What More?

By Bill Valine

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night declares knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”    -- Psalm 19:1-3

God has shown us such beauty
In sunsets day after day

We say they’re just clouds and sun,
And we miss His grand display.

God has shown us His power,
Galaxy by galaxy;

We say they’re just stars and dust
And we miss His majesty.

We have eyes, but cannot see.
We have ears, but cannot hear,

What more can God give us
That will make His message clear?

God has shown us His designs
Through life’s great mysteries

We say it all comes by chance
And miss His qualities.

God has shown us His great love
By Jesus dying for us.

We see only a good man
And we miss His plan for us.

We have eyes, but cannot see.
We have ears. But cannot hear.

What more can God give to us
That will make His message clear?

Decisions… decisions!

Shoulder Angel Devil.png

By Donna Shelton

As my 70th birthday approached in February, I took a look at my life.

I contemplated the decisions I’ve made, good and bad, and their consequences.

Overall, I felt very blessed by God.

I was blessed to be raised by a pastor who was also a chaplain in the Air Force. Daddy was stationed at Orly Field just outside of Paris from April, 1952 until December, 1954, and that is where I started school. Later, I attended schools in Louisiana and Arkansas; in Montgomery, Alabama and in Memphis, Tennessee. Then on through Verona, New Jersey to Montclair, New Jersey, where our family finally settled down.

Since our extended family all lived in the Pacific Northwest, my little nuclear family was my world, and what I was taught there was my stability.

In the summer of 1969, I returned from four months on World Campus Afloat (one of my better decisions, even though it left me in debt with school loans for several years) to find my parents separated.

Even at age 21, this rocked my world and left me in a tailspin, and that summer I lost my virginity. Fathers, you may not realize your impact. You are a spiritual covering for your family. If there is anything you can do to save your marriage, please make the utmost effort for your children’s sake – no matter how old they are.

I transferred to the University of Arizona to be near my sister, who was teaching in Sells. There, I took a class called Education for Marriage, taught by a Presbyterian pastor. I went to counsel with him at his church and confessed my sin. That was another good decision that I believe made a great difference to my future.

Proverbs 28:13 says: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” I remained backslidden for several more years, but God was at work to bring me back to Himself.

Despite my dad’s bad decision in walking out on his family, and my mom’s bad decision in not allowing him to come back, Daddy prayed for me that God would give me a good man.

Enter Richard Shelton into my life in September 1973. Our marriage April 6th, 1974, was a very good decision!

Dads, don’t leave your wife to do all the praying for your children. Pray for them and for their future spouses. It could make all the difference in their lives.

That first year of marriage, I had a hard time believing I was going to be happy. I was constantly afraid that something would happen to take happiness away from me. I had watched my parents fight since I was 12 years old, and that made me an insecure young woman. I was happy, but I wasn’t fulfilled. I knew what that emptiness I felt was, and what the answer was, so I started looking for churches.

When I got a job at House of Fabrics, I met Beverly Lippert. She took me to a Saturday music night at The Door in Tucson on April 5th, 1975, where I got saved.

Very, very good decision. The best decision anyone can make!

I realized that many decisions would be required of me to reach my ultimate goal, Heaven, so the question by which I judged everything in those early years was: Will this help me get to Heaven or make it easier to backslide? That question proved to be a very good standard.

I made the decision to be in church – especially when I didn’t feel like going or when I didn’t feel saved. I figured if I’m in church, maybe God can do something with me. So even though Rich wouldn’t come with me, I just kept coming.

Great decision.

In those early years of my salvation, as an immature Christian, I started throwing around the word divorce. Not a good decision at all! I thank God that one morning as I was reading and praying, God was able to speak to me through Proverbs 14:1: “Every wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.”

God showed me that I was tearing down my own house. I was focused on all the things that irritated me about Rich and not the reasons why I’d married him in the first place. Ladies, build your house with prayer about the things that bother you and praise your husband for all the things he does right.

When Katie was born in 1981, I first noticed the beginning symptoms of fibromyalgia. By the time she was in 3rd grade, I was very discouraged because I couldn’t walk my children the half mile to school and the half mile back without a lot of pain in my hips.

I had a crisis of faith. I was tempted to be angry with God. I knew He could heal me and I didn’t understand why He wasn’t doing it.

I was deep in these thoughts in the dining room one evening, when I thought: No, this is stupid. In Romans 8:28 God said He would work all thing together for my good. I don’t understand how this is for my good, but God is good, and He is not a liar (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). The devil wants me to get mad at God, backslide, and go to hell. He’s the liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). I’m just going to trust God even though I don’t understand.

Sometimes you just have to make a decision to believe God’s Word against what seems like all reason. And that is always an excellent decision.

When Katie and Eric were in high school, I considered going back to work like some of my friends, to make money for the kids to go to college. I was teaching a teenage bible study at the time, and I knew I didn’t have the energy to both work and teach.

I believed God wanted me to continue teaching and to trust Him for my kids’ education. As I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, God not only provided for my children’s education (Katie got a full scholarship and Eric joined the U.S. Air Force and they paid for his education), but He also allowed me to have some small influence on the lives of a few teenagers, some of whom are now preaching the Gospel.

When we wanted to start a family, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home mom.

Rich said there are two ways to be rich: make more money or require less. We have spent most of our lives requiring less. We still live in the same house we bought as newlyweds. It has been added onto and it is now paid off, which makes retirement a lot easier.

When our children were in their early twenties, we went through some things that put a terrible strain on our marriage and nearly broke it. But Jesus and our commitment to each other kept us together.

Now, almost twenty years later, we both feel very blessed.

Things are not perfect. Eric isn’t serving God right now; his son George has a very rare disease which has created an emotional roller coaster for the family. One of Katie’s children has some health problems that took a long time for the doctors to figure out and which still causes her some problems.

I still have limitations because of my health issues, and now Rich has health issues of his own.

Life is never perfect, and we will all face challenges along the way. But serving God and being an example to your family by making godly decisions will always pay off in the end.

What has helped me stay saved for forty-plus years? So many things.

First and foremost, the help of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of others. Being in church faithfully to hear the Word of God (even when I wasn’t reading it all the time). Being in the ladies’ bible study has also been life changing in my walk of faith.

Early in my salvation I decided that no matter what, I wasn’t turning back. Like Peter in John 6:68, I decided there was no place to go back to. No good place, anyway.

I’d grown up knowing of Jesus and being taught the truth. I knew what devastation it caused in my life when my parents turned away from what they had taught me.

I made up my mind that I would never compromise the Word of God and my beliefs.

It started as an example to my children and has just become a pattern of life.

All our little decisions along the way make us who we are. The wonderful thing about our Lord and Savior is that He can forgive our bad decisions and will always help us start anew.

Decide what is most important to you: your will or being accountable to God with your life by keeping your testimony as one that will glorify Him.

I can guarantee you that, if you choose a life of purpose in Christ, when you reach the ripe old age of 70 you will also feel very blessed.

How can I guarantee that? Because the God we serve is good and His promises are true.

 

 

When Jesus Met Me

Sharon POEM 2.JPG

By Sharon Byrd

When Jesus met me, I was all messed up,
Kind of like this little truck.
I was broken and dirty and I needed relief,
Even my insides were filled with grief.

My life’s decisions had left me poor,
I knew there had to be so much more,
But, everything I wanted just wasn’t enough,
To be honest, I found life pretty tough.

See, I made myself look like this little truck,
When it was brand new, it was all fixed up.
It had brand new tires and good-looking chrome,
It didn’t need help; it could stand on its own.

At least that’s what it thought,
Or, at least that’s what I thought…

It could go 100 miles an hour and never break down,
Just put some more gas and go all over town.
That’s how I treated me, I never really worried,
But how many know, things get old in a hurry.

Especially if you abuse what you got,
I put my body, like this truck, through a lot,
And my mind, all the things I wish I didn’t see,
All led to the person, that truck was like me.

But, if I could clean up my own life then no one would ask,
Why I don’t run so well even when I put gas.
Nobody really knew, nobody could guess,
That I was really broken, I was really a mess.

Sin made me dirty, and as much as I tried,
To wipe down the dirt, I still could not hide.
Really bad decisions had put some dirt on me,
And there was no way I could really get clean.

So this is what I did…

I tried to fix my tires, I shined them all up,
I even washed the windows of my little truck.
If I could just make it shine, I thought, no one would know,
If I could get a new paint job, yeah, then my life would glow.

If I could polish the chrome and touch up the paint,
Fix the two bumpers and maybe a bungee cord restraint.
If I could shine my old rims, and wipe everything, too,
Then my old truck would soon look brand new.

See, sometimes we do the same thing with our life,
We try to clean our messes with soap and some wipes.
And even if we clean them, we still know inside,
All the places where the dirt just builds up and hides.

Now, back to Jesus and this little truck,
Jesus wanted me new, not just wiped and cleaned up.
When I surrendered to Him, he took the whole me,
And made me brand new so the world could see.

The best we can do for ourselves when we break,
Is glue up the pieces and try to hide our mistakes.
But, when we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive,
And to give us new hope, so we can go on to live.

Most of us can bathe when our bodies are dirty,
We choose to clean up and try to make our lives pretty,
Be a better person; change our thoughts and our talk,
And, at least for a little while, that’s how we all walk.

We can live in sin and suffer the consequences,
We can try to cover them up or hide all the pieces.
We can even try to explain them away,
And convince ourselves that we are okay.

The one thing we cannot do is cleanse our own souls,
Wash our own sins away, and make ourselves whole.
But the blood of Christ Jesus, the true God who made us,
Is all that we need, the only One that can save us.

So, quit trying to wipe down and put shine on your truck,
And give Jesus your life so He can fix you all up.
Not a washed-over truck held together with glue,
But a new heart and new mind, a new truck, a new you.

Let Jesus clean you up.

Sharon POEM 1.JPG

Inheriting a genuine faith

By Pastor Steve Pinnick

Pinnicks.png

My mother, Lorena Marie Carney, died on February 7th, 2018. I have decided to dedicate this article to her, and to the legacy of faith she left behind.

She was born on a small farm in Indiana. Her mother (my grandmother) was also a strong Christian. Speaking at my mother’s graveside service, I found Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:5 to be as fitting for this moment in my own life as they surely were to Timothy at a critical time in his: “When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”

My grandmother and mother both had a genuine faith. But I believe my mother turbocharged the faith she was given by her mother.

She was a woman who was dedicated to reading her Bible and to “praying without ceasing” for her family. She was more than a tither, giving above and beyond her tithe all of her life. She had a faith that claimed all of her family would be saved. This faith has been tested over the years, as there are still some who are not saved. But that never stopped her.

One story is told of how she prayed for years that my aunt and uncle would be saved.

“I’m not planning on getting saved,” my aunt told her early on, “but if I do, you will be the first one I call.” Twenty-five years later, my aunt called Mom first to tell her that she and my uncle both got saved.

