Sunday, November 28, 2010

Announcement of Blog Merge

Dear Communicator Subscribers:

Since you’ve been a subscriber on the Crossroads Communicators blog site, you’ve received weekly articles written by your friends and neighbors sharing insight, humor, and inspiration in the struggles and victories of everyday Christian life.

Starting this Sunday, the Communicator Blog will change names. It will become the WOW blog. The WOW blog has been functioning as a “sister blog” following the Crossroads' Bible reading Schedule, but in 2011, it will follow no schedule other than the leading of the Holy Spirit as Communicator and WOW writers join efforts to share their hearts and their love for Christ in ways that will continue to encourage and inspire you with practical applications of God’s Word.

Please subscribe to the blog at Then you will receive a notice from the WOW blog asking you to confirm your subscription. Please confirm this notice so you will continue to receive devotions from your friends and neighbors. The Communicators blog will no longer be posting articles.

Thank you,

Tami Gilman, Communicators blog maintainer and

Gail Purath, WOW blog maintainer

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lessons from Reality TV by Jenn Fromke

OK, I admit it. I’m a reality TV junkie. Not proud. But since I’m familiar with so many of these shows, I decided to mine the soil and see if I could find a few gems hidden within.

The other day, I tried to wrap my brain around the concept that we are creatures of the King, placed in time temporarily. Yet what we do in time determines where we will spend eternity. So of course, my mind went immediately to the granddaddy of reality shows and one of my favorites: Survivor. The players are placed into a strange environment for a period of time under a specific set of rules. How they choose to behave and interact within the given set of rules determines if they will return to life as usual after the game or else win a prize that may change their life’s direction.

I think it’s very easy to forget that what you and I experience daily is temporary. We were actually created for eternity, and what we choose to acknowledge as truth during our “time in time,” determines where and how we experience eternity.

So how should we act during our “time in time?” I think a fine example can be found on the shows Project Runway and Top Chef. The competitors play for a prize, which will enable them to realize a dream: designing their own clothing line or opening their own restaurant. As they compete, they go all out. Those who don’t care, go home. Those with a passion pour their heart and soul into the work in order to win.

Sometimes competitors receive different materials or different ingredients to work with and it seems unfair. But they still do the best they can with what they’ve been given. I like this advice – you play the hand you’ve been dealt. We can’t live the life of the person who lives down the street. We live the life God gives us, and we “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Moving along through the TV guide, we come upon a newer addition to the reality TV slate. Undercover Boss. I love this show because the premise is that a top executive goes undercover to work side-by-side with employees on the front lines, at the lowest levels. When people don’t know they are talking to the boss, they will act very candidly and speak their minds with little pretense. The scripture that leaps to mind is this: “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Jesus asks us to treat those around us as if they were Him. Time and time again on the show, the workers will show mercy to the boss when he messes up, or make personal sacrifices for the company, and every time, the boss is moved to reward them for excellence. Do we pursue excellence every day as if Christ the King were working beside us?

Finally, we must take a look at Food Network’s Challenge. Every show is a contest between four pastry chefs to make the most spectacular cake. What I love about this show is the creativity mixed with skill required to win. Every chef is given the same theme and they always come up with vastly different cakes, which ultimately reflect who they are.

Jesus gives us a challenge too: to allow Him to make us into His image. But every child of God comes out different. We are all masterpieces in the hands of a skilled craftsman and God is making us into something beautiful, worth more than gold, and longer-lasting than spun sugar. And one more thing: The cakes have to taste good.

So don’t forget, God makes us beautiful on the inside first and that bleeds to the outside when He builds us into a stunning structure, which brings honor to Him, our master pastry chef. Kind of like an Extreme Makeover. But don’t get me started.

Please Note: Next week the Crossroads Communicators blog will be integrated with the Writing on the Word blog. Be sure to subscribe to to continue to receive new entries via email.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cyberspace and Grace by Jan Darnell

Recently in the grocery store I noticed several shoppers on cell phones with children in tow playing hand held video games. Ah, the age of technology! Wireless circuitry and electronic baby-sitters! Selecting a grocery cart, I headed straight for the aisle of pasta and spaghetti sauce. However, employees were stocking shelves on that aisle, merchandising and communicating quietly through headsets. Even though a hindrance to my dinner plans, I became captivated by the implementation of these electronic tools.

Children without interrupting their games were able to slip by the busy employees; moms pushing carts opted to change direction. I followed suit. Then the oddest thing happened. As if previously rehearsed, the children and their mothers reunited effortlessly and simultaneously in the very next aisle. Technology once again fascinated me. I wasn’t sure how this feat had been accomplished but convinced myself that an electronic gadget had to be responsible.

After the pasta aisle cleared and my shopping was completed, I proceeded to the checkout line. The man in front of me received a call on his cell phone to which he responded by planting his feet firmly where he stood. I was unfortunate enough to be in line behind him.

The attentive clerk signaled for the man to move forward. Then the clerk waited. I waited. People behind me transferred to a different line while I decided to remain and study the situation. “Is this evolution?” I thought. Man evolving to a higher order of intelligence? I recognized indifference but not the intelligence. The age of technology was suddenly losing its’ luster.

“Excuse me sir,” I said. “It’s your turn.” The clerk also motioned again for him to move forward yet he remained entrenched. I became irritated at his captivity because clearly, free thought had been lost…lost in cyberspace!

Then my short study reached a simple conclusion. Our grace space can be altered by the multi-faceted air waves of interpersonal communication. What do I mean by that? Our technological hearts can narrow to the size of wireless phone lines, reducing the greater space necessary to recognize and relate to others respectfully.

I picked out a candy bar from the assortment next to me. Then I selected a bottle of pop to wash down the candy bar. Something good was going to come from this.

Now, I’m not a psychologist, philosophic analyst, or doctor of systematic studies designed to benefit mankind. However, in my meager estimation, now emerging into an opinion, we need to segregate our electronic choices into appropriate fields of usage, exercising restraints that would keep people around us from being ignored. Especially in check-out lines at the grocery store!

Quite honestly, the grace space God meant for us to operate in as relational beings seems to be diminishing across the board in our daily lives. We were created in God’s image to be conduits of His cordial grace. When we lose the capacity to relate to one another gracefully and respectfully, then we no longer reflect our Creator as lights of His glory. Jesus reflected the image of God. Jesus was full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).

Finished with my snack, I tried a different approach, “Excuse me sir, can I have your phone number?” With that, I had his attention. He looked at me as if to say, “Where did you come from?” Then he stepped back finally so that I could proceed to the cashier. At that very moment, the store lost its’ electricity. The computers and registers went down. “Oh no,” the clerk declared. “It will take 20 minutes for the system to reboot!” I could feel my own grace space narrowing like a hardening of the arteries. I took spaghetti off the dinner menu, returned my groceries to their shelves and gave the clerk adequate cash for the candy and pop.

My grace space had been altered by cyberspace.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In the Hands of a Loving God by Christina Darnell

“For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Psalm 91:11-12

I shifted my weight on the seat, trying to ease the tension in my back. The trip from Florida back to North Carolina wasn’t long enough to be grueling, but it was close. It had been raining for the past hour, and the water was collecting in mud puddles on the side of the road. I pulled out my notebook, hoping to be productive while my husband, Daniel, drove.

I hadn’t been working for five minutes when I heard Daniel honking the horn yelling, “Dude, I’m right here.” My head jerked to the right where a semi-truck was merging into our lane. I didn’t have time to react before mud flew up from our tires as we swerved to regain control. As soon as the semi finished claiming the lane, it merged back to the right and sped off.

We were both breathing heavily, hearts racing, as he merged the car back onto the interstate. “Thank you, Lord,” he prayed under his breath. I was overcome by emotion. I felt anger toward with the stupid truck driver for being so careless with our lives, and then speeding off. I felt fear when I considered all the what-ifs. It wasn’t long before we drove by areas of the interstate with no median. What if the semi had run us off the road then? I felt insecurity when I realized we may have died if I had been the one driving instead of Daniel. How quickly my fleshly nature reacted in a situation of panic.

Then, like a breath of fresh air, I felt the Holy Spirit speak. Life may present a host of dangers, but in a situation where I was completely out of control; God had been completely in control. God had orchestrated our safety.

