Easter-Rabbit-Trails that Converge at the Cross Pt. 2

The Joy

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1&2, NKJV)

The Zionists of Southern Africa have a zeal, for God who most of them do not know. They praise God who seems far away, and fear ancestors that feel much closer. Easter will soon be upon us. This is the Zionists’ high holiday. Twenty-six years ago our ministry began with cold call beach encounters where we witnessed multiple immersion baptisms to cast out demons and known by the locals to occasionally result in drownings. Today we are privileged to participate in equipping Zionist Christians with Bible truths that equip them to reach into their communities with the Gospel. ZEMA has a growing radio ministry, annual conferences, and individuals who meet regularly to support and study God’s Word together. There are 87 ZEBS schools with 87 teachers, 61 of whom are African co-workers. Through these schools 2400 students hear, share, and grow as they study God’s Word together. As Zionists have begun to focus on Jesus, their zeal is directed toward God, their creator, who knows them intimately, loves them, and has revealed Himself through His Word. 

“…For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)

Following our last TIDBITS, we received notes of encouragement from many. Thank you. What we can say is that our discouraging circumstances aren’t much different from yours: conflict in communities, families, marriages, health, and financial challenges. Each of us harbors longings for some type of change. Socially, politically, and spiritually something is missing. Before His death, Jesus said it quite simply, I thirst. Globally, unrest affects us. Deeply. We desire the ideals of Eden before hell broke loose.

Without confidence that God has a bigger plan and can identify with the intimate realities of ill health, family struggle, social unrest, injustice, and poverty, some have given up. Others cling to the hope they have in God, who at the moment feels very far away. Echoing Jesus’ words we wonder, My God, My God, why…? Greg and I sing out as the Psalmist: Lord, restore in [us] the joy of your salvation, and grant us a willing spirit to sustain [us]! (51:12 NIV)

Rains over KwaZulu Natal. Taken by Kyle, Dec 2018.

Longing keeps joy at bay. We yearn for feelings of goodness, belonging and worth to well up from within and be contagiously evident. Recently we’ve found ourselves repeatedly contemplating Ezra’s words: The joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Where is joy? I feel weak. When I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10) Really? 

Ezra spoke these words because Israel’s situation was dire; there was no joy welling up. Ezra focused on hope and urged his people to do the same. Similarly to how Jesus would one day respond to feelings of helpless devastation, Ezra encouraged his people to look beyond present circumstances to God’s promise of joy in their future. 

Daily Greg and I remember that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him, endured…” Even for Jesus, joy did not well up from inside. Instead, joy lay before Him in the hope and certainty that God is powerful and able to carry out His plan. Compelled by this confidence, Jesus continued to identify with humankind to profound levels of human interaction. Identifying with the broken plight of humanity, He put one foot in front of the other, all the way to the cross. 

However weak we feel, “The faithful love of the Lord never ends, and His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness!” Among the Zionists, churches are growing. Even while lives and communities are being exposed in intimate realities that are often broken, hope is what we have to hold onto. There is joy before us in the rightness of walking a difficult road with others. Knowing we aren’t alone, and there is something better in the journey ahead, we say “The Lord is [our] inheritance; therefore we will wait for Him!” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Family, friends, ministry, and God’s power displayed in every beautiful detail of creation: each testifies to our Creator’s goodness and attention to the minute details that ultimately bring us joy. Hope remains because, in these, we get a glimpse of what has already been accomplished, the miraculous restoration of the Kingdom of God, at the cross.

A bottle brush tree in full bloom at Sunbury.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness. Psalm 96:11-13

Photos in this series of posts are taken from a gratitude journal Carlene has collected over our years in South Africa.

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Easter-Rabbit-Trails That Converge at the Cross Pt. 1

My thoughts meandered through rabbit trails of information and emotions as I considered what I would share in our next post. As I journaled, prayed and processed life, verses from Hebrews chapter twelve repeatedly came to mind, and what began as one post kept developing. We trust, through the next few weeks, you’ll be encouraged to pray for our journey, supported in your journey, and that together we’ll walk with Jesus through challenging times to the throne of God.

THE EYES

1bLet us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1&2 NASV)

We’re so very thankful for the support we have in one another and faithful friends and partners in ministry. We are relying on these relationships through difficult times! The other day I said to Greg, “I feel like we’re walking on water.” He looked at me, confused. Victory and rising above circumstances didn’t fit our present feelings. We both have days where we wonder: How did it come to this? How can we…? Why…? And finally, when will we see the way out? Realizing his dilemma, I immediately responded, “Walking on water isn’t fun! Storms are raging around us. It’s scary, and people are getting hurt. Badly!” Life is hard right now. Generally, we feel uncertain and aren’t sure about the next right step. All we can do is keep focused on God and trust Him to work out the details.

Promise in the midst of a storm

Above water in a stormy sea is not a safe place. Identifying with Peter led us to these verses in Hebrews chapter twelve. Jesus also set His eyes unwaveringly on what lay ahead. God’s plan and His power in terrible circumstances ended at a stable place: the joy of sitting at God’s throne. Jesus’s confidence and trust in God kept Him on course. Jesus’ call to Peter was a call to join Him in what feels like a treacherous walk of faith.

Being a part of ZEMA’s ministries is exciting! However, our foundations are being rattled at the core. There are profoundly painful things happening around us. As reported at the ZEMA Annual Business meeting in March, our USA office needs to make significant changes. The USA board will make some tough decisions on 2 April 2019. Andrew Sisson’s resignation (ZEMA mission director) will take effect by July. Greg has been part of some of the discussions. Additionally, People we minister to and with are wrestling with weighty issues of family, health, and finance. Joy is elusive. 

It would be desirable to avoid unpleasant realities right now. However, sometimes things get bad, and they can’t be hidden or avoided and still be honest. We appreciate your prayers. We’re confident that God is in control and walking with us. This is a challenging time and in some ways, devastating. But, we trust that all things happen in His time and that He provides for His work and is accomplishing His plan. 

Photos in this series of posts are taken from a gratitude journal Carlene has collected over the years. 

So thankful for our family.

For fond memories.

And for years of growing, learning, and being…… together.