Among the many other stories, my own is worth noting. I spent several years away from God, involved in drug addiction and many other sins, yet she never stopped praying for me. I know that is why I am saved today.

Shakespeare said, “Good wombs have born bad sons.” That was me, yet she always believed that one day I would be a good son. One thing that always stuck with me throughout my sin and rebellion was my mother’s genuine faith.

It’s one thing to have faith. It’s another to have genuine faith.

It would have been easy to fight the conviction of the Holy Ghost if I saw her faith was compromised or shallow, but a genuine faith is hard to ignore.

One of the things I spoke to my family at the service was that we had all received a genuine faith from our mother, and that there was a responsibility associated with that.

Jesus said, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

Some of you who are reading this right now may have family members who are away from God. I know what it is to have a child go astray, and the torment of spirit and mind that are associated with it. My challenge to you is to keep your faith genuine and never stop praying for those who have strayed.

Your greatest hope rests in a miracle-working God who is faithful to His people.

As many in the Church are aging – myself included – one important admonition is that we maintain a genuine faith. Paul tapped into this when he admonished Timothy to stir up his own faith and gifting.

The good thing was that Timothy had reference points in both his mother and his grandmother.

On another note, nothing is said about the spiritual nature of Timothy’s father. That means that even if you are a single parent, or unequally yoked to an unbeliever, your faith can shine through and have impact in your family.

In 1 Cor. 7:14,16, we read: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy... For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”

A genuine faith will leave a legacy that cannot be ignored.

As I spoke for my mother that day, I shared this comment made by a woman regarding her own mother who had also recently passed away: “I notice that even after the sun slips from the horizon, the sky is still lit up,” she said. “It’s a little that way for us left behind here. She is gone, but our world is still illuminated by the traces of her presence left behind.”

So it is with every believer who dies in the faith. The legacy they leave behind continues to shine long after they have gone.

I feel honored to have inherited a genuine faith. I am going to do all I can to live that faith out and leave it for my children and grandchildren.
My mother was also a prolific poetess. Allow me to share with you one of her poems.

 Pondering

When I put off this earthly house I’m going to be set free,

For I have a house not made with hands,
Waiting in heaven for me.

Sometimes I get to yearning
As I ponder what’s ahead,

Things I have to look forward to When this body I shall shed.

  

As I enter that glorious city... Oh, what a lovely view!

For He that sits upon the throne Said, “I make all things new.”

The walls are made of jasper
And the streets transparent gold

The foundation garnished with precious stones
So lovely to behold!

 

Then there’s the river of life, Flowing out so pure and clear,

With trees on either side
And the luscious fruit they bear.

I’m sure there will be flowers
Of every lovely hue,

And there will be so many things That I will want to do.

I’ll want to spend a lot of time With loved ones I hold dear,

The ones I haven’t seen since They left the earth down here.

We’ll have reason for rejoicing,

For we have so much to gain,

For you see, in this great city, There’s no tears, no death no pain.

 

Then, when I meet the Master, How with words can I convey

The awe that fills my being
As I reflect upon that day?

His glory shall transcend Anything that we can see,

Oh, what a joy it is to ponder What is waiting in heaven for me!

 

Praise God, she waits no more!

Whose life matters?

Kids with globe.png

By Ken Laue

It was a hot day in North Carolina when I headed for the water fountain at the amusement park.

“No, you must use this fountain over here,” my parents gently directed me.

I was just a little guy then, 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t realize I was a white child trying to get a drink from the black folks’ water fountain.

When you’re in a foreign country, you try to observe the customs and laws of that culture. To my parents, a couple of European immigrants, the segregated South in that post-war era was a very foreign land. 

Slavery was pronounced dead way back in 1863 by President Lincoln, but as the victorious North grew lax in enforcing its values, the South found ways to skirt this obstacle, passing the Jim Crow laws which gave free rein to the continued segregation, persecution, and discrimination against black folks.

Discrimination was still very much alive and well in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where we were stationed in the late 1950s – almost a decade before Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement came on the forefront. My parents were WWII survivors who, after all they had been through, were more than willing to shelter us from the evils of this world.

The war was over, and white America gladly settled into new suburbias of the mind during a growth spurt of peace and prosperity. My parents never taught me to hate or despise people of a different color, because they never did.

The picture in our photo album of my dad and his fellow soldiers, all smiles, posing arm in arm with several black New Caledonians liberated from the Japanese, seemed perfectly normal to me.

I was just a little kid totally naïve to racism, leading a sheltered life in the segregated South – riding around in Dad’s white Plymouth station wagon with the fin taillights and watching Annette Funicello of The Mickey Mouse Club on the neighbor kid’s black-and-white TV.

I was in high school by the time Dad finally retired from the Army and moved us to Tucson, Arizona.

Those were turbulent times and, as I grew more interested in the news, I learned of the race riots in Detroit, the police dogs set to attack black civil rights marchers, the bombings of black churches, and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

It was like hearing news from a far-away land.

The Tucson suburbs seemed like an outpost back then, so far away from that tumultuous world.

Even today, Tucson is a multinational, multicultural melting pot of races and nations. I’m not saying it’s had no history of racial tensions or injustice, but it remains a very integrated, cosmopolitan town. So, as I follow the news lately, I have become more and more concerned with the deluded, twisted thinking that I see arising in America, my home, birthed by a lying spirit of bigotry. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement.

The title itself seems a rational enough statement. As most of us heartily acknowledge, of course, black lives do indeed matter. What seems irrational are their hateful chants about killing cops: Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon, or the lying chant, Hands up, Don’t shoot! That chant aims to exonerate a black felon, seeking to make his attack on the cop who shot and killed him in self-defense into the innocent surrender of a martyr. Investigation proved this assertion erroneous.

Whether white supremacists who commit atrocities, or Muslim extremists who commit mass murder in the name of their god, racists of every variety prove again and again the human propensity for self-deception, as they embrace bigoted lies and reject the truth of the one and only true God of the Bible.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 we read, "And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they might be condemned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness."

Embracing unrighteousness is the root of bigotry. Christianity teaches that all lives matter to God. In perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible (John 3:16) Jesus said that whosoever believes in Him has eternal life.

Not just members of a particular racial group. Not just His Jewish followers, but anybody.

Romans 10:13 says that whoever calls upon Him will be saved. Not just the privileged ones. All people matter to God. Nowhere in the Bible will you find any evidence that God approves of racism. That would be absurd, since it was He who created all the different people groups.

Instead, both Old and New Testaments record the spread God’s message of love to people everywhere, far beyond the Israelites, and encompassing both Gentile and Jewish believers. God Himself taught Peter that discrimination is not of Him.

Peter passes this truth on to the household of Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35, telling them: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

All rational members of the human community, regardless of ethnicity or culture, recognize that unfortunately, bigots and racists do exist.

All rational members of any ethnic group also recognize that they have friends and supporters among the other ethnic groups who should not be thrown under the bus along with the extremists.

As a white American male, I often wonder why, in all my 67 years, I can’t recall ever hearing a black speaker – whether politician, preacher, or public personality – who mentioned the hundreds of thousands of white Union soldiers who were killed or maimed in a war fought specifically to end black slavery.

Did I just not hear? Was I just not listening? Is it just my imagination, or is there a real silence?

Consider the 20th Regiment from Maine, whose exploits were documented in the excellent movie, Gettysburg. They were a volunteer white Union regiment (not draftees) from a distant Northern state. They were renowned for holding the critical piece of real estate called Little Round Top at Gettysburg.

This was the turning point of the battle, which was the turning point of the war. After this, the Union states were slowly able to turn the tide on the South’s domination in battles.  And the men of the 20th were not alone. Many valiant white men gave their lives in the fight to free our black brethren.

And we must never forget or disregard the many black Union soldiers who fought alongside them – that is another topic that deserves its own separate article.

These are those who have truly earned the right to declare that black lives matter. They proved it with their blood. 

I also wonder why there is so much pressure on folks like me to feel guilty for being born white.  I am not the perpetrator of any injustice done to my fellow Americans of different ethnic groups.

I understand that many historical instances exist of injustices perpetrated upon black people and Native Americans by white society. That even after Lincoln outlawed slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow racism persisted until the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and a host of others rose up (including young white college students and other sympathizers) and continued the battle forward a century later. That infamous cruelties and massacres were practiced upon Native Americans, who ultimately were forced to live in squalor on reservations.

That pockets of racism in this country persist even to this day.

White American society, as a whole, is ashamed of their ancestors’ cruel and bigoted historical acts of racism, and rightly so.

But it is also true that no one alive today in the United States is responsible for enslaving innocent black people or perpetrating injustices upon Native Americans during the Indian wars. Even my ancestors were not involved in these unfortunate events. They were dealing with their own considerable problems and injustices in Czechoslovakia and Germany.

How, then, should I feel guilty, unless it is my white skin alone that makes me culpable?

Is this not also a form of racism?

The struggle for the equality and rights of all citizens – whether they be black, Native American, brown, white, or members of any other ethnic group – will never be over so long as people regard racism in their hearts, rejecting God’s truth that all lives matter.

We cannot allow this evil to thrive. In the name of the loving and righteous God – the God of all truth, Jesus the Christ – let brotherhood and charity prevail as He has commanded, and don’t be deluded into believing the lie of racism. 

The immutable truth of the unchanging God is that His love for all humanity is a never-ending, steadfast love.

All lives matter to God. He created them all. He paid for them with the precious blood of Jesus Christ because they are His beloved children. There is no higher value than that.

“And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood
out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

 

Failure to Launch: God’s answer for perpetual pubescence

By Frank King

The Swedish Battleship Vasa set sail on its maiden voyage on August 10, 1628.

Commissioned by King Gustavus Adolphus as part of a military expansion begun in 1621, the Vasa was the culmination of years spent in planning and construction.

Gustavus was a proud Swede and purposed to build a ship that would make Sweden proud.

Even though his focus was on style rather than substance, he loved taking the credit for building the most powerful warship in history.

Throughout the construction phase, Gustavus ordered changes to make the ship more powerful and more beautiful. He had the Vasa decorated with sculptures to glorify the authority, wisdom, and martial prowess of the monarch and to deride, taunt, and intimidate the enemy.

He upgraded her firing power. Large, heavily armed ships made dramatic statements in the political theater, but Vasa shouted, WE’RE NUMBER ONE!

For months prior to her launch, King Gustavus contacted royalty and heads of state from all over Europe, inviting them to witness the proof of his and Sweden’s naval superiority.

And they came. By August 10th, Stockholm Harbor was swarming with luminary spectators.

Vasa was launched and gracefully sailed out into the harbor. The captain ordered a course shift to starboard, to show off its double deck of cannon: 36 per side, each capable of hurling a 24-pound ball at its enemy.

And in that spectacular, proud, and elegant maneuver, Vasa rolled, took on water, foundered, and within minutes, sank to the bottom of the harbor, where she remained for 333 years.

Her maiden voyage consisted of 1,400 yards on the water, and 35 yards down to the bottom of the harbor. That failure to launch had tremendous impact on Sweden and its people, but primarily on her proud king.

