Three Principles of Immortality

February 27, 2020

Toward the end of 1 Corinthians, Paul exhorts his readers, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” These are probably familiar to words to some, but I think its easy to gloss over and say, “Yeah, good advice!” and then move on. It is good to pause there for some deep consideration of what he is calling us to. Or, calling us out to do.

Let’s dive into a little context. You’ve probably heard the old cliche, when you see therefore, you should always ask ‘what’s it there for?’

The preceding verses are, starting with 1 Corinthians 15:54:

When this corruptible body is clothed in incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed in immortality, then the saying:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, death, is your victory?

Where, death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

I Corinthians 15:53-56

So now we have the context. Through faith in Jesus Christ, by the grace we now enjoy through His atoning sacrifice, we not only have been cleansed of our mortal sins, but also of our mortality. Our souls may live forever, and we may therefore live as if we will never die. This is not YOLO lifestyle. This does not mean that we should pursue a hedonistic lifestyle as gluttonous pleasure-mongers because we are forgiven and there are no consequences. What this equates to is freedom to live recklessly for Christ.

Steadfastness

C.H. Spurgeon, one of my favorite Baptist preachers and theologians wrote extensively on this verse, and I will be borrowing a lot from him on this subject. He identified four different kinds of steadfastness that we should take from this text.

First, steadfastness should apply to the doctrines of the gospel. We should both seek to rightly understand the scriptures and gospel, and once we have obtained understanding, hold fast so that we are not persuaded to deviate from biblical truth.

Second, we are urged to be steadfast in character. We should be unwavering in our commitment to holiness and the pursuit of truth and righteousness. Though we may stumble and mess up, we should never give up in pursuing the virtues that mark the life of a believer, living a life above reproach, insofar as we are able, both through our effort and by empowerment by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit.

Third, we should be stable in the level of Christian maturity that we have obtained, not moving backward, and continually striving to move forward as we grow in maturity.

Fourth, we should remain steadfast in our Christian work, “persevering and enduring to the end.” Whatever that work is, we are all servants of Christ, and our life is one of service, selflessness, and great love for our neighbors and our enemies. That work should be evident from day one of following Christ.

Immovable

This stuff, up to now, should seem fairly obvious. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. This one may be the most difficult though. The exhortation to be immovable seems to be based upon the presupposition that our steadfastness with be challenged. There are several things that can move us. If we are like trees near the bank of a river, when the current grows and the river swells beyond its banks, what will keep us standing?

“Deep roots” you are probably thinking. I ask myself, how deep do my roots go into the soil? Will they prevent we from being tempted by wealth? Comfort? Reputation? The culture? Approval?

How much discomfort am I willing to endure for the sake of Christ? Could I risk my career? Could I risk my social standing? Can I risk my safety, or the safety of those I love?

On days where faith and a passion for the gospel burn brightly in my heart, there’s nothing I wouldn’t endure. Some days, I’m so distracted, so in love with temporary pleasures and comforts that there’s little I would endure. We have fickle hearts, all of us. Our moods change. I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy creation and take part in benefits of technology. I LOVE a good cup of fine coffee, tacos, fly fishing, fast cars, watching hockey games, and all sorts of things. And God doesn’t call us to not enjoy these things. But it is a trap, and we need to be vigilant. The game is rigged, because the stuff you and I enjoy can prevent us from thinking too deeply about it most of the time, partly because there are so many pressures and things vying for our attention, distracting us from the eternal. This may be why Paul seeks to first point out that we were made for the eternal. Safety, comfort, and passions for things of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory of our Father.

C.S. Lewis is famously quoted from his book The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

There is much more to this life than the American Dream. There is much more to this life than safety. There are more important and worthwhile things to give your life to, and even lose your life for than the dull cliche repetition of work, vacation, retirement, buying more stuff, etc. Being immovable means a deeply held conviction that the cares of this world pale in comparison to the eternal glory and joy that we find in our Creator.

Always Excelling in the Lord’s Work

What is the Lord’s work, you might secretly wonder? I’ll let Spurgeon speak to this:

Some Christians think it enough to excel on Sundays or only for a few years of their lives. The text [of 1 Corinthians] calls this service “the Lord’s work,” and we must always bear this in mind so that, if we are enabled to excel in Christian service, we may never become proud but may remember that it is God’s work in us rather than our own work. And whatever we accomplish is accomplished by God in us rather than by us for God.

Christian service is not a separate compartment of our lives. It’s not “the religious part” of our day to day routines. It is our lives. It is in the mundane work around the home, in welcoming the stranger to our table, puting your arm around a lonely teenager and praying for them, buying groceries for the person in line behind you, giving the other driver who appears to be in a hurry the chance to go ahead of you, writing to that missionary who thinks everyone at home has forgotten them, visiting that old neighbor in the nursing home who never sees their family, inviting your non-believing friend out to coffee, without an agenda, but just to listen to them.

Excelling in the Lord’s work is not just about teaching a Sunday school class, or volunteering as an usher at your church. It is a daily rhythm and posture of servitude, humility, love and selflessness. And the fuel can’t be self-righteousness, but rather the Holy Spirit marked by inexplicable love that expects nothing in return.

There May be No Earthly Reward

I ask myself often, as maybe should be a habit for you as well, “What is it that I want most?” This question carries the weight of eternal significance, because if what we really want, what I really want, is recognition, or a particular platform, or a certain kind of reputation, then my pursuits will either be fruitless, or of no eternal value to me. How do I know this?

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your comfort.
Woe to you who are now full,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who are now laughing,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you
when all people speak well of you,
for this is the way their ancestors
used to treat the false prophets.

Luke 6:24-26

Yep, the beatitudes. Look, none of this is new revelation. I don’t hold any special insight other than what has been given to me by much wiser, more Spirit-led men and women than myself.

We live in a technology driven world. Until you’ve been out of it for a little while, you don’t realize how advertising and marketing are ever-present, hijacking your higher functions and seemingly deliberately keeping you from focusing on what is truly of value and importance in the world. I want to help snatch as many people from the soul-sucking meaninglessness of entertainment and amusement, because, we are, as Neil Postman put it, amusing ourselves to death.

