Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A great movie

I did a blog last month about how life is short, and the length of life, in essence, is about the duration of a movie. You can read it here. If this blog will make sense, you should actually probably read it. (Found this movie poster personalized thing on the website and thought I would have some funJ)

 

Anyway, this morning I was reading in Psalm 90 where Moses wrote that a 1000 years is like a day or as night watch that just finished.  I remember working the graveyard shift a bunch of years and another life ago, and I remember watching with joy at the sun rising and my evening shift, which felt like eternity, was just ending.  As I read this verse, my thought went back to the idea that indeed my life is short, and if I stay healthy, the extent of my life in God’s timeframe will last only as long as a movie. I drifted off in my thoughts and asked myself, “What makes a great movie (life)?”  How can I ensure that the movie of my life is a good one, one worth watching, over and over again, that other movie-makers glean from, one that endures through the ages, that never gets old or outdated and where the director and producer is infinitely pleased?

 

So, I did what anyone would do if they wanted to know how to live a great movie. I  went on google and typed in  the question, “What makes a great movie?”

 

As usual there were a million or so results in like 2.1 seconds.  I found one website that wrote the following:  “A film that wins critical acclaim is likely to be adapted from a prize-winning play or book and based on a true story, with the original author or director involved in writing the screenplay. It is unlikely to be a sequel or remake, a comedy or musical, a summer release, a big-budget project, have a PG-13 rating, open on numerous screens or do a big box office on the first weekend. It probably has an excellent score, but it may not have an award-winning song.”

 

After pondering, I realized how true those words are to how to make a great movie (life).  Let’s examine these ingredients again, contrasted to the standard of scripture:

 

A film that wins critical acclaim is likely to be adapted from a prize-winning play or book and based on a true story…

Genesis 2:4:  This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. (The Message)

The movie of our life finds the adaption from the bestselling book of all time, the Bible, which is true as true can be.

 

…with the original author or director involved in writing the screenplay…

Hebrews 12:2 -  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the author of this story but he is also the perfector of this story, meaning He is intimately involved in writing and directing the screenplay. I say this because He sent his Spirit to live in us so that we would remember and be empowered do all the works that he commanded us to do.  The success of our movie is in the involvement of the screenwriter.

 

It is unlikely to be a sequel or remake…

Eph 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

You are a one of kind, unique, specifically crafted and created and gifted for the purpose of doing good works that he has planned for you.  God has already written your story . His desire is that you would not waste the time he has given you to glorify Him.

 

….(Or unlikely to be) a comedy or musical, a summer release, a big-budget project, have a PG-13 rating, open on numerous screens or do a big box office on the first weekend

1 Corinthians 1:25-29 - 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

God doesn’t need gimmicks, marketing ploys or calculated plans to bring Glory to Himself through His people.  In fact, God delights in those who humbly fear and serve the King.  Those are the ones that bring glory to Him.

 

It probably has an excellent score, but it may not have an award-winning song.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.

Psalm 67:4  May the nations be glad and sing for joy,

Psalm 71:23  My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you— I, whom you have redeemed.

Psalm 92:4     For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.

Psalm 149:5   Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.

Of course the movie that is remembered will have an excellent score. When we live for the glory of God, we can’t help but worshipping Him and singing for joy. 

 

So, how we do live a great movie?  The ingredients are found in His good book… Let your Life be lived in the true story of Jesus as He works in and through the weakness of you to magnify the joyous strength of our God.  You can’t help but a be a part of a reward winning life if you let Him write the screenplay of your life…

 

S

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Evaluation = Celebration

We just finished up our first year at Action Pastor’s College and I gave a test/evaluation for the students to fill out.  I like to test their skill but also probe a bit to see what it that they are learning and how the material is impacting them. I was encouraged with the evaluation results and I thought I would share with you some of the comments.  It is noteworthy that all of our students are currently pastoring churches. Though it makes for a busy schedule, the things they learn in class have an immediate place for application and practical use.

 

I asked how the VERITAS modules have helped them (it is  afour module course designed to teach students how to exegete and analyze the Bible for themselves).

 

Here are some quotes:

“Veritas teachings have helped me to understand the Bible better than before and even preparing the message. It has also helped me to see the important things in every passage I open.”

 

“Veritas has been vital to me as far as expository sermons is concerned.”

 

“Veritas has helped me in my ministry more especially in the area of Bible studies and the preparation of sermons and also training of church leaders.”

 

“Veritas helps me to understand the passage. When I use the exegetical process, preaching becomes a part of me.”

 


I asked what area of teaching this past quarter has helped the most?

Here is what some of them said:

 

“The book of Revelation was most helpful to me. Now I have a good understanding of the future things.”

 

“Revelations. Most the things have been unlocked.”

 

“To teach and preach from Proverbs and Psalms.”

 

“The teaching on money has been very helpful to me. Now I have a different perception on money and am looking forward to teaching my church on the same subject.”

 

“Understanding the book of Revelation in depth and to be able to preach it and share the word of God with other people.”

“The area of teaching that helped me the most is church evaluation.  I know where I am doing well and where I am not doing well and I am very encouraged with this teaching.”

 

I also shared with them that I will be teaching Homiletics (preaching) next quarter and I asked what areas they needed to grow in the most.

This is what they shared:

 

“I want to understand how to make outlines of the messages and to make sure that I don’t leave the people behind as I preach.”

 

“Preaching is what I do every Sunday and my desire is that you assist me to remain dedicated to this ministry and some techniques that I need for it.”

 

“How to deliver a sermon series.”

 

“What is the most effective way to preach to the unsaved and I need help with sermon structure.”

