Posted in fear, Grace, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs, and Fat Hippos

But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you.”  Numbers 32:23

How do things like this happen?  If you are older than three, you have probably already bumped into something that got bigger than you intended.  Whether you are a toddler reaching for the cookie jar or a teenager thinking no one will ever know or in a marriage pushing the limits…well, you’ve probably had that emptiness in your stomach when the cookie jar crashes, or dad says, “son, we need to talk” or you come home to an empty house because word got around.  How does it happen?

Really the answer to that question is older than time and bigger than a short story with a big truth or, for that matter, a thick book full of truths but maybe we can at least cast a little light in the arena.  Judy and I have been to East Africa and the country of Uganda more than a few  times.  We launch our trips to the islands of Lake Victoria from the small town of Jinga.  We enter town, with the lake on our right, and cross a small channel that leads to a decent size dam.  On the other side of the dam, and no more than fifty yards wide, is the origin of the mighty Nile River.

Now trust me, if you saw the mighty Nile at this point you wouldn’t be too impressed.  It wanders through the Ugandan countryside on its way north before eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  The journey is somewhere over 4,100 miles and slowly the river grows and grows until it is almost two miles wide at some points.  Judy and I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Nile and besides being impressed by its size, I was more than impressed with the very large and very hungry, crocodiles that call the Nile home.  Oh, and did I mention the animal that causes more deaths in Africa than any other animal? It might not be what you think—the hippopotamus and there are lots of them in the Nile. Lots.

So, we begin with something that is relatively small that becomes large and we have something relatively benign that is dangerously filled with things that want to eat you or stomp you to death.  Either way—something little becomes big and dangerous.  And that, dear friend, is how things get out of control in our lives too.  It starts as something we think we can handle, something that almost, almost, seems safe and before long—we have a monster on our hands.  Let’s revisit the Nile.

If you were to start floating down the Nile in your little boat the first chunk of your journey would be easy.  But somewhere upstream (since the Nile flows north) there is something that will kill you—Murchison Falls.  The entire Nile River is funneled down into a rock channel that is only 23 feet wide before the water violently plummets 141 feet.  Go there and you are dead—no exceptions.  It’s the same results when we don’t pay attention to the tension that sometimes occurs in our lives.  When that tension is there…it is there for a reason.  Andy Stanley gives two good pieces of advice.  First, pay attention to the tension; and two, if something bothers you, let it bother you.  That’s good stuff.

So the big truth today is we sometimes need to hit the pause button.  We also need to understand that we are not the exception to the rule…we can get hurt, we can create a disaster, and yes, someone will find out. Oh, by the way, do you really think it is a secret from God? The Old Testament gives us a sound warning—be sure your sins will find you out and often, when it does, well, its gonna leave a mark—a bruise—or worse.  As you journey today or tomorrow, you might want to listen for the Whisperer whispering His gentle words of warning.  Don’t ignore them…He knows truth and He knows consequences.  Our sin cost His Son His life.  However, if we ask, He will be there to help and to guide. No matter how big the crocs, or how fat the hippos, or how violent the falls—you can trust the fact that, “He’s got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, wisdom

Jesus Road

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13

It seemed like a waste of time.  I was part of a mission’s medical team and we were ministering in Uganda.  We were working with a ministry that helped orphans and due to war, aids and poverty—there were many to help.  After ministering at the orphanage, we went out to local villages and bush to reach more of the people.  Medical care, though extremely inexpensive, was out of the reach of most of the people.  That alone clearly speaks of their poverty.  It was such an opportunity to help others.

Before we started the clinic, I would have the opportunity to speak to the people.  I would explain that there was a Man named Jesus who was like no other man.  He would go from village to village helping people—often healing them of their diseases.  I would explain that He did it because He loved them.  Then, I would tell the people that we were followers of that Man and just as He wanted to help people—we wanted to help them.  I explained that the medicine and the doctors were there at no charge to them because someone else had paid the price.  And naturally, that led to me sharing how God was offering them a way for their spiritual brokenness to be forgiven.

Some of the people in the village had heard of this Man—many had not.  Some were Muslims and some followed whatever local religion they were familiar with.  Before they saw the doctors, we had the privilege of sharing with them more about this man Jesus.  We would ask them if they wanted to leave whatever “god” road they were on and walk the Jesus Road.  While it seems simplistic here, there it made perfect sense.  There was no pressure just an opportunity to believe.  Whether they said yes or no, the medicine, the help, was theirs for free.  That’s what Jesus would do.

It had been a long day and we had seen well over a hundred patients—maybe two hundred.  Many had said yes to the question about the Jesus Road, but some simply said no. As the day wore on, our spirits were still willing, but our bodies were growing tired.  Finally, there was just one man left and it was my turn to share with him.  He was tall and dressed in the traditional Muslin clothing.  I could tell that he was elderly, but I was surprised to learn that he was 81 years old.  Now, honestly, the chances of a Muslin man that old choosing to change roads was slim to none.  It seemed like an exercise in futility.