Not until you create a barrier, purposefully allowing yourself to be bored and contemplative, will you realize that there is a freedom that exists apart from consumerism, comfort, safety, and the American Dream that may be quite uncomfortable at times, but is far sweeter than our mud pies in the slum.

Please leave a comment or send me a message if this inspires you, angers you, is exactly what you’ve been thinking too? I crave a discussion on these things, and I want to hear about your insights, struggles, or even admonishments. Thank you.


Talking Ashes

February 26, 2020

Most already have the fact that today is Ash Wednesday on their radar. But, if you are like me, you aren’t entirely sure what you are going to do with that information.

I have two major themes that to discuss here. The first is cognitive dissonance and the second is actionless faith.

Cognitive dissonance is defined as being in a state inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. Although this includes hypocrisy, it means a bit more than that. It can also equate to what is becoming popularly referred to as moral injury.

I love the term moral injury, because it is something that had insufficient terminology until recently, and was referred to as feeling guilty. But guilt is a bit more complicated. Remorse for doing something wrong usually refers to guilty feelings. Moral injury is the after effects, after knowing you are forgiven and the guilt has been lifted, but still trying to deal with the destructive effects that your wrongdoings had. For instance, if I have a patient that I know requires a lot more time than I have to give because I’m busy in the clinic, and I don’t give them the time they need or deserve, I know I’m doing something wrong, but I don’t know how NOT to do that wrong thing because I am part of a flawed system that places more priority on volume than quality. Then that person, let’s say, gets admitted to the ICU, and I may have been able to prevent that had I adequate time to assess and evaluate them. Once I am forgiven for this, I should be done with it. I can even forgive myself. But there is a lingering effect from that sort of thing, it’s not guilt, it’s no longer remorse, it’s moral injury.

So let’s draw the logical line to connect both cognitive dissonance and moral injury.

I live in California. I am not a rich man by any western standard. I live in a very average home, in a very average suburb, make an average salary and have access to average resources like health care and financial assistance (welfare), should I fall on hard times.

I have a good friend who was born and raised in a rural village in one of the least developed countries in the world. He has worked hard and endured much difficulty in his life and has little to show for it, materially. He has been trying to build a house for his family for years, but struggles to find the funds, or hold onto the funds he saves to build the home. Due to the relative instability of living in such an environment, he took out a loan to finish his home.

My monthly mortgage is about the same as the loan that is breaking him, financially (no, I don’t have a big mortgage, I’m in fact very lucky to have such a small one).

$500 would literally put a roof on his home.

I just had to spend $3300 to repair my 5 year-old minivan that broke down. Sure, it may seem like a necessity to most Americans to have a running minivan, however, $500 to my friend could mean the difference of he and his children surviving the next bout of malaria through the wet season or not. Not having a minivan is not a matter of survival, it is a matter of extreme inconvenience.

I spend much less money on luxuries than I used to, but compared to life in places like this country in West Africa, I live an extravagantly wealthy lifestyle.

On average, Americans spend 10%-15% of their annual income on vacations.

With no frame of reference, that may seem reasonable to most, but it is a painful number for the globally-aware. What that kind of money can do for a family in a place like Togo, where parents have to make tough decision on which kid to provide an education for because tuition is $40 per year and they can only afford to educate one of them.

I KNOW the right thing to do, yet over and over and over, I don’t do it. That is cognitive dissonance that has led to a moral injury. Essentially, I feel guilty for living an average lifestyle. How can anyone morally justify this lifestyle when so little could do so much? But what can I change?

So onto point number two, which you can now see is closely linked with the first.

Actionless Faith

“Actionless” isn’t even really a word, because, let’s be honest, it’s an oxymoron. Either you have action or you have inaction. And same goes for faith, either your faith compells you, propels you into action, or you have no faith.

Let’s look carefully at James 2:14-26, because we talk about this all the time, yet seldom actually change, or put our words into action.

Faith and Works

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”[a] Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

20 Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:14-26 CSB

I think this is at the heart of the criticism that we endure (and sometimes deserve) as Christians for saying that we are praying for someone but what we really mean is that don’t have the time or energy to get wrapped up in their mess so we will say a prayer instead.

For 14 years I struggled with having a calling into missions, and proclaimed my pursuit of it, but did not actually do it. Sure, I was doing stuff to pursue that calling. I was gaining experience with street evangelism, learning to disciple, teaching Bible studies, taking seminary courses, finishing my medical education, but I wasn’t in the mission field. Nor did I know how I was ever going to get there. And once I did, it was only for a short time. I could talk all day about the importance of making disciples among the nations, but I wasn’t doing it. I was comfortably sitting in my home town, evangelizing to people who had access to churches, bible book stores and numerous resources, but I was not reaching out to the unreached.

Even now, after only spending a year doing this in West Africa, I still bear the weight of an actionless faith, because, let’s face it, it’s hard to find time in the busyness of life to actually commit to doing it. I want to go back. My whole family wants to go back. We don’t understand how or if we can at this point, and would like to understand that. But we don’t have the network we need right now to make sense of all this.

Yet, we give tons of advice don’t we? “You’ll get through this, just trust Jesus.” We pray for our neighbors and each other’s difficulties and crises. We remember Aunt Bethany’s fungal infection in our prayers. We are CONSTANTLY praying for safety, I mean, don’t even get me started on our prayers for safety…. We ARE safe! How about WE go do something that actually involves risk where prayers for safety are actual heartcries for protection? Heaven forbid we encounter an unsafe situation!

Faith in Action

Every action should begin with prayer, and that prayer should be continuous during action. But here’s the difference prayer + faith + action makes:

Photo of men’s ward, from website abwetogosouth.org

There was this young man, we will call him Mohammed. He was a Muslim 20 year old with a bright future, going to school and well-loved by several missionaries around him. He was a talented musician and for years had been cared for, loved, and had the gospel presented to him on a number of occasions. Then, while he was in medical school, he developed a tumor. The tumor was growing fast. He left school to go back to the mission hospital where he had grown up for care. Every missionary physician that saw him recognized the tumor and knew that it was terminal.