The story teaches many lessons concerning naval prowess, but it also contains some cautions for parents.

In our rush to send our children out onto the seas of life, we may leave them similarly unprepared for the winds and currents that await them.

Our purpose as parents is not to raise Christian kids, but to disciple Christian adults. Their purpose is to become tomorrow’s Church.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, we should be preparing those disciples to launch into the seas of the world and successfully navigate those waters. Depending upon the individual, that launch may take place at graduation or later; sometimes it is delayed for years. Our disciples may launch into the harbor of a job, college, or marriage. They may join other friends in forming a household of singles.

If the proper preparation has not taken place, some young adults may suffer the fate of the Vasa, proudly executing navigational maneuvers to show off their strengths, only to find a weakness that sinks them.

The Vasa’s epic failure was followed by an official inquiry. The resultant report cited dozens of possible issues that caused the ship’s demise. The most glaring of these may also instruct us as parents.

Confusion of Standards

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The construction crew for the Vasa was divided into two teams: one for port, one for starboard. One team used rulers calculated in 12-inch Swedish feet and the other used rulers in 11-inch Amsterdam feet. The result was a lopsided ship, higher and heavier on the port side.

If we raise our children with mixed messages of moral and ethical expectations, they will founder as well. Children should know and understand our family’s standards, which ideally are based on the biblical standards of the local church.

Parents and their disciples should be able to trace individual standards to family standards to church standards to biblical standards. This way, with a careful study of the profitable standard in the Bible, they will always be able to return to those standards and to pursue God’s purpose in their lives. 

When God first called a few adults to the children’s ministry at The Door Church in Tucson, He used a young boy weeping at the altar. When we drew near to minister, he related a tragic story of conflicted standards.

In Sunday school, he learned of God’s grace and forgiveness, but at home, he saw little of that reflected. His parents taught and lived a different standard than what he heard espoused in sermons at church. His school had yet another standard for him to follow. When he obeyed his teachers, he was corrected by his parents, and adherence to parental and school standards put him at odds with the teaching of the Bible.

When we became aware of these conflicts, God directed us to minister to children, assisting them to clarify God’s purpose and will for their lives. Our children’s ministry standards were always based on our local church standards, which were drawn from biblical truth. Hundreds of children have benefited from this single meeting at the altar.

Unfortunately, that young boy was not one of the beneficiaries.

Shortly after our encounter, his parents abandoned God’s purpose, uprooted him from the church, and in a tragic act of selfishness, moved away and divorced, leaving his life in chaos. Over the years, bits and pieces of news regarding this young man drifted back to us. These included a parental suicide, exposure to a promiscuous parent, and a general lack of supervision.

The last we heard, he was serving a long prison sentence, the sad victim of conflicting standards. 

Lack of Honest Feedback
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).

The king’s subordinates lacked the courage to openly discuss the ship’s problems with him. They knew that where his darling Vasa was concerned, Gustavus was not open to criticism. The ship had two major design problems, but the engineers and workman never told the king.

First, a test of the hull had found the ship to be very unstable. Once the tons of decorations were added, it became very top heavy. Sheltered in its construction bubble, the defect remained undetected.

Second, the king had ordered that the gun ports be constructed lower than recommended to allow for maximum effectiveness.

A keen artillerist, Gustavus thought of the ship primarily as a platform for his guns rather than a sailing vessel. When the top-heavy ship rolled, the gun ports were submerged, and the ship quickly filled with seawater.

Honest feedback is a great tool for making corrections in our child-rearing strategy. Ignoring this input may produce tragic results.

During a child’s upbringing, his stability should be tested. Children should be directed toward God’s purpose and given some small obligations. Successes should be rewarded with more responsibilities, while failures should be addressed and re-directed.

The goal of training them to move in God’s purpose should be considered with each adjustment, and expectations should be communicated in a two-way conversation between parents and child.

Parents should honestly evaluate a child’s progress toward Christian adulthood. Keeping children in a bubble where failure is not an option only increases their chance of a fatal failure later in life.


Lack of Authenticity

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Gustavus decorated the ship with over 500 sculptures, most of which were concentrated high on the stern. The emphasis was on beauty and show rather than substance, and this was the cause of her instability.

Anxious to show off his accomplishment, the king also rushed the launch date, sacrificing test cruises for the spectacle of a launch in front of his rivals.

A child raised to value things or appearances over character will not fare well in the real world.

Trendy shoes or the latest smart phone may impress adolescent peers, but style rather than substance may inhibit a successful transition into Christian adulthood.

“But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Corinthians 12:18).

Every person in the kingdom of God is there for a purpose. Adults should assist children in discovering both purpose and the gifting God has placed within them to fulfill that purpose.

The focus should remain on a child’s gift and how God wants to use it to minister to others in the church.

If you are unsure of that gift, look to leadership in the church to see what gifts God is using.

One caution, however: although music and worship is a gift that it is readily visible in the church, it is not the only gift that God has given. Many gifts such as intercessory prayer, visitation, or encouragement may also develop to function behind the scenes as we seek to bless others.

Ship.png

Allow the gift to develop slowly; don’t thrust the child into ministry until he is ready.

The family is the best arena for growing a gift. Children should be encouraged to minister to other family members as they hone their talents and seek God’s anointing.

Children’s church is another good testing ground. As you assist the child to merge his gift with those who have needs in the church, you are helping the Next Generation Church to take its rightful place.

If you travel to Stockholm, Sweden (in person or on the Web), you can view the Vasa. Rescued from the depths in 1961 and housed in a museum, it is in the process of restoration.

You can witness it as it is returned to its original condition, complete with all the decorations, the workmanship, and the glory of the greatest warship of its time which never saw battle, and the greatest failure of King Gustavus’ reign.

As you view this glorious catastrophe, be mindful of the children in your church. They are the Next Generation Church.

Don’t consign their future to the museum of shipwrecks.

They are ready, willing, and able to be taught standards, to be tested, to be redirected and guided toward their God-given purpose as tomorrow’s Church.

 

Parents: gatekeepers of purpose

Pastor Warner.png

Ed and his wife dropped in on some friends to catch up on their adult children who were home for a visit.

As they left, he sat in the car for a moment, then banged the steering wheel in frustration.

“What’s wrong?” asked Nancy.

“All I heard was talk of new homes and boats, and their children’s sports – but nothing about God. Not one of them knows Jesus as Savior. They have substituted cultural success for salvation.”

Besides the obvious Eternity factor, these parents lost  sight of one of their most crucial functions: helping their children to discover God’s purpose for their lives.

Obviously, parents don’t entirely control this process, but they are certainly placed by God as the gatekeepers to shepherd it to fruition in the lives of their children.

Paul especially singles out fathers: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Leading them to pursue maturity in God’s wisdom; cherishing and training them by example, and bringing discipline are all part of the process. 

Our appetites are shaped from birth. Hence, today’s concern to cultivate children’s appetites for healthy and nourishing foods. But how we are shaping our children’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and moral appetites and interests?

Not so long ago, a parent’s greatest fear was that their child might wander through life with no direction or purpose.

Baby Dedication.png

They knew their influence was required to guide and groom their sons and daughters from childhood to maturity to a career they could pursue with passion and dedication. In an age that enthrones Self and tells children to live their own “truth,” Secular Humanism declares each person their own god, and that every idea or impulse, no matter how foolish or selfish, has equal value.

“Therefore, children are ‘free’ to develop their own ideas about the world around them, apart from the wisdom of experienced parents or mentors,” writes Stephen Simpson. “Correction is viewed as ‘negative,’ while pats on the head, winks, nods, and participation stickers train little cherubs to become narcissistic sociopaths when they get older. “

History will record that millions of families were destroyed as the self-proclaimed experts came on the scene to trade in God’s foundations of traditional marriage and biblical parenting for novel notions of social engineering.

God’s unchanging dynamic for child rearing is enshrined in the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Too many have taken this verse to mean that if I bring my kids to church and Sunday school, then they’ll follow the Lord later in life. When this is not the case, many parents feel that God has let them down.

But this promise is predicated first on training: Train up a child.

The word used here means narrow. It presupposes the presence of a gate and a gatekeeper, as opposed to no boundaries and limitless freedom.

“In the way he should go” is rooted in the word for speech, or communication. Parents must hear, study, and be attuned to the unique “bents” – for good and bad – in each child’s life, talents, and personality – to discover where and for what God has uniquely suited them.

The romantic notion that any path in life is fine if “you just do you” may make for good pop music, but it makes for horrible life choices. 

Worldly influences today are more aggressively hostile to biblical family norms than ever before and have far more access to our families via the Internet, social media, smart phones, television, gaming, Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.

When I was growing up, we often went out and left our doors unlocked. That would be unthinkable today, but the greater question is, are you guarding these other portals into your home?

Have you forfeited your influence over your kids? Rest assured, there is a multi-billion-dollar entertainment and advertising industry that has no such reservations and is more than willing to fill that void. 

Neither can you casually and confidently send your kids off to school, because the secular humanist educational system is plotting to shipwreck godly input, substituting godless fallacies that promote wayward living.

Thank God for those willing to swim against the tide to teach the truth, but by and large today’s schools are more committed to indoctrinating children than educating them.

Rather than simply insulating our kids from outside influences, we must deliberately and continually inoculate them with godly, spiritual influence.

The Old Testament centerpiece in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 says: "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Loving God and pursuing His purpose comes not just from a sermon at church, but also from diligent teaching at home. It is to be woven into the fabric of normal, everyday living and communicating.

A few minutes of Jesus once a week isn’t going to cut it for your kids. Christ and His Word must be at home in their hearts because of its constant presence in your home and all along the way of life.

Pray together. Take a walk and talk about the Scripture. Talk about the sermon or the children’s church lesson on the way home from church. Ask questions to see where your children are in God. What did they see and hear? What did God speak to them?

Tell your children about the areas where you have failed or fallen short, and how God’s love and grace forgave you and restored you. In every area, work to shape the spirit and values you want to see in your kids.

Please, start doing it sooner rather than later.

I read a fascinating piece about the famous drug lord, Pablo Escobar. As one of the world’s foremost cocaine suppliers, he earned an estimated 22 billion dollars per year. This ruthless criminal was responsible for the deaths of many of his enemies, as well as police and politicians.

The anomaly is that he was also a loving father, affectionate and encouraging to his own son and daughter. This dichotomy of Escobar – loving dad and ruthless criminal – is chronicled in the book written by his son, Sebastian Marroquin: Pablo Escobar, My Father.

Marroquin dedicates the book “to my father, who showed me what path not to take.” What a sobering statement. All the riches showered on his kids could not make up for the poor example he set.  The loving words he offered them could not eliminate the pain he caused.

Affection for our kids is not enough. Providing for them financially is also insufficient.

They need our example. It is impossible to train your kids without your example. Christian dads (parents) must live in such a way in the presence of their children that they say, “He showed me the path to take: the narrow road that leads to life.”

