Fear the Lord

“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24 NIV).

Fearing the Lord does not mean we should ever be afraid of him. Our Lord wields much more power than the gods of Roman or Greek mythology who were feared. And when we look at our own little world, the earth, especially when we see pictures taken from the Hubble telescope or the space station, we see a beautiful blue planet full of life created by God. Every day we enjoy a breath of air, a blue sky, our friends and family around us only because God sustains this world that cannot sustain itself.

Christians are not afraid of God because we know how much He loves each of us. He loved us so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die in our place and reconcile us to Him.

It is inconceivable that someone would love us so much to die for us when we were still enemies. And the Word even tells us that it is not often that anyone would die for another person. It might happen that someone might die for a good person, but even that would happen rarely. When we consider that one thing that He did for us, how can we help but want to serve Him forever?

He loved us so much that he sent His Son. He did not lift a finger to create all of the stars and planets in the heavens. He breathed them into existence. The very thought of this is unimaginable for the human mind. We cannot fathom such power and glory.

The attitude of a servant’s heart appears most attractive to me. I’ve met a few people who have made it their goal to serve others their entire lives. I’ve also met some people who have recently awakened to their gift of serving others. I believe this gift reflects the nearest emulation of Jesus Christ.
He came to us as a helpless baby born in a manger. He trusted a teenage mother and a stepfather to raise Him. And when He was a man, He lived a perfect life so that He would be the perfect Lamb of sacrifice.
Living a perfect life for you and me seems impossible. But if we believe in Him, and have accepted Him as Lord and Savior, He has washed our sins away and we are perfect. Now we must live out our perfection in Jesus Christ. The only way we can do this is to adopt an attitude of service for those around us.

Because human beings can never live perfect lives, some Christians fear Judgment Day. If you have sinned, confess it and He is faithful and just to forgive you. There is no need to fear. In this verse, fear means to respect Him in awe and reverence because He is our Creator and King, Lord of lords, and He is absolutely sovereign over all.
Sometimes we think of Jesus as a friend ― almost a buddy. He is that, but we are not His equal as with other friends. We must not lose the attitude of awe and reverence we owe the Lord. Today let’s practice the attitudes of awe, reverence, and servanthood.

Most gracious heavenly Father, thank You for the ultimate sacrifice of Your son on the cross. I accept You in my heart as Lord and Savior. Show me how to serve others and glorify You. You are an awesome God. Mighty in power. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

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The Frozen Fortress of Helsinki, Finland

“He told them, ‘Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the Lord, who is with you whenever you give a verdict’ ” (2 Chronicles 19:6 NIV).

Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to judge someone? This can be a very uncomfortable situation especially when you’re judging people you know and love. We must approach these kinds of circumstances in an attitude of fairness.

When Jehoshaphat appointed judges to administer the law of the land, God and Jehoshaphat were concerned that these new ‘judges’ would misuse their authority. They warned the new judges with today’s verse, “Consider carefully what you do, because. . .” And so it is in modern times. We often see people with more authority than compassion and understanding. Often times these people are more interested in power and self-glorification than in fairness or justice.

People who judge others want to show how much power they can wield. When these people are government officials can be very disconcerting, because others know that it is sometimes impossible to get a fair verdict.
On the other hand, some judges are very fair. And these are the judges that realize that they answer to a higher power. And I’m not talking about a higher power within the government. I’m talking about The Higher Power, Almighty God.

You may not be a judge in the American legal system, but we are all called upon to make judgments. Every time you vote you make a judgment. This verse reminds us to judge fairly and consider what is best for everyone. We must not judge or vote just to line our own pockets. We vote considering all of God’s people.

Every day we make judgments. It’s in our veins; we can’t help ourselves. It’s important that we have an attitude of humility as we ‘evaluate’ the people around us. Remember were not judging for ourselves, but for the Lord. As it says in this verse, He is with us whenever we give a verdict. We should guard our judgments, especially when they are not wanted or needed. Ask the Lord to grant you the attitude of fairness and grace that He extended to you. We often forget that it is only by His grace that we obtained salvation and gained the life of victory.

A judge makes decisions every day that affect a person’s life, maybe forever. It’s one job I would not want, but some are called to do it. For those who are called, the attitudes of grace and humility, with wisdom and understanding are paramount.