 

“How can we apply the message to today?”

 

So, just wanted to publicly thank God for his faithfulness and help  this past year. As is true for most teachers, I have learned more this year than I have taught.  I can’t wait to dig into a series on preaching.

 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Reunion

We had Rhoda's former orphanage over for breakfast on Christmas morning. It
was a nice time of food and fellowship. They were very surprised how
different Rhoda looked and couldn't say it enough how big she has gotten and
good she looks. The church of one of our team members Brent Roberts donated
some toys so we were able to give some presents to the children. It was
great fun! They swam, jumped on the trampoline and were all over the place.
We ended our time with some Christmas carols and prayer. Davern and Masoka,
the directors and house parents, are modern day George Muellers. It is
amazing the stories they have of how God has provided for them time and
again at the last minute to keep their rent paid and food on the table.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Service

We had a Christmas Eve Service in our house tonight, candles and all…  It was not quite the Winter Wonderland/Frosbite on my nose feeling that many of us were used to (we had fans blowing and it was very warm) but we had a great time worshipping the Baby King. Stephanie led the worship with Kerri, and I shared a few things and led a few prayers.  We had a  great mix of Zambians (our Zambian friends and workers and their families) and Mzungus  (two Action Zambia families and other friends of ours) to give that every tribe and every nation feel that we will one day enjoy in its fullness in Heaven.  It was a great beginning to our Christmas season.  Tomorrow morning we are having Rhoda’s orphanage and the director’s family over for breakfast.  We are looking  forward to that time.  Merry Christmas to you all!   May the light of the world be the light of the world in you as you light the world with His love!

 

 

Steve Allen

Action Zambia

www.aliveinafrica.com

 

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 7:12

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The price of Christmas

I thought this was an insightful message from an ACTION missionary that I wanted to share with you…  Merry Christmas to you all!

THE PRICE OF CHRISTMAS

by John Richard, ACTION Missionary

 

 Scripture Readings: Matthew 1:18-21; 2:16-18; Luke 2:33-35

 

 Since we are called to celebrate a Christian Christmas, we need to remind  ourselves of an important truth, namely, that there was a price to be paid by those connected with the Christmas event.

 

 Nine Observations:

 1. The parting that the Father underwent

 2. The poverty that the Son embraced

 3. The condescension that the Spirit showed

 4. The shame that Mary endured

 5. The stigma that Joseph carried

 6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered

 7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced

 8. The trouble that the wise men took

 9. The sword that Mary anticipated

 

 1. The parting that the Father underwent

 Of His own accord did God, the Father, part with His only begotten Son, the  Son of His love. There was no other way to rescue fallen man. That was Christmas.

 

 2. The poverty that the Son endured

 God, the Son, had to vacate the richest place in heaven, even the bosom of the Father. Though He was rich, yet He became poor. How poor? Not as a king born in a royal chamber did He come. In lowly birth He came. So lowly that His cradle was the manger. His curtains were the cobwebs, and His companions, the oxen and the donkeys.

 

 Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,

 When Thou camest to earth for me;

 But in Bethlehem homes was there found no room

 For Thy holy nativity;

 The foxes found rest and the birds their rest

 In the shade of the forest tree;

 But Thy couch was the sod

 In the deserts of Galilee.

 

 That was Christmas.

 

 3. The condescension that the Spirit showed

 God, the Holy Spirit, condescended to come upon a virgin, who like every  other human, was stained with original sin. He had to purify her womb and  make it meet to bear the Holy One, the sinless Son of God. That was Christmas.

 

 4. The shame that Mary endured

 Mary made her body available for the incredible thing to be performed in her and through her. An event that set wagging tongues cast aspersions on her chastity. That was Christmas.

 

 5. The stigma that Joseph carried

 Joseph fared no better than Mary. Undoubtedly, he had fathered Jesus ! It could not be otherwise. This palming off the responsibility to the Holy Spirit. Whoever can swallow such a story? Don’t you see Joseph could not  after all put away Mary? That was Christmas.

 

 6. The anguish that the Bethlehem homes suffered

 The Bethlehem mothers had to witness the awful spectacle of seeing their two-year old baby boys slain under their very eyes. Screams of anguish arose from Ramah. Rachel was weeping for her children unrestrainedly. That was Christmas.

 

 7. The interruption that the shepherds experienced

 The shepherds had to act on the angelic announcement. For them it meant leaving their flock and going with haste to seek out the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. They were prepared to have their normal pastoral life disturbed. That was Christmas.

 

 8. The trouble that the wise men took

 The wise men, too, took a long arduous journey. All the way from the East led by a star to a place they knew not where. More than that they presented the Babe with their choicest treasures: gold, symbolic of Christ, the King; frankincense, symbolic of Christ, the priest; and myrrh , symbolic of  Christ, the prophet. That was Christmas.

 

 9. The sword that Mary anticipated

 Remember Simeon’s message to Mary at the Jerusalem Temple: “A sword shall  pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel …” That  was Christmas.

 

 What does Christmas mean to you?

A voluntary giving up of a prized darling?

 A willingness to quit the comfort of security?

A willingness to be ridiculed and reproached for the sake of Christ?

A willingness to soil our hands with unlovely things?

A willingness to give of our sons and daughters to defend the cause of Christ?

A willingness to have the daily pattern of our lives disturbed?

A willingness to take hazardous duties?

A willingness to part with our material wealth?

 

If these be evidenced in you, then Christ’s coming is not in vain.