It seemed like everyday he grew weaker as treatments failed. He was given a bed in the “infection ward” as a comfortable place to slowly pass away.

Though several missionary physicians visited and prayed with him daily, he seemed no closer to giving his life to Jesus. Then, for some reason, a doctor from Oklahoma showed up and took a special liking to this young man. He’d sit every day for hours and hours in the crowded, hot, smelly, humid infection ward, reading gospels to Mohammed through an interpreter. And every day, he’d pray for Mohammed to be healed, telling him that even if God chooses not to heal him, He is still a loving faithful father.

After that doctor from Oklahoma left, I continued the daily dressing changes and began to see the tumor and ulcer improving, almost like the cancer was gone and now the body was just healing like a normal open wound would. Day after day I saw rapid improvement. I started to talk to the other physicians about what I was seeing, and they didn’t quite believe until one day, out of frustration I begged a missionary physician to come look at what I was seeing, just to prove that I wasn’t crazy. He couldn’t believe his eyes. He called other physicians over, one after another, we broke down into tears and thankedGod over this young man. We were witnessing a miracle. (Just want to be 100% clear, I had nothing to do with this recovery. All I was doing was changing his bandages once or twice a day.)

What we didn’t realize is that when the wound was at its worst, and showing no signs of healing, the Mohammed had secretly decided to give his life to Jesus.

This young man had been prayed for for over a decade by missionaries, effort had been put in by many, and one in particular that was unable to be present for the recovery portion. And by faith, Mohammed was healed, not by human hands and human wisdom, but that faith was not devoid of action. Devoid of action, Mohammed may not have ever come to know Christ, or to find comfort in the words of the gospel read by a doctor with a southern drawl in a Boomer Sooner t-shirt.

Faith that draws us into action, that is real faith. Platitudes and words of encouragement do not help when the chips are down. They have no real substance when faced with real suffering, real death, real discomfort, or real brokenness. We need to do things, not talk about, strategize about, learn about, study how to do them. That can mean actually getting to know your neighbor, inviting someone into relationship with you who you know is a mess and hurting, routinely setting aside time to show them that you really are invested in them.

What we do is as important as what we believe, because if we say we believe something, like “Jesus will get you through,” without being willing to be the hands and arms of Jesus, they are just words. I know this because I am the worst example of this. It has been my natural tendency to “give encouragement” in suffering, when what my suffering brother or sister needed was someone willing to be “in it” with them. That requires a willingness to share in sorrow, suffering, and pain. It requires us to put aside our consumeristic values of comfort and the pursuit of happiness to instead be present in both word and deed. It is difficult. Paradoxically, giving up the pursuit of our own happiness is not giving up that pursuit at all, but rather pursuing the one thing that really does produce everlasting and transcendent joy, loving others.

And I mess up a lot. Sometimes when I try to help, I get a hero complex thinking that my wisdom and experience and training is what my brother or sister needs, when in actuality, all they need is a humble heart to listen and be present in their pain, not offer advice, or counsel. We are not in the business of fixing people. We are in the business of loving people.

So my question is, are there sins of apathy, selfishness, and/or cowardice that are preventing you and I from loving others that we need to repent of in this season?

This was a long post. I’ll have a shorter one tomorrow where I will discuss what it means to be present with people. I welcome your comments. Would love to hear from you.


Lentin Thoughts

February 25, 2020

Tomorrow marks the first day of lent. Historically, the season of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding on Easter Sunday, has been around for a very, very long time. Early mention of the recognition of this period of self-examination and penitence go back as far as the second century AD, and possibly earlier. Since St. Irenaeus made mention of a dispute on when it should be observed between a well-established Eastern and Western early Christian church, it had at least been around long enough at that point for traditional observance dates to be established.

Ash Wednesday by Carl Spitzweg: the end of Carnival (wikicommons)

In many evangelical denominations, with the notable exceptions of Methodists and Reformed church traditions, it is not routinely celebrated. Some may view it as a vestige of the Roman Catholic church, while others seem to completely eschew any sort of traditional practice that came from early church fathers. I want to, as I have many times in the past, make a case for it’s observance and some of the spiritual and practical implications of it.

A basic description of Lent is a period of 40 days (actually, 46 by the orthodox Christian calendar) that is a time of spiritual renewal by repentance and often marked by symbolic austerity. The fact that many of us have to look up the meaning of the word “austere” may be evidence of the need for it. Simply, austerity can mean simplicity or plainness. Even if we embrace simplicity and austerity as a decoration style, we tend to lack simplicity in our lives.

Because of this, we leave little room for experiencing and maturing our relationship with God. I will, in later posts, discuss how Jesus models this for us in the gospels, but at this point, I just want to make a brief case for it. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent for us and I believe that it is a practice that the church (the body of Christ, all believers and followers of Christ) may need to consider adopting again.

Traditionally, in the Roman Catholic tradition, Lent is a time to give up meat. Other traditions take a much more personalized approach such as encouraging someone to give up something that may be good, but also imperils their relationship with Jesus through distraction. Many people find it useful to give up social media for a time (which I have done as well, to my great benefit). Others will give up sweets, and still others will use it as a time to reignite their passion for scripture by changing their morning or evening routine to set aside time to read and study their Bibles for extended amounts of time, daily.

Most importantly, whatever someone decides to do for this season, they should consider that the purpose isn’t to earn God’s favor, or to appear more holy, but to grow in relationship with Christ.

There is some value to the Roman Catholic tradition in this. Roman Catholicism (similar to Anglicanism and other high church protestant denominations) view their faith as highly communal, and prefer to recognize Lent as a community, giving something up together, which many believe strengthens the body of Christ through both the act of repentance and “suffering” together. This is something I agree may have great value among the body of believers, but isn’t mandatory, nor should it be legalistically applied.