I quickly confessed my anger and fear to the Lord, and expressed gratefulness. I’ll remember that life will never give me control, but I am in the hands of a loving God who has complete control.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Knowing God by the Names of His Character by Emily Carter

Recently, a group of ladies have embarked on the incredible journey of Knowing God by Name. We are working through Mary Kassian’s Bible Study by the same title. So far, God has used it to draw us closer to Him. Week Two is focused in on His names of Character.

El Hakkadosh: Holy God

Rav-Chesed: Abounding in Love

Rachum Ve-Chanun: Merciful and Gracious

Emet Elohim Emet: Faithful and True

Higdil Tushiyyah: Excellent in Wisdom

God's characteristics are immeasurable. Just when we think we know something about Him, we learn something new. The other night, my family had just reading all about baby bears. When grizzlies are first born, they are blind, hairless, and about the size of a banana. They are completely dependent on their moms not only care for them, but also to teach them everything they need to know.

My daughter, in her five year old wisdom, proclaimed, “I know everything I need to know!”

I responded, “Really? Right now I can think of three things that you are still learning how to do.” Of course she was intrigued. I explained, “You are still learning to read large words, you are learning how to play basketball, and you are learning to spell things correctly.”

My husband then followed up with, “And we are always learning more about God.”

To which my son replied, “You already know everything you need to know about God.”

What a beautiful opportunity to explain God’s vastness. I then told Coleman and Grace, “You could read your Bible every day for the rest of your life, and on the day you died, you would still not know everything that it had to say about God. He is that big.” They looked at me in utter disbelief, but they understood the importance of studying God’s word. The next day, they did not complain once about learning their verses for Wednesday night’s Awana classes.

As I did the lesson for week two/day one from Knowing God by Name, once again I learned something new. Did you know that the only characteristic of God that is mentioned three times is His holiness? Isaiah 6:3 and Rev. 4:8 state that, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty." God's holiness permeates every other characteristic. The three fold repeat means that this is very, very, very important information. The thing that I had not known before was that one of the definitions of the word holy means illustrious, to radiate, or shine brightly. I knew that holy meant to be perfect and separate, but I had always thought of it being God's glory that shines brightly. Doesn't it make sense that both His holiness and His glory would radiate?

On day two, we talked about God's love for us. God's love for us is both committed and passionate. You cannot separate His love from who He is and it is only by His love that we can truly experience and give love.

God is also merciful and gracious and faithful and true. These four characteristics are described in Exodus 34:6-7 in a very powerful way. "And He (Yahweh) passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet, He does not leave the guilty unpunished He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." Make no mistake, dear one, the Lord is merciful and gracious. He spares us from what we deserve and He gifts us with good we could never earn. His faithfulness is wrapped up in His truth. You can depend on Him. No matter what dark time you are walking through, God can light your path and He will be your friend as you go on your way.

He can do all of this because He is Excellent in Wisdom. He has perfect knowledge over everything. He has knowledge over time: past, present, and future. He has knowledge over creation. He knows every detail about your life. You matter to Him. If you need some encouragement today, read Psalm 139:1-18 to know how special you are to Him.

God is so very in love with you! He is Holy, Holy, Holy! He is merciful, gracious, faithful, and true! He is Excellent in Wisdom and Knowledge. You can trust God because He is trustworthy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Angel With Strong Hands by Ann Wayne

Do you sometimes wonder if things happen by chance, or if God really sends people to help us in times of need? Do you believe in angels? In Psalm 91, the scriptures speak of finding refuge with the Lord. In verse 11, we read, “For He will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.” The story below is true. I hope that you will never again question whether or not God sends angels to help us.

One spring afternoon, my daughter-in-law, Denise, was driving home from a meeting and her car began to make a noise. She pulled over on the side of the road and called my son, Isaiah, to come and help her. After an assessment of the problem, he decided it was the alternator. So they jumped in his truck and drove to a parts store to purchase the needed parts and returned to the car on the side of the road.

Thirty or forty minutes went by. Denise tried to help Isaiah get the alternator belt on, but even together they did not have the strength to accomplish this task. So Denise began to pray for a man to stop who had strong hands to help. She said that within a minute or two, she heard a truck behind them. She couldn’t believe how quickly her prayer was answered. A man jumped out and offered tools, and water and asked, “Do you need a hand?” Wow! Exactly what she prayed for. Shortly, the two men were able to get the alternator belt on.

Denise said that at first she did not notice what the man had on, but then realized his shirt had the words, “Jesus - Luke 9:20.” She said that all of this happened so fast that she did not even say anything to Isaiah until that evening. When she came to my house that afternoon to pick up Emma Grace; she told me the story and we looked up the scripture.

Luke 9:20 reads, “But what about you”? (Peter) he (Jesus) asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I feel that this was definitely a God thing. That God sent this angel man to help them out. And not only that, but the scripture on his shirt will be a testimony to both Isaiah and Denise from this day forward. Young adults sometimes question their faith and how authentic God is. This angel man didn’t just show up. Denise prayed specifically for a man with strong hands. I believe that this man was sent straight from God. And the scripture was a testimony to both of them.

Have you had angels in your path? Did you recognize them and acknowledge God’s mighty hand on your life? Have you shared your experiences and testimony so that others will benefit from the power of prayer and the protection that God promises us if we will call on his name?

I love both of these examples. Why? Because I know the people involved and know that their stories are true. And I know God’s word is true. Jesus boldly confronted Peter and asked him, “Who do you say I am?”

Fellow writers…this is why we need to work diligently in writing our life experiences and sharing the gospel with others. We should ask ourselves, “Who do we say Christ is?” Well, if we believe He is the Christ of God, then we need to write about it and share our life experiences with others so they will see who Christ is in us and how God helps us through difficult issues.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Piece by Piece “HisStory” Unfolds by Gail Purath

God simply spoke and the world was formed
With a beautiful garden to welcome man
No waste, no pain, no sin or sorrow
Pure paradise just as God planned

But then the Serpent hissed his lies
And man chose death instead of life
One bite and sin was brought to earth
With pain and sorrow, sadness, strife

No more sweet walks and talks with Father
Man chose to walk away instead
But God still offered hope and love
One day He’d crush the serpent’s head

Sin’s ugly stain began to spread
As Cain’s anger shed his brother’s blood
Then man became so thoroughly evil
That the survival of goodness required a worldwide flood

But water could not cleanse men’s souls
God’s love they stubbornly refused
With pride they planned to build a tower
Until their language God confused

Now came the time for God to choose
A man who would a blessing be
Four promises for Abram’s heirs
His Seed would someday set men free

From Abraham through Isaac and Jacob
The Deliverer’s bloodline God maintained
Son Judah was the chosen tribe
But Joseph double honor gained

They moved to Egypt for God’s provision
But grew so great they proved a threat
Pharaoh despised these Promised People
Who did not have a land as yet

Then God sent Moses to the Pharaoh
Ten plagues, but still he answered “No!”
How hard the Pharaoh’s heart became
Before he let God’s people go

God’s breath then blew the Red Sea dry
And drowned Egyptian chariot rumble
He gave his people loving care
But all they did was gripe and grumble

In God’s own voice they heard His Ten Commands
Life principles to guide their way
But they would rather serve a cow
And to this idol bow and pray

Yet God still loved these stubborn people
And brought them to the Promised land
They had no reason to doubt or worry
They should have trusted in God’s plan

Twelve spies returned with mixed reports
“There’s giant warriors we can’t kill!”
“Not so!” cried Joshua and Caleb
“God said we’ll conquer, and we will!”

