Who’s Your Buddy?


At a recent Pasadena Tabernacle Band rehearsal, Jim Sparks shared a challenging devotional on the value of friendships. He read the Scripture, Mark 2:1-12. This is a story about a paralytic man whose friends believed that Jesus could heal him. At last they found a way to get their friend to Jesus by opening the roof and letting him down by ropes attached to his bed. The four men risked much to get their friend to Jesus. Jim asked the questions, “Do you have four close friends you can call when you need help? Do you have four friends you count on to be there when life’s challenges seem insurmountable?”

All humans crave intimate friendships. We all need a friend who loves us when we are unlovable. We all desire to have a friend who can be there for us during our darkest moments. Friends play a critical role in our lives. Friends determine our destiny. We become like those with whom we spend time. We copy and imitate our friends – peer pressure! The friends we chose determine the trajectory of our lives. Choose wisely. We all need a loyal, trustworthy friend. How many of us have friends who inspire us to seek God more? How many of us have, at least, four spiritual friends who can take us to Jesus when life gets tough? Better still, are you a trustworthy, loving, loyal friend?


Here are ways you can develop deep, meaningful friendships. Here is how you can be a loyal, trustworthy friend:

  • Pray. Ask God to direct you to the right person. Pray. Ask God to help you be a good friend.
  • Smile. To have friends, be friendly. Grumpy people are often lonely people. To develop friendships, be pleasant.
  • Take the risk. Get to know someone. Step out of your shell.
  • Listen. A good friend listens. Learn to listen to people.  Listen not just hear. Do not just talk about yourself.  Ask questions. Listen “between the lines.”
  • Show up. A good friend is there for others. Celebrate with your friend.  Remember and do something special on your friend’s birthday or anniversary.
  • Family. A good friend becomes family. Good friends befriend the entire family. One of family members once thought my friend Robbie was part of our family.  Robbie was always around for important family events.
  • Understand. A good friend is sensitive. A good friend looks out for you. When no one else can understand you, your friend will.  Your fiend is one person who will walk up and say, “You are not you today. What’s going on?”
  • Communicate. Good friends stay in touch.  These days, we can utilize various channels of communication that are available.  You can keep in touch in person, by phone, handwritten letter, Facebook, Facetime, text, Skype, and so forth.
  • Give gifts. When thinking of ministering to your friend – be creative and thoughtful. It does not always have to cost money.
  • Rekindle your old friendships. I dare you to reach out to those uncultivated, dying friendships.
  • Accountability. Keep each other accountable. Develop your relationship so much that you can speak life into each other’s life.  Learn to receive encouragement and honest feedback from your friend.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Your friend is one person you can trust to watch your back, to point out your blind spots, and stand with you at all times.


Here again, are Jim Sparks’ questions: “Do you have four close friends you can call when you need help? Do you have four friends you count on to be there when life’s challenges seem insurmountable?”

To have a good friend, you need to be a good friend.  What are you doing to cultivate good friendships?


Self-care: Finding Rest in a Busy World


Psalm 46:10, “He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I thought I was going to pass out. I felt faint. My body was weak. My knees struggled to support my frame. Sweat droplets glistened on my forehead. My heart rate beat as fast as is if I had been running a marathon. I stumbled a little. Then I leaned over a table to support myself. I sat down at that table, while taking gulps of cold water. What was going on?

Noticing something wrong, Rutendo came over to check on me. I told her I was OK. I just needed time to sit down and rest a little. I had not slept much in the past eight weeks. I had been working over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. I had been busy fundraising, preaching, teaching, and carrying out all other good ministry duties. The life of a Salvation Army Corps Officer. To me, sleep and rest were overrated. Who had time for that? Sleeping slowed me down. There was so much to do. There were so many toys to collect. Many Christmas bell ringers needed to be hired, and driven to their work sites. So much to do, so little time. However, the fatigue was catching up to me. I was running on fumes. I had run my body into the ground. For the past week, woke up in the middle of the night, sweating; my heart racing. I had ignored this feeling, thinking it would also soon go away.

Rutendo called a local pastor, whom I respected. The pastor came to where I was, shaking his head. He challenged me to go to the hospital. I told him I would go after my speech that was scheduled for that evening. He walked away. Within a few moments, I saw an ambulance pull up to the front of the building. The EMT’s came towards me. My pastor friend smiled and confessed. “I called 9-1-1. You need to go see the doctor,” I glanced over, and saw Rutendo crying. What was going on?