 

 Christmas is really paying the price of Christian discipleship. And  discipleship is an affair of great cost. It may cost a man his life; it may cost him lifelong separation from his nearest relatives; it may set him at

 variance with his loved ones; it may require him to pack up and go wherever Christ may send him; it will require of him the sacrifice of ease and self-indulgence; it will make demands upon his time, his money, his talents.

 

 In short, he has to give his heart to Christ and make himself available to  do His bidding according to His good pleasure.

 

 “Tho’ Christ a thousand times

 In Bethlehem be born,

 If He’s not born in thee

 Thy soul is still forlorn.” (Angelus Silesius)

 -- John Richard

 

 

 

Steve Allen

Action Zambia

www.aliveinafrica.com

 

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 7:12

 

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Family VacAdventure

From Family Vacation


What an adventure... Now, this is blog is usually something I would put on my family blog, Allenladies.blogspot.com but because it really is an African experience, I thought ya'll must get a look at this!) A video alone won't suffice, do justice or sufficiently tell the story of what we experienced but wow, it comes close! (If you are receieving this by email, click on this link to take you to the video or go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiahekKRF70)

We went to Lake Tanganyika (the lake also borders Congo and Tanzania) for a vacation because it was the only lake without hippos or crocodiles. From the pictures alone, it looked like Tahiti or Hawaii. We had our own private beach for four days, a chalet that was made of bamboo and a luxury camping experience, complete with a huge monitor lizard,
From Family Vacation
a (non-biting:) green snake, and a real, far away bush experience.

First, it took us three days to get there. We drove 6 hours the first day (mostly due to a missed turn because their was *gasp* no sign to tell us to turn-I know, surprise in Africa), 10 the next and two the next, plus a 1.5 hours boat ride. The place was remote, in it was a beach secluded by itself, but on both sides, there were villages, and Zambian would saunter across our beach, maybe 10 a day, to get from one village to the next.
From Family Vacation
We stayed in a chalet with no door and no windows. The first night the thunder and lightning and the wind was a bit surreal and close.

It was a crazy experience in a lot of ways. We were one with nature. And we quickly realized how bush we really were. If something were to go wrong, we were out there, at least 3 hours before we could get picked. Going into it, I don't think we fully realized it all going into it what we were getting ourselves into and when we did, boy did we pray!

We learned a few things: one, that bush missionaries who are out there really need our prayers. There is nothing you can do but pray. We prayed more during this vacation because of the elements, the possible sickness, the possible dangers of people and even spiritual elements that we felt present. It was much more than we planned on.

Overall, though, we had so much fun swimming. When you grow up swimming in a lake and you live near a lake your whole life, you really miss it. And the water was so warm and clear and the beach was so soft, it was a remarkable time. They even had tropical fish to watch while snorkeling. I had many highlights in my time there, but one of them was watching Rhoda snorkel for the first time. A whole new world was opened to her.

Other highlights include a couple evenings where Stephanie and I just talked. There was nothing to do after nightfall being all in one room, and so we just talked. Amazing how many distractions of life keep us from the most pure and wonderful things of a relationship where two people just talk.

Of course it went by so fast, but the memories exist... It was what our family needed at the end of a long/short year full of lots of people, hosting, activity and ministry... It wasn't too restful, but it was full of family time and that was great. We were a bit relieved as we boarded the boat to go home, but also grateful that we jumped both feet out of our comfort zone with five young kids. We learned a lot about ourselves on this trip. Our family grew up a bit on this trip and for that we are thankful.
From Family Vacation
Thanks for praying... The adventure in Africa continues!





A tribute to the life of Justin Key

I just wanted to honor a former student of mine when I was a youth pastor in this blog. He died last Monday of swine flu complications. He was just 26. He was an incredible young man, beloved by many, very active in ministry and full of potential.  The service was yesterday. I obviously wasn’t there.  I tried to watch the livestream online, but my internet went off just as it started. The picture is my former pastor, Jerry Mitchell, doing what he does best, preaching about Jesus during this service.  I still can’t believe that he is gone, and yet his impact on this world is far from over.   Thanks for reading.

My name is Steve Allen. I am a missionary in Zambia with my family.  But, many years ago, I was Justin’s youth pastor from the latter part of his Junior High years and then through his High School years.   We experienced a multitude of retreats, mission trips and fun times together.  We kept in touch over the years and it was so great when I eventually got to work alongside him when he and I were staff at youth camps. Then, he had a vision to start a ministry for young men at Crossroads, bringing in the older men of the church to teach the younger men how to be men. He called this group the Young Men’s Project.  They not only learned how to BBQ, fix things, study the bible but they also did ministry for the poor.  He invited me to speak at the ministry he started.    And it was everyone youth pastor’s dream to see his former student become the teacher. 

There are too many memories of him over the years to even begin to reminisce.   But I do want to share my last email contact that I had with Justin. It came over a year ago.   He wrote me saying, “At some point in my life I plan on being a public speaker and wanted to talk to someone in the Christian world who has experienced what it is like…”

I wrote back and gave him some advice.

He then wrote back and said among other things, “I imagine that things are pretty busy for you--I keep getting the idea that as I get older life will only get more busy (until my kids are on their own and I'm in my 50's)…”

 When I went back and reread that email, it gripped my heart.  “Until my kids are on their own… “

  If only he knew than that he would never have that chance to have kids, to get married or to do the things that all young men dreamed of doing…

  How do we make sense of this loss of the HUGE mountain of potential that was Justin?  He was smart, really smart, smarter than all of us combined, funny, witty, full of joy and laughter, insight, caring, vision and passion.  Why would God take a young man like this from this world that desperately needs young men like Justin in it? 