But fear replaced their sanity
They stubbornly maintained their grief
Again they pushed God’s love away
And lost the land through unbelief

When forty years came to an end
The next generation accepted the task
This time they let God fight for them
And took the Promised Land at last

But dark years of the Judges followed
“Right in their own eyes,” they chose to sin
God rescued them repeatedly
Repeatedly they sinned again

Then Samuel came and brought relief
He sought the LORD in everything
But still they didn’t want God’s rule
They longed to have an earthly King

King Saul had no respect for God
But David served with a repentant heart
Solomon lusted after pagan wives
Rehoboam’s pride split the kingdom apart

Eventually Israel turned completely from God
Years later Judah did the same
Israel was conquered and destroyed
Judah taken captive in Babylonian chains

But in God’s time King Cyrus took power
Wielding God’s justice through a Persian hand
He destroyed the Babylonian nation
And the Jews regained their Promised Land

History came and went thereafter
God always extending His loving grace
But man was bent on unbelief
Taking from God’s hand, but ignoring God’s face

Then all of history did converge
As Christ was born one starry night
God’s son became our loving servant
The only One able to set things right

When baptized and when tempted
Christ proved that he was qualified
The Incarnate Living Word of God
Exposed the Serpent’s deadly lies

Repentant throngs clung to Christ’s words
The Twelve lived with Him everyday
He healed the sick and raised the dead
But jealous leaders turned Him away

Then came the day it all was “finished”
The purpose Christ had come to serve
He paid a debt we could not pay
And took a death that we deserved

What hellish torture He bore for us
Nails tore his flesh, the sky turned black
His Father could not comfort Him
As He bore our sins upon His back

Yet still He cried in sweet forgiveness
“Dear Father, they know not what they do”
And when His task on earth was done
The temple curtain was rent in two

His death destroyed the Garden lie
It crushed the head of Satan and sin
Creating a path of hope and life
Securing redemption, He rose again

Can you believe this story…
God creating beauty
Man defiling it
God giving guidance
Man ignoring it
God speaking truth
Man preferring lies
God giving Laws
Man breaking them
God giving abundance
Man always wanting more

God offering love
Man doubting it
God offering love
Man mocking it
God offering love
Man refusing it
God offering love
Man crucifying it
God offering love…

Monday, September 20, 2010

True Love by JoAnn Lampe

A lifetime of lies
So cruel the taunts of children
“I don’t want her she can’t run.”
“She can’t throw or bat, and
She’s too fat.”

Awkward, oh so awkward
Too shy to look forward
Only backward
Seeing only the social “faux-pas”
Real and imagined
Like scarlet letters stamped upon my chest
Will I never find rest – have success?

Trying so hard to fit in place
Running down all the wrong paths trying to win the race
Love me! Accept me! I CAN be like you!
Watch me change to fit the place

Who will love me?
I want to know
Tired and weary
of making mistakes
My heart just can’t take another blow.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

“…the LORD your God…turned the curse
into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God
loves you.” (Deuteronomy 23:5)

“Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me.” (Psalm 66:20)

Lord you love me JUST AS I AM!
It doesn’t matter where I’ve been
Or what I’ve done.

The curses and lies you’ll turn in to blessings
So truly the “Names” can no longer hurt me
You are my “rock”, my Savior, my one true love
Jesus, the healer of broken hearts.

“…his love endures forever.” (1Chronicles 16:34)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mastering the Impossible by Brad Bridges

I was amazed. “How did he do it?” I thought. He had to have had some type of surgery. Maybe he was confused or simply embellishing. A change that dramatic in only twelve months was impossible. Or so I thought.

He struggled to say no. He struggled to reduce quantities. His friends encouraged his overconsumption. Some laughed. Some criticized. Some spoke behind his back. Others avoided the topic all together.

One friend spoke into his life, reminded him that he needed to change, and did so with the tone of a loving friend. He took it to heart. He changed his eating habits radically, exercised daily, and supplemented his diet wisely. He decided to master something that had mastered him.

For twelve months he worked hard. In twelve short months, he lost nearly one hundred pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. One-Hundred-Pounds. His blood pressure improved. His attitude changed. His energy levels were higher.

Today he’s a very healthy person and hopefully has many years ahead of him. He realized that if he didn’t begin making good decisions soon, he would essentially be allowing food to become the master over his life. He couldn’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24): God and food. Food would inevitably ruin his ministry, destroy his health, and end his ministry.

I’m not saying that obesity is caused by unfaithfulness to God. Many people are genetically predisposed to obesity and will always struggle for many reasons. But in his case, he realized and has told me that his being overweight was directly tied to a pattern of poor decision making.

We all have areas of our lives though, that feel impossible to change. Deep in our souls, we struggle with change. We perceive the pain of change as greater than the pain of staying the same. We essentially serve two masters. We claim to serve God but insist on satisfying our own personal desires.

We demand our rights at the expense of others. We attribute fault to others as an excuse for our anger. We avoid conflict to protect ourselves when dealing with conflict in a Christian was would bring honor to God. We insist on the American dream rather than facilitating the dreams of others.

What things in your life feel like they are impossible to change? What aspects of your life are counter-cultural? Do you stick out in a good way?

I believe that the root of my sin is an insistence on getting my way. Virtually every time I sin I can trace it back to self-centeredness, misguided views of self, or an attempt to serve two masters: myself and God.

Perhaps you too have areas or an area of your life that you think is impossible to change. Maybe you’ve tried many times in the past. Take a gamble today by deciding that you’ll no longer serve two masters. You’ll coordinate a strategy to master whatever has been mastering you. You’ll enlist the help of friends, family, your spouse, your kids, your grandchildren. You’ll honestly evaluate yourself and the need for change. You’ll setup and empower others to enforce accountability structures for you. You’ll master the impossible and put God in His proper place as your only master.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Favorite Place by Jenn Fromke

Do you have a favorite place? When I was a kid, I loved my backyard. We moved a couple times, so I remember a time in my teens when I decided to drive by one of the old houses. I couldn’t believe how small it looked, and unfriendly. As a six year old, it had seemed huge, and warm. And when I strained my neck to see into the back yard, I noticed my favorite old swing set had been removed, probably rusted out years ago. Big, bushy trees blocked the view over the fence toward the train tracks. Those poor people now had to sit at the kitchen table without being able to count the train cars as they passed because of some lousy, overgrown trees, for cryin’ out loud!

Needless to say, I felt empty and a little bit sad. I went back to visit my old place and found it had changed. It did not meet me half-way, so to speak.

Zechariah 1:3 says this: “’Return to Me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you.’” I read this a few weeks ago, and the New Testament came crashing into this Old Testament prophecy. The prodigal son returned home to his father, and “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son. . . .”

I cannot get enough of this picture in my mind. When we change our direction, heading back in the right direction, God meets us on our way. In the Old Testament, He told Israel to return to Him and promised He would return the favor.

So the empty feeling I had when I saw my old house, will never happen when I turn myself back toward my eternal home. Sometimes I’ve turned away from that home for a few minutes sometimes a few days . . . sometimes longer. But every time I turn my heart, my head, my whole self back toward my new home, my father throws open the door, comes running down the driveway and leads me to my favorite swing in the back yard (and there’s no rust on it, either).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ignorance Is Bliss by Tami Gilman

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
Hosea 4:6

I am still processing the information from a documentary I watched called “Food Inc.” It exposes disturbing facts regarding the food industry. There is corruption, deception and greed from corporations to various levels of government, which affect the food source for the United States and the world. I don’t believe the realization of chemically engineered or unhealthy food is a new concept, but choosing to ignore the knowledge of what we consume is irresponsible.

Let’s face it, ignorance is bliss. It really is because when you know the truth about something, you are responsible for what you do with that truth. And who wants to be responsible anyway?

Right now I have a choice to make. I now have knowledge of how food is processed, enhanced and altered to be appealing and affordable. What am I going to do with this information? Today, I am going hungry because I am so disturbed by this newfound knowledge. Tomorrow I intend to change my eating habits. I will also share this with my friends and it will be their choice as to what to do with it. I am not responsible for their choices and I will not force my opinions on them. What I am responsible for is sharing the knowledge I have and allowing them to respond or not.

Everyone is responsible for their own choices. Often, we make choices without considering the consequences of our actions. Honestly, I think most of us want to do what we want and expect grace in return. Then, we may get mad at God for not changing our circumstances. I have been guilty of this and I believe most people are to some extent. It’s easy to excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I didn’t know that” or “Nobody told me.” That way, you shift the blame off yourself. Who is “nobody” anyway?

I suspect many Christians don’t really dig in to reading the Bible because they are afraid of the truth. If we really knew what the Bible says, we would be responsible for applying it to our lives and be accountable for our actions. I am guilty of this too. I have even taken it one step further and not asked God specific questions about the direction of my life. I figure I’m not being rebellious by intentionally disobeying God because I’m not asking. That in itself is being intentionally rebellious and I am manipulating my relationship with Him. This is something I have to continually be aware of and change.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) applies to every area of our lives. If we don’t learn proper nutrition, we become unhealthy. If we think frivolous spending is our right, we become overwhelmed with debt. If we think spiritual warfare doesn’t exist, we can be physically, emotionally and spiritually destroyed and will look to a pill to correct it.

