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.

 

 

 

 

The glorious gray crown

Sharon gray crown.jpg

By Sharon Byrd & Valerie Unruh

An elderly couple are on their way to visit relatives. The wife turns to the husband and says, "Honey, you try to remember where we're going, and I'll try to remember who we are."

These types of jokes are funny to us as we tease our aging friends and relatives, but the truth is, at some point you or someone you know is going to be there.

People 65 years and older represent 12.9% of the U.S. population; close to 40 million souls!

That number is expected to reach 19% by 2030, which would make it almost 64 million!

Our Savior was always ready and willing to take on a challenge, meeting problems head on, and we should be no different. So let’s look at what Scripture has to say about old age and how we should be thinking about it.

We should never treat cheaply the treasure of our elderly, who are worth more than earthly treasures.

There are two areas I want to touch on: our attitude toward our own aging experience and our attitude and responsibility toward the elderly, both as individuals and as the Church.

Our outlook toward our own aging process is intertwined with our attitude toward others as they age, so we’ll start there.

Scripture is pretty clear on the point that long life is a gift from God. It is a blessing, something to look forward to, not something to dread and fear. Numerous verses teach this. Let’s look at a few:

“Gray hair is a glorious crown; if it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).

“Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

“If you walk in My ways and keep My statutes and commandments just as your father David did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14).

There is also the oft-repeated phrase in the Bible regarding many a righteous man who “died old and full of days.”

It’s interesting that God points out not only the physical longevity of these men, but that they died “full of days.” That sounds to me like you could be old and not full of days!

But what is full of days? How does that look? The simple answer is that only you and God can work that out! Every single one of our lives will look different from the others around us. We are unique individuals so it makes sense that each of our “full days” will be unique, too.

We should seek God’s guidance to know how He would have us fill up our days, but one thing we can be sure of across the board: that those full days will have something to do with serving others and furthering the Kingdom of God.

Joel urges the older generation to tell their children what they’ve seen God do, so that their children can tell their children, from generation to generation (Joel 1:2-3). Paul exhorts Titus to have the older saints teach the younger ones in Titus chapter 2.

As the parable of the talents so vividly portrays, Jesus is all about us taking what we’re given and making the most of it for Him.

If He gives us the gift of longevity, He expects us to be fruitful for His glory.

Think of the rich wisdom and experiences available to someone who’s been around the block a time or two. Someone who has walked with the Savior and seen His hand at work in their lives.

What a gold mine of knowledge to help others on their way!

Some folks who “filled their years” serving the kingdom include: Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Eli the priest, King Solomon's counselors, Daniel, the men who led the rebuilding of the temple, Zacharias (father of John the Baptist), John the Apostle, Simeon, Anna and Paul.

The Psalmist definitely was describing folks like these when he said: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green” (Psalm 92:12-14).

The long days of our life are a talent lent to us by God to use for His glory. The bigger the loan, the larger the profit, not to mention the greater chance for salvation.

Proverbs 10:27 says: “The fear of the Lord prolongs days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” The longer the life, the more the results. At least that’s how it should be!

Once we realize what a treasure it is to have long life, we can immediately understand why the Bible is so adamant about respecting our elders.

You would not treat cheaply an item that was worth a great deal to you. Likewise we should never treat cheaply the treasure of our elderly, who are worth more than earthly treasures.

According to Proverbs 17:6, “the glory of children is their fathers,” and in Leviticus, God commanded: “You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old… I am the Lord.” He didn’t say it’s okay to just blow him off because, you know, he’s an old dude.

It is also our responsibility to care for our aging family members:   

 “Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (I Timothy 5:8).

That’s pretty intense!

Of course, caring for our aging relatives and friends will require some thought beforehand. As I work with the elderly and their families, I see one common thread: no one is ever prepared.

There is no common ground as to what the relatives feel the person in need actually needs, and so the family members are usually left trying to figure out what is best for themselves instead of what is best for the aging relative.

The enemy has done a fine job of removing us from the reality of aging, thus widening the gap between generations. What can we do to remove this gap and be ready?

Talk. Talk and write things down. Then talk and write down some more! Writing it down is always best, so that there’s no confusion. Have a living will or a letter set aside for when the time comes.