 I don’t pretend to have the answers nor will I even begin to try.  But, it is more than irony that he was writing to me about how to be a public speaker.  I believe that God not only grants us the desires of our hearts when we delight in Him as Psalm 37 says,  but he also gives us the desires that we desire.  God implanted this desire in Justin to share Jesus with the world and then God gave this aspiring public speaker the biggest stage possible so that as many people as he touched and many that that he didn’t, could at one time, hear the love of Jesus through this beloved young man. 

 There is no bigger stage than a memorial service. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says: “It is better to go to a funeral than a feast. For death is the destiny of every person, and the living should take this to heart.”  It is better to go to funeral.  We are all going to die and so it affects all of us. There is no pretense in death.  Death demands your attention.  And I believe it is the best stage for Justin to share with you what matters most.

 And though it is not him physically speaking,  his life speaks and everything he lived for speaks and everyone he  touched speaks and everything he believed speaks out for everyone to hear.

 And so, if you are wise today, you will hear what a well-lived life says.   The evidence of the impact of his life is AND will continue to be a stage where he will not exit for many days and months and years to come.  God indeed has given this young man a speaking opportunity that is bigger than anything he could have dreamed of.

 What do you think Justin would say today if he had his chance?

 I believe he would quote Philippians 1.20-21 - For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

I believe he would say to us today that though he has seen the highest of mountains and the most beautiful views and the most incredible sunsets and the most beautiful art, that nothing compares to Heaven.

 I believe he would say that though he wanted to get married that nothing compares to the wedding of the lamb, that he knows intimacy and joy and love that far surpasses anything this earth could have given him.

 I believe he would say that he bet right. This young man who loved to bet in poker, that when he went all in on this unseen reality of a God in Heaven, and when he lived this truth, “That to live is Christ and to die is gain,” that he truly won the biggest bet of all… He would beg for you to realize that life is short and eternity is long and he would quote the Bible verse: Mark 8:36 - For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 

I believe he would say to those who are living for Jesus, keep walking faithfully with Jesus. Let nothing distract you, deter you or discourage you.  Persevere knowing your work is not in vain.

I believe he would say to those who have strayed from Jesus-don’t waste your life.  There is nothing that compares to the glory of living for Jesus.  You are missing the best that life has to offer. He would look you in the eye and give you one of his huge hugs and say, turn around, repent, follow Jesus.

And I believe he would say to those who have not trusted your life and your eventual death in the love and life of Jesus, please, reconsider, fear God, trust God and love God with all your life.

He is speaking his most important message today. I pray that you listen.

 You will be missed, my brother. Thank you for teaching us all.

 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

More to come...

Priceless...

Steven Zulu

My namesake is growing up... Thought you would like to see a picture of this
beautiful boy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heading home.

Pretty crazy adventure to write about. Here is just a teaser of our holiday. Pray for our long drive tomorrow. Tks

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't waist your Christmas...

A waist is a terrible thing to mind.   - Jane Caminos

 

I thought this quote was witty.  I have never ever really ever had to worry about my waist because of my gluten intolerance that I have endured for the past 15 years. I was only able to mostly eat food that was good for you. But, since I have been back eating gluten again (not sure if you knew that or not), my wife has started calling me ‘fatty.’ J It is crazy how a little here and a little there  can make some disturbing long term noticeable differences, especially around the waist area. At almost 40, I feel my body little by little wasting away, and it seems that that waste is showing at the waist.

 

It is interesting that the word waist is the same word, in sound at least, as the word waste.    I wonder if the word waist and the word waste were developed like that intentionally.  It’s as if the one word ‘waist’ is a mirror or reflection or a barometer of the other ‘waste.’  For example, you waste your life by over-eating lots of food, your waist will show it.  You waste your body by not taking good care of it, your waist will show it.    It is crazy how a little wasting of time here and wasting of time there makes a huge difference of a wasted life over time.   Wasted time will always be reflected somewhere else, and all too often that place is the waist. 

It is interesting that Jesus seems to capture this idea when he compared wasting energy for things that fill the waist.   John 6:27  in the Message version says: “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”  Jesus is saying don’t waste your life for food that only grows your waist.  Don’t make food or drink or money or hobbies the source of your life.  Instead work for food that last forever, redeemed in new body, with a new waist, that reflects the good that you lived for and that is not forgotten.

 

I like how Paul in Philippians compares living for the waist and thus wasting your life versus living for eternity and being transformed in a Christ-Exalting way.  Check out the Message version of Philippians 3:18-21: “All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.  20–21     But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.”

 

It seems an appropriate time for all of us to think about living for eternity in a time of year when an eternal event, Christmas, becomes a temporary opportunity to indulge our stomachs.  Kind of ironic, isn’t it, how we can long to be satisfied with the food that never satisfies and never really realize it?

 

May we so gorge in the eternal food this holiday, reveling in Jesus, lingering in His Word, pondering the gift of salvation and the miracle of Christmas that it changes our holiday traditions.  May our love for the eternal food overwhelming satisfy more than the temporarys of this holiday.  And may the Word of God lead us to a changed perspective so that we spend our time differently this season. May it lead us to helping feed those who are hungry, caring for the lonely who are hungry for relationships and reaching out to our hungry-for-Jesus neighbors, visiting senior’s homes who are hungry for companionship and writing letters to our soldiers who are hungry for words from home.  May  we spend ourselves to fill the hungry that we are stuffed to overflowing.

 

It will help to remember these words this holiday season from the prophet Isaiah from Isaiah 58:10: “…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday”  May we be lights for Jesus this holiday season as we spend ourselves feeding and satisfying the needs of others and being fed in the process.  Merry Christmas to you and a Merrier Christmas to those who will be blessed by you this season.