Soon, I found myself in the Emergency Room, hooked up to the EKG. The doctor came in to announce the diagnosis. He told me I was suffering from exhaustion – an extreme case of fatigue. My body was trying to tell me to slow down. He asked me what my profession is. After telling him my story, I kind of chuckled. The doctor reminded me I cannot save the world by myself. He challenged me to observe the Sabbath. He insisted I take a day off work each week. The doctor chided me to take a vacation each year. His prescription was I should take care of me so I can be effective in taking care of others. The prescription was simple, yet revolutionary.


Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint, he said. As ministers, we leak. We give out physical, emotional and spiritual support. We need to refill ourselves, lest we run on fumes. Ministry duties demand much of our attention. As ministers, we are on duty 24-7. If we do not take care of ourselves, we run ourselves into the ground. Many hard-working, gifted ministers quit the ministry due to fatigue and burn out. Many churches lose competent, dynamic ministers who left the ministry due to exhaustion and burn out. Do not let this be you. Develop a plan of self-care today.

Are you a victim of the tyranny of the urgent?

Are you enslaved to busyness, hurry, rush and adrenaline?

In what ways have you neglected caring for your health, your body, your relationships?

How might Jesus be inviting you more deeply into some area of self-care?

Are you experiencing exhaustion and burnout?

How have deadlines, timelines and bottom lines affected the pace of your life?

What sort of power have you given to these imaginary lines?

What options do you have?

What do you need to cut or change so you can take a handle of your life?

How can you replenish yourself?

What steps do you need to take to refresh your soul?


Time for reset



I drive a beautiful, blue, cross-over Toyota Venza.  This car runs smoothly, and is comfortable.  Recently, the dashboard of my Venza lit up.  Many orange lights were flashing.  These included the check engine light, the oil change light, and the flat tire light.  I panicked, as I did not understand what was wrong with the vehicle.  I drove the vehicle to a nearby car repair shop.  The shop owner told me to leave the vehicle at the shop so they can run some diagnostics on it.  The next day, I received a call informing me they would need to order some parts to fix the car.  Two days later, and a couple of hundred dollars later the vehicle was repaired.  So, I thought. A few days went by, and then the dash board lit up again.  The lights would not stop flashing.  I thought they had fixed the problem, but the vehicle was still acting up.

I took the vehicle to a different shop this time.  They informed the sensors in the vehicle were malfunctioning.  They would order new sensors, and install them.  I left the vehicle at this shop for a few days.  When I went to get the vehicle, the flashing lights had stopped.  Everything was working well.  I paid, and drove away.

Toyota Pasadena

A few days later … you guessed it …  the dash board lit up again.  The bright orange lights were flashing.  I was frustrated. Someone reminded me that since I drive a Toyota Venza, I must take it to a Toyota dealer.  The manufacturers know exactly what’s wrong with their product.  I drove my car to the Toyota of Pasadena shop. The helpful, courteous technicians asked me to wait as they ran diagnostics on the vehicle.  After a few moments, the technicians told me to come back after a few days.  When I returned, the car was as good as new.  No more flashing.  I asked the technicians what had been the problem.  They said cars these days have computers which need to be reset occasionally.  They simply reset the computer, and the car was fine.

In our lives, we all face challenges.  We all go through moments which drive us to seek help.  Life just does not work well at times.  Finances do not add up, children go rebellious, or relationships go sour. We sometimes face health problems, depression, sin, or death of a family member. We seek help which might temporarily fix the problem. Yet, we still feel empty, lost, confused, or frustrated.  Positive thinking, good vibes, or following the inward light, does not fix the problem.  Human effort, new age thinking, or self-help books come short.

We are the creation of the Creator, God.  He knows what’s best for us. He knows our function.  He knows our purpose. When life does not work, we need to go back to the Creator, to be reset.  We need to take what’s not working back to God. Our souls need to be refreshed by God.  When you have tried it all, it’s time to take yourself to God.  When all is not working, call on God.  Whatever challenges you are facing, take them to God.  He has the remedy.  He has the solution.  He is the remedy.  He is the solution.

This is Why I Do What I Do!


It was at the end of a long, tiring day.  With the remote in my hand, I was TV channel surfing, as I reclined in my comfortable favorite chair.  The toll of days packed with leading social services programs, music ministries, women’s ministries, youth programs and seniors Bible Study activities was weighing me down.  Suddenly, Rutendo interrupted me with what she called the best news of the day. I thought this was her gimmick to get me to listen to all her stories that never seem to end.  I did not listen to hear although I could see her lips move.  All I wanted was to relax.

