Sign Up for Updates
- Latest Blog
- Men's Christian Living
- Women's Christian Living
- View All
How Big is Your Faith?
Posted on Jul 12, 2018 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
Posted by : Wendy Dunham
While deciding on a topic to write about, the idea of a mustard seed made its way to the writer’s part of my brain. And after making itself at home for several days, it was clear it had no intention of leaving. Given my years of writing, I’ve learned that when a topic reaches out to an author, that is the very thing that must be written. Knowing that, I purchased a container of mustard seeds and placed one seed in my hand. It always helps to have a visual.
While holding that mustard seed, I thought, what could be said of one little seed? Before long the words mustard seed led to the word mustard and brought images of baseball stadium hotdogs covered with waves of yellow mustard dripping from my fingers. But after reading about this tiny seed, I realized there was more. I discovered that one tiny seed, just one to two millimeters (0.039-0.079 inch) in size, holds the power to reap great dividends not only in our health, but in our spiritual journey as well.
I learned that the mustard plant, originating in the Middle East, has been used since earlier times in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, and detoxification of the body. And today mustard seeds are known to contain more than 80 nutrients. Some of the health benefits include the prevention of cancer, the treatment of psoriasis, contact dermatitis, and cardiovascular problems, and help in relieving respiratory ailments and stiff muscles and painful joints.
I was astonished.
Faith Like a Mustard Seed
I also learned that in Jesus’s day, the mustard seed was known as the smallest seed. In Matthew 17:20 (nlt), Jesus uses this seed in a parable. “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from her to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
As I thought about that verse, I imagined a situation where someone asks me if I have faith. And because I’ve been a Christian for more than 30 years, my first response would likely be a confident, “Yes, of course, I have faith. I’ve been a Christian for a long time.” But as I thought more, I was faced with the humbling reality that my faith is really quite small…maybe just one to two millimeters in size—the size of a mustard seed. But our Jesus is a truth speaker, and he says that is big enough.
What Are Your Mountains?
I thought about the mountains I am facing in my own life, the mountains in the lives of my friends and family, and in the lives of people I’ve never met. Mountains that seem insurmountable or too difficult to move. Mountains of uncertain health problems. Mountains of financial problems. Mountains of relationship problems. Mountains of regret. We do everything we can to move them and everything we can to climb over them. We use every ounce of energy we have. We pray big prayers. We ask for more faith. We may even be criticized by some for not having enough. But the bottom line is that these mountains are too big for us to move by our own strength.
Still holding that same tiny seed, I drop to my knees and make my way to Jesus. As I relinquish the seed, I watch it disappear in the dust and dirt that surround two worn, calloused feet, which have climbed more mountains that I can fathom.
There is nothing left for me to do. There’s no need for me to become breathless while trying to climb my mountains. There’s no need for me to lean against them, pushing and shoving with every ounce of strength I have. I simply need to rest.
Two strong hands reach down and pull me to my feet. Oh, what comfort is found in that tiny seed. What peace is gained when it’s dropped at the feet of Jesus. It is the comfort of two sacred arms wrapped around me while the Prince of Peace gently kisses the top of my head and whispers, “My child, I created every mountain. I strategically placed them across the continents. And I strategically placed them in your life.” After several moments, his nail-scarred hand wipes a stream of tears from my cheek. “And if I created them,” he adds, “surely I can move them.”
I rest in his arms. In his comfort. In his peace. And in his strength, which is strong enough to move mountains. Even mine.
Teach your child simple faith lessons with these two new adventures from Wendy's series for young readers, Tales of Buttercup Grove.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
You Really Can Ask For Anything
Ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.
Some parts of the Bible are simply more difficult to believe than others.
And I think John 15:7 is certainly a challenge. Strangely, in many ways I think we find it more difficult than even miraculous accounts like Lazarus coming back from the dead at the command of Jesus (in John 11).
Perhaps it’s easier for us to imagine there was a special time very long ago and very far away where dead bodies could come back to life, a man could walk on water, and lunch for 5,000 could spring into existence from a handful of loaves and fishes. Maybe these miracles in the pages of the Bible are easier for us to believe because they are not touching our lives in a palpable way.
But this promise about prayer in John 15:7 is different. It leaps out of the ancient text and challenges our faith where we live right now. It is truly an amazing promise that is very difficult to brush aside as something only meaningful to ancient Bible characters. Jesus was speaking not only to his closest followers at the moment, but to all generations of Christians that would follow—including us today.
I remember the moment I was reading this passage when it really caught my attention. I wondered if Jesus could possibly mean what he was saying or if it was just too good to be true. So many of us don’t take this promise seriously. And I wondered why. That’s when I decided to really dig in, and I found that Jesus said it, and he really meant it. As I looked into this verse, I found that apprehending this promise in its proper context and overcoming the objections has been one of the most fruitful endeavors in my Christian life.
Here’s what I learned:
- It is a conditional promise. Jesus said, “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.” But I make the case that most Christians I know fulfill this condition and hence ought to expect the result.
- I often hear “we need to be careful with verses like John 15:7 because it is sometimes abused by ‘word-faith’ or ‘prosperity’ preachers who have wandered into heresy.” Although this is true, my response is that I’m not going to let those who might abuse this passage rob me of gleaning the wonderful promise that the Lord himself had in store for us.
- We often find this promise difficult because we are immersed in a culture that simply does not think supernatural things (like answers to prayer) happen. This affects us all—no matter how spiritual we are. But the Lord can help us overcome it.
- There is an important context to this passage. Jesus speaks this promise in context of giving his famous “vine and branches” discourse. The thrust of the whole passage is about being plugged into Jesus (the vine) and bearing his fruit for his kingdom.
The conclusion, then, is this: if you are abiding in him, and his words are abiding in you and you want to serve him and bear his fruit, then you truly can ask for anything and it will be done for you! Just as John 15:7 tells us.
My hope is that as you put this promise into practice into your own life that you, too, will discover, as I have, that this verse sets up conditions that are perfectly designed to keep us plugged into Jesus. God is prepared to do amazing things in and through us, big and small, if we trust him and know in our minds and hearts that he can deliver whatever we ask for in prayer.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Help Your Child Discover the Secret Formula for Wisdom
God's wisdom is available to all of us, young or old. Share this post with your kids and encourage them to seek God as the ultimate source of knowledge and understanding.
What do you think of when you hear the word “wisdom”? We tend to think of people being wise only if they’re really old or have done a ton of schooling. But wisdom is actually available to all of us.
The Bible tells us what wisdom is. We are wise when we accurately apply God’s Word to the situations we deal with in life. Everything we need to know to live a life of wisdom can be found in the pages of the Bible.
If someone told you there was a secret formula for getting straight A’s in school, would you want to know what it was? Of course you would!
God has given us a secret formula for getting wisdom. Are you ready for it?
Knowledge + Understanding = Wisdom
Have you ever been talking to someone when suddenly, halfway through the conversation, you get some new information that totally changes the way you think about what’s going on? Maybe a friend is telling you a story about something that happened, and once you get the new information, you are able to understand what happened in a new way. Or the reason someone did something or said something totally makes sense now. It’s like viewing a picture that suddenly comes into focus. “Oh, I get it!” you say. “Now that makes sense!”
When you don’t know exactly what is going on—when you don’t have the knowledge—you don’t have wisdom. Without knowledge, you don’t completely get what is going on. And if you don’t get what is going on, you might be tempted to think or say or do the wrong thing.
God tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). That’s why you need to get all the information you can before you make a decision or respond to a situation. And you get that information from God’s truth.
Have you ever just known that something is true or that someone is right? That’s the kind of knowledge we’re talking about here. You can count on it. It’s been proven to be true. There’s no room for doubt. When you start with God, you can be sure that your information is accurate. You can be certain that you have knowledge.
The second part of the secret formula for wisdom is understanding. Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding.” Knowledge has to do with information, but understanding has to do with the meaning of the information. When you are able to combine knowledge and understanding together, you end up with wisdom.
Think back to the conversation with your friend. The story your friend told you was a little bit confusing before you got more information—the knowledge. But you can only understand the story if you know stuff about your friend and the situation and maybe the other people involved. And to understand something, you have to want to understand it. You have to make an effort.
One more thing: Wisdom is more than being smart. You can get straight A’s and still act foolishly. Wisdom is being able to actually use God’s words of truth when you’re with your friends or family, in school or at your activities—wherever you find yourself in life. Wisdom is making the best choice, the one that will bring about the best result for everyone involved. Wisdom is doing what Jesus would want you to do.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
For When Life Feels Hard And You Need a Helper
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
Psalm 121:1-4 niv
Where is your heart today? Are you overwhelmed? Frustrated? Discouraged? Do you need the reminder that God is your help? The One who created every living thing, who placed the moon and the stars in the heavens, not only knows your name, but He loves you. And He comes to your rescue as your helper, if you just ask.
Look back at the passage above. What is the one thing the Psalmist does? In the very first verse, he says, “I lift up my eyes.” Everything else is what God does for us, how He helps us. He will not let your foot slip. He watches over you and is always ready to help. We need only to keep our eyes focused on Him. When you are in distress, call out to Him for help, and He will hear you.
Often, we remember King David as a mighty warrior, a forgiven man with a heart after God. Yet, it was David who was hunted down by King Saul, who wanted to destroy the next king of Israel. In Psalm 18, we get a glimpse into David’s heart. He intentionally shifts his focus from the “cords of death” and “torrents of destruction” to the One who “arms me with strength.”
The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way.
Psalm 18:4-6; 32-33; 36 niv
God doesn’t lift us off the character-shaping mountains in our lives. He offers His help, strength, and power for us to endure the struggles before us. He empowers us, making us sure-footed like the deer and providing a broad path on which we can walk safely. Our heavenly Father doesn’t pluck us out of the ordeal. He guides and protects us as we learn and grow every step of the way. In fact, it’s when we acknowledge that we need His help that we are at our strongest, because we allow Him to work through us. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “… For when I am weak, then I am strong” (niv).
Oh, Lord, we praise You for providing help when we feel overwhelmed, unsure, and shaky. When we call on Your holy name, You straighten our path, secure our steps and empower us through our weaknesses. You help us look past the mountains in front of us onto You our Helper, who uses every obstacle to strengthen us and grow our character. How amazing it is that the Creator of the universe loves us and helps. Oh how we praise You, Lord!
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Learn to Rest in Your True Purpose
My soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Psalm 62:5
I’ve been running a bit ragged lately and thinking that maybe I resist rest because I resist not being in control.
I convince myself that my plans and dreams will fall apart if I’m not working around the clock to protect and prove them…to propel them forward.
Staying ahead of the game in self-preservation has become such a normal pace in our lives that I think my heart’s forgotten that it isn’t what I was created for.
John Piper said, “Sleep is a daily reminder from God that we are not God.”
I was created to rely on Him, to trust in Him, to run out of steam, to find myself incapable of doing it all.
Unless God builds it, unless He’s in it, all the laboring is in vain.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep (Psalm 127:1-2).
God has made us to grow weary, to call it quits in our laboring, and to rest.
If you feel worn out, friend, it’s a pretty good indication that our infinite God made you finite for a purpose. He is reminding you that resting isn’t just a good idea—it’s His example and standard for us.
Our all-powerful God does not grow weary, and yet He chose to rest on the seventh day of creation.
But I’m finding that it’s so much more than a day of the week or a scheduling choice. To rest is to cease striving, to be restored and refreshed. It is ultimately a physical picture of what we are called to spiritually.
The cross of Christ didn’t simply make it possible for us to take some time off from the burden of sin and death; it purchased for us true rest from its weight of shame continually.
In Christ, we can rest from our laboring in self-preservation and self-righteousness, and put our trust in a Savior who is “before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
Take a deep breath and allow yourself to rest.
There is no significance, hope, or value you can strive for and gain for yourself that hasn’t already been made fully available to those who rest in Him.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Your Daughter Needs to Know About Faithfulness
Being faithful in our walk with Christ is a good reminder for adults and kids alike. Share this excerpt with your daughter from God's Girl Says Yes and encourage her to be faithful to Him, no matter what.
“I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future” (Jeremiah 29:11 ERV).
I love reading this verse because it reminds me that God has good plans for us. But did you know that when God first gave this message to His people, the Israelites, a lot of not-so-good things were happening?
During this time, the Israelites were exiles living where they did not want to live. They had been forced to leave their home in Jerusalem and were being held captive in Babylon, a place that was nothing like their home. Furthermore, the Israelites were not always treated well by the Babylonians.
From the Israelites’ point of view, it sure didn’t look like God had a plan—especially not a good plan. But He did. God wanted His people to learn to trust Him even though they were going through difficult circumstances.
He even told them to pray for the people around them and to serve and help in the city where they were forced to live. (You may know how hard it is to pray for people who are mean to you!) In other words, God wanted the Israelites to remember their relationship with Him even when they couldn’t see good things happening around them. God wanted His people to be faithful to Him even when life was hard and His ways were puzzling.
God wants us to be faithful too. He wants our relationship with Him to be the most important thing in our lives even when nothing around us seems good.
When everything in life is going well and we’re feeling happy, it’s a little easier to trust that God has a good plan for us. However, when things are hard and we’re sad or frustrated or worried, we can forget or even stop believing that God actually has a good plan for us. When people are being mean to us, when we can’t seem to get good grades, or when we don’t think our parents understand, it becomes really tempting to stop trusting God and instead take charge of our lives. But God wants us to continue to trust Him and to continue to follow Him… because He has a plan.
As the plan unfolds mysteriously and sometimes slowly, remember that God always wants you to talk to Him and to ask Him for any help you need. Even though God has good plans for you, your life will sometimes be hard. Realize that God uses every situation—the good ones as well as the not-so-great ones and the totally hard times too—in His good plan for your life.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
Leading Your Kids in Prayer is Simple. Here’s How…
My favorite definition of a leader is this: A leader is someone who goes first.
I like it because it’s simple, it’s practical, and it makes leadership achievable. Something anyone can do who is willing to get out there, give it a try, and learn from their mistakes.
The people who follow find direction and courage in the steps of the leader. Sometimes they get a good laugh watching the leader make colossal blunders. Hopefully, the leader laughs too.
Leading in prayer can be like that. Some people talk about being mighty prayer warriors, persevering through adversity with white-hot zeal until they overcome the forces of darkness and receive from God the things they carry on their hearts.
I admire those people, but I’m not one of them. I’m more like the colossal blunderer.
But I can do this: I can go first. Most nights when my kids were little, after they brushed their teeth, after we read books and sang songs and snuggled in the big chair, I would finally (finally!) tuck each one in his or her bed, silently smooth their hair for a few seconds, and then close my eyes and say, “Dear Jesus…”
What came next was seldom impressive. In fact, it was usually so simple, so elementary, the kids could pretty much have said the same thing themselves. Sometimes they did.
And that’s the point. I went first, bumbling along, and they followed. They learned about…
- Repentance. I apologized to God (it was never hard to think of a reason), and I thanked him for forgiving me and helping me to learn from my mistakes. My kids understood that our failures aren’t the end of the world—for God or for us.
- Requests. I told God I trusted him to give us the things we need, and my kids grew up with a sense that good things are worth waiting for.
- Thanks. I recounted my day, telling God how glad I was he was in all of it, and my kids began to see God in their day too.
My part took about twenty or thirty seconds, and then it was the child’s turn. Some of the words I used showed up in their prayers too (because that’s what happens when someone leads). Some of the feelings that leaked out of me seeped out of their hearts as well. And some of the deep mysteries of God—that He likes us, that He is good, that He is always with us—began guiding their prayers, just as they guided mine.
Those times became less frequent as the kids grew older (I didn’t have the energy to stay up as late as they did). But our well-established habit of keeping our prayers simple and honest and real continues today.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
When it Comes to Prayer, Why Wait?
Have you done this too? During a conversation, a friend or acquaintance shares some challenge they’re facing. A situation at work. A sick kid. A rough patch in a marriage. A family member going through a crisis. A wayward teen. A personal spiritual desert. Something that could use some serious intervention from the Creator of the universe. Because I believe in the power of prayer, I would say, “I’ll pray for you.”
Then I would break that promise.
It wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t a lie. So why didn’t I pray? Maybe I got distracted by a personal emergency. Maybe that promise to pray got sidetracked by an even bigger prayer request. Maybe I was being a little selfish because I have a tendency to think more about myself than about others as I move through the day. But really I meant to pray, I wanted to pray, and sometimes I did remember to pray. But not as often I wanted. As I said, way too frequently I would fail to keep my promise.
You may be nodding your head because you’ve done the same thing, so let’s consider a few strategies we could use to fix this obvious shortcoming. How about pulling out a notebook from a pocket, purse, or briefcase and jotting down the name, date, and prayer request? Then make it a point to go through that list once a day or several times a week.
Another option would be to pull out your smartphone right then and there and use one of the prayer apps that help you track your prayers and remind you to pray. Apps like PrayerMate, Echo, Pray with Me, Prayer Notebook, or Prayer Journal. Some of those apps include a verse or short teaching of the day, updates from missional organizations, the ability to track answered prayer, and the ability to forward prayer requests through Twitter, Facebook, and so on.
One possible strategy would be to spend intentional time at the end of every day recalling all your personal interactions. That would include waving at your neighbor, tickling your toddler, talking to Mom on the phone, texting your BFF, yelling at that referee, cursing the driver in the giant SUV, walking quickly past the panhandler, kissing your spouse, giving an ultimatum to your teenager, reading about the president in a news magazine, talking with your old work colleague, and tipping that barista who was obviously having a bad day. Some or all of those individuals need your prayer.
In one sense, all you have to do is say, “Heavenly Father, everyone I met today—please draw each one them close to you. Amen.” He knows their exact needs, and he will honor your prayers. But there’s something satisfying about submitting our specific, thoughtful requests to an all-powerful, all-knowing God. He wants us to dig deep into our own heart and be fully aware of the needs of others. Prayers need to be grounded in devotion, humility, and sincerity.
Making scribbled or digital notes requires you to take immediate action by pulling out your phone or journal. Making a nightly “needs review” requires you to think about every twist and turn of your day, and you’ll inevitably miss someone or some need.
Every sincere prayer strategy is valid, but the best plan of action might be to pray right then and there. Why wait? You can certainly still put any need on your prayer list. And you can still review your day as you slip into bed. But praying in the moment invites God’s intervention that much sooner.
As you pass that friendly neighbor, pray for him. As you kiss your spouse, pray for your marriage. As you curse the gal who cut you off in traffic, pray for her…and yourself. Pray for that grumpy barista as you take your first sip of coffee. Pray for your children during every interaction. When your old work chum talks about the mess he’s made of his life, ask right then and there, “Can I pray for you?” He will say, “Umm…sure.” And then take it to God. In that moment, you’ll know what to say, and your friend will have joined with you in that prayer as well.
Of course, you don’t have to pause to pray. Prayer should be an ongoing component of every moment of the day. The idea is confirmed in that seemingly impossible command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing” (nasb). But really, it is quite doable because we’re in constant connection with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Make sense?
Pray right then and there.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Could a Wedding Save Your Life?
“Honey, I feel lousy,” J.J. Fisher said to Cherice, his wife of 50 years.
“Do you think you’ll be all right to go to Tiana’s wedding?” Cherice asked.
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” J.J. responded emphatically.
J.J. lay down, closed his eyes, and drifted off into a restless sleep for the next two hours.
“J.J., I tried to let you rest for as long as possible,” Cherice said. “But it’s time to get up and get ready for the wedding if you still want to go.”
“I’m going to stay home and rest. You go ahead without me.”
Cherice and J.J.’s daughter, Jasmine, immediately grew alarmed. “Now, Dad,” Jasmine said, “I’ll make you a deal. Come with us. If you feel at any point that it’s too much, I promise to drive you home.”
“Okay, okay. Just give me a few minutes to get dressed.”
After the wedding, Jasmine drove her parents to the reception. “Are you feeling any better, Dad?”
“Well, I truly wish I could say I was feeling better, but I just don’t feel right.”
“Do you want to go to the hospital? Should we call for an ambulance?” Cherice asked.
“No, no. It hasn’t gotten to that point yet,” he answered.
“Do you promise to tell us if it does get to that point?”
“Yes, I promise,” he said, trying his best to muster up a smile.
After the salad was served, the band began playing a slow number. Normally, J.J. jumped at the chance to dance with his wife. But today his body was simply not up to it. He felt beads of cold sweat erupt on his forehead, and he started getting a tight feeling in his chest. He turned and tapped his wife on the forearm. “Honey, do you remember when I promised I would tell you if I need an ambulance?” he asked.
“Yes,” Cherice replied with alarm. “J.J., what’s wrong?”
“Call 911,” he replied, before slumping forward in his chair and surrendering to a world of darkness.
Gary Meyers and I piled into the back of the ambulance. “Andrea, grab the defibrillator in case we need it,” Gary suggested to me as we pulled up at the scene.
“Our patient is a seventy-one-year-old named J.J. Fisher,” he explained. “Family reports that he hasn’t been feeling well all day. He collapsed a few minutes ago.”
I attached the defibrillator electrodes to Mr. Fisher, placing one pad on his upper right chest just below his clavicle, and the other pad on his lower left ribcage.
Jasmine looked terrified. “Oh, Mom, what are we going to do?”
“Pray,” I heard Mrs. Fisher whisper to her daughter. “We’re going to pray.”
“Everyone clear,” I directed, waving my arm over Mr. Fisher’s body to make sure that no one touched the patient lest they also be inadvertently shocked by the defibrillator. Holding my breath, I carefully pressed the analyze button.
“Shock advised,” the machine said.
“J.J. didn’t feel well today,” Mrs. Fisher said. “In fact, he wasn’t going to attend the wedding. He wanted to stay home and sleep, but Jasmine and I talked him into coming with us.”
If Mr. Fisher had been alone at home, his family may have come home from the wedding to discover that J.J. had passed away in his bed. It was truly a blessing that he was in the right place at the right time. Through the power of prayer, combined with early defibrillation and CPR, Mr. Fisher would be able to enjoy many more years with his family.
A wedding gift to remember!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
A Key Tool for Navigating the Science and Faith Conversation
Pop science media, which has become a highly influential voice in our culture, often suggests that the Christian conception of reality has been made obsolete by the findings of modern science. Books, documentaries, and public lectures made by credentialed scientists sometimes subtly (or not so subtly) imply that science indicates that there is no God and that mankind is nothing more than an accidental creature inhabiting an unremarkable bit of rock floating out in the incomprehensible vastness of space.
Consider the critically acclaimed reboot of atheist cosmologist Carl Sagan’s 1980 miniseries, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, professor of astrophysics at Princeton University and popular science personality, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a visually stunning exhibition of our universe that, quite rightfully, inspires an acute sense of awe and wonder. The very first episode features an audio clip from the opening sequence of the original version—Sagan’s famous statement: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” The idea is that the physical stuff of the world—matter and energy—is all that exists, a paradigm that automatically excludes a transcendent Creator and an immaterial human soul. In this materialist view, there is no mindful plan behind the universe; blind, naturalistic processes alone must be sufficient to explain everything, including human beings. DeGrasse Tyson cheerfully tells us that we are nothing but “little guys living on a speck of dust afloat in a staggering immensity” of space and time—an idea in direct conflict with the Christian teaching about mankind being the intended and loved crown of creation.
The problem is, Cosmos suggests that science alone can provide answers to the more fundamental questions about reality, such as mankind’s place in the universe and whether or not anything exists beyond the material realm (God, for example). In reality, evidence from the natural sciences alone cannot say anything at all about human significance and the existence of God. These are questions that inevitably require philosophical and theological reflection, though scientific data can indeed play a supporting role. Claims such as “Science has ruled out God” or “Science has shown that humans are merely physical creatures” are false; science examines the physical world, and these kinds of questions are actually metaphysical (beyond the physical) in nature.
Not to mention, there are good philosophical arguments for theism and the human soul that are supported by the latest findings of contemporary science. For example, the kalam cosmological argument uses the overwhelming evidence for the universe having an ultimate beginning to argue for a transcendent cause. Also, evidence from research in neuroplasticity can help make a case for the human soul. These are just two examples that I discuss at length in my upcoming book, Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation Between Faith and Science Reveals About God.
The bottom line is, being able to identify philosophical statements disguised as scientific ones is enormously useful when engaging in dialogue with skeptics or with fellow believers seeking to understand how core Christian doctrines are compatible with the natural sciences. This skill goes a very long way in helping others become open to considering the ways in which nature points beyond itself to the Mind of a Maker.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Learn to Lock Your Eyes on the One Who Matters Most
Posted on Jun 07, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Lysa TerKeurst
My touch has always comforted my youngest daughter, Brooke. I can remember as a baby when she’d start getting fussy in the car, I couldn’t do much to comfort her while trying to drive, but I could reach my arm into the backseat and gently pat her leg. It took a few minutes, but eventually she settled down and reached her tiny hand out to hold mine.
All of my kids like a hug, a pat on the shoulder, a hand of comfort on their back, but to Brooke these gentle touches seem to be a lifeline.
I remember a performance with her praise dance team from school. All the girls looked especially beautiful that day dressed all in white, their hair pulled gently back from their faces, and each had an extra measure of grace in their step. I couldn’t wait to see Brooke perform these dances she’d been working on and talking about for weeks. She loves getting up on a stage, so I expected her to be full of smiles and giggles. But just a few minutes before the performance was about to begin a very distraught Brooke made her way to the audience to find me. With tears streaming down her cheeks, she explained that the teacher had moved her from the front row to the back row, and she didn’t know the backrow’s part. I assured her everything would be fine.
I whispered, “Honey, just get up there and watch the other girls for cues and follow in step. You know this dance, Brooke. You’ll be fine.”
She sobbed back, “I won’t be fine if I mess up, and I know I’m going to mess up.”
That’s when it occurred to me. She would need my touch to get through this. But she and I both knew that it would not be possible for my arm to reach all the way up to the stage. So I quickly whispered, “Brooke, lock your eyes with mine, and Mommy will touch you with my smile. Don’t look at anyone or anything else. Don’t even look at the other girls dancing. It doesn’t matter if you mess up. What matters is that you keep your eyes on me the whole time. We’ll do this together.”
Quietly she asked, “The whole time, Mommy?”
“The whole time, Brooke,” I replied as I watched my brave girl walk away to take her place in line.
Several times during the dance, Brooke fell out of step. Her arms would go down when the rest of the back row lifted theirs up. She would go left and bump into the others headed right. She knew her steps weren’t perfect, so her eyes brimmed with tears. However, the tears never fell. With her eyes perfectly locked on my smiling face, she danced. She danced when the steps came easy. She danced when her steps got jumbled. She danced even when her emotions begged her to quit. She danced the whole way through. She danced and I smiled.
