Passion for The Passion

I have to say right off, that I’m passionate about The Passion.

It all began for me at the age of nine. Our family was part of a new church plant in Miami, FL back in the 50’s. The church had invited a special speaker who was also a chalk artist. On one particular evening he spoke about the cross and Christ’s substitutionary death for us. It wasn’t just the words he spoke that penetrated the heart of a 9-year-old boy, but the drawing he made that so powerfully displayed the sufferings of Christ in this amazing demonstration of love and grace.

My Passion journey continued as this church, throughout my youth, would charter a bus each Spring and take us to the Lake Wales Passion Play in Lake Wales, Florida. This was the same organization that put on the Black Hills Passion Play in South Dakota. I’ll never forget the sights, sounds, and smells of that outdoor amphitheater as once again, in dramatic fashion, I saw and felt the impact of that demonstration of God’s love and grace. The re-enactment of the last week of the life of Christ, his mock trial, his crucifixion, and His resurrection, made an indelible and lasting mark on the life of this teenage boy.

As I grew older, I had the opportunity to participate in church and college choirs where we would perform Easter Cantatas or sing Handel's Messiah with a community choir, and once again the majesty and splendor of The Passion would overwhelm me.

One experience I will never forget was attending an Easter musical at a huge church in Orlando. Our family was ushered in and seated on a center aisle. As we took in the music and pageantry, we could not be prepared for what happened. The procession of Jesus carrying the cross, surrounded by Roman soldiers, came right down the aisle where we were seated. Tears ran down my face as I once again, was enraptured by God’s great love.

So how was it that Jesus could have suffered such agony. Yes, we know that God so loved the world and sent Him… that He bore our sins on that cross… but I continued to contemplate His sacrifice. That’s when I thought about this scripture:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:12 NASB

I began to ponder that phrase, “... who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” Then I realized that the joy set before Him was you and I… knowing that we would place our faith in His finished work on the cross and become part of God’s forever family!


I then thought about the joy set before me… Heaven… streets of gold and that face-to-face presence with Jesus.

I asked myself the question, “What is it that I can endure… what struggle is it that I’m working through, that I can overcome by the joy that is set before me?”

I began to press in even deeper and thought about this scripture:

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 KJV

“Who is it I see? What situation am I aware of that I can be moved passionately, like Jesus, to meet a need, to show love, to encourage?” You see, Jesus endured the cross because of what He saw and had compassion. And it wasn’t just an emotional feeling or an expression of sympathy. He was MOVED to act… to do something… and He did.

I’m convicted that this Easter, this Passion Week, we should take the opportunity, or better yet, make the opportunity to passionately serve others the way Jesus did… to make an eternal difference in someone else, who can be raised from death, to walk in a brand new life. May God help us to be passionate for others in the same way our Savior was and is for us

Submitted by: Pastor Bruce Turner has been a part of Christian Care Ministry for 13 years (14 in June), serving as a Development Manager for 12 of those years. He current works remotely from his home in Lynchburg, Virginia.

blog.mychristiancare.org

Through Ocean's Deep

My friend Vera gets really passionate about the song "Oceans" by Hillsong United.  If you ever hear her talk about the song she will say something like this:

"Do you know what you are really singing and praying when you sing Oceans?

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander”

Do you know what you are really singing? “Wherever You may call me?”
That can be the place that I'm terrified to go! That's a really big prayer!"

Over the years I have asked God more than a few of those "really big prayers". 

I want to share two of them with you though. I'll talk about the first one in a second, but the second one was for a deeper love of Jesus.

The first prayer was back in October of 2014.  I was at a board meeting for work and one of our board members was delivering a devotion. He shared a question that he had recently asked himself.  You know those questions that when you hear them it feels like you got smacked in the face with a Mack truck.  That’s what happened when I heard this question: “Who are you Jesus that the slaughter of the innocent was worth it?”

Bam. Smacked in the face by the Mack truck. At the time of Jesus’ birth, He was so anticipated among His people that the King ordered the death of innocent little ones in an attempt to eradicate Jesus. He was only a baby, yet His reputation was great and His name was feared!

"Who are you Jesus that the slaughter of the innocent was worth it?"

I took a few days to really reflect on that question.  I even made a list of who Jesus has been to me.  A few of the truths on the list were my worth, my freedom, my encouragement, my authority...  On September 19, 2015 I added a couple truths to the list. He is my Rock, and my Comforter.  Those are truths that are in scripture, and I knew that. But they just weren't as real to me.

On September 19th I found out that I was having a miscarriage that had begun a couple days before.  I didn't know I was pregnant and I thought what I was going through was a result of something else. However, after a conversation with a friend I was on the phone with my doctor, and I took a pregnancy test to confirm the miscarriage and then was on the way to the ER.  I am pretty sure I have never cried so much in my life.  One minute you have one child, one minute you have two but you will never meet the second on this side of eternity. No time to celebrate the pregnancy, just sadness.  I remember cuddling with Charlie a few days later and feeling that there was someone missing from my other arm. I'm not going to lie, it was really hard emotionally.  Tears would just flow. But in the midst of all the tears, God's presence and love was undeniable.  While in the hospital, in the middle of tears and uncertainty, I felt more peace than I had ever felt in my life.

Over the days that passed God showed me 3 pictures that led me to know Him in new and deeper ways.  The first was a picture of me trying to make my way through sifting sand, and I never made my way through.  

The second was a picture of me standing on a Rock with my arms up in worship.  He was giving me a choice.  "You can do this on your own and not make it through, or lean on Me and let Me be your Solid Rock."  We all have that choice.  Are we going to struggle through sifting sand, or stand on the Rock?

The third picture He gave me was a picture of Jesus holding me like a parent would cradle their newborn child.  When I saw that, I cried (I cried a lot).  I know what it’s like to love your child, and to know that I know that I know that Jesus was holding me like His child through my pain was overwhelmingly beautiful.

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."  Isaiah 66:13

When I prayed those 2 prayers earlier in the year, I never knew where they would lead. I never knew the love that God would lavish on me through times of pain.  I never knew His strength.  

But now I know He is MY Rock and MY comforter.

 

I have read over my journal over the years and one prayer keeps showing up "wherever you lead God, I'll go if it's for you."  It's a prayer that has uncertain results... a prayer that doesn't ensure protection, or safety, or an easy life.  Those are things that God never promises us.  He does promise that He is unchanging, and that He is our Comforter, He is our Rock, and He was overcome the darkness.  He is worth it!
What if God allowed you to walk through some really deep waters to have you experience a deeper knowledge of who He is?  What if those deep waters would lead you to trusting without limitation?  Would you still sing?  What if He would allow you to walk through deep waters in order to reveal Himself in a new way?  If you knew He would allow it, would you still follow?

 

Jessica Schneider is a writer who has a deep love for Christ and a desire to follow where He may lead. In hopes to encourage women in their walks with Christ, she began blogging on her site The Path I Follow. She has a passion for her readers to know that they are loved by a beautiful Creator. Jessica currently lives in Norwalk, CT with her husband Mike, and two children, Charlie and Olivia. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, walks at the beach, helping with women’s ministry at her church, and relaxing on her parent’s boat. You can learn more about Jessica and read her weekly blog posts by visiting her website or FaceBook page.

Faith, Love & Celibacy

We all want that special person, the person God has made just for us!

We also want to be prosperous and live our best lives being successful in every area! We want it all! In order to have all we desire in life we must live in a way that leads us to all God has for us.

Everyone’s life is different, we walk different paths to get to where we are supposed to be in our journeys. We learn lessons, we gain wisdom, we figure out what we truly want out of life, well most of us. There may be some people in the midst of figuring things out, where they are supposed to be, what they want to do and in what direction their life is headed. God is there is to lead and guide us along the way even when we choose a path that may not be good for us. When we look to Him He helps us to make good choices leading us to the life He designed just for us! When looking to God for guidance we must first have Faith!