Those parents in the Bible who had the most impact were those who helped their children find God’s purpose.

Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king's command.” Somehow, God’s purpose found its way into Moses’ DNA, and his parents recognized that.

Years later, he identified definitely and unequivocally with God’s people and purpose.

Philippians 2:5 tells us to have the mind of Christ, that is, the attitude, motivations, and priorities Christ had. As we look at the bookends on Jesus’ earthly life, we see that His focus was always on His Father’s purpose. When Jesus goes missing at 12 years old, He asks his parents in Luke 2:49, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?”

The latter bookend is found in those regal words of Jesus as He stood before the Roman governor Pilate: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (John 18:37). Clearly, at both the beginning and the end of Christ’s life, He was guided by the North Star of God’s purpose. Life is not easy, but confidence and perseverance springs from knowing that God has a special something we are here to accomplish.

One of the maladies plaguing today’s society in epidemic proportions is fatherlessness. We have a desperate need of clarity, focus, and emphasis on the importance of manhood and fatherhood.

Mark Strong writes, “Men who love their families constantly grapple with the question, ‘How can I be a better dad?’ You have to ask yourself, ‘Where can the average man find out what it takes to be a good dad?’ The short answer is – not in too many places.”

We can learn a great deal about the crucial role of fathers by studying God’s role at Jesus’ baptism in Matthew 3:17. First, Father God is present and acknowledges His Son: “This is my Son.” Make no mistake: He belongs to Me. This declaration brings identity and a sense of belonging.

Secondly, the Father expresses his love for His Son: “This is my Son whom I love.” These were not just words of sentiment, but a tangible expression of love seen throughout the Gospels.

The third element is the Father’s affirmation of His Son: “This is My Son, whom I love, with Him I am well-pleased.”

Those are life-giving words! I find this phrase amazing!

It comes before Jesus had preached His first sermon, before He healed His first sick person, before He cast out any demons, before He called any disciples, before He died on the Cross or rose from the grave.

Affirmation is a powerful force that makes a difference in men’s lives. Use it liberally.

The father’s role is to shepherd his child into discovering God’s purpose. A man who is present, a man who will pray and make regular deposits of God’s Word in his heart, a man who will be devoted to his children and to his God, will help his child taste something of God’s kingdom and glory.

The good news is that even if your earthly father was absent and failed you, God will not. He promises to be the father you always wanted and needed. He can touch the pain in your heart and pour out love’s mercy to heal your deepest wounds.

So, a practical question arises: Should parents force their children to go to church when they don’t want to?

The short answer? Yes, absolutely. I make the case to you that there are four strong reasons for pursuing this practice:

1. To teach the church’s purpose. Ideally, we should all want to go to church, but we also go because we need to. We are sinful, forgetful people who need to remember who God is and be encouraged by His promises.

2. To put feelings in their proper place. If we tell our kids they don’t have to go if they don’t want to, we make their feelings their masters. By taking them, you teach them that we walk by faith, not by sight (or feelings).

3. To exercise your own faith. We are trusting that as we saturate our child in the things of God and the preaching of the Gospel, that God will use those moments to bring about an awakening of their hearts for Him.

4. To feed the right appetite. We are feeding the appetite for godliness. It’s one spoonful at a time, to be sure, and covered with prayer that the Holy Spirit would do His heart-changing work, but what we feed will grow.

Yes, there are countless excuses for neglecting church, but meeting weekly to celebrate Jesus with songs, prayers, worship, and fellowship is important.

In Psalm 122:1;4, David exclaims, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” As for Jesus, “He went to Nazareth, where had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom (Luke 4:16).

Be encouraged that as you seek to set an example and raise your children, the Lord is with you. He gave your children to you and He will help you to raise them. In Isaiah 49:25 He promises, “I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children.”

I’ve always carried a vision for the power and influence of kids who will pursue God’s purpose as Daniel and his friends did in Babylon. They were prisoners of war, schooled in Babylonian culture and given Babylonian names – all for express purpose of obliterating any distinction of Jehovah God from their lives.

They chose, nevertheless, to pursue God’s purpose, and their testimony in Daniel chapter 1 is that God gave them special favor and ability so that “the king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah… when he consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.”

That’s kingdom math: ten times more capable! This is the kind of testimony that our confused, corrupt and lost world needs today.

And where does it begin? Where can it be found? With you and your house.

 

 

Second Mile Saints

By Deborah Mallory

Trophies.png

I was sitting at the bus stop a few days ago when a very sweet elderly lady of 82 began boldly preaching the Gospel, telling me about Jesus.

Her words expressed soooo much love for Him as she talked about everyone’s need for a repentant heart, this country’s need to turn back to God, the kids’ need to have prayer back in schools, and how Jesus shed His precious blood for us and freely offers us the gift of salvation.

She told me how she came from Cuba and her husband from Guangzhou, China. How her life had changed when she found Jesus and how in those countries, they were horribly mistreated and persecuted for their faith.

In her homeland she went the second mile in her witness, and so she did here at the bus stop.

She said we all need Jesus as Our Lord and Savior, that we are nothing without Him. We agreed, as two gathered together in Him. She was singing to me in other tongues. It was beautiful. We boarded the bus together, but I got off before her at the hospital to visit my son.

“God bless you, sister,” she said as I left. “I will see you again one day,” and I told her the same.

  “Were you a party to that?” said a middle-aged man who exited the bus with me.

   “Yes!” I said, following the elderly lady’s lead.

  “Well, I just wanted her to be quiet,” he said. “I don’t like people preaching in my face, and it don’t get no worse than living here.”

“Oh, but it can,” I told him. “That’s why she’s right. Jesus is coming soon, and we all need Him. We do need to repent.”

As he walked away from me, I called: “God bless you! It’s your choice!”

He ignored me, and my heart ached for him. Then it occurred to me that what I felt was but a small sample of the hurt that Jesus and the disciples experienced when their message was repeatedly rejected. As they were persecuted for unpretentiously sharing with others the love that God demonstrated to them.

“Lord,” I said, “Please touch that man and protect that sweet lady as she goes on her way, going the second mile and preaching the Gospel.”

In Matthew 5:41, Jesus said if someone compels us to go one mile with them, go with them two. Going the first mile is what is required of us: going the second mile for someone means we will need strength beyond our own.

For Jesus, we choose to go above and beyond what He requires of us.

As the elderly lady and I both chose the second mile, little did we know that we were walking it for the sake of that man.

We are God’s trophies of grace – imagine that! Our lives are on display as a witness for the Lord. He sanctifies us and shows us his divine favor and love, even though we are undeserving of it.

Grace is a gift from the Lord: we can do nothing to earn it. He loves us and desires for us to have all of His wonderful gifts. Then he puts them on display through us. We become trophies of grace by allowing His Spirit to give us the strength to obey His commands, to set His example, to live an increasingly Christian life, to love and forgive one another and our enemies.

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, as we do good to those that hate us, bless those that curse us, pray for those who despitefully use us and persecute us, we exhibit our desire to become mature sons of our Father in Heaven.

One perfect example of the second mile is demonstrated when the disciples left all that they had and followed Jesus on His missionary trips to spread the Gospel. Their lives were conspicuous demonstrations of God’s grace, clearly visible.

Believers must pray and seek God and His will as we pursue our desire to fulfill His plan for us. We must always ask Him to use us mightily for His purpose.

Lord, please give each of us that natural boldness to witness as that lady on the bus did. That we, too, may go the second mile for the souls all around us, and that we may become Your trophies of grace. In these last days, may we become Second Mile Saints, presenting the light of the Gospel to others in a world that is growing darker and darker before His return.

I challenge each of you to join me in striving at all times to go that second mile for the Lord until He comes, or until He calls us home.

 

Little people? Really?

Ken Little People.jpg

By Ken Laue

My wife’s dad has a missing thumb.

My father-in-law was a Nebraska farm boy who lost the thumb as a teen in a horse roping accident. When the war broke out, he went to sign up for the armed services like the other guys his age.

He always took it hard that he was rejected because of his missing thumb, while his brother was allowed to serve. But the truth is that he served his country well as a farmer and rancher. You can’t fight a war without food.

It’s like my old boss, Bill, told us, “Don’t ever let me hear you say, I’m just a bus driver.” Then he would tell us how uniquely positioned each school bus driver is to bring encouragement to a child’s life, to contribute to their education, and to ensure they get to school each day to become a productive member of society; to be a friend when a cloud covers their life, to teach them discipline and respect for rules and safety practices . . . just for openers.

In these perilous times, everyone’s eyes are on the big cheeses: either the new president-elect, the outgoing administration, the posturing terrorist dictators in the news, or any of the other well-publicized players.

But in truth, it’s the little people that keep the world running, not the high-profile wheels or celebs.

When you occupy a humble station, it’s hard to see any importance to your life.

But imagine how the world would be just a week after all the custodians were to go on strike. Or the housekeeping staff at all the hotels, or the field workers.

I recently retired from student transportation after thirty-seven years, and I can tell you that we school bus professionals often fell prey to an inferiority complex – no doubt caused by lack of respect from a small but vocal minority of parents, teachers, administrators, motorists, and even students.

In the face of circumstance, it gets easy to buy into the lie that you don’t matter.

The barrage of thoughts is bolstered by the low salary: Why am I hauling people’s kids around when I can make more money driving the truck that collects their trash? Or delivers their beer? You can lose your focus on the enormous impact of simply getting students safely to class, day after day, month after month, year after year.

Pastor Warner once said, “Change is where our lives intersect Jesus telling us to follow Him.”

Biblical examples abound of God calling people to change their career and their city to become pastors and preachers. Peter and his pals gave up the fishing trade to follow Jesus and later found themselves at the forefront of world evangelism. Matthew gave up a lucrative career ripping off his own people as a tax collector for the Roman enemy. David went from a humble shepherd boy to the major player in Israeli politics (as in THE King).

In our fellowship, we are so caught up in the raising up of pastors and preachers (and rightly so) that we may sometimes forget that God intersects the lives of other people in a different way.

For many, The Lord’s call is to stay in their home environment and minister to co-workers, neighbors, family, and relatives.

The crazy guy in Luke 8 who went running around the tombs naked, breaking his chains and scaring the snot out of everyone, got gloriously saved when Jesus cast the demons out of him.

He wanted to follow Him, but Jesus stationed him as a witness to his hometown. No change of city, scenery, or career for this guy – well, except for going from whacked-out demon-possessed crazy man to clothed witness in his right mind.

What about the woman at the well whose sin-stained life Jesus exposed in John 4? We don’t see her joining Jesus and his entourage, but we do see her neighbors seriously impacted by her testimony.

World War II wasn’t just won by the front-line troops – although, may no one ever diminish their holy and sacred sacrifice of life and limb.

But without countless Rosie-the-Riveters – farmers who kept the food coming, and multitudes who kept the machinery of industry oiled and functioning – we’d be speaking either German or Japanese, and liberty would be but a distant memory.

By the same token, those God calls to stand firm in their hometown careers become the support base for the advancement of His army.