I smiled when her steps were right on track. I smiled when they weren’t. My smile was not based on her performance. My smile was born out of an incredible love for this precious, courageous little girl. As she kept her attention focused solely on my smile and the touch of my gaze, it was as if the world slowly faded away and we were the only ones in the room.
This is the way God wants me to dance through life.
Though I can’t physically see Him, my soul pictures Him so clearly. In my mind’s eye He is there. The touch of His gaze wraps about me, comforts me, assures me, and makes the world seem strangely dim. As long as my gaze is locked on His, I dance and He smiles. The snickers and jeers of others fade away. Though I hear their razor-sharp intentions, they are unable to pierce my heart and distract my focus. Even my own stumblings don’t cause the same feelings of defeat. My steps so often betray the desire of my heart, but it is not my perfect performance that captures His attention. Rather, it is my complete dependence on Him that He notices.
He then whispers, “Hold on to Me and what I say about you. For My words are the truth of who you are and the essence of what you were created to be.” I then imagine Him pausing and, with tears in His eyes and a crack in His voice, He adds, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
His truth frees you from the chains of doubt and despair. His truth frees me from feeling unable and inadequate to try and pursue God in an all-out way. His truth washes over me as I tentatively whisper, “I want to be a woman who says yes to God.” And in that moment, with my eyes locked on His, I am.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Build Relationships and Be a Friend Like Jesus
Posted on Jun 05, 2018 Topic : Men's Christian Living
"While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” (Matthew 9:10-11).
Jesus was relational because He loved people, especially people who claimed no religious devotion. He took His disciples with Him to the house of Matthew, a despised man, frowned on by his fellow Jews for being a Roman tax surrogate. Jesus knew the best way to get to know someone was to be with them where they lived. He invited His followers to join Him so they could learn how to better love sinners. Christ was criticized by the religious elite for being too familiar with sinners, but our Lord was happily fulfilling His mission “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
The quality of our lives is influenced by the quality of our relationships. Proverbs 13:20 says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”
You probably desire quality relationships, but are you willing to pay the price of investing in others with the goal of providing more value than you receive?
What does it mean to have quality of life? Is it good health? Harmony at home? A happy heart? Financial security? Freedom of speech and worship? A fulfilling career? Grateful and contented children? A meaningful marriage? A life of significance? Peace with God? Probably some of these elements and more make up a life worth living, a quality life.
Relationships matter because the quality of our lives is influenced so heavily by the quality of our relationships. Who we spend time with is who we become. If we spend time with those who are wise with their finances, we too can become wise with our finances—if we pay attention. If we worship with those of great faith, we too can grow in our faith. Our lives reflect our relationships.
How is your relational portfolio? Is it diversified with people who bring value to all aspects of your life? Conversely, are you intentional in investing time and interest in those who look to you for guidance? Quality of life flows not just from receiving wisdom but from giving wisdom. Wisdom works both directions for the good of relationships.
Be careful not to excuse bad behavior because you are trying to relate to questionable company. 1 Corinthinas 15:33 warns, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” Draw a line, and stay far away from eroding your character. You don’t have to join in the bad to be an influence for the good. In some situations, what you choose not to do defines you more than what you choose to do. Use business trips and vacations to model faithfulness, not foolishness. Stand for what’s right when others bow to what’s wrong.
Above all, quality of life results from your relationship with Christ. He is life itself, and everything good in life flows from Him. When you grow in your personal relationship with Jesus, it affects the growth of all your other relationships. Relationship building with heaven builds relationships on earth. Ultimately, Jesus’s life is the one to follow and model. The resurrected life of Christ gives you the spiritual stamina to experience a quality life.
Leading relationally is one of the most fulfilling aspects of serving as a wise leader. Whether at home or work, we have the opportunity to treat others like human beings with very real needs and wants, without compromising the vision and mission of the organization. There will always be a tension between valuing a relationship over results, but this is how we grow as wise leaders.
Are you growing in your relational skills? Are you living in community and being challenged relationally? Wherever you are on the relational continuum of engaged or unengaged, stay in the relational game.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Stray Screws and Fence Posts Have to Do with Purpose
My husband is a third-grade teacher at a local elementary school, which means each May I start a list of home-improvement projects for him to tackle when summer break finally arrives. A few years ago we decided to fence in our backyard, creating a safe space for our daughter to play with clear boundaries and privacy. The work, however, started long before summer arrived. Inside our garage for several months was a large section of fence along the wall, looming over my car when I climbed out. It was a trial run of that much larger project we would tackle when the ground thawed.
I’d looked at countless images of fences in different sizes, shapes, designs, and patterns. I’d seen photos of the English-style garden my husband wanted to create once the space was defined. Words like “shadowbox” and “lattice ” had been incorporated into my vocabulary as we debated the pros and cons of a six-foot fence versus an eight-foot fence. And I spent entirely too much time in the local home improvement store staring blankly at fence posts.
That piece of fence? It wasn’t beautiful in our garage. It was in the way, smelled like a lumberyard, left a layer of dust on everything, and took up entirely too much space. I was worried I might pop a tire on a forgotten screw.
I feel like that piece sometimes. A little lost. Sometimes set aside. Unable to connect my work with the larger finished product God can see clearly. In a noisy world where fancier, shinier, and bigger get the glory, I sit in my small town and live my every day wondering if I’m noticed. Or worse, if I’m just in the way.
As I’ve spent some time wrestling over my motivations for recognition (a root of envy God has been carefully digging out), God has been teaching me to look at my place and position as a gift from Him. He sees the big picture, the whole project, where every screw and board and refining cut will come together in my life to work together for His kingdom.
And sometimes the smallest pieces add the most strength.
If we planned to build that fence using only the largest pieces of lumber and the heaviest posts, it would collapse immediately. Every piece—from the messiest cement to the smallest screw—must work together to create a structure secure and beautiful.
In a holy hustle community, every gift is needed. Our collaboration with one another gives us the opportunity to turn our small obedience into something beautiful that shows the world what it means to work together, to serve side by side with encouragement instead of envy.
But on those days when it feels incredibly easy to be overlooked? When our view of the world from our computers, our offices, our kid’s soccer practices, or our board meetings makes us wonder if we’re being used in God’s plan at all? God has this to say: “I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palm of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:16 esv). No matter what, God does not forget you.
You are not overlooked.
You are not insignificant.
You are not less than.
God sees you. He knows you.
He carries your name on His hands.
You are His.
You are chosen.
You are forgiven.
You are called.
You are loved.
You are included.
You are wanted.
Following the loud, clanging demands and expectations of the world will only make us feel insecure as we compare our place in God’s plan to those around us . Let’s instead choose to trust God as the Master Craftsman who knows when, how, and why, and which pieces to use to make something beautiful and secure that will last a lifetime.
Become captivated by God’s purpose in your life and lean into working hard, resting well, and living the life of holy hustle God has called you to, right where you are
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
He’s Got Your Number
When I was living in a remote part of Alaska, I had no radio or TV reception. All I owned for entertainment was a small VCR/TV unit, but thankfully someone gave me a VHS copy of The Visual Bible: The Gospel of Matthew.
My buddy Rob and I kept the Visual Bible playing in the background continuously, and I thought the actor was amazing and his portrayal of Jesus was brilliant. It was also the first time I had ever seen a smiling Jesus in film. The actor was Bruce Marchiano, and I always hoped to meet him in person.
Twenty-one years later, my hopes became reality.
I recently spent two days at a film conference, where I finally met Bruce Marchiano, my Alaska-cabin Jesus, and we hit it off immediately! Bruce bought me dessert, and as we sat at the table talking, I remember thinking, “Jesus just bought me a milkshake. I guess man doesn’t live by bread alone.” (Wow. I LOVE that interpretation of the verse.)
Anyway, because I only knew Bruce from his portrayal of Jesus, at first I had trouble distinguishing between him and “Him.” Every time Bruce said “Torry,” I’d think, Jesus knows my name!
The most surreal moment was when Bruce said, “This is my last night at the conference, but I want to keep talking with you. Can I take you out to dinner?”
My jaw literally dropped for a moment before responding, “Did you just invite me to your last supper?”
Of course I asked Bruce to pray for dinner because there’s no way I’d be able to pray better than him/Him. I had no sooner opened my eyes after praying when a miracle had happened. The empty garlic roll basket was completely full again!
“Did you do that?” I asked him/Him.
“No, that was the waiter,” Bruce laughed. “He replaced it when we were praying.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling disappointed. “For a minute, it was just like the movie.”
We had such a great time talking over dinner that the next day Bruce asked me if I wanted to drive him to the airport so we could spend even more time together. What do you know, I thought, Jesus really DOES like spending time with me!
I was honored to drive Bruce to the airport, but if he was counting on me to make sure he arrived there on time, this Jesus was truly living by faith. If you read my new book, The Call of the Mild, you’d know the kinds of troubles I get into behind the steering wheel. Trust me, people, I can barely navigate a conversation much less an interstate. In both cases, no one goes unscathed.
It was only a 24-mile ride to the airport with Bruce, but in typical Torry fashion I somehow managed to get lost three or four times, and I had to keep turning my car around to correct myself.
“You’ve made so many U-turns, I think you just formed the Star of David,” Bruce observed.
“I did it in your honor.”
Bruce looked at me thoughtfully before responding, “Shalom.”
Finally, after 10 more minutes of my aimless driving, Bruce gently asked, “How about you pull over and let me get us there?”
“What, do I look like Carrie Underwood?” I snapped. “You’re not taking my wheel buddy. Get it out of your head.” I couldn’t believe he/He even suggested it. “Besides,” I continued, “Jesus only drove camels, and this is a Mustang.”
“Just get me to the plane in time,” he pleaded with sweat dripping from his brow.
“Stop worrying. They won’t leave without you,” I said reassuringly.“They can’t. You’re the co-pilot, remember? For heaven’s sake, read a bumper sticker.”
We actually arrived a little early, so Bruce had a few minutes to spare before he ascended… you know, in the plane. To make sure he wouldn’t forget me, I gave Bruce my business card and then said goodbye.
I was six wrong turns and 40 miles away from home when my cell phone suddenly dinged. It was a message from Bruce—my very first text message from Jesus. It said: “My new best friend! I look forward to hanging out again!”
I knew it was Bruce, but I couldn’t help thinking, Jesus just called me his best friend! And I’m in his cell phone! He has my number! But what really struck me was the sudden realization that Jesus—the real Jesus—sends us this same exact message every hour of every day. From the moment you meet Him, He’s your new best friend. Jesus loves spending time with you, and He looks forward to every opportunity to do so. He invites us to dine daily with Him, and He desires to be in daily communication (which thankfully doesn’t require a cellular signal).
The question isn’t if Jesus has our number. He has all of our numbers, each and every one of us, and He is calling you and me. The question is: Will you answer?
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Does Your Kid Want to Be Cool?
Posted on May 24, 2018 Topic : Fiction
Like most middle schoolers, Flex's mind is on a million different things—school, sports, friends, girls (of course), and yes, he's thinking about God too. But mostly, Flex is obsessed with being cool. In this excerpt from the graphic novel The Extraordinary Life of a Mediocre Jock, Flex contemplates the meaningful things in middle-school life—football and fitting in.
Am I cool?
Well, I’m 12 years old and writing a memoir, so that right there probably disqualifies me from being cool.
I’ve always liked reading and writing. What can I say?
In the pantheon of Nerdy Kids Who Write Books, everybody is doing apocalyptic fiction or trying to write their own versions of The Hobbit. But I’m not a nerd—in either the cool or uncool sense of the word. Cool nerds listen to bands you’ve never heard of and obsess about video games. Uncool nerds are like cool nerds except that they skip the bands and just obsess about the video games.
That about sums up the nerd situation.
But what I really love is football (and to a lesser degree, basketball and baseball and track and professional wrestling—which I don’t admit to in mixed company). I live for football.
Right before football practice
Our locker room at Empty Factory Middle School is actually in the boiler room. We put on our shoulder pads underneath asbestos pipes that will probably one day kill us.
In fact, I think I feel a cough coming on (coughs). This doesn’t seem to bother anyone except me, and I don’t say anything about it out loud.
Two people who are cooler than me are our star running back, Scottie (nickname: Maverick, or Mav) and our quarterback, Fordo.
Scottie has great shoes, wears a gold chain and totally pulls it off, and is dating Krissy from band.
When you’re a seventh grader dating an eighth grader, you’re automatically cool. You’re, like, grandfathered into being cool forever. Our kids will tell our grandkids about you. That’s how cool you are.
But football really stresses me out, even though it’s the thing I love more than any other thing in the world. I know I should say I love God more than football… and I do. I mean, I do. Except that football is the thing I think about and dream about. When I get home from practice, I lay out my jersey on the floor and put on my headphones and just dream about football.
Coach has a perpetually red face, but not because he’s nervous. It’s because he’s Intense. In Coach Wood’s world, there are two kinds of people—people who are intense and have pride, and people who lack intensity and pride. (Spoiler alert: You don’t want to be the second kind of person.)
I’m the first kind, or at least I’m trying to be. I’m not the most athletic guy, but I work really, really hard. There are some guys like this in the NFL, and not surprisingly, they are my favorite players. I’m a starter at tight end and outside linebacker.
Why am I this nervous before an average Thursday practice? I have no idea. The cool kids (like Mav and Fordo) aren’t like this. They wait until the last minute to get their uniforms on, and Mav is currently showing Fordo something on his iPhone. They’re both laughing.
Cool kids get to bring their iPhones to school. My parents won’t let me.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Genesis: Gateway to God’s Love
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
More than just the first book in Scripture, Genesis is the foundational book of the Bible. Everything else in the remaining sixty-five books builds upon its elemental truths. Until you understand Genesis, you can’t fully grasp the rest of the story. Probably for that reason, the New Testament quotes the book of Genesis more than 200 times, more than any other biblical book. Genesis is absolutely essential to everything that follows.
Even though it contains some of the most familiar stories and recognizable people in the Bible, Genesis is much more than the well-known Sunday school stories and felt-board figures of childhood. It is the book of beginnings. Genesis gives us the roots of the world we live in—the origins of the universe, man, and sin; the fall of man; the institutions of marriage and human government; and the birth of the nation of Israel, through whom the Messiah would come. No wonder so many other biblical authors quote it so often!
The book of Genesis covers at least 2,500 years of human history. We can’t give an exact time, because some controversy still exists as to how long ago “the beginning” took place. No amount of argument or discussion over its details, however, can displace its importance as an introduction to the God who formed the universe and made us all in His image.
You really can’t go back any further than “in the beginning.” The question is, when was “in the beginning”? Many evangelicals hold to a young earth theory, insisting it is no more than 10,000 years old. Some of these folks get dogmatic and say it is just 6,000 years old; they contend that the genealogies in Genesis are exhaustive, and by counting up the years of people’s ages recorded in the biblical text, they arrive at the 6,000-year figure. Along these lines, some even suggest that God built aging factors into His initial creation so that it only appeared to be older. Others react, saying if that is the case, God would be a liar (making the universe look old when it’s not).
Still others disagree with all of the above. They say the universe began anywhere from two to twenty billion years ago. Evolutionists have long believed that processes spanning billions of years have altered inanimate matter into a variety of lifeforms through slow changes and genetic mutations. And it’s not just the evolutionists who insist on this. There are Christian leaders and scientists who advocate this approach to understanding the origins of the universe. Some even elongate the “six days” of creation into six epochal periods or geological eras of unspecified years.
Both groups can get animated about their respective positions as they argue over this issue. The problem, of course, is that none of us were there at the beginning, and so we can only guess the age of the universe. While that can be intellectually stimulating and even fun, years ago I decided to get out of the speculation business. So I don’t know when the beginning took place, but I do know that in the beginning, God. That’s how the Bible begins—not with philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Scripture simply works off the supposition that He exists. And because only He was there, only He can speak with real authority about the age of the earth or the universe and how it came about.
And so Scripture says, in the most understated and simple way, "In the beginning God."
Welcome to Genesis. It all starts here.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Discover the Hidden Value of Patience
Posted on May 18, 2018 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Don Hicks
Of all the friends who’ve gone with me to a deer stand, there’s one who has helped me find success more than any other, and I think you’ll be surprised to know that this friend is not a hunter.
I have to wait till there’s enough daylight to shoot, and sometimes I have to wait for the sun to melt the frost off the field so the local herd wants to browse in it. I might have to wait till a dense fog lifts off the meadow. And then I have to wait on the deer to move through—if they do.
Waiting, especially if it requires hours for a critter to come into harvesting range, has a way of messing with important things like concentration, determination, and emotional stamina. Too much waiting can even make inactive muscles turn as stubborn as a cantankerous old mule.
I’ve used things to help me deal with the waiting, including a good book and a small Bible. At times I’ve even tried writing poetry using the pad and pen that are always with me. But try as I may by using these tactics, ultimately I’ve found that only one thing helps me endure the grind of waiting—patience!
Patience is a true friend
He (a masculine reference because it’s like having a hunting buddy with me) is willing to sit with me the entire time I’m out there waiting. He doesn’t scold me when I get antsy. Instead of making me feel defeated, patience gently reminds me that the wait is an invaluable part of the hunt.
Patience reminds me that when I wait, God can whisper to me through His written Word
He tenderly helps me remember that the Book of books is in my backpack and that waiting provides a great opportunity to take it out and hear what nugget of wisdom the Holy Spirit might impart as I listen through the pages.
Patience is kind enough to suggest that waiting on a deer stand is a great time to pray
There are plenty of folks who could use an uplift in prayer, like my ailing friend whom I need to call. Then there’s my beloved wife, our children and grandchildren, the members of the congregation I shepherd, our spiritually ill nation, and our leaders, who could definitely use some prayer while I wait.
I want to be more like my friend patience, not only in the woods but also in the rest of life, especially as I wait for the Lord of all creation to show up—Christ Jesus. What would my friend suggest as I tarry?
He’d say, “Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7).
And so I will.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Unpack Your Faith in a Fresh New Way
Have you ever noticed that some things are difficult to put in boxes? Lamps, bicycles, and plants – they just don’t fit easily into neatly defined packages.
Faith is like that. It’s impossible to bundle faith into a tidy system of rules or even a precise list of doctrines. Like a plant in a dark box, if faith is constricted too long, it will begin to wilt.
I encourage you to give your faith a breath of fresh air. Explore it. Express it in fresh new ways that are uniquely you. I pray that this spring season will refresh and inspire your soul, and that you will encounter our amazing Creator God in ways that transcend borders and expand horizons.
In this season of renewal, I invite you to explore and create. Be open to having the Lord speak to you in new ways. It might be while you are out exploring nature. It might be while you are reading your Bible and you discover a new “life verse” or experience an old favorite Scripture in a new way.
Following God is anything but boring. Let’s celebrate this truth. Let’s be adventurous enough to explore beyond the old boundaries and borders. Let’s venture to the places where we find a deeper connection with our God, the ultimate Artist, the ultimate Creator.
To start you on your new faith adventure, here's some activities I designed to help inspire you. Download them here: FAITH OUTSIDE THE LINES
Looking for additional activities to unleash your creative side?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
The One Thing You Can Do to Really Connect with Your Kids
Posted on May 10, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Kathi Lipp
What makes your kids giddy with excitement? An amazing song? Beautiful artwork? A last-minute home run with the bases loaded to win the game? An amazing bowl of salsa? Whatever it is that your kids are passionate about, one of the most powerful things you can do to connect with your kids is to invest in what they invest in.
My oldest, Justen, has always loved to write stories, and at a young age showed great ability as a storyteller. His characters were rich with detail, and his scenes were fun and fast-paced. When he turned fifteen, we started to plan an adventure: Six days driving up through California and beyond until we hit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. And what determined our route? We spent a lot of time locating the best used bookstores (and bookstores that carried new books but also had a great used-books section) along the way.
We started with a detour based on a recommendation from my mom to visit the Almost Perfect Bookstore in Roseville, California. It was officially the first stop on our literary adventure. And after about a half hour in the store, I was concerned that it might be our last. I was afraid all the spending money Justen had saved over the past few months was going to be spent in one spot. His favorite author had recently signed a few copies of his latest book for the store, and Justen wanted one. Bad.
Plop went his money (and maybe some of his grandmother’s money that she had slipped to him without my knowledge), and Justen was in proud possession of a signed copy of his favorite author’s latest release.
As far as Justen was concerned, the trip could have ended then.
But we soldiered on. We drove and listened to audiobooks, we drank copious amounts of coffee, and we talked. We talked about life, we talked about writing, and we talked about God.
It ended up being one of the best memories I have with my son—and I learned so much about who he is, what he loves, and what he wants out of life. Investing in Justen’s passions is the activity that has given me the biggest payoff.
We do the same thing when we’re dating. We do it because people love it when we want to hang out where they hang out. It makes them feel valued and special. It gives them a common language to speak with us. It changes the way they act and interact.
It’s no different with our kids. When we get passionate about what they are passionate about, it changes our relationship.
Investing in your child’s passions takes time (that you may not have) and money (that may be in short supply), but it’s so important. Here are some of my best tips on how to make it work:
Learning the lingo. Whatever your child loves, you need to learn the lingo. Go to Wikipedia.com to brush up on the terms your child is using. Or read the magazines they read. Listen to the music they like.
Create a fund for their passion. Put aside a small amount of money each month (and let them contribute too) to pay for supplies, classes, books, tickets, and more that relate to your child’s passion.
Put your money where their passion is. Ask your child to put together a wish list of things they would like. You will always have gift ideas they’ve picked out themselves.
Be obsessed with them. Even if you don’t share their passion, find a way to be with them while they pursue it. Be obsessed with your kid by showing up. Attend their sporting events, go to a concert with them, watch them perform. Spend time with them doing the thing they love.
Find your peeps. Maybe you don’t know anything about your child’s passion, but you know someone who does. Connect your kids with someone who shares their passions. They’ll gain a mentor, and you’ll love seeing your children bond with a positive role model.
Show the love. My stepson, Jeremy, became passionate about running while he was in high school. Even though I will never participate in Jeremy’s passion (there is no way I could keep up), we show up and cheer him on, and the framed photos are tangible proof in our living room that we are invested in Jer. Show up for your kid, and show them your love and support.
Investing in your children’s interest is an investment that is sure to payoff for you, and for them, for years to come.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Snow Falling on Dead Trees Taught Me About Jesus
Our views are my favorite part of our property before we moved in—the only thing I wanted to change was seeing the side of our neighbor’s house, complete with red metal trailers, campers, half a dozen cars, and oodles of garbage cans.
I made it my mission to fix the eyesore in the most efficient and beautiful way. So I set my heart on trees, saved up, and bought a dozen cedar trees to line the fence. I was assured that red cedars would grow the fastest and provide the most blockage from the neighbors.
It was the most perfect plan. Until it wasn’t.
Shortly after the trees were planted, we got hit with torrential rain and insanely high winds. The trees couldn’t handle the impact, and many of them fell over. We put them back in place, staked them, and figured all would be well.
Over the next few months we watched them lose color, strength, and fullness. Until one day we looked up and were greeted with bare limbs and sparse bunches of orange needles.
I couldn’t bear to admit the defeat. I’d failed. I couldn’t even get trees to grow in the Christmas tree capital of the world. Removing them would require coming to terms with so many of my other failures and heartaches.
So I left them there. Dead. Barren. A vast display of ugliness and disappointment greeting me and my coffee every morning and causing my soul to grieve with frustration.
Every morning started this way. For nearly 400 mornings.
Until this one.
This morning I looked down upon my tree-lined fence and was met with the magic of heaven. Old made new. Dirty made clean. Ugly putting on the clothes of breathtaking beauty.
I stood awestruck. I stared harder and harder as I tried to make sense of it, looking with deep intensity trying to see a glimpse of the dead brown limbs under the white, sparkly blanket.
All I could see was snow. All I could see was this bright, white, shining wall of beauty. Glistening with freshness, and wonder, and a peaceful presence that was almost magical. Okay, let’s face it. It was completely magical.
My 12 dead trees weren’t even recognizable under the glory, and I instantly saw pieces of my own heart wrapped up in their branches. Why do I fight so hard to do everything on my own with a Savior who wants to wash me like snow and cover me in Himself ? Why do I insist on believing that I am forgotten? Looked over? And left behind? When I am clearly engulfed by the love of the King?
I bet if those trees could brush away enough snow from their imaginary tree eyes to look in the mirror, they wouldn’t even believe what they saw. The beauty on their own bodies. The majesty before them. Completely covering them. Even with the cold of the snow up against
their bark and the glory visibly on their frames, they might still feel the sting of ugliness and rejection of not being able to succeed at what they were created to do.
We all do this. Me especially. Countless times I have forgotten whose I was, and continued to walk down a path clothed in barren not-enough-ness instead of dressing in the fullness that comes with being clothed in Christ.
It feels almost impossible for me to see myself as anything but the small-town high school girl who barely graduated. Somewhere along the line, I started putting on clothes I was never meant to wear. They came in the form of failures, shades of shame, and believing other people’s whispers over God’s.
And before long, that’s how I identified myself.
Even worse, I was convinced that’s how everyone else identified me too.
I don’t know where you are today, friend. Or where your heart is, for that matter. But I do know that somewhere along the line, we’ve all believed something about ourselves that we were never meant to believe.
Give yourself the grace our Savior died for you to have. He didn’t die so that we could continue living in our bondage, holding on to our heartache and swallowing lies about ourselves that keep holding us back and shoving us down.
He died so that we could be free. And freedom doesn’t wear chains of what was. Freedom lifts off, flies high, and embraces all that He is.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Parents, You Don’t Need to Be Perfect…Because God Is
I don’t remember exactly when it happened. It was well after spending months learning about what to expect during my pregnancy, purchasing the car seat, and packing the bag for the hospital. I remember I felt large and so ready to meet our little girl. It was during those exciting final days of pregnancy that I came to this realization: I’ve been so focused on the pregnancy, I know NOTHING ABOUT PARENTING!
Should I have been reading books about parenting instead of focusing on the misery of morning sickness? Why hadn’t I been getting advice from other parents? The baby is going to be here any day—what about sleep training, potty training, and deciding between homeschool and public school?! #alreadytheworstparentever
Our baby arrived, and we made it through the weeks and months of sleepless nights. We watched her learn to roll over and then crawl. Then, somewhere in the middle of that haze of developmental milestones, I came to another conclusion: I’ve been so focused on sleep and diaper changes, I know NOTHING ABOUT PASSING ON THE FAITH TO MY KIDS!
And while my first parenting epiphany was bad enough, this realization struck me even harder. #forsuretheworstparentever
Learning how to parent is important, of course, but I have a desire to give my kids the best gift of all—a love for Jesus Christ. This burden of responsibility hit me later than I would care to admit, given that I’ve worked in Christian publishing for the last 14 years. And while I’m far from perfect, I love finding book projects that will help normal, imperfect, and panicked moms like me.
