Twenty three years ago the LORD entrusted this house at 9211 NW 12th PL to be our home, a haven of rest for our family, a hub of hospitality and a spiritual hospital of sorts to those who were in need of healing. As we are downsizing the “stuff” in our lives, we have encountered things that trigger memories that are worth the PAUSE to reflect on the goodness of God. I came across a page torn from a Daytimer calendar and paused just before throwing it into the fire pit.
The Daytimer calendar entry is dated Thursday, July 4, 1996 and Denny’s familiar handwriting follows an * on the page….
While walking in the Beland’s neighborhood we came upon a large golden retriever who bounded straight for us. But, as he neared the edge of his yard, he dug his front paws into the grass and stopped as if he was peering over the edge of a cliff. As we walked further up the street, he ran to the side edge of his yard and repeated this same ritual while barking ferociously. What kept him from making us his morning buffet? His owner had installed and trained the dog to live within the limits of an INVISIBLE FENCE!
What is our invisible fence? Psalm 119:9-11; Romans 2:15 (our conscience)
God’s Word treasured and hidden in our hearts that keep me from wandering outside the boundaries that God has designed for us for our own good!
cf: The Word is like a seat belt!
As I (Cindy) ponder this, the reality of our very REAL enemy comes to light. He is vicious and unrelenting. He comes after God’s children in obvious ways, through sickness and calamity, but it seems that his most subtle tools of discouragement and distraction are the ones that derail us.
His Word is our “invisible fence”, our seat belt, our protection. Denny gave a couple of Scriptural reminders in his entry. My constant “go to” verse is Philippians 1:6
He who began a good work in you
will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
When the enemy tries to distract me with feelings of inadequacy, lack of direction and all those other lies, I repeat God’s Word to remind me WHOSE I am and remember that this journey of life is a process that is not yet complete!
What are your "Invisible Fence" Words from His Book of treasure?
Please share them in the comment section below.!
"Good morning, God, this is Your day,
I am Your child, please show me your way.”
Each morning, I sing this song to Jesus on behalf of June and me. We follow that with “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!”
For June, life is so simple…sleep, sing, eat “num num”, play, read books, go for walks, and repeat….trusting in the care of her parents…just being WHO Jesus called her to BE!
I am working on this lesson during this gracious reprieve from downsizing, packing, prepping the house for sale and wondering what God has for us in this new season of life. (Denny is still working away!) It seems that we will be graciously blessed with living in closer proximity to our children, but there are still so many unknowns.
Actually June is facing those unknowns as her parents are also considering/planning for a move to Nashville. Unlike me and the other adults in her life, June is happily oblivious, confident that we will provide for her needs.
It’s as simple as that! So why do I complicate things so much with the process of transition? Where will we live? How will day to day life look? How often will we travel? Who will be our neighbors? Will we spend more time in our base house or more time at “HOME” wherever we are as we did five years ago.
"Good morning, God, this is Your day,
I am Your child, please show me your way.”
I want to be more like JUNE when I grow up!
This past Sunday as I was picking up my Bible from the front row to head out of the sanctuary, I noticed a folded up piece of lined paper with
written on the top. Since I was in a conversation I placed the note in my pocket and continued to say “good-bye” to the precious people from First Baptist Church at Lake Placid who had hosted us the preceding five days. Cindy and I had a tremendous experience with this Body of Believers who welcomed us so warmly.
Later that day, when I had turned the driving over to Cindy, I pulled out this folded, hand written letter. It was from a young college student who only attended about an hour of the training. She is working full-time and is also enrolled with an online University for her bachelor’s degree, specializing in Life Coaching.
She wanted to thank me for the encouragement I had given her regarding her field of study. It couldn’t have been more than a few moments, but it apparently breathed some life into her soul. She explained that when she tells people about her degree most people ask, “Well what are you going to do?” or “What does that get you in life?”
She went on to share how much she appreciated Cindy and me investing in the people of her church, for the love we displayed and the teachings we shared with them. Needless to say,
I was stunned that a twenty-something would take the time to write a note to a complete stranger and pour out her gratitude for our brief words of encouragement to her and for our investment of time and resources in her church.
During the last three and a half years, Cindy and I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, sharing with a kaleidoscope of God’s people what it means to be a disciple and, as a result, a disciple-maker.
It is a humbling experience to hear their stories of trials and sacrifice as they seek to expand God’s Kingdom among some of the least reached people in the world. It seems we always head home with our hearts overwhelmed with gratitude for our experiences.
So, in light of this Thanksgiving season, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who are reading this letter.
It is quite a humbling experience to be completely dependent upon the gifts and offerings of God’s people. Each month we lift our heads in gratitude for all of you who have considered us in your Kingdom investments.
So, on this day that we pause to give thanks to God for all of His blessings, we especially give thanks for each of you who have invested in us during these last three and a half years.
Whether it was through an encouraging note like the college student above, or through your prayers, your spoken words, your finances, a gift bag left on our front porch, or simply a heartwarming smile.
We are so grateful!
Wishing You Our Father's Bountiful Blessings,
Denny & Cindy
“Every time we think of you, we give thanks to our God!” Philippians 1:3
P.S. Speaking of Gratitude...
The story has been passed down for generations
within the Jewish faith of the renowned and revered,
He was born in the first century A.D.
just a few years after Jesus lived out his life among the people of Israel.
The story has been told that late one afternoon, as the sun was beginning to set in the west, Rabbi Akiva was walking along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee on his way home to Capernaum. Rabbi Akiva was doing what most God-fearing, God-honoring Jews would be doing with their spare time, he was meditating and reciting the Hebrew Scriptures. We are told he was meditating upon the portion of Scripture where the Lord says through the prophet, Isaiah,
“But you are my witnesses, O Israel!”
“You are my servant.
You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—
there never has been, and there never will be.
I, yes I, am the Lord,
and there is no other Savior."
