Monday, September 25, 2017

I Pledge Allegiance

I will begin this post by stating I am extremely blessed to be an American citizen. It is an honor and a gift to be a part of this great country and the freedom that accompanies it. I have many family members and friends who served or are still serving in our armed forces. I myself have never served our fine country, but many of my loved ones have. And to them, their families, and all who have served and are currently serving I say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

While growing up I attended a Christian school from kindergarten through 8th grade. Almost every day in grade school we would recite three separate pledges. We would recite one to the American flag, one to the Christian flag, and one to the Bible.

Here are the pledges if you've never heard or read them before:

Pledge to the American Flag:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Pledge to the Christian Flag:
I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe.

Pledge to the Bible:
I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God's Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.

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Over the last 8 years or so I have thought about the phrase "I pledge allegiance" quite a bit.

Merriam Webster defines allegiance as:
1. the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord
2. the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to a sovereign or government
3. the obligation of an alien to the government under which the alien resides
4. devotion or loyalty to a person, group, or cause
5. allegiance to a political party

So if I pledge an allegiance to something, I am making a binding promise, agreement, and obligation to be devoted and loyal to that cause or person or group.

I have pledged allegiance to my wife. It's not illegal for me to cheat on my wife according to the law of the land, but it is against the Word of God for me to cheat on my wife (Exodus 20:14). So my allegiance to my God overrides my allegiance to my country. And God's law overrides the law (or sometimes lack of law) of my country. This is a silly and extreme example, but you get my point.

I have decided to pledge allegiance to my country. BUT, I pledge allegiance to Jesus first and foremost.

The Bible encourages us to obey our leaders, those in authority, and the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, 1 Peter 2:13-14, Matthew 22:21). Yet we read stories of MANY followers who disobey the empire and the religious authorities and then they are persecuted, imprisoned, and martyred for their disobedience. All throughout the Old Testament and New Testament we read of people being defiant and disobeying the laws of the land and governing authorities.

Why is this so? Is the Bible contradicting and inconsistent? Were these people in sin?

They did these things and disobeyed laws and authority because their allegiance was pledged to God first. In Acts, Peter and John were warned on numerous occasions to stop speaking of Jesus and preaching the Gospel or else there would be consequences. But Peter and John did not obey the authorities or religious leaders. In Acts 5:29 they said, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

There will be times where we need to choose which kingdom we are going to serve and pledge our allegiance to. Will you choose to obey the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of America? Will you pledge allegiance to the Kingdom or to the empire?

In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to choose between the two, but there are many times where the two kingdoms will be at odds. So please do not be confused with the idea that pledging allegiance to America or standing for a national anthem is synonymous with being a Christian OR vice versa.

In the book Jesus For President, Shane Claiborne compares the language used to describe Jesus and God's Kingdom and the language used to describe Caesar and the Roman empire. They are one and the same. (King of kings, Lord of lords, Prince of peace, Son of God, etc.) This is no accident. The language used in the Gospels was an incredibly political statement, and the Roman empire did not like it!

Jesus embraced ideas that were contrary to the ways of the Roman empire, the religious authorities, and the culture of the time. And Jesus was hated and ultimately killed for the views He held and the Gospel and Kingdom He preached.

Taking a knee for a national anthem does not automatically mean someone is being dishonorable and disrespectful. At times has it been dishonorable? Yes. At times has it been done in an incorrect and even unhelpful way? Yes. But the reason(s) many of these athletes are taking a knee is to bring something to light. They are trying to help people groups that are oppressed and hurting. Jesus had a similar calling on His life.

In Luke 4:18 Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;"

Maybe some of us are blind and need a recovery of sight so we can open our eyes and see certain systems and ways our country operates that causes people and specific people groups to be poor, brokenhearted, made captive, and oppressed. If that is so, then Jesus has come to heal us of that blindness. He has come to help those hurting people, and He has called Christians to be involved in that healing process.

Is kneeling for a national anthem popular and enjoyable? No, not at all! It opens people up to be ridiculed and name called. So this is not enjoyable for the athletes, but it is bringing attention to an issue that needs to be addressed. They aren't protesting our country, our soldiers, or our flag. They are protesting inequality, injustice, and oppression. It's important that we make a distinction between the two.

The point of a peaceful protest is to make people uncomfortable. To make them uncomfortable enough to question things and to begin to be a part of the conversation. A peaceful protest is a good way to bring things to light. People are paying attention. It's making waves and that's a good thing!

Many times the views held that are contrary to culture are not popular ones to hold AT THE TIME. But in hindsight, we can only look back and shake our heads in sorrow and disbelief. Click here for a link to some different polls done about the civil rights movement back in the 1960s. Some of the polls include:

May 1961- Do you think 'sit-ins' at lunch counters, 'freedom buses,' and other demonstrations by Negroes will hurt or help the Negro's chances of being integrated into the South?
57% Hurt, 28% Help, 16% No opinion

June 1963- Do you think mass demonstrations by Negroes are more likely to help or more likely to hurt the Negro's cause for racial equality?
27% Help, 60% Hurt, 4% Make no difference

October 1964- People have different views about the Negro demonstrations. With which view do you agree? Some people say the Negroes should stop their demonstrations now that they have made their point even though some of their demands have not been met. Others say they have to continue demonstrating in order to achieve better jobs, better housing, and better schooling. (With which view do you agree?)
73% Negroes should stop demonstrating, 19% Have to continue, 8% Don't know

March 1965- How would you feel about clergymen in your own church taking part in protest marches on civil rights issues. Would you approve or disapprove of this?
33% Approve, 56% Disapprove, 12% No opinion

October 1966- All in all, do you feel the demonstrations by Negroes on civil rights have helped more or hurt more in the advancement of Negro rights?
85% Hurts Negro, 15% Helps Negro

December 1966- Tell me for each man if in your opinion you think he is helping or hurting the Negro cause of civil rights... Martin Luther King?
36% Helping, 50% Hurting, 14% Not sure

Looking back at these poll numbers is very telling. Many of us can agree that these protests were not only helpful, but necessary. And many of us would choose to be involved in peaceful protests to help our oppressed brothers and sisters, our fellow Americans. Isn't it likely that we will look back at this time we are currently in and make the same conclusions?

I would venture to say that these athletes taking a knee are much more similar to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in Babylon in Daniel 3 choosing to take a stand and not kneel than they are a "son of a bitch" that needs to be fired. Although Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did pretty well when they were "fired" by the king of Babylon.