I shared a Bible story with him and was surprised that he paid close attention.  At the end of the story, which spoke of a person choosing to walk the Jesus Road, through the interpreter, I asked him, “Would you like to follow this Jesus Road?”  Much to my utter surprise, he responded, “Yes, I would.”  I was certain he just didn’t understand my question, so I rephrased it and his response was the same. Amazing.  Finally, I said, “Do you understand that walking the Jesus Road requires you to leave the road you are on?”  I said, “You cannot walk two roads…only one.” His response was, “I choose the Jesus Road.”

We bowed our heads and he prayed telling Creator God that he was a sinner, but he believed that Jesus had died to pay for his sins.  He said that he was willing to leave all other roads and follow only Jesus.  And just like that, this dear old man, became a Jesus follower. Did he fully understand all the theology that was involved?  Probably not, but he did know that God loved him, that he was a sinner and Jesus would forgive him and that was enough.  What seemed like a waste of time, an exercise of futility, turned into the most amazing moment of the trip.  That day that man became a child of God.

This story never grows old—and neither does the old, old story about Jesus being born, living, dying, being buried, and coming back to life in three days—never to die again. It is a factual, amazing story.  I am always amazed that we know more about this carpenter from a small village in the middle of nowhere than we do of all the Roman emperors.  Do you know the reason?  Jesus is the real deal.  How about that?

You might be surprised to learn that Jesus wasn’t a big fan of religion. In fact, neither is God.  I always think of religion as man’s attempt to reach God while Jesus was God’s way to reach us.  A relationship with God is not about church, being good, or keeping rules.  It is about God’s love and our faith in what Jesus did.  It is simple, it is powerful, and it is true.

If you want a witness, you can go to Uganda and find my 81-year-old friend, but truthfully, he probably isn’t there.  By now, he has most likely followed the Jesus Road straight into heaven.  That’s where it ultimately ends.  And as much as I love the fact that the road leads there, I am also so glad that there is room for two to walk side by side—Jesus and me, Jesus and you, Jesus and us.  And as we walk, I know that I can face whatever the road holds because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in missions, Scripture, travel

Peg Leg Sally

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Strange things happen in Africa.  For the past 12 or 13 years, our church has made regular trips to Africa.  We began in Niger and later moved down to Mali.  The last six years or so we have been working in Uganda. Regardless of what country, you can count on Africa to give you plenty of unusual  and strange sights.  So in some ways I wasn’t surprised.

We were on an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda.  On any given trip we visit at least three or four different islands offering free medical care, children’s ministries, ladies ministries and visiting the people in their huts to tell them the stories of Jesus.  The point of it all is to let them hear the Good News that there is a God who loves them—a lot. So we were winding down the day.  The medical clinic was finishing and four or five of us men were sitting in the shade under the “front porch” of one of the buildings.

So, we were talking and like I said you see some strange things in Africa so I wasn’t surprised when my friend said, “Look, there goes a woman with a peg leg.” Well, I turned around to look and didn’t see what he was talking about. I did see a lady some distance away but couldn’t see her peg leg.  I mean, the only peg legs I knew about were in Peter Pan, so my curiosity was peaked.

I turned back around but didn’t say anything.  But, it stuck in my mind.  After ten minutes or so, I just had to ask my friend about this strange sight.  I said, “Tim, did you say something about a lady with a peg leg?” His expression told me I must have missed something. He gave me a perplexing look. All he could manage was a “uh?”  I said, “You know, a few minutes ago you said you saw a lady with a peg leg.” He responded with, “No.  I said I saw a man carrying a stringer of fish.”  Silence. Snickers.  Laughter.

Yup.  Somewhere in the process of the conversation what was said and what I heard were two totally, and I mean totally, different things.  There was no lady with a peg leg only a guy with a stringer of fish.  You are probably wondering how I got “peg leg” out of “stringer of fish.”  All I can say is strange things happen in Africa. I’m glad there wasn’t a crippled lady but the idea of a peg leg like Captain Cook’s sure did intrigue me.

And do you know what?  Sometimes I think this happens with God and me. I think He is saying something and I totally miss it.  Does that happen to you? I think it’s more common than we think. We think we hear Him say, “You have the right to be mad” and in fact He’s saying, “Forgive.”  We think we hear Him say, “Take” and really He was saying, “Give.” Oh, and then we thought He said, “Quit” and He was saying, “Serve.” And it just goes on and on.  We hear “Leave” and He is saying, “Stay.” We hear “Go ahead” and He is saying “Stop, wait, don’t.” Seems strange things don’t happen only in Africa.  Smile.

So, I’m not sure what caused the totally humorous miscommunication in Uganda.  It may have been my hearing, could have been the village noise…who knows.  There may not have been a fix for that, however, when it comes to hearing God clearly there is something that will really help.  It is His Word.  In so many situations (though I’m not sure peg legs are one of them) the Bible gives us clear guidance.

