building skills, to start laying brick for a couple feet of wall so the water will not rush through the church when it rains.  He sent pictures already!  The bricks and sand and concrete were delivered today, and the church will have a perimeter of red bricks.

Art and Judy left early this morning with Grivas to work on the legal side of the television station and NGO that has been formed to get the equipment into the country.  Their meeting with the lawyer went on for hours.  I felt sorry for them.  I asked Eric to drop me off at the craft market, and I had a couple of leisure hours to shop for gifts for family, especially grandkids!  We went back to the hotel where we were to meet up and go eat.  We are eating out one meal a day to save money, so I had a snack with Eric while we waited.  Grivas called, and Eric told him we had eaten.  I finally got a a message to Art to bring me a to go box of some real food, whatever meat and vegetables was available.  They were too far away to get through the traffic to come here first.  Judy arrived a few hours later, and was very proud of the box she handed me.  I looked at it.  It was bumpy like coral rock, and mushy like pasta.  What is it?  She said the waiter told her it was beef stuffed with a curry sauce.  I ate a couple of pieces, but it’s hard to eat something when you don’t know what it is, and you’re in the middle of Africa.  She was disappointed, and I was hungry.

A couple hours later, I looked it up on google.  Sure enough it was beef–cow intestines to be exact.  I’ve heard of tripe, but I’ve never eaten it before.  The moral of the story is, don’t send Judy for carry out, and use the internet before you eat, not after….  We all laughed hysterically and I fried a couple of eggs and had ginger snaps for dessert.  The ginger in Uganda is amazing.  They pour it in fruit juice, and anything ginger is very strong with the spice.

Tomorrow morning early, Art and Judy will go to Signet, the television people who will finalize what has to be done to get on the air.  Art and Grivas are a great team.  Never give up, persevere, keep asking, seeking, knocking.  It is going to happen, and millions of people will soon hear the gospel broadcast from Prayer Palace.  I wish I could give you a report on all of the legal and tactical work that they have done on the ground.  I will pray, and be involved in the logistics as much as I can.  There has been significant work here for each of us in very different spheres of influence.  I have felt so much a part of the body of Christ with the coming together of business, preaching, church planting, painting, building, praying, celebrating!!!

Three more days.  There are lots of loose ends to be tied!

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