Rabbi Akiva was so focused upon the text that he didn’t realize that instead of taking a left turn toward the city gates of Capernaum, he had taken a right turn and as the sun sank behind the mountains, he found that the path he had followed had taken him to the large gate of a Roman fortress. As Rabbi Akiva stood in front of the gate realizing what had happened, he heard a loud voice coming down from above the gate. It was the voice of a Roman Century Guard standing on the top of the wall. The guard had shouted down to this stranger:
“WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
Rabbi Akiva was startled and could only respond to these frightening words with, “WHAT?”
Again the guard called out,
“WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
Rabbi Akiva had a few moments to gather his thoughts and he shouted back up into the dark at the Roman Guard:
“HOW MUCH DO YOU GET PAID TO ASK ME THESE QUESTIONS?”
The guard was now confused as to why this stranger would ask such a question in response, so after a few moments of silence he said, “TWO DRACHMA PER WEEK!” (Now a drachma was worth about a day’s wage.)
Then Rabbi Akiva, with intense conviction shouted back to this Roman Century:
“I’LL PAY YOU DOUBLE IF YOU STAND OUTSIDE OF MY HOUSE AND ASK ME THOSE TWO QUESTIONS EVERY MORNING!”
“WHO ARE YOU?” and “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
Why would a Jewish Rabbi be willing to pay a Roman Gentile stranger double his salary for him to simply stand outside of his house and ask him the same two questions every morning as he opened his door? What does that tell you about those two questions?
These two questions are the foundational questions of every believing Jewish person and also of every follower of Jesus throughout history. The first is a question of our IDENTITY and the second is a question concerning our PURPOSE IN LIFE.
“WHO ARE YOU?” I don’t mean what is your name, but WHO ARE YOU REALLY? What does the Bible reveal about you as a person who is created in the image and likeness of God?
And “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” Now I think I know why you are here this morning…but I mean, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE in this time and place in human history? Why has God given you life during this specific season of history in this particular place on the planet?
Happy New Year
Recently my Mom cleared her safe deposit box and we were sorting through the contents and discovered a treasure. It was a letter my Daddy wrote to me in 1962 commemorating John Glenn's
three trips around Earth! I do treasure it because of the historical value, however, it is most valuable to me because it came from MY DADDY. He thought of me specifically, he took the time and did this out of his love for me.
Another treasure I have saved over the years is this 3x5 card with a quick message that Daddy sent me years ago. He attached the rainbow sticker for me to use at a later time. I kept it as he sent it to me and now hang it on the side of my refrigerator as a reminder of his love. Ironically, the rainbow reminds me of the first rainbow God placed in the sky. He keeps His promises!!
I cherish these articles of my Daddy's affection and have been eager to show them off when I discovered the letter. I was so excited to read it for the first time! These messages from MY Daddy
are important! In the midst of this burst of enthusiasm, I began to think about the parallels.
We have LOTS of messages from our Heavenly Father. How eager am I to read, re-read and display the contents of His message? Food for thought.....
"Jesus stepped out of the stained glass".
...that phrase came to my mind after pondering the encounter in John 3 between Jesus and Nicodemus. I believe that I have always "heard" Jesus' voice in King James English in regards to this encounter.
Truly, truly....verily, verily....
hushed and holy...
far removed from the world in which we live ...
the world in which we encounter a daily barrage of pain...
On this day, however, Jesus stepped down from the stained glass....at least in my mind!
The reality is that He WAS never there to start with....I had put Him there!
In this encounter between the very "religious" Nicodemus and the very "down to Earth" Jesus, Nic acknowledged that Jesus HAD to be from God. Realizing that Nic still didn't understand, Jesus continued to give him instructions and images to clarify who He is in the flesh.
"Religion" makes it very hard to see God. Stained glass windows are so ..... faraway and one dimensional. Christmas reminds us that the invisible God stepped down from that which is faraway and invisible to us and became REAL....putting on flesh that could be wounded....in order that we might know Him, that we might begin to LIVE in the Kingdom of God!
We thank God for allowing us to be part of His Kingdom! We have so much to be grateful for and we join along with those of you whom we love so dearly in celebrating His birth.
Sending you our love,
Denny & Cindy
If a picture paints a thousand words….here you go! Our precious Keisler Family is currently back in the U.S.A. and spending several weeks with us.
Life at the Heiberg B & B is BUSY and full….and sometimes messy….really messy!
Caleb and Adara are playing with OOBLECK (Sadie prefers NOT) - a generous mixture of corn starch with a smaller portion of H2O. This substance is neither a liquid nor a solid, a bit undecided. If you squeeze a ball of the goo, it is hard. However, as soon as you release your grip, it literally slimes right between your fingers and becomes a gooey, runny mess.
OOBLECK is a favorite activity for children who visit our home. Normally the rules from "Mama Cindy" say that it must stay in the container, but that was just too boring for these guys who decided a bit of body decor was in order!
For those of you who MUST experiment with OOBLECK for yourself, check out this link:
For the kids, life is pretty simple…play, eat and worship. Their play is creative, in a flash our living room is filled with a dollhouse and "the mom" (played by female grown ups in the house) is taking her kids who look a bit like Sadie and Adara, "Sarah" and "Flower Marshmellow" off to dance or swimming or any other amazing event. Upstairs, Caleb builds elaborate roads for numerous toy cars and fights off all the "baddies".
Eating consists of LOTS of yogurt, corn, pizza and "sweeties" (their word for candy/dessert).
Worship is wild and crazy and messy with everyone involved….music, dancing, stomping upstairs which sounds similar to the sounds of wild elephants for the those who are below! Singing HIS praises, offering themselves to HIS service and lifting up others in need.
Repeat all the above….that's daily life….
How simple is that? It sounds charming, but wait!! What is the blood curdling scream emanating from the stairs?? __________ did it! She/he took my __________! Sweet Nicole calmly assists and once more, the rhythm of life returns….play, eat and worship…
How I wish I could unpack all of the spiritual truths that I have learned from these little ones…play (or work), eat and worship. Maybe I'll just think on these things!