Here is one thing you can count on.  The voice of God (what we think we hear God saying) will not, ever, never, contradict the Word of God.  If you think you hear Him saying, “Revenge” when someone has hurt you, you probably have “Peg Leg Syndrome.”   If you think you hear Him saying, “Be afraid” when circumstances are frightful, you probably have “Peg Leg Syndrome.” You get the idea.

Talking about the Word of God, Paul said that it is good for learning, good for insight about what is wrong in our lives, good for correcting us when we are wrong and good for teaching us about how to live right.  The Bible is an amazing Book. It has stood the test of time and, while there are different translations, there is not a version 4.3 because God got it right the first time. So if you are talking with your friends and someone mentions a lady with a peg leg, you might want to ask for some clarification.  And if you think you heard God say something that sounds a little not like Him, check the Book, go to the source.  Peg leg stories can be funny but withholding forgiveness when it is ours to give, hating instead of loving, leaving too soon instead of staying…well, that can cause a lot of pain.  And if find yourself singing and living that 1974 hit “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” it might just be a bad case of Peg Leg Syndrome.  Just pull out the Book, read a little and rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in missions, Uncategorized

I Can’t Hear You

“But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6 (CSB)

I can’t hear you.  A friend and I were standing on the shores of an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda, East Africa.  He was telling a Jesus story to a man and trying to determine if he knew Jesus.  While he was sharing another man walked up and began to listen.  At the end of the story, we asked a couple of questions.  The first man indicated that he knew this Jesus.  The other did not.  And he couldn’t hear.

Let me explain.  It wasn’t that he had a hearing problem.  His ears were working quite well.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand.  Our friend understood English and when we hit a bump our translator would jump in and help out.  But he couldn’t hear.  Then he explained the problem.  He said something like, “I can’t hear about this Jesus because my stomach is so hungry.”

Now hunger is not usually a big issue in Uganda.  While the food may not be the best nutritionally it is usually sufficient in quantity.  Our friend was one of the exceptions.  For whatever reason he hadn’t eaten that day or maybe the day before.  The growling of his stomach was blocking his heart from hearing the message.  We tried to explain that while we may hunger here, God had a place in heaven where no one would be hungry. I decided to tell him another story from the Bible.

I told him the story of Peter and John entering the temple.  You can read it in Acts 3:1-10. It goes something like this. There was a crippled man there who made a living begging.  When he saw Peter and John he thought they could help.  He looked up expectedly and perhaps even lifted his hand to receive a coin or two.  While his hand remained empty he got something more than a coin.  Peter said, “We don’t have silver or gold but what we do have we will give you.  In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

As Peter reached his hand down and the man reached up, his ankles received healing strength and he stood and walked into the temple.  I smugly smiled my preacher smile.  The perfect story.  The perfect truth. Eternal is better than temporary. Surely my friends would see it and everyone would go their way happy.  Only it didn’t happen.

I asked him “So what is better a few coins now or something that can change your life forever?”  I, of course, expected him to agree that the gift of eternal life is certainly more and better than a few coins or a quick meal.  His answer caught me totally off guard. He replied, “A few coins or some food.”  What?  I couldn’t believe what he was saying.  Surely he understood.  Surely I had made the story clear.

Then he said it.  “Heaven is good but I am hungry now. I need food now.”  Well, sadly, he wandered off.  Still hungry.  Still lost. My friend continued to share with the first man but my heart was heavy and my mind on the other man.  Suddenly, I saw him again standing a few yards away. It was then I heard the Whisperer whisper.  It was short and simple.  “Give him food” the Whisperer said.  I had totally forgotten that in my backpack I had some tuna, chips, crackers for my own lunch.  I dug several items from my bag, as did my friend.

I walked over to the man and said, “This isn’t much but I hope it will quieten your stomach so you can hear Jesus.” He quickly took the food and left. There’s no bow on the package, no happily ever after ending, no prayer to receive Jesus.  But I know two things. I know he knew we cared and I know he heard the truth and this time that had to be enough.  Maybe the seed would sprout later…only eternity will tell.

I learned a couple of things that day.  I learned that sometimes before we can share the Good News of the Gospel with a person we need to touch them in a real tangible way.  A casual God bless you and a pat on the back doesn’t do much for an anxious soul or a hungry stomach.  We must talk Jesus, we must share Jesus but we must be Jesus.  Someone said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In these crazy, troubling times people need more than a sermon—they need to know we care.  How do we do that?  That’s the second thing I learned.  We have to listen for the Whisperer.  We need to be sensitive to His gentle nudges. We have to still our own souls and hearts if we are to hear His gentle voice. These days call for new ways…different ways. So as you walk about life, keep your eyes open, your heart still and watch in wonder at what God can do through you.  You don’t have to be in Africa to be on mission.  That can happen, must happen right here, right now.  And in these days of fear and frustration people are more ready to hear about God than ever before.  What a privilege to be entrusted with God’s work.  Up for the challenge?  God believes so.  Remember, He’s really big on you.  So rest in Him.  He’s got this.