I believe the same can be said for salvation. For some people, it is not accepted for lack of knowledge, for others it’s a lack of obedience. Our responsibility as Christians is to speak biblical truth and live our lives in a way that models that truth. The rest is up to the individual and the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not be blissfully ignorant, but joyfully informed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life as a Process by Serena Haneline

Process: “A natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result.” Such is my life. Seems no matter how much I would love for things to just “happen,” more times than not, that’s not the way things work for me. I have to go through the long, tedious journey called the “process.”

I don’t know about you, but I am not too fond of pain. And to me, a process may be a “natural phenomenon,” but those “gradual changes” usually bring with them some form of pain. It’s hard even to submit to a process. Seems by our very nature, we are creatures wanting instant gratification.

Take the process of weight loss. Now it doesn’t take too long to pack on the extra pounds. Eat a few Mickey D cheeseburgers and you’ve gained at least 10 pounds somewhere in your middle regions – or lower. But losing those extra pounds (and for me it’s quite a few extra pounds), is not a sudden experience, however much I wish it were.

I resisted joining in on this process for most of my 34 years. Don’t know if I was secretly wishing I could lose the weight magically just like I put it on, or what. I suppose I finally realized that if I ever wish to be a thin person, I must submit to the dreaded “process.” So I have thus submitted and joined Weight Watchers, mingling with other like-minded people in their weight loss quest.

And believe it or not, it’s not quite as painful as I thought it would be. Yes, it definitely is a process. The weight comes off very slowly, but I am realizing that it’s going to be worth the wait. As I’ve united with others going through the same process, I am discovering things I need to change, like basically what I put into my mouth and do with my body. It’s not about dieting, but about making smarter choices. It’s not even so much about exercising, but moving more. And so goes my weight loss “process.”

Another process I’ve been going through most of my life is that of a spiritual nature. Now this area was one in which I definitely desired instant change. Who wouldn’t want the miraculous change found so many times in the New Testament? Like the instantaneous salvation that Paul experienced as he fell off his horse or the blind man who was “blind but now I see.”

No, mine has been more like Peter’s crazy process from a bumbling idiot to a bold man of God. I don’t know how many times I went to a Christian retreat or conference craving an instant spiritual enlightening and coming away immensely disappointed. I didn’t realize until recently that that was what I was doing. And it was an insane expectation.

Because I am also realizing that usually God doesn’t work like that. It is a rare instance when someone is changed suddenly and drastically. Those are the precious few. The majority of us have to suffer through the long process. That is what I am doing and it is a slow and tedious one.

And even though I am still not too fond of pain, I understand that with pain and suffering comes greater faith, which only makes me stronger. And with that pain also comes a great experience that I can share with someone else who suffers the same way.

Life has been and will always be, for me, a process. I believe that is the way God intended it to be. So if you’ve been expecting sudden changes, check your expectations at the front door. God is probably doing a process in your life. And if I were you, I would just submit to that process. It’s easier than wishing for instantaneous change.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Time Is It? by Kim Jackson

My father worked at an oil refinery, but sometimes I wonder if he aspired to be a philosopher. As a child I remember asking him, “Daddy, what time is it?” to which he would reply, “What time do you want it to be?”

“Daaaaddy! What time is it, really?”

“Kimmie, it’s later than it’s ever been.”


Those verbal volleys would continue until Dad would finally say, “4:15” which was sort of a letdown after all that word play.

But recently I was reminded of my Dad’s philosophy on time. Week before last, I went for a routine medical procedure. On Monday, much to my surprise, I received a call telling me that the test revealed something requiring a follow-up procedure. The earliest they could get me in was Thursday.

Isn’t it fascinating how time flies by in some situations, and crawls ever so slowly in others? Thursday finally arrived, just not as fast as some weeks. After checking in, I waited in the…..waiting room. Tick…tick…tick…. Next I waited in the dressing room. I looked at the clock on the wall: tick…tick…tick…

The procedure was repeated and I could see what had caused their concern. I agreed: I don’t think those two spots belong in my body.

The technician asked me to wait in the dressing room. The hands on the clock had moved several minutes since I’d last watched it, but the tune was the same: tick…tick…tick…

The door opened. “The doctor would like you to have an ultrasound.”

“Oh my….”

I followed her to the next room….and waited. Tick…tick….tick… The technician began her hunt. Why is it taking so long?

When she finished, she said, “Either I’ll come back and tell you what the doctor said, or he will come in and tell you himself. But you will know something before you leave.”

So I lay there…waiting. Tick…tick…tick…

My mind strayed. I may be really sick. What will happen? How bad is it? I tried to rein my thoughts back to reality. But my reality might be changing dramatically in the next few minutes.

The door opened. The technician and the doctor walked in. I was sure they had come to deliver bad news. If it’s going to take both of them to tell me what they discovered, I’m dead! I’m out of time!

The doctor asked a question that has to be one of the top five most ridiculous things to say to someone lying on her back next to an ultrasound machine.

“How are you today?”

“I think I’m fine…but I guess you would know better than I do.”

He paused, then smiled. “I agree…you are fine.”

Just like that. In those few seconds, with those simple words, everything was all right again. I have time left.

I looked at my watch as I walked out the door. The whole drama had taken less than an hour.

As I’ve been pondering that 52-minute scenario, I remembered the song: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Contrary to what the lyrics would lead you to believe, the answer is “yes.” Someone does know. But it’s none of us. It’s our Father.

“Father, what time is it?”

“Child, it’s later than it’s ever been.”

“I understand that more today than I did yesterday, Father. My times are in Your hands (Psalm 31:15). Will you please teach me to realize the brevity of life so that I may grow in wisdom? (Psalm 90:12). And Father, thank You for the precious gift of life.”


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Growing Older by Jan Darnell

“Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”
Robert Browning

Have you ever heard someone say, “I really enjoy growing older?” Probably not. Particularly disturbing are the wrinkles that furrow spontaneously overnight and body aches forecasting your retirement, or even worse, a forthcoming expiration date. And what about the escalating memory challenges, “Who am I again?” And the degenerative hearing, “What did you say?” These deficits speak merely to a few of the by-products of aging.

For instance, on several occasions, I realized that I was searching for my cell phone while talking on it. Another time, I attempted to turn a night light on while holding it my hand. After replacing the bulb, I moved the switch to ON, but the light remained OFF. God, in His mercy, sent an angel to suggest, “Try plugging it in.” Oh. I hope that only one angel was privy to that revelation.

Lately, I have begun to carry a note pad with me to keep from forgetting where I am supposed to be, when I am to be there and what I am expected to do. Of course, keeping up with the notes necessitates remembering where they are.

So, what does Robert Browning mean when he says, “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be”?

I don’t think Mr. Browning was talking about the wrinkles, arthritis, dementia and proliferation of notes beginning to clutter my desk. Neither do I think he had the senior discounts and free coffee in mind. By the way, I think that free coffee is intended to keep seniors awake behind the wheel. Not a bad idea.

Browning, however, might be referring to the simpler lifestyle that is consequential to aging. Life does have a way of streamlining as age increases. Yes, I would say there are definite advantages to juggling a handful of tasks rather than a plethora of schedules requiring complicated charts and timeline grids that highlight pending deadlines. Micromanaging gradually fades.

More opportunities then present themselves to notice God’s creation, such as the birds and butterflies, beautiful sunsets, and gentle breezes that reposition your hair while relaxing on the back porch. You become more aware and poised to thank God for life’s blessings, the beauty of simplicity and absence of stress. Sound good? It is.

Gardening now appeals to me: the orchestrating of flowers, seasonal colors and spreading of perennials across my yard. Like a painter balancing her canvas portrait, I have begun to add hardscapes that bring character to our vegetable and flower beds. We have an old farmer’s plow and water pump sitting by the vegetable garden and towering bird houses guarding the flowers.

