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"Lollipop and Pearls" - Jared Kraft

Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Revolutionary Forgiveness"

In preparation for my summer mission trip to Uganda, I’ve sought the Lord about matters of the heart. My prayer has been “Search me, O God, and know my heart. See if there be any wicked way in me. Cleanse me from every sin and set me free” (based on Ps.139: 23-24) which says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”). Be careful what you ask the Lord for; He may just give it to you!!! He revealed unforgiveness that I have been harboring (often without even realizing it!) that needs to be purged IF I am going to be in a Holy, healthy and happy relationship with Him. My serving in Uganda will be hindered by a weakened witness from ongoing sin in my life IF I don’t reconcile those matters before I go. Perhaps even more importantly my day-to-day witness will be marred by an unforgiving spirit living within me.

I have just finished reading Tombstones and Banana Trees by Medad Birungi with Craig Borlase, which is a true story of Medad’s revolutionary forgiveness of so many people! His story will rock your world and leave you stunned that anyone could endure what Medad endured most of his life as a young boy into adulthood and survive…not only survive but find the freedom in Christ to forgive the perpetrators that tried to kill his body, soul and spirit! Only by the living power of the Holy Spirit in him could he offer authentic forgiveness to those people! (I recommend you order this book: ISBN 978-0-7814-0502-7; publisher is David Cook~

Please allow me to share some quotes that struck me and stuck with me:
 (A Bishop had, for quite a while, rejected Medad’s desire to preach the Gospel. A revival had broken out in Kabale; he says “…and the conflicts had hurt me. Forgiveness had cost me). He goes on to say: “The speaker finished his sermon, and the bishop walked onto the stage…The bishop in front of thousands said the words I longed for but never though I would hear. He said he was sorry for all he had wrongly done against me. He asked for my forgiveness. He asked for reconciliation. Then he announced that I was free to preach in any church in the diocese. How can I explain the joy and peace between us that flowed? I accepted and asked him to forgive me as well, which he did. I also asked for forgiveness from those who had been wounded by our conflicts, and the bishop asked other bishops from western Uganda to come up onto the stage and welcome me. I forgave him publicly, and Connie (his wife) was called up to the front: It was like a pair of prodigals coming home!...The tombstone had been rolled away, and Lazarus had come out…I had to repent of my bitterness and anger toward the bishop and doing so added to the long list of things from which the Lord has released me: family hurts, economic hurts, academic hurts, work-related hurts, political hurts, religious hurts, sexual related hurts, and sectarian-related hurts. I am now healed, delivered, and free, and I have realized that the only way for us to be released from the past is to forgive” (pp. 188-189). Do you get that? Our unforgiveness wounds others! In much the same way that addiction is a ‘family disease” (because it affects everyone around the addict, and not just the addict him/herself), so our unforgiveness wounds other people! Also, when I choose to forgive someone, the Lord releases me from so much more! It’s a win/win: I do the right thing~forgive~then I AM forgiven and released from past hurts! WHAT A DEAL! My unforgiveness is, in the words of someone whose name I do not know, “my drinking poisoning hoping the other person will die!” My past will follow me UNLESS and UNTIL I forgive others!!! Who do you harbor unforgiveness against? Who do you think you absolutely CANNOT forgive? What happens if you intentionally choose to forgive that person(s) out of an act of obedience to the call of Christ (just as He has forgiven us and we certainly do not deserve it!)? Are you afraid that, by forgiving them, you are letting them off the hook? Or condoning what they did to hurt you in the first place? Or are you so overwhelmed with guilt for NOT forgiving them that you would rather continue to wallow in it? Be honest! The only one you are really hurting is yourself and God! You are not hurting the other person! (Please remember I started this devo with acknowledging what the Lord is convicting me of, so I am preaching to the choir, trust me!  

 “What does it mean to forgive? It means obeying a direct command from God. It means following Jesus’ example. It means being open to the healing and deliverance that follow. It means embracing repentance, reconciliation, and brokenness. It means seeing a release of prayer and intercession, an increase in joyfulness and a radical rise in missionary zeal. To forgive is to grow, to live, to love. To forgive is to follow Jesus. To forgive is to leave behind the tomb and to walk out, surrounded by fresh air and new life toward the open arms of a waiting loving God” (p. 189). Do you feel that kind of freedom right now in your life?” Can you truly say you have let the tomb behind and you are walking in new life and fresh air with “an increase in joyfulness and a radical rise in missionary zeal”?