  

 

More on thankfulness

I know that Thanksgiving is long goneJ but I just had to share a bit more on the subject… I am remembering back on a conversation I had a few years ago…  I was speaking to a women about faith and God.  She asked me a question in such a way like someone who asks it hoping it isn't true, but afraid it is, "Do you really feel you must convert people?"   My wife walked up with dinner instructions and so the conversation was thankfully stopped.  I say thankfully because I wanted a night to wrestle with the question…  I wrestled, I thought, I prayed…  I met with her the next day and I started off by saying the word convert isn't even in the Bible. I then tried to share why I choose to share my faith.  They day before we talked about how much she loves creation, and how there is something out there, that it is too amazing to just be an accident.  So, I came back to that and said, "I see Creation and I thank the creator." She said, "I didn't say there was a creator."  The words of Romans 1:18-22 ran through my mind.  If creation to amazing to be just an accident but there is no creator, who do you thank? You don't thank anyone and your thoughts become futile and your heart becomes darkened.  Our lives depend on thankfulness.  So, anyway, from there the conversation stalled.   Until  later, she said something, and then instinctively said, "Thank God I didn't need to make that decision." She recognized the irony of her words and laughed, saying, "Listen to me, thank God… "  I said exactly, "who do you thank?"  That really is the question. If I could continue that conversation today, I would quote James 1:16-17 says, "16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…" Don't be deceived into thinking that life is an accident, that there isn't a personal, loving, gracious Father who loves you, who created you and deserves our thanks for every breath, every heartbeat and every gift.   Every gift is from God. God is the giver of all gifts. In His goodness, sovereignty, joy and faithfulness, he blesses us with gift after gift.  Well, someone might say, "Well, I thank me.  I worked hard to get what I have or I thank my parents for their help or I thank…" But, think about your breath. What power do you have to breathe? Or make your heart pump? Or think thoughts? Raise your arm? Leg? Process?  Make decisions? See? Hear? Taste? Touch? Smell?  Everything you have is a gift.  From God.  So, say thank you to the rightful owner of all blessings and your mind will be the useful and your heart enlightened.  Let thankfulness remind you again and again that there is a God who loves you, cares about you and knows your greatest need.

 

 If God is  in control, and He is good, than you can be assured that in every situation you find yourself whether difficult or easy, happy or sad, frustrating or amazing, that our good God is in the situation working out His will for His glory.  Even though we may not fully understand all the situations we are in, God doesn't say oops.  There is no situation when He is not in control.  There are no accidents with God.   So, to every situation you will encounter,  there is one of two responses. You can either be thankful or you can be unthankful.  If you are thankful, even if you don't understand it or it doesn't make sense, you are by faith acknowledging your dependence on a God who is in control and your gratitude for a God that always is good.  But, if you are not thankful, what are you really saying?  You are saying that God is either not in control of your situation or that He is not good.  That is what thankfulness is so important.  If you say God is not in control, you are saying that you are. That is pride. If you are saying God is not good, than you are saying what, God is or can be bad.  That is a lie that will ruin your life. 

 

I challenge you with all the heart and passion that exists within me to revel in thankfulness to God for everything, bask in it for it will guard your heart from complaining, from discontent, from selfishness, and from pride.   Don't let common blessings steal your gratitude and wonder and awe from your life. Let thankfulness turn your eyes upward so that your soul is lifted Godward.

 

So a few thoughts to remember that thanksgiving is not a holiday. It should be a way of life.

 

"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 7:12

 

 

 

 

Friday, December 11, 2009

I think I found the Garden of Eden

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our safari adventure earlier this month with our cousin’s children down in Botswana by clicking over here… Amazing.

 

 

 

I wish I would have thought of this...

I had this forwarded to me so I can't give credit (or stupidity) where it is due... Read the story and then look at the picture below...

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A motto worth living

I saw this on Kamryn's white board the other day. So insightful and
significant and sweet. May we all live lives of faith instead of lives of
fear!!! Out of the mouth of babes, huh?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Video of our Trip to the Village

I hope you enjoy this nine minute video of our trip, if for no other reason than to see some really cute video of Kamryn, our missionary in training:) Thanks again for praying!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My trip to Village...A recap!

Hello my friends, I am sorry that it has taken so long to recap the trip.  We didn’t have any cell service the second half of the trip and then we have been hitting the ground running preparing for a day long ministry meeting.  So, I included a few pictures and a recap by Luke with some contributions by myself. Overall it was an amazing trip, and I think that though the recap is long, it is worth reading. I hope to follow this blog post (internet willing) with a highlight video that I have put together…  Thanks again for all your prayers!

 

Dear Friends                                                                                                                                                                07/12/09

This correspondence is being written on the heels of what has been three and a half days of amazing ministry in the rural areas of Zambia’s Southern Province. A team of five men (three local pastors and two AZ missionaries) from Action Zambia spent the past few days showing the Jesus Film in partnership with Campus Crusade for Christ Zambia in the remote areas of Chikankhata (chi-kan-kata). The mission trip was also made possible through the permission and invitation of the local leader Chieftainess who rules over the roughly 98,000 Tongas that live in her chiefdom of Chikankhata.  Her Royal Highness had told us that she believed many of the people who would be seeing the film would be hearing the detailed story of Jesus Christ for the first time. She assumed that many had heard of Jesus before but the majority of her people had no understanding that salvation through Jesus Christ was personally available to them. How right she was.