In an article I recently read, author Preston Sprinkle wrote, "When governments pitch themselves as the hope and savior of the world, Christians must expose the fraudulent claim, not celebrate it."

It is more important now than ever that we are united as a Church, a country, and a people. Our country and our president will not be the changemaker. It will be Jesus and the people that choose to be used by Him.

My allegiance is pledged to Jesus before any allegiance to my flag or to my country. I am a citizen of heaven. I am a citizen of God's Kingdom before I am a citizen of the United States. And therefore, I want to live and speak accordingly. I hope you will choose to do the same!

Once that happens and we are united, I'm sure our America can continue to be "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" as our national anthem states.

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Monday, August 14, 2017

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

In the last few blogs I have been writing about peace. First of all, I wrote about how we can be at peace with God and have a relationship with Him. Secondly, I wrote about the yoke or specialty teaching Jesus taught His disciples, which is peace for our souls. Then I wrote about the importance of being led by peace and also the importance of pursuing peace in our relationships. For this final article, I will write about how people that make peace will be blessed.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” One of the characteristics of a son of God, or a mature and developed Christian, is that they will be peacemakers. And when you are a peacemaker, you will be blessed.

I like the way the Amplified Bible says it, “Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!”

The makers AND maintainers of peace will be blessed regardless of their outward conditions. As Christians, our peace should not be solely determined by our outward circumstances. We can be at peace AND help others be at peace no matter what we are going through. This is possible with the help of Jesus!

When we commit to being a peacemaker, peace keeper, and peace maintainer in our own life, in our own family, and in our close relationships; then that peacemaking will begin to spill over into other areas of our life and into other relationships as well. We need to practice peace and peacemaking in our own lives first and then we can make peace and help others experience peace in their lives. Being a consistent peacemaker will give us opportunities to continue to help others.

Notice in Matthew 5:9 that Jesus didn't say, “Blessed are those who enjoy peace,” or “those that want peace.” He said, “Blessed are those that make peace.” Making peace means there is a situation where peace does not currently exist. Making peace in a situation where there is no peace can be hard work, but this is what we are called to as Christians!

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Peacemakers are not merely people pleasers. At times, peace making may actually stir people up and cause them to become upset because they are comfortable with where they're at and they don't want to change. But those are the kind of situations we are specifically called to help make peace in. That's the way Jesus lived and we are called to live in a similar fashion.

So sometimes we need to call people out (in love) if they are acting out in a hurtful and childlike manner. I speak to my 3 year old son when he throws a tantrum and I correct him. He needs to know what kind of behavior is not acceptable and he also needs to know that such behavior is not supported by myself, explicitly or implicitly. We need to do the same when it comes to social issues and standing up for our neighbors. We need to help make peace where there is no peace. Like in Charlottesville right now, we must hold our white brothers and sisters accountable and attempt to help make peace in a peaceless situation. It's not easy, but it is the Gospel Jesus told us to bring to the world.

Now, I would call Jesus a peacemaker but I definitely wouldn't call Him a people pleaser! People attempted to kill Jesus on numerous occasions because of things He said or did! So don't get peacemaking confused with people pleasing, they are not the same. And don't be surprised when our peacemaking causes people to sometimes react negatively. If people got offended and angry with Jesus, then they're probably going to do the same to us as well! (John 15:18-21)

James 3:18 says, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Those who make peace, the peacemakers, will sow in peace the fruit of righteousness. Being a peacemaker and living in peace gives us the ability to live a righteous life. To live life connected to God, life as it should be, life as God originally intended it to be. But it is impossible to live that way if we don't know how to be people of peace.

One third of the Kingdom of God is peace (Romans 14:17). If we aren't living lives full of peace, then we are missing out on 1/3 of the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and let us be a part of! The peacemakers are to become peace diffusers. Peacemakers recover the peace when it is broken, and they are blessed for it.

Jesus has given us the gift and the tools to live in peace, but He won't make us use them. We need to choose to live in peace and make peace and use what He has already given us. It isn't up to Him, it's up to us. The ball is in our court. The choice is ours. So I encourage you today to be a peacemaker in your own life and then be a person that can bring the Prince of Peace—Jesus—into the lives of those who don't yet know Him!

In John 13:35 Jesus said, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

If we have been with Jesus and been taught by Him, then we will look and act like Him as well. It's about time we Christians start being who and Whose we claim to be! Make a difference. Make peace and be love to those you come in contact with!

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pursue Peace

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Notice the two qualifiers in this verse. First, it says “if” it is possible, not “it is possible.” Second, it says “as much as depends on you.”

It’s not always possible to live at peace with every single person. There are some people who, no matter what we do, are still going to choose to be angry and hurtful. In those cases, it doesn’t have anything to do with us, it has to do with their pain and their hurt. We are still to love them and pray for them and attempt to be at peace with them. But it takes two in any relationship, and sometimes being at peace with someone is out of our hands. We all have to make our own choice and decision to be at peace with other people.

So Paul says, if it is possible or if others will let you, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably or be at peace with ALL men.

We are to pursue peace with ALL people. No matter their belief, religion, personality, past, criminal record, social status, etc., we are to seek to be at peace with them. There's no asterisk here disqualifying certain people groups or personalities. God doesn't let us off the hook just because it might be difficult or take some hard work. He wants us to attempt to live peaceably with everyone we come in contact with.

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In Romans 12:18 in the New Living Translation it says, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Am I doing ALL that I can—everything within my own power and ability—to live in peace with EVERYONE? We are to do our best to live in peace! We are to do nothing on our part to prevent peace!

Very few people operate in the “as much as depends on you”, but instead the “as long as it’s easy and comfortable.” We can’t make someone live at peace with us, but we can be a reflection of Jesus by forgiving and loving them, no matter what their response may be.

When circumstances do arise where it's not possible to be at peace with someone, we need to make sure we aren't the reason it's not possible. We should have already made our choice to attempt to be at peace with them. We can always look to the life of Jesus, for He is our perfect example and the standard we are to compare ourselves to.

We can be at peace with others even if they choose not to be at peace with us. It's very similar to choosing to forgive someone instead of holding a grudge. We can forgive people even if they don't ask for forgiveness or show remorse. That's what Jesus decided to do even while dying on the cross. In Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

Jesus chose to be at peace with His executioners and to love them, even if they didn't react or respond in a similar fashion. It would be a very different story if Jesus instead was cussing them out and cursing them! How often is peace lost in our lives and relationships because of the words we say?

