I recently heard Jon Acuff speak and he gave these words: “We don’t have to be ready, because we have a ready God.”
When the idea of a soccer trip to Africa was brought into conversation, my heart skipped a beat imagining the opportunity. Then excitement turned into chaotic stress when I found out the trip would have to be planned in four months. Four months!? How could that ever be coordinated?
God has a history of using the most unlikely situations and people so that He can show up in a big way. My team of young men have already begun to learn this, and will continue to learn our potential told in Ephesians 2:10. This adventure is only beginning; we haven’t even left the States, and already God has used so many of YOU to make this trip happen. Work schedules, school schedules, fundraising, and willing bodies have all created problems deterring this trip in which God has responded, “I got this.”
As the team and I finally board an airplane to begin this adventure, this mission, to fulfill our calling given to us in Matthew 28:18-20, there are several things I ask you to pray over the team:
Safety. This almost goes unspoken with the uneasiness of being in a foreign land, and traveling such great distances. Pray for our safety and smooth travels.
To be partners. The team’s flurry of daily activity will surely alter the daily flow of life in the village we are serving. Pray that we will be partners to the people and the ministry that is already in place in South Africa. Pray for the team in that we will be able to combine the resources available in country with the resources we bring. We want to motivate people to help others.
To be a good example. Your example affects people more than just what you say. Pray for the team to not only be preaching God’s love, but also showing God’s love.
To build relationships. Pray for opportunities for the team to spend valuable time with locals. Our mission is sustainable change, and that change will only come through time and relationships. Pray for those the team interacts with. Even though they might not understand each other, those moments could end up being worth the whole trip.
To those partnering with us from all over the country: Thank you all for your generous giving and your time in prayer! Your partnership and prayers make a difference.
To my team: As we make final physical and mental preparations, the unknowns of a mission’s trip will begin to creep in and create doubt making the road ahead seem unclear. I’ll end this first blog entry the way I started it, with a quote from Jon Acuff:
“Many of the adventures you go on will not make sense to other people because the outcome is unknown. But journeys where the outcome is already known are not adventures, they’re errands. And you were created to do more than just run errands.”
We may never think we are ready for God’s calling, but that’s ok; because He is. Following God is not about knowing stuff, it’s about doing stuff.
As a leader in this generation you hold the destiny of the next generation in your hands. In other words, their future depends on the legacy that you create and the heritage that you leave behind.
A legacy is something that is built; it’s not something that ‘just happens.’ As you build, the fruit of your legacy will become a harvest that is reaped by a future generation. The benefit is not for you; it’s for those who come after you, but the harvest they reap then, depends on what and how you sow now.
What follows are some critical choices you should make today, in order for your legacy to influence destiny tomorrow.
1. Choose a Future Focus rather than a Now Focus
A Now focus is characterized by
- Looking out for Self
- Striving to achieve Position
- Seeking avenues for Getting
A Future focus is characterized by
- Looking out for Others
- Striving to accomplish Purpose
- Seeking opportunities for Giving
When it’s all about you and about what can benefit you now, it’s likely that your legacy will die when you die.
2. Choose Accomplishment rather than Affirmation
Everybody likes to be recognized/approved but the glow of feeling good is not a substitute for living out your true potential. When affirmation becomes a motivating priority, it can easily cause you to:
- Mold and tailor your ministry in a way that pleases man
- Behave and perform in a way that you know will get approval from man
- Formulate the ‘right’ answers and say the right things to impress man
The test of a man is not when he plays the role he wants for himself, but when he plays the role destiny has for him.
Alternatively, you can decide that regardless of what men say, and regardless of whether you get affirmation from man
- You heard what God said
- You will obey what God said
- You will accomplish something meaningful for God
3. Choose Future Potential over Financial Gain
Financial gain can become a very powerful motivator, when day after day, things are hard, and you are trusting God just to get by. Decisions motivated by money normally bring short term relief, but also have only short term benefits.
- Seek ways to invest in people rather than how to get something from people
- When you add value to people you are investing in their future potential
- Money always flows to where needs are being met
4. Choose Personal Growth over Immediate Pleasure
Outside of you growing personally, there is no guarantee of you leaving a meaningful heritage for the future. Growing requires the discipline of setting aside what is comfortable in order to do what is necessary.
- Take responsibility for your own personal growth. Others cannot do it for you and others cannot be held accountable if you do not grow.
- No matter how small your town/church/ministry may be, there is no place that is too small for you to grow.
- Grow to become someone, not to acquire something.
- Stay out of your comfort zone. You cannot grow unless you try something you have not yet mastered, so try something new, do something you have not done before, learn a skill you do not have.
- Hang around growing people. If you want to know the direction you are going, look at your closest associates. You are going in the same direction they are.
- Have a personal plan that includes daily growth steps. If you want to change your life, you have to change something you do each day.
5. Choose your Christian Walk over your Christian Work
What you become is more important than what you do. Consequently, your walk with God is more important than your work for God.
The legacy you leave tomorrow will come out of the investments you make today. Each choice you make is a deposit in the destiny of the generation that will come after you. Start ……… by making some of the smaller choices today. They will help you to make the big choices tomorrow.
For those that I haven’t had the chance to personally connect with, my name is Cindy Nelson. I joined the staff of Orchard: Africa back in June as the School and Outreach Director.
I first became involved with Orchard: Africa through a mission trip with my church two years ago, and brought the experiences with and passion for Orchard: Africa into my classroom the following two years. After sharing all that I had seen in South Africa with my 4th and 5th grade students, they felt challenged to find a way to help. My students voted and decided to set up a hot chocolate stand in the courtyard 20 minutes before school for two weeks during the winter. Not only was the enthusiasm from my students contagious, but the response from parents, students and staff alike was to be commended. In just 10 days they were able to raise over $300.00 that went to directly feeding over 100 children one meal a day for an entire month.