December 3rd:

The Action Zambia team consisted of three local pastors who are currently involved with Action Zambia Pastoral Leadership Development ministry.  Local pastors Anderson Jere, Patson Sakala, Bryan Zulu and Action Zambia missionaries Steve Allen and Luke Whitfield were accompanied by Campus Crusade for Christ Zambia volunteer Paul Mulenga who was an integral part of the team assuring that all the technical aspects of showing the film were taken care of. 

The group arrived in the village of Chikankhata on December 3rd and enjoyed a meal and time of fellowship with the Chieftainess and her family. She detailed the following day’s event and informed the team that they would be traveling to a nearby village called Ngangula where she was born.

December 4th:

Upon arriving in Ngangula mid morning on December 4th the convoy, which was lead by the Chieftainess herself, was greeted by a group of women dressed alike and performing the traditional dance which is always performed when welcoming a visiting Chief. The team set up the film in a local Salvation Army Church which could have been no bigger than (20’ x 30’) and began to use the loud speakers to alert those in the outlaying areas of the event. In all there were probably around 200 people who turned out to view the film in their local language.  The film runs for around two hours and it was amazing to see people continuously coming out of the surround bush even as the film was concluding.

Afterwards the team directed the viewers to a local soccer field and gave an opportunity for those who wanted to receive Christ to do so as well as receive prayers for sickness, demonic possession, or simply peace from a life consumed by fear. As the team prayed for the locals a huge thunderstorm developed all around the field but the crowd was never rained upon.  The local people received a front row seat as God displayed His power during the prayer time through a continuous lightning show in the near distance. The team prayed for many to receive Christ as well as praying for the sick and oppressed. The two highlights though was the opportunity to pray for a little boy on crutches who came through the crowd, as one team member commented, “Just like the crippled man in the Bible”. The boy had a severely deformed right leg that was significantly shorter than his left one and although there was no visible evidence of an immediate healing the real miracle was to watch the faces of those in the crowd as team members focus so much love and acceptance towards this little guy. Disabled members of society are generally not valued by traditional Zambian culture so for the people to see these “special guests” affirming the “least of them” it spoke volumes to the authenticity of the Gospel the team had just explain.  The other was a fourteen year old young woman named Desire who sought forgiveness for the bad things she had done but also expressed a desire to be a doctor.  She was orphaned at a young age, and couldn’t even remember her mother or father. She became a Christian and we gave her a new testament to read. We ate a late lunch in the Chieftaness sister’s home, and though we ate at the same time, the Chieftainess was a in a separated partition of the room.  Only Luke and Steve’s daughters who accompanied us on this trip were allowed to eat with her, a privilege they relished. They love their “grandma.”  That evening we also showed the film in the village of Chikinkata in a large Salvation Army hall. Around 200 mostly young people showed up to watch the film which has been advertised on the local radio.  The movie ended at 11:00pm which hindered much follow-up.

December 5th:

The following morning (December 5) the team set out for the roughly 20 mile trip to visit the remote area of Simwambwa. This rural community is located in a valley surrounded by hills on all sides and is very isolated from most common forms of modern development. Upon the teams arrival they received a massive rain shower, the first in two weeks, which lasted almost the rest of the evening. The team was informed by the local Head Master of the school that they were “good visitors” because they had brought the rains (when God opens doors He puts out all the bells and whistles!).  The team spent a good hour and half reading the Bible and praying for the evening with the Chieftainess.  Her passion and love for her people is evident with anyone who listens to her pray.  Among one of the greatest encouragements of this trip for the pastors who participated with us was their time with the Chieftainess. Her unabashed love and faithfulness to Jesus and her desire to see her people be free from the darkness  is evident in everything she does.  That evening  the film was shown despite the constant sound of heavy rain on the tin roof above. The turnout was good and the team estimated the first showing had about 75 people in attendance who could not tear their eyes away from what they were watching. The evening also produced what could have been the biggest lesson of the trip as the team witnessed this first group’s response to the invitation to receive Christ at the end of the film. When the invitation was given to pray and receive prayer for sickness and such what had previously been a somewhat full room soon became empty with the exception of a couple brave women. The team watched as those who exited the room crowded around the few windows outside the to watched with great anticipation at what would transpire next.  Murmurs and anxious comments could be heard as the bystanders offered their thoughts to one another on the events occurring inside.  When the team had a chance to reflect on this phenomenon they agree that what had been witnessed was a people who had never before been presented with a genuine opportunity to enter into a relationship with Christ.

The team demonstrated unity in the Spirit as they all confessed that rather than responding in discouragement they would decide to pray that the Holy Spirit would work in the hearts of those who had been fearful and bring them back Sunday morning (December 6th) when the team would show the film again.

December 6th:

It had been announced Saturday evening (December 5th) that there would be another showing Sunday morning in Simwambwa at 7:00 AM sharp. Bit by bit people began to emerge from the surrounding villages and by the midpoint of the film the room was almost full. Again, there continued to be a steady and constant flow of people arriving even as the first showing was concluding.  One of the Action Zambia pastors was told that even though the film was ending there was word that people were still coming from the far outlying areas. With this in mind the team decided to have a brief time of explanation of the film which would be followed by another showing to accommodate any who were still on their way. It was truly humbling for the team to witness so many who traveled so far to hear about Christ’s love for them.

By the conclusion of the second showing on Sunday the Chieftaness had arrived back from a short trip she needed to take to attend a meeting with Rupiah Banda who is the current President of Zambia. She informed the team later, that she had totally missed the meeting by the time she arrived but that they should not be concerned because to her, the mission of Action Zambia’s trip had great  eternal value for her people.  With Chieftainess Mwenda in attendance the team once more gave an invitation, with the help of the Chieftainess herself as the interpreter (the team was informed that this is an unheard of honor), for the roughly 150 present to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The response was uplifting as the crowd was encouraged to stop living under the fear of tradition and witchcraft and chose to receive the everlasting peace that exists in Jesus alone. Many decided to pray to receive Christ as well as receive prayers for sickness and demonic oppression. There was even an opportunity to anoint and pray for one of the local Headmen (local government leader) who had been complaining of continuous demonic oppression and attack.