In Titus 3:2 in the Voice Bible it says, “Don’t tear down another person with your words. Instead, keep the peace, and be considerate. Be truly humble toward everyone”

In Hebrews 12:14 it says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” That word “pursue” means to follow after, run after, seek after eagerly and earnestly, and to strive for.

If we don't pursue peace and holiness in our lives, people won't see the Lord! If we aren't living lives full of peace, joy, hope, and love then why would people want to hear from us?

If we are known as the mean or angry person at work or in our family, then why would people ever come to us for help or for spiritual guidance? As followers of Jesus, we should be different! It should be apparent that we are Christians! It was apparent in Jesus' life and in the lives of His disciples.

You will not be an effective witness for Jesus without living a consistent life of peace. So I want to encourage you today to be like Jesus, be someone who does everything in your own power and ability to pursues peace with ALL people.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Led By Peace

In my last blog I talked about the specialty teaching or yoke of Jesus, which is peace for our souls. One part of following Jesus and being His disciple is becoming a person led by peace instead of being controlled solely by our bad feelings and outward circumstances. Today I want to talk about being a person that is led by peace.

In Colossians 3:15 we are told to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. The phrase “to rule” means: to be an umpire, to decide, to determine, to direct, or to control. So we are to let the peace of God rule, umpire, decide, determine, direct, and control our hearts and our lives.

What does an umpire do in a baseball game? He calls the shots. He calls whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. He determines whether someone is out or safe. Peace is supposed to do the same in our lives. The peace of God should be calling the shots in our lives. We don't have to be controlled by other feelings if we don't want to be!

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How often are the decisions we make in life determined by feelings other than peace? Feelings of frustration, worry, anger, stress, fear, peer pressure, work problems, money problems, family or relationship problems, etc. The list goes on and on, but we aren't supposed to be controlled by (and we don’t have to be controlled by) those feelings and situations. In Colossians 3 Paul encourages us to let God’s peace control our actions and our words.

While growing up I had a father who was abusive and after 13 years of marriage my parents got divorced. I was in 5th grade at that time, and as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home I became a very angry young man. For a time I hated my dad and wanted little to do with him. I definitely wasn't letting the peace of God rule in my heart. I was letting anger, bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness rule in my life.

When I was about 19, Jenny (now my wife) and I first started talking and one time she asked what my middle name was and I told her it was Thomas. She said, “Joel Thomas Juni, I like that.” I responded, “That's the first time I've ever heard someone say my full name and I liked it. I hate my dad and his name is Thomas.” (Maybe not one of the best conversations to have with a brand new promising relationship haha!) But thankfully Jenny was loving and gracious enough to look past my baggage and see the man I could become.

Around the same time as meeting Jenny, I learned a type of prayer where I was able to truly forgive my father and trade those bad feelings for something much better, the peace of God. I learned through experience what 1 Peter 5:7 in the Amplified Bible says, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.”

I learned to forgive my dad and trade all of those feelings of worry and stress and cares once and for all for the peace of God. I experienced the peace that surpasses understanding and doesn't make sense to onlookers (Philippians 4:7). I knew and experienced truth for myself and the truth from Jesus set me free from my past (John 8:32).

I now have a great relationship with my dad and love him very much. Jenny and I even named our son Andrew Thomas, after both of his grandpas. I am at peace with my dad even though he has never asked for forgiveness for what he did. The bitterness and anger I held all those years harmed me just as much or more than it harmed him.

I now look up to my dad and can see many great things I can learn from him. I don't see him through my filters of unforgiveness and anger any longer, but instead through a lens of love and the way our Father sees him. I don't write this blog to dishonor him in any way, but instead to point to the goodness of God and the reality of the redemption and making things right again Jesus is able to do in our lives! (Even in, or especially in, unhealthy and difficult situations we may face.)

We can either let peace rule our hearts and our lives or let the cares and burdens of this world rule our lives. We have the choice. And from experience, I can guarantee the peace of God is a much easier, healthier, and more fulfilling way to live!

The man that taught me how to hear from God and deal with my issues in a healthy way is Larry Low. He is a great pastor, friend, and man of God from rural Iowa. I truly believe I owe my life to this man and his teachings. I really don't know where I would be without the truth he shared with me about 10 years ago! He has some great resources on his website including books, dvds, and teachings at

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Yoke of Peace

In my last blog I talked about the importance of understanding that we can be at peace with God, meaning we can choose to have a relationship with God. This week I want to talk about Jesus’ specialty teaching, the yoke of peace.

When we read the Bible it is important to understand that it was written during a particular time period, to a certain people group, and within a certain culture. The Bible is still for us today and the Truth within transcends time and culture, but we still need to read the Bible through the lens of its historical context if we want to understand it fully.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

When we read the word yoke, most of us would think of a wooden beam that connects two animals together, like oxen, in order to pull some sort of heavy load or wagon. While this is one definition of a yoke, this is not the yoke Jesus was talking about in this passage.

During Jesus’ time the Jewish religious leaders were called rabbis. These rabbis were the best of the best—the cream of the crop. In Hebrew culture, becoming a rabbi was every boy’s dream job. If you made the cut after years and years of study, hard work, education, and memorization you could become a rabbi. If you didn't make the cut, you would take part in the family trade or family business.

If you became a rabbi you were allowed to begin to teach others about God and the written and oral Hebrew traditions. The student would become a teacher. The rabbis were able to choose the people they wanted to teach. When asking someone to become a disciple, the rabbis would say something like, “Come follow me.” The students the rabbis chose were then called disciples.

Matthew 4:19-20, “Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him.”

The disciples Jesus chose and asked to follow Him in Matthew 4 were fishermen. They were in the family business of fishing. They hadn't made the cut to become rabbis or disciples, but Jesus still chose them! This is why they dropped their nets and everything else they were doing and left their lives and livelihood to follow Jesus. Their dreams had come true, they didn't have to be fishermen any longer, they could become disciples of a rabbi!

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Once a rabbi chose some people, they would have their own specialty teaching or focus to pass on to their followers, their disciples. This specialty teaching of a rabbi was called a yoke.

In Matthew 11 Jesus told us to learn from Him and take on His yoke, His specialty teaching, and then we would find rest for our souls. Jesus offers ALL who follow Him the gift of peace and rest for your whole person- spirit, soul, and body.

Are you worn out, stressed, exhausted, or tired? Or are you content, at peace, and rested? The answer to that question will tell you whether you're carrying the yoke of Jesus, your own yoke, or someone else’s yoke.