(In the story of Lazarus dying and Jesus taking his time in showing up, giving Mary and Martha cause to wonder why Jesus was responding this way…) “Jesus did not show up. The Bible tells us that He did a strange thing. He did nothing. For two days He waited. We do not know what He did in the time, but we do know this: At the end of the waiting He knew Lazarus was dead and buried. They asked Jesus to come, and He waited until their brother was dead. We might not like it, but the truth that applies to every one of us is this: Just as Jesus was aware of Lazarus’s life and death, so He is also aware of us: our sin, our weaknesses, our complaints, our pornography, our pain, our disappointment (or whatever you m may put in there—comment is Lisa’s), And just as we might not be comfortable with the idea of Jesus being aware of every aspect of our lives we also do not like it when it appears as if the Lord withdraws from us. We do not like to be left surrounded by the corpses of the latest trials and struggles. We do not like to be reminded of the gap between what we hoped for from God and what He actually delivered. Days can turn into weeks, even months, and still it seems that our Father has chosen to delay His return to us, to hold off His presence, to keep back His voice and hands and help. Our sicknesses get worse; our pressures mount even higher, and still Jesus delays coming to our side. So often at times like this it appears that the only option open to us is to feed on bitterness. That’s what I did—for twenty years. And it left me alone. We often find ourselves alone after we have been disappointed by others, let down by those we thought were going to do better this time. But people will let us down—churches too which are nothing more than a collection of people and our relationships with them will suffer. Our gurus may fall and our heroes may fail. Yet if turning to God is a familiar response something built into the muscles and nerves of our faith, then even those darkest, loneliest nights will be relieved of the chill of isolation. We will find God in the darkness because we will have known Him so well in the light: (pp. 193-194). Is this making you squirm a bit, as it is me? God is not always going to answer the way we want Him to. But HE is God and we ARE NOT! We can choose to feed on bitterness…and where will it leave us? Lonely? We may even feel our bitterness is justified…that someone has hurt us or disappointed us over and over and over again. We feel we have given them chance after chance after chance and they continue doing the same old thing to us again and again! Well…is that not what each of us does with god? Be honest! Yet, we fully expect God to forgive us time and again, as His Word says he will and we expect Him to be true to His Word. Then why do we NOT expect Him to hold us to His Word, as well? He tells us to forgive how and how often? “Seventy times seven”!!!! That’s not 490 times…that means over and over and over again until you die! PERIOD! If any of us is not forgiving anyone in our lives who has hurt or wronged us, then we also do not deserve to be forgiven…by others or by God! OUCH! But, it’s true…and sometimes the truth hurts!
                                                        (thanks to Soles for Souls for the donation of Crocs)
“Of all the people in the world, there are none stronger than the people who are able to forgive” (p. 196).

“Revolutionary forgiveness changes not only the one who forgives but also the one who is forgiven. And more—the family and surrounding community are affected. Revolutionary forgiveness brings about a change that affects lifestyle, priorities, and marriages. It goes beneath the surface to alter character, to change your way of life, the people you live with, your community, your thinking, your priorities, your communication. Charisma minus character is very dangerous. Revolutionary forgiveness deals with character. And we need more of it today. We need it between tribes, between churches, on a personal, village, community, and national level. Even at a racial level we need forgiveness. And we need it between genders. We need people who will make the choice to forgive whole-heartedly, totally, patiently, indiscriminately, continually, despite pain, without thought for the payback, sacrificially—even though someone does not deserve it. We need people who are not afraid of the tears, the brokenness, and the chance that they will look like fools. It is painful, and it is continual. And we need people who crave wisdom. We may end up paying more than others who will choose not to forgive, and so we need wisdom. We forgive yesterday, today, until eternity. We shall top when we die” (pp. 201-202). If someone were asked to describe your/my character, what words would they use? Are you willing to forgive someone else even though they do not deserve it? God forgives them, so why shouldn’t you forgive them? Likewise, should God not forgive us since we never deserve to be forgiven”? May it NEVER be! Yet we are commanded to go and do likewise! It may cost us dearly; yet our reward on earth AND in Heaven will increase greatly! The payback for obedience is far greater than the sacrifice of forgiveness! As Nike said: “Just do it!”

Sin separates us from God! I want God to draw me closer as I run after Him. But for that to occur I must choose to forgive anyone and everyone who has wronged me and I must ask forgiveness of those I have wronged. THEN I will know the freedom for which Christ set me free, and I will be free indeed! Then others will see the light of the Lord shining brightly in my life and will be drawn to that light, allowing me the privilege to share my Jesus with them. That, my friends, is the ultimate missionary indeed!

Will you please pray as we GO?  Thanks much!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The “Mzungu” is coming!