Later that afternoon the team was lead by the Chieftainess to the nearby village of Chikani, which although was only 10 miles away took the team almost two hours to reach.  Chikani was to be the last location for the team to show the film before departing back to Lusaka. The drive took the team through mountain streams and travelled some of the most rugged road any member of the team had seen in Zambia.

Along the way the Chieftainess suddenly stopped the convoy to get out and listen to the trials of one of her tribesmen. This man who name was Robson, described how his grass thatched roof had burned after a lightning strike that also hit his son Emmanuel.  He wholeheartedly believed it was the work of a witchdoctor and had stopped the Chieftainess to request her to send for a “witch hunter”.  The Chieftainess asked the team to pray for this dear man and his family to be delivered from the fear they daily live with. After listening to the team give witness of God’s love for them the whole family, maybe fourteen in all, joined hands with the team and prayed to receive Christ.

As the team arrived in Chikani it was clear, by the group of people already assembled, that word had travelled ahead of them detailing their visit and the showing of the film. The team quickly assembled the equipment and began the viewing. Within a span of around forty minutes the room, which could not have been much bigger than an average American garage, was filled with what seemed to be well over a hundred people. By the conclusion of the film the room was so packed that when Paul Mulenga, the team’s film technician, tried to get back in to monitor the projector the occupants told him to wait and let them finish watching this film.

The Chieftainess once again translated as the team shared with a large crowd of people the hope and eternal peace that existing in the name of Jesus. Once more there was a positive response of those wanting to receive Christ into their daily lives and they also clearly requested that Action Zambia return with the film since many more still on their way had not gotten the benefit of viewing it.  After packing up the team followed the Chieftainess through another fifteen miles of the remote wilderness that makes up much of her chiefdom. One team member reflected, “all through the valleys we have seen there are hundreds of huts all containing people who need a chance to see what we have just shown others”.  What an accurate account of what exists in this vast area that God has given Action Zambia great favor to minister in here in Southern Zambia.

Quite possibly one of the greatest highlights was an opportunity that Luke and Steve had to sit down with the Chieftainess and to hear her hopes for her people and her desire that we would partner with her in not only reaching the kingdoms using the Jesus Film, but utilizing our HIV/AIDS team, our Community School teams and our PLD pastors to put on conferences, camps and meetings.  She shared which villages we should start with so that we could then begin to reach the truly unreached villages that bordered the area. She shared how her eyes have been opened by the suffering her people are enduring and she welcomed us with a wide open blessing to come and join her in ministering to her kingdom.

Conclusion:

In all the Jesus film was shown six times in three different rural communities to roughly somewhere around 400-500 people who for the most part had never even seen a moving motion picture before. Many made an indication of needing to change their current way of living through putting their trust in God.  All were expose the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and all this occurred for the cost of what many of us would spend on a weekend trip. The best part: The chance that even one of these dear soul found eternal rest from a life that is constantly filled with pain and struggle is of course: PRICELESS

There is much more to share and praise God about surrounding Action Zambia’s recent exploratory trip to Chikankhata. The team hopes to get a more detailed report of the trips events in the very near future.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in II Timothy 4:2: Preach the Word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching (NLT). There were many an opportunity to put this verse into practice over the last four days and the team was amazed to see God provide opportunities to glorify and advance His Kingdom when they least expected it. There is no doubt that the spiritual need of the people of Chikankhata is enormous and the work needed to be completed will not be accomplished through a few quick evangelistic trips.

To those who prayed consistently for this trip, please know you are the real horsepower that allows the hands and feet of Christ to ministry to the masses as occurred in Chikankhata over the past few days. We are all part of the Body of Christ and each part is essential in the advancement of His kingdom throughout the darkness that suffocates much of the world we live in. Please continue to pray for Action Zambia and the Chieftainess as they continue to seek the Lord’s will in this divinely appointed relationship.

 

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Should we FIGHT them or EMBRACE them?

(This is Stephanie guest bloggin'). The rains have finally come to Zambia, and when it rains, it really rains. There are many wonderful things that come with the rain. First of all, the brown turns green again. They are rejoicing in the new life. Secondly, the ever-present layer of dust is removed from all possible surfaces in the house. Granted it is quickly replaced by wet, muddy, floors, but I'll take that over the dust. Then, there are the not so pleasant things that come with the rains. In most houses around town, they are the ants and the flies. The ants I'm referring to are what we might call fruit ants. They are the little tiny guys that move in armies. Really, these creatures are a wonder to behold. When we take the time to study them they are really an example of teamwork and persistence. The ants are really always here, they just come inside when it rains because they have no other way to find food outside. But, they need to make themselves at home, so they very steadily bring in pieces of sand to build ant hills inside the house. You think the anthills aren't really all that attractive in your bathroom so you sweep them away, only to have them return and begin building again the next day. I could go on about the ants because I'm quite fascinated by them.
After living in Zambia for a total of 20 months now I've learned a few things regarding my mindset and how it helps me to cope with life in a 3rd world foreign culture. I've realized that there is no possible way for me to come here and change the way things have always been done. If I try to fight the way things are done I end up so frustrated. If I try to lighten-up and just embrace the way things are, and allow myself to laugh often, I really feel much more at peace.
My question for you is: Should I embrace the ants or fight the ants?
s.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pastors becoming missionaries

One of the cool things about this trip is taking pastors in our classes back to the village to share Christ. Please pray for (left to right) pastor Jere, Sakala in pastors college, (local headman) and Zulu in discpleship class. It was so great to watch them in action today. We are starting the 2nd show now. Tks 4 praying.