Finally, before I get into deeper things, as I will write sporadically over the next 46 days, I would stress that ultimately, Lent is not about us. It is about Christ. It is preparation, similar to advent but with less emphasis on a child-like expectancy, for the Resurrection Day. It should be a sobering experience. It is a chance to re-orient our wandering hearts to God, in love and through self-discipline.

Let us pray faithfully for how God might want us to observe this Holy season and prepare our hearts for it.

I would love to hear what you have given up in the past for lent, as well as your plans for this year. Please leave a comment and any thoughts you may have on this season in the comment section.


Church in Togo

December 16, 2018

Eau de Vie Church

The invitation read  “Les femmes de l’eglise “Eau de Vie” de Kpotame vous invitent à prendre part à leur fête qui aura lieu le 04 Novembre 2018 à 08 heures précises.”  (The ladies of the “Water of Life” church invite you to partake in their celebration on the 4th of November at 8am sharp) My first invitation to attend church in Africa was from Akofa, the Penny family’s house-help.  On that Sunday morning, Christine (my good friend here on the compound) and I went together in our best African skirts to the church 3 miles up the road and down a really bumpy side street, which was more like a off-roading road than a street!   Chris informed me before we left that we needed to bring a gift to exchange with the ladies, so we each took an African handmade bag and put some money in it to give to Akofa. I had no idea what to expect but Chris mentioned it would most likely be a very long service and quiet loud, lots of singing and dancing, and the seats would be really uncomfortable…she was right on all three!

Upon arriving we were immediately created by Akofa and several other ladies.  We took a seat and instantly a little girl came and sat beside us, she looked no more than three years old.  Chris told me that it’s customary for the Togolese people to send one of their children to go sit with a newcomer so they don’t feel lonely or unwelcome.  Every lady that was part of the lady’s group wore their best white embroidered shirts and beautiful colored fabric skirts, and under each of their seats was a silver pot or some sort of gift.

 The service began with some hymns, accompanied by trumpet,  in French and in Ewe (pronounced eh-vay). Once the worship was over, the lead Pastor’s wife welcomed all the ladies and announced they would be starting the ladies service now.  First they were going to exchange gifts with the ladies whom they been praying for this past month or year, I lost that part in translation the other Pastor’s wife who was translating in French spoke so softly and wasn’t aloud to really finish speaking  before the other lady spoke again! But for however long they did pray for each other, they did so without the other lady knowing and would now be revealing who they had been praying for and give them a gift. I looked at the center of the church and saw that that would mean we may be here a while since there were at least 25-30 women sitting in the middle section of the church!!  Chris was right again church was going to be long…I hoped that my poor back would last that long sitting on these very hard pews! The first lady to go was the lead Pastor’s wife, she announced which “Madame”  she had been praying for and they all clapped and got really excited as the lady approached the front of the church dancing.  The ladies hugged and proceeded to sing and dance together.

This went on for an hour…meanwhile behind me sat four kids, three of  which had snuck in some glitter in a dried up tube of glue. They were sharing it amongst themselves and spreading it all over their hands and arms.  The youngest of them decided she was going to smear it across her face! I turned around to see what all the commotion was for, well she looked like a glitter raccoon.  The kids were frantically trying to remove the glitter off her face, but it was so humid and hot in the church that the sweat on her little face had stuck the glitter on pretty good!  I tapped Chris on the shoulder and motioned for her to look behind her. A few minutes later the little boy sitting next to her touched my arm, I turned around and he just looked at me like a deer in headlights…was I going to get mad or would what he had done be ok ?!  I just smiled and he had this look of relief on his face. The glittered girl decided she would do the same thing, this is a frequent thing amongst the children here they all want to touch the Yovo’s (white skin) skin, well her hands were entirely covered in glitter so she left a trail of it on my arm.  She thought that was so funny that she had to do it again. My arm was now green with glitter! This went on for about 10 minutes until I had an entire arm covered with glitter. Then she wanted to touch my hands too, so let’s just say this little game became quite popular and I was now the glittered Yovo!  

Getting glittered! 
Akofa dancing with and her gift 

   Once the gift exchange was over all the ladies danced in a circle with their gifts on their  heads, sang loudly, and marched out of the church. The pastor then did a mini sermon and Chris and I thought afterwards that meant the  service was now over, but we were wrong and Akofa met us at the door and said we needed to go back to our seats they had a couple songs they were going to sing soon.  So we begrudgingly went back to our seats. The ladies came back into the church walking in two lines up to the front of the church while singing. They sang three songs, which reminded me of the music from the movie “The Power of One”, and then marched back out of the church.  They were beautifully sung and made me want to go up and dance with them while worshiping the Lord. Once over we thought for sure this time it was over, but even if it wasn’t I couldn’t sit any longer in the pews my back was beginning to really bother me. I had been suffering from back pain then for over 6 week and sitting on hard surfaces triggered terrible pain across my lower back.  But as we walked towards our car Akofa came over and thanked us for our gifts and for coming but we couldn’t leave yet. She took us both by the arm and lead us down the road to a house, which we later learned was the Pastor’s. They brought out a couple chairs and a table, and now Chris and I were a bit confused as to what was going on. Akofa and several other ladies were going in and out of the house very quickly.   Akofa finally stopped long enough for us to ask her what was going on, well they were going to feed us lunch now! I couldn’t believe it what a truly awesome experience and blessing to partake in this meal. They served us some rice, which contained green beans and a red sauce in it, and beef which was a lot like beef jerky in texture and quite flavorful, and lastly a bottle of soda and told us to enjoy our meal. Akofa said that since we were leaving early and they had planned to feed the whole congregation that the pastor’s wife told them to go and rush home to feed us!  We both felt guilty for leaving early and touched that they went out of their way to include us in this meal. When we finished our meal Akofa showed us all the food they had prepared this morning since 4am! I have never seen so many pots of rice, 50 kg of rice was used to feed this congregation!!

Lunch 
So many pots of rice…there are more behind me…

   Church in Africa is long,  loud, and hot but it is also a beautiful thing to be a part of.  To be able to witness our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Togo worshiping and serving the Lord was pure joy.  For them to see us and take the time to make sure we were included in the meal, even though we had left early, was such a touching  gesture and one I will never forget.