Eighteen months ago, my team and I set out to create a book that would give kids and their parents a wow-worthy, faith-affirming, craze-mazing (yes, I work in publishing and I just used a made-up word!) experience with the Bible. We wanted to show young kids how amazing the Bible is and how it points directly to our Lord and Savior from beginning to end. We wanted to capture the attention of kids of all ages with facts and information they could relate to. (For instance, do you know how many soccer balls could fill Noah’s ark?)
And that’s why we created Bible Infographics for Kids.
Achieving our goal was sheer delight. The Word of God is nothing short of completely sufficient, absolutely incredible, and amazingly awe-inspiring. By connecting the exciting people, unusual facts, powerful concepts, and the awesome God of the Bible with dynamic visuals, we made a book you can enjoy right along with your kids. It even folds out to make a Bible timeline board game (think Candy Land but with a purpose)!
I learned so much more about the Bible through the research and development of this project. Even as an adult, I found myself sharing fun facts and interesting anecdotes with anyone who would listen….and I mean anyone!
Imagine your kids on the school playground sharing facts with their friends or in Sunday school feeling awesome because they know about Deborah and Methuselah and Balaam’s talking donkey! Delight as you see the miracles of God unfold on the page or the sheer volume of prophesies Jesus fulfilled or the number of shoes Paul must have worn through as he walked around spreading the Gospel.
I’m amazed at my now four-year-old daughter’s capacity for and desire to learn more about the Bible. Yes, God’s Word is nothing short of totally sufficient, even when you don’t feel like you are. A good parenting book or blog post is always helpful, but ultimately, we just need Him. That said, here’s one tool you can add to your super-cool mom tool belt. My hope and prayer is that our book blesses your family as much as it has mine.
Read more in Bible Infographics for Kids by
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Who Will You Live For?
My father, William Aaron Toler, was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He began his working life as a coal miner in the most productive coal region in West Virginia, but one of the poorest counties in the nation. Dad worked every day in the mines, returning home tired, his face blackened with coal soot. Mining is a perilous occupation, and Dad broke his back three times in the mines while laboring to feed our family. More than once I saw him cough up black coal dust into a snow-white handkerchief, a common occurrence among miners of that day.
Realizing that his family’s welfare depended on his own health, Dad chose to move our family to Ohio, in search of a better life. Eventually Dad found a job with a construction company, and we were all elated. Then one Monday morning Dad went to work and never came home. Having escaped the harrowing dangers of the coal mine, he was electrocuted in a tragic on-the-job accident. I was 11.
The most important lesson I learned from Dad was the power of sacrifice. Dad worked hard at the risk of his own health and life, but he did not do it for himself. His goal was never to enjoy luxuries or to advance his own name. Dad toiled day in and day out to provide for his family and to support our local church. He did it for us. He did it for God. And he never complained. No human being has been a greater influence in my life than my father. Not because he was wealthy or powerful, highly educated or extremely successful. But because of the power of his sacrifice on behalf of his family and his faith.
Generosity is sharing from abundance. Sacrifice is giving at a level that risks loss. Generosity results in gratitude, but sacrifice produces devotion. Sacrifice leads to the most powerful influence because it is a demonstration of love. It’s being willing to put the needs of others ahead of your own.
Surrendering Your Power
The first way we can sacrifice for others is in the area of power, which can be defined in terms of rights, privileges, and control of circumstances. Though you may not feel like a powerful person, each of us has a certain amount of power in all our social contexts. We have rights as citizens. We enjoy privileges based on our family relationships or social status. And we hold some power in our social relationships and employment. Our instinct is to cling to our privileges and power, and to enhance them whenever possible. So when we go against that urge and voluntarily surrender power on behalf of others, it establishes our leadership and influence.
Transferring Your Wealth
A second area in which we may sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of others is in the use of our wealth. Few of us feel as if we are wealthy, but we are. In a world in which an estimated three billion people live in poverty, requiring all their time and energy be devoted to gaining enough food to survive, those two facts indicate you have wealth. One definition of wealth is excess, so if you have more food, money, clothing, and resources than you need to survive, by that definition you are wealthy. Those who are willing to give money away, especially when it changes their own financial status, are rare indeed.
Risking Your Safety
A third area in which we may sacrifice for others is in risking our safety for their care or survival. Though there have been many brave souls who have literally given up their lives to save another person, most of us will never be called upon to knowingly make such a sacrifice. However, there are many occasions on which we may place our wealth, reputation, or health at risk on behalf of others. Our willingness to disregard our own safety is a powerful statement of our concern for others, and that concern brings great respect.
Every day, you have opportunities large and small to sacrifice yourself on behalf of others. There is no question about whether or not your sacrifice will be worthwhile, or whether or not it will be rewarded with increased esteem, respect, and attention. It certainly will be. The only question is this: Will you live your life for Christ and others, or only for yourself? Your answer to that question will, in large measure, determine the level of your influence.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Develop Endurance in Trials
I clearly remember watching TV when I was a young boy growing up in Baltimore. From time to time the normal programming would be interrupted by a test of the emergency broadcasting system. Then I would hear a loud, annoying noise for 30 or 60 seconds. I used to hate those tests because they always seemed to come at the worst time, just when you didn't want the show to be interrupted. And since there was never any advance warning that the test was coming, there wasn't any way you could avoid it. The station just broke in and did its test.
The setbacks of life are like that. They often come with no warning, just the announcement: “This is a test.” There's often nothing to warn you that the doctor is coming back with a bad report or that your company is downsizing. Life's setbacks just show up at the most inopportune times.
We see throughout Scripture that trials are an inevitable reality in life, and we read imperatives like this: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2). Notice the Bible does not say if you encounter trials, but when. Trials are inescapable. Job said, “Man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (5:7). The only way to avoid trouble is to exit life. Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33). You can count on it.
Trials are difficulties we inevitably run into as part of life, not necessarily the problems we create for ourselves. Those kinds of problems are called sin. So if you are going through a tough time right now, don't be surprised. If you have just exited a trial, don't be shocked when the next one arrives. Trials come with living in an imperfect world.
Trials come in a multitude of colors, shapes, and sizes. So, since we can't avoid them, what should we do with them? How can we turn a setback into a comeback? The Bible gives us three instructions on how to respond to trials:
1. Display Some Joy (James 1:2): When trials come, instead of getting mad, get glad because you know God is up to something good in your life. This command does not mean you have to hide the pain of a trial or pretend the pain feels good. The Bible does not say we need to feel joyful during the trial, but to consider that trial all joy.
2. Ask for Wisdom (James 1:5): God urges us to ask for His help during trials. James tells us to ask God, and He will freely and generously give us His wisdom (James 1:5). The Bible promises a generous supply of God's wisdom in answer to your prayer so you will know how to navigate successfully through the trial until you have reached its intended goal.
3. Give God Praise (James 1:9-11): James’s third piece of sound how-to advice is to give God praise. We are to praise God no matter what our situation. Give glory to God. He will lift you to a high position at the right time, and He will humble you when you need humbling. Give Him praise either way because He knows exactly what you need. God lets us come into conflict with earthly things so we might see eternal things more clearly. And He will keep the trial there until we pass the test.
God wants you to pass the test—to overcome the trial—not only so He can give you the reward but also so you will learn to love Him more, with Christlike passion and devotion. He puts you in trials to draw you close, to teach you to cling to Him, to grow you into spiritual adulthood, and to bring you along in your journey toward your comeback. Let Him finish His work in you.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
6 Stories Every Mom Should Tell
I take my seat on the top row of metal bleachers and peer across the football field.
The high school band plays the familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” as the graduates begin their procession. They’re wearing identical caps and gowns, so I strain to find the one I’m here for. The one who made me a mom, eighteen years ago. The one I stayed home with. Every day. Year after year. The one I taught to read. The one I taught to swim. The one who is about to leave for college. In another state.
Along the edge of the field, the breeze pulls the green and white balloons in one direction. That’s how I feel as a mom. Every instinct inside me wants to pull in one direction. I want to preserve each moment and resist this onward march toward the future.
Yet, I also want to embrace this new season the way an artist enjoys a new palette of colors to paint with.
It’s with this curious mixture of joy-for-the-future and nostalgia-for-the-past that I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. From this mom-heart-place of looking back and looking ahead, I’ve realized six of the most important stories I want my children to know. They’re six stories every mom should tell.
1. Tell the Story of Their Birth
Tell the story of their birth and how it unfolded. If you’ve adopted children, tell the story of how God brought them into your lives. Nothing in all creation is more beautiful than an adoption story, for it echoes God’s heart and the way He has adopted us as His children (Ephesians 1:4-5).
2. Tell the Story of How You Picked Their Name
What process did you go through when you chose your child’s name? Did you pick a name that carries part of your family’s history? Did you select a name that reflects a truth or a person in Scripture? Tell the story of how you picked your child’s name.
3. Tell a Story that Reflects Their Strengths
What stories can you recall — of your children when they were young — that clearly point to their strengths?
4. Tell the Story of How You Met Jesus
Of all the stories we could tell, this is the most important one.
5. Tell the Story of How You Met Their Dad
Share the story of how you met your child’s father, and how your child is the most beautiful blessing to come from that union. I understand, of course, that many of us have experienced the pain of broken stories. But when we surrender our brokenness to Christ, our lives become stories of redemption and hope.
6. Tell the Story of Your Dreams
Our children might be surprised to learn that we once dreamed of being an astronaut or a veterinarian. Share your dreams with your kids — dreams both past and present.
At the end of the graduation ceremony, I watch as my daughter and her friends toss their white caps into the air, and I breathe another prayer, placing these past eighteen years into the hands of Him who loves her even more than I do. Then I recall each story I’ve told her, knowing she takes these stories with her, everywhere she goes.
Are you ready to share your stories with your son or daughter?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Why Talking to Your Kids About Sex Doesn’t Have to Be Awkward
We were out on our usual evening walk but this walk ended up being anything but the usual. Out of nowhere my child asked me about sex. It took me completely off guard. I hadn’t planned for this, I hadn’t set out to discuss this, I certainly didn’t think I was ready to have this sort of “sex” talk the right way. Everything felt so awkward. I was pressed to answer great questions that went so far beyond, “Where do babies come from?” My child wanted to know about the Bible's view of pregnancy before marriage, homosexuality as well as many other topics. It felt raw. It felt out of my control.
This wasn’t your average birds and bee’s kind of talk. This wasn’t the first time I had been asked these sorts of questions either. I didn’t want to mess this up, but I also wanted to tell my child about the Bible's positive perspective on sex. It felt like a fine line to balance and I am more of bull-in-a-china-shop-kind of guy.
God invented sex and it is good
Does that strike you as an odd thing to say? God is concerned for our enjoyment of each other. God knew that, when he created us, sex would be a big part of our lives. Our hormones drive us to it, our nervous system feels it, our bodies enjoy it and our spirits are united through it.
Sex is God’s good gift to humanity. When God created Adam and Eve he placed them together in the garden gave them the task of being fruitful and multiplying (Gen. 1:28, 31). We need to tell our kids about the good gift of sex, and we need to tell them honestly that sex is good. The typical response that I have is to downplay the goodness of sex so that my kids don’t end up wanting it before the right time. The truth is this is a huge disservice to them and lying won’t hamper their desires.
Sin broke our sexuality
When Adam and Eve sinned all of humanity suffered the consequences. Sin infected even the goodness of our sex lives. In that moment the good gift that was given to us by God became something that can be used to cause pain, manipulate or just doesn’t live up to our expectations. Here is the bad news, we have all sinned. (Romans 3:23). Only one sinless person ever existed and he is definitely not reading this blog.
But God did not leave us in our sin to live perfectly. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but the beautiful thing is that God loves to save sexually broken people (Mark 2:17) because it is all he has to work with.
The gospel and sex
The gospel heals what sin has broken, even our sex lives and our sexual past. Jesus was known for loving drunks and prostitutes so much that he saved and changed them (Luke 7:34, 36-50). This is the good news that we need to hold out to our kids and especially our teens. Let’s paint a full picture of the beauty of sex the way that God designed it. Our discussions can be about so much more than a bunch of rules. We get the opportunity to spend time with our kids talk with them about the God who loves, the God who transforms, the God who is a friend of sinners.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What a Bologna Sandwich Taught Me About Marriage
Did you ever think someone could show you love through a bologna sandwich?
I didn’t think so either.
Until I found out that my then-boyfriend-now-husband (a poor, broke, medical school student at the time) spent close to two months eating bologna sandwiches every day, in order to cut down his grocery budget to $10/week. Just so he could save up enough money to buy me an engagement ring.
The truth is this: marriage will cost you.
When you think of the cost of marriage, what comes to mind?
According to recent statistics, the average couple today spends $26,444 on a wedding. That’s a lot of money, but it’s nothing compared to the REAL cost of marriage. Because like it or not, marriage will cost you MORE. It will cost you something great. It will cost you a price much larger than the money you spend on a ring or a wedding or a honeymoon.
It will cost you yourself.
I heard a married man on TV say (regarding whether or not he was going to stay in his own marriage), "I shouldn't be with someone if I'm not happy..." and it made my stomach turn.
What an accurate reflection of the self-centered society we live in, everyone believing that their main goal in life is THEIR OWN personal happiness. What a small and shallow way to live. If you're getting married with that as your main goal, to make yourself happy, you will be disappointed in a severe way.
Marriage is not about your happiness, it's not even about you. It's about LOVE, which is something we choose to give time and time again. It's about sacrifice, serving, giving, forgiving, and then doing it all over again.
No wonder we often choose divorce over commitment...because most of the time, we're choosing "personal happiness" over real commitment--over real love.
They say marriage teaches you more about selflessness than you ever wanted to know. I have found that phrase to be true in my relationship with my husband. Because at the heart of it, real love is all about sacrifice. About the giving of yourself, in ways big and small. That's what marriage will cost you.
It’s about offering forgiveness when you’ve been hurt.
It’s about giving your time though it’s not always convenient.
It’s about sharing your heart when you’d rather hold back.
It’s about cleaning the kitchen after a long weekend, even if it’s your least favorite job.
It’s about choosing to respond with love when you'd rather respond in anger.
It’s about offering a listening ear, when you’d rather tune out or go to bed.
It’s about putting someone else’s needs and desires before your own.
It’s about giving up that last bite of cake, just so your spouse can enjoy it.
It’s about putting aside your rights, to make space for the rights of another.
The list could go on and on, but it always ends with the same formula:
WE BEFORE ME.
That's what marriage will cost you.
We live in a world that DESPISES the sacrificial side of marriage and tries to explain it away. They teach us to strive for power, control, and the upper hand in a relationship. They tell us to do what feels right, and not to tolerate anything less. They fool us to thinking that love is about doing what makes us happy. And the second we feel less than happy, they encourage us to bail....to abandon ship...and to stop investing…to give up on love.
But they’ve got it all wrong.
Because the more we give, the better we become. Real Love is not self-seeking, and it will ALWAYS cost you. More, and more, and more. Again, and again, and again.
It will cost your heart, your time, and your money. It will cost your comfort, your rights, and your pride. It will cost you to “lay down your life” for the life of another. Because only those who learn to die to themselves are the ones who get to experience the resurrection power that comes with it.
Resurrection into real love, into real life, and into meaningful relationships.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How Simply Showing Up Can Be the Best Thing You Do
Are you tempted to forsake gathering together with other Christians? Maybe skip church? Or avoid a small group or Bible study commitment?
Even as an extrovert, there are times I want to withdraw from community life. It’s not that being with people taps me out, but rather that doing life together can sometimes be so messy, making me want to run for the hills. Can you relate? But that desire to run doesn’t mean we should give in to it.
We often need to dive into community knowing that God is about the business of accomplishing His work even in the midst of our mess. I learned that lesson on a Sunday when I was tempted to skip church after a week of travel but remembered I promised to bring a side dish to small group meeting after service. Without a valid out, I kicked it into high gear and we made barely made it church on time. I sat through the sermon arguing with God about the value of showing up, since my heart wasn’t in it, but got no answer at all…until the end of our small group time. The topic from the sermon combined with the video we watched in our group spurred on an authentic time of sharing. One couple finally let their pain come to the surface and boldly asked for support. We gathered around them and prayed for God’s healing and leading. The relief on their faces proved to me that encouragement is something that can only happen when we show up.
Simply by gathering together, we become an encouragement to each other.
Should we be surprised that such a little act of obedience could reap such a blessing?
God, I will not neglect meeting together with my brothers and sisters in Christ, so I may be an encourager and receive encouragement. Please forgive me for my stubbornness and the times I run from what You say is best. Give me the conviction and courage to heed Your Word, especially when it comes to gathering together with my brothers and sisters in Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What does it look like for you to not forsake gathering together with believers, even if being fully present is simply an act of obedience to God?
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Posted on Apr 10, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Dawn Camp
It’s been over 13 years since Mother passed away on my birthday, and it’s taken years to reclaim the day as my own. For her, those two March 16ths, 38 years apart, began in pain and ended in joy: in the birth of her first child and in the presence of her Savior.
Calling your mom Mother sounds formal to some people; I don’t mean it that way. She preferred Mommy, but she wouldn’t have been Mama any more than she would have been Granny rather than Gran; it just didn’t suit.
Mother was petite, in poor health, and physically weak, but her mind was wise and strong. She didn’t understand why family members asked her advice in areas that didn’t involve her. But we respected her counsel. She liked to say, “No one person is important enough to make everyone around them miserable.”
Mother didn’t waste much time in the kitchen. Her cooking didn’t extend far beyond Bisquick pancakes and boxed brownies, but she mastered her own, personal version of comfort food: white powdered doughnuts warmed in the toaster oven bubbly; Dr Pepper boiled and flavored with lemon juice; warm brownies drizzled with melted butter. Mother sometimes sat in her recliner and toasted marshmallows with a lighter to make s’mores. I admire such dedication in pursuit of the perfect snack.
As an adult, I’ve gotten tetanus shots because of unexpected encounters with a rusty nail and the bottom of a go-cart, but my mother needed them—twice—because of squirrels. She attempted to rescue one from a dog’s mouth and tried to touch one at a petting zoo. She loved animals, even if they didn’t always love her.
Last week a lady at church told me my mother would be proud of me and my family. She passed away before I started writing; missing her inspired me to start my blog. She knew seven of my eight children, but was gone before any of the girls entered their teens. I’ve missed her advice as they’ve grown.
Time and perspective continue to reveal my mother’s influence, the ways I’m like her and the ways I’m not. She hated the color orange; we never had a pillow, a splash of paint, or a piece of clothing in that shade. Mother once had surgery in a hospital wing painted orange. I’m sure it was meant to be cheerful, but a happy color can’t overcome a painful association. I didn’t own anything orange while my mother lived; I never considered it. Now I have orange shirts and orange scarves, and a cute little orange owl decorates our house each fall. I love orange! At first it felt like a betrayal when I realized it, but her experience was not my own.
I believe words have power, and my mother knew it too. She hated the word snot but thought stuff was a good Bible word. (Genesis 45:20 cautions us, “Regard not your stuff.”) Facetious was one of her favorites. Winsome is one of mine. Her shelves overflowed with books, just like mine, and I have no doubt she would have read every word I write.
Although Mother didn’t question God’s good taste or the beauty of His creation, she thought hydrangeas were tacky and found the big, blue flowers offensive. The summer after she passed I planted a bush in my front yard, in her honor. But not out of disrespect; it wasn’t until then that I realized I actually liked hydrangeas, much like the color orange.
I don’t prefer her soft pastel color palette, and I’ve never planted the signature red geraniums that filled the window boxes of my childhood home each spring. She never baked a cake or a pie, but I even make my own yogurt. I can’t imagine my mother exercising, even if her health permitted it, but I started running a few years ago. She liked coffee; I drink tea. Despite our more obvious differences, in fundamentals my mother and I are much the same: stubbornly independent, unwilling to forsake our core values, intellectually curious, fiercely loyal to family.
I sometimes wonder if my kids listen to me, but I know from experience a mother’s words burrow deep in the hearts of her children. Whether we embrace or reject them, they’re always a part of us, speaking soft or loud in the voice of our conscience. I’m glad my mother raised me to think for myself and hold fast to my convictions, even the unpopular ones, and that occasionally I’m blessed to hear the words: “You remind me of your mother.”
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Singleness vs. Marriage: An Amish Woman’s Dilemma
Posted on Apr 05, 2018 Topic : Fiction
Linda Mueller enjoys her orderly, uneventful existence creating quilts and working at an Englisch fabric shop. Idealistic to a fault, Linda has never found a man worth marrying—until she meets Isaac Mast. In this emotional scene from The Amish Quilter, Linda begins to question her feelings. Could she actually want to get married someday?
I stared at the ceiling. I had to admit, it wouldn't hurt me to lighten up a little bit. I knew I took everything and everyone too seriously. Myself, for one. And, I feared, Isaac's feelings toward me. Sure, he smiled at me and asked me questions and talked and laughed, but I had no indication that he cared for me more than he did anyone else.
An odd sort of emptiness clenched at me from somewhere deep within. Shifting onto my side, I bent my knees, arms clasped at my stomach. I felt almost...lonely. With such a big family and a close-knit community, that wasn't a familiar emotion for me. Then again, this seemed like a particular kind of loneliness, a longing for more than just family and friends. It wasn't even necessarily about Isaac. It was bigger than that. It was about me and my expectations of going through life as a single woman, alone. I'd always said I would never marry, but was that truly what I wanted? Or was that a lie I told myself because deep inside I knew that no one would ever want to marry me?
I sat up, my heart pounding. For the first time in my life, it was as if I could see my whole future opening up before me, the future God had in mind and not the one I’d cut and stitched for myself. In His version, I wasn’t alone. I was with a helpmate. A soulmate. A partner.
And whether that husband ended up being Isaac or someone else, I realized I did want to be married. Suddenly I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything in my life. Overwhelmed by a piercing need, it was as if years of yearning that had been tamped down out of sight were finally being set free. Swallowing back a sob, I slipped from the bed, got to my knees, closed my eyes, and brought all of it to the Lord. The pain. The loneliness. The insecurity. The self-deception. The lack of trust. I prayed for an hour, maybe more. He took it all, in His wide-open arms and nail-scarred hands, leaving me, in the end, unburdened, comforted, and at peace.
I ended my prayer and got back in bed. I knew I wouldn’t change overnight. And I knew that by admitting to myself that I wanted a marriage, I was setting myself up for potential heartbreak. But at least I knew now what I truly wanted. Most important of all, I knew what God wanted for me.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Remind Your Daughter She Can Always Count on God
In this life, we will experience trials. Share this excerpt from Living Your Faith: A Journey Through James with your daughter today. Remind her that the answers for dealing with tough situations can be found in God's Word.
What are your trails and tests? I'm sure you have your share of tough times! In fact, tough times are a fact of life. Jesus told us, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). Do you ever wonder, "What am I supposed to do in tough times? What am I supposed to do with my problems?"
Well, you'll be happy to hear that James has some lessons and great advice for dealing with your tough times and trials.
Learning to Count
In school you learned how to add up a column of numbers—and hopefully get the right answer! James tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." The New King James Version says "Count it all joy." When you "count" or add up your sufferings and problems and disappointments what does James say is the correct answer in chapter 1, verse 2?
Read verse 2 again and think about the word "many," as in "trials of many kinds." No one wants to face and deal with even one trial! And yet James speaks of many kinds of trials. Maybe you have already experienced several kinds of trials, like...
—a tough decision to do the right thing
—a tragedy in your family
—a serious illness
—facing a mean girl every day in school
—struggling with a difficult subject in school
Well, here's some very good news! God does not ask you or any of His people to understand our trials. But He does want us to trust Him and His wisdom and His plan for us. When you do this—you will find joy in Him, joy in His promises, and joy in His perfect will for your wonderful, special, unique life!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Gaze on the Celestial Wonders of Easter
Growing up as preacher’s kids, my brothers and I always considered the Easter sunrise service to be a highlight of our year. As we waited for the peach-glow of the sun to conquer the dark horizon, we could feel the kiss of spring in the air, even though our Colorado landscape was usually still swaddled in snow.
Easter sunrise was a sight to behold. Light invading darkness, death surrendering to life. The symbolism was lost on no one.
Also, donuts and hot chocolate were served.
Of course, the wonders of Easter don’t fade at sunset. Stargazing on Easter night—or anytime during the Lenten season? You should try it.
Stargazing, as many of us wannabe astronomers know, is a misnomer. The glow reaching our eyes is thousands of years old, meaning that many of the stars we watch with wonder are really just light-ghosts. The stars themselves burned out long ago.
Our sun is a star. A majestic star to us but not so grand among its peers. The duo of shining stars in the Eta Carinae stellar system outshine the sun the way a blazing bonfire outshines one skinny wooden match.
Some stars are breathtaking in their brightness, others in their density. Outer space is home to neutron stars. To scoop a single spoonful of neutron-star matter, you would need a special spoon indeed. One bite-sized portion of neutron star weighs about 10 million tons—and that’s a conservative estimate. To put it in perspective, one spoonful of neutron star outweighs more than 100 massive aircraft carriers. How can this be? It’s a wonder.
But consider an even greater wonder: The power behind our sun and all the other stars is at work in us who believe in the Jesus of Easter. Paul’s letter to the Romans puts it this way: “If the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself” (Romans 8:11 MSG).
So whether you greet the Easter sun or bid goodnight to the Easter stars, or both, remember your friend in high places. The highest of places. The Lord who built the universe wants to show up in your life in stellar ways. So keep looking up.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
Why You Don’t Have to Be Good Enough
Posted on Mar 27, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Sharon Jaynes
“I’m not good enough” was the undercurrent of my entire existence until I finally realized who I was and what I had in Christ. And I know I’m not alone. Many women are living in silent defeat, comparing themselves to other women who likewise are living in silent defeat.
I’m not a good mother. I’m not a good wife. I’m not a good Christian. I’m not a good witness. I’m not a good housekeeper. I’m not a good decorator. I’m not a good cook. I’m not a good . . .
One by one the petals fall from the beautiful flower God created us to be. Like ticker tape, our fragmented pieces of confidence scatter over the streets as the parade passes by.
Unfortunately, I wasted many precious years held captive by the enemy’s lies before I held up my chained hands to God and said, “I’m ready for You to cut me loose.”
Jacob was a liar.
Moses was a stutterer.
David was an adulterer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
Esther was an orphan.
Balaam’s donkey was… well, a donkey.
And yet God used each one of them to further His kingdom. You’re in good company. See, God doesn’t call us because we are particularly gifted or talented. He uses us because we are obedient and dependent on Him. He doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.