Faith comes from God, this is not something we have to come up with ourselves.

God gives us Faith to help us believe what we cannot see. My faith started off very small, I had plans, things I wanted to do and most of the time I believed I could. Along the way a lot of my plans were not working out the way I planned so I made new plans. All along I was doing what I wanted and including God in some parts but not fully. Because of my plans I made a lot of mistakes, hooked up with some people who I probably shouldn’t have been hanging out with and learned some lessons the hard way. But even after all of that I had Faith that life had to be better, I knew there was more to life than what I had experienced. At this point I looked to God to include Him fully in every area of my life and not just some parts! I figured out after being hurt many times by so called friends, boyfriends and even family that I wanted to live the life God talked about in the Bible. The life He said He has already given us!

Seeming that I was at a turning point, holding on to past hurts and experiences God first taught me how to forgive. I am not just talking about saying “Sorry” or accepting someone’s apoli-lie! I mean really forgiving someone just like God forgives us! He wipes the slate clean, let’s go of the wrong we have done once we come to Him asking for forgiveness. This was a hard one for me, I am a strong believer in Karma and although I am not revengeful I couldn’t wait for those whom I felt had wronged me to “Get Theirs!” God showed me that forgiveness was not for the people who hurt me or treated me unfairly, it was for me! I was the one holding on to hurt and bad experiences. In order to live out the better life I had in mind, the life God designed just for me I had to forgive and let go!

Although I had learned to forgive, I closed myself off to people and my heart was hardened. God knew in order to live life His Way, Not My Way, His Way, I needed an open heart!

This is when God showed me what true Love is! The God kind of love is unlike any other Love I have ever thought I experienced in my life! It is everything you would look to a significant other for, a family member for or a friend for but end up disappointed time and time again. God’s love is enormous and unending! I now look at God’s love as a very special gift! God showed me before I experienced His love I never really knew what Love was and is! I am still overwhelmed when I think of how much God Loves me! He has proven His Love for me over and over again! Because of the Love God has shown me my heart changed and I now am able to receive things from Him that someone with a hardened heart would not be able to!  Love is an action and God taught me that!

Being guided by God through this transition I remember what it is was like to live my way and the difference of the life God was showing me He had for me! I remembered, starting in middle school when I was criticized for my looks and how that had somehow carried into my adulthood. I would be easily offended if someone said something about my size, my dark skin or worst of all the label “The Big Girl Who Can Dance” UGGGGHH!! I may not have said anything at the moment because at this point I was trying to change my flesh along with how God changed my heart but those things upset me.  God showed me my true self! Who I really am! Beautiful, Confident, Bold, Smart & Talented! If anyone said something different than what God said then I knew they were liars! Now I get compliments on the very things I was criticized for! I have even had encounters with jealousy because others wanted to look the same as I do! Who Knew!?! With this change in my heart, my characteristics and my life as a whole came self Love! I got to know the woman God created me to be and boy do I love her!!!

Once I got to know and really Love myself I begin to realize my worth and how much I had short changed myself over the years.

Dating & Relationships, I was always in one or doing the other but I would always end up alone. So after I had been hurt for the last time by someone who claimed they loved me, I decided to be Celibate! Woooooh Chill, Chill, that’s not a curse word, lol, maybe foreign but if you don’t know what that is Google it. I decided me giving my body to someone that I would not wind up with in the end was pointless. I was tired of getting hurt and being lied to just so someone else could get what they wanted! What about me? I want things too! I want a husband, my life partner, the man God made just for me! And in order to get to Him I have to be ready in all areas of my life! I have to be myself, knowing who I am and what Love really is! I cannot be caught up with another man  who is not my husband just to pass time and then as a result miss my husband! It has now been 5 years, yup that’s right 5 years and I must say I am on the right track! I do not regret for one second getting in partnership with God. He has and continues to increase my life in ways that I never imagined! He has and continues to protect my heart, so I do not fear being hurt! He has put me right where I am supposed to be at this appointed time! The people who are in my life are there for a reason!

No matter what the normal thing to do is, remember there is always something better! If it is within God’s plan then it is possible! Everything I have and am working for are coming to past! My hard times are minuscule and my success is great! God knows what He is doing! I trust Him to continue to help me along this wonderful journey! Stay Tuned! This is only the beginning!

XOXO
JB

Submitted by: Jessica Blount

31 years old single woman of God,Originally from Louisiana now located in Texas began blogging in 2014. Sharing my spiritual journey and life experiences, hoping to encourage others and help them see what living for God is! Promoting positivity and doing my best to be a good example in the earth! :)  http://faithtodivinelife.com

It's Going to Be OK

If I could tell you just one thing and have you really believe me, it would be this: “It’s going to be OK.”

 

Imagine what that would mean for your fears, your busyness, your perfectionism, your grief, your depression, and your anger. Imagine what it would mean in your daily life if you knew at the center of your being, in your very bones, that no matter what happened or what circumstances appeared to indicate, that things would really, truly be all right.

We know that kind of comfort sometimes as little children.

The first shock of our own red blood issuing from a brand new hole can be tamed by a parent’s calm reassurance that it’s going to be OK. Mom can mend the rip in your favorite shirt. Jimmy will get over the measles. Dorothy really will get back to Kansas. It’ll be OK. But somewhere before adolescence we learn that it isn’t always so. We learn that if we don’t fix it ourselves, it might not get fixed at all. The “C” stays on your report card. The broken window earns you a spanking. Your parents never do get back together. We learn that we live in a fallen world which can’t always be pounded into submission with a little more elbow grease and imagination. But we keep trying. Hence the fears, the busyness, the perfectionism, the grief, the depression, the anger.

Good news, friends. It’s going to be OK. It really is.

If you believe that God has spoken in the Bible, then you must believe this truth. Whatever has happened, whatever might happen, it all comes right in the end. It doesn’t matter whether you can see the solution for your particular tragedy; there is one, and your Father has it all in hand. A hundred years from now, you will see it, too, and you will laugh at your attempts to fix what God had already promised to redeem. Cry your tears and mop up the blood, but then crawl into your Father’s lap and know His gracious promise: it’s going to be OK. Our God ensures the end from the beginning, and because He does, we can live a life of confident hope. It’s going to be all right. It really is. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32-33) Encouraging Reading: Romans 8 Psalm 33 Psalm 139: 1-16 Rev. 21:1-5

Submitted by: Louise Holzhauer

Louise Holzhauer, M.A., LMHC, LMFT, is an experienced counselor, wife, mother and cancer survivor whose own story propelled her into counseling later in life. She is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary with Master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Counseling, she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Florida and is qualified to supervise interns in both fields. She currently works with two churches in the Orlando area and enjoys teaching women’s Bible studies, leading small groups, reading and babysitting her granddaughters. She blogs at dearchristiancounselor.com, and you can reach her at LHolzhauer@orangewood.org.

dearchristiancounselor.com

Searching for Significance

Wycliffe Bible Translators has released a new free, 7-day devotional, "Searching for Significance", and it is available to download here!

We’re all searching for something in life. Whether you want to call it significance, purpose, meaning or something else, there is an innate desire in each of us for our life to matter — to have significance and purpose.

We want to explore that desire with you from a biblical perspective and dive into God’s view of your worth. That’s why we created a seven-day devotional, “Searching for Significance.” Each day we’ll explore a different part of God’s perfect plan for your life, and how he ultimately wants you to find purpose and significance through bringing him glory.

Download the devotional here.

Written by: Annie Monson

Wycliffe Bible Translators is the largest scripture translation organization in the world, with a widespread mission network internationally and in the United States. They endeavor to have begun a translation of the Bible into every language by 2025 while fostering Christian community, providing educational material and fellowship resources.

Living Hope

The definition of hope interests me. It isn’t an expectation of something random to happen. It’s not a blind belief. It’s not even about a doubtful this-or-that outcome. Hope is an expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired! [1] Hope is looking forward to something we desire and long for, something good and believing that it will happen, despite how the current situation might look like.