Chris, Akofa, and Elizabeth 



A Day in Togo…

November 20, 2018

By Elizabeth Greenlee

The alarm goes off on Zach´s phone, but my body doesn’t want to wake up or get out of bed. I slowly open my eyes and can´t help but think…¨I´m in Africa!!¨ The sound of birds galore and a rooster, who thinks it is his job to announce what time of day it is at random intervals throughout the day, is how each day starts out here. The coffee pot, which is just as vital here to our survival as it is in California, starts to gurgle. The kids slowly wake up and make their breakfasts. Cereal and milk here are just not the same as back home, no matter how hard they try to close their eyes and pretend that it is. You can actually keep milk out of the fridge until opened. I’m not even kidding. We do have the option of making powdered milk, but none of us are really up for that taste bud adventure yet.

We all do an ant check of the floors and counters. Ants here are ferocious. They can take over quickly and in big numbers. And their bites hurt like the dickens! Once the perimeters have been secured, we reload the ant poison spots if needed and move on to the next chores. The water cooler needs to be changed, which means rinsing the big thing out and replacing the previously frozen water bottles used to chill our water for us with new ones from the freezer. We do this because we don’t have an ice maker and only two ice trays. This makes having cold drinks all day long a little less of a challenge…so we’ve Macgyver’d it and reuse milk bottles as ice jugs.

Once the water cooler is filled and the ice trays emptied and refilled, it´s on to figuring out the meals for the day and prepping accordingly. Mondays are usually bread making,fruit and veggie buying and washing, and laundry days. Actually, everyday is laundry day since it takes about 2 or 3 days to get laundry dried here during the rainy season.

Making bread from scratch has been a fun challenge as I try out recipes and see which ones work best in this EXTREMELY humid climate and with all the new kinds of flour and yeast they have here! I have experimented with the Irish Soda bread, which unfortunately came out looking like a blob that resembled Jabba the Hutt, it tasted more like biscuits than bread. Tried my hand at potato buns, but potatoes here don’t seem to cook all the way through no matter how long I cook them so they didn’t come out look anything like the picture or tasted like the ones we get back home but were good nonetheless. The most success I have had was with french bread and white bread. It seems to turn out the best and last the longest, but once it has sat out for 10 minutes the all powerful African Humidity has sucked out all crispiness from the crust…humidity is unlike any kind of humidity I have ever experienced!

It blows me away how humidity causes so many challenges here. For instance, humidity makes your salt clump up in the shaker to the point that you have to whack it like the Blue Oyster Cult striking a cow-bell. Out of convenience, we have resorted to putting it all in a tupperware. The glue that holds the green scrubby thing onto your duo-sponge for washing dishes falls apart after a few days in this climate. The spices need to be ¨de-clumpefied” with a knife so they too can shake out of the shaker. Every cereal, cracker, chip, cookie, pretzel bag once opened needs to be placed inside a ziplock bag or else it will become soft and gummy! Let’s not get into what the humidity does to our hair and skin.

On Mondays, at around noonish the Veggie lady comes to our compound to sell her produce. It saves us the crazy trip to the market on days when we don’t feel like experiencing the extreme chaos of the market or if we cannot make it to the market we won’t be without produce for the week. I take my large basket, my purse, and a notebook and pen which I use to write the items I purchase and their cost so I can come up with a total…she doesn’t have a cash register or scanner to keep track of this for me. Fruits and veggies here, are as Jerry Seinfeld says “ Fruit’s a gamble. I know that going in…” when you buy fruit you never know how long it will last, if it’s actually ripe, or if it will have critters crawling around in them! I have had my fair share of live beetles in my avocados, that each time I cut into one I’m afraid I will see the dancing legs of a beetle wiggling up in the air! The fruits and veggies available from the veggie lady are onions, beets, pineapples (long white fleshed ones that taste almost like candy), apples (tiny green ones imported from south africa), green peppers (small and not always available), eggs (which are sold in a plateau, which is a flat of 30 eggs for about $4-5 USD), cucumbers, zucchini (which is the biggest gamble since these tiny white worms seem to go crazy over zucchini), tomatoes (which are tiny, weird looking, and just don’t taste as flavorful), lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Once purchased all my produce is off to get washed. I fill two sinks with water and two capfuls of bleach for 20 minutes and then rinsed, chopped up, and stored in the fridge.

Once that’s done, off to laundry mountain I go! A single load of laundry can be a week-long process during the rainy season. Without a dryer the clothes dry inside on a rack or outside when the sun shows it’s face…but you have to be on your toes and ready to run outside to retrieve your laundry at a moment’s time! The washing machine takes a toll on your clothes. Underwear and shirts come out a bit crooked looking and get a little more threadbare with each wash, but c’est la vie en Afrique! The machine, once it is filled sounds like it’s a rocket ship about to blast off into space!

In the middle of all these chores, school is also in session at our dining room table. We start each morning all together and do a bible lesson followed by a French lesson, which I didn’t anticipate being this difficult! Once we have finished with these two Liam, Owen, and Maeve each start their grade appropriate lessons. The boys are pretty much self-sufficient and only need me when they don’t understand something. But Maeve will usually stay in the dining room and do her work while I bake or prep for all the meals for the day. Homeschooling for more than one child and three different grades has been a challenge, but after three months we have a groove going and it goes pretty smoothly for the most part. School starts at 9am so I can have my own bible reading time and enough time to prep for the day. Lunch break is around 12 and lasts until 2pm here. I have embraced this wonderful lunch break, especially on the extremely humid and hot days! Once lunch is eaten and all the many dishes are washed we finish up whatever school work we have left then it’s off to prep dinner. The thing I learned very quickly here is that you need to plan ahead early in the day what you want for your meals that day or else you will be eating spam and crackers for dinner…or in our case lots of backpacking meals, which were provided by our generous supporters! These have come in handy so many nights where the exhaustion has gotten the best of us all and we don’t feel like making a meal from scratch or washing tons of dishes!