At the corner of my, I noticed tears streaming down her cheeks. “This must be a serious story,” I thought.  “Wait a minute, start from the beginning again.”  I pretended to have been listening, and was just wanting to see if I heard correctly.  On other days, this is when I would have gotten the lecture on how much I do not listen.  Today was different.  In-between sobs, she smiled as she began to relay the great story.  Before she concluded her story, I, too, was in tears.

What had happened to make us both cry?  Gabby is a 10-year-old girl who started attending youth programs through the advertising in our area.  Although Gabby smiles and laughs like all kids, she and her sisters miss their mother.  They 27-year-old mother incarcerated, and she is pregnant with twins.  Gabby and her little sisters live with their aging, ailing grandmother.  The girls witness various men visit the house to drink, smoke, and engage in diverse illicit activities, with the girls’ uncle. No one Gabby’s family is gainfully employed.  No one in Gabby’s family has finished high school.  There are no positive role models for Gabby.


On this Wednesday, Rutendo showed Gabby, and the rest of the Sunbeam girls, our wedding pictures.  Gabby stood up, in front of the whole Sunbeams group and said, “I would like to have wedding like yours, Captain.”  She went on to say, “Also, I want to go to college to study to be a lawyer. I do not want to have children before I get married. I do not want to get married before I finish college!”  How can Gabby have such a dream when her background works so much against her? We, at The Salvation Army, are her role models.  This is what The Salvation Army does best – giving hope and dreams to children like Gabby.  I will do whatever it takes to prepare the future for Gabby.  I might not be there to see Gabby walk across the stage to receive her Law degree someday.  I might not be there to see Gabby get married in a glorious fashion, but I can help her attain those dreams by setting an example for her.  Jesus is in the business of transforming lives – Gabby’s is just one example.


“Pass me the Kleenex,” I said to Rutendo as I tried to look away from her.  I praise God that I am a Salvation Army officer who has been entrusted with the dreams, hopes and futures of such children.  This is why I do what I do. I am a conduit of grace to God’s children like Gabby.

Celebrating Christmas in Zimbabwe

People have been asking me how we celebrate Christmas in Zimbabwe.  Here is how:



From the beginning of December, those who can afford, send out Christmas cards to their friends and relatives.


Families often decorate only the living/dining room.  Few houses have Christmas trees.

We only sang Christmas Carols during the services leading up to Christmas, and during the Christmas Day morning service.


For most people, Christmas day starts with a Church service.

After the Church service, everyone has a party in their homes and people go from house to house, visiting all their family and friends on the way home!

Many people get their biggest stereo speakers out and put them outside the front of the house and play their favorite music very loudly, while people dance.


Everyone wears their best clothes for Christmas, as for some families the only new clothes they get every year are for Christmas. The parties are a good place to show off their new clothes.  Some of us got new school uniforms for the next school year, ouch!


Our Christmas Day special food is roasted chicken, rice, and coleslaw salad, served with a bottle of Coca-Cola or Fanta.


Father Christmas (Santa) can be seen at some department stores might sometimes arrive at big stores in a Fire Engine. The streets in the big cities also can have colorful Christmas lights.

The Lost Art of Commitment

Psalm, 27:4, “I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing:  To live with him in his house my whole life long.  I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet.”



TIME. Commitment requires time.  Fewer people are interested in investing time to commit to something/someone.  Takes too much time to invest.

TIED DOWN.  Some people do not want to settle on what thing/person.  They are not ready to be tied down to one thing/person.  The world has so much to offer.  They do not want to miss the next bigger thing.   The grass is greener elsewhere.

TOUGH.  Commitment is not easy. Commitment is not always fun.  Commitment goes beyond butterfly feelings. Commitment is a decision to stick with it/him/her no matter what.

PERFECTIONISM. Nothing is good enough.  Perfectionists struggle with this.  They are dissatisfied with the status quo; therefore, they cannot commit until they find the perfect person/thing. They might be looking for Mr. or Mrs. Perfect for the rest of their lives.

FEAR. They fear commitment will take away their freedom.  They have a misconception that commitment spells enslavement.