Gideon is another one of God’s chosen leaders who argued that he wasn’t good enough. One day he was threshing wheat in a winepress when an angel of the Lord came to him. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior,” the angel announced (Judges 6:12). Now, first of all, you don’t thresh wheat in a winepress. You thresh wheat in an open field by throwing it up in the air. The wind blows the chaff away and the grain falls to the ground. So what was Gideon doing in the winepress? He was so terrified of his enemies, the Midianites, that he was hiding. And yet, when the angel of the Lord came to him, he addressed Gideon as “mighty warrior.” No wonder Gideon said, “Pardon me?” (6:13,15).
As soon as God called Gideon to greater things, Gideon began making excuses. Gideon allowed his insecurities and inadequacies to set limitations in his life. Gideon argued, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (6:15).
But God looked beyond Gideon’s insecurities. He knew who Gideon could be if he trusted in God’s power to work through him. The truth is, we can never go so far away from God that His grace can’t reach in to save us, and then use us.
Are you ready to let go of your insecurities and allow God to use you?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Do Rainbows Really Mean?
The most visible reminder of the Flood today is, of course, the rainbow. So it's not surprising that one of the most common questions people have about the Flood is: Why did God give the sign of the rainbow anyway?
Noah and his family had just come through an unimaginably frightening experience. It’s possible they had never even seen a storm, and certainly not one like this. It would remain constant in their memories for years to come. During the Flood, the winds howled incessantly and the thunder pealed continually as the Ark pitched and rolled in the waves. Earthquakes rocked the planet without stop, sending pulsating tsunamis in every direction. Underwater volcanoes and the spreading “fountains of the great deep” (Genesis 7:11) heated the water surrounding the Ark, making life on board almost unbearable. Continuous rainfall pelted the Ark’s roof, as if it were passing under Niagara Falls.
This was not merely a Category 5 hurricane. Creationists speculate about hypercanes—storms dozens of times greater than present-day hurricanes. Surely the pre-Flood world fully “perished” (2 Peter 3:6) under such an onslaught.
As Noah and his family stepped off the Ark, they entered a world totally unfamiliar to them. The geography had all changed. Plant and animal life had been devastated. Weather patterns were chaotic. Gone was the pre-Flood stability they were accustomed to. Contrast that to the relative stability we enjoy today. It would perhaps have taken several centuries for Earth to settle down to the present pseudo-equilibrium. After all, the jet streams would have needed time to stabilize. The ocean currents had to find their “paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:8). The continents had to halt their rapid horizontal movements and cease their vertical uplift. In particular, the oceans would have needed time to give up their excess heat, which would have caused further violent storm patterns.
It was into this unstable world Noah and his family disembarked. No doubt earthquakes were common. Of necessity they lived in tents because it was not possible to make structures that would have withstood the earthquakes. Wood was in short supply, and rock structures were the least safe.
Rainfall continued with swollen streams and violent storms. Calculations show that the ocean’s heat would have taken at least 600 years or so to dissipate, and that during this period the Ice Age dominated. Job lived soon after the Flood, and his book contains more references to ice and snow than the rest of the Bible put together. Up until perhaps the time of Abraham, the world was quite a dangerous place on account of many natural catastrophes.
No doubt Noah’s family needed reassurance that there would never be another Flood like the one they had just experienced. Thus, it was out of God’s grace and mercy that He instituted this beautiful reminder of His protection. And every time they saw a rainbow, it would serve as a majestic reminder of the security they have in Him. (Genesis 9:9-17)
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Discover the True Heart of a Champion
The games of the thirty-first Olympiad in Rio provided thrilling competition. When the games closed, there were many reasons to celebrate: fewer illnesses than expected, fewer crimes, and no massive outbreak of the Zika virus.
Yes, there was Ryan Lochte and his antics, but that didn’t overshadow the truly great moments. Michael Phelps owned the pool once again. Two Simones shone—Biles in gymnastics and Manuel in swimming. The U.S. women swept the 110-meter hurdles. But the finest moment of the games had nothing to do with medals and everything to do with mettle.
By now, most everyone has seen the dramatic images of U.S. 5,000-meter runner Abbey D’Agostino tripping and tumbling over New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who had fallen in front of her during a qualifying heat. As you probably know, D’Agostino rose, helped a distraught Hamblin up, and then encouraged her to finish the race. “Get up,” she said. “We have to finish this.”
If you don’t know the rest of the story, there was a slight problem. As she started to run, D’Agostino realized her right knee wasn’t cooperating. She had torn her ACL and meniscus and strained her MCL. She collapsed in pain. But that’s not the end of the story.
D’Agostino got up again and hobbled around the track. Seventeen minutes and ten seconds later, she finished the race. At the finish line, she was met with a wheelchair and an awestruck Hamblin.
Olympic athletes prepare for a lifetime for one brief moment to reach for the ultimate crown. It seems that Abbey D’Agostino had prepared for a lifetime for her moment, just the way it unfolded.
“Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can, and have, rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way,” she said in the aftermath. “This whole time here, He’s made it clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance—and as soon as Nikki got up, I knew that was it.”
Said Hamblin afterward, “I’m never going to forget that moment.”
Neither will I.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
A Spark of Suspense Sets a Mystery Ablaze
Posted on Mar 15, 2018 Topic : Fiction
Eva Lapp is twenty-nine years old and over the hill when it comes to finding a good Amish husband. To Eva's surprise, her first love, Jake Miller, suddenly returns to Lancaster County. When a mysterious fire rages in an Amish neighbor's barn, will Eva's old flame, Jake, be the one who gets blamed?
By the time Jake and I caught up with his dog, Missy, she was at the barn sniffing under the door. I couldn’t get it open. “Jake, help me.”
“Are you sure you want to go in there?”
“Yah, we have to now.”
“Sniff the air,” Jake said.
I inhaled. “Cigarette smoke?” We both turned our flashlights to the hayloft above.
“No one would be stupid enough to smoke up there.” I hoped not, anyway. “A hayloft is a tinderbox waiting for a spark.”
“Who’s up there?” Jake placed his foot on the wooden ladder rung. “Show yourself or I’m climbing up to find out for myself.”
“Be careful, Jake.”
I hoped no one was there, but the floorboards in the loft creaked. Bits of hay floated down like feathers.
“Ralph?” I called. “Is that you?”
“What of it?” Ralph’s words were garbled and sloppy. “I sleep here all the time, and the Amish owner has never complained.”
Jake scaled another rung. “He would if he knew you smoked. Look, your cigarette butt started a fire!” Jake’s voice emanated panic. I could hear him trying to stamp out the flames, without success. He leaned over and tossed me his cell phone. “Call 9-1-1!”
From the hayloft, crackling erupted. “Go down,” Jake told Ralph. “Hurry.” But Ralph ignored him.
The crackling, burning straw gained momentum, sounding like an oncoming locomotive.
“Evie, let the mares and cow out.” Jake ran to the stallion and opened his stall.
I pulled off my sweater and covered one of the frantic mare’s heads. I felt a metal shoe gouge into my leg—but no time to look. I led the blinded mare out of the barn, and the other followed. Both galloped into the descending darkness.
As Jake struggled with the stallion, I unclipped and led the bawling cow outside, but I had nowhere to tie her.
The sky lit up from the flames. The heat increased.
A thunderous noise above reminded me of a jet flying too low. Flames leaped and danced. Sparks flew. The heat grew unbearable.
Jake grabbed a rope halter and maneuvered it onto the stallion’s head. He seized control of the frantic horse and forced it out of the barn, and then gave its rump a whack. It bolted into the darkness.
The multiplying flames were hypnotizing me. I tried to breathe, to fill my lungs. I gulped for air and put my hand in front of my face to ward off the heat.
“Come out, Evie.” Jake grasped my hand and pulled me to safety.
A moment later, the blazing loft collapsed, as loud as a stick of exploding dynamite. I thought my eardrums would burst.
“Thank you, Lord,” I said, knowing no one but God could hear me.
Sirens screamed in the distance, traveling our way. The whole barn was a blistering furnace, illuminating the sky.
Will Eva and Jake be able to overcome the many obstacles in their way and find the redemption they both desperately need?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Turn to Prayer to Change Your Marriage
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
We know that prayer has the power to change people and situations. But how often do you really pray purposefully for your spouse? This guided prayer can offer insight, and help you approach the Lord with confidence as you commit to pray daily for your husband. Start with this prayer of praise, followed by offering specific prayers for your husband, and close with the prayer of blessing and intervention.
Heavenly Father, You are the source of everything we need. You promise that You will supply all of our needs according to Your riches in glory. But You ask that my husband and I put You first as a part of the process of obtaining all that we need. You ask that we seek You first. It is only when You are first in my husband’s life that Your provision flows freely through and to him in the marketplace. Thank You for showing us the key that You are the ultimate source of fulfilling our needs, not his work or our finances. Thank You for taking such amazing care of Your creation with the birds and lilies in the fields, and You even know the number of hairs on our heads! I praise You that not only do You make Your unlimited abundance available to us as our Lord, but that You also encourage us to never doubt Your provision and loyal care for us, no matter what the present circumstances may appear to be. I praise You that You do all things well and always have our best interests at heart.
Present the Situation
Use this portion to mention to God the times you’ve seen your husband put Him first. Ask God to show your husband much favor when he makes the hard decisions that come from putting Him first in all things. It’s good to be as specific in your prayers as you can. Focus on the particular areas where you feel that your husband could grow with regard to looking to God and His viewpoint first. Also, mention areas where you feel he could grow in putting God first in his time, with his talents, and with your finances. Praise the Lord for those times when He asked you to sacrifice financially and you responded in faith and put His wishes first and denied yourself something that you really wanted. Encourage your husband when he wrestles through the tests that God sends to him to put the Lord first.
Pray for Blessing and Intervention
Gracious Lord, the success of our home depends a great deal on how well my husband puts You first in his heart, mind, and soul. Help him to see the cause and effect relationship between his relationship with You and Your intervention and provision in our home, his career, our church, and his community impact. Give him practical ways to nourish and nurture his prioritization of Your will through a relational abiding with You. Provide him with friends who will also encourage and model for him what it means to put You first in every area of his life. Thank You, in Christ’s name, amen.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
3 Ways to Restore the Romance with Your Husband
Posted on Mar 08, 2018 Topic :
Posted by : Cindi McMenamin
Do you remember the joy you experienced as a newlywed?
I do. Those memories came flooding back to me the day I found a stack of old, yellowed papers in my top dresser drawer. Love letters written by my husband nearly 30 years ago containing phrases any woman would want to read over and over again. Phrases like “I love you beyond expression” and “You complete me like no other.”
As I read through those old love letters, my eyes teared up. And then my heart dropped.
How I wanted to be married to THAT man again. That man who wrote me those letters and thought the world of me.
But then it occurred to me. How he must want to be married to THAT woman again!
I set out to become the woman to whom he penned those words. And as I did, I found he quickly became the man who could write them to me again.
No matter how long we’ve been married, we could all use a refresher, a pick-me-up, something new (or old) to try to renew and re-glue the relationship so we can bring back the romance. As I was writing my book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, it occurred to me that the actions on the part of a wife can make all the difference in a marriage. I took steps to remove the baggage, rebuild love, and recapture my husband’s heart. Here are three simple ways you can experience more with your husband:
1. Respond to Him Like a New Wife
Remember when you were a brand-new bride? Oh, what a feeling! You couldn’t wait until the two of you got off work so you could be together again. You constantly checked your text or voice mail messages. You had a special sparkle in your eyes when you talked of him and a spring in your step when you walked alongside him. What would it take to get back that loving feeling for him? If you’re waiting for him to do something different, I guarantee he will when YOU start responding to him like you once did when you were a new wife.
2. Reframe What You Say to Him
Most of the baggage in marriage comes from careless, hurtful, or accusing words we tend to say to one another. We often didn’t even intend for those words to sound the way they did. Ephesians 4:29 instructs: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” So, instead of saying “Are you going to wear THAT to dinner?” Say, “I’d love it if you’d wear that blue shirt you look great in.” Instead of saying, “Why don’t we go out on dates anymore?” Try, “I miss spending time alone with you.” Before the words exit your mouth, ask yourself, “Will this encourage him and make him believe I’m in his corner?” If the answer is no, don’t say it at all.
3. Refuse to Dwell on the Negatives
Every relationship has memories and situations we need to let go so we can move forward. Negative thoughts and memories may creep up, but don’t let them run rampant in your mind. Practice 2 Corinthians 10:5, which instructs us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Stop negative thinking, and remember why you fell in love with your husband in the first place. Was it his tenderness? The way he made you laugh? His dependability and faithfulness? Focus on his positive qualities–even ones you believe you haven’t seen in a while–and you just might start noticing them again.
What are the qualities that made you fall in love with your husband?
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Encourage Your Daughter to Join God’s Story
Every night, I read a Bible story to my daughter, Norah. One evening several years ago, I was searching for one with a brave woman of God. And I chose Ruth.
And my heart sank.
The moral of the story, according to this particular children’s Bible? “God blessed Ruth for her kindness and provided her with a husband named Boaz.”
No mention of her bravery. Her remarkable faith. Or her ancestry in the line of Christ.
Instead, Ruth has to be rescued by a husband.
On the next page is the story of David and Goliath. And the moral of the story provides a stark contrast to Ruth’s: “Everyone cheered because David had defeated the giant.”
Wait. Wasn’t Ruth also victorious? Imagine journeying to an unknown land with no promise in your future—except the guarantee of destitution as a foreign widow, the lowest rung of society. Still Ruth has the strength and bravery to leave everything to trust in Yahweh. And the God of the Universe commends Ruth for her faith and courage. But, all of this is missing in the children’s story.
The juxtaposition of David’s and Ruth’s stories in the children’s Bible made me reflect, What are we teaching our daughters through our Bible stories?
We want our daughters to grow up strong and brave, yet are we depicting strong and brave women in Scripture?
We want our daughters to be full of faith, but are we reinforcing that men have faith to slay giants wile women must be rescued by godly men?
We want our daughters to follow their God-given passions and vocations, but is our secular culture leading the way in providing passionate and gutsy role models like in Disney’s Frozen and Moana?
While I affirm the many examples of brave female heroines in secular culture, strong women already exist in Scripture!
Faith-filled adventurers, they take risks to unleash the Kingdom of God. They are disciples, evangelists, prophets, moms, philanthropists, businesspeople, and political and spiritual leaders.
Here is a sampling of the Bible heroines my daughter Norah and I have been enjoying together when we read Bible stories in the evenings:
Miriam- a prophet, she is accredited in Micah 6:4 as leading the nation of Israel along with her brothers, Moses and Aaron.
Deborah - called by God as a prophet and leader of the Israelite nation, she delivers the people from their enemies.
Tabitha - a disciple who was raised from the dead, she champions the plight of the poor.
Priscilla - a teacher in the early Church, she and her best friend (and husband) Aquila start house churches on two continents and instruct some of the foremost teachers of the emerging church.
And there are many more!
So, tonight, when I read Bible stories to my daughter Norah, we celebrate together the many brave and adventurous women in Scripture—some who have led nations, rescued their people from genocide, and ministered and walked with Christ!
Watch the brand new trailer for Rachel's latest book below:
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Make Your Living Area Lovable
Posted on Mar 01, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Perhaps no room causes as much organization confusion as the living room. It’s often hard to assess our needs in this space. Maybe you’ve been led to believe that every home needs a formal living room, so you’ve created just that, but then you find you don’t use it. Perhaps this space sits unused, yet the rest of your house doesn’t have enough space to accommodate your needs. Or maybe your living room has morphed into a catchall of activity, but it’s so chock-full of stuff that nobody can actually relax or accomplish much of anything in there.
Give yourself permission to repurpose this space in a way that works for your family. Make it attractive so you’ll be drawn to enjoy it, but practical and sensible enough to be useful for this season of life. A living room doesn’t have to be fancy, and it shouldn’t be just wasted space. Make this a room a room you can actually live in.
Do you long to gather some friends together to start a book club or other group? Do your kids need a good hangout space for their friends—or do you need hangout space of your own for when friends or neighbors stop by? Do you dream of family fun nights?
When you’re organizing your living space, focus on the word living. What kind of memories do you want to make? What will bring laughter to your home? What kind of environment will foster long conversations and sharing?
Set the Stage for Family Fun
If you dream of family game nights around a real board game, stop dreaming and clear out that armoire or those cluttered shelves in your living room and create an organized space for family games. Donate any games you haven’t played in forever and keep only your favorites. You can also swap games with friends to determine if you really want to own them (or just keep a lending library going).
Create an Inviting Space
People stay where they feel comfortable. Cozy couches and chairs need to be cleared of stuff before people will consider making themselves at home. Also, concentrate on eliminating the clutter from coffee tables or end tables. And sometimes a soft rug (again, free of stuff!) is the best place for a casual hangout.
Make Your Living Area Perfectly Imperfect
Don’t feel that you need to have a perfectly picked-up living room. Too pristine can sometimes be as unsettling as too messy. If guests feel uncomfortable sitting in your space, they won’t stay long. Scattered books, family photos, a game in progress on an ottoman, fresh flowers from the garden, or some knitting in a basket by the sofa all say, “We live here. We have fun here. We make memories here.”
Set up your living room to be organized and used for what you truly need and love. Feel free to change things up as the needs of you and your family change. Surround yourself with things that matter now. Decorate with items that put a smile on your face. Organize with fun, communication, and connection in mind. Above all, your living space is for you. Make it your own, make it work for you, and make it work for your family.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
5 Compelling Questions with An Amish Suspense Author
Posted on Feb 27, 2018 Topic : Fiction
Who the Bishop Knows tells the story of Amish bishop Henry Lapp, whose uncanny ability to solve crimes is put to the ultimate test. Author Vannetta Chapman stopped by to answer some questions about this book and the others in The Amish Bishop Mysteries series.
Q: Amish suspense is such an interesting genre, especially considering the Amish belief in non-violence. What are the challenges of creating a suspenseful plot and incorporating that story into an Amish setting?
A: Definitely it is a challenge to balance the gentle, pastoral Amish setting that we all think of when we think of Amish with the gritty scene of a murder investigation. I think the key is to allow for problems that the rest of the world faces, but to emphasize the Amish response to those problems is a bit different—gentler, calmer, more forgiving. Of course, in this instance, there's still a killer to be caught.
Q: What was the inspiration behind The Amish Bishop Mysteries?
A: As with many of my novels, it all began with a small news story. This one was about accidental savants—the skills they have and the challenges they face. Rather than being born was savant abilities, these people suffered some sort of injury—usually a traumatic brain injury—that resulted in their having unusual abilities. I spoke to an Amish gentlemen a few years ago who was a wonderful baseball pitcher and was scouted by a pro baseball team. Those two things came together in my mind and the character of Bishop Henry Lapp was born. Henry's special ability is that he is able to draw anything that he sees. He doesn't possess a photographic memory (which scientists say is an impossibility), but his hand can draw anything that his subconscious remembers...and his subconscious remembers everything. For Henry, this is both a blessing and a curse.
Q: What kind of research did you do for this series? Did you learn anything interesting during your research?
A: In addition to learning about savants, I visited the small Amish community in Monte Vista, Colorado where the book takes place. It's a very different setting from what you might find in Pennsylvania or Ohio or Indiana. And the natural beauty of the area—from the migration of the cranes to the Great Sand Dunes National Park to Colorado's oldest rodeo—provided a fun backdrop to tell my story against. But the Amish life is much the same in spite of the fact that these Colorado Amish live in a high desert valley and use solar energy. There's still the focus on faith and community and hard work.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main character, Bishop Henry Lapp, and how/why he ends up in the middle of these mysteries?
A: Readers' response to Henry has really touched my heart. I think we all are drawn to a grandfather type character. Henry isn't perfect by any means—the fact that he was "chosen" to be a bishop at first puzzled him as much as anyone, especially given his savant abilities which many people are uncomfortable with. However, Henry's real gift is his compassion for people. He's more than just a bishop or a sleuth, he's a dear friend to folks within his Amish community, and he cares about the Englisch community as well. I guess Henry is everything that I remember and love about my own grandfather—kind, gentle, fun, wise, and a little mischievous.
Q: Without revealing too much, can you tell us about what Henry faces in Who the Bishop Knows?
A: In the first two books of this series (What the Bishop Saw and When the Bishop Needs an Alibi), Henry learns to embrace his unusual gift. He finally accepts that God has a reason for making him exactly how he is, and that God will use this strange gift for good things. But in Who the Bishop Knows, Henry doesn't see anything--he doesn't witness the murder, he's observed no clues, he wasn't even present when the murder occurred. Instead of relying on his abilities, Henry turns to what might be an even more important gift--his ability to understand people. If he can focus on who he knows, not what he knows, he might be able to save those in his community from danger. Henry has to trust that God is still in control of the situation around them, and that even from evil, He can bring good.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Know the Difference Between Guilt and Shame
Do you suffer from a guilty conscience? Are you plagued by shame? Do you even know which one you are feeling?
You might not realize it, but there is a difference between the two. Guilt is the bad feeling you have for doing something you should not have done. Shame is the bad feeling of regret for being an inadequate person.
Guilt is about what you did; shame is about who you are. Neither feel good.
The Bible has a lot to say about guilt. Mostly, it feels bad but exists to help us. Paul talks about a “godly sorrow” that leads people to repentance and produces good things in their lives (2 Corinthians 7:11). This is a useful tool for anyone with a conscience. This is healthy guilt, because it is motivated by love. Healthy guilt motivates you to do the right thing to restore damaged relationships.
But not all guilt is productive. Some guilt is not motivated by love but rooted in fear. It is not about making amends, or figuring out the loving thing to do to make things right in your relationships. It is about self-preservation, and the fear of getting caught. This kind of guilt is not really about making things right with others. It’s about saving your own skin.
One way to know whether the guilt you feel is the healthy kind is to ask yourself these questions: Do I feel bad because I have hurt someone and want to bring it out into the open for healing, even if I have to risk looking foolish? Or, do I feel bad about something and hope no one will ever bring it up again?
If the fear of getting caught wins out, then you are suffering from an unhealthy guilt. This guilt acts as a form of self-punishment that substitutes for restored relationships. It’s the kind of guilt that will keep you stuck.
Shame feels bad, too. But it is different from guilt. Shame is the painful feeling of disconnection from others that comes from feeling defective. You may think you feel bad because of things you have done but the truth is shame is the bad feeling you have about yourself, and you had that feeling long before you committed any of the things you think caused it. If in fact, your shame is probably the reason you did the things you did wrong in the first place.
The good news is, after you identify whether you are feeling guilt or shame, you can overcome it. If guilt is about what you do, and shame is about who you are, then to manage your guilt, you must do things differently, but to deal with your shame, you must actually be willing to be different.
Are you ready to face your guilt and shame in order to change your life today? By identifying your feelings, you’ve already taken the first step.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Are You Missing God’s Greater Blessing?
Posted on Feb 20, 2018 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
Posted by : Susie Larson
Tell them not to leave the well.
The whisper came across my heart and made it beat faster. I was at a conference I had spent weeks preparing for. I had spent days fasting and praying over what message I would share. Now it was almost time for me to go up and speak, and I was caught completely off guard.
Again, the still, small voice whispered, Tell them not to leave the well. This time I could see a picture in my mind of an old, strong well made from large stones. It was virtually untouched because around it for miles were thousands of makeshift wells, which were really just holes in the ground.
I suddenly had an overwhelming sense that many of the women in the crowd had come to this retreat empty, depleted, and thirsty. I sensed that many of them, out of desperation, often turned to counterfeit sources for a quick relief from pain, loneliness, insecurity, or anger. By turning to the quick fix, they missed the greater blessing God had for them.
How many of us have read of Jesus breaking custom by approaching the Samarian woman at the well? It’s true that they were of different backgrounds, which ordinarily would have provided a barrier to even speaking. But if we focus on all the reasons the conversation shouldn’t have happened, we miss the point. Jesus didn’t go to the well to fill his thirst, but to fill hers.
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
There at the conference, I found myself with a choice to make. I had one idea about how the weekend should go, and God had another.
For the next few days I found myself utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit’s direction for every message I gave. Because I longed for security and something to hold on to, I was tempted at times to rely on the notes I brought with me—my own quick fix. And yet by releasing that security and relying on Jesus to be my well, I saw the supernatural unfold before me.
I challenge you now, as I did that weekend, don’t leave the well. Don’t be so uncomfortable with your pain that you rush to a quick fix to cover it up. In your loneliness, in your hard times, and in your waiting, stay by the well until the true, pure water comes. He will come for you. He will bring healing and a new direction for your lives.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Seeing Your Home and Yourself the Way God Does
I still remember the first day I fell in love with my house. It was early on a spring morning when the sun was shining and the birds were chirping and fluffy white clouds were floating by in a blue sky. I poured a cup of coffee and walked from room to room—waking up the house along the way. I fluffed the pillows in the living room and told it how beautiful it was. I straightened the curtains in the dining room and reminded the dining room chairs they were amazing. I stacked bowls in the dishwasher and whispered softly to the kitchen that it was my favorite room in the house.
My house is loved; however, it isn’t perfect. Not even close. But here’s the thing…
…neither am I.
It took me a long time to figure out how to embrace the me that I am. I spent years trying to have the perfect house and the perfect me. I wasted so much time comparing my beginning to someone else’s ending. I looked at the green grass on the other side of the fence and felt like my house was inadequate—like my house was never going to be good enough. I wanted to click my ruby red slippers together and transform my home and myself into someone taller and skinnier with perfect hair who could rock a prairie skirt, concho belt, and Lee Press-On Nails.
And then? One day I stopped comparing. I stopped hoping and wishing and planning and dreaming for something I wasn’t and embraced the me that had been there all along. The me that was created by an incredible, amazing, awe-inspiring God who designed me with a plan and a purpose. I’m imperfect and distressed and worn around the edges with flaws and weaknesses and I’m a sinner saved by grace.
Every detail. Every line. Every flaw.
I want you to discover the joy found in creating a haven for your family, one where every member feels loved, safe, and special. I want to share that every home, including yours, is one-of-a-kind. Every home is meant to be loved right where it is on the journey.
Just like you.
You are perfect in God’s sight.
Just as you are.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Let God Write Your Love Story
Why do love stories draw us in? I think it’s because we each long for our own happily ever after, and if you’re a mom you pray for your children to find lifelong love. Love stories give us hope and inspire us to believe that true love—forever love—not only exists but is alive and well in average couples whose depth of love makes them anything but average.
When our son Tony was in the ROTC at Texas A&M University, he was the head of his unit. One woman under his command had a hard time keeping up with the men when they ran a great distance. When they arrived at their destination without her, they were chastised and required to do push-ups until she arrived. As commander, Tony needed to be sure she kept up the pace with the rest of the unit, so he ran in back alongside her. With both of their eyes focused on their destination, Tony would place his hand on the small of her back and she would keep up the pace. When he removed his hand, she lagged behind.