Our friendly North Carolina birds also enjoy a brown ceramic birdbath to refresh themselves in when they come to dine. We have selected several feeders for them to choose from depending on the type of seed they prefer. It is sort of a bird paradise, a haven of rest.

We also have a scientific book that identifies these fascinating visitors. Our entire family enjoys viewing and recognizing them by names that no one attempts to pronounce. Recently, a black bird flew in, marked by bright yellow and red stripes on its wings. It appeared tropical to me at first, but our book of ornithological information identified it as the “red wing black bird,” (common name) a local species. I had hoped it was a rare exotic bird that heard about our bird paradise and flew across the ocean to become acquainted. I guess not.

We have identified many other birds, such as doves, house finches, yellow finches, Carolina finches, cardinals, sparrows and brown thrashers. The thrashers dig into the ground like they haven’t eaten for weeks, throwing pieces of mulch to the left and right until food is discovered. What a hilarious sight!

Now, I know that gardening, bird watching and relaxing may sound old and outdated. If so, then you are probably too young to relate, which is fine. Enjoy your youthfulness. Yet, regardless of how young you are, you are growing older every day. That is fine too. That’s the point. God is good. Life is good, regardless of our age.

But I think when Browning says, “Grow old with me. The best is yet to be,” he is referring to the things in life we ignore when we are young. They are discovered when growing older.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Satisfaction Found and Spreading by Emily Carter

From where do you draw your satisfaction? There are countless books and many self-proclaimed gurus who would love to help each of us achieve “true” satisfaction in life. Yet, there is only One who delivers. His name is Jesus.

It was hot that day, as it seemed to be everyday; still she waited until noon to go to the well and draw the water. Drawing water was one of her least favorite tasks to do. All of the women scowled at her. They would turn their noses up at her as if they were perfection themselves. She didn’t know it, but today would be different. Today she would be offered a chance to drink living water and be offered true and lasting satisfaction.

Read John 4:6-42 and see what Jesus offered. He wasn’t offering some kind of magic water that sparkled and bubbled. He was offering Himself, the true living water. He offers Himself to you today.

What is your struggle? What sin is plaguing you? What do you fill your life with in order to achieve a certain level of fulfillment? What has left you feeling even emptier than before?

The Rolling Stones got it right when they sang, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” On our own, we will just experience failure after failure, but when we drink from the Living Water, we will have our thirst quenched. Furthermore, we will be a vessel that God uses to impact more people. John 4:39-41 says, “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I ever did.’” They urged Him to stay and “because of His words, many more became believers.”

If you are a believer, what is your testimony? Take time today and write it out. Your testimony is most simply, a declaration of what Christ has done in your life. You may want to share a little of your life before Christ, then how He came into your heart and life. Finally, you can share what He has been doing in and through you since He has been your Lord. The important part is to share what He has done, and not just what you have done. Christ is the one with the power to save, change, and satisfy. How does He want to use your story? Pray and He will show you what to do.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are You Planting Perennials? by Ann Wayne

I really enjoy my flowers on the back deck and my ferns on the front porch. They bring life to my outdoor surroundings from spring until fall. The flowers and leaf variations add color to my home. Since I love to decorate; mixing and matching flowers and leaf variations allow me to beautify the outside like the inside of my home. My creative juices flow when I place the flowers in the soil and coordinate the colors.

One morning, as I was watering the plants, it occurred to me that the perennials and the annuals are quite different. The perennials are permanent; they come back each year showing their vibrant colors and beautiful foliage. The annuals require planting each year, only to die out when cool weather arrives.

The perennials remind me of God’s Word. After they are planted, their root system develops a strong foundation for the plants to come back each spring. Isn’t this like God’s Word? If we spend time reading the Bible and memorizing scripture, it is embedded in our minds and hearts so that we can recall the passages that are needed in times of joy and in trials. Not only for ourselves, but to encourage others who are suffering and experiencing adversity.

The prophet, Jeremiah, had reached a point of desperation after the fall of Jerusalem. He spoke of the anguish that the people had gone through. Then he recalls God’s faithfulness. In Lamentations 3: 22-24, Jeremiah states, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

This passage of scripture in Lamentations inspired Thomas Chisolm, in 1923, to birth one of the greatest modern hymns regarding the faithfulness of God.  In stanza one, he writes of God's unchanging character and unfailing compassions.  In stanza two, he writes of God's faithfulness in maintaining the order of His universe.  In stanza three, he writes of God's faithfulness in forgiving our sins, providing strength for today and hope for tomorrow.  Each stanza leads to the great culminating chorus that declares the victorious words of Jeremiah, "Great is Thy faithfulness."

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin And a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, With ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

We can see this in Isaiah 55:11 too. We are reminded of the power of the Word. The Lord says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (NKJV) When we recall the Word of God and share it with someone, it does not return void. It stands firm and cuts through anything we face. His Word restores life to His people just as the rain brings life to the flowers and plants.

As you enjoy your flowers this year, take a few moments to think about the perennials and God’s Word. They both bring beauty and life to us and return blessings to us. May the perennials be a reminder of God’s goodness and how steadfast His Word is. Are we spending time in the scriptures so that we can recall God’s faithfulness? ARE WE PLANTING PERENNIALS IN LIVES? If so, they will come back to bless us over and over again!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thanks for the Happiness by Brad Bridges

“Thanks for the happiness.” As I walked by, the sign caught my attention. What made this person happy? Who were they thanking? Seriously, it’s a little odd to hang a sign outside your house anyway.

Then I realized they were referring to the World Cup. This month the World Cup ended. It’s pretty much the biggest sporting event in the world outside of America. Millions of people stop virtually everything they’re doing to watch their team, if not all the games. This year, an unprecedented number of us Americans watched the games.

These people (with the sign) were thanking the players for making them happy. They bought fabric, painted a sign, hung it outside, and left it for days. Why? To say thank you for this new feeling of happiness they had.

Ever done that? Ever found yourself pumped up because of a team? I have. Sometimes I feel proud (as if I had anything to do with the win). It feels awesome to win. It means someone else lost. Ahhhh. Wait! That’s no good. Who wants to celebrate the demise of others.

Many times, when we win, we celebrate because it makes us feel like winners. We get so captivated by the event, by the feeling, by the joy, by the change in status. I wonder how much of it is about the sport itself and how much is about the heart. Let me explain.

When our temperament changes drastically due to a game, we legitimately are excited. Thrilled. Elated. But I find an emptiness after winning when the joy has worn off. I find an emptiness every time I lose. Why is that?

Personally, I put too much of my emotions, hopes, and thoughts into sports events. As a Tar Heel fan, I occasionally want to vomit after the Heels lose to Duke. I feel embarrassed, ashamed, and want to hide. In a sense, if I’m not careful, I can find my identity in sports.

Sports bring joy to my life. Sports also bring pain and emptiness. After the Heels, the Panthers, or some other team loses or wins, I need to be careful. When they win, I think I’m something special because I was pulling for them. When they lose, I feel like I personally just lost.

I’ll always watch sports and play every sport possible. What I want to avoid though, is the feeling of finding my identity in the sports I play. I don’t want to act out my own emotional issues on the field or through others.

Sports, like vacations, movies, and so many other things, allow us to escape the monotony of day-to-day life and work. Rest and relaxation helps us. Self medicating or placing hope in temporary things does not.

The next time you watch a sporting event or a movie, buy a new outfit, or get excited about a new car, stop and ask yourself a few questions:

What is it that I find so fulfilling about this event, thing, or experience?

Am I getting my satisfaction from inappropriate things?

When was the last time my time with God gave me joy like this? Pain like this?

May I (and you) define our experiences in ways that direct appropriate gratitude to the source of them. Let’s aim to enjoy various activities in life, but to not source our identity in them. It’s possible that the person whose sign said, “Thanks for the happiness,” was simply saying thank you to the players for the great games. However, they may have been living vicariously through their team, receiving their satisfaction and joy from life’s events rather than from their Creator. We’ll never know.

Let’s be people whose lives reflect a contentment in what God has given us and taken away. True happiness only comes in contentment with God and His actions in, through, and around us. Let’s aim to make our lives virtual signs pointing to God that say, “Thanks for the happiness.”