If you've been with Jesus and been taught by Jesus, then you will look and act like Jesus. Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”

We can be like our Teacher. We can be like Jesus. A teacher can not force the student, the disciple, to learn. We have the choice to learn and to obey. We have the choice to do something with what we are taught by Jesus. Jesus' yoke, His specialty teaching, was peace and rest for our souls. We can live life in a pain filled world and still look like Jesus!

If a peace filled life seems out of reach or unattainable, then I would love to chat with you sometime. Peace is available and it is wonderful! Remember, Jesus chose fishermen to be His followers. So you don't have to be anything special in your eyes or in other people’s eyes in order to follow Jesus and be chosen by Him. You are already special in His eyes, and He is saying to you today, “Come follow Me!”

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Peace With God

Last month I was given the opportunity to share a devotional once a week in a local newspaper. I figured since the articles were already written, I would also post them here on my blog. During July I shared 5 articles about the importance of being a person of peace. Here is the first article I wrote, which speaks about the fact that we are able to be at peace with God and have relationship with Him.

We are all capable of being a person of peace. No matter what we have done, we are not too far gone. God used people in the Bible that were murderers and adulterers. By today’s standards, Paul would have even been considered a terrorist, and he ended up writing 13 books of the New Testament! So don't you dare think you're a lost cause! God still wants to be in relationship with you. Don't count yourself out!

To begin, I want to introduce the idea that we can be at peace with God. God wants to be at peace with us. God wants to be in relationship with us. We were created to have relationship and fellowship with Him. In Romans 5:1 it says that we can have peace with God through Jesus Christ. So, peace with God is possible because of Jesus!

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When my wife and I have an argument, we are no longer at peace with one another. The argument isn't resolved by avoiding it or sweeping it under the rug, that only allows it to fester and get worse. Instead, we need to come together and speak with one another in order for peace to be reinstated.

In First Corinthians 1:9 it says that we were called into fellowship with God. That word for fellowship means “communion, communication, joint participation, and intimacy.” So we are all called to be at peace with God. Part of our purpose in life is to be in an ever growing intimate relationship with God. We need to be at peace with someone before we will want to have a relationship with them. And we need to have a relationship with someone before we begin to share our lives with them and our deepest secrets and most intimate moments.

When I first met my wife I didn't air out all of my dirty laundry right away, I would have scared her away! But over time, as we built trust and intimacy, I shared all of my life with her. The good and the bad. My wife and I know everything about one another. That is intimacy. But that kind of relationship doesn't just happen over night. It takes time and it takes work. It takes commitment.

There are no shortcuts in getting to know someone, including God. Fellowship is vital to relationship. Building a relationship takes quality time AND quantity of time. My wife and I spent MANY hours on the phone as we got to know one another and as we built our relationship. And within those many hours we shared our hearts. We shared our dreams and hopes and desires. We understood that we would never have a deep relationship until we knew deep things about one another.

The same goes in a relationship with God. We know God only by having fellowship with Him.

I enjoy learning about WWII history. I've read some books, watched some movies, and attended some classes that taught on the subject. Because of my studying and the time I've put into the topic, I know some things about Adolf Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, and Douglas MacArthur.

History talks about what these men did and about some of their character traits. But reading all the history books in the world on the subject does not mean I know these men personally. I could even be an "expert" on the subject without ever knowing the real people. Even though I know some of the history and some of what is recorded about them, I DO NOT know them.

Just because I read a biography or watched a movie about someone doesn’t mean I know them personally. Getting to know someone comes from spending quality time with them. If all you ever do is read your Bible and never fellowship with God, then you will know a lot ABOUT Him but you still might not KNOW Him.

How many religious people are so called "experts" about the Lord, yet have never had a genuine real experience with God!? This shouldn't be the case!

So I want to encourage you to be at peace with God. Pursue a relationship with Him and grow in intimate fellowship with Him. Get to know Him and join a community of believers (a church family) that can join you on that journey. You will not be disappointed!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Monday, April 17, 2017

Turn Aside

In Exodus 3:1-6 it says,
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Moses was a shepherd. He was in the desert by himself tending to his father in law's flock of sheep. He was doing his every day normal routine, but this day was about to be much different! God should be able to find us being faithful in the place(s) where He has called us. We need to be good stewards of the little and not despise small beginnings!

In verse 2 it says that Moses looked and saw a burning bush. This was most likely not an uncommon occurrence, but there was something different about this burning bush. So Moses decided to turn aside and look at it again. Moses decided to inspect it and examine it more closely. God notices that Moses turned aside and that's when the Lord speaks to Moses.

Just looking and seeing the bush burning isn't what caused God to speak to Moses. It was when Moses turned aside and continued to look that He spoke to Moses.

God didn't shout from the bush to get his attention. God waited until He saw Moses turn aside to see and look again. That's when God spoke. Many times we don't hear God speaking because we aren't listening. We aren't taking the time to seek Him and turn aside and listen.

In verse 6 it says Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look upon God. I want to take us on a quick journey through Exodus and Moses' life in order to see the progress and change in his relationship with the Lord. Remember that in chapter 3 Moses is fearful and hiding his face from the Lord.

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After this defining moment at the burning bush, Moses continued to hear from the Lord and obey and grow in closer relationship with Him. Moses saw the plagues in Egypt, he saw God deliver Israel out of Egypt, he saw the Lord split the Red Sea, and he saw the Lord deliver Israel from pharaoh and His army pursuing them.

Moses saw Israel provided for miraculously while in the wilderness. They followed a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. They were provided with manna while in the wilderness. They were provided with water from rocks. They were delivered from numerous enemies on multiple occasions.

Now skipping ahead to Exodus 20, in verses 18-21 it says,
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.

Moses is no longer fearful and hiding his face from the Lord like he did at the burning bush in chapter 3. Now he is drawing near to "the thick darkness" where there is thunder, lightning, trumpet sounds, and smoke. The same happenings that were causing the rest of Israel to pull away, tremble in fear, and only be bystanders was causing Moses to behave in a completely different manner These things were causing Moses to turn aside and draw closer, not pull away in fear.

"Even if God speaks audibly from Heaven, some people would only hear it as the sound of thunder. The difference between the deaf and the hearing is not how loud God speaks, but how open we are to hear Him speak." - Kris Vallotton

Moses went up on the mountain many times to be with the Lord and receive instruction and direction from Him. Moses dedicated time to being with the Lord. There were at least two separate 40 day stretches where Moses was on the mountaintop with the Lord, besides the many other shorter periods of time. He did this out of hunger. He did this out of necessity. Moses continued to turn aside and seek the Lord.