For the rest of us, whenever possible we leave judgment to the Lord. He knows best. When we must act as a judge, we don’t judge to please mere mortals or even our friends. Remember the Lord is with you whenever you judge and you represent Him. An attitude of grace and humility is required. When you judge rightly it may cost you. Be certain that it costs you rather than costing the Lord.

Almighty God, thank You for the grace You have lavished upon me every day of my life. Give me the discernment to keep judgments to myself when necessary. Give me the courage to extend grace to offenders. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!


Hawaiian Sunrise

“Let our gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5 NIV).

Gentleness is not the way of this world. So many times this world is all about getting your way whatever it takes. Often it takes forcefulness to make our goals. We find this attitude rampant in the corporate arena. In fact, many times workers step on a fellow employee in order to climb the corporate ladder.

Unfortunately this attitude flourishes beyond corporate America. It can even exist within the confines of the organized church. A youth leader may have his or her eyes on a pastoral position. In order to get the attention of the senior pastor and the board, there is competition to ‘outdo’ the other youth leaders. This can lead to dissension within the group.

Whether we are in the corporate world or in an organized church, we often forget that the Lord is near. He is watching everything we do. If we really believed that, and if we really consider that He is watching everything we do, I believe we would live in a gentler world.

As Christians we say we believe everything in the Bible. If we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, He gives us His Holy Spirit. In Matthew 11:29 Jesus tells us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” If we truly want to be like Jesus, we must take on an attitude of gentleness.

Gentleness does not come naturally. A gentle person may be perceived a weakling or indecisive. It takes real strength to be gentle in an unkind world. When I think of gentle people, I think of people who are spiritual giants. I think of the pastor that welcomed me back to college after a fifteen-year absence. I think of a woman who takes the time to visit those who are suffering with illness and are confined to their homes or hospitals.

Gentleness. I think of a couple who ministers to the offenders in the prisons. I think of the father of young children who takes time off work just to be with them. I think of a pastor in Jamaica that faithfully serves a church mostly made up of children. I think of teachers, neighbors, nurses, people in all walks of life who have compassion. Being a gentle soul is commendable. Perhaps you can think of someone who exhibits the attitude of gentleness. You may want to write them a note to tell them how much you appreciate them.

And today it is your turn. Today you can decide to have an attitude of gentleness. The bold promise in this verse is that when you exhibit an attitude of gentleness, the Lord will draw even nearer to you.

My God and King, thank You for Your gentle Spirit. I have much to learn as I draw nearer to the Kingdom and I am grateful that You have chosen to gently teach me. Give me a gentle attitude toward those around me. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!

Extending Mercy

Sunrise in Key West

“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV).

In his letter to Timothy, Paul called himself the worst of sinners. When we meet someone and they tell us they are sinners it can be unnerving. We wonder just what sins they have committed. In Paul’s case there were many. Because he was a religious man he committed many sins in the name of God.

Probably the most well-known of his sins is his aggressive persecution of Christians. It was Paul’s desire to wipe out followers of Christ. He describes one instance in particular that made such an impression on him that he never forgot it. He stood by and observed the stoning of Stephen. He came to persecute Christians and when he got there his fellow religious Jews prepared to stone Stephen. Paul held the cloaks of the men while they picked up stones.
The vision that stayed with him was of Stephen as he was dying, asking the Lord to forgive his executioners.

Perhaps Paul could see the reflection of Jesus in Stephen’s eyes as Stephen beheld his Lord and Savior.
Even after Jesus watched the persecution of one of his loyal children, He made a way for Paul to be saved. On the road to Damascus He suddenly appeared to Saul (he was known as Saul before God changed his name). Immediately Saul recognized His voice and knew who He was. Jesus forgave Saul, changed his name to Paul, changed his life forever, and showed him mercy. Instantly transformed, Paul became one of Jesus’ greatest disciples.