Brad, Lindsey and Shiloh Bridges recently moved to Uruguay to serve as Cross Cultural Servants in preparation for long term service in Spain with CAM International.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Philippians Flip by Tammy Blackburn

I have always been fascinated with different forms of art and how it has evolved through the generations. I especially enjoy paintings because you get a glimpse into the viewpoint and imagination of the artist. Nearly every painting tells a tale of what the artist valued or disliked. Paintings capture emotion and can tell the tale of what lies deep within a person. Different colors and different types of strokes can speak volumes about the artist’s frame of mind. Recently, I was intrigued by one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings. It was actually the last one he ever painted. It is titled “The Wheat Field.”

Van Gogh interpreted this painting for us. He told a family member the crows in the painting represent a sign of foreboding and death. The three paths leading into the field show the indecision we face in life. Even if we could decide which path to take, they are cut-off and end abruptly. The darkness of the skies indicates a storm coming in to destroy the field and any life that remains. Van Gogh painted this picture in July of 1890, and in the same month went out into the field and shot himself in the chest. He died three days later.

Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (NIV)

I have to wonder, if Van Gogh had applied this principle to his life that July, would he have interpreted the painting the same way? Would he have gone out into the field and ended his life in such fashion? Perhaps the crows could have been a reminder of the glorious handiwork of God. They are magnificent creatures that have the ability to soar on the wind. Their black feathers shimmer with a rainbow of colors as the light dances around them. Instead of indecision, the paths could be viewed as opportunities to experience something new. The clouds that seem dark and threatening in the painting need not be a threat. Rather, they could be seen as God’s provision of rain for the golden crop growing in the field. They are not meant to destroy life, but to bring life.

We face many situations in life every day and we must choose whether to see them as something negative or something positive. I am dismayed at how many times I hear people attribute a circumstance to Satan. “Satan must be attacking; I had a flat tire this morning.” “Satan is fighting to keep me down; so many bad things have happened lately.” Why give Satan so much credit?! He is not omnipotent. He is not omnipresent! Certainly he attacks, but what better way to resist him than to find the good in what is happening?

I like to call it the Philippians flip. Whenever I am faced with a situation, I can choose to find all that is bad about it, or I can look on the flip side. What is truth? God is in control. He has good things planned for me. What is noble and right? Because the Holy Spirit dwells within me, I have the ability to respond with a smile, with kindness, with humility, with patience, and so on. I can focus on all that is wrong or I can focus on what God is doing in the moment. Do I look at a crow and see a predator and scavenger, or do I see the intricate design of his feathers? Can I be amazed and stand in awe that my Creator God made such an animal to keep His world clean? Every circumstance is an opportunity to see God at work. Every situation is an opportunity for growth. But, it is our responsibility to dwell on things that are true and good. Look for the flip-side!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Searching for Silver by Kendra Cervantes

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

A bright Saturday morning. The car was packed with water and snacks as we drove up the dusty Mexican road to the city of Taxco, south of Mexico City. I sat in the back seat of the van, my pride hurt from being told by a missionary, whom I didn’t know that well, that my friend and I were not allowed to go to Acapulco on our two-day break from teaching English. It was too dangerous for us to go by ourselves and he didn’t want to take us. As the car putted along, I remember thinking, Lord, I just wanted the experience. I just wanted to say,

“Yea, I went to Acapulco during Spring Break.”

As we approached the city, my face was probably green from carsickness, my feet swollen from being slightly dehydrated, and my eyes sad from not getting what I wanted. I sought after that trip to Acapulco and tried everything I could to go, but that experience wasn’t what the Lord had for me. As the mountains began to break, a city set into the side of the mountains began to appear. Buildings whiter than snow, I felt like I was in heaven, literally. The sun beat down on the cobble stone roads, and the rooftops twinkled like diamonds. For the next several hours, the goal (according to the missionary) was to spend the day understanding each other more and relaxing. Well, since I was here, I might as well make the best out of it for myself and make up for lost souvenir-buying time I would have had in Acapulco.

I was going to find something that I wanted to buy, so I set my heart on a silver pendant of the Aztec calendar. A friend of mine had one and I liked the way it looked, so I decided I wanted something to remind me of the culture and people AND, more importantly, to show off to my friends. I spent the entire day searching for this necklace. The city had to have one somewhere, after all, it is called “The Silver City.” Store after store the venders would shake their heads and say, “Sorry, we don’t have those.” The day was coming to an end and we needed to leave before the sun set. I said, “One more store! Please!” as I went running up some stairs to another jewelry shop.

Finally! I found it! In a store set back on a side street, the necklace I had been looking for all day! Look everyone! But at what cost? I spent the day worried about finding a piece of jewelry to show off, rather than spending that time getting to know my friends and the missionary more. I wanted the chance to say, “I bought this in Mexico.” I was looking for an experience—a future experience at that—and not to understand anyone more. I lacked wisdom in knowing how to prioritize my desire for an “experience” over understanding, over people, over whatever else the Lord had for me to learn.

One thing that the Lord has taught me through all of my journeys is to seek Him and not the experience. To seek to know Him more. To seek to understand Him more.

“…if you seek it [it being UNDERSTANDING, WISDOM, KNOWING GOD] like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:4-5)

Holy Cow! Like a ton of bricks on my face!

I started thinking, “Have I sought after the Lord, His words, and His commandments the way I sought after this piece of jewelry?” Do I have a heart inclined to seek wisdom, or am I aimlessly looking for the chance to brag about my traveling experiences or the things I have?

“If you seek it like silver…”

Seeking the Lord like silver isn’t easy for anyone. It is much easier to ignore the task of seeking for the Lord than to have a reckoning with yourself, and with your motives. To put what you want out of your experiences over what the Lord wanted to teach you through them.

Now I wear this necklace as a reminder to myself of my time in Taxco, but more importantly of my priorities. My challenge to you is the same as to myself: seek the Lord and not just the experience.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Kendra Cervantes, from Aurora, IL.  She graduated from the Moody Bible Institute with a Bachelors of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) and Bible. Before Moody, she was exposed to overseas missions trips and knew that the Lord was calling her to serve Him in another country. Through a series of divine appointments, Kendra joined CAM International in Dallas, TX. After support raising for 1 1/2yrs, she departed for Montevideo, Uruguay on June 16th, 2010 where she will serve on a church planting team. Kendra will spend the next two years being trained and mentored under veteran missionaries. Her heart's desire is to serve long term in Spain, mobilizing Latinos in the less reached areas of the world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Are You Saying? by Tami Gilman

When my husband and I were building our home, we needed a subcontractor for drywall and paint. The gentleman who was hired for the job had a Jesus fish on his business card and spoke of his strong faith. He seemed to be an honest upstanding man just trying to make a living. I will call him Steve. Every time we saw him, Steve was quoting scriptures. The crew that completed the drywall did a good job so we felt comfortable letting him paint the interior of the home as well. Our exterior doors were wood grain fiberglass which were to be stained and I heard my husband explain to Steve that we would stain them ourselves.

My husband, Kevin was in Kenya when I stopped by the house to check the progress. Much to my surprise, the doors were painted in a high gloss oil based white paint. I immediately called Steve to ask why and he told me the doors were to be painted white. The interior doors were to be white, not all doors. Clearly there was a miscommunication that I could not verify being that Kevin was unreachable. I explained that the wood grain doors were to be stained and asked him to have his crew strip the paint from the doors before it cured. It didn’t occur to me he wouldn’t.

After a few days, I returned to check on the house the doors were as white and shiny as before. I called Steve again to ask about the doors and he claimed they tried to strip them, but there was no evidence to show even a subtle attempt.

I waited until Kevin returned from Kenya because clearly Steve was not responding to my requests and now he was lying. Kevin spoke with him about the conversation they had about how we would be staining the wood grain doors. He asked Steve to have his crew strip the paint. Again he didn’t.

Aggravated, I started to remove the paint myself. Steve showed up at the house one night while I was doing my best to get the paint off the door and his solution to the problem was to start quoting scripture. I recall him saying, “Well the Bible says that all things work to the good of the Lord”. At that point I think I could have easily killed him with my bare hands. Not literally, but his Jesus fish and scriptures were not offering a solution to the situation at hand. The paint had cured and it took me 2 weeks to remove it completely.