What is our hope anyway?


Our hope is in God who will raise us from the dead. Our hope is in the life eternal. (Titus 1:2) Resurrection power might seem ridiculous to the world, it did in Paul’s time and sadly true even now.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Acts 26:6-8


Many people think heaven and hell are just fictional places. Because in order to be there we must be resurrected, just and unjust alike. (Acts 24:15) A judgement awaits us. Maybe they are too scared to face it, that they deny the reality of life after death.

God has a name called “Hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8) and “God of Hope” (Romans 15:13). How wonderful that His children can call Him by the name of Hope. He is our hope.

How did we obtain this hope?


Christian hope is a life knowing God and His faithfulness. Because we too were before “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) If we didn’t know God and what He is capable of doing, how He has been faithful in fulfilling His promises since the beginning, we too would be hopeless. God cannot lie and so His promise of eternal life will also come to fruition. (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) We obtained our hope when we put our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the key to our hope. Because Christ is our forerunner we look up to Him, filled with hope, that God who raised Him from the dead will fulfill the same promise in our lives.

What does hope look like?


Hope is looking forward to something in the future. So how does it pan out in this earthly life? Hope is worked out in our lives by patience, perseverance and remaining faithful to what we believe. Life is so full of challenges, miseries, trials and heartaches. But we press on, hoping that one day we will go to a place where there is no more tears! When sinful thoughts entice us and cause us to stumble, we look at Hope and we say no to sin. Because this sinful pleasure is temporary, our hope is eternal.

…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4


Hope is endurance (Rom 15:4), hope is continuing in the faith (Col 1:23), hope is patience (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Wow, the riches of His grace and the Hope of eternal life blows my mind. And the word of God that brings it all to us, incredible! Let’s remember these three elements as often as we can in a spirit of thankfulness.

Written by: Alice William

I enjoy learning from God’s word, it amazes me, the wisdom and treasures of God and the way He reveals them to me day after day in a profound manner. In this space I share with you what I’ve learnt through my time with the Word. I earnestly believe that learning alone isn’t sufficient but walking in the word is crucial in a believer’s life. As much as I desire to walk in the word, it’s not always easy. My hope is to encourage you, my dear friend, in your walk with God with words that He has used to strengthen my own walk with Him.  http://walkinginword.com

Rare, Yet Available

This is about the love that is all-inclusive and inexplicable.

So rare, none but you offer it; Yet available, whoever seeks it, finds it. Your invite is to all and sundry; The rich & poor, ‘rested’ & weary.

You call in love, not for a spree, But to give life that’s abundant and free. Oh such amazing grace! Extended to every tribe and race.

You, so high and holy Chose to love me a sinner so unworthy. In my stead you did the suffering, Giving yourself up as a fragrant offering.

No longer am I ridden with guilt, ‘Cos I’ve been stripped of my filth. What a glorious identity, Clothed with a new personality!

Thank you Jesus, for the love, You poured, by the Spirit, from heaven above. So rare, none can offer it; Yet available, everyone can seek and find it!

 

This love is made available to all through the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Find out how to experience it here.

Written By: Jenom Makama

Jenom Makama is a Son-worshipper, husband and father of two, blogger and avid reader, food and people enthusiast. I inspire people to be authentic by choosing truth, through my blog jenomm.com.

A Daring Request

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2

David had called out to God to vindicate him from his enemies. His reasoning was that he had trusted in God and never faltered in it. He then asked God to test him and examine his heart and mind.

When a person is working hard at trying to improve something, he may ask another person to examine it to determine if it better or not. Writers will often have an editor read through their book to search for any mistakes.

Many do not want anyone to look at it, for fear of being wrong or having too many mistakes in it. They do not want to be looked at as bad. Many fear the truth and know it in their hearts that what they are doing is not that good.

Believers tend to live their lives the same way. They live their lives one way at church and another way in the home or workplace. They fear if any other believer sees them as they really are, seeing the mistakes they make.

David made a very daring request for God to examine his heart and mind. God is the only one that can do that perfectly. God knows exactly every purpose of every action a person has done, and He knows every thought a person has had.

As a believer, you should be willing to dare to ask God to examine your heart and mind. Open yourself up honestly to God's inspection of your life, not just the outward actions, but the inside heart and mind. These are the things that no other person can see at all. In fact, often, it is hidden from the individual himself, the real hidden motives of his heart.

The daring part of asking God to do this, is knowing what God may find there. God knows that you have sinned against Him. There is nothing that you have done or thought that God is not fully aware of. Now it is opening yourself up to allowing God to show you what He finds.

God will examine you in love, not to destroy you or find fault with you, but to improve you. He wants you to be like Jesus. This can only be done if the inner heart and mind is examined and changed.

Are you willing to take the dare and ask God to examine your heart and mind?

I pray today that you will trust God's examination of your life; that you will allow God to change what is needed in your life; and that you will pass God's examination of your heart and mind as faithful to Him.

 

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom has been happily married for nearly 25 years, and has eight wonderful (all still at home) children. He loves Jesus and has been serving Him in many ways for many years. Active in teaching in the church and in a school, he desires to share some of what God has shown him over the years. His blog is primarily a devotional blog, but also includes book reviews and other things he has learned and wants to share. You may check his blog out at http://www.insightsfromtom.com .

Texting With God

?How cool would it be if we could actually just pull out our phone and text God? I always assumed that there would be no such thing as hardship if we can communicate with God on the spot. If every time something bad happened we could just ask for instant advice, wouldn't the bad go away? Jesus could communicate perfectly with God, though, and he still faced incredible hardship. I believe communication means a shoulder to go to and peace through whatever you're stumbling over. It doesn't mean the disappearance of every struggle.

In Mathew 27:51, just after Jesus was crucified, it says that: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." (NIV). Don't quote me on my biblical knowledge but this is my explanation: In the old testament, people had to enter a special place to communicate with God. They had to go through a curtain where they could then be in His presence. This verse explains that when Jesus was crucified, he tore that barrier that separated his people from him. Do you know why he did that? Simply because he wanted to text you back. He knew voices reached out to him and he cared.

So when you think about it, we actually can sort of text God. We can shoot up a question to the one who always listens. Sometimes it feels like you're texting that one friend that never replies but the truth is that God is always at his phone reading his texts. Jesus made that a possibility. Now, I'd be lying if I said I always remember that this is true. There's always going to be times when you're down so low and you're getting scraped up by the ground and you really don't think God is listening in. You think you got the wrong number. You think your signals too weak. What we think is trouble on God's end of the conversation is actually trouble on our end. It can be hard to understand when God is speaking to you, and everyone deals with that. I believe God speaks to each and every person in a unique way.

Another thing you have to watch for (and in my opinion, this is the hardest part) is who's texting. The devil wants to get in our minds and he wants to lead us astray. The devil never wants to help us. He can make us confused about our source of wisdom. You know when you get a text and you look at your phone but you just see a number; you have no idea who it is. Sometimes we look at a message given to us and can't tell whether it was from demons or Jesus. That's where the genius invention of caller I.D. comes in. John 10: 27 says "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (NIV). The important advice here about spiritual caller I.D. is that we need to be like sheep that wait for the voice of their shepherd. Sheep that won't listen to a thief or a liar. We need to learn to recognize the voice of God. That's when we are able to set up a contact in God's name. No one's perfect, though, so don't feel like the worst human around if sometimes you do find yourself listening in to the wrong voice. Just stop, take a step back, look at the bible and remember what you know about God and call out to him.

Okay, quick wrap up. Here's what I'm trying to get across. You can communicate with God and in fact, God loves to communicate with you. Jesus made that possible. Through any stumbling block in our path, we can still converse with our all-knowing father. The devil wants to confuse us but Jesus gives us a way to know it's him. If you feel God's number is pretty far down in your recent messages, go and give him a text. He'll jump for joy even higher than when you finally get that text from your crush. Yup, even more than that. ?