For those of you who have befriended me on Facebook, you know that I rarely enter a post. I usually leave that for my precious wife, Cindy. However, today is a special day for me in which I am overflowing with gratitude.
You see, it was forty years ago today that I was sitting in a civic auditorium in downtown Memphis listening for the sixth evening in a row to a tiny man unpack a variety of truths and principles from a book that I had rarely ever considered was really for me. At the close of this weeklong conference, this man gave a challenge to all of us in the room: “to commit our lives to Jesus Christ.” Now, I had heard those words spoken before, usually with much volume and just enough guilt to make me want to crawl under my seat. But this night was different.
Through his soft-spoken manner and methodical teaching, I knew that I had been living a lie and I certainly wasn’t fooling God. He knew the real me. Most people thought I was a good guy, and perhaps on the outside you would consider me good, but on the inside I struggled with all the selfish desires and temptations of a nineteen-year-old male. If God really was willing to take charge of my life, I was ready to give the controls over to Him.
So, in the midst of some five thousand strangers, I retreated into the quiet room of my own mind and heart and I turned over all of my life that I could understand at the time to the God who had given me life nineteen years earlier and trusted Him to lead me in this new journey in the years ahead. Now, as I look in the rearview mirror, I would say it was on that evening in Memphis that I began my journey of attempting to follow Jesus as his apprentice and disciple.
During these last forty years I’ve had countless people invest their life of faith into mine. In the Scriptures there is no such thing as a disciple formed in isolation. A follower of Jesus is formed in a community of others who are on the journey with you; those ahead of you are pouring into you what they have gleaned and experienced through the years; some are walking beside you encouraging you and challenging you; and others are looking to you for wisdom and guidance as they follow your footsteps toward becoming like Christ.
I realize the majority of you understand my attempt to describe this journey of faith, but I also recognize there are some of you who can’t quite identify with my reflection. Please notice I haven’t used words like “religion,” “church,” or even “Christian” to describe what I’ve experienced. I’ve found that these words only tend to muddy the waters of understanding what Jesus truly wants to accomplish in and through us. The bottom line is that He desires and calls all of us to follow Him, to live our lives as if He were living His through us.
Those of you who have come across my path during these last forty years know that I have a long way to go in my journey with Jesus of becoming like Him. My scars and shortcomings are all the more glaring the closer one gets to me, but I am so grateful for Jesus loving me enough and believing in me enough to choose me to become His disciple.
I have spent time today reflecting on the faces of those who have shaped me into the person I am still becoming. It would be impossible to mention even one name since God has used so many to chisel away the rough edges through the years. However, I abound in gratitude for a mother whom God used to sacrifice her personal comforts to raise me pretty much single handed; for professors and pastors who stretched my mind and heart to grasp the words God intended for me to embrace; for six local churches who welcomed me and my family and helped shape me into a pastor and teacher; for a group of men who in recent years awakened me to my passion and joy as a disciplemaker; for friends like you who have walked this journey alongside me; and for an organization who has given my wife and me a global context to live out the calling that God has been preparing us for during these last thirty-four years of marriage.
Speaking of gratitude, each day I stand in wonder of the three precious daughters that I have the privilege of being their Daddy. By God’s abundant grace, they and their husbands have begun their own journey of following Jesus and are all seeking to impact their culture and generation living out their faith in unique ways.
And, apart from the formation of God’s word and his abiding Holy Spirit, my partner and devoted wife has had the greatest influence on my spiritual formation. Sometimes I just wish God would speak to me directly instead of passing His instructions through her. Cindy has been so patient and selfless during this thirty-four year run and I know I would not be near the person I am today without her.
So, on this 8th day of June, 2014, I am abounding with gratitude for all that Jesus has accomplished in my life and I look forward to experiencing all that He has for me in this fortieth year of my apprenticeship with Him. And wherever you are on your journey of life, may God continue his amazing work in you until his work is done.
What an incredible privilege to be part of an amazing Body of Believers! Tonight we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of The Mission Society. Many of our friends were recognized for many years of faithful service. One precious saint is 80 years young and still working on her Russian so that she can share Jesus with Russian speakers here in the U.S. (after serving many years in Kazakhstan).
Yesterday I commented to our friends Travis & Lorna (serving in Namibia) that I was so excited to introduce them to our "family" - meaning the folks from Gainesville who are here serving in childcare and leading in worship. Travis said, "I thought WE were your family!" Then it hit me how blessed we are to be part of such a LARGE family....the BODY of Christ! This weekend has been very special as we have introduced our precious friends from Gainesville to our precious friends from around the globe! A special thanks to the GAINESVILLE/OCALA team serving us this week.
Tonight we were also privileged to hear a powerful message on The GREAT Commission from all four Gospels from Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary.
Again Jesus said,
"Peace be with you!
As the Father has sent Me,
I am sending you." John 20:21
As His followers, we are authorized and sent to be the hands and feet of Jesus!
2014- a Brand New Year!
Many, O LORD my God,
Are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
No one can recount to you;
Were I to speak and tell of them,
They would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5
2013 was another year of change in this new season of life with The Mission Society. We are so grateful to God and to those of you who have prayed, encouraged and sent financial support. We KNOW that we are all partners in ministry together and we thank God for the way you are walking this journey with us.
Looking back over 2013…
Denny: In our new role with The Mission Society, we have flown over 107,000 miles and had the privilege of serving God’s people in Bolivia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Nigeria, South Africa, and Thailand. Our passion to mobilize an intentional movement of disciplemaking followers of Jesus throughout the global church compels us to leave our home base here in Gainesville and to travel around the globe to assist pastors, church leaders, and missionaries to understand what it means to live out the mandate of Jesus.