Washing dishes three or four times a day has gotten old fast but has made us closer as a family. The kids take turns washing and drying the dishes, and have realized how much work it is to run a household here…and I think I will not have anyone complaining when I ask to fill or load the dishwasher when we return home. We learned on day one that you cannot leave dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink to wash another day because you will have a copious amount of bugs parading in the kitchen enjoying the feast you left behind for them. I swear these ants smell a crumb of food from a mile away!

This wild, crazy, and super hard experience so far has challenged all of us in so many ways. The days are long and this was just a little taste of what a “normal” day is like here. Some days are extremely long and hard while others go by so fast it’s hard to believe the day is gone. But each day God is working in us and strengthening us through these hard times. It has been an emotionally hard four months and some days I just want to pack up my bags and come home, but then something amazing will happen and God reminds me that I’m here to serve Him and to see his name glorified in the good and hard times. I’ve realized that i’m a lot stronger than I thought I was and that His promises to give us strength and be right by our side through it is the only way I have gotten through this time in Africa. Thank you for all your continued prayers, letters, packages, and emails it has helped us immensely through the hard times.


When we don’t even know that we can hope

November 5, 2018

Photo #1:

You might remember Frederick from some previous facebook posts. He is a local kid who has been unofficially adopted by the mission staff. He is 12-years-old and when I arrived in Togo 4 months ago, he still had both legs. In fact, he was walking, although not well. Just like most boys his age, he enjoyed playing soccer.Those kids off in the distance, they would have been his teammates if it weren’t for a bone infection.

Bone infections, called osteomyelitis are not unique to this part of the world, or to developing countries. They happen in the US too, but they often go untreated for prolonged periods of time here for a few reasons.

In Frederick’s case, it started like most cases of osteomyelitis do here, with a skin infection that was untreated, probably some innocuous looking break in the skin that got infected, then went to his bone. When it goes untreated for too long it becomes chronic osteomyelitis. Chronic osteomyelitis, to quote our Pediatrician here at the mission hospital, Russ Ebersole, is the bane of my existence. When Dr. Ebersole says this, which he has on more than one occasion, I can tell that he means it, because his upper lip gets tight an he practically spits the word osteomyeltis. I’m learning to feel the same way, because the stories too often end the same way. Months and months of trying to save a dying extremity, with painful daily dressing changes, dangerously high doses of antibiotics, all at a huge cost of the family, just because we are trying to avoid amputating the leg.

But then we end up waiting too long, the infection spreads, and instead of amputating a foot or ankle, we end up taking a knee or half a femur. Why do we wait too long? Because there are either no means to obtain prosthesis, or no knowledge that they exist.

Photo #2:

 

I don’t know her name. She doesn’t know mine. I just know her because she is my neighbor. Kind of. This young woman lives in the small mountain valley that our hospital shares with the hundreds of coffee sharecroppers that surround us.

I was walking to a nearby waterfall, admiring all of the ripe coffee beans (actually they are the bright red cherries that hide a green coffee bean inside) when we came across this lovely young lady quietly harvesting beans by hand. Christine Penny, a fellow medical missionary from Canada asked her if we could take a picture of her with her harvest. She proudly posed with her delicate harvest for a few photos.

We thanked her and began walking away. As I turned my back to her, she asked me something. Not speaking much of her language, I turned to Chris who said “I think she is asking if you have any candy.”

I shook my head know, but I pulled out a sweet green apple. Her eyes lit up. She gratefully accepted my gift and went back to picking. We walked a little up the trail to catch up with the rest of our hiking party, and my guide said to me, “That’s almost worth a days wages to her.”

The sad truth is that here in Togo, many coffee harvesters make less than $1 a day picking beans. They are vastly underpaid by any standard, and there are a complex set of reasons for this. However, direct- or even fair-trade, are not concepts that have probably even been mentioned to our local coffee harvesters.

The link

I’m not sure how, but somehow, I feel like these two stories are linked. I feel like if I can figure out how, I might be able to restore some hope for both of these gentle children who don’t even know what to hope for.

In the coming weeks, as I start investigating these two stories, and search for the convergence, I will be posting updates on this blog. Please join me and share this blog with others.

Get excited, get hopeful. If we can change the world for even these two people, it will be worth the effort.

Zach Greenlee


Preparations

June 12, 2018

I really am sorry for how long it has taken to update this blog. As you can imagine, we have been incredibly busy with preparations for the mission. So busy, in fact, that I woke up at 2 AM this morning and could not fall back asleep because I kept thinking about things I needed to get done this week. It’s not a very trusting attitude toward God, especially for a missionary, but that’s just one of my many many flaws… but I digress.

Oh, and why is the Africa song by Toto EVERYWHERE these days? What is that all about? I hate to admit that I have never liked that song, it has always reminded me of a dentist office and getting teeth drilled. I must have had some traumatic incident as a kid in a dentist office with that song playing in the background.

Well, as an update, we have quite a bit to accomplish before we depart for Africa on July 18th. We have found a renter. We have found free storage for most of our stuff, not everything, but close. We are still looking for a home for our dog and still haven’t been able to secure a years worth of malaria medication or funding to purchase them.

We still don’t know much about what we will be doing in Togo and are going in kind of blind. I can tell you what my personal preference is though… I want so badly to do Community Health Evangelism and Mobile Clinics. Forays into the rural villages to provide medical aid and investigate ways to address community health issues while also presenting the good news of Jesus resurrected is the kind of thing that makes me choke up with joy.

Here is a short story and description of what that looks like coming from the hospital we will be in from the vantage point of s short-term medical missionary (you can also read this story here and get some more detail into what Community Health Evangelism is):

I had the wonderful privilege of going to one of the off road villages (Kaduaso-Kope) about an hour from HBB.  The village is actually a collection of local farms with the village center being four thatch-roofed school buildings (a brick school is under construction).  There is no market in the village; no dispensary; no pharmacy.  People walk on a dirt road for about five miles for any type of health care – and for buying anything other than what they can grow themselves.