Written By: Everitt Born

I'm a Christian writer who enjoys writing short stories, poems and devotionals. I have a website called crEate where I publish this writing; dEvote is a part of that website specifically for devotionals. Check it out!

It's Just A Stage

Living the real life stages of our relationship with Christ. We have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. A beautiful, strong-willed 2-year-old daughter. Like most little ones, the word NO can send her off on a tangent of fits. You know, the laying on the floor kicking and screaming kind of fits. (Sometimes at our local grocery store) She has two older siblings so I know from experience that this stage in her life will pass, but when you're a mom trying to tame your toddler in a grocery store full of locals, it's undeniable that your face will turn red as you scramble out the door with the little one over your shoulder.

We have a 9-year-old daughter who is also beautiful. A bit over dramatic at times but we can't imagine life without her. She's at astage in life where she's just grasping all the consequences for her own actions and decisions. For instance, she often forgets her lunch at home. The first few times it happened I ran back home to get it for her but I told her I couldn't keep doing this. Now, the consequence? She has to eat whatever the school provides for their hot lunch program. (It's really not that bad, but most days she's not fond the of what they're serving) Not doing homework leads to bad grades, not picking up your iPod means losing it for a week, and so on. She's a sensitive soul so things like this impact her greatly but she's learning life lessons very quickly!

We have a 15-year-old son. He is a fine young man and makes me very proud. There is nothing greater than watching your kids grow into young men and women. He's very involved with youth group and is developing a very good relationship with God, this makes me delighted more than anything else. He's had many, many learning lessons in life. He's been through both of the fore mentioned stages in life, along with many others. Now when he makes a mistake he knows it. He knows when he shouldn't be watching an inappropriate YouTube video or movie. (Not that he never does, but he does recognize that it is wrong) Typically when he makes a mistake there's no need to explain what went wrong and usually he accepts responsibly for his actions almost immediately. Most times with his head hung in shame. It's hard to watch him make mistakes, but now, in his stage, I know that I need to let him make his mistakes and accept responsibility and maybe gently nudge him is the right direction.

We all go through stages. Just as children have many stages so do we have such stages in our relationship with Christ. I wonder how often He wants to throw us over His shoulder and carry us away when we throw a tantrum because we didn't get our way. Or if His heart breaks when He realizes that we "forgot our lunch" and he has to watch us suffer through a long day, or month, or year. Or if He feels a bit of pride when we are able to instantly own up to our mistakes and ask for forgiveness without hesitation. I think these stages, they can come and go in life, especially when we fall away from our relationship with Him. When we talk to Him less and get wrapped up in our earthly problems. When we try to shoulder our burdens on our own, we can easily revert back to the “toddler” stages.

"It's just a stage" they tell us as we're raising our babies but really, life is full of stages, not just of growing physically but of growing in our faith. Stages of our relationship with Christ. I can remember early days of faith when I had a difficult time understating what faith was all about. Before I saw him work in my life, before I really read scripture, before I gave him the glory for all the good that surrounds me. I am happy to say that the stage I'm in right now with God is one of comfort, of strong faith. I have seen Him work and I fully understand that everything I have is due to His undeniable mercy and grace. Not that there's never a hard time, not that I don't have days when I error (sometimes terribly), not that there aren't days when I'm discouraged, but even on the bad days, ultimately I know the good in my life outnumbers the bad by a landslide! Stages, oh the stages we go through.And through it all our Father never waivers in His desire to love and support us in spite of all our blunders.The perfect love of a Father.

Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration - what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.”

Written By: Nancy Stank

I am a wife and mother of three. Between working full time and being a full time mom I am faced with the constant need to find a balance. I find this balance when I reflect and immerse my self in my relationship with Christ. You can find me on the web at https://christianblog.com/e263

Better Than Food

I have not departed from the command of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. Job 23:12 (NIV)

 

As Job is going through a lot of suffering, he does not understand why it is happening. He is willing to state his case before God of his innocence of any wrong doing. In his heart, Job knows that he follows all of God's commands. He desires God's Word more than food.

Eating food is something most people like to do. Many will even eat much more than they need too, because they love eating the food so much.

Look at the many different restaurants that have all you can eat buffets. Those places are constantly filled with people stuffing themselves. There are restaurants that are now open twenty-four hours a day, because there is always someone ready to eat something around the clock.

What people desire to eat is different for each person. Some like junk food, such as chips and candy. Others love fast food. Others just like deserts. While others attempt to eat healthy meals, just a lot. The desire to eat is great.

While the need to eat food is important, the need to eat of God's Word is more important. Job knew the value of God's Word in his life. He desired to have His Word more than the food that is only here today and gone tomorrow.

Jesus told the disciples that His food is to do the will of the Father. The will of the Father (God) is doing what He says to do, following His Word.

Most believers do not even read the Bible at all, except on Sunday when in church. They do not study or memorize any verses from day-to-day. They do not have a hunger for God's Word. They do not treasure the greatest book in all of creation.

You need to ask God to give you a desire to know His Word and to apply it to your life. As you read the Bible more andmore, you will also learn to love it and desire it more and more. You will not want to go one day without feeding on His Word.

What do you treasure more?

Food?

Or God's Word?

I pray today that you will have a desire to know God's Word; that you will read the Bible daily; that you will apply God's Words to your life; and that you will be willing to forsake all else for knowing His Word for your life.

 

Written By: Tom Arn

Tom has been happily married for 24 years, and has been blessed with eight wonderful children. Over the years he has been a pastor, children's pastor, Sunday School teacher, and in many other areas of ministry in the church. He has a great love for God and wants to share some of the things he has learned. He has been writing a devotional blog at http://www.insightsfromtom.com for about three years. It is his heart's desire to see people draw closer to God as they learn more of His Word.

Give or Take

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

 

(Philippians 4:6 NIV)

This is a time of year when many of us take time to thank God for the blessings we have been given in our lives: family, relationships, our "stuff," and even our circumstances.  We also give thanks to God for being loving, caring, and for giving us a way to Him through Jesus.  These prayers of thanksgiving are important.  We also sometimes have prayers of request from God, or petitions.

I was recently getting ready to pray and bring my request to God, and I paused to reflect, "Am I a giver or taker?"    Do I come to God to thank Him and spend time with Him, or just when I need something?   In other words, when it comes God, am I primarily a "Giver or Taker?"  I know what God is; He is a giver all the way!

  • Giver of love
  • Giver of life
  • Giver of mercy
  • Giver of grace
  • Giver of peace
  • Giver of blessings

...just to name a few.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

(2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)

Do you like when people only come to you when they want something, but never reach out to you at any other time?  Probably not.  We need to respect God and giveto Him, forHim, and from Him to others.  He wants us to be givers!  He doesn't want this out of "reluctant compulsion," but out of a "cheerful" heart. God knows this will bless our lives and make them more the way He intended.

He wants us to give the things I listed above to others.  He wants us to give control of our life to Him.  He wants us to submit ownership of all of our "stuff" to His control.  He wants us to bring Him praise and thanksgiving, whether we "feel blessed" at the time, or not.  Be a giver.

Written By: Brian Goslee

Brian Goslee is the Founder and Executive Director of Changed Through Faith Ministries, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides resources and faith-infused experiences to help fathers and sons grow closer to God an each other.

For daily devotions and short videos to help grow your faith,click here for our free app.

Visit our website at changedthroughfaith.com for much more!

After Salvation: Struggles and Fires

Transition

 

after-salvation-struggles-and-fire

We are bathed in awe as we take our first breath. Our ears can hear at last, and our eyes are now open. We emerge into life as showers of joy surround our minds. We can hear the shouts of joy from the angles above as we pick up the scent of heaven.

It seems like nothing can destroy the first weeks of salvation. We feel like our journey is finally over. Pure and innocent, like smoking holy weed.

We soon realize that our problems don’t disappear. The haze fades away, and the liquid glory honey cloud becomes a distant memory amidst the returning train of reality.