Even just talking to your children about what you want or need down the road is better than doing nothing. Many times children are left holding the bag, trying to remember what Mom liked or what Dad didn’t like. Be prepared!

And remember, the next generation, your kids, the younger versions of you, the youth, the little peeps, are watching you. How you handle your aging relatives is how you are going to be handled.

Lastly, as a Church body, we have a collective duty to care for the aged who might not have family to care for them.

I Timothy 5:16 tells us: “If any believing woman has widows, she should help them, and the church should not be burdened, so that it can help those who are genuinely widows.”

James 1:27 reminds us that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Most importantly, pray. Never cease to intercede on behalf of the elderly. Pray also for those who are caring for loved ones, and for those who are just caring.

They, we, I, need this support dearly.

I close with this prayer in verse, put together from my experiences with the people I have helped over the years.

Do you see yourself in here?

 

The Voice

By Dawn Hitchcock

But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the

same image from glory to glory, even as by the
Spirit of the Lord.”    –  2 Corinthians 3:18

 

I am in the midst of a thunderclap that renders me obscure.

Brilliant luminescence holds me mute and spellbound.

 

The glimmering mirror, alive, beckons, “Come and see.”

(It’s a gentle, lilting, melodious voice… Irresistibly
compelling.) I creep toward it.

“Come closer. See?” (As a mother urging her untaught child).

“Bathe in My transparency,” it croons.
(My eyes engage the shimmery form).

 

“How I enjoy to behold you, basking in My glory!” the voice exclaims. “See our visages converge, becoming one as you behold Me?

“Even darkly, at a distance, My purpose is plain.”

(The voice begins to boom with excitement and gravity).

 

(Then gently, now, sounding like a father):
“Here is My hand. Watch
your step.”

 

(A pause… silence… and then)

   “ Aah-Baa!”   

I bleat (uproarious) 

 as I run into Him andam safe.

 

 

Give Them All

By Rachel Armenta

Rachel poem 2.jpg

The splinters sliced my hands

And pierced into my soul,

But I continued upwards,

Driven towards my goal.

 

I climbed the wooden beam

As fast as I could go,

Towards a piece of paper

That condemned my weary soul.

 

My shirt was drenched with blood,

But the blood was not my own.

It was from the Perfect Man, 

Whose death for sin atones.

 

When I reached the crossbeam,

I told my lungs to breathe.

I had climbed this wretched cross,

This cross called Calvary.

 

 

Through the paper was a nail,

But I ripped the pages free,

Choosing not to leave them there,

But to carry them with me.

 

The guilt and shame I carry 

Is not designed for me to bear,

So why then do I seek it,

When He has nailed it there?

 

A love that is unfailing.

A mercy without end.

Yet, foolish human that I am,

I would relive it once again.

 

Guilt is for repentance.

Shame, not for despair.

Give them all to Jesus,

And then,

                 leave

                          them

                                  there.

 

Coming back from a failure of faith

Gualtieri family

Gualtieri family

By Paul Gualtieri

We watched our two middle sons sitting in our living room holding their babies.

It was hard to fathom that we were actually at this place in life.

My wife and I met in church, had our children in church, and raised them in a godly home.

I wish I could honestly say it was always easy, and that there were never any challenges along the way.

But by the grace of God – and did we ever need His grace! – we have six wonderful children and five grandchildren (and another one on the way).

I came into The Door in Tucson thirty years ago, a twisted and very confused young man.

At the age of 21, I was tired of my life and ready for a change.

It was April 27, 1987 when I gave my life to Jesus, and it was just six months later that my wife came into church, a single mom pregnant with her second child.

Growing up an only child raised by my mom, I would see families playing in the local park – mom and dad and kids and family pet – and inside I would yearn to have that life.

So when I gave my life to Jesus and saw all the great families in church, I was excited by the thought that at last I, too, would find a wife, have children (and maybe a dog) and we would all serve God together (except maybe for the dog).

This, along with my desire to preach the gospel, defined who I was, and it still does today.

Several years ago while we were out of town, I had a report by phone that one of my children was doing something in our home that we would not approve of.

This shattered my dream of our flawless life serving God together.

Parent, this needs to be who you are: you are immovable in your faith and your commitment to the things of God. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.