Since it was impossible for you to travel with us to see firsthand how grateful people have been for us to come to their Countries and share God’s discipleship lessons, we’d like to share some of their responses of what it meant for you to send us to them this past year. (Please note, I have deliberately recorded their emails, for the most part, in its original form.)
“Your discipleship studies have helped me very much in deed.
Thank you very much Denny. I am already passing the Baton.” ~ George
“I have been engulfed to see people being changed to Christ-likeness,
but I forgot on treasuring my life to some people so that we can be like Christ together.” ~ John
“Much greetings from your student in Kenya. Thank you for your teachings of discipleship.
I have put it to practice and witnessed the results.” ~ James
“Brother, Denny, I have much to say about the impact of your teaching in my life and the ministry.
When you were teaching as I told you, I discovered that I did not invest in Discipleship this is a reason why all our evangelistic efforts we in vain. I regret why I invested my time and effort in evangelism without discipleship. Now I want to invest into discipleship.” ~ Felicien
“The training in Nakuru was one of the most inspiring in my life and also provided a platform for networking with ministers. The discipleship classes gave me a different perspective on ministry, which I have started implementing in the church.” ~ Stephen
“Thanks for the notes on Discipleship. The leaders are now encouraged and are raring to run with the understanding that "the church can not grow without discipleship!" ~ Andrew
“I can confidently say the lessons learned and particularly about disciple making were very impacting. To say the truth, I've had to start all over again with our Bible study. For so long our Bible studies have taken the form of a church service where the preacher would expose the word. But thanks to the training we received, for the last three Wednesdays we are now walking through the word of God together with my members. I desire to be found worthy in the eyes of the Lord to handle the awesome gospel delivered and entrusted in my hands for the benefit of his people for whom he has laid down his life.” ~ Benard
“It was such a privilege to participate in the training sessions. The session on discipleship on the book of John was awesome-quite literally. That insight on God's intentional revelation of Himself through Christ melted my heart-that God loves me so much that He went out of His way to intentionally show it. I can't thank God & you enough but I pray that you will continue to disciple, reach & teach many more people as God enables you. That you will have all resources you need to do this. Above all, that you shall diligently follow the Rabbi Jesus and be covered in His dust. ‘Asante sana’....Thank you.” ~ Kezzie
Cindy: How I have loved the opportunities to offer "member care" to those who are serving across the globe. It has been a privilege to laugh, cry and pray with those who are serving faithfully. It has also been a joy to participate in what I affectionately call "front porch discipleship" right here at home! We have also had the pleasure of hosting International students in our home this past fall. We have been enriched by the cultural exchange! One of the highlights of the fall was a trip down the Ichetucknee River. Many of you have partnered with us to host meals and offer hospitality! Thank you for serving with us as we seek to follow Jesus and bringing others along in the journey!
“This has been profound for me! The character of God is now engraved in me!
Now that I know that I am loved this much, I want to make Him known.
I want others to experience this God!” ~ Kezzie
For the past ten days I have been in an Eastern Africa Country as a part of a training team made up of fellow colleagues from The Mission Society along with National Church leaders. My primary responsibility has been to awaken, equip, train, and deploy with confidence the one hundred participates that represent some forty-two tribes from this war-torn Country. My investment is in the area of discipleship training and this has been one of the most productive and rewarding training experiences that I have been on during the past year.
During the full day that I spoke on this vital subject, many of the participants came up to me and said how grateful they were that I would come all this way to share with them God’s teachings on what the Bible reveals about becoming a disciplemaker. During one of the breaks a pastor quickly came to me and said, “I need you to pray for me. I have failed God. I haven’t been making disciples.” After I saw his regret and remorse, I told him that most of us who are pastors have discovered we have been focused upon many other concerns within the Church, but we have been guilty of omitting the priority of Great Commission.
As I put my arm around him, I prayed for God to ignite within him a passion to not only become a disciple of Jesus, but to resolve to become a disciplemaker.
The quote at the top of this blog is from a young lady who attended one of the four workshops that I am leading in how to disciple others in a small group setting using the Life Transformation Studies. I will never forget her eyes as she absorbed God’s truth found in John 1:18. “No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He as revealed God to us.” After realizing that Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, Kezzie responded, “God has intentionally made Himself known to me. It’s humbling that He would do this for me. I can’t help but love Him back! I now realize that I’m not following an abstract God. He’s not distant. I’m no longer groping in the dark. He wants me to make myself vulnerable to Him. I can’t worship God the same again!!!”
Brothers and sisters, words cannot describe how privileged I feel to be here among my African brothers and sisters - t learn from them and to share with them what God has imparted to me through the years. I am extremely grateful for your prayers, your support, and your words of encouragement that have made it possible for me to have such an experience.
I pray that God will continue to challenge all of us to fully resolve to follow Jesus as His disciple throughout the world
With extreme gratitude,
Denny (standing with our brother, Duncan)
One of the men who has mentored me through his writings is Dallas Willard. Earlier this year, just before he went to be with Jesus, Dallas spoke at a seminar that focused on God’s Kingdom and Jesus’ command for us to make disciples. I’d like to leave you with a portion of one of his talks that sums up what Cindy and I have discovered this first year among God’s Church around the world.
"I think that we are on the verge of a time when the Church is going to be able to make some decisions. That may be a funny way of talking to you, but for long periods in the history of the Church, as the history of Israel, there were really no significant decisions that could have been made.
I think we've been through a pretty tough patch with the Church. I try never to criticize the Church because I know whose in charge of it. But sometimes we need to be conscious of where we're coming from and where we're going. I think that we are coming into a time when many churches and leaders and Christians who are in leadership positions will be able to say,
'It's all about discipleship and transformation into Christlikeness.'
Now if you've read the New Testament or even the Old Testament you might have come to that conclusion already.
It's hard to avoid. But circumstances and history have a way of claiming us and not letting us see what's actually happening. And we've been through a period where the dominant theology simply had nothing to do with discipleship. It had to do with proper belief, and how on the basis of that God would see to it that you didn't go to the bad place, but you got into the good place.