While my dad served in New Caledonia and Guadalcanal in World War II, Mom was a civilian employee of the Army. She was part of the group that wrote specs on the newly developed radar systems so that manufacturers could produce radar for the armed services.

A number of years back, I was serving in several ministries at my home church, The Door Church in Tucson. I was involved in a prison ministry, children’s church, the choir, Faith Camp for our pre-teen Young Servants, all while working a supervisory job at the school district’s Transportation Department with early show time, never enough sleep and mucho overtime.

I had laid my life down at the altar at several Bible Conferences to make myself available to God and to give my life to preaching. One year at the Children’s Worker’s Conference, I heard a repeating theme: that Children’s Church was a calling, not a “stepping stone” ministry. That it wasn’t a place to maintain a holding pattern while we awaited public or pulpit ministry or something more important.

We were in a vital, behind-scenes ministry, not serving in the public eye.

With great relief and a new focus, I began to major in Children’s Church, making more room for it, and gradually letting go of other ministries. It was then that I was able to see that God had called me to serve in the home church.

That also solved another mystery in my life: at the U of A I studied entomology (insects) and beekeeping. Numerous applications never resulted in a job in this field, while several decades of student bussing went by with several promotions and ended in retirement.

I realized God had tied together my career in serving school kids with my calling to serve the needs of kids in my home church. “Feed My lambs.”

   Now, if you’ve been called to preach or pastor, and you’ve just got it in cruise control, skating on your calling… this essay isn’t meant to be a refuge for you. Get off of it and get on with it! How many people are not hearing the Gospel while you vacillate?

But if God intends for you to stay in your career – whether a construction worker, a businessman, a teacher, a member of the military, a landscaper or you-fill-in-the-blank – recognize that you are in a special position to minister to certain people’s lives as no one else can.

While that doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t bring change to your situation, or even to your calling, it does mean that you can serve with pride. Not the sinful pride of arrogance, but the kind of pride that comes from a job well done, knowing you are contributing to God’s war effort in a perilous time; a spiritual war for souls.

Pinterest Christianity

By Scarlett Unruh

quote 2.png

Technology has truly advanced. We can now receive text messages from God.

It’s true: just pick up your phone and look at all those verses!

Feeling a little down?

Get a little Pinterest pick-me-up from the Almighty.

No time for Bible study?

Click a little Sprinkle of Jesus with your coffee, and you can tackle the day.

But taking a moment to view the framed scripture on a backdrop of lilies that says we can do all things through Christ doesn’t mean that we have spent time in God’s Word.

What’s worse is when Scripture takes second place to a never-ending string of cheap inspirational quotes: Readjust your crown – you’re a child of the king! The devil wants to steal your happiness – stay positive!

Our culture has turned servanthood to Christ on its head to the point where He’s just another convenience for our lives, complete with catchy jingles: Your best life now! Life’s a gift: enjoy it! God is setting things up to come together just for you!

But, wait! Doesn’t God want to bless and prosper me? Absolutely.

Life is a gift and God wants you to enjoy it because He loves you. He doesn’t want you to live at the whim of other’s opinions.

He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him. God is ever gracious: He protects us, keeps us, forgives us, and brings us peace.

And He’s most definitely bigger than all our problems!

Well, then, what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong with encouraging or motivating people with Scripture, or even with positive clichés?

As C.S. Lewis points out in The Last Battle, the most deceiving lie is one based in truth: “Then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with error, they made their lie far stronger.”

If cute quotes are enough for us – if they keep us from exploring the fullness of God, diminishing His majesty and replacing His Word – then it is very wrong, especially coming from believers in Christ!

Acts 20:28-30 says: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

quote 1.png

  Any twisting of the truth is a lie, a false gospel. Demoting God to a place as the genie who grants our every wish as we recline on a bed of roses is a false gospel that causes several problems:

Doubt – Wait! Life isn’t perfect, and God hasn’t texted me to assure me that everything will be okay! I’m stressing out! Why doesn’t He prosper me and bring it all together the way I think it should be?

Anger – God, where are you when I need you? This is all Your fault. You’re supposed to make my life perfect! How could You let me down?! How could You do this to me?

Ingratitude – God, You said You’d help me fight my battles, but I didn’t even get to Starbucks today, people treated me rudely, and I’ll never be popular. Don’t You know what’s important?

Snobbery/Apathy toward Souls – Lord, I really need You to keep all those toxic people away from me. All I want is for You to bless me and my family and help us to be happy and peaceful and comfortable.

Oblivion – Regardless of whether or not you are caught in the trap of feel-goodness, beware that those beautiful Scripture cards and artsy Bible accessories have not dulled you to this truth: We are at war!

In this amazingly blessed country of comparatively small struggles, where conflicts are resolved in a 30-minute sitcom (or at most, a two-hour movie) we have become insulated against the harsh realities of war.

In any war, propaganda is a successful strategy, and the devil is the father of lies and propaganda.

He can make himself out to be so overwhelming that we cower motionless before him.

But his favorite trick is to convince us that he is no big deal, so that we run to and fro, so consumed with our lives that we see no threat at all.

Remember, the devil knows the Bible. He even quoted Scripture to Jesus, picking verses out of context to try to make Him disobey God’s will and purpose, and he has no qualms about twisting and distorting the most amazing, glorious promises of God in order to draw you away from your purpose in Him.

Scripture reveals the devil as he is: not an annoying little pest who just wants you to worry so you can't enjoy life, but a gruesome, hate-filled monster who prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Jesus said Satan is the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

He wants to steal from you the core of who you were created to be and the mind that God created for you to think on Him and discover Christ for yourself.

He wants to kill you – physically? Perhaps.

Spiritually, far better for him – dulling the blade, making you ineffective so you go on living without being truly alive.

He wants to destroy you, i.e. (per Webster): put an end to your existence; ruin you emotionally or spiritually; defeat you utterly. (Synonyms: demolish, knock down, annihilate, wipe out, obliterate, wipe off the face of the earth, eliminate, eradicate, liquidate, erase, slaughter, terminate, exterminate, euthanize… you get the idea. A bit more than causing you to miss your morning latte).

God’s Word paints many beautiful images, but as I read through, I also see how God describes Himself: as a Fortress and Strong Tower; a God of Strength who fights for us and provides refuge in time of war.

He knows the ugliness and hardship of war and tells us, “Come, I’ll make you ready for the next fight.”

He calls us to fight for the souls of men, not to be distracted into a life of self-serving comfort.

Leonard Ravenhill said, “The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. 

Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”

quote 3.png

So, how do we readjust this mindset to combat the complacency of Pinterest Christianity?
Learn the Art of Spiritual War:

1. Know Your God. The more you truly know someone, the harder it is to believe a lie about them.

If you’ve spent solid time with your best friend, you’ve learned how they think and act, and can immediately recognize misrepresentations of their character.

We learn to know Christ through His Word. Soaking in it, marinating in it… not just dipping our toes into an isolated verse on Pinterest.

Digging, mining, pondering, we make it part of us.

We learn what is out of character for Him, and can guard ourselves against lies that the enemy tries to feed to us on every front.

Jesus told us in John 10:27-30, “My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow Me.”

2.  Know Your Enemy. In God’s Word he also gives us a clear picture of our adversary. Take time to really understand. Learn to hate him. Yes, I said hate!

If I ever began a sentence with I hate… my parents would say, “The only things we hate are sin and the devil.”

Recently, as he tried to do away with me physically, I’ve truly come to understand why hating the great deceiver is important.

In the midst of that trial a good friend got in my face and said, “Look, he’s killing you, and trying to tear your family apart. And all you’re doing is feeling sad about it.

“You need to get angry. Hate him. Hate what he’s doing. Then use that anger as fuel to fight back with everything you have.”

Ephesians 6:11-12 says: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

3. Know Your Weaknesses. Hey, we’re all human. We all fall short, this isn’t permission to condemn yourself for all your faults. Only your enemy does that, not your Savior.

But understanding your weak points helps instruct you as to where the enemy will most likely strike on the daily.

The pitfalls we so easily get tripped up on may be where he seeks to drive a wedge in the door.

So be aware of these areas and ask God to make up for those weak points with His strength, as Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

4. Equip Yourself.

Our God is a good God! Not only does He give us His own armor, He tells us how to put it on!

Don’t leave for battle without it!

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:13-17)

5. Find Your Fight.

  The basics are the same, but we each fight differently.

  Your personal fight may be about battling particular assaults and situations that hang you up.

  Ask God to reveal it to you.

  Simply say, “Lord, I’m here to do battle but I don’t know how. Let your Holy Spirit guide my thoughts and words.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world… they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

   I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to combat false gospels wherever you find them – and however innocent they may appear.

  Don’t allow them to take you out of the fight.

  Don’t let them offer you a false sense of immunity.  

As free as we are now, persecution will come (2 Timothy 3:12).

   Salvation and relationship with Christ is the ultimate blessing.

   That a perfect God would love us enough to die for sinful men defies comprehension.

But He doesn’t stop there:

 He invites us to join the battle with Him for the souls of men, constantly arming us with His Word and His blessings.

Let us stand together to reach a world lost in sin, to reach Christians lost in half-truths (lies), and to become a renewed force to be reckoned with against the onslaught of the enemy’s schemes.

As in any war, bad days will come, along with hardships, trials, and pain.

Setbacks will come: some as small grievances and others as true tragedies.

But victory will also come. Christ Himself said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

 

Family: Let it shine!

Dianne let it shine.jpg

By Dianne Schroeder

A mystery! I love mysteries! I’m the detective: exposing clues, revealing secrets, solving the puzzle. I’ll be the hero who finds the solution to all the problems, bringing the final triumph!

But… I don’t have all the answers. Tough to admit, but many of my so-called answers are nothing more than speculation.

Why are we here? Now, there’s a mystery that will never be explained by the effort of human reasoning.

The answer must be experienced rather than comprehended. It can only be experienced in a unique, personal, experiential relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ.

As we accept His Lordship over our lives, our cries of confusion and anguish are muted as the pieces of God’s grand puzzle fall into place – as He creates from our pile of rubble something beautiful and something good. The thrill of this adventure far surpasses all others. We are adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God, sinner becomes saint, and we are justified in Him by faith alone.

Okay, but how about my family? What is the purpose for my family?

Well, families are God’s idea. Marriage is God’s idea. God created Adam, made his rib into Eve, performed the first wedding ceremony, and told them to go multiply and fill the earth.

So, when a man leaves all others to cleave to his wife, a unique bond is created that perpetuates God’s love and purpose and carries it forward to future generations.

That’s an integral part of the secret that solves the mystery to our purpose in life.

Ephesians 5:22-23 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.”

The Church is God’s family: a family of families. God’s purpose is for His family to reflect His glory, responding to His love by taking His message to the uttermost parts of the world.

The family is the means by which God communicates, preserves, and further expands His influence.

Without strong families, the church and society will be weakened. Society, intellectuals, and professionals cannot and should not define who we are and who we should be. God has a plan, and He has already decided who we are. As we seek Him that plan is revealed to us.

