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February 2017
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April 2017

Kenya Trip Report 2017

JSAcademyI arrived home last Monday after another wonderful and successful trip to Kenya. This time I had 16 others with me and, as usual, they proved to be a tremendous blessing to JSFrancisone another and to the people we visited and worked with in Kenya. I met with one of the team members yesterday, and he told me that he is still processing what he learned and saw on the trip, and I know exactly what he means. It always takes some time to allow the Lord to help me work through what I learned and what my next assignment is once I come home.

JSGladysI am returning in May to conduct some leadership training for the pastors under David Koech's oversight in Bomet, so my next assignment is imminent. I am going back so quickly because the national election is in August, and everyone is being cautious as to what that may involve (at times, there is much unrest around the elections). I will then return in October once the elections are completed. JSPeter

Here is an overview of what I was able to distribute to our friends and partners in Kenya with your help ((click on any picture to enlarge it for a better look):

  1. Each One Touch One -- $1,600 (house rent, house mother salary, food)
  2. Each One Touch -- $850 (one-day outing with the orphans)
  3. Banana Library -- $850 (librarian salary, rent, furnishings)
  4. Karen Academy -- $750 (general use where needed)
  5. Upako Centre -- $2,450 (for teacher salaries, school supplies, and general use)
  6. David Koech -- $2,500 (for vehicle purchase)
  7. Clarence Matheny Ministries -- $1,000 (conference expenses)

JSAliceThat comes to a total of $10,000 distributed, which does not include the other blessings we bestowed on individuals who are doing wonderful work but doing it by faith -- they receive no compensation. My publishing company also produced a book for a young lady who has a testimony of how God is delivering her from a pornography addiction, and we did that book as a ministry project at no cost to her. JSConference

I try to be careful and not allow us to be the focal point for the tremendous needs we encounter when we visit Kenya. There is need everywhere, and we don't want people to see us as their source to meet those needs; only God can do that. We do not want to create dependents but partners, so we do not, and can not, meet all the needs we see. Yet, we want to be a blessing and allow God to use us in a way that keeps Him front and center in the minds and hearts of the people.

JSRuthI am planning another group trip in 2018, probably a bit earlier than this year's trip, since Israel is on the schedule for April of next year. If you would like to be part of next year's trip, please let me know. We will have our first meeting in June this year to start planning, and I would love to talk to you about what it would take for you to experience what I have come to love and look forward to, and that is a chance to take a trip during which God speaks and reveals Himself to me and us in fresh, new ways.


The Foundation of the Old

"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many" -- 1 Corinthians 12:12-14.

Yesterday, we looked at Jesus' words that teachers of the Law will do creative things when they enter the Kingdom of God. Paul is a perfect example of what Jesus was talking about. The first half of many of Paul's epistles contains many important theological truths; the second half is full of practical steps of how to carry out the great theological truths. Paul's letters and theology, while inspired by the Holy Spirit, are also a product of Paul's creativity, for the Spirit was able to use Paul's background, experience, and unique insight to mold and shape the new doctrine of the church that was based on Paul's Old Testament foundation. While Peter had the keys to the Kingdom, only Paul had the creativity that could receive, conceptualize, and explain the Spirit's vision for the Church. Do you see that your preparation determines how much of your creativity God can use for His purpose? Do you also see that your ability to visualize and create the new emanates from how well you have mastered the basics in your field of creativity and innovation? Are you willing to pay the price to become proficient enough to do something new?

Lord, I have placed all the emphasis on revelation and creativity like Paul exhibited on the work of the Spirit, but today I see that the Spirit used someone who was prepared and primed to do the "new thing" that You were announcing. I want to be like Paul, but first I need to prepare like Paul so I can have older things in my storehouse of wisdom to join with the new things You will bring my way.


The Correct Interpretation

"He said to them, 'Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old'” -- Matthew 13:52.