Moses changed from being a man scared of the Lord and hiding his face to a man that spent incredible amounts of time with the Lord. In Exodus 32 he talked the Lord out of killing all of Israel after they made the golden calf. The same guy who was scared to talk to pharaoh was now bold enough to speak to God and change God's mind! That's a HUGE change, but that change didn't happen over night! It was a long process. This change came out of an ever deepening intimate relationship with the Lord.

In Exodus 33:7-11 it says,
Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp. So it was, whenever Moses went out to the tabernacle, that all the people rose, and each man stood at his tent door and watched Moses until he had gone into the tabernacle. And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.

Moses pursued the Lord. Moses worshipped before something happened or until the Lord came. The people of Israel only worshipped after the Lord had already come.

Moses was proactive and the people were only reactive. All but Joshua. And who took over as leader once Moses was dead? Joshua! The Lord spoke to Moses face to face as a friend. Joshua hungered for the same kind of relationship as Moses. Joshua was desperate and hungry as well!

A good question we can ask ourselves: Am I a true worshipper or am I only a reactor?

Later in this same chapter Moses prays an amazing prayer, and this prayer shows just how much he has grown in relationship with the Lord and how truly dependent he was on the Lord. In verse 15 Moses prays, "Then he said to Him, 'If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.'" And in verse 18 he says to the Lord, “Please, show me Your glory.” And in chapter 34 we read that Moses was spending so much time with the Lord and in such close relationship that his face was actually shining!

What if we lived in such a way!? Moses wouldn't leave a place unless the presence of the Lord left first. It sounds very similar to the way Jesus lived. Jesus only said what the Father told Him to say and only did what the Father showed Him to do. They were completely connected in relationship and dependence. We were created to live in the same fashion.

Moses spoke face to face with the Lord as a friend. Moses wouldn't leave a place unless the presence of the Lord left first. Moses wanted to see the glory of the Lord and the Lord honored his request and passed before Him! And finally, the face of Moses was shining with the glory of God. But I believe that none of those things would've happened if Moses had not first turned aside at the burning bush to see the Lord.

Seeking precedes finding.

Deuteronomy 4:29 says, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul."

We will find Him IF we seek Him with everything we have!

In A.W. Tozer's book The Pursuit of God he writes, "Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted."

2 Chronicles 16:9a says, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him."

The Lord is searching for those that love Him and want Him. He's looking for those that are hungry! He's seeking those that He can show Himself strong to.

I want to encourage you today to take the time to stop and turn aside and diligently seek God with your whole heart. He waits to be wanted!

He's waiting for those that will choose to turn aside.

Shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Hernia Disappeared! The Power of Testimony

Last year while doing a small remodeling project in my kitchen I felt something tear in my lower right abdomen as I was lifting something heavy. It didn't bother me at first so I didn't think about it or give it much thought. But a few months later I began working at Menards and was lifting 50 pound bags of dog food and bird seed multiple times a day. I was fine at first but after a couple of months of working there it started to aggravate my stomach, caused me a lot of pain, and also made me super fatigued. After working only 4-5 hours I would need to come home and nap for 2-3 hours. It totally wore me out.

One day it was causing me so much pain that I decided to go into urgent care. After being there for an hour or two they weren't able to tell me much. I don't even remember what they thought it was. They just ruled out the possibility of it being something serious like my appendix or gall bladder and sent me home. I then scheduled an appointment with a natural homeopathic doctor we sometimes visit and he was able to see me pretty quickly. He let me know that I had an inguinal hernia and the pain was being caused by the hernia pinching off a nerve or vessel to my testicles. So basically it felt like I was getting kicked in the nuts ALL the time! (All the males reading are now cringing and feeling uncomfortable haha!) Every 10-15 minutes I would be in super bad pain for a couple of minutes as this vessel was pinched off. Not fun at all.

After seeing this doctor he believed I could most likely avoid surgery and he gave me some stretches to do and some natural remedy stuff to take. He also put me on weight restrictions and running restrictions for awhile. I wasn't allowed to lift more than 20 pounds and I couldn't run or jog. I believe the weight restrictions were for 2 weeks and the running restrictions were for a whole month. I did what he prescribed and after a couple of days I wasn't in excruciating pain any more and it got to the point where I was feeling pretty good again.

Fast forward to April of 2017. I have been mostly pain free and the hernia hasn't bothered me much. It has only caused me bad pain about 10 times in the last 6 months but I can still feel it bulging out pretty often. It is especially easy to find at night when laying in bed or right after lifting something heavy. So it has been manageable, but it is still there and limits me at times. I am very mindful of where my son jumps on me, because it doesn't feel very good when he lands on that spot!

Last weekend I attended a Christian men's conference at a camp on Lake Koronis in Paynesville, MN. I have attended the weekend men's conference half a dozen times or more over the years and this camp is also where I attended church youth camp as a teenager. I have some very fond memories of the camp and of the things I have experienced in the Lord over the years there. It is a special place to me and I always expect to experience the Lord when I attend meetings there.

During the first evening service, Pastor Brad Brede, the minister who holds the men's conference as well as the youth camp, was ministering and sharing about what the Lord has been doing in his ministry as he travels all over the United States. During this time he gave a testimony of someone being healed of a hernia during one of his services without even being prayed for. When I heard this testimony I quietly said under my breath, "I receive that for myself Lord!"

I didn't feel any different at the time, but I was full of faith and hope (joyful and confident expectation) because I know the power of testimony. After the service I felt my stomach and couldn't find the hernia. I felt for it that night while in bed and couldn't find it then either. Jesus healed me! Praise God!!!

I understood the power of testimony because I had studied and taught a message on the topic in May of last year at my church. While studying, I had learned that in the Old Testament the word testimony comes from a word meaning “do again.”

Photo courtesy of

Testimony acts a lot like a magnifying glass, it attracts and amplifies what God can "do again." Testimonies reveal what we can expect God to "do again." Sharing our testimony encourages and imparts faith and releases God’s power to perform similar acts, miracles, signs, and wonders again.

God is actually limited when we do not recount and give witness and testify of His acts of blessing and power (Acts 4:33). True testimony has life in it! In Mark 16:14 Jesus actually rebuked the disciples when they didn't believe the testimony of Him being risen.