But the way that developed, it turned out, you could have the worst character possible and still get into the good place if you believed the right thing. And the disconnection over time became increasingly burdensome to the Church itself until you come to the point to where, as is widely discussed, in some respects there is not a clear difference between a 'Christian,' and those who aren't Christians."
I have only been home a week since returning from Bolivia where I participated in a Bolivian Discipleship Consultation with about 135 participants. I teamed up with my former professor from Asbury Seminary, Dr. Darrell Whiteman, who focused upon how to effectively share God’s Message across a variety of cultural barriers. I had about seven opportunities during the three-day gathering to focus upon discipleship and disciplemaking concepts. I had never been to Bolivia prior to this trip and I absolutely fell in love with the people and the beauty of the mountain landscape. One of the highlights of our trip was taking a five-mile walk on our final morning as we trekked high above the city at about 12,000 feet!
FAMILY – September 2, 2013
Who is my family? I’m reflecting on the gift of “family” today because I encountered family this weekend everywhere I turned….it is complicated, loud, confusing, comforting and often a very beautiful picture of the Body of Christ….actually much of my “family” is not what we called in Branford “blood kin”.
Family has always been a conglomerate in the Ware household beginning with “Uncle” Carl Schneider’s visit to my grandparents when their youngest son, my Uncle Albert, was killed during the Korean War. I never had the chance to know him since his plane crashed in the Sea of Japan several years before my birth. But I KNOW my Uncle Carl, one of his dearest friends, who fulfilled a promise to visit Albert’s family in the event that Albert never made it home. Albert DID make it home, we know it as HEAVEN, and that’s when Carl became “Uncle” to a grieving family.
From that time on, our family grew. Although Mom and Dad had but three “biologicals”, they began to collect children, tucking each in their hearts to be forever part of the Ware Family. I remember the day Daddy called home from the pharmacy and told Mom to set two more plates for the noon meal we called DINNER. He had taken in two young scruffy men who were paddling their days away on the Suwannee River. Troy and Roger made their way into our home and into our hearts.
Mickey & Mary Dean, young newlyweds in the midst of crisis, came to live in our home the day their house was consumed by fire. As their family grew, the generations have adopted each other. We’re on the third generation of sharing the love. Preston and Fairly are our amazing godchildren!
Pam, my look alike, came to us at 14, in need of love and family. Mom and Dad would only take her if the rest of the family agreed that it was a “forever” arrangement. Randy & Gary, distant cousins from Iowa in need of a Mom, reached out to “Mama Doris” during the difficult years of high school and college. My siblings, Peggy & Harry and Scott & Melissa continue our parent’s tradition of extending family via fostering and adoption. Aunt Cindy & Uncle Denny cherish ALL of our nieces and nephews – Danny, Kayla, Jessie, Kristina, Meagan, Coral and Bryce AND their furry rescue pets!
Denny and I married in 1980 and that year one of my best friends moved in after the death of her husband. Thus began a long tradition of extended family in the Heiberg home! I cannot began to count the numbers of “sent family” that have joined our home over the years, enriching our lives and expanding God’s love toward us in ways that look a lot like the Walton Family on steroids. “Good night, Tess”, “sweet dreams Holly”, “nite-nite Benjy”, “good night Chris”, “Buenos noches Amanda”, “night, love ya, Em”, “night Margaret Ellen”…..we could be awake all night saying “Good night, sleep tight!”
In the midst we have been blessed with our own “biologicals”. Rachel, Joanna and Sarah helped raise us and, through their friendship connections, our dining room table bulged with “Family Dinners” that sparked a 12 year run of “Monday/Thursday night dinners”. Our girls increased family as we married three new families!!
Neighbors have become family in the midst of difficult circumstances. How I cherish the children “of my heart”, Jorge, Emily & Lily. As I put the period to the sentence, I heard voices in the kitchen. Emily, her daddy and her friend, Emma were in our kitchen getting a snack! How I love the open door policy!!
Our “collected children” have come from continents far and wide from the outskirts of Branford, from the perimeter of the University of Florida, to the southernmost tip of Africa with China and India interspersed. We are blessed!
Our children have continued the tradition begun by Grandmama & Grandaddy. Rachel and Jon are part of a “community group” that do real life together on a daily basis. Just check out Rachel’s FB page….little Lydia might live at another house, but Rachel is one of her Mamas! Joanna & Ben have parented more kids through the ministry of Young Life than we can possibly count! Sarah & Kyle are also “Young Life Parents” and their photos reveal two little girls that might keep them grounded in Orlando for longer than planned!
Last night “family night dinner” included six new international students, along with several local families. It was loud and messy, the strains of “Heart & Soul” being banged out on the piano while the dishes piled higher in the sink. The dishes didn’t last long as two of the guys jumped in to clean up and to give impromptu lessons in how to run a dishwasher and a dryer. One-on-one conversations took place in various areas of the room while the kids ran around with wild enthusiasm. The strains of laughter wafted through the house and Jesus smiled.
FAMILY – a priceless gift from God! How I thank Him for those birthed by blood and brought to us by His blood! We are the FAMILY of God!
August 29, 2013
Summer is sizzling in Gainesville but, WAIT, I just saw leaves floating gently to the ground from the dogwood trees in the front yard! I am excited! I love FALL. Well, truthfully, I love any change of season. The hint of cool is AMAZING!
Speaking of changes…..we are in a new season of change where Denny will be traveling and I will keep the home fires burning. He is packing tonight to leave for Bolivia tomorrow. He will be teaching alongside our colleague and friend, Dr. Darrell Whiteman. Please keep them in your prayers as they fly to La Paz, Bolivia.
La Paz is nestled just under 12,000 feet above sea level so we are asking for prayers regarding their acclimation to the altitude. It is also quite chilly there!! It is stuffy in our house tonight and I am packing Denny’s sweaters!!