The Bible says that, as Christ followers, we’re running a race He has set before us. He calls us to keep our eyes fixed on Him, the author and finisher of our faith, and to shake off whatever easily besets us in our pursuit to finish well.
It’s tempting to take your eyes off the prize of Christ and focus on other distractions. But like the woman in Tony’s unit, you are called to run this race of life with your focus on the One who calls you to run.
Happily-ever-after doesn’t always end like the fairy tales. True happiness does not rest in a life without trouble. Rather, it comes when you discover the secret of finding your worth and joy in Christ alone. As you learn to pursue loving God first and foremost, your focus will be on Him and His plan for your life—rather than looking for happiness in how well you are loved by someone else. I pray God grants you true romance as Christ’s love spills over into your own love story.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Should We Give Our Children the World?
What parent doesn’t want to give their children the world? After all, they are our lives. We invest everything we have, hoping they’ll succeed. From piano and dance lessons, to lacrosse and soccer teams, we strive to develop well-rounded children.
But at the core of every essential thing our children learn, is the ability to read. Aside from knowing Christ, it is the key that opens a child’s world. Mary M. Bethune (1875-1955), knew that well, stating, “The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.” One of 17 children born to former slaves, Mary grew up in poverty. Had she never learned to read, Mary never would have graduated from Scotia Seminary, or attended Moody Bible Institute. She never would have become a leading American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, or civil rights activist. She never would have been an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Had Mary never learned to read, her world would not have opened. Something tells me, someone in Mary’s life knew the value in reading.
Knowing that a child’s ability to read is the gateway to their world, our desire should be to instill a love for reading deep within them. We should want our children opening books with unbridled eagerness and anticipation, as if the greatest journey were about to begin. As a writer, I know that’s what I want to help instill.
So, in the tradition of timeless classics like Peter Rabbit and Winnie the Pooh, I wrote The Tales of Buttercup Grove, illustrated by Michal Sparks. This four-book series for children 4-8, invites children to come along side Skunk, Raccoon, and the rest of their woodland friends, as they embark on a series of adventures in Buttercup Grove. Throughout each story, children learn Christian values such as sharing, compassion, kindness, encouragement, and patience. Although the reading level is geared for children 4+, they can be read as picture books to those younger.
As we do our best to instill a love of reading in our children, let’s do it with the same gusto we want them to have. So let’s grab a book, place a child on our lap, and pass on our enthusiasm. A child’s love for reading will open their world to adventures they may otherwise never have.
So yes, I think it’s quite alright if we give our children the world. Wouldn’t you agree?
3 Comments Leave a Comment »
Enjoy the Simple Deliciousness of This Homestyle Recipe
Posted on Feb 06, 2018 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Winter is such a beautiful season. It gives us permission to pause, to rest, to breathe. And I mean breathe. Cold sets in, and all I want to do is cozy up under a blanket and rest. Just as the ground is resting, my soul needs rest. This is why I like winter.
Chicken Noodle Casserole
This recipe serves 10 to 12
1 (8 oz.) pkg. noodles
¾ lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 T. oil
½ cup butter, melted
¹⁄ ₃ cup flour
1 (10 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
2 cups chicken broth
4 oz. Havarti cheese
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Bring 5 cups of salted water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While the noodles are boiling, heat the oil in a skillet and then add the chicken. Cook until done. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then sprinkle on the flour; whisk together. When blended, stir in the soup and the chicken broth. Then add the Havarti cheese, noodles, chicken, and salt and pepper. Stir until combined well.
Transfer the chicken and noodle mixture to a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Top with the Parmesan cheese and bake for 20 minutes.
This winter and every season, give your family hearty, home-cooked meals made with love.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Bravely Entrust Your Children to Jesus
In Christendom we toss around this phrase casually: “I surrendered that to God.” We sing it in songs all the time. When we say we surrender something to Christ, we mean we are turning it over to Him. We’ve decided to quit fighting and we recognize His authority over us.
I love that powerful idea, but I was absolutely floored when I began studying and found that Scripture doesn’t use that word to describe the process we’re talking about. The use of the word surrender in Hebrew is strictly applicable for surrendering to another man, as in troop to troop after a battle. In no instance is the word used in relation to what man does toward God.
Don’t get me wrong, though—the idea is there. Scripture uses other words to describe what man does when overcome with the realization that God is infinitely more powerful and worthy than he is. It uses words like submit, succumb, self-denial, yield, commit, and my favorite, entrust.
This is such a relief to me. We’re not in a battle with God, and we don’t need to quit fighting Him. Besides, the warrior instinct inside us is alive and strong, and there will be no giving up when it comes to protecting and defending our children. The word surrender just doesn’t seem to apply. But oh, the blessing of entrusting.
Entrusting means giving over the responsibility, putting something into another’s care or protection. This is what my heart longs for when it’s overwhelmed by my inability to keep my children safe, healthy, protected, obedient, and faithful. I desperately desire to assign the responsibility to someone who will not fail at the task, who cares even more than I do.
I believe Jesus came to this same realization. He did not surrender to the Enemy. But rather, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23 ESV, emphasis added).
Friends, I think we must consider our entrusting with eyes wide open. God does not promise our families perfect health, financial prosperity, worldly success, or even safety in this world. He will not hand us back everything we lay down. Some of the most godly families I know have faced unspeakable loss.
Christ shows us, though, that although God may choose suffering for us, we can entrust to Him everything of great worth, knowing He truly empathizes with our pain. During our darkest hour, we may find a depth of fellowship with our Savior we would know in no other way.
Father, I’m so grateful that You have experienced the releasing of a child. This means You aren’t standing at a distance from this process of entrusting my family to You. Forgive me for the ways I am allowing fear and doubt to cloud my belief in You. Teach me to rest in Your steadfast, unchanging character. You can have my children. I trust You. Amen.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
How Adopting Made Me a Better Human Being
I awake early on a Monday morning to begin my typical weekday routine in my household. I do a quick workout at our local gym, rush home while I chug water, wake my kids up, head to the kitchen to make lunches, simultaneously start breakfast, give a check to backpacks, gently remind my kids to get up again, warm the car up for carpool, consider pouring ice cold water over the stragglers who are still sleeping, and kiss the heads of the ones who have made it downstairs in relatively good time.
They rub their eyes, stretch, grumble, and may toss a few items my direction. None of them like getting up before the sun. I smile and return my attention to the task at hand. Getting them out the door on time for another day of school. As I slap peanut butter and jelly on slices of bread, I smile.
Then, this thought hits me; I couldn’t imagine my life without my children. I couldn’t have scripted a better story than the one I’m living out, all thanks to adoption. It has made me a better person. Here are 4 reasons why this is true:
It’s made me the best version of myself
The way I look at humanity, people who are different from me, and the world around me has totally changed, in part, to the adoption journey. Over the past 16 years, my wife Kristin and I have encountered so many situations that have knocked us completely out of our comfort zone and I’m better for it. I’ve discovered the world is much bigger than me and the tiny hearts of the precious children I am blessed to care for in this life have reminded me of this.
It has increased my capacity to love others
I’ve often said that adoption is not a question of your capacity to love others. It’s a question of choice. What will you choose to do with your heart? This amazing journey has taught me just how true this is. I love my children as if I did create them biologically. Love is not dependent on DNA or biology. Love is dependent on what you choose to do with your heart.
It’s made me less selfish
Before we began the adoption journey, I was a very selfish person. I thought only of myself, my plans, my wants, my needs, and my perspective. I’m still learning how to not be selfish, but it’s very true of my life before having children. I resisted the adoption journey in the beginning because I didn’t understand it, but also because I thought my life, the perfect life I thought I would live, would be disrupted. And it was. And I’m glad. This journey has humbled me and showed me, clearly, that this is not about me.
It’s taught me what family truly is
Just as love is not dependent on DNA or biology neither is family. I now realize your family is made up of the people you choose to live life with. The thought never crosses my mind that my family isn’t real because we are not biologically related. My children still call me “Daddy” and I call them “Sons” and “Daughters.”
The world has all kinds of opinions and perspectives on adoption. Some downplay the power of it, others say it’s wrong because they believe children should always remain with their birth parents. Some are indifferent. I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I’m eternally grateful for our choice to adopt.
Is this journey perfect? Absolutely not.
Is it worth it? Absolutely!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Why Certain Numbers Stand Out in the Book of Revelation
Posted on Jan 25, 2018 Topic : Prophecy
Symbolic numbers in the Bible can be fascinating. Not all numbers in the Bible have a special meaning (such as the number of years each king reigned in Israel); many are simply statements of fact. On the other hand, certain numbers seem to appear repeatedly throughout the Bible.
Symbolic and prophetic numbers are especially signiﬁcant in the book of Revelation. However, these are also real numbers that point to real events.
Three is the symbolic number of the Trinity. It is one of John’s favorite numbers, and he constantly expresses himself in triplets: He blesses the one who reads, those who hear, and those who heed the prophecy (Revelation 1:3). Jesus Christ is “the faithful witness, the ﬁrstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (1:5 NASB). The Lord God is and was and is to come (1:8).
The number three also ﬁgures prominently in several passages referring to judgment. Revelation contains three main series of judgments: the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. Judgment consists of basically three elements: ﬁre, smoke, and brimstone. These elements kill a third part of mankind (9:17-18). A third of the earth is burned up, as well as a third of the trees (8:7), and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened for a third of the day (8:12). A satanic trinity, the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet (16:13), oppose Christ’s reign on earth. Finally, Satan suffers a threefold defeat—on earth (12:9), into the abyss (20:1-3), and into the lake of ﬁre (20:10).
Six and Seven
Six is the number of man, who was created on the sixth day. In Revelation 13:18 it represents the most wicked man, the Antichrist.
Seven is the most signiﬁcant number in the Apocalypse. Revelation mentions seven spirits, seven churches, seven lampstands, seven stars, seven lamps of ﬁre, seven horns, seven eyes, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, seven songs, seven angels, seven thunders, seven “worthys,” seven heads, seven crowns, seven mountains, seven kings, and seven plagues. The frequent use of the number seven is part of the divine signature in the Apocalypse.
Twelve is the number of completeness. Israel has 12 tribes, Christ has 12 apostles, and 24 elders (a double 12) are seated around the throne. The tree of life has 12 types of fruit (22:2), the New Jerusalem has 12 gates guarded by 12 angels (21:12), and the city has 12 foundations (21:14). Twelve precious stones adorn the foundation stones and 12 pearl gates (21:19-21).
John uses these numbers to express the uniqueness and completeness of his prophecy of future events. All in all, the numerical structure of the Apocalypse makes it the most unique book in all of Scripture. The symbolic numbers in Revelation point us to God’s perfect revelation of future events, one item at a time.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
This Is Your Mission
Posted on Jan 23, 2018 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Rodney D. Bullard
If you asked someone to describe a hero, you might get descriptions of those involved in very specific vocations. Sports heroes may be the most common, but every vocation has its heroes: music, art, education, science, technology, engineering, business…the list is endless.
Since the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001, many citizens have developed a greater appreciation and respect for the heroes who are first responders—police, firefighters, and EMTs. Depending on your own experience, the hero who comes to your mind may be someone in the military or a doctor or a nurse or a foster parent.
These are all heroes. Without a doubt. And before they donned the uniform or signed the dotted line to have a job that is also heroic, they had a pull, a beckoning that they responded to with a yes.
God gives each of us a well and wealth of talents, inclinations, experiences, and cultivated gifts. To respond to a need, we don’t have to meet a divine standard in specialness; we are all special. We don’t need an engraved invitation, because the invitation is already written on our hearts. We just have to draw from our God-given gifts and use them as He intended for us to.
So, whether we go to a job that demands daily heroism or we sit at a desk and make the world better from our laptops and a 9-to-5 or caring for our kids, we all are given countless chances to rise up with a resounding “Yes!”
We can be encouraged by the apostle Paul’s words written to the Christians in Rome. He invited them to embrace and commit their unique gifts to the good of others and the health and wholeness of the body of the church. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8 NIV). Even as Paul struggled with discouragement during his challenges, he followed his call to lead others toward heroic living—embracing their unique spiritual gifts and using them for the whole of mankind and in service to God.
How do you know when you are living heroically? I could probably make this more eloquent, but the simple truth works: As a hero, your call is to give your all—for someone else. This is your measure; this is your mission.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How Should We Respond to Conflict in Israel?
Posted on Jan 18, 2018 Topic : Prophecy
Posted by : Ron Rhodes
Temporary peace has, on occasion, been achieved in the Middle East, such as that which resulted from the Oslo Accords in 1993. However, unresolved issues—invariably related to the city of Jerusalem—have always led to the reemergence of conflict.
A substantial peace came with the Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, in which Jimmy Carter brought Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin together at Camp David. This meeting led to an Israeli agreement to withdraw from the Sinai in exchange for Egypt normalizing relations between the countries. While the Accords led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, they did not result in peace between Israel and other Arab states.
American presidents since Carter have consistently sought to initiate peace, but no lasting progress has resulted. To make matters worse, the vacuum created by the recent withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East arguably led to the emergence of ISIS, a supremely radical group that has escalated the conflict to ever-new heights.
My personal assessment is that the situation in the Middle East will continue to escalate from bad to worse. Prophetic Scripture assures us that Israel will increasingly be a sore spot in the world in the end times. In Zechariah 12:2 we read, “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples” (ESV). The “surrounding peoples” of Israel are Islamic, and they are strongly motivated to see Israel destroyed.
No one can deny that Israel is in trouble today.
Biblical prophecy is clear that there will not be lasting peace for Israel or the Middle East (or for the world, for that matter) until the Lord Jesus returns at the second coming. The current president of the US, for example, may seek to bring about a lasting peace in the Middle East, but like all others, he will fail at this task. Only the Lord Jesus will succeed.
Please do not get me wrong. We should still seek to do all we can to bring peace to the region and stop the bloodshed. Peace is always God’s ideal (Isaiah 19:23-25), and the apostle Paul called God “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33). Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), and He affirmed, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).
A realistic assessment of Middle East affairs, however, lends credence to the biblical prophecies which reveal that such peace will ultimately be found only at the return of Jesus Christ.
Certainly we can look forward to the day prophesied in Scripture when we will experience universal peace (Isaiah 2:4; see also Isaiah 11:1-9; Hosea 2:18; Zechariah 9:9-10). Meanwhile, the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to pray “for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2 NLT). We should pray specifically that God give our leaders supernatural wisdom that will enable them to make the correct decisions with regard to foreign policy.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Happens When a Growing Admiration Turns Into Something More?
Posted on Jan 16, 2018 Topic : Fiction
West Virginia, 1869
When Dr. Daniel Kavanagh agrees to see patients in the coal mining town of Owenduffy, complications arise when his new assistant, Addie Rose, begins to stir feelings up inside the handsome doctor. In this romantic vignette from BJ Hoff's latest novel, Dr. Kavanagh struggles with his growing feelings for Addie Rose and the comparisons between her and his unrequited crush, local schoolteacher Serena Norman.
Daniel could not have handpicked a more efficient and helpful assistant than Addie Rose Murphy. Over the next two weeks, she proved not only to be a highly competent organizer and office manager, but also to possess an innate nursing instinct. Indeed, in a matter of just a few days he had come to not only admire her and appreciate her, but to rely on her. He could scarcely believe that in such a brief time she had his office running more smoothly than he would have believed possible.
Seated at his desk late Friday afternoon, on impulse he decided to tell her how pleased he was with her work—and to show his appreciation, albeit in a small way. The timing was good, as she stood across from him, about to receive her week’s salary.
“I just wanted to tell you that I think you’re doing a fine job,” he said, handing her the brown envelope that held her pay. “You’ll find a modest increase in there this week. You deserve more, but for now this is the best I can do.”
She actually blushed as she reached for the envelope. “I…thank you,” she said, stammering a little. “It’s…I like the work. I like it a lot.”
“Good! Then I’ll hope I don’t have to worry about losing you. You’ve actually made my job a good deal easier.”
“Oh, no. I mean, I plan to stay.”
She stuck her pay envelope into the pocket of the lab apron he’d provided for her. Daniel couldn’t help but notice—not for the first time—the unusual grace and unexpected elegance of her hands. Long, slender fingers with perfectly shaped nails, yet with a visible strength and grace to each movement.
In contrast to Serena’s small, almost childish hands, often knotted in tense fists…
He started, wondering where that had come from. It wasn’t the first time this had happened. More than once he had caught himself jarred by a sudden, out-of-place thought or observation about Addie Rose in contrast to Serena that caught him completely off guard and left him uncomfortable, to say the least.
Daniel looked at her again. For someone so young, she seemed extremely wise.
He was growing to respect her more and more, this daughter of the mines, for a number of reasons—and not only for the wonders she had worked in his office in such a short time. In fact, if he were to be altogether honest with himself, he was becoming uncomfortably aware that his feelings toward Addie Rose Murphy might possibly be edging toward more than respect.
And that was no good. No good at all. For one thing, she was too young for him to be thinking of her with that kind of interest. And for another, he suspected that hard-edged father of hers might take a very dim view—to say the least—of even the hint of an inappropriate “interest” in his daughter. He liked Dominic Murphy, even respected the man, but he had no illusions about what the irascible miner might be capable of should someone even appear to step over the line with him.
Besides, what about Serena?
Just then Addie Rose appeared at his office door to announce that her father had arrived and she’d be leaving for the day.
With a strange kind of relief, Daniel stood to say goodbye, but he refrained from walking with her to the door as he usually did.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What If God Wants You to Speak Up?
Posted on Jan 11, 2018 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Johnny Hunt
I don’t want to pretend that men who long to lead godly lives always find it easy to speak up whenever the moment and situation call for it.
I think of great men of the Bible who earned descriptions such as “the friend of God,” “a man after God’s own heart,” and “the twelve.” Each of them, more than once, left things unspoken that they should have said—to their own detriment and to the injury of friends or family.
Abraham (then called Abram), “the friend of God” (James 2:23; see also Isaiah 41:8), put a great many people in danger by refusing to speak up. Just before he and his beautiful wife, Sarai, traveled through a pagan country, he persuaded her to tell the king that she was his sister, not his wife.
By choosing to keep silent about the truth, Abram put in danger not only his wife, but the whole royal court.
God Himself exposed Abram’s deceit (Genesis 20:3). After Abram received a stinging rebuke, the situation resolved itself peacefully; but had he not left the truth unspoken, no frightening incident would have occurred in the first place. And did I mention that this was the second time Abram had pulled this trick? He did it first in Egypt (Genesis 12:11-20).
King David, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), evidently made a habit of not speaking up in his own home. His failure as a responsible father to verbally admonish one of his sons, Adonijah, eventually led to the young man’s untimely death. As a prelude to describing how Adonijah died, the Bible says, “His father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so?’” (1 Kings 1:6).
Why didn’t David rebuke his son “at any time”? Well, he was a busy guy. He probably left the child-raising duties to his wives and servants. Yet 1 Kings 1:6 strongly implies that David could have and should have corrected his son.
The disciples of Jesus, “the twelve,” were no strangers to remaining silent when they needed to speak up. On one trip, after the group arrived in Capernaum, Jesus looked at them and asked, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” (Mark 9:33). Scripture says, “They kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest” (verse 34).
Silence—no doubt due to feelings of guilt, shame, and the shock of being found out.
Men generally don’t like being unmasked! Jesus, however, was—and still is—an expert at unveiling the truth.
Our Lord wants you to engage. He wants you to speak up. He wants to move a lot of your conversations from the “unspoken” category to the “spoken” category.
Like these biblical figures, have you been living too much of your life in silence? Are you ready to follow God's leading to become a man willing to step up and speak out?
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Strengthen Your Marriage with Prayers for Joy
The Christian life is a joyful life. We are blessed to have the joy of the Lord as one of the fruits of the Spirit. Exhibiting joy in our roles as husbands and wives is crucial. A joyless marriage is drudgery. Consider that the joy of the Lord is your strength, not only personally, but also in your marriage.
The joy of the Lord is your strength.
Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
Father, you have given me great joy in Christ. I am a blessed man and I rejoice in all that you’ve given me, especially my wife. I pray for our mutual joy, that it might be centered in you and that it might increase with time. Help us keep joy alive in our home, even amid adversity when it comes. Praise you, God, that you have so designed it that your joy is actually our source of strength. When we would be strong, we must rejoice.
They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
Psalm 145:7 (NIV)
Show me how to embrace life. Teach me and my husband how to truly celebrate the gift of our days. When we drag our feet, teach us to dance. When our hearts are heavy with worldly pressures, lift us above the world. Put a song in my heart that I long to share with everyone. God, when my husband and I serve one another, let us rejoice in the doing. May our efforts at praise and celebration bring You joy and our lives peace.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Sit, Stand, Walk…and Praise God!
Posted on Jan 04, 2018 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
Young children can use their whole bodies to praise God! Share this post with your little one today.
I can SIT and be still for God!
I can STAND up, raise my arms, and praise Him!
I can WALK closer to God every day!
Learn more ways your child can move and worship the Lord.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
How Revelation Can Motivate You Today
Sometimes I scratch my head while seeking to understand practical applications for my life from the prophetic book of Revelation. The figurative imagery and symbolism can be confusing, even overwhelming.
But the more I interpret Scripture with Scripture—and the more I pray over the futuristic words in this last book of the Bible—the more I take to heart God’s promises. As I reflect on the perseverance and love of the exiled and elderly disciple John, he challenges me to endure hardships and love radically. Revelation provides a godly motivation!
Verse 19 of chapter 1 gives us a three-part outline of the entire book of Revelation. The first section tells us what John has seen, which is the exalted Christ described in chapter 1. The second section explains “what is now,” as John addresses the condition of the seven churches of Asia in chapters 2 and 3. The third and last section of Revelation includes chapters 4 to 22, which cover “what will take place later”—the second coming of Jesus and His millennial reign. Revelation motivates us to focus on Christ glorified and His bride, the church.
Life today tends to trump life tomorrow, making it difficult to be motivated by events way off in the future. But what if respecting the future could clarify our present circumstances and give us hope to endure?
Hope is heaven’s remedy for needy souls.
Hope in God for peace—not in the troubles of this world. Hope in God for security—not in unreliable economies. Hope in God for forgiveness—not in unmerciful people. Revelation can motivate a life of abundance right now!
We are also compelled to praise the Lord in the glory of His holy majesty when we experience the radical worship graphically and emotionally depicted in Revelation. Here we see Almighty God worshipped for His resounding victory over the enemy. We worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords—not the kings of earth who lord their power and wealth over their citizens. We are motivated to worship because one day we will bow in worship at the Lamb’s marriage supper.
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Is Money Ruling Your Life?
Pause and reach deep into your memory bank. Think back to a moment you felt pure happiness. A time you felt total peace. A time when all your cares seemed to slip away and you simply breathed in the moment.
I would have to say that mine was probably when my children were born. And I’m not just saying that because moms are supposed to say that sort of thing. They are the three greatest moments of pure joy (and relief) in my life. And guess what? They had nothing to do with money. Money was the last thing on my mind! I imagine your memories are the same. They’re probably not about money, but about personal success, family, relationships, or travel. That is what life should be about!
The best parts of life are in the sweet highlights of just living. Working may not always be your favorite thing. Commuting in traffic is stressful. Paying bills and taxes aren’t the things you’ll remember most at the end of your life. Life is full of beauty and joy, and frankly, money doesn’t need to be the focal point of our existence. But that doesn't mean you can't use the money you have wisely!
It may be downright overwhelming to dive into your current money situation. But every epic journey begins with a simple, yet bold action. Frodo Baggins left the Shire for the first time in his whole life. Katniss Everdeen volunteered as Tribute. Ruth left her homeland and followed Naomi back to Bethlehem. Esther gathered the courage to speak up to her husband the king. And you are the hero of your own story.
Moving toward a satisfied life can start as early as today. It can start right here, right now, right where you are. You can make a heroic pivot. It starts with a little dreaming, facing some facts, finding your own motivation, and making some pretty big plans.
How will your quest toward satisfaction begin? You can start a journey toward joy-filled living֫—supported by the money you already have.
You’re the hero of your story. Are you ready to take a bold step in the direction of the life you desire?
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Seeking Guidance in the New Year Through Prayer
We may not see our way around the next unknown bend in the road. But Jesus does. He walks alongside us every day, giving us the hope we need to make the next decision, love the people in front of us, and practice the art of gratitude. He longs for our hearts to unfold before him.
It’s my sincere hope that my words in these prayers will echo your heart for each day of this next year…
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
inside your holy Temple.
Jesus, I confess I’ve neglected to chase after you into those places where you dwell. I’ve been busy—too busy to hear from you, rest in you, receive from you.
I am sorry. Those three words seem small as I pray them, but I truly do feel the weight of them because I know I’ve missed out on being with you. Your Word says joy returns to me when you are near, but I have preferred running my own life to being still enough to experience your nearness.
I want to stop. To pause. To take this small moment and reorient my heart with yours. Amen.
Look straight ahead
and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
Mark out a straight path for your feet;
stay on the safe path.
Don't get sidetracked;
keep your feet from following evil.
Jesus, I get easily sidetracked, especially when life grows hairy and my schedule increases exponentially. It’s hard to learn the art of focus in my unfocused world. Still, you are my center, my rallying point.
As I go throughout my day, Jesus, give me your perspective on the tasks strung out before me. Help me to say yes to the eternal and important matters and let go of the pressing ones that don’t really count. I choose right now to take my eyes off the scattered remains of my life and place them resolutely in front of me, toward you.
Would you teach me your pathway for my life? Amen.
Do not neglect the more important things.
Jesus, there are many unimportant things that clog my mind and inform my actions. But I want to be like Mary, who sat at your feet, choosing the truly important one: you. And in that choosing, I trust that you will reveal to me throughout the day just what your agenda is.
Help me to bless my community today. Do you want me to write a letter? Do you want me to make a phone call? Should I buy a gift or serve in a sacrificial way?
As I seek you for the people you want to bless through me, don’t let me forget you. I want to praise you in the midst of stress, fear, tasks, drudgery, and the mundane parts of life. You are important to me, Jesus, and I love you dearly. Amen.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
Experience Intrigue and Romance at the Dawn of World War II
Posted on Dec 26, 2017 Topic : Fiction
LONDON, 1938 - Amity Mitchell's comfortable life as a tutor to a young woman in England is about to change when she receives an urgent telegram from her brother, summoning her to Prague.
Please visit me in Prague for the holiday. Need assistance with Jewish welfare work. Send date of your arrival. Room will be waiting for you at Hotel Evropa. STOP.
It was just like her brother to demand so much and send so little information. Did he expect her to drop everything and come? To buy a ticket and travel to a part of the world in crisis? What would Clark think about that? What about Celia? Amity couldn’t just leave the young woman behind, could she?