A glimpse of heaven

Everyone who ever started something with enthusiasm and great joy knows the sloping feeling of the mundane creeping in again. We get used to new environments, new jobs, and new spouses.

The new and fresh doesn’t stay like that by the definitions of those words. We call it the honeymoon phase. Everything fades away, even the new-found joy of salvation.

It’s almost like God opens up a little window to us; a glimpse of a future yet to come. It is enough for us to experience him and make our first memories. It’s a rock that tells us ‘stuff is real.’

The pain of growing up

When I gave my life to the Lord, many challenges arose. All of a sudden, I couldn’t relate to my buddies anymore.

It was more than just their inability to understand why I wouldn’t drink and smoke anymore. Those are just behaviors one can ignore.

What got us was our sudden disagreement on core issues such as women, sex, love, and purpose. None of those things clash in young men until those values change.

Some reacted with anger and some with indifference but over time I grew apart from most of them. What do you do together if you don’t party and set the world on fire? Not a lot in those wild years.

I had my fallbacks and slips, bitter tears after long nights but my decision for the Lord hunted me when I was alone. I knew one could fall, but we can only walk towards one destiny. The course is set either way.

The doubts and the unknown

Everything I knew and valued started to disappear into obscurity. Friendship became hollow, and the gin and juice I used to love became a mere memory. I started asking myself how I should act as a follower of Christ?

I wanted something real. I experienced radical salvation out of a miserable lifestyle. I wanted to grow in being radical and the cost of giving up my pleasures was a great sacrifice for me. I needed people with a radical love for Christ, yet instead, I found a bunch of sissies playing games.

Most Christians had no idea how to handle a rough diamond. They are used to “perfect” people who hide their problems under the carpet. Keep’ on smiling until you die.

I didn’t know how to smile. So we didn’t get along. I ended up alone and frustrated, doubting my decisions and slipping time and time again.

The cracking of the wall

My defenses started to shake. Rejected by my old brothers and rejected by my new ones. With no place to go, I began to feel like I was doing things wrong.

I started to doubt my actions. I became self-conscious. Hiding my insecurities with pride and swagger didn’t work anymore. But that’s the only way I knew how to deal with my fears.

So I became defensive and moody. A shadow of my former self. No place to go and no place to hide. My anchors got challenged, and I had nothing left. The people who were supposed to catch me were too busy catching Benjamins.

Being reborn was not just a metaphor for me. Like a baby, I had to learn how to walk and talk. Everything was new for me, and it was the beginning of a long and painful process of healing and learning.

I learned that true Christianity is only for real warriors. What is commonly known as the church has nothing to do with faith. Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable; he came to give us salvation. And he was willing to pay the price.

The church today tries to control people into a particular kind of churchgoer. Always nice, always on the surface. Crack a joke, show up on Sunday and put a fish on your car.

That’s not the man I desired to be when I surrendered my life to my God. Jesus wasn’t like that. He whipped the moneychangers, battled the church of his time and didn’t care what anyone thought. A man’s man.

Father and mothers

A standard recommendation after salvation is to find a good church. I agree with that, but the problem is that one doesn’t know what a good church is. How can you, you’ve just been saved.

So how can we avoid the pain and frustrations with others?

I believe in commitments. Giving a commitment to a church is a big deal, something people tend to give to early.

Visiting a church two times doesn’t mean that you now belong to that church. You’re a visitor, checking things out. That’s fine.

Take your time in finding the right place. Check out everything that’s available in your area. Don’t give up looking and don’t settle for an online church. There are great resources out there (like here and here) but there is no replacement for interacting with people and building relationships. Chats can’t emulate that.

You need brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. You need a place where you can open up, and you trust the people around you. You can’t be alone because the devil attacks at night.

 

Once you’ve found a church, then commit. Become a part of it and attend even if you don’t feel like it. Pursue relationships with your local family, stay in the word and love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.

Written By: Michael Klim

Michael is no stranger to tears and pain. Growing up in Berlin as the son of refugees, hardening his heart seemed like the only way to survive the jungle.

Yet his God had a different plan. He stole his heart and put him on a journey towards wholeness and completion. He is married to Shalyn and has two gorgeous little girls. They make their homes in a small town in the midwest.

Michael blogs at heartandgrowth.com

Explain

How will you explain the guilt, The secret eyes behind a secret door The mirror where a stranger always lurks The darkness where a boy is always hiding

How will you explain the need, The tremor in your haunted, lonely heart The terror that at night your mind is fraying The flesh for which your body longs with groaning

How will you explain the drive, To make your life work here and now, forever To grab a piece of heaven in your hand And never have it leave your grasp again To stroke and squeeze, and fiercely consume it And feed the worm that on your soul is feasting

How will you explain the pull, To be in love no matter how destructive To live as if your heart no hurt is bearing To run from home as if no home you needed

How will you explain the passion, Which chains you like a beast at night so black The urge so shameful, like fire that consumes you And shackles you, a slave of secrets dark

How will you explain the shadow, That inside lurks, behind a door that`s bolted Old nameless fear, ancient dread unspoken It terrifies a child in grown man`s body

How will you explain the madness, Voracious crows your sanity devour They take away the last enduring grain And leave you in a room, cold, white and empty There in that silence, sleepless voice resounds Your ravaged mind it fills with utmost horror It whispers that no peace you`ll ever have, No hope and joy will ever spring within you

How will you explain the falsehood, The mask your face so firmly that is gripping The laughter when you feel just bitter tears The silence when you want to scream with terror

How will you explain the shame, That friend unwanted who holds you in the darkness Caressing face so gnarled with searing pain And with a black veil guilty eyes it cloaks ‘I`ll care for you’ with poisoned lips it whispers And so the young tree ever crooked grows

How will you explain the bitter anger, The shame embracing, evil lie believing Your excellent and perfect heart you stomped on Believing that it only death deserved…

How will you explain the sorrow, Your glory and the beauty wasn`t seen An ugly soul you thought your lot in life was A twisted face and blackened heart to bear Received as your fate from cruel gods How will you explain the question, ‘Why was I made thus?’ little boy once asked A question in the withered soul that echoed And no one heard that silent, raspy voice The answer from the unseen lips that slithered ‘That`s who you are,’ the shadow then proclaimed ‘And never in your life will you be loved!’ ‘You are dirty, bad and rotten deep inside,’ ‘And all who know you will forever curse you’

How will you explain the lies, The wicked voice that echoed in your ears Sharp, deadly words right in the heart that stabbed you And doomed you to a life of endless torment

How will you explain the creature dark, The hand unseen, your throat at night that`s gripping The sharp and hungry blade your heart that pierced, Your beauty, hopes and dreams it cut to pieces…

Since you were little is your soul so shattered And you, my child, have not had too much joy Confusion, hatred, bitterness consume you, And shameful pleasure is your only friend But look, your eyes move to the horizon, And take your mind outside the hell within you A world is there, that you my friend will see That needs you, and the glory that`s inside you

A heart that`s darkened, rotting, almost dead, Might not seem much to you or to the others But long before the darkness draped your world That heart was made for paradise and glory

And how will you explain the glory bright, That makes you wish for world that`s somehow better A world without death, pain, and broken hearts Those places from your youth without the sorrows

Why does your heart for such world always yearns Why do you long so for a life that`s better And why does that glory, buried deep inside Death is refusing with a bitter cry?