Pastor Lalabia (our chaplain) shared the gospel with all of the villagers who came for the clinic; Gnoyi (a nurse) taught on hypertension; nurses and nurse aides took blood pressures on approximately 230 individuals as they talked with each person individually about their need of a Savior and the peace and joy that only Jesus Christ can give!

We had the opportunity to evaluate children’s height, weight, and arm circumference.  The CHE team set up under a huge tree. Our innovative team members attached a tape measure to a long pole which was set upright against a tree for measuring height, and found a flat board on which to place the scales.  The pastor talked with the kids about how Jesus called the little children to Him.  He then had them line up – and the weighing/measuring began!  288 children later, the measuring was completed!  We will do some analysis of weight-for-age and weight-for-height,  and results will be reported to the village leaders with recommendations related to nutrition and other aspects of health.

I had the privilege of being involved in both ministries:  helping to set children on a contraption they had never seen before (the scales!), which was quite a scary experience for some!  Looking into the faces of moms who were so excited about having their children weighed and measured.  Estimating ages for children (probably only 10% of the children knew their ages; the rest had no idea how old they were)!   Applying a band of cut-up x-ray film, marked with green/yellow/red, around the upper arms of children – in order to evaluate nutritional status.  And also being involved as a nurse practitioner in treating hypertensive and dehydrated patients. Numerous times I told people that they should drink more – not ever thinking, of course, that I might want to consider specifying what they should drink!!  I did not realize until mid-afternoon that some of the villagers had a tchouk bar set up outside the school building where the mobile clinic was meeting.  Some enterprising villagers were taking the opportunity, as long as a crowd was gathered, to sell this locally-made alcoholic beverage!  I started smelling it on people as they came for treatment; saw some evidences in behavior as the day wore on!  Wouldn’t you know it:  the missionary nurse practitioner telling people to drink lots – 2 to 3 liters per day!  But not telling them what to drink (or what not to drink!).  I can imagine numerous villagers, downing the tchouk, while saying that the white missionary sent them!

We ended the day by visiting the chief of the village.  As we entered his compound, we saw a stick set up with the bones and feathers of two old, dry, dead chickens stuck on it.  It is a fetish that is used to ward off evil spirits from his compound.  How sad to realize that this chief – and probably close to 100% of these villagers – believe in such fetishes as the way to ensure protection and health!  Our prayer, our longing – is that God would show these people the wonderful love that He has for them, the fact that Jesus Christ died for them, and that they would realize the futility of trusting in a fetish – and would place their trust in the living God!  Pray, please, that Satan – who now controls these people – would be completely defeated and that God would build His church in this village!


UPDATE: The Big News

April 16, 2018

If you follow us on Facebook or receive our prayer letter update, you may have already heard the big news.

When we reached 85% funding, a big benchmark in missions fundraising, we are faced with a decision that has a sense of finality to it like few others in the process of mission field mobilization. It is time to finalize our date for leaving and purchase 5 one-way tickets to Togo.

Previously, we picked the date, more or less at random, of July 18th to depart. This date was arbitrary and used only to give us a deadline to raise funding. In reality, it would be beneficial to the hospital to leave sooner, but there is much that has to be done. We need the kids to finish their school year first, then We have to rent out our house, put our household items into storage, cancel services like power, cable, internet, sanitation. We also have to figure out who will take care of our finances and home while we are away and find a place for our dog to live for a year.

Mid-July seems feasible at this point still, but before we finalize this date, we need to make quite a few decisions, and ask that you be in prayer for us right now about these things. I’ll post a link to the prayer letter than went out yesterday with our specific prayer requests here.

Thank you again for all of your support, prayers and encouragement through this challenging season.

Zach


You are Plan A (and there is no Plan B)

April 7, 2018

Life moves too slowly for me these days. I recently read an article (you can see it for yourself here) about the five things that people who love change need to know. The principles it discusses rang so true to me, because I do need to slow down and accept that change sometimes takes time. I’ve always held that a sense of urgency in everything you do is a virtuous quality, that probably started in bootcamp. We used to chant, at the behest of our company commanders to you slower shipmates, “Shipmate! Move with a sense of urgency, Shipmate!” we all thought it was kind of funny and ridiculous at the time, but we all got the point. Urgency is deathly serious sometimes. In my world of surgery and emergency medicine, urgency is often what makes the difference between life and death, and it is hard to turn that off. This makes me a good fit for these medical disciplines.

One of the biggest problems with this mindset is that when others do not share my sense of urgency, I get impatient, and more often, discouraged.

My sense of urgency for getting into the mission field is founded in the fact that there is need. The hospital is a busy place. They need extra hands, extra minds, and extra hearts. While I feel needed and appreciated most of the time in my current role as the main OR’s only surgical PA at my hospital, I know that there are a thousand other qualified PAs to fill my position if I were to suddenly cease to exist. In Togo, we don’t see PAs clambering over each other to work in a 40-bed hospital deep in the West African interior.

I will go, though.

The need is great, and the workers are few (sound familiar?). I cannot sit idly by while a need exists that I can fill. I cannot rightly remain comfortable in my large suburban home knowing that I have not given everything to serve those who have the most need.

Ever sicne returnign from my first few weeks in Haiti in 2010, if I allow my mind to really consider my current circumstances, I am filled with frustration at my own mediocrity. I have more than I need, as most of us do. I would sell everything and live from my meager positions in a seabag if it were feasible to do this with a family of five.

I LOVE to share the good news about Jesus with people in relatable and meaningful ways. I love to see God work in the hearts of unbelievers to realize that their life has purpose and meaning, that they are loved not only by me, but ny God, their creator. I want to be the one giving every ounce of my strength to heal and palliate disease and suffering.

From the time that the Lord first pricked my heart to give my life to easing the suffering of others and spreading the gospel to a hurting world to now has seemed exponentially longer than I ever wanted it to be. At 18 years old, I spent a couple of weeks living and working with some missionaries in Honduras. I saw the utter selflessness and joy that they experienced from a lifetime of giving themselves to God’s work, humanitarian aid, and gospel witness, and I knew that this was the life that God had planned for me someday.