Then again, what was this Jewish welfare work? Surely it had to be important for her brother to send for her. Even without more information in the telegram, Amity understood the context behind her brother’s message. With the recent occupation of the Sudetenland, the Jews who’d lived in that part of Czechoslovakia had been pushed out of the newly annexed area, either by Nazi terror or Nazi threats. Were the streets of Prague now filled with refugee families? It would make sense if they were. But if that was the case, why had Andrew requested her? What could she offer in the face of Hun invaders?
Amity turned over the telegram in her hand, almost afraid to open it again and reread her brother’s request. she hated the thought of leaving Celia…and her father, Clark. Even though she worked to keep her relationship with her employer strictly professional, Amity looked forward to every moment she was with him, even ordinary ones.
He thinks of me as an employee and a friend, nothing more, Amity often told herself as she drifted to sleep at night. Yet was that the complete truth? There seemed to be a special connection whenever she met Clark’s gaze.
She took the telegram from the envelope, read it again, and then turned it over in her hands. What had Andrew meant by Jewish welfare work? If only he’d telephoned instead of sending this cryptic note.
Thirty minutes later she was sitting at the long dining room table across from Celia and to Clark’s right side. As she turned to look at Celia, Amity was surprised to see the smile on her face. Amity had told Celia about Andrew’s telegram, and after Celia urged her not to go because of the danger, she had decided to refuse Andrew’s invitation. But something in Celia’s gaze told her that Celia had changed her mind.
After salad and bread were served, Amity shared Andrew’s telegram with Clark. He was focused on her face, intent on every word, but Amity couldn’t quite read the emotions behind his narrow-gazed expression. Was it worry or fear he was feeling? Or was it bothersome to him that she’d be gone? Maybe a bit of both.
No one spoke as they finished their salads. Amity hoped Clark didn’t notice she could hardly swallow a bite. And then when their food had turned quite cold, Clark put down his fork and pushed back his plate.
“This is the last thing I expected myself to say tonight,” Clark said with a heavy sigh. “You see, the maid—who always knows every coming and going of the house—let it spill earlier that you were considering a Czechoslovakian holiday. Between that hour and now I’ve considered at least a dozen persuasive speeches that would talk you into forgetting that idea, but now I know to give even one of them would be to make my interests of greater concern than God’s.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure what your brother has in store for you with this Jewish welfare work, but Andrew has a good head on his shoulders. I am certain he wouldn’t ask his sister to come into a situation that is too dangerous. More than that, it seems God has been preparing your heart for a while.”
What dangers await Amity in Prague and will she ever be reunited with Clark?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Gift Will You Offer This Christmas?
“They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11 NLT
There is nothing more fun to watch than a child filled with great expectation as they open presents. The squeals of glee always put a smile on my face.
I don’t know about you, but I love receiving presents. As a child, I would watch the presents accumulate under the tree and examine them to know which were mine—feeling and shaking them to see if I could guess what was inside. It was almost too much to bear at times, and I thought I would burst having to wait. I still love receiving presents, even if my expressions of joy are somewhat more tempered.
As I prepare for another Christmas and search for just the right gift for each person on my list, I can’t help but think of another child, so long ago, who received three presents. As the opening verse, Matthew 2:11 says, “… they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
I’ve often thought about those three gifts and wondered at their significance. They’re certainly not normal gifts you would give to a child, so what was so special about them? According to ancient tradition, these valuable items were typical gifts given to honor a king.
-Gold – a precious metal, a symbol of kingship on earth
-Frankincense – a perfume or incense, a symbol of deity
-Myrrh – an anointing oil, an embalming oil, a symbol of death
Wow! That’s quite a lot of significance when you consider to whom these gifts were given. Each gift of the magi perfectly reflected who Jesus Christ is and what he came to do.
Discovering this not only changed my perspective on gift giving, but on how I celebrate Christmas. For me, it’s become a time of joy, reflection, and promise.
Joy as I think of God’s perfect gift to us. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT
Reflection as I ponder how to best honor that gift. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1 NLT
Promise as I consider his ultimate sacrifice. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 NLT
This Christmas, amid all the excitement and busyness, my prayer for each of us is that we willingly open the treasure chests of our hearts and give him that which we most value. He is waiting with great anticipation.
God gave us his most precious gift. Are we willing to do the same?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Take This Delicious Dessert to Your Next Party
In my opinion, butterscotch is that secret ingredient that everyone loves but doesn't use enough. This gooey little cake cooks up in the slow cooker and then makes the perfect dessert for any occasion. Who knew you could bake cakes in the slow cooker?
Gooey Butterscotch Cake
This recipe serves four to six.
1 box yellow cake mix
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup water
2 cups butterscotch chips, plus a few more for garnish
Butterscotch ice cream topping to drizzle
Spray your slow cooker liberally with cooking spray. Then, in a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, sour cream, egg, and water with a wooden spoon. Spoon this layer on the bottom of your slow cooker. Next, sprinkle the butterscotch chips across the top. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from slow cooker and serve with a drizzle of butterscotch sauce and a few more butterscotch chips.
Looking for more delicious slow cooker recipes?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
This Healthy Soup Recipe Will Keep You Warm This Winter
Nothing is better on a cold winter evening than a hot, delicious bowl of soup. And this healthy spin on chili won't spoil your diet this year. Enjoy this mouthwatering recipe!
White Chicken Chili
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. oil
2 cans (15½ ounces each) white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14½ ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) diced green chilies
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
½ cup heavy whipping cream
In a large saucepan, cook the chicken, onion, and garlic in the oil until chicken is no longer pink.
Add the beans, broth, diced chilies, and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and whipping cream. Serve immediately.
You can garnish the chili with jack cheese, avocados, fresh diced tomatoes, or crumbled tortilla chips.
Serves 6 to 8.
Is trimming sugar on your to-do list this year? Get more tasty recipes to help you stay sugar smart.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Planning to Lose Weight in the New Year? Here’s What You Need to Know
With any journey, you should probably know where you’re heading before you start out. That turns out to be true when we embark on a weight-loss plan. What’s our goal? Do we have one? Do we even need one?
More than 60 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. But most of us in this group aren’t doing the things necessary to be successful—proper diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. And most don’t have a realistic goal for their weight loss even though experts tell us that having such a target is critical if we’re going to be successful.
This should be easy, right? Let’s say I want to lose 20 or 25 pounds. I’ll simply write my target weight on a piece of paper and tape it to the refrigerator door. That should be a motivator, right?
The key component in setting a weight-loss goal is that it needs to be realistic. If not, we’re almost certainly doomed to failure. But what is realistic? Why is it not reasonable to set an aggressive target and get started?
LEARN FROM THE EXPERTS
Physicians who are experienced in dealing with weight loss—especially with successful weight loss—tell us that most people don’t have a realistic goal when asked about a desired target. When pressed for a number, a 20 to 30 percent reduction from their current weight is the usual response. Let’s think about that for a moment. If you’re a 150-pound woman, a 20 percent reduction target would be 30 pounds. Not realistic, is it? And the vast majority of us will never achieve that degree of weight loss. We fail, become discouraged, and quickly regain whatever weight we might have lost.
WHAT'S A REALISTIC NUMBER?
How are we to determine a reasonable goal for our weight loss? For most of us, a 5 to 7 percent reduction is a sensible and practical goal. If we add carefully considered drug and behavioral interventions, that target could become 10 to 15 percent. So let’s pick a number of 8 to 10 percent. That should be achievable for most of us. For a 150-pound woman—a 10- to 12-pound weight loss would be a realistic goal. Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? Not like that 30-pound number. With those goals in mind, what’s our time frame? What’s a reasonable period to have in mind for this loss? After all, that’s part of our goal setting too. Once again, we have to be realistic. Weight loss of 8 to 10 percent can happen over six to eight weeks. A loss of one or two pounds a week is reasonable and achievable. That’s the important point here. If we set realistic goals for ourselves—something meaningful that will improve our health and the way we feel about ourselves—we can get there.
So set your goal, write it down somewhere, and put your plan into action!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Be Transformed by the God of Lovingkindness
Posted on Dec 07, 2017 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; and You did not forsake them. (Nehemiah 9:17)
I think everyone would agree that our world is in need of more love and more kindness. And while we should do our best to put others first and live for others, we also need to make God our focal point. That’s because He is Elohim Chasdi, God of lovingkindness, and if we are going to have any hope of changing our world, it’s going to be through the Lord.
The Bible tells us that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love. These aren’t just admirable attributes—they’re a recipe for how to live life in His image. And even if we do our utmost to live out these characteristics, we’re still going to slip up. People are still going to disappoint us. And we’re going to disappoint ourselves. But if we focus on His lovingkindness, we’ll be inspired to show more love and more kindness, which can be contagious in a very good way.
In a world of anger and retaliation and negativity, it can be challenging to see where God is and understand what He’s doing. But He is always operating in the midst of it all, filling us with the strength of His lovingkindness each day.
More love. More kindness. The Lord’s lovingkindness endures forever, and when we turn to Him in faith, we’ll be equipped to change our world.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
End-Times Prophecy: What Do We Know?
Posted on Dec 05, 2017 Topic : Prophecy
Posted by : Ed Hindson and Mark Hitchcock
The Bible warns us that humanity is marching toward inevitable destruction. The end might not come now or even in our lifetimes, but it will come. Scripture tells us that the great crisis will begin somewhere in the Middle East and eventually spread to the whole world. No person or place will escape God’s retribution at the end time.
The question of how all this will come about divides Christians who have differing eschatological views. Pretribulationalists believe Christ will rapture the church to heaven prior to the tribulation and then return with His bride at the end of the tribulation to set up His kingdom on earth. Mid- and posttribulationalists believe the church will suffer to some extent during the tribulation or at the very end of the Great Tribulation.
Amillennialists believe things will get worse at the end of the church age. While most people view the entire church age as a time of tribulation for believers, some feel that the persecution of Christians will get worse in the last days. Amillennialists say that at the very end, the Battle of Armageddon will commence, and Christ will return to judge the world and usher in eternity.
Postmillennialists believe that the church is the kingdom of God on earth and that it is our responsibility to bring in the kingdom by the preaching of the gospel and the enactment of Christian laws, values, and principles in society until the whole world is converted to Christ.
Obviously there are great differences in each of those views, and yet each one contains an element of truth that all Christians need to remember.
From the pretribulationalist we are reminded to be ready for the coming of Christ at any moment.
From the mid- and posttribulationalist we are reminded that frequently Christians are called to suffer for Christ. Certainly, believers in the Third World could teach us much about what it means to suffer for Christ.
The amillennialist reminds us that we must be ready to face the judgment of God. While it is exciting to think about our Lord’s coming, we must also realize that His judgment is coming as well. While premillennialists look forward to Christ’s earthly kingdom, we must also remember that even that will come to an end and be merged into the eternal kingdom of God. The apostle Paul says there is coming a time when Christ “hands over the kingdom to the God and Father” (1 Corinthians 15:24).
And from the premillennialist we are reminded of our Christian responsibilities to the world in which we live. Because we do not know the exact time of Christ’s return, we dare not sit back and do nothing but wait for the rapture. Christ has given us specific orders about our responsibilities to one another and to the world at large. We are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world until our Lord returns (Matthew 5:13-16).
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Send Color and Joy This Holiday Season
Express yourself and your heart for others by adding your colorful touch to these beautifully illustrated cards and tags. Personalize each original design using markers, watercolors, crayons, or colored pencils. Simply detach, color in the beautiful illustration, and attach it to the perfect package or pop it in the mail.
Having this one-stop collection of cards and tags this Christmas means that you'll be ready for anything this holiday season presents. Speaking of presents, what better way to make each gift special than to color the tag and personalize it or complement your wrapping paper perfectly?
Enjoy these free downloads of DIY cards and gift tags and may your Christmas be filled with faith and cheer!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Enjoy the Simple Pleasures of an Amish Christmas
Posted on Nov 28, 2017 Topic : Fiction
In this excerpt from Susanna's Christmas Wish, one of three novellas in the special eBook bundle, Amish Christmas Memories, newlywed Susanna Wagler struggles to come to terms with her new husband's strict beliefs regarding Christmas. Will God restore her joy, both during the holiday season and for her husband?
Susanna turned back to the kitchen with a sigh. This had to stop. This wondering and puzzling over things. She had expected it would be over after the wedding. Now they apparently were back in force.
Perhaps it was the conversation at the breakfast table this morning that was bringing this indecision up again. Well, it was more of an argument, really. And she had been shocked at the feelings that rose up inside of her. The insistence that Herman see things her way. And she had even grown angry, though Herman hadn’t, even as he remained firm. There would be no celebration of Christmas in their new home. And they wouldn’t be going to her parents’ place to celebrate either. It was not the way of his family, and it would not be their way.
Susanna washed the dishes and stared out the window at the snow. Soon the snow would be falling in earnest, the flakes floating past this very window. The joy and hope of Christmas would be in the air. The celebration of the Christ child in the manger would be coming. Was this feeling just an Englisha thing, like Herman claimed? He said her family had given in to worldly influences and his family had not.
Yet how could this be true? Her family didn’t celebrate Christmas like the Englisha did, with their Christmas trees and lots of store-bought presents. Nee, their celebration was simple. They began by gathering on Christmas morning for breakfast. In his deep voice, Daett would read the story of the Christ child’s birth. Then the day would be spent together visiting, eating candy and goodies galore, and letting the children race around the house. Maybe that was a little like the Englisha, but she would be willing to adjust something, like leaving early, if that helped Herman get used to her family’s ways.
But Herman had said no. No hesitation, right out, flat no.
And now with their first Christmas together approaching, Susanna was realizing it would also be her first Christmas without the joy she had experienced at home. Nee, she would never get to be at Mamm and Daett’s for Christmas morning again.
Well, she could imagine that Christmas was no big deal. Perhaps she was being silly about such a small matter. They would find something else to do on Christmas morning.
Susanna closed the cupboard door. She still had time. Thanksgiving was this week, and that left nearly a month until Christmas. Yes, that’s what she would do. She would set her whole heart to the task. This would be her gift of love to Herman. She would learn to keep her mouth shut, and even if she didn’t succeed right away, it would happen. She would apologize until it did happen. Surely by Christmas the task would be done. Herman would see on that morning how much progress she’d made in fitting herself into his family’s lifestyle.
By Christmas Day she would love him fully, with all of her heart. What better wish to aim for than to live in total harmony with your husband, she decided. And love would keep growing in her heart for him. A higher love. One that would grow from suffering.
Experience the rest of Susanna's story and encounter two other charming Amish Christmas novellas in this exclusive 3-in-1 eBook bundle, on sale for a limited time only.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Experience the Blessing of Thanksgiving and Receiving
We need to compose our lives in such a way that we both give and receive, learning to do both with grace, seeing both as parts of a single pattern rather than as antithetical alternatives.
Mary Catherine Bateson
Transitioning into the “spirit of the season” can be tough for many of us. We are nudged by retailers and well-meaning fundraisers to be in the holiday mindset long before we feel ready or willing. It can seem as though someone is always tugging on our heart strings, purse strings, and maybe our apron strings, too.
If you’re tempted this Thanksgiving to hide in your pantry and devour a party-for-one turkey in hopes that a tryptophan overdose will cure holiday anxiety, then these few words are for you. Just as they are for me.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.
Be tender with yourself. Pause for a breath, a holy reprieve from all that consumes you or all that you are consuming. Ready your heart to connect with others. We can do this as we face the Thanksgiving table in a way that many worshippers prepare to approach the Lord’s Table.
You. Me. We will pass the peace.
May the peace of the Lord be with you.
Response: And also with you.
In many church services, this simple and beautiful practice reconciles fragile human to fragile human before they partake in communion. Before they remember together the Last Supper when Jesus modeled a heart of eucharistia—thankfulness, gratitude. And when he called us all to the spiritual Thanksgiving table.
Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26: 26-28 NIV)
Wherever you will be in the days ahead, share the peace of the Lord with every flawed, lovely, anxious, generous child of God. Pass the peace and the cornbread stuffing to your Aunt Millie. Think it as you greet the mini-mart cashier who is working so you can purchase whipped cream at the last minute. Make room for the car that is about to cut you off and then whisper May the peace of the Lord be with you.
The Spirit of the season is a mysterious thing. Reciprocation isn’t necessary for this to be a full experience of giving and receiving. (Though you might find yourself speaking these blessings aloud. Just think what that could do!) The moment you allow your life to be a prayer for peace, you receive the grace of an open heart. You dwell fully in a holy space between this moment and the next. You’re granted compassion for the hurting stranger. A ripple of change begins.
When we welcome this pattern of prayer in our lives, peace is set in motion within and without.
This Thanksgiving…pass the Lord’s abundant peace.
Come to the table.
And then pass it again.
Oh, how this heartbroken world needs second helpings.
Hope Lyda is the author of several bestselling prayer devotionals. Experience a season of spiritual refreshment with her latest release.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
Make the Holidays Sweet and Simple
Posted on Nov 16, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Melissa K. Norris
We have a potluck strategy in our family for the holidays. Everyone brings at least one or two dishes to help out the host. Everyone in our family welcomes this policy, especially because we rotate who is the host every year.
This dish is one of our favorite ways to serve pumpkin. It comes from my husband’s grandmother’s kitchen. Grandma gave me a lesson on how to make it, because I don’t know about your house, but it seems no matter what, no one makes it as good as Grandma (even if I have her recipe). So I wanted to take notes and have a hands-on lesson.
One of the beautiful things about this recipe is you can bake it ahead of time and freeze it. Then in the mad dash of the holiday, you don’t have to worry about preparing dessert!
Grandma's Pumpkin Roll
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 3 eggs, well beaten until light and foamy
- 1 cup sugar
- ⅓ cup cooked pumpkin
- 1 cup powdered sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. maple syrup (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and flour a 15 x 10-inch jelly roll pan with coconut oil—be generous with your grease.
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs for 5 minutes (yes, the whole 5 minutes) until light and foamy; cream in sugar and cooked pumpkin. Then stir in dry ingredients and stir until combined.
Pour into prepared jelly roll pan and spread until even. Pick up the pan and tap it (the bottom of the pan) against the counter a few times. This makes the air bubbles rise up out of the batter. (I jumped when Grandma did this. It makes a bang.)
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until cake is done. Place a clean flour sack or tea towel on the counter and sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, run a butter knife around the outside edge of the cake to separate it from the pan. Immediately, using hot pads, turn the pan upside down over the prepared towel.
As soon as the cake is out of the pan, place another clean flour sack towel on the short end of the cake and roll up like a sleeping bag. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.
Prepare your filling by creaming together all of the filling ingredients. Unroll cooled cake and spread the filling evenly over the surface. Reroll the cake, cover, and allow to chill in fridge. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
May your holidays be blessed by family, fellowship, and delicious food!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How a Short Prayer Can Spark a Big Change of Heart
Psalm 143:6 (esv)
There are times in our lives when things look dark, and of ourselves, we are unable to find even a crack of light. Maybe your heart is desperately crying out for a reprieve from pain, and reaching for God seems like it may be the only way. It’s true; it is. Whatever our angst, whatever eats away at our souls, whatever threatens our ability to have joy and peace in life, Jesus is the sole solution.
God hears this simple, five-word prayer: I reach out for You. He does not turn away from this cry of our hearts. There is desperation in this prayer, as it is the turning to God for help and hope. He responds without fail. There is intention in this prayer, and intention is something God always honors. There is an understanding that He is the one to save, and this is a holy requirement for the rescue to become complete.
This short prayer has the power to spark life-altering movement, which is why our flesh fights against it. God is the first thing we should reach for when we are hurting. Yet He is often our last resort. Gracious God that He is, He is available without judgment in either space. Whenever we reach for Him, rest assured, He is there.
- Don’t hold back when you reach for God. Bring your most honest, guttural self to Him. He already knows where you are. He can handle it, no matter how deep and dark it gets.
- Come expectant when you reach for God. God never under-delivers. In fact, He does more than you could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). You will never be disappointed with God, no matter how many other people have let you down in your life.
- Be ready to change when you reach out for God. Come humble. Come open to hear, even if you’re going to hear about hard things, things that need to be shifted inside you. Desperation brought you here, so do the heart work to honor that dark place so God can truly make you better.
When we reach out to God, we find the hope and peace our souls long for. May this be our prayer in times of both great bounty and in days of dark, desperate need: Jesus, I reach out for You.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
Dad, Here’s How to Be Your Kids’ Greatest Cheerleader
Posted on Nov 09, 2017 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Jay Payleitner
Years ago, before I had my own teenagers, I was a volunteer youth leader at my church. Every Wednesday night, a dozen high-school students joined me to sit around our living room trying to make sense of life. One evening, I threw out an icebreaker question: “What do you think your life will be like ten years from now?” (It’s a good idea to have teenagers think about the future.) Their answers were typical. “A good job.” “Probably married.” “Definitely not married.” “Living in Chicago.” One young man, a little rough around the edges, said, “Professional golfer.” My abrupt, thoughtless reply was, “No, seriously.”
Well, that was the exact wrong response. I had dismissed his dream. I should have said, “That is so cool. Go for it. I’ll be looking for your name in the sports pages.” Instead, I crushed his spirit. From that moment on, I committed myself to become an encourager with my own kids and their peers.
How to Encourage
When the kids are younger, it’s a lot easier. Whether it’s sports, music, art, spelling bees, chess competitions, or Scout jamborees. Just put a smile in your voice and say, “I think you can do this” or, “Give it your best shot.”
As they get older, authentic encouragement has to be based in the reality of goals and circumstance. If you encourage your child to audition for a play, the lead roles may go to the same actors who always land the lead roles. You can encourage their career as a catcher for the high-school team, but there already might be three more experienced catchers on the varsity depth chart. The art-show judge may be a fan of watercolors, but your child works in acrylics. These are all things your child might even know about and not bother to tell you. When you suggest a course of action and your teenager snaps, “Dad, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” they might be right!
Still, Dad, you have a responsibility to supply sincere encouragement, a voice of experience, and other words of wisdom. After an emotional game or performance, the car ride home or the dinner table might be quieter than usual, but really that’s okay. It’s usually better to say nothing than to extend a cliché such as “Well, at least you gave it a try” or “You’ll do better next time.”
It’s fascinating that often a young competitor or performer may come away from an effort that seems like a letdown, but they feel quite satisfied with how they did. Conversely, they may have a first-place trophy in hand and feel like they fell far short of their personal goals. An excellent question to ask is, “Did you do what you wanted to do?” That might launch a good conversation about their approach to the event, their goals, the skills they’re trying to improve, and what their next step might be.
Often the best way to encourage your son or daughter is without words. A nod. A handshake. A confident smile. Even a silly thumbs-up. But be ready with praise, suggestions, personal perspective, and a gentle, honest critique when they say, “Dad, what did you think?”
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
5 Steps to Break Through Your Uncertainty
Posted on Nov 07, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Valorie Burton
Amanda finally saw all of her dreams on the verge of becoming true. In the past two years she’d gotten married, become guardian to her eight-year-old niece, and now she and her husband were expecting. What’s more, a big break was on the horizon in her career—an opportunity she had dreamed of and worked toward for more than ten years! All she needed to do was deliver a presentation to the board.
But while she normally breezed through such projects, this time she seemed to be at a loss and even felt a knot in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t feel nearly as excited as she should. What on earth was going on?
Amanda’s reaction didn’t match up with the seemingly positive event that just happened. When your response is incongruent to a stressor, challenge, or opportunity, it is possible you’ve bumped into an iceberg.
You have deeply held beliefs—core values—that shape your thoughts and actions. Often, these beliefs are so ingrained that you are not even conscious of how strongly they influence your behavior. When these beliefs collide, decisions that seem like they should be easy will become inexplicably difficult.
Getting clear about your iceberg requires you to ask yourself questions that dig beneath the surface. Here’s how to do it:
1. Identify where you are stuck. Make your answer one succinct sentence—a factual rather than an emotional description of the problem.
2. Clarify the core issue that has you stuck. What are the conflicting emotions that tell you you’re stuck? For Amanda, the answer might be, “I feel like I should be excited, but instead I feel guilty.”
3. Ask a question to peel back the layer and get to “why.” Ask, “Why is that?” We could ask Amanda, “What exactly has you feeling guilty and excited?”
4. Drill down with questions until you get to an iceberg. An iceberg is your belief or thought about how things should be. Ask, “What does that mean? What’s most upsetting about that?”
5. Choose whether to hold on to your iceberg or melt it. Once you discover an iceberg belief, ask yourself, “Is this helping me or hurting me in this situation?”
As Amanda went through this process, she unearthed two deeply held but conflicting beliefs: First, a woman should do all she can to maximize her professional and financial potential. Second, moms who are truly committed step out of the workforce when they have children. With a child on the way, these two icebergs collided.
Prayerfully, she modified her iceberg beliefs to these: “When I work, I will work with excellence and take advantage of only those opportunities I sense God leading me to. My professional life must work around my family life.” She made the decision to assist with the launch of the new project and talked to her company about a modified work-from-home schedule after her baby.
Becoming aware of your thoughts and beliefs, especially conflicting ones, is essential to understanding why you may be stuck and a key to intentional thinking. Your thoughts create your reality.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
The Glorious Guarantee of God
Who is God to you? Do you often stop and think about that? Is he a revered grandfather who lives at a distance? A vending machine for all your dreams? A source of life and truth? Is he a vengeful authority you fear and obey? A caring friend you respect and appreciate? An inspiring mentor you model your life after?
When we have a small picture of God, we have a wrong picture of God. There is much more to God than what our experience tells us and much more to God than what one Scripture tells us. If we’re going to know the truth of who God is, we need to see what the whole of Scripture teaches.
Without question, the psalmist who penned Psalm 84:11 had a deep relationship with God. He knew what God was and he knew who God was. I love this verse. But I also love that this verse confirms and considers what other books of the Bible teach us.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless” (Psalm 84:11).
In this short verse, we are told who God is and what God does. This one verse opens us up to what the rest of the Bible teaches us about the guidance, grace, glory, and guarantee of God.
Not only does God guide us, but God guards us. He is not only a sun; he is also a shield. He protects us, puts his hand over us, puts angels beside us and his Holy Spirit within us. That’s why Paul could say, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
Think about that. The Lord will deliver you from every evil work.
We are living in a world full of darkness, fraught with danger, oozing with disappointment, radiating despair; but if Psalm 84:11 is true, so are the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Have faith in God, he cannot, he will not fail you.”
I don’t know what you are facing this moment. You may be under the searing heat of financial, emotional, or vocational pressure. Your life may be dark. But reassurances are woven throughout all of Scripture. God is a sun who will shine through your darkness. God is a shield who will protect you from fire. You will have his guidance when you are lost and his grace when you are lacking. When you live with the big picture of God in focus, you’ll see his glory and his guarantee.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
When Fear Shakes Your Faith
The time I remember being most afraid in my life was when I was in my twenties.