This is a cautionary tale to illustrate that there is a time and a place to quote scripture. Using his reference as an excuse to not right a wrong is not appropriate. Luckily for me I was already a Christian because I can easily see how I would not be interested in serving the same God he did. I believe we can often do more harm than good when we say one thing but do another. It speaks of our character. We are all certainly responsible for our own relationship with God and shouldn’t allow others to affect it, however for a non believer what is their motivation to have a relationship with God? If the Christians are conducting business in a way that is questionable and constantly professing their “faith”, what is the incentive to learn more about Jesus Christ? They can lie, deceive and behave how they want without the bother of developing a relationship with God.

In the workplace, school and the community, Christians are watched by non believers and even other Christians. What are they seeing and hearing from us?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can a Simple Misunderstanding Keep You From Heaven? by Gail Purath

“My mother is free from sin!” the woman said angrily. She wanted these strangers to leave the hospital room so her eighty-two year old mother could die in peace.

Two of my friends and I were the unwanted strangers. We were in the hospital that day praying for people, and this woman had invited us to pray for her sick mother.

After praying, we visited with the old woman for a while and I had an opportunity to share the Gospel. When I told her that all of us are sinners in need of Christ’s salvation, she acknowledged her sin and said she’d like to pray to receive Christ.

That’s when her daughter interrupted me, insisting her mother was free from sin.

I was surprised by the daughter’s outburst, and I wondered what her mother would do. Would she change her mind? Would she ask us to leave her room? The next few seconds ticked by painfully slow.

In a culture that so often blames parents for more than their share of problems, this daughter’s view of her mother was unique. But the Bible tells us that no one is free from sin “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Maybe what the daughter was trying to say was that her mother had lived an unselfish life, serving and helping others. Perhaps she thought her mother’s goodness had cancelled her sins. But the Bible says that “salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it” (Eph. 2:9, NLT). A lifetime of unselfish acts can’t cancel a single sin.

Perhaps this old woman’s daughter thought her mother was sinless because she had always been “religious.” The Pharisees were some of the most religious people who ever lived. They carefully tithed, fasted, gave to the poor, prayed, and participated in every religious activity. Yet, Christ said “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Religion doesn’t cancel any of our sins, and neither does knowledge. This old woman might have heard the Gospel many times. She may have known that whoever believes in Christ and His redemption has eternal life. But that wouldn’t have saved her. The Bible says that salvation comes through believing with our hearts (Romans 10:10), not simply knowing about Christ.

As I stood at this woman’s bedside, I remembered my own past misunderstandings about the Gospel. I had grown up hearing the Gospel and trying to be “good.” I even made a public profession of my faith in Christ and was baptized. But I wasn’t a genuine believer.

We use so many religious phrases to describe becoming a Christian—“committing our lives to Christ,” “asking Christ into our hearts,” “receiving Christ.” But we still may not understand that becoming a Christian means trusting Christ not only with our salvation, but trusting Him with our life. Becoming a Christian is life-changing and mind-altering, and it’s the beginning of an eternal journey.

When I finally committed my life to Christ, everything began to change. I had a hunger for God’s Word and the Holy Spirit began to convict me of sin.

Sometimes my relationship with Christ has led me to do things that make me uncomfortable. For example, I was nervous and fearful about sharing Christ with this complete stranger in her hospital room. When the woman’s daughter became annoyed, I was even more uncomfortable. I would have liked to be anywhere else at that moment.

But I knew what we were doing was important. This woman was very likely dying and she would go to hell if she didn’t trust Christ. I’m sure God (who wants all men to be saved*) had designed this final divine appointment for her.

What would she decide? My companions and I prayed silently as the seconds ticked by. Then the daughter spoke again. “I’m not going to pray that prayer!” she said in one last attempt to dissuade her mother.

I’m sure the old woman was feeling weak and vulnerable, and her daughter’s objections were strong.

But belief had permeated her heart, and it gave her the strength to overcome these hindrances. She knew she was making the most important decision of her 82 years of life. When we left her bedside, there were choirs of angels rejoicing in heaven over the soul who was, for the first time, “sinless” through the work of Christ.

* 1Tim. 2:4

Sunday, June 13, 2010

New Eyes by Joann Lampe

Let me look at you with new eyes
With eyes not jaded by the world
But with eyes wide open to see beyond

The scars inflicted upon you
Cause me to look only upon
The outside wall

Who knows what lies beyond that wall?
What’s behind the barriers put in place
By man & you

Let me look at you with new eyes
LORD, wipe the film from my eyes
Allow me clarity
To see the real you – the real me

What royalty awaits behind those doors
The doors locked in place by
Disappointment in another’s actions
Critical thoughts and words
Refusal to look beyond the scars
Put in place by the world of man

Let me look at you with new eyes
Encourage instead of discourage
Build up not tear down
Look beyond the obvious to the hidden

Hidden talents
Hidden compassion
Hidden love
Hidden royalty

LORD, let me see with new eyes
Help me to bridge the gap
To connect
Hope to the hopeless
Love to the unloved
The lost to the found
Pauper to king

LORD, let me see with new eyes

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” These are two phrases I heard over and over again as I grew up. My dad used to quote them all the time so that I wouldn’t feel so bad when someone called me a name or made fun of me in some way. It happened often, so I heard them a lot. The names may not have hurt me physically, but they sure hurt. And because I was judged by my “cover,” no one saw the real me, and neither did I, because I chose to believe that I was the “cover.”

Have you done that – been judged by outside appearances? I believe we all have at one time or another. I have and still do and each time I do, I ask God to forgive me, because I know that I am limiting the potential. The potential for understanding, the potential for compassion, the potential for a possible friendship, and the potential for providing hope and encouragement. We not only limit ourselves when we don’t look beyond, we limit the other person, because our thoughts and/or words cause a “ding” in the book; they can change chapter and verse. The next time you start to judge “a book by its cover,” or a person for some action they’ve taken, ask God to give you “new eyes.”

Romans 13:8-10 says: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.” When we look at each other with clear eyes and go beyond the cover we can “love our neighbor as ourselves.”

JoAnn Lampe
June 2, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Passion Calls...Are You Listening by Serena Haneline

For 33 years I’ve been searching for my passion in life. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “passion” as “an object of desire or deep interest.” I’ve read many books over the years that said if you could only find your passion in life, you’d find your purpose. And for 33 years – okay, maybe only about 20 years – I’ve never really thought I had any passions.

When I was a teenager, I used to love to write poetry and short stories. And of course, as a teenager, I had a lot more time to sit around and write. Then I went to school and studied journalism, mostly because writing was all I knew I liked and was good at.

For the last few years, I’ve felt a block when it comes to writing. Maybe it was because I had not yet identified my passions. However, in the last few months, it seems one passion has come to my attention, and quite unexpectedly.

In the midst of a conversation with a friend, that passion arose. I got excited and animated when I spoke about the subject. I believe it’s the same passion that rose up in Jesus when the Pharisees and Sadducees confronted him in their self-righteousness. A passion that sees the chains “religion” puts on people…chains of endless rules that choke out life and freedom.

A song I’ve heard on the radio called “More Like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray captures my thoughts on religion. He says that following Jesus is more than something to believe in; more than something to pledge our allegiance to. Instead it’s like falling in love. And religion is like a stone tied to our feet, not setting us free.
I grew up in the heart of “religion,” thinking that every time I sinned, I had to go get “saved” again. I grew up thinking of God as an angry taskmaster, expecting me to be perfect. I grew up believing that God always looked on me in disappointment and disgust. I carried those thoughts into adulthood. It’s taken me years to begin to see the Truth.

Then a few years ago, I was confronted with the ugly face of religion in a relationship with a man who believed that the law was the heart of Christianity. I found out in a short amount of time that the law brings only hate and a feeling of despair rather than what Jesus taught, which is love and hope.

It’s really all about having a relationship with a living, breathing God who wants to speak to us every day; who wants to work in our lives every day. He wants to do the miraculous and the supernatural in our lives. In my life. Every day.

I believe that God has given me an assignment and frankly it scares me. It’s to use my talent of writing and my passion against standard religion. It’s to write a book. He gave me the title, which is not something that I usually get first. Titles have never been my strong suit. The title is: “Steeped in Religion or Soaked in the Supernatural.”