Missionary in the making

Amazing response

Many people responded to making decisions for Jesus and healing. Pray for Desire 14 double orphan want forgiveness and wants to be a doctor and Francis crippled at birth. Next showing at 700 at chickcata.

First village

We are at the first village. Amazing reception for chieftainess. Had dinner with chft last night. Wanted her grandchildren-kam and macie to sleep in guesthouse so no hut. They were sad about that;- please pray for tonight also. We are showing movie in chickinkata also.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Raining

Well we arrived. We have cell access for now. Thought i would show rain, and car-hut:-D pls pray that rain would stop when we show jesus film. Tks.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The last frontier

Well, I’ll be sleeping in this hut this weekend. Yikes! O.K. so it is a little bit out of my comfort zone but what an opportunity we have to go and preach the gospel to some villages who have never heard the gospel…  We will be eating goat, sleeping in huts and talking by the fire. We will be showing the Jesus Film to three different villages on Friday, Saturday and Sunday… So, please read the below email from Luke Whitfield, my teammate and the other Action Zambia member going to learn more about what we are doing and then please PRAY!!!!! Please pray especially for my time with the pastors I teach! This could be great time of spending time together… Please pray for health, the ability to engage in the spiritual warfare that we will be moving into and for wisdom and courage to minister with the pastors…

 

Will update you when I return!

Steve

Dear Friends

We wanted to take a moment and make you aware of a unique open door that God has provided our (you and us) ministry here in Zambia. Romans 15:10-12 reminds us of the Apostle Paul’s desire to preach the Word where it had not been preached before: My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in Scripture, where it says, “Those who have never been told about Him will see, and those who have never heard of Him will understand” (NLT). What Paul is describing is an opportunity that is becoming almost unheard of as the global community we know grows closer and closer together. That is in part why we are so excited that God has given Action Zambia ministries and opportunity to participate in an evangelistic outreach to a rural village in the remote areas of Zambia’s Southern Province.  

Some of you may remember us writing a while back about a rural area called Cikankhata (Chicken Cutta – is almost how is sounds) which is located roughly two hours south of Lusaka. God has given us extreme favor and a growing relationship with the chieftainess of the area and we have been given an open door to be developing and growing the non-existent church in her chiefdom. We have included some pics of a recent trip Elise the kids and I took this past week to visit Chieftainess Mwenda and discuss the details of our upcoming outreach December 3rd – 6th. During the course of three and a half days we will be showing the Jesus Film in the local dialect of Tonga. The Chieftainess believes it will be the first time her people will be hearing the Gospel message in at least one of the villages we will be visiting (what an opportunity). We will also be hoping to identify and empower local elders who might develop into the spiritual leaders of any church body that may develop as a result of the outreach.

This ministry will include the participation of ten local pastors who are currently involved with programs within Action Zambia’s Pastoral Leadership Development ministry area. Some of these pastors have prior experience and some do not, so it will be a unique environment to watch their different experiences and gifts work together to advance Christ’s Kingdom here in Zambia.  We are also planning Lord willing, to spend one on one time praying for the sick and oppressed that we are sure to find in these far outlying areas.

Would you begin to pray that God would, even now, be working in the hearts of those who will have (maybe for the first time) the opportunity to respond to the wonderful message of the salvation found in Jesus Christ! It is our hope, Lord willing, that these types of trips to the Cikankhata area will become a more regular part of how Action Zambia is being used by God to strengthen the local believers here in Lusaka.

As always we share this with you to remind you that your partnership with us is being used to accomplish amazing things both now and for all eternity. We are truly blessed to have your prayers and support. Of course we will be taking cameras along to document the events of the trip so you can expect some photos and an update upon our return. May God bless and keep you in His grace and mercy.

His Servant

Luke (for the fam) <><

 

 

Steve Allen

Action Zambia

www.aliveinafrica.com

 

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Revelation 7:12

 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A reason to celebrate

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Bx7kxvTyX7o/SxPjsjioYuI/AAAAAAAACUw/QxoPg8Qj6a4/s200/PB270002.JPG(I borrowed this blog and made it my own. Thanks Karen!) Students of Action Pastors' College (APC) completed their first year of studies this past Friday. To celebrate Tracy and Karen Singelton surprised the students with a reception of cake and tea in their honor. Can you tell they're happy?

Last January sixteen men began the college under the teaching of myself and
Tracy. Due to work schedules
two men had to leave the class, while a third has been the ill the
last several months.
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Bx7kxvTyX7o/SxPjssg62-I/AAAAAAAACU4/AIH6ia_nlwk/s200/PB270003.JPG
APC (formerly called ABI) is a three-year program which is available to compound pastors, who are the poorest in Lusaka. Meeting three days a week for three hours at a time, the pastors have studied Ephesians, Bible exegesis, Psalms, and history of Christian doctrine this past year. In December APC recesses, as do other schools in Lusaka. Please pray for Tracy and myself that we may be refreshed and renewed during this time.

(Pictured in first picture, left to right: Mr. Simuyemba, Mr. Mulenga, Mr. Chiwuswa. Second, Tracy Singleton, Mr. Kaumba, Mr. Mwanza, Mr. Zulu, Steve Allen, and Mr. Simuyemba (again!).

https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/499836307362612910-3901585541610616441?l=thesingletonstory.blogspot.com