In 1 Timothy 1:13 Paul tells Timothy, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” Here Paul admits to Timothy and to us something very important. Before Paul accepted Jesus he was a persecutor and a violent man toward those who did not agree with his view of God. But now Paul no longer persecutes or hates those who do not accept his teaching. When he received the Holy Spirit he was changed. That is Paul’s example for us mentioned in our text. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are changed. We no longer persecute or are violent toward those who do not accept our message. God gave them free will and we must accept that to honor Him. Christ forgave us and we must now forgive others.

People betray us. Friends do things that we find hard to forgive. In our humanity we want them to get a taste of their own medicine. We don’t feel like showing mercy to the worst of sinners. But if we want to be more like Christ, forgiveness must be given to anyone who disappoints us. Yes, it hurts. But we can take our hurts to the Lord and He will heal us. And when we see our friend again, we must put on an attitude of mercy. In Matthew 5:7 Jesus tell us, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Paul mentions that Christ displayed immense patience as an example to His followers. This attitude of patience is rare in our day because people think multi-tasking and rushing in all directions is admirable. In fact, this becomes mindless activity when we look at what we’ve accomplished at the end of the day. You might save a minute by crowding in line, but at the end of the day, what will you have done with that minute?

Today let’s have an attitude of mercy and patience toward others and joy in whatever occurs!

Merciful God, thank You for the attitude of mercy and patience You have demonstrated through Your word. Give me a heart like Yours. I am grateful for the times You have shown me mercy. Remind me to be patient with others. Amen.

This is an excerpt from the forty-day devotional, “Attitude Matters”. Click here to order.

Click here to check out my website!

Early baseball game this morning with Ian vs. eight kids!

The conference allows each church represented to showcase their choir.

The church is filled with worshippers this morning. It’s very hot, but everyone is happy. There is so much singing that you can’t help but feel close to Heaven!

Mussa presents Joey with a wooden scooping spoon. A gift from Malawi.

David is presented with Malawi textiles used for skirts.

African gifts from the congregation.

Group picture of the conference attendees.

Good-bye Malawi and hello USA! We leave in the morning.

It was the longest church service so far. All the different choirs sang and danced. After I preached on the Faith Hall of Fame, Pastor Chilemba asked me to anoint six new pastors. What an honor. I asked them three times if they would feed Jesus’ sheep. Afterward I anointed each one of them and David gave them a bottle of anointing oil.

Pastor then asked us to anoint four new assistant pastors, two of which were women. They will be assistant to Pastor Philip Chilemba, Pastor’s son. He then announced that they were going to have women pastors ‘like Pastor Vicki.’ So these women will eventually have their own churches. One of them was in the first bible class here two years ago, Grace. The other woman was Pastor and translator Abraham’s wife, Anna. David anointed their hands to serve and glorify the Lord. It really was a moving service.

Next it was time to have the grand opening of the ‘new big church’ ribbon cutting. The Americans who made this possible were acknowledged, and I cut the ribbon representing all of you. Thank you so much for letting the Lord work through you. This has been an incredible journey and I wish all of you could be here with us.

After another group picture, this one a conference group picture, we left as the praise team was playing another worship song. We had our usual chicken for lunch, with beef offered as a side. No one ate the beef today, just couldn’t do it.

We’re back at the hotel packing and deciding what to take and what to leave for the Bible School next year. Pastor will pick us in the morning and we’ll head to Blantyre, have lunch and maybe get to shop a little, then off to the airport. See you soon!

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Busiest Day in Malawi

Passing an oxcart on the way to church.

We are excited to get to church and begin the day. David preaches first thing, but only after a lot of music and dancing. Everyone is so joyful here. Many people have come for the conference; there are campfires and cooking fires all around the church.

Pastor Chilemba takes us to his house before church to show us the cow he bought earlier this morning. Later we are served beef for lunch. Liver! Hard to eat 😦

Women’s choir performs.

Pastor Abraham translates for David this morning. David introduced the Paul and Silas skit and talked about the conference theme, Our God Reigns.

After lunch David teaches about 300 men that the Word of God is powerful and that just one verse can change lives.

Vicki taught around 600 women that God loves them so much that He gave His life for them, and He is coming back for His bride, the church. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords and we will be His queen!

Our God Reigns!

Joey and Ian working with around 400 youth. They do a wonderful job of connecting with the kids!