Please pray for Denny and Darrell as they are making final preparation for their time of cross - cultural studies and discipleship training with 120 national pastors and leaders. Pray for the hearts of those who will be attending. You can read more about Bolivia on the Operation World site at http://www.operationworld.org/boli
Although Bolivia is listed as predominantly “Christian”, we have discovered that in America and abroad, many people are not actively following after Jesus. It is our prayer that our brothers and sisters in Bolivia will be encouraged and empowered to make disciples who follow after Jesus!
We have been blessed over the past few weeks to host several of our friends at the “Heiberg B & B” for rest and renewal. One dear friend, Bekah, has just returned from serving high in the mountains of Lesotho. It was a joy to hear how God’s Word is going out to shepherds who previously had never heard of Jesus. When they learned the story of the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem, one shepherd declared that Jesus must be God for he knew that it was impossible to ride an unbroken donkey. That donkey must have recognized that Jesus created him and he therefore complied with his rider! We will share more about this amazing story in the days ahead on our blog.
We are joining our home church, Grace at Ft. Clarke, as we begin a new series September 8th, based on the book, Follow, by Floyd McClung, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxPCLKlmrzY. We have had the privilege to meet and study under Floyd McClung and we highly recommend his book!
Thanks so much for partnering with us. We thank God for the privilege to follow after Jesus in making disciples of the nations!
Blessings, Denny & Cindy
May 3, 2013
"So, when is your next trip?"
We were home less than 24 hours from 3 weeks in southern Africa when Paul Emery uttered the familiar question. In reality, it is a fair question! We have travelled over 50,000 miles in the past year and completely circled the globe. However, this intro into a new season of life is not necessarily
"normal".....whatever "NORMAL" is.....We'll come back to that in a future blog.
This trip to Lesotho was so very precious because of the depth of relationships that we experienced.
What a joy to listen to the hearts of the young adults. We believe that the potential for them to make disciples among their generation will be transformational for the Kingdom of Lesotho and beyond. Listen to the heart of several:
Beloved Family, Friends, and Partners in Ministry,
Greetings from the balmy breezes of the northern shoreline of Honduras! We have just concluded our Discipleship Training Conference here in El Porvenir this afternoon and we wanted to share our extreme gratitude for your investment of your prayers and your finances, which made this experience possible. Just to remind you, Cindy and I have been serving alongside of our dear friends and colleagues in ministry, Billy and Donna Hires. All four of us are overwhelmed by the ways the Lord made Himself known during the week. We were privileged to hear the first-hand testimonies of the participants as they shared with the entire group during our Celebration Service this afternoon.
Since you couldn’t be here to witness our time together, we have sent along a few pictures that give you a glimpse of the precious women and men that we have been training throughout the week. We have also copied below some of the responses of the participants as they reflected on what God has been saying and how He has been working in and through their lives as a result of their participation.
Three of the men shared that they have already been using the discipleship materials, which they had experienced, and that we had given them after our training sessions. They were immediately implementing this new material in their churches and in small groups.
One man put it this way, “You took off your belts and spanked us, but we received it with joy. It was a deep word shared with God’s grace. We were not resistant to your message, even though it was not easy to hear.”
“We now understand that we have a responsibility to pass the baton of the Gospel to others.”
“I realize it is my responsibility, not only my pastor’s, to make disciples! The church is NOT to revolve around the pastor, but the ‘Great Commission’ is for the entire church family.”
“We are challenged to move outside our comfort zones [to make disciples of all peoples]!”
“I was awakened by the disobedient example of Jonah as he turned away from God’s command. Missions is hard work and we must have God’s heart for other people groups. We must be more passionate about the lost than about our own comfort and security.”
One of the women stood up and shared how moved she was as she heard the first ten testimonies from men and how their lives had been transformed by the training. She saw and heard a serious commitment to disciplemaking along with action plans regarding what these men hope to accomplish.
In speaking of Billy and myself, one of the men said, “It was great to meet men who will go anywhere to teach about making disciples.”
One of the men is a college professor in a Bible school and he has committed to train ten pastors with the materials that we provided him with this week. He is meeting with them this Sunday to go over the strategy and will assign them five men each to begin discipling. As he said to all of us, “So many times we receive teaching of the Word, but we don’t put it into practice!”
One man said: “I have learned that our mission is not just to evangelize, but to make disciples. When we evangelize, the people many times soon fall away or simply don’t grow. We have learned that when we disciple others, then they will remain in the faith. We need to pass the baton to others!”
One woman mentioned, “I have learned the task is not only for pastors, but for all of us! Bless you and please come back giving us these precious lessons.”
One pastor said with great passion as he faced his Honduran brothers and sisters, “They (North Americans) came to tell us what we were not doing. They see great qualities in us to be great teachers. We are not ignorant; we’re just disobedient. They came and spoke to us and we all said, ‘Amen!’ But if a Honduran says it (the teachings we presented about making disciples and joining Jesus in His mission) we say, ‘who is this brother who has come to criticize us? We have become a mediocre church! Do the missionaries have to come and tell us to believe what God’s Word has been saying to us all along? If they see the work we can do, they will say, ‘We don’t have to come back again to Honduras!”
During our celebration time, Humberto and three other pastors demonstrated the process of discipleship by passing the baton from one to the other to show how we pass the treasure of the Gospel. Following the men, the women demonstrated the truth of how Timothy came to faith (II Timothy 1:5). Cindy represented his grandmother and passed it to Elizabeth, representing Timothy’s mother, and she passed it to “Timothy” who was Elizabeth’s 15 year old daughter, Basty, who gave her heart to Jesus on Thursday afternoon. Basty then passed the baton throughout the
congregation representing all the disciples who would come to faith!!