It took so long to come to this place. There were so many experiences and hard lessons that I had to learn first. But here we are, on the verge of a momentous breakthrough, and my heart thumps inside of my chest in anticipation. I know my purpose. I’ve found meaning. I am actively and persistently pursuing that to which I and my family have been called. It is time!

But the process takes so excrucitatingly long. July 2018 might as well be a lifetime away as far as my heart is concerned. And then to realize that due to not being totally funded by our projected date, I may have to push back that departure time a full month! Oh boy, does that make my blood pressure climb.

Thank you to those of you who have found your God-given place in this Great Commission. Thank you for realizing that this is not my mission or my family’s mission, but the mission of the church of Jesus. Thank you for your sense of urgency, and love for the lost and suffering people in other nations.

Thank you for praying for us, and please continue to do so. Seek God’s will for your life, the resources that He has given you, and live it out with passion and consistency. We, the church, are God’s “Plan A,” and there is no “Plan B.” His will cannot be thwarted, no matter how formidable to adversary.

We were the ones called to make disciples of all nations. We were the ones called to ease the suffering of the sick. We were the ones called to give to the poor. We were the ones called to give all that we have and folow Jesus. We were the ones called to go unto all the nations. You are part of this, part fo the body. Don’t underestimate the role that God might have you to play in the spread of His Kingdom.


Be Resilient – the struggle is real but the outcome is foretold. 6 principles of resilience.

April 4, 2018

Well, this has been a busy few weeks. Between working a crazy amount of hours, my course work (working toward Advanced PA degree to better serve my patients here and in Togo), teaching PA students, fund raising, and all of the hundreds of things that need to be taken care of before leaving for the mission field, busyness has given birth to a great deal of stress.

I don’t know if you have ever been so busy that you struggle to be productive, but that’s where we are at right now. If not for the amazing stamina and ability of Elizabeth, I’d probably be in a stress-induced coma right now. I’ve been barely able to get out of the bed in the morning, and when I come home, even finding the energy to take a shower seems a chore.

I’ve encountered this kind of busyness and stress a few other times in my life. I think back to when I was a paramedic, working four 12+ hour night shifts every week while managing a full-time load in college, or PA school where we would be in class 9 hours per day and have another 8 hours of studying to do after class while practically living off bread and water for a couple of years.

Just when you think you can’t fit anything else into your schedule, something else gets added.

During my hour or so commute into and home from work, I like to listen to audio books. They are a nice escape from the utter boredom and monotony of the drive. Some of the books I’ve been listening too lately have had a common theme, resilience.

One was about the resilience of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the resilience of soldiers in the second world war, the resilience of Paul in the face of Christian persecution in Rome, and the resilience of missionaries in Africa at the turn of the 20th century. These stories have been humbling, and encouraging. One recent podcast I heard asked the question, “What has happened to the gritty missionaries?” and gave examples like CT Studd, Jim Elliot, Rachel Saint, and Hudson Taylor (if you don’t know who these people are, I strongly suggest looking them up).

And then there was one more book written by a researcher on the psychological strategies of Navy SEALS who are successful with their arduous training. It gave some excellent principles of resiliency that we might all benefit from in the face of difficult times.

Here they are:

#1: You are responsible for absolutely everything

  • Stop Pointing the finger and trying to blame others. Realize that you and you alone are responsible for your own life. If you want to do something, do it. Take extreme ownership.

#2: He who has a why to live can bear almost any how

  • Pursue a mission. When you have a higher purpose – a mission – grit, self-discipline, perseverance, and incredible mental toughness is a natural consequence. So find your “why”.

#3: Create a mental trigger to get through the direst situations

  • Create a mental image – a “trigger” – of the one thing in this world that is most important to you. When you face the direst of situations or are on the brink, pull the trigger and remind yourself of this image.

#4: Systems, processes, and discipline equals freedom

  • Create a daily routine. Create systems and processes in your life so that you can get things done faster and more efficiently

#5: The 4 keys to mental toughness

  1. Set goals. Set bite-sized goals. Focus on what is right in front of you, not on all the pain and suffering yet to come. Create small goals that move you toward a larger goal – your mission, your “higher purpose”.
  2. Mentally prepare. Mentally visualize any tough situations you need to go through in order to train your mind to remain calm, cool, and collected during these stressful situations rather than going into it’s instinctive “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.
  3. Master self-talk. Talk to yourself positively. Create a powerful prayer, memorize a bible verse, or a short, encouraging statement of your own making to repeat to yourself in times of hardship.
  4. Arousal control. When in incredibly demanding and stressful situations, practice the 4×4 deep breathing technique (take a breath in for 4 seconds and out for four seconds). It will help to physiologically override your brain and body’s instinctive stress response and get your mind and body back in the game.

#6: The 3 components of resilience

  1. Have a mission. A higher purpose. The relates directly back to principle #2 – he who has a why can bear almost any how
  2. If applicable to your own life, use the power of teamwork to achieve specific goals.
  3. Reframe difficulty as growth. See failure, hardship, and pain not as something to be avoided but as something to be embraced as a way to develop oneself and grow.

#7: The 40% rule

  • When you feel like you’re done and can’t possibly do any more, realize that you’re still only at 40% mark. You’ve still got 60% left in the tank, so roll up those sleeves, grit those teeth, and push on.

 

To achieve goal, we must experience mistakes, stumbling, failure, and disappointment. In medicine, ministry, and life these are daily experiences. The resilient people get back to their feet, dust off their pants and, like Captain America, look that obstacle or failure in the eye and say “I can do this all day.”

Here are some Bible verses that have been helpful for me, and knowing the context of each as a source of inspiration is also helpful:

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2 Timothy 1:7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Micah 7:8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

 

I’m preaching to myself right now, but in a world that seems increasingly hostile to those who stand firm in their faith, remember that we are not at war with mankind, but with principalities, and our strength comes from the Lord.

Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.