After meeting with Michelle, we both agreed that if this worked in my classroom, it would work in all classrooms. So, after much planning and curriculum writing over the summer, this school year we have kicked off our School Partnership Program. I firmly believe that if we empower the up and coming generation and give them the tools to make a difference, they will rise to the challenge.
Through the help of our dedicated volunteers, Orchard: Africa has developed a set of curriculums and campaigns that were created specifically with students in mind. For our K-8 students we have the ‘It Takes a Village ‘ campaign where students are introduced to the culture and geography of Africa with a seven-lesson curriculum complete with objectives and assessment. While learning about Africa, students plan and carry out one or more fundraisers with all proceeds going to feed children in Africa.
For our older students (grades6-12) we have developed the ‘One-a-Week’ campaign. The idea behind this campaign is to take it a step further. It challenges students to give up one dollar a week, bring it into their classroom, and together be a part of something great.
The response to the launch of our School Partnership Program has been tremendous. We currently have several schools that have already partnered with us. Because of the response that we have gotten, we have decided that a teacher from one of our Partner Schools will receive a scholarship to attend an educators-only mission trip that will take place next July.
If you are interested in learning more about the School Partnership Program and how to get your school involved, or you are interested in learning more about the educators-only mission trip next summer, please contact me at email@example.com.
It’s almost the end of another year and the Christmas season is upon us once again. As we celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ over Christmas time, something we should not forget or neglect is to also celebrate the grace of God that comes through Jesus.
“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
This short verse creates the understanding that the opposite of grace is law. This is of course true. However, a more accurate “opposite” of grace is “self sufficiency or independence.”
It is when we strive and stress to live for God by:
- doing more
- praying more
- giving more
- fasting more
- sacrificing more
- depending on our own self-effort to work our way into God’s favor.
The Old Testament book of Zechariah paints the picture which follows:
“So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘Grace, Grace,’ to it’” Then the word of the LORD came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.”
Zerubbabel’s task was to rebuild the temple but a mountain, which blocked his progress, hindered him. God told Zerubbabel that he was not going to move the mountain by his own might or power. It could only be moved by God’s Spirit. God would shout, “Grace, Grace,” to it and the mountain would become level ground.
This could be a picture of your life.
- God wants to build the temple of His presence in you.
- The mountain represents anything that hinders this.
- It could be sin, a bad habit, some form of character weakness or any area of your life that you know is not pleasing to God.
- How often have you tried to pretend it is not there?
- How often have you become discouraged and felt like you are disappointing to God because no matter how hard you try, nothing works?
- Maybe you have even given up, become tired of trying, become tired of failing and said something like, “God I quit!!!”
At that point God says, “I’ve been waiting for you to say that. You don’t have the strength, but I do. You don’t have the power, but I do. You can’t move the mountain, but I can.” And then God shouts. He doesn’t shout at you. He doesn’t say, “Do better, try harder, give more, etc.” He shouts at the mountain, “Grace, Grace,” and He levels the mountain by doing in you what you cannot do yourself.
Self-effort does not have what it takes to move that thing, but the grace of God, through the Spirit of God, has all that it takes.
Grace is God doing in you what you are not able to do yourself.
Grace is the exact opposite of independence.
Grace is the cure for self-sufficiency.
Celebrate the grace that comes to us through Jesus Christ.
All of us live our lives according to values. The values we hold to, determine what we believe, what we think, how we act and what priorities we have. Values may differ from person to person, because different people place different emphasis on different things. However, the things people emphasize and give priority to, will generally reveal what values they have.
What about God? Does he have priorities? Are there some things in our lives to which He would give more emphasis than others? Would it help us if we understood what some of these might be?
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (emphasis added)
“This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this: THAT HE UNDERSTANDS AND KNOWS ME.”
This passage indicates that understanding and knowing God is more important than wisdom, strength or riches. It’s not so much an issue of right or wrong, good or bad. It’s an issue of what is more important – on what does God place higher value?
Here are some of my thoughts about things on which God places higher emphasis:
- God places higher value on changing us than on charming us
God is good and God does good. As much as He desires to pour gifts blessings and good things into our lives, He desires more to shape and change our lives. What He does in us is more important than what He does for us. Instead of just seeking experiences with God that will charm us, should we not rather seek encounters with God that will change us?
- God places higher value on us being good than feeling good
Modern society teaches us to behave in ways that make us feel good. If everybody is doing it and it makes us feel good, then it must be OK. We measure our morals and standards against those of other people, and it makes us feel good when we are ‘not as bad as’ or ‘better than’ the next person. The Bible says “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). God desires that we be like Him, not just better than someone else.
- God places higher value on us being a blessing than receiving a blessing
The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). Jesus’ example was to serve, rather than be served. God’s promise to Abraham was, “…. I will bless you………and you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) What if, instead of exercising faith for God to bless us, we exercised faith to be a channel of blessing to somebody else.
- God places higher value on us being relevant than on being religious
People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. The Bible puts it this way; “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:14-17) It may be the religious thing to say to people, ‘I will pray for you, God bless you,’ but it’s the relevant thing to do something about their practical needs.
- God places higher value on helping us than on hurting us
God is not against you. He is for you. He is not an enemy who is out to get you. He is a Father who loves you unconditionally. Rather than running from God, let us run to Him – to seek His help and enjoy His love.
“The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed….the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…..He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him…..as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;” (Psalm 103:6-13)