I was living alone in a first floor apartment in a two-story apartment building in Los Angeles. I clearly recall the terror I felt when I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night to the violent shaking and roar of the most terrifying earthquake I had ever been in.
At the time I was not a believer, so I screamed out to a god I did not know, wondering how he would hear me when I couldn’t even hear myself over the deafening roar. I heard my dishes crashing to the floor and my furniture and lamps hitting the walls, and I wondered how long it would be before the apartment above me would collapse on top of mine.
I’d lived a life of fear before that, but this was the worst fright I’d ever experienced. The anxiety I already had increased from that moment on. And it wasn’t until I came to know the Lord several years later and experienced the full extent of His life-transforming peace that I got rid of the spirit of fear. I learned there were things I needed to do before anything terrifying happened, and to keep doing them until they became a way of life.
Because we have His Holy Spirit in us, He enables and empowers us to do what we need to do to live His way. His love for us is unconditional. He proved that on the cross and with His resurrection. But if we walk outside of God’s will, we put up a barrier between us and God, and we can’t sense His presence in our lives.
There is a problem when people think they can do—or not do—whatever they want and God’s grace will cover them. It doesn’t work that way. God wants us to do things His way, and He requires some action on our part.
Here are several things you can do when you feel afraid:
—Bring every thought into captivity – Pray: “I submit my mind to Your Lordship, and I refuse to allow any thoughts to weaken me with fear.”
—Commit everything to the Lord – Pray: “Establish my thoughts in clarity and calmness, and help me to never leave You out of any decision I make.”
—Focus your mind on good things – Pray: “Lord, help me to focus my mind on You. Teach me to fill my mind with what is true, honest, just, pure, and lovely.”
—Show love to others – Pray: “Lord, help me show deliberate acts of love today. Help me to do for others what I would want them to do for me.”
The more we obey God’s commands and live His way, the more we will experience all He has for us. We must have the mind of Christ on any decision we make and listen for the Holy Spirit speaking to our heart.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
The Best Gift for Your Husband…and You!
Posted on Oct 26, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Erin Smalley
Ladies, we have an enormous opportunity in our marriages. Our husbands long to hear us say what they are doing right instead of what they are doing wrong. They need to hear what we love about them—instead of what we don’t. And when you begin to fulfill this need for affirmation in your husband’s life, you will start to realize the level of influence you have in your marriage.
When you feel loved and cared for by your husband, your heart feels full and complete, doesn’t it? Those actions also affect your husband’s heart and stir something in him that creates a “cycle” of caring between the two of you.
My girlfriend Kate called me recently and squealed with excitement as she told me what her husband had done upon her return from a recent trip. Randy greeted her in the driveway, dressed up and holding flowers for her. He carried her suitcase into a clean house. He’d cleaned it “spick-and-span” she said. He had prepared lunch for them and then sat and listened to her ramble about her trip for a solid two hours. Dreamy, right?
Now before you start down the road of envy and jealousy and start thinking, “I wish my husband would do that just once!” let me tell you about Kate. She has spent hours talking to me about how to love her husband better. She has prayed endlessly for this man and loved him sacrificially for all five years I have known her. And here she was, her heart overflowing as she shared with me all he had done for her!
When we feel loved, our hearts flood open, and as a result, we want to give even more. Although there are no guarantees of his response, your husband will certainly be surprised as you begin to respond differently in your relationship. Whether you show him more affection or appreciation through your actions, affirm him through your words, take notice when he does the things you asked, or join in and enjoy an activity he is interested in, he will receive what he needs most from you. It will not only spur him on, but it will also fulfill your longing for a deeper connection.
Whether your marriage is vibrant or you’ve “lost that loving feeling,” you can discover how to love sacrificially and meet your husband’s needs the way only you can!
Take the challenge to become a wife of influence. You will see how it impacts you and your husband and, most importantly, your marriage. What your husband needs most from you is fully within your possession and your ability—are you willing to give him this gift?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Will You Take the Bait?
Posted on Oct 24, 2017 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Johnny Hunt
Any successful fisherman knows that fish, by their nature, are drawn to things they see as good to eat. He also knows that what fish find irresistible can change due to a variety of circumstances—water and weather conditions, the time of year, and so forth. An expert fisherman knows how to work around those circumstances and present a bait or a lure that looks and smells good to the fish he wants to catch. When he finds something that appeals to the fish’s senses, the animal loses all caution and grabs something not good for it. It gets itself hooked. And then it’s too late.
It’s the same way with people.
Many Christian men rationalize that the devil put too big a temptation in front of them to resist.
The truth is, of course, the devil can’t make us do anything. While he’s a powerful, crafty enemy, he has his limitations. He can, however, put all manner of temptations in front of us. If a certain bait doesn’t work, he’ll try another. With thousands of years of practice, he’s become an expert fisherman. Still, he can’t make us chomp down on any of his enticing lures. We choose whether we bite or pass.
In some ways, the devil knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that a lure that might work under one situation, or for one man, might not work for another. But he has a tackle box filled with thousands of beautiful, shiny baits, and he knows which ones to use to draw us out and entice us to lose all caution.
The devil is never satisfied with just making us stumble and fall into one sin. He intends to set up strongholds in our lives—the more the better. And he gets the process started by luring us into taking just one tiny bite of just one little lure.
Without Christ empowering and enabling us, we have no power against the devil’s temptations.
As powerless as we are, however, we still have an advantage—one that the devil has no power to overcome.
God never intended for us to battle temptation from a position of weakness. He never intended for us to throw up our hands and accept sin as part of our human existence. He didn’t save us so we could just limp along in life, totally at the mercy of temptation and at the whim of a spiritual enemy who wants to build powerful strongholds in our lives.
If we intend to enjoy victory over temptation, we need to understand that we can’t do it on our own.
Jesus is mightier than sin. He is mightier than your sinful nature. He is mightier than any temptation the devil or this world can throw your way. And He is mightier than the strongholds the devil wants to set up in your life.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
This Slow Cooker Recipe is the Perfect Meal for Autumn
Posted on Oct 19, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : Shay Shull
Cooking is a great way to celebrate the fall season. Here's a new recipe for you to enjoy with your family.
We're big fans of pork tenderloin in the slow cooker. You don't have to brown it first—you just stick it in first thing in the morning, add your liquids, cover, and cook on high all day. That's it. By the end of the day, you have the most tender, ready-to-eat supper around. I'm telling you, pork cooked in the slow cooker is the best! On some evenings, we serve our pork over quinoa, but you could serve it on buns as a sandwich, over a baked potato, over rice, or over anything you want—or just eat it by itself! The apple cider gives the meat just a hint of fall flavor, and then we finish it off with chopped green onions. This meal looks fancy enough to serve to guests but is simple enough for even your busiest weeknights.
Apple Cider Pork Tenderloins
This recipe serves about six big portions
For the pork
1 (2 to 3 pounds) pork tenderloin (you might need two)
2 liters (about 8 cups) apple cider, divided (you can also use apple juice)
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
For the quinoa
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water and drained
1½ cups chicken stock or water
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Place the tenderloin(s) on the bottom of the slow cooker and then add 6 cups of apple cider. Cover and cook on high 6 to 10 hours (the longer, the better).
About 30 minutes to an hour before you're ready to eat, remove the lid and pull the meat out and into a bowl (it will be so tender and will fall apart immediately). Drain all of the liquid from the slow cooker. Place the meat back in the empty slow cooker and shred the meat using two forks. Next, add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and remaining two cups of cider. Cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile, if you want to serve this over quinoa, add the rinsed quinoa and chicken stock to a small pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once it begins, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. (Do not remove the lid while it's simmering.) After 15 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil or a tablespoon of butter, and a nice pinch of salt and pepper. Serve the shredded pork tenderloin straight from the slow cooker over the quinoa.
Have a great fall season. May it be filled with good food, friends, family, and faith!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Does Your Pain Make You Feel Far From God?
Posted on Oct 17, 2017 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Pain and trials may draw you closer to God, but other times they leave you feeling more alone than ever. You might find yourself asking, “Where is God in all of this? Does He see me? Does He even care?” My friend, I promise He has not abandoned you. You may barely see a glimpse of His presence. You may feel the deep thirst in your soul from losing contact with Him, but He can be found even in the hidden shadows of life. The psalmist says God is found in the heavens and in the depths, in every corner of the earth, from those that are seen to those that are unseen. Wherever you are right now, reading these words, He is here with you. He offers His guiding hand—a steadying presence to walk you through these moments that feel anything but stable. Will you take hold of Him now?
My condition has added many challenges to my life, but the most difficult is the feeling that You’ve left me to deal with this on my own. Are You still there? Sometimes I wonder and doubt. The emptiness consumes me at times, filling me with the fear that I’ll never get through this. It’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other. As I struggle to find glimpses of You, I’m grateful for the reminder that You’re not limited by time and space. Your presence reaches every corner of the globe—even this dark one where I find myself. Please remind me of this truth often. In my moments of questioning and despair, please show me a glimpse of Your presence. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that You are real and with me, so I commit to looking for You even now. Give me courage to hold on to the steady hand You offer. As I fall into the trap of believing I’m alone, I tend to also believe I have to travel this road by my own strength. The truth is that my strength is spent. I can’t do this on my own anymore, so I turn to You for guidance and help. As I seek You, lead me to passages of Scripture that remind me of Your presence. I want to come to Your Word first when I doubt, so the messages of the world can’t take root in my mind. Thank You for being here with me now. I commit to finding my comfort in You alone.
In Jesus's name, amen.
3 Comments Leave a Comment »
How to Host an Amazing Kid’s Party with Confidence
Posted on Oct 12, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Are you ready to take on hosting a gathering for kids? With a little planning, it can be a breeze to host a party that is exciting for children without being overwhelming for the adults. Besides, the delights of childhood are never too far from a mature person’s happy place—cheery decorations, engaging activities, special prizes, and tempting treats along with permission to dive right in.
Granted, a kid-friendly party might not be something you want to sign on for every weekend, but when you think of the many smiles from the day, you’ll realize what a gift it is for kids to be kids and for adults to have some kidlike joy.
Whether your gathering is for kids or intended to be family friendly, always think through what atmosphere and details will work best for the little ones. I think we can safely say, “If the kids are happy, Mom and Dad are happy,” (and so are all the guests). Kid-tested party tips will help you create an atmosphere of fun. An added bonus is that these ways to feed and entertain kids are super doable for you.
Kid-Tested Party Tips
Keep plans flexible and organized. Once several kids arrive, the energy rises to surprising levels, and it’s easy to lose control if you aren’t prepared.
Prepare a variety of activities. An outdoor bubble-blowing station, a giant beach ball, or a lawn game will keep your young guests engaged.
Consider a shorter guest list when families are invited.
Have a kid-proof bedroom ready for naps and a child-friendly DVD on hand in case young guests become restless and adults want to stay longer to talk.
Make the party short and sweet. Wind things down before too many meltdowns happen.
Round up and purchase a mix of small toys and treats from a discount store. They can be used throughout the evening as silly door prizes or placed in goodie bags at a goodbye station.
Purchase spill-proof cups for younger children. It will keep the kiddos dry and lessen Mom and Dad’s stress
Activities and Conversation
Kids—and even some adults—can become distracted when sugar and shiny objects are near! So focus the energy, fun, and conversation with engaging activities. Crafts, games, or creative stations provide children with positive outlets, and they also give parents a way to help or even a chance to take a break when they need it. Most importantly, planned activities playfully encourage guests to interact with one another and create enjoyable memories.
Simple ideas will increase the laughter and celebratory experience of your gathering. At the end of the afternoon, as you wipe tiny fingerprints from the sliding glass door and reflect on the kid-friendly gathering, you’ll be so glad you decided to create a memorable adventure. I promise.
- Make the tables vibrant and inviting with patterned napkins, pretty bowls, labels for toppings and drinks, a whimsical garland, confetti, and other unexpected touches.
- Choose interesting serving pieces, such as cake plates, a tiered serving stand, syrup pourers, and small colorful bowls for toppings.
- Get personal when you can! The kids and parents will feel the love when you provide meaningful touches, such as clever name tags, personalized goody bags, individualized beverage labels, or the captioned photos from the ice cream contest.
- Create and display simple, festive signs out of fabric or paper buntings, chalkboards, or almost anything. For our gathering, we painted an old door with chalkboard paint and wrote a memorable quote on it. These visuals add to the gathering and give you and your guests simple photo opportunities to remember the occasion.
What a gift it is for kids to be kids and for adults to have some kidlike joy!
Here's a sweet idea for an ice cream sundae party (along with some other fun extras) kids and adults are sure to love!
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
When You’re Troubled by Tomorrow
Anxiety about the future can cover a plethora of things. We can feel anxious about our financial future, our health, our purpose, our spouse and parents, our children and grandkids, the state of our nation, our safety, our job, our relationships, or even our appearance. The list of things to worry about in the future is endless. But one word sums them all up: uncertainty.
There is something we all have in common, and that is an inability to predict the future. We can plan. We can anticipate. We can even worry. But none of that will have the final say on what tomorrow will be like. But God has not left us here alone. He knows our form and our fears. What’s more, He knows our future. And since He does, wouldn’t it be the wisest thing of all to draw close to the One who knows the answer to what we may be anxious about?
He is our peace as we set our minds on Him. His Word is our guide. His loving-kindness never ceases, and His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, which means there is one thing we can be certain of: God’s compassion and loving-kindness will be there to greet us and meet us every step of the way. That truth alone provides solace to the tensions that linger about our unknown tomorrows.
Why is it important to overcome your worries and anxieties about the future? Because these worries and anxieties are stealing the life you have in the present. You cannot predict the future. Neither can you control it. But what you can do is diminish the peace, joy, happiness, and life you have been given today when your mind stays stuck in fearing the unknowns of tomorrow.
God has promised to never leave you. You may not know what the future holds, but you know Who holds the future. Therefore, rest in the power of His intimate presence and grace. God knows the plans He has for you. These are plans for your well-being and not for calamity, to give you a future, and to give you a hope. Try not to muddy today by forgetting these truths about tomorrow.
2 Comments Leave a Comment »
Jesus Loves Me. No, Really!
For the better part of 40 years, I worshiped a God of terror—until I was recently set free. And oh friend, nothing tastes quite as sweet as freedom. I will not turn away from the freedom I walk in now. Sorry, but you can’t make me.
I wasn’t fully aware that I was in bondage to a God of terror until my friend suggested I dissect the terms I flippantly joke about in the “Jesuses” I used on my blog. Target Jesus, Starbucks Jesus, and Stolen Jesus were just a few of the characters I jested about—imaginary characters I worshiped when I needed something and apologized to when I crossed some metaphorical line.
I measured Jesus’s approval by a broken standard. I worked my tail off and kept a laminated list of good deeds I thought counted toward my redemption. It was never enough. I never knew when I was done, and I never understood when He was placated.
When He finally wore me down and broke open my heart, I found that Real Jesus is too magnificent to hide in the shadows behind the counterfeits. He doesn’t shove His way to the front of the line, but He demands the truth. He is for us. This is paramount. To believe I am constantly in trouble is so self-defeating and oppositional of who He is. Knowing He wants me to be whole, knowing He died so that I might live…oh my. This truth drags me to my knees!
This is the heart of confession, the Hebrew word “yadah,” which means to agree. When I agree with Him, I am redeemed. I am His. He died for me and made me whole, and the blood worked. I am undone by His love for me.
As I type this today, the image of the thieves on the cross comes to mind. Jesus, bloodied and beaten, asked nothing of the thief but belief. When the thief agreed, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” There was no time left to start a new study or journal, there was nothing left to say or do. Time was up, and yes was enough.
In my folly and my busy-ness, I have wanted to please Him with my fancypants tricks. But in my brokenness He let me just be, and I was free to be loved perfectly. What a relief. Real Jesus is the only Jesus, and freedom awaits.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Terrible Secret Hides in the Bulrushes?
Posted on Oct 03, 2017 Topic : Fiction
In this excerpt from When the Bishop Needs an Alibi, Amish bishop Henry Lapp uncovers a mystery hidden among the bulrushes and cattails of the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.
Henry Lapp crouched in a sea of bulrushes and cattails.
As he waited, dawn’s light splashed over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, crossed the San Luis Valley, and settled against the base of the San Juan Mountains in the west. Sunrise turned the marshland into a sea of gold and warmed the brisk fall air. Henry moved behind a clump of bulrushes, the ripened seeds temporarily filling the lens of his Nikon binoculars.
Henry again heard the flat, rattle call of a sandhill crane, a gar-oo-oo that never failed to quicken his pulse. He brought his binoculars around to the sound and adjusted his focus. Nearly four feet tall, with a wingspan of at least six feet, the male crane was a beauty to behold. Its gray color provided a perfect camouflage against the fall stalks, rendering the splash of red against its forehead all the more surprising.
The crane took several steps east, and Henry did the same, barely noticing the way his boots sank in the mud.
Henry stepped forward, completely focused on the birds, and his foot struck against something. He lost his balance and began to fall. His dog Lexi jumped out of his way, and Henry tried to focus on saving the binoculars, on not dropping them in the mud.
He was thinking of that, of how precious the binoculars were to him, when he landed on his backside, scaring away the family of three and causing an entire flock of cranes to take flight. He shook his head at his clumsiness and called Lexi closer, but the beagle was now emitting a low, menacing growl.
The dog paid him no mind. Her growl turned to high-pitched barks, and more cranes rose into the morning sky.
Henry lurched for the dog’s collar, and he twisted, turning back in the direction he’d come. That was the moment he saw what made him trip, what Lexi was now backing away from, still alternately growling and yipping.
Hidden among the bulrushes and the cattails lay a woman’s body, facedown in the brush.
Stumbling forward, he knelt beside her, swept aside her hair, and placed two fingers to her neck. He couldn’t detect a pulse, and she certainly wasn’t moving. But then again, his own heartbeat was thundering in his ears, and his hands were shaking. He should get help, run to the visitor center, but first he had to be sure. Gently he rolled the body over, his heart sinking in recognition.
She wouldn’t be needing help. That much was for certain. Henry uttered a prayer for her soul even as his gaze froze on the bruise marks around her neck. His tears didn’t begin to fall until he looked at her face—unmarred and unlined in death, as if the worries of her life had slipped away and sailed across the vast Colorado sky.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Place Your Faith in Elohim, the Strong Creator God
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created (Revelation 4:11).
Imagine attempting to build a house or prepare a meal or fix a car with no materials or ingredients or directions. It would be impossible, wouldn’t it? You need some basic essentials in order to create. God, however, was able to speak the world into existence with nothing at all—no raw materials, no blueprint, no guidance. He relied only upon His own creative prowess and ingenuity.
We first meet the God of the Bible as Elohim, the strong Creator God. And when we reflect upon the vastness of the oceans, the magnitude of the mountain ranges, and the intricacies of the tiniest insects, we are astounded by His masterful work.
In your own life, you can rest secure in the strength of Elohim
You don’t need to immediately find solutions to all your problems and issues or completely figure out all your plans. You have been created with your own unique passions, skills, and interests, but God is the One who ultimately puts all these things together if you simply live a life directed by Him.
Elohim, the Creator of all things, also knows all things. Filled with wisdom and wonder, He masterfully weaves our life stories. Our job is to listen to Him, seek Him, and live out the story He has planned for us.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Teach Your Child What it Means to Be Brave
Share this excerpt from A Brave Big Sister with your kids today. Teach them what it means to be brave and bold like Moses' sister, Miriam.
"A baby!" squealed Miriam when Mom and Dad announced their family was adding a new member. Soon Mom gave birth to a baby boy. When Miriam saw him, she gasped. "He is the most beautiful baby!" Her baby brother had huge, dark, intelligent eyes and a head of thick, black curls.
Miriam and her family were Israelites—Hebrews—and they were slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, was afraid the Israelite slaves would take his place as king. So he declared to his people, "No more Israelite baby boys are allowed in my kingdom!"
For three months, Miriam, Mom, and Dad hid the new baby in their home. When it became too dangerous for the baby to stay with them, Miriam's mom purchased a basket and covered it with tar and pitch to make it waterproof.
Early one morning, Miriam and her mom slipped out of the house and tiptoed through their neighborhood to the Nile River. Mom carried the baby close to her, and Miriam carried the special basket. When they arrived at the Nile, Mom tucked the sleeping baby in the basket and placed the basket in the river.
With tears in her eyes, she said, "Miriam will you watch your brother while I work?" Miriam nodded. "I will, Mom." As the morning sun rose over the water, Miriam's mother left. Miriam hid in the high grass, watching the basket, which was sheltered among the reeds at the river's edge.
"God will you please protect our little baby?" Miriam prayed. God loved Miriam, and God heard her prayer.
Check out this exclusive animated book trailer:
What will become of Miriam and her baby brother?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Do You Listen Carefully for the Voice of God?
Posted on Sep 21, 2017 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
Posted by : Denise J. Hughes
Sitting in the hospital chapel following my brother’s car accident, I search my backpack for something to do. I decide on my notebook and open it to the first blank page. Near the top I write Dear Diary. I’ve never been a diary keeper, but I don’t know how many hours I’ll be in the hospital today. I figure I might as well spend the time writing. Except Diary isn’t a real person, so I feel stymied.
Swinging my feet beneath the pew, I look around the chapel and see the now-familiar crucifix on the wall. I scratch out
Diary and write Jesus. With a real person to write to, the words pour onto the page. I tell Jesus everything that’s been happening. Somehow the simple act of telling Jesus about my day makes the day seem a little lighter.
When the hospital days end, I’m back at school and behind on my schoolwork. I stop talking to Jesus with words on paper. But years later, when I return home from summer camp and begin reading my Bible, I pull out a notebook again, this time to write down my favorite verses, and sometimes entire psalms.
My favorite stories include the ark of the covenant, God’s holy dwelling place. I love how the boy Samuel slept in the temple, not far from the ark. I want to be close to God’s presence like that. When Samuel hears God’s voice, he thinks the priest is calling him. But the priest eventually figures out God is speaking to Samuel and he gives the best advice ever. He tells Samuel to respond to God by saying, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”
This prayer becomes the cry of my heart. I pray it throughout my day, especially when I sit down to read my Bible. Speak, for Your servant is listening. I write these words in my notebook.
The time I spend reading and writing the words of Scripture reshapes me. More than anything, a deep thirst to know more, to understand more, grows inside me. I finish my senior year of high school and continue to visit the aisles of the Christian bookstore often. I want to hear from other people who have experienced what I’ve been experiencing. Their stories fascinate me. God has been changing the lives of men and women well beyond biblical times. And there’s a common thread among every one of these life changes: the Bible. People have been hearing God’s voice through the pages of the Bible for centuries, and He’s still speaking through His Word today.
God isn’t a silent God. The more time we spend in the Bible, the more familiar we become with His voice, making it easier to recognize it when He speaks. The prayer I started praying as a teenager in high school is the same prayer I pray today, and it’s a prayer I encourage you to make your own as well: Speak, for Your servant is listening.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Is the Middle East Destined for Conflict?
Posted on Sep 19, 2017 Topic : Prophecy
Posted by : Ron Rhodes
Israel and the Middle East have been like a powder keg, ready to blow up for decades. It used to be that Americans didn’t pay much attention to the Middle East. However, with 9/11 in our rearview mirror, four out of ten Americans now believe that conflicts in the Middle East are an indication that we are living in the last days. Moreover, over half of Americans (52 percent) agree that the rebirth of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. All of this—in conjunction with the escalating threat of terrorism from Middle East antagonists—has motivated Americans to pay more focused attention on events in the Middle East.
Much of the conflict centers on the city of Jerusalem. Indeed, Jerusalem is the holiest of all cities for the Jews, and is the third holiest city for Muslims (behind Mecca and Medina). The conflict is hence as much a religious issue as it is a political issue for Jews and Muslims. After all, the Jews believe Jerusalem was promised to them by Yahweh, the God of the Bible. Muslims, by contrast, believe the city was promised to them by Allah, the God of the Quran. Because both sides are unbending in their religious devotion, conflict seems inevitable and unsolvable.
Muslim leaders—both old school and new school—have always held a hard line on Jerusalem. Anwar Sadat in the 1970s proclaimed that “Jerusalem is the property of the Muslim nation…Nobody can ever decide the fate of Jerusalem. We shall retake it with the help of Allah.”
Likewise, Yasser Arafat in the 1990s promised that “whoever does not accept the fact that Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state, and only that state, can go drink from the Dead Sea.”
More recently, the Iranian head of the Strategic Research Center at the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Velayati, stated in no uncertain terms that Iran will not recognize Israel because “it is a usurper entity.” Indeed, “Iran believes Israel has stolen the Palestinians’ land.” They want the land back. It belongs to them as a gift from Allah.
On the Jewish side, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—with equal vigor—has promised: “I will never allow Jerusalem to be divided again. Never! Never! We will keep Jerusalem united and…we will never surrender those ramparts.” Netanyahu vowed in late 2016 “to keep Jerusalem united under Israeli control.” Addressing the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to mark the 49th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, Netanyahu promised: “Our roots are deeper than any other nations, including to the Temple Mount. Jerusalem was ours and will remain ours.” Both Muslims and Jews remain unbending.
One thing is certain: The multiple variables of the Middle East conflict seem to be cascading out of control. Taken in conjunction with the other signs of the times, can there be any doubt that we are living in the end times?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Is Your Spouse Stuck with Your Leftovers?
Posted on Sep 14, 2017 Topic : Women's Christian Living
Posted by : September McCarthy
The silence was so heavy it pressed on my heart like a vise. I would sit at the dinner table and inwardly fume at the imperfections I felt existed in the man at the head of our table. Hearing him rise and leave in the morning turned to relief for me. It gave my mind a break from evaluating the reasons we weren’t seeing eye to eye or why our time together often turned into conflict.
Was I falling out of love with the man I pledged my life to? Was he getting the leftovers after my full motherhood days?
No one told me that I could have such lonely, silent times in a marriage. My loneliness, the disagreements, and even the love that we had shared together, seemed to slowly fade into busy lives caring for children—lives filled with exhaustion, short fuses, and a weariness that would cause us both to ignore the problem or give up altogether. After we said “I do,” life happened, and children took up residence in the cracks of every inch of our life—until there was (almost) nothing left to the man and wife that God joined together.
I had become the mother. He had become the father. And we had lost us.
The day my husband looked me in the eyes and told me he needed me more than I needed him was the day I realized what I had done. I had created an idol out of my motherhood. I’d been giving, giving, giving to my kids, from the moment they were in my womb until the present. I had shifted most of my attention and time to the service and caregiving of my children—to their present, their future, their comfort, and their success.
I was still present as a wife. I still loved my man, and I was committed to making our home the very best I could for him, but not with him. Not with his hand in mine, together. We were working toward the same goal as two separate entities rather than two people who formed one force, one purpose.