So when I heard the testimony of the man's hernia being healed, I not only knew the power of testimony but I also expected Jesus to do it again! Jesus is our Healer and by His stripes we were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

Photo courtesy of Brade Brede 

Expectation is a very important part of our Christian faith and the Church. Without expectation there is little life, and without life the Church is no longer a living Body but a museum or even worse, a graveyard. Have you ever attended a church or a service with no expectation and very little life? Such services have little to do with a living relationship with a living God, but are mainly dead religious exercises. There is little life and because of that there are very few testimonies of life.

In the book When Heaven Invades Earth Bill Johnson writes, "The testimony of God creates an appetite for more of the activities of God. Expectation grows wherever people are mindful of His supernatural nature and covenant. When the expectation grows, miracles increase. When the miracles increase, testimonies increase as well. You can see the cycle... The reverse is also true."

If I didn't believe Jesus is our Healer or that healing is for us today, then I probably wouldn't expect God to heal me or to heal others. But I do expect God to heal people when I pray for them, and they get healed! If I didn't expect healing then I doubt people would get healed as often as they do.

Your life testimony and the testimonies of what God has done in your life are some of your greatest evangelism tools! So I want to encourage you today, to not only be bold and share your testimony of what God has done and what God is doing in your life, but also expect God to do it again through the power of testimony and the power of the Holy Spirit! God is not a respecter of persons, what He has done once He will "do again"!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shake the Earth

At the end of almost all, if not all, of my blog posts I sign off with the phrase "shake the earth." This phrase has a lot of meaning to me and it all originated from one of my favorite bands in high school. The band was called Chapters and Verses and my favorite song they played was called Shake the Earth. It is still my favorite song to this day.

Here are the lyrics:
I'll say it loud, at the top of my lungs.
And I'll drop my guard, just hear me out this time.
My life is empty, and my ending's ruined. And I am nothing without you.
I slept but my heart was awake. I slept but my heart was awake.
We sing, and we burn before you. We're broken.
We love, and we hate before you. We're broken.
Take charge, of all these ruins. We need this. We need this.
You give us something to hope for, a reason to breathe.
You give us something to hope for, just speak.
Shake the earth. Tear down everything.
Your hands will, shake the earth.
Go! And we'll go on.
And we'll go on. Oh yeah! We'll follow you out.
The time is now. The time is now.
Shake the earth.

My friends and I saw Chapters and Verses play shows multiple times at the Warehouse in Willmar, MN including a cd release show. We really enjoyed their music and their lyrics. We had a lot of fun attending their concerts, but we also enjoyed jamming out to their music at other times as well. It was a common occurrence for a dozen or so of us to pile out of a couple of cars in a random parking lot and make our own mosh pit. We had a lot of fun, and I'm sure we looked crazy!

From the depths of Youtube- here is a link to a video of Shake the Earth being performed at the Warehouse in Willmar. I was at this show! (I'm near the stage on the left just outside of the mosh pit. I recognized my friend Glenn going crazy in the pit and that's how I was able to find myself haha.)

The lead singer of Chapters and Verses, Shane, went on to form the band Hands and later on the band Everything In Slow Motion. Both of these bands were signed to Facedown records. Hands recently played at a festival in Fargo, ND and I was able to attend! It was a lot of fun seeing them play again, it was very nostalgic for me for sure. Hands and Chapters and Verses were a huge part of my life and I still live by some of their lyrics to this day.

The only bands other than Chapters and Verses and Hands that have had similar lasting impact on my life would be Spoken and For Today. Those bands are at the top of my list when I go on long road trips and I'm driving late at night. They help me stay awake and I still have many of their lyrics memorized haha!

The phrase 'the time is now, shake the earth' has been something I think about often. It is something I want to do and that I strive to do. I want to change the world for the Lord. I want to be a change maker. And this isn't only a goal in the future, this is something that is meant to be done NOW. The time is now. The moment is now. Today is the day of salvation.

If we Christians truly believe people are dying and going to hell every single day, then why aren't we doing more about it?! We should be sharing the love of Jesus with those we come in contact with. We should be stepping out in faith and boldness in order to share our faith and our relationship with the Lord with those around us.

This is something I am very passionate about, and this song definitely helped push me toward that sort of mindset as a young man and even into adulthood. Do you have any bands or lyrics from specific songs that helped form who you are to this day? There are others that come to my mind as well, but Shake the Earth definitely stands above the rest.

Until next time- the time is now, shake the earth!!!
- Joel

Friday, February 17, 2017

True Friends Sharpen One Another

Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."

If you aren't better off after spending time with someone, then they aren't your friend. That or they are still a baby (spiritually speaking). This might be eye opening, and even hard to hear, but it's the truth.

A true friend will ALWAYS sharpen your countenance, your character, and your God given purpose. Friends leave you better off than how they found you. Friends sharpen you. Friends help you grow.

Friends make you better. Friends build you up. Friends encourage you. Friends hold you accountable to do the right thing, especially when it's going to be difficult. Friends don't let you give up. Friends will fight for you and for the most important parts of your life, especially your marriage, family, and other close relationships.

Before a blacksmith can begin reshaping or sharpening iron, there needs to be heat and then pressure. Once there is heat, they need to work quickly in order to shape the iron.

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True friends won't avoid tough or awkward conversations. They will help you meet your difficulties and struggles head on. Do your conversations with your closest friends only consist of small talk, or do you speak about deeper topics and spiritual things? Friends don't shy away from conversations that might cause some sparks or pressure on the relationship. They recognize the benefit, necessity, and importance of holding such conversations.

If your friends don't do these things, that doesn't mean they still can't be your friends, but it does mean that they shouldn't be your CLOSEST friends and/or confidants. This doesn't mean that they can never be a close friend or confidant, but for now, they still need to grow and mature before they can be promoted to such a place in your life.

Psalms 1:1-3 says,
"Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper."

Who should we confide in? Who should we ask for counsel and for advice and wisdom? Would we ask our young children what to do in serious circumstances or in tough decisions? No, of course not! They don't have the necessary wisdom and they haven't proven themselves capable of dealing with such situations.

If we wouldn't trust our young children with such decisions, then why would we ask spiritual babies or the ungodly what to do concerning spiritual things!? Ask the Lord. Seek the Lord. Meditate on the Word. Ask advice from the spiritually mature in your life, those with a proven track record.

Galatians 6:1 says, "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted."

The Amplified Bible says, " who are spiritual (who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit)..."

Do you feed a baby or does a baby prepare a meal and then feed you? Does a child pay your bills and make big life decisions, or does the adult? People can't give away what they don't already have for themselves. If they aren't wise in their life, then why would you seek wisdom from them for your own life?