We closed our celebration by having the fifty participants move to the sides of our meeting room and walk among the nine flags that were hanging around the room and pray for God to move among his people in that country. It was a powerful and humbling sight to behold as these precious Hondurans passionately prayed for these neighboring countries. Then as a grand finale, we asked them to all come downstairs and gather around the Honduran flag and pray for God to move mightily throughout their own country. This was an experience that I wish each of you could have experienced. It was powerful!
Cindy and I can’t begin to thank you enough for standing with us in our new role and for believing in us as we seek to train up national leaders to disciple the nations. We feel very inadequate for the task, but at the same time we feel that God has been preparing us throughout our lives for such a strategic opportunity as this.
Looking forward to seeing you soon and sharing with you in person what God has done among us this week.
With gratitude and appreciation,
One of the verses that has influenced me and in my journey and inspired my passion for disciplemaking is Luke 9:51 -
As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.
I discovered that Luke uses a common Hebrew phrase to describe the resolve of Jesus to go to Jerusalem, “he set his face….” It means that Jesus fixed his gaze upon his destination and mission. He would not be distracted or detoured from accomplishing his Father’s plan for his life. Even his looming death would not deter him from the cross. I like the way The Message translates this phrase, “he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.” Now that’s what I call, resolve!
Challenged by the resolve and commitment of Jesus to fulfill his life’s mission has caused me to resolve to focus upon completing the mission God has laid out for my life. I believe I can best accomplish this by committing to a daily practice of receiving nourishment from God’s Word. I am so grateful for what God has shown me in these first few days of the journey through Luke’s Gospel. Apparently, this simple Bible Study method has been a blessing and encouragement to other fellow travelers. Listen to one couple who have resolved to the daily practice of “GEARing up for the Journey.”
Thank you so much for G.E.A.R. How can we be so old and yet still learning how to read the Bible? The entire message, from redwood trees to how to’s, was so relevant to our lives as retired and too often relaxed partners. I’ve journaled two pages, and I’m only in chapter 10! I think “R” will be the hardest part but the most needed for me. Old habits die hard, and the “senior” part of me tends to reflect too much on the past…mistakes, memories, what ifs, and why didn'ts. It’s hard to “press on" and leave all that garbage behind.
In addition, when conversation between [my husband] and me tends to dwindle and books or TV replace it, we will work at discussing specific scriptures as we plan our days. Having trod the path of all the technology that is available as well as the cares of this world, I look forward to fertilizing my roots with God’s Word in a new and deeper study. I find myself even checking out several different Bibles to improve my G.E.A.R.
And this from another outfitter:
After today’s entry, it came to me to let you know two things. One is that I’m doing the G.E.A.R. exercise and I’m not finding it a burden, but rather a solace! Secondly, it is working to get me back into a more intimate relation with God. For many reasons, I was struggling to connect – like I had abandoned HIM when I need Him the most.
If you would like to try out this simple method of Transformational Bible Study, look at my entry on February 26, “Essential G.E.A.R for Following Jesus.” I explain the process and give you a sample of how you might apply this method to a portion of Scripture.
May God honor your resolve to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
A few years ago we walked through a message series at Grace Church called “Essential G.E.A.R. for Following Jesus.” For seven weeks we took a look at a portion of Luke’s gospel that records the conversations and events of Jesus as He takes His final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. In the first message of the series we offered a practical guide for reading through the Scriptures that enabled each of us to dig deeper into the Bible and to help us apply what we have read to our daily lives.
I first learned of this method while attending a pastor’s conference in February 2003. A pastor named Wayne Cordeiro, from New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, challenged each of us to join him in a simple method of personal Bible study that he had used successfully for years. As a result, I have found this devotional method to be very helpful for me in digging deeper into the Scriptures. This method is also easily reproducible for others to apply to their lives. In light of our outfitter’s image of discipleship at Grace Church, I modified the method to fit within our context.
For those of you who may not remember this teaching, I’ll briefly summarize the G.E.A.R method of Transformational Bible Study.
1. Select a portion of Scripture to read. (During these next seven weeks we will be focusing upon Luke 9:51 thorough Luke 19:27.)
2. After you have read your portion for the day, select a verse or two that seems to stand out to you and that you would like to spend a few moments reflecting upon.
3. Now that you have a verse or two to focus upon, you will begin the G.E.A.R. method of Bible Study.
God’s Word: Write out word for word the Scripture you have selected for the day.
Examine: Now begin to examine what the text is saying by making observations. This is where you answer some of the following questions, “What is the context of this verse?” “What does the text say?” “Who is speaking?” “Who is the recipient?” “What is happening here?” “When is this taking place?” “Where is this happening?” “Why is this event taking place?” “How did this happen?” You also look for key or repeated words. Write down in a few sentences what you have discovered in this examination stage.
Apply: Here you answer the question: “What is God saying to ME through this Scripture?” “How should I respond?” “How does this work in MY life?” After you have a sense of how this Scripture might be applied to your life, spend a few moments writing our your thoughts.
Resolve: In light of what God has revealed and said to you, how will your life be different as a result of reading this Scripture? What will you resolve to do? To be resolved means to come to a definite decision about something, to make up your mind to obey what you have learned. Once you have a sense of how you might commit to live out a lesson that comes from this Scripture, take a moment to write it down as a prayer of commitment.
Now that I’ve unpacked the method for you, let me illustrate this method on a verse of Scripture so that you might see an example of the G.E.A.R. method.
God’s Word: “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
Examine: The Lord is speaking through His prophet, Jeremiah, to God’s people in Judah. They have turned from following the Lord and have placed their trust in the strength of other nations who do not worship the Lord. Unfortunately, the majority of God’s very own people have turned their hearts away from the Lord God. In these two verses Jeremiah reveals that those who determine to trust in the Lord and place their hope and confidence in Him will receive God’s blessings and favor. They will stand strong and healthy like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Even in times of drought and distress, these trees will continue to produce fruit.
Apply: Even when my life is in distress and turmoil and I am tempted to place my trust in human wisdom and strength, I must continue to trust in the Lord and His Word. When I place my hope and confidence in Him and develop a discipline of nourishing my soul from God’s Word, then I will be fruitful no matter how difficult the circumstances are at the moment.