After 27 years of marriage, I have discovered that my truest of heroes and the man who fights for my motherhood more than anyone is my husband. He has seen my sacrifice and he has surrendered the most of any of us. When he and I became a true team, the change was evident to our children. It drastically changed our parenting and our model of loving.
Hold on to your love. Find it again if you need to, and learn to love the new you. Your marriage is worth fighting for, and the effort you sow into the strongest cords of love will be the very fiber that holds you together from this day forward. Your children are waiting for you to model love, remember? Don’t wait another minute to find your way back.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Do You Ever Wonder if Jesus is Worth It?
We don’t even know her name. She might have been 25 or 40, married or single. She could have been a sister or a mother. Maybe she was a lot like you and me. What we do know is her life was one of pain and suffering of the cruelest kind. She was a broken-down woman desperate for change.
I think this woman living by the shores of Capernaum must have been following Jesus from a safe distance for quite some time—listening, seeking, and hoping he could help her. Up until now, no one else had been able to. Would he? Could he?
Scripture gives us the tiniest glimpse of the moment before the moment she reached out. I suspect she was having a full-blown conversation inside her own heart. Did she count the cost? Did she have doubts? She must have, “for she said to herself, ‘If I only touch his garment, I will be made well’ ” (Matthew 9:21).
This unnamed, faceless woman was having a crisis of faith, but she must have believed the risk was worth it, for she extended her hand to brush the tasseled hem of his robe. Jesus was worth it. He had fueled her faith precisely at the moment she felt like quitting. And so with faith as small as a mustard seed, she reached for him.
This was all it took, and what happened next is one of my favorite encounters in the Bible. “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And instantly the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:22).
Jesus saw her and uttered the words she dreamed of hearing. “Made well” he said. He spoke courage to a girl who had known nothing but a daily reminder that she was broken. Did you notice he called her not woman, but daughter? We can hear so much tenderness in this one sentence. Women in her condition were not called daughter. They were called unclean. But Jesus erased that label with a word. Her faith, an act of worship, made her well in an instant. The millions of moments she had collected before this one no longer mattered. She was no longer woman unclean. She was daughter made well.
I don’t know about you, but I want the kind of faith that passes through the crisis point and reaches out anyway. I want to hear him say to me, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”
Are you asking yourself if Jesus is worth it? Do you feel like quitting? Are your heart and head in complete disagreement over whether you should reach out to brush the hem of Jesus’s garment? We don’t have much to bring to the table besides our messy lives and minuscule faith. Our inner conversations don’t scare Jesus away either, because they don’t change who he is. He stands ready to fuel our faith in the most amazing way, if only we will take a look and extend our hand.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
How Can Church Today be a True Example of the Gospel?
Posted on Sep 07, 2017 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Skip Heitzig
The church in Corinth had a whole score of problems Paul addressed at length in 1 Corinthians. But we can take encouragement from this, knowing that the church today is not all that different from the New Testament church. It was filled with imperfect people—former sinners facing their own issues and challenges—all learning how to walk with Jesus day by day.
Here are some key take-aways from the book of 1 Corinthians that were relevant then, and are still equally important for the Church today…
—Unity should be our goal as Christians. We might not agree on the nonessential issues of doctrine like what style of worship to use during services, but we should be like-minded when it comes to the core teachings of Scripture, especially regarding Jesus. God uses common men and women to spread an uncommon message: the good news of Jesus Christ. That end goal should never fail to bring us together.
—Restoration of relationship should always be your goal, because it’s God’s goal. When someone wrongs you, is your first impulse to forgive and let it go? Probably not—that’s not natural. But as an act of your will and in compliance and obedience to Jesus (Matthew 5:39), it is supernaturally possible.
—The church should not mirror the world. Paul reminded us that we’re no longer to live in sin but instead live differently from the world around us (1 Corinthians 6:11). On one hand, we as the church need to take God’s commands seriously, not allowing sin to flourish in our midst. On the other hand, we also need to embrace God’s grace alongside His truth, love those who have fallen into sin, and do what we can to restore them to a right relationship with God and His church, being mindful that God loved us and bought us for Himself while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).
—Navigate life’s gray areas biblically. As Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Consider two limitations: utility and charity. First, is what you’re considering going to help you achieve your ultimate goal of representing Christ, becoming more like Him, sharing about Him? Second, if you do it, will others be hurt? Don’t put your freedom ahead of someone else’s walk.
Without a doubt, the resurrection is the heart and pulse of the gospel message. It was the power that would enable the Corinthians to step up their game and follow Paul’s instructions for their improvement—and that same power lives in us today, both to save us and help us grow in faith.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Here’s How to Dedicate Your Daughter to God
Daughters. We know them well because we have four of our own. With more than 13,505 combined days of parenting girls under our belts, we can honestly say that raising Alena, Kaitlyn, and our twins Camryn and Olivia has dramatically changed our world…for the better!
Parenting a houseful of girls has caused us to take a deeper look at why God gave these special girls to us and how He intends us to operate as His children and their parents.
Our girls are very different from each other, and each of them has a distinct personality—and that gives us much joy! However, we have had to experiment and learn, to try and try again, grappling with what it looks like to parent each of them while holding on to the values and the kingdom mindset befitting a family following after the heart of God.
We are constantly reminded that everything we have is God’s, including our daughters. Parenting from this perspective gives us purpose, identifies our responsibility, and defines our way of life.
We are raising God’s girls. And they are ours—but they are also His.
God has created your daughter for a specific purpose. And He created you to parent her in a way that leads her heart and mind to His truth, love, and perfect will.
Sounds simple enough, right?
It did not take long for us to realize that raising our daughters was not going to be easy. If our daughters were robots and we could program them to think and act just the way we instructed them, then life with them would be a breeze. But they are not robots.
Girls are complex. They are tender yet strong, emotional but sturdy, and an inquisitive mix of facts and opinions. There are times when our task as parents of daughters makes total sense—and times when we can’t seem to make sense of it at all!
Vulnerability, innocence, joy, spontaneity…these are all wrapped up in the four-letter word that describes our daughters: G-i-r-l.
Whether you are a mother or a father, whether you are struggling with your first infant, raising busy toddlers, surviving a houseful of teens, navigating the roads of young adulthood, or a combination of all these…parenting girls is not an easy job, and it needs your full attention and presence. It requires a level of patience you may not have known existed and a prayer life you’ve probably always wanted to attain.
We want to encourage you to embrace your journey with your daughter, and to understand and appreciate your high calling. This journey is about intentionally leading your daughter to the everlasting love of her Creator. And it’s about seeking God, recognizing that as a parent, you desperately need His guidance. Start with this prayer:
I release my daughter into Your care.
I surrender my desire to control her.
I surrender my desire to manipulate her future.
I surrender my tendency to overprotect, shelter,
And suffocate her.
I surrender my desire to be her best friend, first.
I surrender my own dreams for her.
I surrender my need to be her source.
She is Yours.
I’m totally open to You, dependent on You, and desperate for You to be in control as I let go. I’m relying on the fact that You are God and that You have created my daughter for Your purpose and for this time.
I pray that You will draw her to Yourself.
I pray that she will delight in You.
I pray that You will be patient with her.
I pray that You will provide for her.
I pray that You will bless her.
I pray that You will use her to be a blessing to others.
I pray that You will mature her.
And ultimately, I pray that she will show Jesus in
Her very being.
I trust in Your sovereignty. I wait in expectation for Your providence.
Lord, she is Yours, and I trust You with her.
1 Comments Leave a Comment »
What Happens When You Can’t Hold It Together?
One of my favorite places on earth is unreachable without a four-wheel-drive, off-roading vehicle. You won’t see tour buses. No tickets are sold for it, and there isn’t a concession stand available for visitors. Topping out at almost 12,000 feet in elevation, Columbus Basin, in the La Plata Canyon of western Colorado, takes my breath away. I’ve stood at the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China, but man-made monuments pale in comparison to the majesty of God’s declaration of sovereignty through His creation. Standing at the edge of a mountain range firmly and gently reminds me that the Creator is God, and I am not. And that in itself is where His provision begins.
Most of my unhappiness or concerns in life can be traced back to this one question: Who holds the details of my life together? What if I can’t juggle it all? And so the Lord paints sunsets across the skies, dabs spongy moss throughout the hills, and fills the creek with overflow that trickles into hidden waterfalls… all as if to whisper:
“I take care of the needs you don’t even know to ask for. Trust Me.”
He’s holding us together by His sovereign grace; we just need to look up long enough from our frantic agendas, news feeds, and pursuits to recognize all that declares His care.
God makes us needy that we might find Him generous; He allows us to feel too weak to handle all the details that we might delight in His sovereignty. His attributes and provisions are most clearly seen through the lens of necessity, and He makes that abundantly clear to us through creation. The God who provides the rain to fall and the sun to rise provides for our daily needs. The clothes on our back, equally with the cover of wildflowers that line the streams of the canyon, display His provision of beauty and blessing.
You may feel as though you are juggling more than you can handle. Maybe you need to say no to some wonderful things or reprioritize your time. Maybe you need to adjust your expectations or reframe your heart’s desires. But maybe the only thing that must change right now is internal—a reckoning that God cares about you on the macro and micro level. He demonstrates it through His provision for you in daily details you may not recognize unless you stop to consider them: the warm meal on the table, the gas in your car, the friend who checks up on you in the middle of the week, or the refreshing rain that falls. You’re held, not because you can handle it all, but because Jesus can. If He can hold all things together—the skies and all living things—He can hold you.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Are You Really Praying in Jesus’s Name?
At times, I find myself praying incomplete and ineffective prayers.
Instead of praying in Jesus’s name, I drift into praying in my name, or in the name of a cause or a church. My prayers become sterile when the spirit of my speech is self-directed, not Spirit-led. I still say “in Jesus’s name,” but that resembles a hollow habit or a rubber stamp instead of the Holy Spirit’s validation. My prayers gain God’s ear when truly I ask in Jesus’s name.
In the moments preceding His passion, Jesus had the disciples’ undivided attention. So He took time to remind them how to pray powerful prayers in His name. To pray in Jesus’s name is to pray as a representative of the person of Christ. Pray peace because Jesus represented peace. Pray love because Jesus represented love. Pray meekness because Jesus represented meekness. Pray forgiveness because Jesus represented forgiveness. Prayers in Jesus’s name are aligned with His heart. Prayers that are consistent with God’s will further God’s will. By faith, ask in Jesus’s name.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Is Your Daughter “In” with God?
Posted on Aug 24, 2017 Topic : Inspirational/Devotional
It's normal to want to be part of the "in" crowd, but what's most important is being "in" with God. Share this short devotion with your tween daughter (age 8-12) and remind her that life works best when God is at the center of everything.
There's nothing wrong with being included as a part of a group of girls. In fact, having friends is an important part of your social life, But it is a problem if you're not focused on the most important thing—being "in" with God. He designed your life so that it works best when He is at the center of it. If you're not following God's heart, you're not going in the right direction.
You can still be team captain, know some cool girls, and have some good friends. But first make sure you're "in" with Jesus. Read your Bible. Pray. And pray for your friends. And be sure to ask Him if what you're doing makes Him happy. Then give Him all you've got!
Jesus, it's so easy to get caught up in what others think that I forget to focus on You. Please let my friendship with You be the most important one in my life. I want to be "in" with You! Amen.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Do You Believe the Lies about Heaven?
Posted on Aug 22, 2017 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Clay Jones
Many years ago, an undergrad fought back tears as she confessed to me that she was afraid she didn’t want to go to heaven. That surprised me, and when I related this to a twenty-something staffer, he replied, “I’ve had the same fear.” I’ve since learned that many Christians actually fear heaven. And if that’s the case, then it should be of no surprise that there are non-Christians who do not find heaven appealing.
Satan is conspiring to keep us from the kingdom of heaven, and one of his successful ploys has been to present heaven as a place no one in their right mind would want to go. Here are several lies about heaven that need to be unmasked.
Myth 1: Heaven is Lonely—We Won’t Recognize Anyone
Scripture often pictures our reunion with Jesus as a banquet (Isaiah 25:6; Mark 14:25; Revelation 19:9). We will certainly enjoy God, but we will also enjoy each other through eternity.
Myth 2: Heaven Is Hurtful—Too Many Painful Memories
As for things done to us or to others—miseries, injustices, hatreds, and agonies—we will see these wrongs redeemed in remarkable ways (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Myth 3: Heaven Is Dreary—Full of Nerds and Prudes
The misrepresentation that God is antipleasure here on earth makes Christians fear eternity in heaven. God isn’t opposed to pleasure; rather, He opposes its misuse.
Myth 4: Heaven Is Drab—Everything Is White
If anything, heaven is jewel-toned! In describing heaven, John mentions just about every beautiful stone known at the time, and I wonder how many colors he could not describe at all (Revelation 4:3).
Myth 5: Heaven Is Less—No Taste, Touch, or Smell
Philippians 3:21 says that Jesus “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” After His resurrection, He was touched, He hugged, and He ate with the disciples. Thus, we will not have a body incapable of physical contact or be unable to enjoy eating and drinking.
Myth 6: Heaven Has No Diversity—Just Angels
Indeed, it was the Lord who created toucans, tigers, tropical fish, the aardvark, and the ostrich. He knows we enjoy being with other creatures.
Myth 7: Heaven Is Tedious—All We Will Do Is Sing
Praise is our natural response when we find something valuable or meaningful, and God—the Creator of hummingbirds, roses, waterfalls, and star clusters—is supremely praiseworthy.
Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne says that “heaven is a place where people enjoy eternally a supremely worthwhile happiness.” And what makes people happy? Swinburne says happiness consists of a person “doing what he wants to be doing and having happen what he wants to have happen.” Our heavenly occupation therefore—reigning with Christ—will result in happiness because we will have the opportunity to do the supremely meaningful forever.
3 Comments Leave a Comment »
Before Dawn, What Dangers Lurk in the Darkness?
Posted on Aug 17, 2017 Topic : Fiction
Light of Dawn is the thrilling conclusion to Vannetta Chapman's dystopian trilogy, The Remnant. A massive solar flare has wiped out the electrical grid, resulting in unrestrained anarchy. In this gripping scene, Shelby Sparks, her son, Carter, and her high school sweetheart, Max Berkman, are ambushed during their 600-mile journey from their home in Abney, Texas, to the location of the new federal government.
Max’s mind flashed back over the previous three minutes, trying to make sense of what had happened. He’d thought they were going to die.
Somehow they’d survived the initial hit and the roll, but then he’d seen the monster truck trundling toward them. He’d tried to reach for his pistol, but the seat belt had locked and was pinning him to the seat. Not to mention the top of the Dodge was now mere inches from his head. At least they were sitting right side up.
“You okay?” Shelby asked.
When he turned toward her, he very nearly panicked. There was blood running down her face, glass sprinkled in her hair, and her eyes were wide with shock.
“We need our guns.” She was able to squirm out of her seat belt, reach into her pack, and pull out her knife. “What is happening?”
“Ambush.” His tongue felt swollen, and he thought a tooth might be loose. He turned his head left and spit out blood.
Shelby’s hand shook as she opened the blade, slipped it under his seat belt, and yanked up.
“Get your weapon and get down.” He had little chance of fitting into the floorboard area himself, but Shelby was small. There was a chance that crouching in front of her seat could save her.
He looked right and saw the enormous wheels of the monster truck. It was the perfect off-road vehicle—perfect for an ambush, other than the fact that it must guzzle gas worse than a Cadillac. The truck screeched to a stop, but the driver kept the engine running.
Max heard rifle shots, the scream of metal against metal, and then the engine of the Hummer.
“Get down now!”
Someone in the monster truck fired one shot down and through the front windshield. It pierced the glass, went through the back of Shelby’s seat, and lodged somewhere in the back of the Dodge. The driver of the truck threw it into reverse and sped away.
Then Shelby’s son, Carter, reached the vehicle and started wrenching open the doors.
“Are you okay? You’re bleeding.” Carter pulled Shelby from the passenger’s side, held her at arm’s length, and wiped the blood out of her eyes with the palm of his hand. “I was so scared. I thought…I thought…”
“I’m okay, Carter. It’s just a cut.”
“Bruised shoulder, maybe a sprained wrist. I’m fine.”
Carter had already run to the Hummer and returned with a roll of gauze. He wrapped it around Shelby’s head. “This will stop the bleeding. We’ll clean it when we’re in a safe location.”
“Let’s go then. Tight formation. We don’t stop for twenty miles for any reason.”
“Be careful.” Carter squeezed Shelby’s arms, then nodded at Max.
Max and Shelby got back into the Dodge.
They were silent the first few miles, the wind whistling through the front windshield.
“Were you scared?” Shelby asked.
He almost let it slide, let her believe that he was talking about what she was talking about. But they’d had too many close calls, too many brushes with death. Something whispered to his heart, Tell her now while you can.
Tears welled up in his eyes, and he brushed them away with his sleeve and forced himself to look at this precious, marvelous woman sitting next to him. “When I realized that I might lose you, that this might be the last day we spent together…I’ve never known fear like that.”
Shelby didn’t have an answer to his confession. She locked eyes with him, hers large and impossible to read, and then she reached out, pulled his hand into her lap, and interlaced her fingers with his.
Will Max and Shelby make it to their destination safely and will Shelby find the courage to reach out to Max?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Who’s in Control of Your Time?
If you’re like me, you feel as though there is never enough time in your day! Have you ever had thoughts like , Yeah, I want to spend time in Bible study, but I’m so busy…I have to work…I was never a great student in school, I want an easier way to grow with God…
Spending time in the Word will save you time because you’ll gain the information to discern, and then stay on, God’s best plan for your life. But to keep tracking with Christ, you’ll need to set aside daily time with the Creator. God is the maker of time, so he has a supernatural way of s… t… r… e… t… c… h… i… n… g the minutes in your day. Here is why God can multiply your time:
—God existed before “time” began: “In the beginning God… ” (Genesis 1:1).
—God set time in motion: “God said, ‘Let there be light'… And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day” (Genesis 1:3-5).
—God is the exalted King: He sees all from his throne, so he knows what is truly important in life. “God reigns over nations; God sits on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).
—God orders our steps: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23 KJV); “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord determines their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV).
When I was 19, my mentor asked me, “How’s your daily quiet time with God?” I thought I was too busy to fit in time with God, so I laid out a few of those standard excuses. My mentor countered with a piercing question: “Are you telling me you’re too busy to spend time daily with the God who created you and created every second of your day, and loved you so much he spent his divine time to walk the steps up Golgotha’s hill to be nailed on a cross and lay down his life for you?” (Gulp.)
As I pondered how to answer this question, I felt it was really God who was asking it. I was confronted with a “watershed moment,” that pivot point when you know the choice you make will send you on a life-impacting trajectory with long-term consequences. This is the same question posed to us in Psalm 2: “ Who is on the throne of your life? Whom do you call King?”
Make a decision today to keep Jesus as the King of Kings.
4 Comments Leave a Comment »
Rediscover the Gift of Conversation with God
Do we still believe in prayer today? Well, in a way. Many Christians are willing to pray fervently for wealth and health and a big new house and a shiny new car. They are willing to pray for a promotion or for good weather on their vacation. But how many of those eager prayer warriors are also praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, for the protection of believers who are being persecuted, for the effectiveness of evangelistic ministries at home and abroad? Are we simply immature children asking our Daddy in heaven to give us the goodies we want?
There is nothing wrong with pouring out our wants and needs before the Lord. But if selfish requests are the sum total of our prayers, then we have a stunted and immature prayer life. God is gracious, and he is always there for us when we are in a crisis. But a healthy prayer life involves so much more than sending God our 911 calls and wish lists. If God hears from us only when we’re in trouble, what does that say about our love for Him and our desire to be in fellowship with Him?
Many Christians today seem to have a weak and insipid walk with God. They lack power in their lives. They lack joy. They lack the ability to overcome sins and bad habits. Why do so many Christians experience such an anemic Christian life? I believe that, in most cases, it’s because we fail to practice a biblical prayer life.
But why does prayer make such a difference? Couldn’t God do all that he’s doing around the world without our prayers? Isn’t God able to bless ministries, touch lives, heal broken hearts, and call lost souls to himself without our prayers? Of course he could. He is God. He doesn’t need our prayers.
And yet, God has chosen to involve us, mere fallen human beings, in his eternal plan for history. He doesn’t need us—but he loves us. He doesn’t need us—but he chooses us. He doesn’t need us—but he involves us in the all-important work he is doing. And in some mysterious way that is far beyond human understanding, he accomplishes his work through our prayers. Obviously, the power of prayer does not reside in us; it’s God’s power alone. But God has designed the universe in such a way that the prayers of God’s people draw upon the sovereign power of God. The result: Prayer changes things. Prayer makes big things happen.
God will honor the prayers of his faithful and obedient followers. But in order to honor those prayers, we have to be on our knees praying those prayers. Do you have a biblical prayer life? Do you daily have a two-way conversation with God?
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Discover the Courage and Strength God Gave You
Looking back, I was bound to meet Jesus sooner or later. Some strong Christian friends were praying for me, and I am sure my parents were too. And there was the wise pastor from my family’s home church who placed a book in my hands and simply said, “One day when you have some questions, read this.”
About a year later, I did just that. I not only read Mere Christianity by former atheist and Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis, but I was thoroughly convicted. I realized that for all my good intentions, I had lived a completely self-centered life. I put the book down and gave my heart and soul to Jesus Christ.
One of the first things I noticed after I accepted Jesus is that the Bible made sense. I fully embraced the strong messages I found in the Word about the importance of marriage and the family. Quite surprisingly, I also grew to appreciate the role of the husband as the spiritual head of his family.
At that time, however, much of the teaching in the 1970s defined biblical womanhood almost exclusively in terms of a woman’s family and homemaking skills, with little attention given to her calling to serve the Lord.
During my agnostic years, I had already explored the feminist view of womanhood and found it unsatisfying, so I was ready to embrace a strong, biblical message about marriage and the family. I wanted to follow Christ wholeheartedly, whatever that looked like. But without realizing it, I tried to squeeze myself into a mold that didn’t fit with who God had made me to be. In trying to become the “perfect biblical wife,” as some had defined her, I sometimes got so absorbed with managing a home and honing my decorating skills that I forgot about pouring my life out on behalf of the hurting and broken.
Over time, as I grew in my relationship with the Lord, I began to understand the richness and freedom of womanhood as God created it. It was all right there in the pages of Scripture. I discovered challenging and exciting stories. Women in the Bible fought battles, overturned genocidal plots, gave birth to world-changing children, raised strong families, and suffered and died for their faith.
And it seemed to me that the modern Christian woman had become a little too safe and sanitized—she was the nurturer without the warrior.
One friend, who had raised her children at great risk on the mission field in Africa, challenged me with her observation about the American church. She thought it sometimes overemphasized the family—as important as family is—to the exclusion of mission. Our priority should not be to focus on the family, she commented. “It should be to focus on Jesus and His calling on our lives—wherever that takes us.”
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Is Your Strongest Allegiance to the Kingdom of Heaven?
Posted on Aug 03, 2017 Topic : Prophecy
Posted by : Jeff Kinley
Every July 4, our country is repainted red, white, and blue for a day. We pause from our busy schedules to celebrate with flame-grilled burgers, family gatherings, and fireworks.
Yes, I am both grateful and proud to be an American.
However, as wonderful and inspiring as this is, being a citizen of this country is not my highest privilege or my primary identity. Being a child of God is. One is earthly, the other heavenly. One temporal, the other eternal. And because of this, my greatest and highest loyalty lies with another kingdom, a kingdom whose coming Jesus asked us to pray for.
It has become apparent to me that we in the American church have lost a fundamental perspective. It’s a flaw in our collective faith that must be corrected. Our problem is that we think and act like we actually belong here. Like this earth is our home. Yes, we currently live here, but according to the Bible, we as Christians also enjoy a unique dual citizenship. As Paul reminded the Philippian believers, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:20).
This truth is more than just a comforting thought or a trendy Christian meme. It’s a theological reality concerning our ultimate destiny. It’s a citizenship that comes with inherent privileges and responsibilities. It means that heaven, not this world, is where our primary allegiance lies.
It means we don’t belong here. It means we long to go home.
Though we are often mired in the mud of earthly necessities, Paul urges us to order our priorities. It’s not that things down here are unimportant. It’s just that they are not of the utmost importance. This means there is something more essential and satisfying than making money. Something more beneficial than getting an education or landing that dream job. Something even more worthwhile then a well-deserved vacation, a good family, or a great marriage.
Though all of the above are good things and gifts from God, and though they all have their merit and place here on earth, nothing compares to that which is heavenly. We belong to Him. His presence is our pursuit and His kingdom our cause. Jesus Christ came to die for us, and what motivated Him to endure the cross and suffer death was a joy awaiting Him in heaven. That heavenly joy was bringing glory to the Father, and bringing salvation to those who would believe.
This eternal perspective to which we are called and commanded supersedes and overrules all temporary priorities. It trumps earthly pursuits and outranks human obligations. It means we see ourselves as what we actually are—first and foremost, disciples. Children. Followers. Worshippers. Servants of the Most High God. “Aliens and strangers” in a foreign land. This is our identity. Our blood-bought eternal reality. It is only when we view ourselves in this manner that we can truly appreciate, pursue, and properly steward the privilege of being Christians in a country like America.
0 Comments Leave a Comment »
Ways to Diffuse the Power of Sin
Posted on Aug 01, 2017 Topic : Men's Christian Living
Posted by : Erwin W. Lutzer
Have you given your anxiety to God only to find an hour later that the weight is back on your shoulders? Do you ask God to control your temper, but still blow your top?
We surrender ourselves to God, but so soon and so easily revert to our old habits. We may get on our knees and ask God to take the desire away, and we may determine not to think those lurid or greedy thoughts. But then they surface again. We are trapped. Try as we might, we just can’t get those thoughts to budge. Why?
To simply resist temptation is to make it grow stronger. Consider the best way to take air out of a bottle. Possibly someone could suggest that we build an elaborate vacuum pump to suck out the air. But there is a simpler solution. If we fill the bottle with water, the air has to leave.
To diffuse the power of sin, you need to have your thought patterns replaced by the Word of God and brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).
Outline a specific strategy for experiencing the freedom you have in Christ and accepting the victory that is legally yours. I’m convinced that God intends us to be free from mental bondage. His Word is the resource by which our thoughts can become obedient to Him.
Start with these steps:
—Identify the specific thoughts you want to replace with God’s truth
—Memorize Scripture that speaks to your personal struggles
—Remind yourself of God’s promises and faithfulness
—Reject sinful thoughts and fill their void by reciting Bible passages
—Use the recurrence of temptation as a signal to give praise to God
The difference between worldliness and godliness is a renewed mind. This old adage puts it straight: You aren’t what you think you are; but what you think, you are!