All throughout my childhood and teenage years I played soccer. I enjoyed many sports, but soccer was easily my favorite. During my freshman year in high school I made the varsity team. I was small and had little to no muscle, especially in comparison to the juniors and seniors I was playing against. It was hard. It was tough. I got pushed around.

As a 9th grader, if I had given up and only played on junior varsity or the 9th grade JV2 team instead of varsity, I would've been one of the most skilled players on the field, but that wouldn't have helped me grow and get better. I got better and progressed more quickly by playing against more skilled players, guys that were older and stronger and faster than I was. The adversity and added pressure caused me to have to grow and increase in my own skill, strength, and speed.

The same goes in our personal lives and spiritual lives. If you're lacking wisdom or struggling in a certain area, then surround yourself with people who are successful in those areas, and gain wisdom from them! My two year old boy doesn't give me advice on how to coach soccer. I surround myself with mentors who have 20+ years of coaching experience. They can teach me some things about coaching and the game of soccer... My two year old can't!

Surround yourself with people of experience and wisdom. Surround yourself with people who will help you grow. Surround yourself with true friends. Surround yourself with people that point you to Jesus.

If you choose to live this way, I believe you will avoid a lot of trouble and heartache. Choose good friends, choose them wisely, and grow together. You won't regret it!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Thursday, February 2, 2017

APEPT Graduation and Bibles

Saturday morning after breakfast we headed to the graduation for the APEPT Bible School students. It was an enjoyable ceremony and there were many people in attendance. Del spoke and so did Pastor James since he was the principal of the school. The ceremony was interspersed with others speaking and with many praise and worship songs as well. This also included a song from Peter's daughter Esther Liana that was pretty cool! Apparently she is somewhat famous in Kenya. She has some music videos on YouTube and is a judge/ mentor for an American Idol type show called Talanta Awards. She is a very good singer and had the whole crowd involved that's for sure!

After the ceremony we got pictures with many of the students and we were invited to Peter's house. When we pulled up his whole family was outside cheering and celebrating. His 116 year old mother was even there and she was dancing a little bit! It was very special. All of the people in the surrounding houses came outside and watched as we celebrated Peter and his family worshipped the Lord, so that was pretty cool!

There was a large feast inside awaiting us. There was chicken, chapati (similar to tortillas), two kinds of rice, cabbage, some sort of brown beans, and a large pot of stew that was very good. It had carrots, potatoes, goat meat and squash or zucchini of some kind. We were joined by James and his daughter as well as a Bishop from Uganda named Daniel that is good friends with Peter. Daniel had just gotten back from doing missions in Dubai, and had a layover in Nairobi. Later the following day, Peter told us that Daniel has planted over 21 churches and is in charge of 250 churches in Uganda! Wow!!

Daniel told us about his experience with missions in Dubai and the 7 Emirates. He said they allow you to have services in private places, but you can't effect the outside or the public. So there are no open air meetings or anything like that. But, once the people come into the church building, you can peach the Gospel and tell people about Jesus. By people coming in to a church building, they are agreeing with what you stand for. He said they are very hungry people, and that many Muslims are coming to know the Lord. Many of them have been seeing visions and have been meeting Jesus, so they are ready to hear the Good News of the Gospel! We enjoyed our time at Peter's and then we headed back home.

When we got back to the house there were kids playing soccer in the courtyard, so I joined them. A few kids and I played for awhile and then a few adults came out and played as well. It was a lot of fun! We played keep a way from the kids and passed the ball around for awhile, but after about 15 minutes we decided to play a full game. There were four of us adults and then two younger boys. The guy on my team and I worked really well together. We scored quite a few goals and only let in a few. At one point I heard one guy say to another, "This guy is unstoppable." Haha! So that made me feel pretty good. I was definitely tired out after playing though. Running with Kenyans is tough!

Sunday morning after breakfast we all split up and went to different church services. Ken went to Josiah's church. James went to Peter's church. Jackie and Vonda went to Eunice's church. Del went to James' church, and I went to the church right by James' church with Pastor Shadrack and Pastor Fidelis. Our service went really well. We had worship and then I taught on Our Determined Purpose for the Bible study. It was received well.

We then had some testimonies and some more praise and worship. The time of worship was very powerful, and after worship I let the Holy Spirit minister to the people and I prayed for them. I prayed for healing for over a dozen people and then prayed for finances and a restoring of relationships for another dozen or so. It was really good. Different, but good. I wanted to be led and be obedient, so that's what I did. After that time I taught on Enduring and not losing heart or losing hope. It went very well and was received by the church. We started at 10am and got done just after 1:30. They are hungry for the Lord that's for sure!

After church we headed back to the house for lunch and also started preparing for dinner. James cooked two chickens, roasted carrots and potatoes, made rice, cabbage, raw tomatoes and onions in a vinaigrette, and we also had watermelon. It was a lot of food and it was all very good. While we were cooking it actually rained for about an hour! It was neat hearing the neighbors laughing and enjoying the rain.

Peter, James, Josiah and Josiah's wife Josefine all came to the house and we enjoyed dinner together and had good conversation. It was a great time of fellowship. I definitely feel connected to all three of these men. It is nice getting to know them more and more and seeing their hearts for the Lord. It was a very enjoyable evening!

Monday morning Del left for Zambia. He will be spending about a week there teaching pastors and leaders. We also had a visitor Monday morning at our house. James Miller has a friend from western Kenya that he has ministered with before on a past missions trip. His friend, Pastor Richard, rode a bus all night to come to Nairobi. It is about an 8 hour bus drive each way. He came all that way to connect with us and to pick up the remaining Bibles we had brought. We were able to give him just over 50 Bibles. He wanted 50 Bibles because he is a leader of 400 pastors in western Kenya and he wants to start a Bible school there. Amazing! I think I'm busy with my church... I can't even imagine how busy and how much work that would be!

That was our weekend and Monday morning. It was very full and very enjoyable. It has definitely been a blessing being in Kenya!

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ministry and Crusades

The next four days of our trip, Tuesday through Friday, we visited churches in the morning until the early afternoon and held services. We split our team up into different smaller groups each day so we could cover more ground and visit more churches and minister to more people. During each evening, around 5pm, we would hold a crusade or open air meeting until about 8pm.

We visited four separate churches in all and held two services at every church we visited each day. Many of the people at these services, but not all of them, were pastors, Bible school students, or leaders in their church. In those four days we held a total of 16 services and four open air crusades. It was a lot of fun, but it was very tiring. We would leave the house at 9am each day and wouldn't get back home until around 9pm.