  1. PRIORITIES.  Church no longer as important.  God is just one of the options.
  2. BUSYNESS.  Good is enemy of best. Too many things competing for our time
  3. AFFLUENCE. Wealth gives people abilities to do other things – vacations, trips, events, experiences, toys, etc
  4. CHILDRENS PROGRAMS. Many families spend weekends driving children, and attend their many sports events like baseball, soccer, football, basketball, and so forth.
  5. BLENDED FAMILIES.  Due to the divorce rates, some children bounce from one parent to another, often in other cities and states.  Such families do not commit to church as they are either hosting the children, or driving the children elsewhere.
  1. TECHNOLOGY. Tablets, computers, smartphones, and other gadgets are making zombies out of many people. Many people are addicted to their gadgets such that they do not have time for church. Or if they go to church, they spend the time surfing the net, scrolling up and down the Social media feeds, texting, and sending e-mail messages.
  2. POST-CHRISTIAN SOCIETY.  Christianity, and religion now looked down upon. Some people despise organized religion.  Some have work schedules which compete with Sunday church attendance.
  3. SLEEPING IN.  Some people do not commit to church because they sleep on Sundays.  They claim they can worship alone at home, watch TV preachers, listen to podcasts.
  4. CULTURAL SHIFT. We must admit, we live in an age where most people do not feel guilty missing church.  Church is no longer the center of their lives.
  5. RETURN ON INVESTMENT.   Some people have been hurt by the church.  Some people have gone to church for many years, but have not seen any life transformation.  Some have not received answers to their prayers.  Thus, they do not think going to church makes any difference.

Decide to commit to God, your family, your vision, your church.



  1.   Make up your mind.  It’s not just going to happen.
  2. Set SMART goals. Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time sensitive.
  3. Just Do it. Don’t delay.  Don’t let fear hold you back.
  4. Stick to it. Don’t give up.  Don’t give in. GRIT – Perseverance + hard work.
  5. Seek accountability. Someone to hold you accountable, to encourage you, to check up on you.
  6. Celebrate small victories. Enjoy the small steps.
  7. Wake up. Repeat all the prior steps all over again.

Why Are You Here? 4 Ways to Discover Your Purpose


A rich man was determined to give his mother a birthday present that would outshine all others. He read of a bird that had a vocabulary of 4000 words, could speak in numerous languages and sing 3 operatic arias. He immediately bought the bird for $50,000 and had it delivered to his mother. The next day he phoned to see if she had received the bird. “What did you think of the bird?” he asked. She replied, “It was delicious.” – Source Unknown.


  • Sex. Pleasures.  “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified:  that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
  • Success. FAME. Power. Knowledge.  Mark 8:36, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
  • Silver. FORTUNE. Money. Materialism. Jobs.  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24

Why Am I Here


Purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

  • Purpose gives meaning to life.
  • Purpose simplifies life
  • Purpose gives focus to life
  • Purpose motivates your life
  • Purposes prepares you for end of life



  • Sign on door: “Gone out of business. Didn’t know what our business was.” – 1963 — University Christian Church. in NY.
  •  Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re likely to end up someplace else.”
  • “A person without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder–a waif, a nothing, a no man. Have a purpose in life, and, having it, throw such strength of mind and muscle into your work as God has given you.” – Thomas Carlyle.
  • “More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent.” – Billy Sunday



  1. Listen to God.  Pray, ask God to reveal your purpose to you. Let God be God.  He is good at being God. As the Creator, he is in the business of revealing the purpose for which He created you, His creation! Your plans might be good, but let God show you His purpose.  Proverbs 19:21 states, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
  2. Listen to your heart.  What frustrates you? Often, the issues you see as wrong are the exact areas where God wants you to work.  If you are frustrated by lack of organization around you, maybe God wants you to use your organization skills to improve your surroundings.  Your passion is consequently tied to your purpose.  Discover your passion, you discover your purpose. When you notice what no one else notices; when you are mad about what bothers no one else, you are the right person to fix the problem.

What fires you up?  What is it that when you talk about, your voice is elevated, your eyes become big, and you get excited?  You purpose could be in those areas where your passion lies.

3.   Listen to others.  Ask for advice from others.  Better still, seek the guidance of those who are wise.  Ask honest, loving, caring truthful people what they perceive your purpose to be.  Proverbs 11:14 states, “For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.”
People see and know your blind spots.

4. Obey.  Follow what God has already been showing you.   Some people think their purpose is not good enough, or not fancy.  You are at your best when you are doing what you were created to do.  You thrive when operating in your purpose area.  You may have failed many times because you are doing what you were not supposed to do.

Try your hand at different things.  Develop your gifts.  Train yourself.  Start practicing to live on purpose.  I Peter 4:10 states, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”