Each family that makes up the family of God is a living object lesson to the world.

The husband symbolizes Christ and the wife symbolizes the Church, Christ’s bride. The one flesh between a man and a woman in marriage reflects the oneness between God and His people.

We are to give ourselves and our families to the One who gave Himself to and for us and to and for them.

The family also serves as a lighthouse, flashing out a warning of danger to the world, and acting as a deterrent to the negative effects of sin and evil upon society and the individual. It’s part of the city set on a hill that can’t be hidden that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:14.

God want us to relate to His family and to our family in a way that will accomplish His goals for both and reflect His glory.

What if my children aren’t serving God or reflecting His glory?

Don’t despair. God honors prayer, and he honors our faithful witness (however imperfect), and our steadfast love. Only He can sanctify and cleanse each one, presenting them without spot, wrinkle, or blemish to Himself.

Only the Holy Spirit can prepare hearts to receive His love and purpose. God says He seeks godly offspring (Malachi 2:15). That means that we are to teach our children His ways and be role models to them of faith and loyalty to Him.

This requires work. We must repent of our failures and apologize to the victims of our faithlessness – even if the victims are our children.

In today’s post-Christian culture, genuine apology is an outdated concept.

Nevertheless, it is a vital part of family life, and it is indispensable in building strong, close, emotionally intimate relationships. Rather than a sign of weakness, an apology demonstrates emotional maturity and invites mutual forgiveness.

 It models a spirit of humility and repentance, and of love which covers a multitude of sins.

Become a prayer warrior for your family, developing techniques to love them in spite of bad decisions and to help influence them toward godly choices. Offer counsel with a loyal heart, an open mind, and an open Bible. Make a commitment to be a friend for life. Sound like a tall order? It surely is. But with God, all things are possible.

To accomplish all that, we need a close walk with God and lot of forgiveness for ourselves and others. We need to stay connected to our posterity and to the church, physically, relationally, and spiritually through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.

God’s love and purpose for our families and His emanates from Him and He is glorified through them.

We must never give up on our posterity or quit on the church.

As we finish our journey strong, the next generation will see that faith in Jesus Christ is real and effective for the whole race of life.

A College Sendoff

By Bill Valine

Dear Son/Daughter,

   Soon you will begin your college career.

   There will be many times when you will be faced with situations and questions that will challenge your Christianity - and you may not have a ready answer.

   There will be nothing wrong with your faith. None of us has all the answers.  But it is in those times that it is vitally important to have what I call an anchor, an experience with Jesus that you know is real.

   That way, when you don’t have a particular answer ready, your faith in Him will stay strong, and you can confidently say, “I don’t know that answer, but I do know that Jesus is real, and that He has touched my life.”

With Love,
Dad

God's Promise Box

Elvira Bujanda God's Promise Box.png

By Elvira Bujanda

Category 4 and 5 hurricanes were in the news a lot this year, not to mention killer winter storms.

Tempests of great length and/or fierce magnitude make headlines because of the impact they have on the entire landscape of human existence, touching every area from physical to emotional to spiritual.

These folks need the troops mobilized to bring them help and support to rebuild their lives – it’s a situation I can relate to on a very personal level.

The road I’ve traveled in the Lord has been ravaged by some major storms these last few years.

First, I was diagnosed with cancer in August of 2016, had surgery the following month and was declared cancer-free, praise the Lord!

But a few weeks later I was hospitalized for two months with lymphedema and cellulitis. Two hernia surgeries followed in March and November of 2017.

My third hernia surgery was just cancelled so that I could finish up my current two-week round of antibiotics to clear up the new flare-up of lymphedema/cellulitis in my left leg.

Confinements during recovery periods have been extremely difficult, minimizing my daily activities and imprisoning me within the walls of my own home.

I miss church. I miss teaching Quest 119. I miss Friday night bible studies. I miss women’s bible study.

I’ve had to skip three Children’s Worker Conferences in Prescott and three International Bible Conferences in Tucson – not to mention New Year’s fellowships, Easters, Mother’s Days, Christmases, and every special program and fellowship that my church has had during the last three years.

Thoughts of disappointment, discouragement, feelings of guilt, anger, and fear persist in spite of my focused efforts to bolster my faith with daily Bible reading, prayer, worship music, and taped sermons. Maybe God has let me down. Maybe He hasn’t even heard my prayers.

I know this is just the devil trying to bring anxiety to consume my mind and take away my peace, joy, faith, and trust in God.

During the many silent moments of life’s recent circumstances, I felt that God interrupted my plans. Even good plans, plans to serve Him in my usual capacities, were being wiped away.

It felt like I was sitting inside a big, empty box, and that God had put me there.

What is it that you are asking of me, Lord? I was pleading with God silently one day, when I suddenly cried out, “Jesus, help me!”

More silence followed. But this time it was different, as if God whispered into my soul.

“Be still and know that I am God” was the promise He gave me from Psalm 46:10.

I focused on what He had proclaimed. What was it He had for me? As time went on, the focus turned to His promises, as His Word began to fill my mind.

I’m listening to you, my God! As He promised in Isaiah 58:9, “Then shall you call and the Lord shall answer; you shall cry and He shall say, Here I am.” Again, in Hebrews 13:5, He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and in 2 Corinthians 12:9 He reminds us, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

God, in His mercy and lovingkindness, always sends the Holy Spirit to guide us into His truth which will last forever.

Suddenly I remembered the Scripture promise box that a dear sister in the church gave me when I was a new convert back in 1993. Inside I found promises from God’s Word, handwritten with loving care on small strips of colored paper so that I could pull out and rejoice in a new promise every day.*

Now my moments spent in God’s box of silence became my box of promises. I soon found myself reading and writing Scriptures that the Holy Spirit was pouring into my heart as I sat there waiting on God in my home.

He spoke to me of bringing His understanding to my situation as I trusted in Him: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:89);

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

In Psalm 116:11, I read: “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fulness of joy. At Your right hand there are pleasures forever more.”

That joy doesn’t depend on my circumstances. It is a gift from God, found in Jesus and His unchanging character, and all His promises made to His children.

Now I found God’s greater strength inside me, giving me power to endure every moment, saying to me, “My child, I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known unto you” (Proverbs 1:2-3).

Through the Spirit we wait for the hope of the righteous by faith (Galatians 5:5). In 2 Thessalonians 3:16, He promises peace to His saints, so “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

God’s peace – not peace as the world gives – will allow you to enter into the holy presence of His love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit so that we may understand all that He has freely given us, it says in 1 Corinthians 2:12. As I listened less and less to my doubts and more and more to God’s promises, I realized God painted His plan for my life as a big picture full of His promises. I was to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication let my requests be known to God (Philippians 4:6); let my heart take courage and wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14).

As I waited silently for God alone, I took courage to press on in the Lord for my expectations were in Him (Psalm 62:5-6), “being confident of this very thing: that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it to the Day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So many great promises! I’ve come to realize that God’s delay I answering my prayers isn’t because He isn’t moving in my life or because He’s forgotten me.

He was waiting for me to be still and know He is God over my circumstances. To be silent and focus totally on Him, to remember that sanctification is a work only He can do, making me more and more like Jesus as the Holy Spirit transforms me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

Lord, help me to be silent and trust the Holy Spirit to work in my heart, in faith, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith (Hebrews 12:2). Give me Your will over mine so I can receive all Your promises (Hebrews 10:36) and fulfill Your purpose for my life. Help me to find joy in the journey again, even as I go through the trials of my life.

This is the hope I have in Him: that as He shines His light into my heart, He gives me hope to overcome all my circumstances, as the peace of God that transcends understanding guards my heart and mind through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

If we wait before God and listen, He will whisper great and true promises into our lives through His Word by His Spirit. His promises never fail!

Even when life doesn’t make sense, we will stand fast knowing by faith that we can trust His love. If we could understand His ways through man’s wisdom alone, He would not be worthy of awe and worship.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, not doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:2-6).

Peter tells us that God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises by which you may be partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:3).

I invite you to explore those promises more fully, trusting that, no matter how bad things may look right now, you are still God’s beloved child and He has a bigger plan He’s working through and in you for your good and for His greater glory.

As Paul declares in Ephesians 3:21, “To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen!”

*Build your own promise box! Find the pattern on page 11

 

Purpose Fuels Destiny

Cup.png

By Kelly Cilano

Enoch wasn’t that special. Not really. Enoch simply walked and talked with God.

He didn’t do really great exploits for God like Abraham, David, and Moses did in the Old Testament or like Peter, John, and Paul did in the New Testament.

But the more he talked with God (which is what we call prayer) and walked with God (spending time with Him), the closer he and God became. Enoch walked in faith and spoke with God, and from this came Enoch’s complete trust in God.

Legend has it that one day God and Enoch were walking along and were so absorbed talking that God looked around and said, “You are closer to My home than yours, Enoch, why not come home with Me tonight?”

And just like that, Enoch was no more for this earth (Genesis 5:24).

The words destiny, purpose, and calling all carry with them the idea that we can make a difference for God. Yet how we measure that impact is important.

Too often we see “super saints” in the limelight and we hold them in awe.

Immediately we don’t feel like we measure up, let alone have any impact.

But God doesn’t measure impact in limelight degrees. He measures making a difference for Him in terms of our trust and faithfulness.

Saul (later to become Paul) was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and he was on a mission: to passionately defend the Jewish way of life.

He believed Christians were heretics worthy of death, and he acted on that conviction, delivering them to execution.

Yet Jesus saw another side of Saul, one that Saul himself didn’t know existed.

In his History of the Christian Church, Phillip Schaff writes: “Paul was of strictly Jewish parentage, born a few years after Christ in the renowned Grecian commercial and literary city of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, and inherited the rights of a Roman citizen.

“He received a learned Jewish education at Jerusalem in the school of the Pharisean Rabbi, Gamaliel, a grandson of Hillel, not remaining an entire stranger to Greek literature, as his style, his dialectic method, his allusions to heathen religion and philosophy, and his occasional quotations from heathen poets show.

“Thus, a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews,’ yet at the same time a native Hellenist and a Roman citizen, he combined in himself, so to speak, the three great nationalities of the ancient world, and was endowed with all the natural qualifications for a universal apostleship. He could argue with the Pharisees as a son of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, and as a disciple of the renowned Gamaliel, surnamed ‘The Glory of the Law.’

“He could address the Greeks in their own beautiful tongue and with the convincing force of their logic.

“Clothed with the dignity and majesty of the Roman people, he could travel safely over the whole empire with the proud watchword: Civis Romanus Sum. This providential outfit for his future work made him for a while the most dangerous enemy of Christianity, but after his conversion, its most useful promoter.

“The weapons of destruction were turned into weapons of construction. The engine was reversed, and the direction changed; but it remained the same engine, and its power was increased under the new inspiration.

“Peter and John had natural genius, but no scholastic education; Paul had both, and thus became the founder of Christian theology and philosophy.”