On our return, we waited it out in the hopes of seeing repentance in our child.

I remember that day like it was yesterday – and not because one of my kids did something wrong, but because I had what I call a failure of faith.

For years my wife and I served God and made sure that we were to faithful and stayed involved.

We did it all for two reasons: one, to be busy for God; and two, so that our children would see that Mom and Dad served God in the local church, that this was our life.

We felt this was a great way to lay down a spiritual foundation for our children.

But on that day it seemed like all of that did not matter.

I started to question God.

I started to question why we did what we did.

Memories flashed before me of the times I did not want to be involved and just wanted to quit – but I didn't because I knew my kids were watching.

It seemed like all the hard work of pushing forward did not even matter.

This mindset was my failure of faith.

I can say this now, especially because I see all of my children except one (Gianna- 12, still at home) living as productive adults.

They all have jobs, some are married and raising a family of their own, most are serving God and going to church.

The truth of the matter is that not all of our children all of the time will serve God the way we want them to.

I think as parents we forget that our job is to lay the foundation, and that our children will build on it. That foundation that we have laid equips our children to have the best possible lives in God that they could have, but it's not a guarantee that along the way that they won't trip and stumble.

If a parent is not careful, facing the fact that their child has chosen to leave God and all they have been raised in could be that parent's undoing.

Every parent wants the very best for their children, and we know and understand beyond all doubt that a life built on anything other than Jesus is not the best life for our child.

But when we are faced with our own children's failures, we have to remind ourselves that all we do and have done does matter.

Being steadfast in your faith is the greatest thing you can do for children. Webster's defines steadfast as “firmly fixed in place; immovable.”

Parent, this needs to be who you are: you are immovable in your faith and your commitment to the things of God.

Those around you may not be, but you are. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children. It not only builds them up when they are young, but it gives them a sense of security even when they are older.

Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The great thing about this promise is that they really do come around.

What old means in this verse has been the subject of much speculation — but whether that means when they are 25-30 or even 40-plus, a child who sees a parent still manning their post sees the greatest testimony of all.

So on that day of my spiritual demise, I had to take inventory of how I parented my children.

At that time, we had been serving God for eighteen years.

We always made sure our kids were in church, and we regularly talked about the things of God in our home.

It was important to remember this because I started to blame myself, wondering where I had failed, and I had to quickly get out of that mode and remind myself that I had done all that I knew how to do.

I also had to remind myself that my children were given the same free will as I was given, and like everyone else they had to make good decisions and their own choice to serve God and live right.

Evaluating who I was in Jesus helped me to regain confidence as a father.

As godly parents, there are so many things that work against us in our society, but maintaining your confidence in Jesus and His Word will help you to continue to man your post.

   There were also some important things I did in order to reassure myself and rescue my faith.   

   The first one was inspired by Pastor Fred Gonzalez, Sr.

   I remember talking to him about what I was going through, and he reminded me that during all my children's years in church, it was us – Mom and Dad – that instilled the Word of God in their lives.

So the first thing you should remind yourself of is that you have kept the Word of God a central part of your home, and that God tells us in Isaiah 55:11: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”

God's Word has unbounded influence.

It will accomplish what God intends for it to accomplish.

This is a promise from God.

Our job is to keep the Word of God in our home, and wait to see God’s handiwork.

The second thing that we did was to maintain our spiritual involvement in the church.

This is very important, because although we may not see it, our children watch what we do during these difficult times.

This teaches them that no matter how difficult life can get, in and outside of church, a commitment to God and His house is non-negotiable.

The final thing (that should go without saying) is to continue to pray for your children.

My wife and I both can testify that there was someone always praying for our salvation, and today we are saved because of those prayers.

A parent can never give up praying for their children.

Moms and dads always need to pray for their children, whether they are living for God or not.

As a pioneer pastor this is the one thing I have learned: Prayer is powerful.

Whether for people in your church or in your home, prayer keeps us connected to our God and also connected to those we are praying for.

While it may be difficult to see your kids not serving God, or to see them not at the place in God where they should be, one thing that is healthy to remember is that God is committed to them.

It's a fact that has given us much comfort.

Just like God is committed to you and me, He is committed to our children and wants to see them saved more than we ever could imagine.