It is because, child, such good world is true Too good indeed, to not have been existing And there is One who came to look for you Down in the darkness, a Hero came to find you Red blood once flowed, staining the wooden cross A young brave heart that day ceased to beat A sacrifice was offered to Death A price was paid then, a captive was released

That captive is your dear, eternal heart And you, my friend, for freedom have been ransomed Each tear from you, there in the darkness shed Is precious for the One that came to seek you He cares for you, that heart is loved by Him And God forbid that He should ever lose you…

How will you explain the guilt, The secret eyes behind a secret door The mirror where a stranger always lurks The darkness where a boy is always hiding

How will you explain the need, The tremor in your haunted, lonely heart The terror that at night your mind is fraying The flesh for which your body longs with groaning

How will you explain the drive, To make your life work here and now, forever To grab a piece of heaven in your hand And never have it leave your grasp again To stroke and squeeze, and fiercely consume it And feed the worm that on your soul is feasting

How will you explain the pull, To be in love no matter how destructive To live as if your heart no hurt is bearing To run from home as if no home you needed

How will you explain the passion, Which chains you like a beast at night so black The urge so shameful, like fire that consumes you And shackles you, a slave of secrets dark

How will you explain the shadow, That inside lurks, behind a door that`s bolted Old nameless fear, ancient dread unspoken It terrifies a child in grown man`s body

How will you explain the madness, Voracious crows your sanity devour They take away the last enduring grain And leave you in a room, cold, white and empty There in that silence, sleepless voice resounds Your ravaged mind it fills with utmost horror It whispers that no peace you`ll ever have, No hope and joy will ever spring within you

How will you explain the falsehood, The mask your face so firmly that is gripping The laughter when you feel just bitter tears The silence when you want to scream with terror

How will you explain the shame, That friend unwanted who holds you in the darkness Caressing face so gnarled with searing pain And with a black veil guilty eyes it cloaks ‘I`ll care for you’ with poisoned lips it whispers And so the young tree ever crooked grows

How will you explain the bitter anger, The shame embracing, evil lie believing Your excellent and perfect heart you stomped on Believing that it only death deserved…

How will you explain the sorrow, Your glory and the beauty wasn`t seen An ugly soul you thought your lot in life was A twisted face and blackened heart to bear Received as your fate from cruel gods How will you explain the question, ‘Why was I made thus?’ little boy once asked A question in the withered soul that echoed And no one heard that silent, raspy voice The answer from the unseen lips that slithered ‘That`s who you are,’ the shadow then proclaimed ‘And never in your life will you be loved!’ ‘You are dirty, bad and rotten deep inside,’ ‘And all who know you will forever curse you’

How will you explain the lies, The wicked voice that echoed in your ears Sharp, deadly words right in the heart that stabbed you And doomed you to a life of endless torment

How will you explain the creature dark, The hand unseen, your throat at night that`s gripping The sharp and hungry blade your heart that pierced, Your beauty, hopes and dreams it cut to pieces…

Since you were little is your soul so shattered And you, my child, have not had too much joy Confusion, hatred, bitterness consume you, And shameful pleasure is your only friend But look, your eyes move to the horizon, And take your mind outside the hell within you A world is there, that you my friend will see That needs you, and the glory that`s inside you

A heart that's darkened, rotting, almost dead, Might not seem much to you or to the others But long before the darkness draped your world That heart was made for paradise and glory

And how will you explain the glory bright, That makes you wish for world that`s somehow better A world without death, pain, and broken hearts Those places from your youth without the sorrows

Why does your heart for such world always yearns Why do you long so for a life that's better And why does that glory, buried deep inside Death is refusing with a bitter cry?

It is because, child, such good world is true Too good indeed, to not have been existing And there is One who came to look for you Down in the darkness, a Hero came to find you Red blood once flowed, staining the wooden cross A young brave heart that day ceased to beat A sacrifice was offered to Death A price was paid then, a captive was released

That captive is your dear, eternal heart And you, my friend, for freedom have been ransomed Each tear from you, there in the darkness shed Is precious for the One that came to seek you He cares for you, that heart is loved by Him And God forbid that He should ever lose you…

Written By: George Stoimenov

Not long ago Isought life whenever I thought life was to be found - like all others, I too have a hungry heart. But there was only despair and darkness. Sad is the life without hope, but even that sadness is only felt by those who know their hunger. It was in Africa, where He chose to finally meet me, after years of torment. I wept as received the only embrace which I truly needed. The years that followed brought strife, tears, and pain, but that was needed, much needed, if my heart was to be restored. He gave me a sword, a new name, and brought my old, old desires back from the world of the dead. How could they be dead, child? They were in the heart of the infinite God. Yes, we must become like children, for it is children that we are...

Old, long-buried hopes arose within me as the quest advanced. In His love, He restored, and is still restoring my heart which, as any other heart in this wonderful and terrible world, had been hidden in darkness and despair.

I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness...

You can find me on the web at https://storytellingandmore.wordpress.com/

Code Words Aren't Just For Secret Agents

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 2 Peter:12

 

A few years ago, when we kept missing the school bus in the morning, I found a way to beat the system. I learned that Horseshoe Road was on our bus route, two streets after ours. As it literally is a horseshoe, I'd drive down the opposite end and pull up wherever I saw children still standing in their driveways waiting for the bus. Although my kids were embarrassed, our driver thought it was hysterical. She started referring to us as "Where's Waldo," because she never knew where we'd show up.

After multiple mornings of having to scream at my kids that we were running late, I shouted out the single word "Horseshoe!" It was amazing how just that one word caught their attention, got them to focus, and most importantly, got them to hustle. When we didn't miss the bus that morning, I knew I was on to something. I started to refer to my little trick as "Code Word Horseshoe," and I used it any time we were running late for anything.

Although I haven't used that code word in years, my oldest son Zack resurrected the code word concept recently when he was struggling with a writing assignment.

Despite the fact that Zack is a fairly good writer, he doesn't think he is. Consequently, he puts up a wall. And trust me, when Zack puts up a wall, it is solid, thick, and high. It takes A LOT of creative maneuvering on my part to break it down. When I do finally succeed, he always does a great job. But the process is painful and exhausting for the both of us.

As he sat at the counter the other day, with tears of frustration in his eyes, I had an inspiration. For the first time, I told him how I see the cycle unfolding: he builds a wall, I take it down, and suddenly he writes a great essay. It was amazing to see him finally understand his own pattern.

How he responded was hysterical. He said, "It's like Donald Trump - how he wants to build a wall between Mexico and us." Although the metaphor wasn't a perfect match, it helped Zack realize he was the one blocking his own ability to write. He went on to say, "How about the next time this happens, you just say 'Trump' and I'll know not to build a wall." "Code Word Trump" has been so successful, Zack even used it with his brother Mason when he was struggling with his writing assignment the following week.

Like our kids, we all struggle with our own issues, issues we've analyzed inside and out. Most times we can determine their root causes, and nine times out of ten, we also know the changes we need to make to resolve them. But with all that's on our plates, we just simply forget to work on them, to change our behavior. A single word that summarizes our issue can jog our memories. Unlike a lecture that hashes and rehashes, a code word is a simple reminder, and a call to action. Furthermore, it doesn't carry the emotion and judgement that make us defensive.

Jesus taught and retaught for three solid years through conversations, preaching and parables. I think He also used code words all the time. "Peace" is one of them. But I think the most important one was "love." It is at the core of every lesson He taught, and it applies to most every issue we have. If every person answered that call to action with love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self, there'd be world peace, and we'd be living Heaven on earth. I think that's why this code word is repeated so often throughout the entire Bible.

Saturday, as Mason was yelling something to me up the stairs, I asked him to "shhh." His sister Jocelyn was exhausted and was trying to take a nap. As usual, because I corrected him, Mason's entire being crumpled. Having lectured him a thousand times that me correcting one small error of his was not me saying he's a terrible person through and through, I decided it was time for a code word. I motioned him up the stairs and we discussed the options. We settled on "Code Word White Out:" when you make a mistake on a paper, you simply white out the small error; you don't toss the entire paper into the recycle bin.

It was like a light bulb went on in his head as he finally ingested what I've been telling him for years. Plus, he was so excited to have his own special code word, he walked away a happy boy. On my end, I felt relief thinking I won't have to repeat that lecture over and over again anymore.

That's how God must feel when we finally realize "love" is His code word: relief that we've ingested His message, and hope that we may finally take action in carrying it out.