Resolve: Lord, I want to thank you for your abundant provisions for my life. In light of this passage, I resolve to begin a daily practice of reading and studying your Word so that my spiritual roots will be nourished and my life will be fruitful and productive.
Let me encourage you to begin this time alone with God and His Word by praying for God to open your eyes to the wonderful truths in His Word. Here are a few sample prayers taken right from the Scriptures:
Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your truth!
Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.
Teach me, O Lord, to follow every one of your principles.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
There is a popular t-shirt worn by the personal trainers at our local health and fitness center: "The Pain of Discipline or The Pain of Regret!“ Many of us can personally identify with the truth of that statement as it relates to physical fitness. It takes discipline to keep up a lifestyle of fitness. And the reality is, exercise is a pain! But, when we are faithful for season of time, we reap great benefits!
Unfortunately, we can also identify with the flip side of discipline: Regret! When we slack off or simply get lazy, we experience the pain of regret. I’m all too familiar with this pain. There are a number of areas of my life in which I have regretted my lack of discipline: exercise, budgeting finances, learning another language, intentionally focusing on significant relationships, spending time with God in his Word, etc….
One of the areas that I have experienced the pain of regret is being faithful to my desire of journaling in a blog as tool that God could use in the lives of others. Now as Cindy and I launch a brand new chapter in our lives, we pray that this will be used by God as a tool of not only communication, but also instruction and inspiration.
“I am carried on the shoulders of those
who cannot see the landscape I describe.
I owe them far more than my weight.”
I found the above quote by Judith DuPree in a book by Betty Barnett: Friend Raising - Building a Missionary Support Team That Lasts. It vividly describes the people God has brought into our lives that have carried us through these last thirty years of ministry. I shared this quote on Sunday, May 20 as the Grace Church family gathered to celebrate our eighteen years of service among them. We both were overwhelmed with words of gratitude, affirmation, and love. May God continue to pour out His abundant grace upon you, Grace Church, as you fulfill His mission of making disciples of Jesus.
Having returned from my first Global Outreach Seminar just a few days ago I thought I would give you a few of my reflections as I look back over my experiences in India.
I will never forget the privilege of meeting, sharing with, and praying with some of the heroes of our faith disguised as ordinary people who are living out their faith with passion among the lost and unreached of India. We went with the attitude of learners, and these precious brothers and sisters taught us much of what a surrendered life to Jesus looks like compared to casual, complacent Christianity.
Among these lasting images is standing on the flat rooftops near the conclusion of each of our two Seminars in Delhi and Chennai with my hand on the shoulder of my Indian brothers and sisters as they firmly held onto their Indian flag and poured out their prayers on behalf of those within their borders to become disciples of Jesus. I was deeply moved by their sincere passion to present the gospel to not only their own people and among their own caste, but they have been inspired to take the Gospel to those beyond their boundaries.
Another image is that of kneeing down with my fellow teammates and having the participants of our Chennai Seminar lay hands on us and pray down the blessings of heaven upon us. As I heard them cry out in their native tongue, I asked God not to let me rise from the floor as the same person who knelt moments before. What a humbling experience to have these Indian believers show their great appreciation by surrounding us in fervent prayer.
Upon my arrival in Chennai, I discovered that I would be leaving in just a few short hours to speak in a United Methodist Church in Chennai. I could have never imagined how transforming that experience would be for me. When I arrived at the church building I was greeted by a couple and their family. Later in the worship service their son and daughter came up onto the platform to lead the congregation in five simple, but powerful songs of praise. The mom functioned as our worship leader as the father played the guitar, their ten-year-old son played the keyboard, and their daughter sang along. I was moved by their impact upon me, not because of my familiarity of the songs, but by the visible presence of God’s Spirit speaking and singing through them. The mother beautifully wove scripture between the songs that helped us to engage in worship at a deeper level.
By the time I arose to deliver the message I was experiencing a variety of feelings. But I tell you with all sincerity, that I have seldom sensed the presence and freedom of God’s Holy Spirit any more than I did at that moment as I shared God’s missional message of our sacred privilege and responsibility of passing the treasure of the gospel on to people of every tribe, language, and nation.
As I attempted to make the message practical to my Indian brothers and sisters, I stepped off the platform and walked over to the family that had earlier led us in worship. I told the father, “Johnson,” that God had entrusted this treasure of the gospel into his hand. He then passed it to his wife, then to her son, and finally to their daughter. I then asked the congregation, “What is Leeann’s responsibility now that she has received the treasure?” They responded “To share it with others!” Since they had already received the treasure themselves, I escorted this precious teenager out the door to pass the baton on to those who have yet to hear it.
In closing, how do you and The Mission Society measure the success of such an investment of time and resources? Unfortunately, there are practical limitations on trying to accurately measure the value of such a venture. One of the ways I have answered that question is by the response of the participants themselves.
These words came from one of the participants at the Delhi Seminar who has remained connected with me through email:
Dear Rev. Denny Heiberg,
Praise the Lord. I read the message that you had written down in my notebook, many times. It has encouraged me very much. May God bless you abundantly because of your parental love.
You remember, when we prayed for Sudan during our prayer time; on the19th, I saw a photo, which was published in The Times of India, which has touched me very much. If God allows, we both will travel to Sudan and many more poor nations (both spiritually and physically).
I learned many things from the conference, regarding global outreach. I am praying to God to use me like a good vessel in His hands. I invited my team of pastors in Delhi, tomorrow. And I called up my team of Tribal mission in Madhya Pradesh and informed them that I would visit them shortly; the reason being, that I want to equip them as leaders (disciples).
Convey my regards and love to your family. We are praying to further strengthen our relationship to reach the world. My family and I are doing well by the grace of our Lord.
Rev. Philip John
Denny & Cindy Heiberg