A week does not go by that I don't get a call from one of my children asking some question either about parenting or about the Word of God.

Parent, don't give up. The reward will come.

If you throw in the towel, you not only rob yourself of all that God wants to do in your life, but you will miss out on all that God will do in your children's lives as well.

 

 

 

Planting seeds of steadfast faith in our families

 “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God... Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”  — Luke 8:10-11

By Frank King

Gregor Mendel is known as the father of modern genetics.
   His studies of plants in the mid-1800s led him to conclude that by means of the genes contained in the seed, plants pass on vital characteristics to their offspring.

As a Christian, Mendel drew heavily on the Word of God in his research.

During his time, he began a project on the steadfast quality of seeds which continues to this day.

Researchers at Michigan State University have discovered that seeds that are stored and later planted can still reproduce even centuries after the parent plant has died.

Despite the time difference, these offspring inherit their qualities and characteristics from those parents.

The key is in the seed, which holds everything necessary to reproduce its kind.

This same quality of steadfastness can also operate in our families, if we plant the proper seeds in the proper way.

Legacy is the fruit born of generational seeds that are planted, nurtured, harvested, and then replanted in the next generation.

Let’s explore Jesus’s parable of the sower and the seed in Luke 8:4-15.

Here Jesus teaches that when we plant the seed of God's Word, can expect to reap a crop of souls.

As with most parables, the Parable of the Sower and the Seed can be applied to many scenarios.

When Jesus said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, it applies to all areas of our influence. 

More specifically, it applies to building a steadfast family as an element of building the steadfast church.

Jesus tells us the seed is the Word of God (v.11).

A steadfast family is one where seeds of scriptural truth are continually being planted.

As the seeds germinate, take root, grow, and bear fruit, the seeds from that new fruit are replanted to produce the next generation in the family of faith.

Both Susan and I were raised by parents who used biblical truth to guide their values.

They planted the seeds of that truth into our lives, and it bore fruit. We learned accountability to God and to people. We were taught the value of charity, kindness, and ministry to others.

Our parents modeled modesty, faithfulness, and loyalty.

The fruit born in us created a man and a woman who were charitable, kind, and devoted to meeting the needs of other people.

We were both reared by our biological parents, who remained married to each other until death.

When we were married, that lifestyle was the norm. We have now been married 47 years.

Into our children, we planted the seeds that we had harvested. Now grown and married, they are planting the same seeds. Two of our children have been married to their spouses for 20 years now, and the other for 12 years.

The new generation of seeds is also bearing fruit: our greatest joy is hearing our grandchildren repeat truths we told our children.

Legacy is the fruit born of generational seeds that are planted, nurtured, harvested, and then replanted in the next generation.

“But I never experienced that in my own life,” you may say. “How can I pass it on?” The good news is that you can start a new legacy with your next sunrise.

My father was raised in an abusive home. Before they were married, he and my mother resolved to break that cycle, and so far their decision has resulted in two generations and more than two dozen households of families who have never known abuse.

The everlasting truth of sowing and reaping is that you can toss out that old generation of bad fruit and begin a new crop by deciding to sow only good seeds.

The good seeds are in the Word of God, not in our dysfunctional families.

When Susan and I got saved and began studying the Word of God, we recognized the seeds that our parents had planted in us.

But whether or not you have received that seed from your parents, you can receive it from the Word, and begin your own godly, biblical legacy.

For example, you can sow seeds of protection. A steadfast family creates a safe place where children can relax and grow in the home where God has placed them.

Verse 12 speaks of seeds scattered by the wayside that the devil comes and steals away.

When children grow up in a protected, godly environment, the seed of God's Word is part of who they are. When the devil tries to steal it, they will resist him and he will flee (James 4:7).

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Children must be taught to follow the path lit by the Word, not the one lit by the world.

They should learn to make the Word their own, understanding the work it does in their hearts, so that when counterfeit joy comes along, they will not be fooled.

Home is also a safe place for children to learn to fail. We must protect our children from harm, but not necessarily from hurt.

Children who are protected from every outside influence may appear to prosper in early life, but in times of testing they will be unprepared to stand for the Word.

They are like the seed on rocky ground, which has no root and falls away in times of testing (v 13).