Now if that doesn’t sound like the perfect fit for a man of destiny, what does?

He was the one that God Himself chose to be the twelfth apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

All at once, the Gospel message became his purpose for living, and the Gentile Church was born from that same fire that all the Apostles shared.

You may not fit the same profile as Paul, but take heart: neither did the other eleven apostles.

Yet they were hand-picked by Jesus for their task… and so are you.

God chose you to be a witness for Him. He saved you. And in Mark 16:15, Jesus commanded you to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation.” 

The “super saints” of the Bible succeeded not because they were great, but because their love for God and His Gospel created in them the foundation on which their faithfulness and trust rested.

The standard isn’t how well studied you are, how financially well off, or how talented you are.

All of those things are nice, and personally I’d like a huge helping of all three, but that isn’t the measuring stick of our impact for God.

Those are blessings God has given to each of us to a greater or lesser degree for the purpose of using them to glorify Him.

They aren’t ours. They are on loan from God and we are the stewards of His grace. When we use those blessings correctly, they honor and speak of the glory of God and of all that He has done for us.

The gift is in direct portion or need to the task God has called us to.

Finding your purpose in God comes from being obedient to the Word of God, and praying regularly, and then applying what He gives you to your everyday routine and relationships.

Hearing from God is vital. Prayer is talking to God, then listening to what His Spirit is saying to us and doing it.

Oftentimes when we can’t hear God, it is because we haven’t learned how to listen to His still, small voice. Sometimes it is because of unrepented sin.

God wants us to deal with our sin, to ask for forgiveness and then move forward with Him.

The rule here is do not wait to repent, no matter how big or little the sin seems.

Run away from your sin! Treat it like Ebola! It’s life threatening and contagious!

Sin always separates us from God, but repentance builds the bridge back to Him again.

Too often we sell ourselves short, convincing ourselves that we’re not in the limelight, so we don’t matter.

That kind of thinking will put out the God-given fire before you even get started, killing your desire and effort to make a difference for Him.

But think about it: what do you use more, the everyday coffee mug, or the expensive china cup in your hutch? The china in the hutch is for special occasions like Easter or Christmas.

It’s the ordinary cups that get the everyday use. Just let that sink in.

Every day, we are called to use our everyday God-given blessings and His mercies, given to us new every morning, as a silent or spoken witness.

With the hand of God on our lives, our everyday purposes become our godly destiny, and that is what will build our trust and faithfulness in Him.

 

Winter

Winter.png

 

By Ken Laue

Winter, I saw your death throes
against the mountains
In Spring.

You rallied a cold storm
And dusted the crags with snow
In March.

 

But the sun
Was more than a match for you
And burned fiercely afterwards.

And January
Had fled away
And was calling himself July now.

Winter, I saw your death throes;
I always love you,
Winter in Arizona.

My Heavenly Father put a magic in you.
I always loved you better
Than August or June.

 

Winter,
Maybe it’s a hundred and ten
But you’re coming back again, someday;

Just like my Lord.

Winter,
You’ll paint your landscapes on my heart again
Like His palette in my soul.

 

Ol' Twisted Arm

By Bill Valine

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are
your ways My ways,” says the Lord. – Isaiah 55:8

I would rather call my God Ol’ Twisted Arm
than what I really ought,

’Cause I would twist that great big arm
and tie it in a knot.

And when He shouted and when He screamed
for me to let Him go,

I would say Let what I dreamed
be now and ever so.

I would like to call my God Ol’ Twisted Arm,
and have now all I sought.

It would be such fun and there would be no harm
and I would be so hap - You would not.

You know quite well I love you,
and what I do is for your good.

So stop your twisting (It will never work)
and trust Me as you should.

Boys just wanna have guns

Cutting Edge.png

“When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”   – Anthony Burgess

 Jessica Greer

Jessica Greer

As the Trump administration turned a year old beside its diametrically opposed twin sister, the Women’s March Organization, the nation was able to reflect on the propulsion of our democracy.

Trump continues to mystify Ivy League educated political pundits while tweeting dictators from Mar-a-Lago.

Meantime, mainstream feminism took an ironic and unexpected turn, unleashing its fury on the swampiest of sewers: Hollywood.

The New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s “From Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories” on October 10, 2017.

The article highlighted the alleged power abuse and sexual misconduct of one of Hollywood’s most influential producers.

Within the same month, the #metoo movement emerged, creating the hashtag to reflect the vastness of sexual assault as a social systemic problem.

The term was popularized as Weinstein’s high-profile women came forward, hashtagging their own horror stories from the casting couch (while, of course, omitting the net worth accumulated as complicit instruments of sexual exploitation – all in the name of women’s empowerment, up until they decided it was degrading).

But with this momentum to expose and liberate legitimate victims of sexual oppression came an opportunity for Gloria Steinem’s hollow manifesto to affix itself.

Many mainstream feminists began to blame these cultural woes on the acceptable masculine nature of American men.

Fast forward to February 2018, when another boy problem rears its ugly head.

On Valentine’s Day, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz bombards Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, with an AR-15 assault rifle, killing 17.

In the hours following one of America’s worst school massacres, speculation began to emerge regarding warning signs in the shooter.

Almost magically, within a 24-hour timeframe, high school students organized protests, walkouts, and speeches as outrage over the lack of gun control policies, mental health support, and politically charged sentiment on both the right and the left began to flow on cue.

Jess guns 2.jpg

Americans began reducing the most complex social issues to the lowest common denominator in order to defend their staunch ideologies.

Some demanded an end to our Second Amendment while others accepted our state of chaos and suggested teachers be trained and armed.

The media reminisced on past school shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and others. Celebrities trended: “thoughts & prayers policy & change.”

But it was only a matter of time before the critics went after the ultimate culprit in every scenario of violence: masculinity.

Reactions to the clearly male social issues in the United States continue to inspire a conversation which raises questions concerning the American boy crisis.

Are boys more dangerous than previously suspected?

Can we now all agree that our heritage of patriarchal power structures is detrimental to progress?

Can masculinity be cured?

One CNN article cited red flag behaviors in Cruz “as early as age 9, when he got in a rock-throwing fight with another boy.”

As absurd as this example may be, the plight of the boy still remains. Cruz did, in fact, grow to become angrier, more violent, and ultimately, a mass murderer.

As a public high school public teacher and the mother of two mischievously curious boys, I have to say, however, that I have personally seen an unnerving pattern in American education which increasingly contributes to the death of male curiosity, the rise of unmotivated boys, the ongoing lack of fathers, and an urgency to medicate boys into classroom submission.

The assault of the American boy has been underway since the birth of second wave feminism.

The agenda is to destroy the “cult of masculinity” and “compulsory heterosexuality” in order to feminize men into the perfect boyfriend, rather than harness the energy that forged the way to organize civilizations, create governments, industrialize, and globalize.

This is not to say that women have not played a role in the progress of humanity. But we cannot deny the domination of men along with the foundations they have laid for future generations.

Yet, in our current collective society we are experiencing a Clockwork Orange dystopian version of the male.

Anthony Burgess’ novel The Clockwork Orange is a dark tale of a society in which masculinity is so bored that it turns to violence and crime to satisfy its nature.

The main character, Alex, is eventually caught by police and brainwashed into being the Good Alex, but eventually he is triggered back into the Bad Alex.

The “clockwork orange” is a London phrase which means “having the appearance of an organism lovely with color and juice, but which is in fact only a clockwork toy to be wound up by God or the Devil or the Almighty State.”

Mary Shelley painted a similar picture in her novel Frankenstein, in which the mad scientist creates a monster he cannot control.

The thought that a state, an institution, or a even person can control and coerce humans to outsource their moral choice making without paying a natural price is the most arrogant of ideals.

The assault on the American boy has had a profoundly negative impact on our society.

In a 2015 article in Psychology Today, Dr. Marilyn Wedge states: “Boys are held back in school at twice the rate of girls. They get expelled from preschool five times more often than girls. And they are three times as likely to get labeled with ADHD as girls –13 percent of boys are diagnosed with ADHD versus 5 percent of girls. Boys are medicated for ADHD more than girls.”

Who has access to your boy even more than you do? Who is the trusted voice of reason when it comes to medicating boys?

The public school. From the youngest age of pre-schooling at 3 years old, you can bet on a school psychologist analyzing the impulsive and mischievous behaviors of your boy.

This pedagogical platform provides a space to exercise power over family.

I’m reminded of the famous Bible story of Moses being put in a small basket, floating down the Nile River as his mother saves his life from the murderous Egyptian decree to kill all Israelite boys (Exodus 1:15-22).

Matthew Henry describes the tactical use of Egyptian midwives as tools to murder Israelite boys at birth: “the midwives were appointed to be the executioners; for it was to make them not only bloody, but perfidious, and to oblige them to betray a trust, and to destroy those whom they undertook to save and help. Pharaoh’s project was secretly to engage the midwives to stifle the men-children as soon as they were born, and then to lay it upon the difficulty of the birth, or some mischance common in that case.”

Camille Paglia criticized this offensive in her comment that “natural, robust, assertive masculinity is defined as a disease from which society must be cured.”

Today’s public school system acts as the arms and legs of the current agenda which seeks to systematically quash the inborn male nature of boys and replace it with an acquiescent shell of a boy.

The side effects for many of the top five drugs prescribed for ADHD are depression, psychotic breakdowns, and aggression.

That means that what is being used as a replacement for discipline completely eliminates the opportunity for correction and training.

Boys are seeking to reclaim their stolen masculinity without fathers and without God, and it has become our social nightmare.

Originally, The Clockwork Orange story closed with Alex having his moment of metanoia (change of mind, spiritual conversion, also known as repentance). Acts 3:19 says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Perhaps the greatest travesty connected with the charges against masculinity and the drugging of the American boy is the suppressing of his cognitive ability to repent.

Rather than demanding that the Bill of Rights be revised to operate in the favor of a dictatorship, or scrambling to arm our schools like prisons, we should be asking how the American boy and his masculinity can be cultivated and prepared to fervently pursue the next frontier. 

The Other Side of the Church

By Elaine Masiello

I don’t know you very well.

You’re always doing something.

Me, too.

But I do know you.

I see you across the room.

 

Just a glance, and my heart is your heart.

We are both strong warriors,

Fighting the same battle.

We are on the same side,

Even though we are on

Opposite sides of the room.

 

Just one glance,

Tired in the trenches, but having on the

Whole armor of God.

We will win souls for Jesus because

The one true God, the Savior Jesus Christ

Is our Commander in Chief.

 

Adversity makes us stronger.

We will stand tall because God knows all.

I know you, Sister,

Across the battlefield.

On the other side of the church.

 

Smells like millennial spirit

Engagement phots, proposition re enacted

The Super Bowl is perhaps one of the most insightful reflections of pop culture Americana.

The potential to change the world is not
a far-fetched fantasy; it is literally at their fingertips.