Questions For Reflection:

  • What issues do my kids struggle with repeatedly?
  • What code words can I create for those issues to inspire my kids to take action, rather than feel reprimanded? 

 

Written By: Claire McGarry

Claire McGarry is a mom of three young children, and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry through which she offers evening retreats and monthly groups for moms, service projects for kids, and a weekly mommy-and-me program. She posts weekly at “Shifting My Perspective” where she writes about how Scripture always helps her to see the gifts in the midst of the challenges of motherhood and life in general. You can visit her blog at www.shiftingmyperspective.com.

To the Independent Man: You Are Not Christ

I’ve been human long enough to notice that if there’s one characteristic we have that usually creeps in unnoticed, that would be 

independence

 

Nothing’s wrong with the word, really. In a competitive society you’ve always been encouraged to strive, compete, excel, and work, else you’d fall behind the billions who’ve been trying to make through life longer than you’ve been. And that’s true. You don’t sit around waiting for the fish to flip from the water and land on your lap. That does not happen in real life (unless you’re going boating on a river teeming with ADHD fish waiting to be fired up).

Many too often we find ourselves forgetting the essence of the good news we have received about God’s kingdom (we are saved by grace). Even Paul was perplexed with the Galatians who seemed to have forgotten how they were saved, going back to the law to “add justification” through works – and it had only been less than a century since Jesus Christ’s ascension! It’s human nature, isn’t it?

No matter the situation, we are constantly driven by our proud nature to do something about something, make it work, etc. We take things into our own hands. Perhaps you get back at that guy who cut in line. Maybe you do the whole job yourself when your team doesn’t do anything. Maybe you jump on a job offer without waiting for consultation because it might be too late because it’s a crazy world out there. Or, maybe, when you get (or don’t get) caught in sin, you try to patch things up yourself.

But of course, you won’t admit it. You most likely won’t even notice it.

My head says I was saved by grace – by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross – but after deep thought I realized I don’t really practice what I say I knew. When I do a good deed, I feel more saved than I’ve been before. I feel closer to heaven the more I engage in service than when I haven’t. When I fail in the good deeds department or fall into sin, I don’t feel forgiven until I’ve done a greater good – more time in service, extended Bible studies, etc. And when the guilt makes it harder to believe God would not get tired of my apologies, I drift into a stagnant phase – not doing anything about it at all. Have you ever felt the same way?

Self-dependent reader, do not mistake joy in bearing fruits with salvation.

Peter, who was so sure he loved Jesus there was no way he’d deny Him, denied Jesus three times just as predicted! After Christ’s death, he went back to fishing, disheartened and discouraged at his denial and of the death of his Lord. This is normal; you’d probably run into this point a few times in your life. And that is fine. Just because you’re a Christian does not mean you would no longer disappoint God. This is no excuse to cling on to sin, however. In fact, this truth should motor us towards Jesus – in humility. For what are we but believers in our earth suits?

After Christ’s resurrection, He went to the disciples who were fishing all night and when John told Peter, “It is the Lord!” Peter wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped (threw himself) into the water. (John 21:7)

Imagine having denied your Lord and Friend three times after you swore you wouldn’t and He shows up in front of you, smiling – resurrected. Every time I read this portion of the passage I start tearing up, thinking how Peter must’ve felt when his Lord comes back after he denies their relationship. How he must have been so excited to fall to Christ’s feet. How he must have felt a little miserable inside, wondering what could happen next.

Peter was a leader, having leader-tendencies – leading, initiating, working with his hands, etc. But there really are things you could not do on your own. Peter’s own grace (or efforts) could not vindicate himself. Neither do yours.

You are not Christ. You could follow the thousands of religious rituals known to mankind and still be lost. Just because you feel better after doing something good does not mean you are forgiven through it. Grace is not earned. Why act like it is? Again, it goes unnoticed most of the time. After all, are not good deeds, well, good?

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Galatians 3:3

“Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Galatians 3:5

This strikes me hard and deep because my subconscious gets confused sometimes. Of course I knew good deeds are and should only be consequences of my faith and that’s what I tell people when I share the gospel. But the selfish in me still thinks there’s no such thing as free lunch; hence, it gets a little restless when not driven by effort.

“You mean, we can’t work for grace and mercy? Isn’t it too much to receive? What do we do?”

Isn’t that why we call it grace and mercy? Because no matter how much we try, our efforts could not afford the value of His Grace.But the good thing is this: the God we serve – the Great I AM – is good. He is full of grace and mercy – generous to those who seek His face.

Good deeds, fruits, are good, yes. But remember, independent reader, that they do not cause our righteousness. They are merely responses to it. The quantity of works does not add up to nor take away God’s love or your righteousness. One does not bear fruits apart from Christ.

It is a difficult battle with your sinful nature. It is tempting to think you had a share in this blessed life. It is tempting to think you are favored because you did good or because you spent more time serving or reading the Bible. But remember, independent reader, that there is nothing much better than depending on the Lord. His favors are at His disposal. His gift of salvation is not earned, and our efforts – big or small – could not discount its greatness.

Look to Him, my friend. Yes, look at Jesus. You are only a branch living off the living vine. You are not Christ.

 

Written By: Katherine CodasAine. Hand grasped by the Great I AM, she basks in love and mercy, and grace over grace.

On the trivial side, Aine has a recent weird attachment to green tea, and grainy films. Currently a freelance editor, she also writes regularly at Muted Rhapsodies.

Pointed in the Right Direction

Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to takeProverbs 3:6 NLT

Though I could see the tower from my front porch, its being near did me little good.

My wife and I were living in a small town in Lowcountry South Carolina. Like many others, we had decided not to forego a landline and use our cell phones only. The trouble was reception was terrible. Since I could see our provider’s tower idling less than one mile away, I couldn’t understand why I had to stand near a window or go outside for others to hear me clearly or to keep from dropping a call. Until I called to complain.

“I’ll put in a work order,” the customer service representative said as I explained my dilemma.

A few months later, I called back to find out the results. “Well, the satellites on the tower are pointed away from you,” I was told. “They always point them in the direction where the most people live.”

“Can’t you just send someone out to point them in my direction,” I queried.

She laughed and said, “It’s not that easy.”

At some point, I guess they did because reception improved. It reminded me of how important it is to have things—myself included, pointed in the right direction. The wisdom writer thought so also. Trusting in the Lord with all one’s heart and seeking His will in everything I do keeps me on the right path.

Being pointed in the right direction means I have to walk by faith where I use a sixth sense, rather than the five I normally use to interact with things and others. When I walk by faith, I proceed through disappointing times believing God will construct things for the better in the end. When I walk by faith, I face financial setbacks with the hope God will remain true to His Word and take care of my needs. Hitting relationship snags isn’t a problem either. I believe God will guide me through them as well by unkinking the kinks. Nor is needing daily guidance a problem for a future seeing God. I may not be able to research the answers I need, but the inner prompting of God’s Spirit will give me insight.

Point your life in the right direction, and be amazed by how straight your path will become.

Written By: Martin Wiles

Martin lives in Greenwood, SC, and is the founder of Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). He is an author, minister, and freelance editor. His most recent book, Grits & Grace & God, is available on Amazon. He serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and Assistant Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. His next book, Grits & Gumbo & Going to Church is scheduled for release in September 2016.

(Un)Apologetic Parenting

Recently I went to judge at a speech and debate tournament, and much to my surprise I found out that a little book that I made for the junior speakers when I directed a tournament several years before was still being used.  This was really my first attempt at writing and it was a little booklet of apologetic questions and answers that I made for the children aged 6-11 who were competing in the NCFCA-National Christian Forensics and Communications Association.