In exactly 48 days I will board a plane bound for Uganda, via London, with a change of planes in Nairobi, Kenya! To say I am excited would be a gross understatement! I am in absolute awe that the God of the Universe began weaving the tapestry of my life before the foundation of the world to include a call to and passion for missions. Oh, I certainly was not aware of His “behind-the-scenes” design. In fact, had anyone told me even 20 years ago that I would be serving on foreign soil anywhere as a missionary, I would have scoffed at the mere implication! How I remember the many times I bargained with God that I would do anything for anyone anywhere anytime…”just please don’t ever call me to be a missionary overseas! PLEASE!” Guess what! He did anyway! Isn’t that just like God?!?!?!

Tapestry weaving takes time. It is an arduous process, from the design layout to the intricate stitching of the pattern, to edge finishing…a slow, intentional, and deliberate process culminating in a lovely masterpiece. The artist has control; the threads only do what the artist guides them to do. Thus was the process of my calling to a passion for missions. All the while I was learning about Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong…and going to the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky as a student and later as a youth leader for mission trips…and teaching the GA’s at church…and listening to messages from our missionaries to Japan who attended our church…and thought I was bored listening to and teaching about this “bland” information, God was actually designing threads of desire within me to serve those less fortunate within my own city, state, country..and on to foreign lands. It could only be a God thing! I was oblivious; but God was working nonetheless! Just like our God, isn’t it? 

I can trace the beginnings of this tapestry back to about age 12 (so about45 year ago), though I know the Lord began this good work in me the moment I was conceived. I heard…not much sunk in; I kept hearing and gleaned a bit of head knowledge; I taught it and, as I did, continued absorbing the information (God was working, but I didn’t know it!); I went on some trips to Appalachia (my friends in youth group were going, so I did not want to be left out); I returned later as a youth leader, slowly developing a love of those we were in contact with; I became a Mom, so for many years the process seemed to become dormant…oh, but my God wasn’t dormant! Like the EverReady Bunny He just kept going and going, working and working, planting and weaving within me; until one day I read that my church would be taking a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic for a week of building, feeding hungry children and loving on people! I KNEW that I HAD to go! I cannot tell you why or how I knew…I just knew that I knew! And…this from one who despises flying!

So I responded obediently to that call…and I have never been the same, nor have I ever looked back! This summer will be my 11th year to serve in the Dominican Republic with folks who have become my family! I love them SOOOO much and I always return home feeling much more blessed than I have BEEN a blessing! Some of it is hard manual labor; other parts involve loving on people…all of it requires being Jesus with skin on, to be a shining light in many dark places, where life is hard…and painful…and, at times, helpless, leaving many feeling hopeless! Our job is to show them that there is ALWAYS hope…ALWAYS~ in and through Jesus.
I cannot tell you when, but some time back I felt a stirring in my spirit to serve in Africa. Really, Lord?! AFRICA? YES, REALLY! Africa! I had no idea how, when or specifically where…but, again, I knew that I knew that I knew that I was to go to Africa and serve. In typical God-fashion He prompted me, at a school event, to speak to Tina and ask to meet with her to discuss her ministry (which, at that time, was in Latin American countries, inner city New York, Nashville, and Chicago)! Tina and I had children at the same school and knew who each other was; we spoke mostly when we saw each other on the beach in Destin, Florida on Spring Break each year with our children! I know! Crazy, right?

So, we met for coffee one morning, she told me about her ministry, invited me to co-lead a trip with her that summer to Chicago…that led to her asking my husband and I to serve on her Board of Directors…concurrent with her first trip to Uganda, which morphed into a strong call of the Lord on her heart to focus the ministry on Uganda…and the rest, as they say, is HIS-story! Tina has been living in Uganda since January, performing due diligence on our future plans, while we, as a Board, have been processing the information she has given us (many of our Board just returned from a visit there) and prayerfully and carefully seeking the Lord’s perfect will for H.E.A.L. Ministries ( I am counting down the days until it’s time to head out for that lllllllllllllllooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggggggg flight to Uganda (this for a lady who does not like flying! Really, God? Yes, really, Lisa)! We will be serving in many places, including the following:

Would you please join me in prayer for our journey~ for safety, health and for a spiritual experience for all of our team? Please also pray for our families who will be at home while we are away, that they will be safe and healthy, as well. And, would you please prayerfully consider becoming a monthly donor to our ministry ( as we begin this venture the Lord is calling us to?
Thank-you for reading this length email and for your faithfulness to love and support me by visiting my blog. I invite and encourage you to share a link to this blog post, as we want to spread the word about all the Lord is doing and desiring to do through H.E.A.L. Ministries.

Blessings and love,