Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guard Our Hearts

We don’t watch a lot of television in our house.  Our kids are all under the age of eight, so outside of Dora the Explorer, Chuggington or Animal Planet, we do a fairly good job of being able to not only limit the time, but also keep a tight control on what is being watched.  We do watch a good bit of sports, though, to the point that our three year old knows full well that a game between the Cowboys and Eagles is your classic “good versus evil” match up.

As you know, sports is great television.  No drama and “adult situations or content” like you find on most network television shows.  Commercials, however, are a different story.  We find that some of the commercials during games have become fairly deplorable.  We seem to constantly either turn down the volume or simply turn the channel.  If I can’t find the remote, I’ve even resorted to saying “turn your head, please!” 

Recently I was convicted about this.  If my eight year old son shouldn’t willingly see or hear something raunchy on TV, why is it OK for me to see or hear it?  Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

There is so much static in our lives – TV, newspaper, books, billboards, radio – that we all have to wade through each day.  Reading this verse reminded me, again, that I need to continually ask myself, “Is this pure?  Is this lovely?  Is this noble and admirable?”  We try to guard our kids hearts and minds, but I need to do a better job about guarding my heart and mind, as well, and make a conscious effort to put it away if it’s not.
-Tim Pereira

Monday, January 16, 2012

What a gift we've been given...

As I reflect on the trip to Moldova in December of 2011 and January 2012, I’m struck with the fact that I have never begun a new year in another country the same time, I’m overwhelmed with the fact that I’ve never started a new year without a warm, safe, comfortable place to sleep. Oh, I’ve gone to bed too late on New Year’s eve before or I’ve probably slept somewhere other than my own bed, but I’ve never been faced with sleeping in a 50+ year old, broken down bed with a urine-stained mattress in a marginally heated institution with others who have no home or no parents. In fact, I can’t remember a single New Year’s where I wasn’t somewhere I chose to be, even if it wasn’t at home or with my own family. I have never before been forced to depend on someone else to care for me because those who God gave me to, decided someone or something else was more important. Am I fortunate? You bet! Am I more blessed than someone else? In some people’s estimation. What about in God’s eyes...Am I more fortunate...not really...I’m doomed to the same fate as every orphan; an eternity of separation from God. It is only because of Jesus that I have been adopted into relationship with God the father. I was fatherless just like many of these orphans, but by His grace I am an orphan no more. Am I more blessed...not hardly...the blessings that have been showered upon me are available to all, it is simply the fact that I have been made aware of those blessings and have received them. Jesus said He came that we would have life and have it to the full. Some of you may say, but Tony you live in America, and you have a job and a family, etc. You are MORE blessed. Those are things God has given me and I am grateful for all of them. But the most important blessing I've been given is the knowledge of who Jesus is. Most of these children do not realize what they don’t have, but they do understand compassion and affection and genuine love. And they do understand when the love of God is shared with them. What an incredible gift has been given to us as followers of Christ to share His love with those who don’t know Him and those who are less fortunate than us. I’m more determined now than ever to share that love and I hope as you read this you’ll make the decision to share the light God has placed in you with a lost and dying world. God Bless you and God Bless the orphans in Moldova and around the world. Let’s make a difference for them through prayer and through action. Let this new year be the year you get involved in the life of “the least of these”. (Matthew 25:40)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Gift of Wood and Nails...

2011 was another powerful year of ministry in the life of Sweet Sleep which featured ground-breaking work in South Africa. As has been custom for the team members we've sent out over the last 9 years, each day a person is given a note from a prayer partner back home who is continuing to lift them up during the preparation and execution of their ministry work.

One night during our team's devotional time, team member Ashley Lamb shared this note from her prayer partner, Keely Boggs:


Today marks the first day you will begin building beds. It's easy to assume that this is a task that is simply accomplished by hands, but be reminded, it's so much more---just as much as this is a task of the hands, it's equally a task of the heart.

It may seem strange, but I looked up the term "bed" in Webster's dictionary. Not because I'm unfamiliar with its function or its purpose, but I wanted to be reminded of the meaning of something that we often take for granted. And while I anticipated many of the listed definitions, I came across one that caught my attention: "an area of ground, typically in a garden, where flowers and plants are grown."

When I read this, I couldn't help but be reminded that this is exactly waht you and the team are doing today. Except instead of planting flowers and plants, you are planting spiritual seeds of love and hope. And instead of toiling grounds and gardens, you are ministering to hearts.

With each piece of wood, each nail that is sued and each strike of the hammer, you are not only building beds, but you are changing live. With the provision of a physical gift, you are opening people's heart to a much bigger, a much greater spiritual gift.

Because of you, because of your obedience, people will not only receive sweet, peaceful rest, but they will have the opportunity to have their souls forever at rest because they encountered the love of Jesus through you.

So, as you bullied, remember what it is you and the team are really building: opportunities for Jesus to reveal Himself to the hearts of each and every person who will rest their head on a bed--some maybe even for the first time in their lives. Today, people will know love because of the works of your hands and heart.

I am mindful that the gift you are giving is much like the gift that you were given. Each gift uses wood, nails, and a level of compassion that can never be matched. And each is a symbol of love that echoes long after the task at hand has been accomplished.

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:13-15

As Ashley read her friend's words of affirmation, love and encouragement, I couldn't help but cry. Keely's words were a powerful reminder that we HAVE been given a gift that used wood and nails and incomprehensible love and compassion. It was also a reminder that this gift is not for us to keep to ourselves. It's a gift for all. A reminder that once we have received this gift, we have the responsibility to make sure others can receive this boundless love and compassion.

My prayer for 2012 is that all that Sweet Sleep does points the lost in the right direction and provides hope for those who are without hope and love for those who have never known it. My prayer is for God to use Sweet Sleep in a way that is eternal. My prayer for you is that you would reach out to find your place in the abundant opportunities, here and abroad.


My Journey

Jeremiah 29:11, says "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future".

Our God of this universe, maker of all heaven and earth, has a plan for each one of us. HE is concerned about you and me. HE knows each of us and still loves us without condition. To prove this HE sent HIS only son JESUS to die on the cross for each one of us. So we could spend eternity with HIM. This gift of Christmas is for each one of us to just ... Believe this promise.

This is the experience we wanted the least of these (orphans) to feel. How very great God is. The same God that called a team together to travel thousands of miles just to see them. To tell and show them how much God loves us all!

Spending Christmas in Moldova with the orphans was incredible. Late one night we were asked to tell one thing that stood out to each of us. As your mind races to try and settle on just one experience. You realize there are so many. The sparkle in the eyes of the children as they receive their own bed. The smiles on their faces as they are running to see you as the van drives up. The joy of hugging them, playing games with them and telling them about the Christmas Story. Giving them a banana. A banana! But not the least of these also is the team God brought together of individuals from different walks of life for this journey together. So many images run thru my mind. Memories of a life time. A bond of laughing, crying and working side by side to make life for these orphans a little better with a bed of their very own. Letting them know ..."How much God loves us all!" The true CHRISTMAS STORY. The story of Unending Love for others. May we all remember and share that same love God shares with us daily.

Buna! Amen!

Debra Thedford