Jesus was instructing His disciples that anyone entering the Kingdom who had been a teacher of the Law was in a unique position. That person would have a rich heritage of tradition, yet would also encounter and see new things that would enable them to creatively combine old principles with new concepts. We will see tomorrow that the Apostle Paul epitomized this concept, but for now, let's apply it to creativity in general. Most people believe that creativity is doing, thinking, or making something that no one in the history of the world has ever done, thought, or made. Most times, that is not the case. Instead, creativity is taking something old, like water, combining it with something else, like a plastic bottle, and meeting a new need (portable water available anywhere) to create something new but not unheard of. Do you have the ability to see how old things can be used in new ways? Do you see that as a function of your creativity?

Lord, I am guilty of misinterpreting creativity, and therefore I have not recognized it as such in my life. Yes, I have the ability to see new uses for existing things, and now I understand that is part of my God-given creativity. I am now free to be creative since it doesn't mean I have to invent or be creative like Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs to do so.


A Creative Confrontation

"The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, 'There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

'Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.'

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, 'As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity'" -- 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

Nathan the prophet had the unenviable task of confronting King David about his sin with Bathsheba, which the king had covered over for a year. Nathan knew if he was going to get the king's attention, he had to be creative and tread carefully, or else forfeit his own life. What did Nathan do? He drew on his creativity and told a story to David that caused David to react and pass judgment on what David had done, without realizing what he had done. Then when Nathan identified David as the rich man in the story, David had no choice but to confess and own up to his sin. Are you facing a tough problem that requires confronting someone, perhaps even your superior? Have you considered an indirect, creative approach that may soften the sting and open the door to real dialogue and even repentance?

Lord, this story is a beautiful example of creativity in action to address a difficult human problem. I need that kind of creative wisdom as I parent, lead, follow, minister, and counsel. I ask You to grant me the ability to confront with the skill and care that Nathan showed in this story.


A Creative Plan

"And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine" -- Genesis 41:33-36.

His brothers' creative lie took Joseph to Egypt where he served for 13 years, some of the time as an imprisoned slave. Then one day, he went from the jailhouse to the White House, so to speak, when he was summoned to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. Not only did he interpret them, he also created an on-the-spot plan to respond to the message of those dreams, which was seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Pharaoh was so impressed with his creativity, spontaneity, wisdom, and poise that he promoted him on the spot to the position of vice-president. Joseph was probably surprised at what had happened, for his response to Pharaoh's dreams was very matter-of-fact, giving the impression that this creativity was so normal for Joseph, he did not think it anything special. Do you have creativity that you don't think is very special? Do you see that your creativity can be the source for your promotion and success? Why then, are you holding back on expressing it?

Lord, I sometimes speak with creative wisdom, and people seek me out for my response, just like Pharaoh did Joseph. Help me to get past the "oh, that was nothing" mentality to seeing and accepting that my creativity is an important part of who I am and will help take me where You want me to be in Your will.


A Creative Lie

"Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, 'We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.' He recognized it and said, 'It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces'" -- Genesis 37:31-33.

After Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, they concocted a story to tell their father of what happened to Joseph. They took the coat their father had given to Joseph, dipped it in blood, and allowed Jacob to come to the wrong conclusion. That's not the worst part. They then allowed their father to live in that lie for 22 years, so long that the brothers believed it themselves, which is why they could not recognize Joseph when they saw him in Egypt because they believed he was dead. How often did these brothers have to creatively pretend like they missed their brother? How often did they have to creatively lie and embellish the story of Joseph's disappearance, covering the truth with a lie that turned into a huge deception? You can use your creativity for good as a means to serve God and others, or you can and will use it for other self-serving purposes. The choice is yours.

Lord, I choose to use my creativity not to build a fantasy world that I eventually believe, but to use it as You intended: to creatively serve Your kingdom and the people in it. Deliver me from all creative falsehoods that include excuses, denials of the truth, and facades that cover the truth in my heart.


Not Gender Specific

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him" – Genesis 37:3.

Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons because of what Joseph represented: the love of Joseph's mother, Rachel (who died in childbirth while delivering Joseph's brother), and God's faithfulness to Jacob in his old age. Therefore, Jacob made his son a special coat for Joseph to show his special affection, which of course drove the other brothers crazy to the point of conspiracy to murder. The point is, however, that Jacob had to have some creative skills to sew and do fashion design, which are skills usually associated with a woman and not a man. Specific creative skills, however, are not gender specific, and God can distribute those gifts to whomever He wishes, male or female. Do you have creativity that you think would be better suited to someone of the other gender? Are you a man but like to sew, a woman but like to design buildings, a man who likes to care for children, a woman who enjoys leading a company? Are you ready to accept the fact that this is who God made you to be, and stop giving in to church or societal pressures that say otherwise?

Lord, I admit that I have hidden some of my creativity so that others would not think I am strange just because my gift is usually associated with the opposite sex. No longer will I second-guess how you made me, but instead I will move forward to express my love for others through the creative gifts you gave meall of them.


A Creative Offering

"Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume" -- John 12:3.

No place in the Old Testament does it describe any kind of offering similar to what Mary did for Jesus. While she was anointing Him for his pending death, she still applied her creativity to come up with this scenario that was unique and undoubtedly shocked the men who were present with Jesus. Yet Jesus endorsed what Mary did, commending her for her creativity and her lavish expression of love and devotion. How creative are you in your offerings to God? Do you give your gifts, time, and talent in such a way that it takes God's breath away and fills the room with a sweet aroma like Mary did? How lavish are you in your devotion to God and how do you express it that is an expression of your individual creativity?

Lord, I love You, but I admit that I have been a bit traditional and stale in my expressions of love for You, limiting them to some words in church or quick prayers throughout the day. Today, I am going to do something different, like bake you a cake and give it to the poor or write you a poem or compose a song, just for You. I want to be like Mary and do something out of the ordinary for You as an expression of my appreciation and devotion.


Creative Praise

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him" -- Daniel 2:21-22.

The Babylonian king demanded that his wise men interpret his dream, but the king refused to tell them what the dream was! What's more, they would all die unless someone interpreted it for him. When Daniel heard this, he asked the king for time, went home and prayed with his friends, and got the interpretation in a night vision. When he did, he praised the Lord for saving his life, but he didn't say things like, "Thank You, Lord, praise You, Lord." Instead, he entered into a time of creative praise that outlined how great God is and gave thanks for the answer to prayer. How creative is your praise? Do you say the same things over and over again? Has your praise developed and matured over the years, or is it still stuck in the same old phrases you have used for years? Are you hesitant to involve your creative where God's praise is concerned? Why are you afraid?

Lord, I have been lazy where my praise of You is concerned. I have not incorporated into my praise new insights into who You are or taken the time to develop the praise words and phrases the represent my growth in You. Forgive my laziness, for You are worthy of the best praise I can devise!


A Test Run

"Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see'" -- Daniel 1:11-13.

Like Moses' parents, Daniel was faced with a dilemma when he relocated to Babylon. He was expected to eat food that was not consistent with his kosher diet, but Daniel did not wish to defile himself with the king's food. His supervisor was concerned that Daniel's refusal would reflect badly on the supervisor, but eventually agreed to the ten-day test to see if Daniel's diet would work, which it did. The point is that Daniel had to be creative in his appeal not to eat from the king's table. He did not get angry, pitch a fit, or go on a hunger strike. He creatively appealed to the supervisor's self-interest (if the diet worked, it would make the supervisor look good). How creative are you when you are faced with a situation where you are required to do something that may be against your conscience or your values? Do you stop and look for a creative alternative, or is your thinking limited to the few options that seem to be available?

Lord, I want to apply creativity in my daily affairs. Help me not jump to conclusions too quickly, but give me the discipline to listen for the creative breeze that will blow through my life if my eyes and ears are fixed on you. I want to be like Daniel in the Babylon to which you have sent me.