After our separate session for women, men, and children it’s time for baptisms to begin. The baptismal doesn’t have very much water in it, but the pastors make it work. Pastor Chilemba and Pastor Matthews Chilemba (no relation) pray before beginning.

Pastor Samuel and women, along with Pastor Richard observing.

All of the women were baptized first, then children, then men. Over 200 were baptized! Glory to God.

Pastors pray again after all are baptized. What a glorious day!

Joey plays “Red Light, Green Light” with children, only they don’t understand traffic lights, so it is now “Stop and Go.”

The evening started around 8 o’clock, because of the heat.

I was very tired and not looking forward to such a late service, after a few songs and choirs performed, my attitude changed. We were celebrating the baptisms. Each of us gave a short testimony about how our lives changed after baptism and what it meant to us. We got home before 10 and I slept well.

We are looking forward to getting home. It’s been a very long trip, a blessing, but all the same — we miss you and our comfortable beds! I’m already thinking about what I’m packing and what I’m leaving here. It’s hard to take everything when there is so much need here, but we also have to think wisely about what we can leave, what gifts we can give, and how to distribute them.

Tomorrow is the grand opening of the “big, new church.” God is good!~

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Graduation Day has arrived and students must pass their final exam in order to receive their certificate. It’s a busy morning for classes and after lunch break they will have their exam. First thing we do after eating our lunch is stop at the Peace and Love Supermarket to get gifts for translators. They each get a loaf of bread, a bag of salt, and a bag of sugar along with a couple of personal gifts from each of us.

Peace and Love Supermarket.

We made bags for the translators’ gifts.

David and I took a quick look at the port. Afterward we went through the marketplace to shop for gifts for our translators, then back to class.

The Shire River is lovely, however, I believe crossing the border here could be frowned upon. Many people do it everyday to shop and visit Mozambique.

It’s hard to believe that in a few hours Bible School will be over. We will distribute the certificates, hand out the additional Bibles, give gifts for the wives of the pastors, and take a class picture.

Two hours after the graduation party the annual conference will begin. Joey kicks off the conference with a powerful message from when Jesus walked on water. “Our God Reigns” is the theme and you will get a picture of the lovely banner we brought from Colorado. Saturday morning David preaches and then in the afternoon he teaches about 300 men, Joey and Ian will have from 300-400 children, and I will be speaking to 600 women. We brought 600 Burger King Crowns and 600 necklaces. Please pray for all of us as these are large numbers to minister to. If it goes as well as the prison visit, we will be more than pleased. God is good and always faithful!

After these sessions, the baptisms begin! Pastor says to expect over 200. Then each of us will tell the congregation how our lives changed after we accepted Christ and were baptized. That will end a busy Saturday. Sunday morning I will give a farewell talk to our friends in Malawi. After lunch we will pack up to be ready to go to Blantyre on Monday morning. I may not get opportunity to send any more updates until we get home. Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for our mission to be a sweet aroma, pleasing to God.

Students prepare for the final exam.

But first, we have dramas to perform. This is the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus.

The students added the stoning of Stephen, making the story even more compelling!

Having passed the exams and receiving certificates, it’s time to party!

Graduation picture.

The conference begins late because of the heat. We begin well after eight o’clock.

Conference begins with opening praise team singing.

The church is filling up.

It’s been a long day. We got back to the hotel around 9:30. Pastor says he will pick us up at 9:00 in the morning. All I know is that today confirmed the fact that we are supposed to be here. As we congratulated each student, some of them had tears in their eyes as they thanked us for their certificate. For some of these students it has been their first experience in a classroom. Thanks to all of the Malawi Support Team for making this happen. You have made dreams come true today. God is glorified and it is all about HIM!!

Such a busy day and tomorrow will be just as busy. Whew! But, all in all, we look forward to the busiest day of our journey tomorrow. So much is on the agenda. Again, David will begin by preaching on the theme of the conference, “Our God Reigns.” Then he will teach some 300 men, Ian and Joey will have 300-400 children, and I will be teaching 600 women. Afer that pastor tells us that we will baptize over 200 new believers. At the evening service each of us will tell how we have changed since we gave our lives to Jesus. Pray for everyone here. Many have traveled miles and across borders to join us. Until tomorrow …. Blessings!

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