I see this book as a book of stories and Truth—as God sees it, not as we perceive it. It will contain stories of people coming out of the deadness of religion and into the life of the supernatural, and stories of people still stuck in the pit of religion. I see it as a call to help those who have the spirit of the Pharisees—those who thought they had it all together and winded up missing the point of it all.

The message being that it’s never been about what WE can do to get to God. It’s always been what HE has done to get us to Him. It’s never been about hate, but about love. And it’s never been about religion, but the supernatural. God’s Spirit working through His creation to spread His message through all the earth.

I heard someone say this on TV the other night: “You can make all the plans you want. But God has made His and He doesn’t feel the need to check in with you.” God has made his plans for me…and for you. Even before we were born, He put passions inside of each us. Now if only we will let the Holy Spirit breathe on us, he will ignite that passion. All for His glory, not ours. And all for His purpose and not to satisfy a list of rules.

So yes, it seems I have found a passion and therefore, a purpose. It’s time to write.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Working Backwards by Brad Bridges

“Do you regularly jump out of planes?” he said. “Um. Uh. Of course not,” I said to the life insurance agent. I thought to myself, “Did he really just ask if I jump out of planes?” It was a good question, I guess.

Honestly, life insurance freaks me out. Death is scary. It’s out of my control. It’s painful. It’s sad. How much should I get? Do I provide better now for my wife and daughter or sacrifice more now “just in case” I die? Am I a good husband?

Now, don’t lie. You’ve felt those things before. You’ve questioned your decisions. You’ve thought about the creepiness factor in death. Don’t lie.

So why, fundamentally, do any of us care about life insurance? Why does it matter what we leave behind? Fundamentally, I think it’s tied up in our identity. It’s tied up in our desire to have made a difference; to have left a legacy. We want our lives to matter.

Paul dealt with similar issues. I think he wanted to leave a legacy too. He wanted his life to matter. He encouraged the Ephesian elders at Miletus through his presence, his words, and his actions (Acts 20:18-24). Do you want to do that? I do.

Think about it. To live a life that people care about inspires me. But why? Do I want to be famous? No, not really. Do I want to just get attention? Of course not. That isn’t my main goal. So what is it?

Honestly, I think there’s a positive and a negative side. Positively, a husband/father should provide and contribute (i.e. love his family). Negatively, my fear, self-doubt, and worry usually stem from a cognitive knowledge of the Gospel that resists its application. Let me explain.

I have no reason to worry about death. I know that. I’ve known for years that I would go to heaven. But I worry. I worry because I want control. I worry because I often value more what I have to offer than what Christ offers on the cross.

On the cross he offers life to those who lose it. He secured my future. Okay, I know that too. But practically I fight the truth. I resist the safety for a façade.

Life insurance is a good thing. Trusting in it for my security isn’t. Wise people prepare for the future. Do you plan for the future out of fear or out of obedience? Obedient plans emphasize responsibility rather than control or fear. When trust is accurately placed in Christ, issues such as fear, control, and self-doubt decrease (I didn’t say they go away entirely).

When you find yourself worrying, anxious, nervous, angry, or frustrated, ask yourself a question. Is my thinking (right now) being governed by Christ’s completed work? Or are my thoughts concentrated on my own failure, an offense caused by another person, or my fear of not being in control? Hard times will come. However, endurance is built up on Christ’s shoulders, not our own.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blessing in Disguise by Tami Gilman

With recent layoffs, business closings and terminations, there are many people who have been left unemployed. While this is devastating for most people, I am reminded of a young man my husband worked with years ago. As a Distribution Manager, Kevin had two employees who worked for him in the warehouse. One of the employees, Brian, is a gifted artist and would bring his work in to show the people at the office. The owner of the company, Mr. Miller, would encourage him to pursue a job that would showcase his talent. Brian, however, was comfortable with his role in the warehouse because it was familiar.

To Brian’s surprise, one day Mr. Miller sat him down and explained that he was wasting the talent he had by continuing to work in the warehouse. Brian had much to offer the world in art and graphic design, but as long as he worked in a job where he was too comfortable, he would never pursue other opportunities to showcase his creativity.

Then Mr. Miller fired him.

Of course this was devastating, as Brian had a wife and child at home, but somewhere inside of him, I suppose, he knew what Mr. Miller told him was true. He was comfortable. He was secure. He was complacent. He was most likely fearful of the unknown.

I don’t think Brian’s reaction is uncommon. The Israelites struggled after the Lord delivered them from slavery in Egypt because they were fearful of what was to come. Caleb and Joshua scouted the Promised Land and they gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” (Numbers 13:27-28)

The similarities in these two situations were that the driving factor of complacency was fear. Brian was likely fearful of taking the first step out of his comfort zone, and not being able to support his family or having his art rejected. The Israelites were fearful that they would be killed by the giants in the land.

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?" (Numbers 14:1-3)

Caleb and Joshua tried to assure the Israelites the Lord would protect them.

"The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them." Numbers 14:7-9

The difference in these stories is the reaction to the circumstances.

So tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall—every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you—your bodies will fall in this desert. (Numbers 14:26-32)

The Israelites grumbled, complained and wished they were once again slaves in Egypt. They missed the opportunity God presented them because of their fear. They wandered in the desert for forty years and died. They never received the fullness of God’s blessing for them because they were overcome with fear and did not trust that He would protect them from the giants in Canaan.

Brian, however, faced his fear and now runs his own successful graphic design company. His termination was a blessing in disguise. He could have easily continued wandering in the desert, remaining in a job for the sake of having a job. Instead, he embraced the opportunity to pursue a dream by using his God given talent on a daily basis.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Clothed by God by Jenn Fromke

I like clothes. It’s good to be covered, if you know what I mean. But some days I can’t decide what to wear . . . Adam and Eve had a day like that once.

They realized they didn’t have a thing to wear, so they looked in their closet, which happened to be the most beautiful garden ever created, and “they sewed leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:7) I don’t know what kind of fig leaves they were, but I’m pretty sure that even leaves from the Garden of Eden would not wash well.

A few verses later, we read, “And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21) Man sinned, covering himself with shame. God looked at him and covered him with clothes made from an animal—requiring a sacrifice.

Why did God do it that way? He easily could have invented polyester right on the spot, I’m sure. He also could have given them a spinning wheel and pointed them toward a field of cotton. But God never wastes a situation. I think He required a sacrifice to cover their shame in order to foreshadow what Christ would ultimately do to cover our shame for all time.

So people lived for hundreds of years, all wearing the smear of sin on them. Isaiah 64:6 says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment . . .” No matter how hard we may try on our own to be good, act good, or at least look good, everything we try ends up looking like cruddy clothes to God.

So what did He do? Destroy all of his creation? No. He made a different way. Isaiah 61:10 says, “. . . He [God] has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness . . .” What an incredible picture of love! He covers our filthy rags with a robe of righteousness. Think of a judge’s robe – it covers everything underneath. The only thing visible to God, when we are covered by His garments, is righteousness—and that righteousness is from God. (Romans 3:21)

This is how Jesus’ blood covers our sin. He covers us with His righteousness. It’s a transfer of His righteousness to us. It’s not that we become righteous all by ourselves when we get forgiven. We are transformed by the blood of Jesus when we accept His sacrifice as payment for our sins.

If you still don’t believe God is concerned about how we are clothed, Revelation 7:9-14 will convince you. This passage speaks about the multitude in heaven at the end of time, all standing before the throne of God, wearing white robes . . . and then we get a laundry tip from God. Those people “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14)

Notice it says, “the Lamb.” (emphasis mine). Any old lamb’s blood will ruin your clothes. Anything you try on your own will give you filthy rags to wear. If you want a white robe of righteousness, it can only come from God and be made white by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

I thought surely this would be the end of God’s wash and wear program. But He actually takes us a step further. Galatians 3:26-28 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

What do our new clothes look like? Christ! We clothe ourselves with Christ. What happens when everybody wears the same thing? I thought immediately of the military. Their uniforms show for which side they stand; for which side they fight. If we as believers all clothe ourselves in Christ, then the world around us will see that we stand for the same God and fight against the same enemy.

Next time I find myself staring into my closet wondering what to wear, I will consider the clothes offered me by my heavenly Father, and I’ll listen to the words He spoke to me about this singular problem:

Matthew 6:25-30 (exerpts)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? . . . Why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?