On Tuesday after breakfast we went to do morning services at two separate churches. Ken and Del went to a church with Peter and then we dropped Jackie off at the orphanage. Then James, Vonda and I went to a church with James. I taught on the 9 Gifts of the Spirit and James taught on prophecy and the heart of God. Then Vonda prophesied over some people and James and I joined her.

After lunch, all of us went to the crusade in one of the slums in Nairobi. There were a lot of kids, which was fun. They were amazed by the hair on my arms and many of them kept holding my hand, inspecting my hand, and running their hands up and down the hair on my arms. It was pretty funny. There were a couple of healings and a couple of salvations that evening. There were at least 60-70 people there, not including the people watching from their balconies and the many people that walked through.

On Wednesday after breakfast we split up to do services between 3 different churches. Ken went with James to the church I went to on Tuesday. James and Vonda went to another church. Jackie went to the orphanage again. Del and I went with Peter to another church. I was planning on preaching on the Holy Spirit being our Helper, but God had other plans and led me to Ephesians 4. I still talked about being led by the Holy Spirit, but I focused on leaders being consistent with the Word in the way we live and speak and not offending or grieving the Holy Spirit. They were very responsive and seemed to get a lot out of it. Del preached on the Holy Spirit as well. We were able to do some ministry time at the end of our services. I prophesied over two separate people, one of which was an APEPT Bible student. That is definitely out of my comfort zone, but it is helping me grow!

After lunch we went to the crusade. It was very similar to the day before, maybe a few more people. A young woman whose stomach we prayed for the day before gave a testimony. She had gone to many doctors and none of them could find out what was causing her stomach pains. But since last night she has not felt any pain. Praise God! A few people gave their lives to Jesus and we were able to minister to a few others once again. God is good! I saw a guy with a MN Vikings hat at the crusade and I also saw a girl with a YoungLife shirt. Seeing that hat and shirt made me smile and it felt a little like home :)

On Thursday after breakfast we spilt up to two separate churches. Peter and Del and I went to one church. James, Ken, and Vonda went to another church with James, and Jackie went to the orphanage. I taught on being faithful in the little and being a good steward. They were very receptive and it went really well. Then Del taught on the gifts of the Spirit.

After that we had some ministry time. One lady started manifesting a demon and Peter cast it out. I prophesied over one guy and later that day he came up to me and told me that everything I said were things he needed to hear and that had been bothering him. Praise God! God knows our hearts, and He wants to reveal Himself to us! We just need to be willing to be used by Him in whatever way He deems necessary.

At the church everyone wanted pictures with me cause I had my hair down and looked like Jesus. That was pretty funny. I bet I took pictures with every person in the church haha. After lunch we had another crusade and it went well. Del spoke and he said it was out of his comfort zone, but it was very good.

On Friday morning after breakfast all of us but Jackie headed to Pastor James' church. Jackie went to the orphanage once again. Del and James both taught and then we had lunch at the church. They made us rice with some cabbage, goat, and the tortilla things called chapati. They cut up some mango for us as well, it was very sweet but very good.

After lunch we rested for a little bit and then went to the crusade area for our final evening. There were a bunch of school kids there and two of the boys had soccer balls, so I ended up getting out of the van. I juggled the ball and played with them for 10-15 minutes before their principal had us stop haha. It was a ton of fun. Probably one of my favorite parts of the trip so far actually. They were pretty impressed when I headed the ball 5 or 6 times in a row haha. It was a lot of fun, especially with about 40 kids playing soccer with me! :)

Photo credit: Ken Moyers

After that we juggled and passed in the alley way for awhile. James even joined us, and he was pretty good, especially for never playing before! We played for a bit while the worship team was getting started with singing and dancing.

I actually had the opportunity to preach for the crusade. That was pretty crazy and was out of my comfort zone for sure, but God met me there. The message had been on my heart all day, and God gave me part of the message on our flight to Nairobi over a week ago. I enjoyed it and I felt like God used me. Everyone said I did very well and they were proud of me, so that made me feel good and was confirmation. 3 or 4 people came up to give their lives to the Lord and another 3 or 4 came up for healing. 4 or 5 people had demonic stuff going on, so Peter took care of them and cast the demons out. He is a powerful man, I have really come to love and respect him. We also prayed for about 8-10 others. It was a good night.

These 4 days were very full and very busy, but I think we were able to help a lot of people and teach them a lot of the Word, so that was great. That's one of the main reasons we came on this trip!

Saturday we have another APEPT Bible school graduation, so that will be fun. We will see how it compares to the graduation we went to last week in Mwingi.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Our Day Off In Nairobi

The Monday after we got back to Nairobi from Mwingi we had a day off. Monday morning after breakfast we headed to go see some different animals. We first went to an animal orphanage. They rescue injured animals or animals whose parents have died, been killed, or been poached and then raise them. We saw a bunch of different animals while we were there including: a few different kinds of monkeys, cheetahs, many lions (about 20 or so), a leopard, a hunting dog (similar to a wolf), a warthog, hyenas, a couple different species of birds and cats, a jackal, a mongoose, a crocodile, and an ox. It was pretty cool. Unfortunately, this year they didn't have any giraffes or zebras.

After visiting the animal orphanage we went to see a bunch of baby elephants. They are rescued as well and then raised and eventually released back into the wild. There were quite a few elephants there, probably a dozen or more. It was fun seeing them run around and play in the dirt and mud. They even had a soccer ball they would kick around at times. They were actually pretty good!

After visiting the elephants, we headed to a restaurant called Carnivore to eat lunch. Apparently it is a world renowned restaurant. It was SUPER good! I got to eat a bunch of different kinds of meat including: two types of chicken, beef rib and pork rib, pork loin, beef roast, crocodile, beef sausage, ostrich meatballs, turkey, lamb, an ox ball, and I had a pineapple pie with ice cream for dessert. It was quite the experience. They cook all of the meat over an open pit and then they bring out all of the meat and cut it off with a machete type knife right onto your plate. I would definitely visit again. I believe they are only located here in Nairobi, Kenya and in Johannesburg, South Africa.

After eating we went back to the house and relaxed. I played soccer with a few different neighborhood kids for about an hour and a half, so that was a lot of fun! They were young, all under 11 years old, but a few of the boys were very good ball handlers. I showed them a few things and gave them a couple of tips, but we mostly just played. I really enjoyed that!

The remainder of the evening we had good conversation and relaxed before we started the next stage of our ministry in Nairobi.

Until next time, shake the earth!
- Joel