The NCFCA is a speech and debate league for homeschool students. They offer a speech category for apologetics, which is a fancy word for defending your faith. When my eldest son was in junior high and high school he spent all 6 years seeking answers to the 150 questions of the faith that were the questions that made up that event of the competition. Participating in this activity was really helpful in forming his world view, and seeking things out on his own. It gave him an opportunity to answer questions like explain the meaning and significance of sanctification, justification, and propitiation. Which are some really big words, and even bigger concepts for a 12 year old.

When I wrote this booklet my youngest son was in junior speech, and would be competing in Apologetics the following year. I really wanted him to start working on some of those difficult theological concepts, and I remembered how daunting tackling 150 questions of the faith were to a lot of the kids in the leauge. If you have ever heard the expression, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. Well, I don't know anyone who has ever eaten an elephant, but I thought it was a pretty good analogy for my youngest son, and the other kids his age, to begin exploring these questions of the faith. One bite or one concept at a time. And if they could start with 10 questions, then they could do 10 more, and another 10 and so on.

So I took 10 of the 150 questions, with at least one question from each of the five categories. So they could have exposure to each of the five categories.

  • EXISTENCE AND NATURE OF GOD
  • SCRIPTURES
  • THE NATURE, PURPOSE AND DESTINY OF MAN
  • SALVATION or HOW TO KNOW GOD
  • THE PERSON OF CHRIST

Armed with my ESV study bible in hand, I set out to explain concepts like the Omniscience and Omnipresence of God in simple basic terms, along with some key memory verses.

I believe it is important that my kids know what they believe, and why they believe it, because as old adage says, "If they don't stand for something, they will fall for anything." Also, as we learn from the warning in Collisions 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

Why is this important? Because according to the Barna group, "Parents and leaders have long been concerned about the faith development of the generation born between 1984 and 2002—and for good reason. First, Barna research shows nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life." That means that more then half of the kids that currently go to church are leaving the faith!

I think our kids have a better chance of staying in church and following Christ, if they know what they believe and why they believe it.It is our job and responsibility as parents to teach our children in the way they should go, but it is up to them to own their faith and walk it out.

My belief on this subject has been recently challenged, as my eldest son has decided to leave the church we attend as a family in search of his own church home. At first, I was a little hurt by this, because I love having my family all together digging into God's word, and worshipping with them. But then I realized this is exactly what I taught him to do. He is firmly grounded in what he believes and why he believes it, so he will not get swept away by empty deceit or human tradition. As a man, my son does have to make his own way, and he is the one who is responsible for his faith.

There is no fool proof plan or formula that parents can follow that will assure that their kids stay in the church or that they will follow Christ for that matter. However, the bible does give us a promise to cling to, in Proverbs 22:6, that if we teach our kids in the way they should go, that when they our old, they will not depart. It is however, our responsibility to teach our children to love God, to share our faith with them, to lead them by example by spending time in the word, and praying with them.

 

Written By: Misty Phillip

Misty Phillip and her husband Peter live in the suburbs just north of Houston, Texas with their three boys, Jacob, Connor, and Ian, where they are active members of Champion Forest Baptist Church. Misty left the corporate world over 15 years ago to homeschool her children, and thus began an adventure of a lifetime. Misty loves studying her bible, cooking healthy meals for her family, and creating a warm inviting home for friends and family. Misty is excited to share her years of experience as a Christian wife, mother, daughter, homeschooler, and friend. You can find Misty on the web at http://www.MistyPhillip.com

Remain Open In The Midst Of Your Activity

Today as you are active in the events before you understand in all these things I am also working on your heart and mind. Yes, I am working in, and through, circumstances to accomplish my will, my purposes, and my plans, but I am also working on you as an individual too. I am working to shape you, mold you, and perfect you. So understand, some of the things you are involved with are for the work that will be accomplished, and other things you are involved with are working on you.

There are mindsets and attitudes within you that will be revealed only as you encounter certain and specific events and circumstances. So I will work in these events to bring them to your awareness. I will coach you in these moments, and teach you as you encounter and experience what I’ve put before you. So be mindful in this moment, understanding you are in a good place. And though there are things in your life you would like to change in this present moment, understand you are in a good place, and I am with you every single minute.

Each experience you encounter will bring about its desired effect, in both your circumstances as well as your heart and mind, over the course of time. So embrace what is before you, knowing everything is working out for you ultimate gain and benefit. In the end, everything will work for your good, my Dear Ones, so do not run from obstacles or that which may be difficult or challenging.

Many of these challenges have been presented to you in order to help you grow. These challenges are the very thing you need, because they function as a catalyst to spark the change within you to improve you. So do not run from them, deny them, or reject them, but embrace and accept them for what they are – the catalyst for your improvement and growth.

In the midst of these challenges continue to keep your heart and ears and eyes open. For I am speaking to you. I am revealing things to you. I am teaching you. I am exposing and confronting mindsets and emotions within you through these challenges. So listen as you work. Take care to keep your ears open as you are busy, working in your daily tasks.

The daily tasks are good, but there is another dimension, another layer of understanding and activity you can interact with and learn from if you will be open to do so. If you remain open, I will speak, you will hear, and you will learn and grow.

Many of your questions will be answered as you open yourself to listen, to hear, to feel, and to receive. You will understand the nature of your questions, and you will understand, with perspective, the answers to what is perplexing you. So ask, and continue to ask, but also remain open. Remain open to listen, and hear my answers, as I speak to you through life events, circumstances, and especially through specific challenges you encounter.

Written By: neil vermillion

Neil Vermillion is a blogger offering a prophetic word for today each day on his blog and email newsletter.  He is also an intercessor, prophetic life coach, dream interpreter, and he really loves Jesus.

Who Moved the Fence?

Michael Yaconelli articulates this powerful story in his book, Messy Spirituality—God’s Annoying Love for Imperfect People. Chronicled during World War II, he recounts the actions of a group of soldiers and one old priest in the rural countryside of France:

“During an intense battle, one of the American soldiers was killed. His comrades did not want to leave his body on the battlefield and decided to give him a Christian burial. They remembered a church a few miles behind the front lines whose grounds included a small cemetery surrounded by a white fence. After receiving permission to take their friend’s body to the cemetery, they set out for the church arriving just before sunset.

“A priest, his bent-over back and frail body betraying his many years, responded to their knocking. His face, deeply wrinkled and tan, was the home to fierce eyes that flashed wisdom and passion. Our friend was killed in battle,’ they blurted out, ‘and we wanted to give him a church burial.’

“Apparently the priest understood what they were asking, although he spoke in very broken English. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but we can only bury those of the same faith here.’ Weary after many months of war, the soldiers simply turned to walk away. ‘But,’ the old priest called after them, ‘you can bury him outside the fence.’

“Cynical and exhausted, the soldiers dug a grave and buried their friend just outside the white fence. They finished after nightfall. They next morning, the entire unit was ordered to move on, and the group raced back to the little church for one final good-bye to their friend. When they arrived, they couldn’t find the gravesite. Tired and confused, they knocked on the door of the church. They asked the old priest if he knew where they had buried their friend. ‘It was dark last night and we were exhausted. We must have been disoriented.’

“A smile flashed across the old priest’s face. ‘After you left last night, I could not sleep, so I went outside early this morning and I moved the fence.’”

Isn’t that truly the power of God’s grace through Christ’s death and resurrection? Jesus through taking our sin upon himself on Calvary’s cross changed the rules of the game. Those who were at one time outside the fence now are included in God’s plan of salvation. The Apostle John in one of the most famous verses in all the world says it so eloquently, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showers on the world that would reject his love grace upon grace through his Son, Jesus Christ. Who moved the fence? Jesus did. Why did he move the fence? Because of his love for the world. How did move the fence? By taking on himself the sins of the entire world. And what does that mean for us? If we believe in him we will not perish but live life eternal reunited with the Creator. I am so glad he moved that fence and included me in his kingdom.

Written By: B. Keith Haney

Husband for 25 years. Father of six, and Mission catalyst helping plant new churches and congregations find shepherds in Northern Illinois. All the while serving an Awesome God. You can find him on the web at http://revheadpin.org/