From the multi-million dollar entries in the annual competition to produce the most shocking commercials, to  halftime shows featuring outrageous moments like a menopausal  Madonna jumping around on stage in leather hot pants, to Beyoncé channeling her personal demon Sasha Fierce.

A snapshot of popular culture across America would feature masses of Millennials sitting at the edge of their seats with their thumbs poised to tweet the most clever reaction to these spectacles.

One of this year’s commercials in particular may have inadvertently captured the zeitgeist of the Millennial generation.

This year’s Bud Light commercial, based on the Pac-Man video game of yore, invited one random bar goer to unexpectedly enter the “House of Whatever.”

The chosen stranger opens a secret door across the street from the bar, and a party explodes into a laser show, flashing stage lights, and booming music.

An audience of thousands of young people stand by cheering for him to compete in a live version of Pac-Man.

The crowd roars as the guy races into the video game-like maze. The DJ blasts the original Pac-Man theme, the iconic ghosts pursue, and party goers cheer our hero on through the course.

Meanwhile, sentimental music plays underneath that evokes feelings of pride, excitement, and intensity, as if you were watching Michael Phelps backstroke his way to an eighth gold medal.

The crowd is patently emotional as the man wins the game and is ultimately rewarded a Bud Light.

People are interviewed – all experiencing this amazing, unbelievable, random moment – tied together by Bud Light’s creative director, Miller Jones, explaining, “We wanted to give one person the experience of a lifetime.”

The commercial ends with their catchy slogan, "The perfect beer for whatever happens," which helps explain the current surge of fraternity gang rape cases.

The very idea that a commercial about the experience of running through a maze chased by life size Pac-Man ghosts while drunk people cheer you on could be viewed as an inspirational tale uniquely embodies the vacuous state of Millennials.

Whether it’s the hipster who purposefully wears his shirt inside out, the celeb-uttante wannabe who takes 35 selfies a day, or the social media bloggers/photographers/fashion gurus/irony-philosophers sharing their deep, uncredited insight with the world in real time, this generation believes that everyone is a creative genius imbued with power to convert any trivial moment into a photo-op.

One article coined the term “trophy kids” to describe Millennials as the generation who receive a trophy for merely participating.

Is it any wonder today that many have grown up not only to idolize themselves, but to actually interpret their narcissism as a robust form of spirituality?

The Millennials are also the most non-religious generation, compared to their predecessors.

Their self-seeking instincts have detoured them from seeking a higher power or a greater purpose beyond themselves.

Who needs a pastor, priest, rabbi, or judge to marry you when your best friend can get ordained over a website? It's all the same.

Suddenly the value of a 4,000-year-old religion has been equated with amoral shallow impulses.

By contrast, juxtapose this kind of “spirituality” with radical Islam and its rapidly growing numbers.

Even Western Muslims who have grown up with first-world opportunities are becoming radicalized at an alarming rate. How can a self-immolating doctrine of hate be so alluring?

The fact is America is not simply being labeled infidel because the entire Muslim world is jealous of our way of life. We are in an ideological war.

A recent article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood entitled “What ISIS Really Wants” discusses the determining religious factors that motivate jihad.

He quotes George Orwell’s firsthand observation of Nazi Germany to describe why indoctrination into the cause of terrorism can be so effective:

“Nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. Hitler, in his own joyless mind feels… [that] they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades... Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people: ‘I offer you a good time.’ Hitler has said to them: ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result, a whole nation flings itself at his feet.”

Wood’s conclusion is that this religious ideology married to a blood-thirsty culture wrapped in a delusion of holy purpose is the most dangerous of possible scenarios.

Yet President Obama, who is the sum reflection of the Millennial spirit, refuses to connect jihadists to their Islamic roots.

Professor Obama prefers to take the more humanistic viewpoint, blaming these countless conversions on years of colonialism, on poor U.S international policies, on lack of education, and on a need for cultural respect on behalf of the West.

Because like all leftist conclusions, when people are behaving destructively evil, it is a result of not having enough government-provided equal opportunities.

Who knows what catastrophic tragedies could have been deterred if only Hitler had been encouraged to pursue his artistic interests for which he lacked the talent... like most Millennials?

In spite of what Western leaders would have you believe, radical Islam is experiencing a revival of their version of “old time religion” – a Muslim Great Awakening, if you will!

My question is, do our millennials have an answer to such a movement?

Perhaps there is something percolating underneath.

One of the most positive characteristics of Millennials is our constant need to feel that we are making the world a better place.

Time magazine’s comment about the young aid worker recently killed in Syria, Kayla Mueller, identifies this quality: “She didn’t want to be seen helping people: she wanted to help people.”

While many mock pop culture philanthropy, it is undeniable that young people have responded to whatever social media causes arise.

We saw this in the ALS ice bucket challenge, in KONY 2012, and of course in the election of the first African-American president.

Millennials are hungry for purpose, but their socialistic progressive politics don’t quite add up with their celebrity-obsessed lifestyle delusions.

II Corinthians 3:17 says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."

 The millennials may seem like the most liberated generation, but they are not free.

Teen pregnancy, abortion, suicide, rape, murder, public massacres… I mean, our personal list of transgressions might read differently when compared to ISIS, but I dare say our numbers may add up the same.

Jesus said, "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34).

Millennials have more access to global information and networking than ever before.

The potential to change the world is not a far-fetched fantasy; it is literally at their fingertips.

They are the largest generation at an estimated 11 million strong, and they are also the most educated generation.

Juxtapose those credentials with jihadists, and it is perplexing how rapidly Islamic indoctrinated hate is growing within their numbers.

The world is becoming increasingly unstable, but if the Millennials in this country will return to their Judeo-Christian roots they will find a profound sense of purpose and vision.

Proverbs 1: 22-23 says: "How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings."

The answer to combating radical Islam will not be found in mere military muscle or Tea Party politics, and most definitely not in Professor Obama’s scholarly dialogue.

Millennials have power in their religious roots as well, and the answer is found in repenting and turning back to the living God, the God who values humanity and the soul above all else, the God who gives individual purpose and power over the flesh.

If Millennials choose to be lovers of themselves over repentance, then running around chased through a maze by life-size Pac-Man ghosts will indeed be the most meaningful experience of their generation, while Islam maintains the radicalization of the disillusioned youth.

The value of this generation is directly connected to their religious roots, as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 5:13:

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."

 

The King, the jewel and the crown: Reflecting the glory of God!

By Jose Urbina

The Church is God’s crown jewel, a stone of many facets that reflects the glory of the King.

To best display every facet, that jewel is set firmly into an interwoven framework of the finest materials to adorn the Head.

The crown is a composite of jewels and framework.

The framework is a cohesive and indispensable part that functions in the background, providing support to the jewel while further enhancing its beauty.

This is the nature of the role of God’s faithful saints, the pillars of His Church.

Since we don’t live in a monarchy, it is hard for Americans to understand the importance of a crown. On her Christian radio program, Joni Eareckson Tada spoke recently about crowns.

A crown represents not only recognition, she said, but also a reward; a consummation; the end of an effort.

A crown cannot reflect the glory of the kingdom it represents if it cannot reflect light. This is why crowns are made with precious metals and jewels.

These elements aptly showcase a rare beauty not found in other pieces of work.

   The church of Jesus Christ is such a work of wonder.

But without the light of God’s love and mercy; and without the grace by which we accomplish the Lord’s will on this Earth, we are simply lackluster.

In James 1:12, our God promises us a crown of life if we endure temptation, and I Peter 5:4 tells us that this crown will not fade away.

Crowns represent power.

They also represent legitimacy.

Only those who really merit a crown will obtain one. A crown also speaks of victory, triumph, honor, and glory.

But the object itself is not composed merely of jewels.

A framework must accompany the jewels to form that composite structure.

Without the framework, the jewels miss something essential to their glory.

The couples you’re about to meet form a small part of the framework that supports the crown jewel of the kingdom, the Church.

God’s saints who labor behind the scenes, who form the basic framework, are worthy of honor.

Andrés and Saney Camacho, who support the Spanish ministries at The Door Church in Tucson, also form part of the wonderful framework of God’s crown.

Saved almost seven years, Saney shares what brought them to the feet of Jesus.

“I was desperate. I did not know how I was going to make the rent,” she says. “Andrés used the little money we had on liquor or drugs.

I realized that if he were to change, God had to do it. I was tired of trying on my own.”

When Saney’s brother-in-law invited them to church, they remember, they were a mess.

“I did not want to marry Andrés, but I had no problem living in sin with him,” says Saney. “Then the Holy Ghost dealt with me: ‘You must get married, you must get baptized, and you must dedicate your children to the Lord.’” Andrés and Saney promptly complied.

What makes the Camachos part of the framework of the crown is their humility in service to the Lord.  

  That became apparent when I asked Bro. Andrés to help me with the Spanish production of our play, The Judgment.

      “I’ll do anything you ask me,” he said, “as long as it is behind the scenes.” And he was serious.

We could not have presented the drama without him, or without the labors of so many others.

Art and Olga Garza were saved in January, 1984, at a home Bible study hosted by Herb and Cheryon Unruh. Married four years, they had two small sons and looked good on the surface.

But their marriage was in trouble, and after seeing the change in Frank and Joanne Rivera’s life, they accepted an invitation to come check out The Door Church.

“I had never heard the plan of salvation, and I was very broken and sad,” Olga says. “My husband and I wouldn’t speak for weeks, and I would go to the Catholic Church and light my candle and pray to some saint, thinking he would change our marriage.”

“The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” I Corinthians 12:22 (ESV)

As Jesus Vizzerra brought the message at the Bible study that night, Art knew he had a decision to make. “I was at a fork in the road,” he tells young couples he ministers to today. “One direction would lead to temporary pleasures, a broken marriage, and separation from my two little boys. The other would heal my marriage and bring blessings to my children and grandchildren.”

Art made the right choice and gave his life to Jesus, and “something supernatural happened.

“God is very real, and I haven’t been the same since!”

He now ministers to other young men who face the same choices he did, encouraging them in the ways of the Lord.

As a nurse, Olga has had many opportunities to pray with patients, as well as her mother, grandmother, aunts, and other close family members before they went to eternity.

“God has given me hope and peace in times of trouble,” Olga says. “I have learned to trust in Him and not in myself or in people.

My family understands that Jesus is first in my life and what I stand for. In times of need, even though they may not be believers, they come to me for direction and prayer.

Our five sons and our grandchildren understand that we don't compromise on our Christian beliefs.”

Any success in the kingdom of God has largely to do with this quality in the hearts of His people; hearts that put service in the name of the Lord before their own honor.

These couples are but two examples; there are so many more, they can’t be counted, even here in our own local church.

Now think of how we are all knit together with God’s worldwide Church, past present and future! Each life dedicated to God’s service forms part of the crown’s framework.

Without the framework – the constant, quiet support of those saints who labor in the background without desire for recognition – the crown jewel could not shine forth the glory of the King.
The components of the crown work in relation with each other. Every part of it is precious and equally necessary.

Such is the Bride of Christ.