Overprotective parents have nearly ruined an entire generation of children. Unable to deal with disappointment, change and opposition, they rant, riot and ruin that which they cannot have. If their parents had taught them how to deal with hurt, they would be better prepared for the real world.

A steadfast family prepares the ground, creating a godly environment for children to be raised in.

This involves removing the weeds and thorns that can choke out the seed of the Word (v. 14).

As parents establish family standards, they can monitor what their children hear, watch, and read.

This helps prepares the soil, creating a tender heart that is receptive to the Word of God, and so allowing it to take root. This doesn't mean that parents must filter out all negative influences.

This would be an impossible task. Building a relationship with your child that guides rather than judges will allow them to make decisions based on healthy, open, two-way communication.

When exposed to questionable material, your child should feel comfortable discussing it with you.

Remember, when we ourselves are tempted, the Holy Spirt comes to guide and to help, not to harangue.

A steadfast family promotes healthy growth by cultivating healthy lifestyles. That way, when temptations come, their offspring will not be choked.

To cultivate godly seed, the soil of the heart must be fed with a daily dose of the Word of God.

As children grow, we must take measures that encourage and facilitate this nourishment.

Family entertainment should be chosen that adds to the nurture of the soul, rather than detracting from it. Music, books, and media should all align with biblical standards.

Parents should model charity, accountability, and loyalty so that children will know what a godly lifestyle looks like, and emulate it.

They will also be less likely to fall for the devil’s lies about riches and pleasures if their worry is countered by God’s promise of provision.

A steadfast family promotes healthy hearts by passing on good and noble ideas to their children, cultivating that good soil that produces fruit (v.15).

I recently attended a funeral for a man in our church. He had been a business manager, a husband, and a friend to all.

Most of all, he was a father.

One of his daughters testified that he instilled in his children a steadfast faith. Her sister said that she knew he was still alive, because he lived on in his wife and children.

This man passed his nature and being on to those he loved because he put his faith in Jesus, and passed that legacy on to his children. He was a faithful sower of the seed.

   A steadfast family is the building block for a steadfast church.

   To us it is given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God, Jesus said. God has called each of us to a steadfast faith.

That faith begins in an individual man or woman, and as they are obedient to His Word, they pass that seed on to their children.

Faith, like the seeds of Gregor Mendel, will germinate in our offspring, growing and bearing fruit.

As the receiving generation, they, too, are charged with the responsibility to pass on the seed.

As each family grows steadfast in its faith, so does the church.

 

 

Pastor’s Podium: For the sake of the children

When parental approval is required to dispense an aspirin, but not to terminate a pregnancy, something is askew.

Today's political mantra, “It’s all about the children,” creates the illusion that the welfare, safety, and growth of our children is the main concern of the powers that be.

But in truth, legislations are enacted daily that create an ever-widening threat to the next generation.

Welfare isn't the first term that comes to mind when I consider the hyper-sexualized pop culture that delivers anything imaginable to a child at the click of a mouse.

Pornographers target a child at age 11, knowing that when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The entertainment industry follows suit.

At a time of life when young people most need sheltering, there is a growing tendency to immerse children in mature experiences and require them to make mature decisions.

As sociologist Neil Postman observes, “children are being robbed of their innocence, their naivete, their ability to even be a child.”

When the line between the adult world and the child’s world becomes blurred or erased, then childhood disappears.

Dr. Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care was the Baby Boomer's child-rearing bible.

It counseled parents above all to stop being overprotective.

Loosen up! Back off!

God forbid you should be a parent; be your child's buddy!

Today we've arrived: we live in the age of the underprotective parent.

The absurd theatrics taking place on college campuses today is the culmination of decades of radical education revision.

In a world inundated with texting and Facebook, cyberbullying and Internet porn, Teen Mom and Bad Girls Club, cutting up and hooking up... the biggest alleged parenting sin is still overprotection.

Really?

“We continue to let culture dictate what is normal,” says James Emery White, “If ‘everyone’ is doing it, wearing it, seeing it, going to it, or listening to it, then we feel we will be damaging our child if we don’t go along – even though parenting by ‘everyone’ is putting our children’s very childhood at risk. Yet some parents are more eager to be liked or accepted by their kids than they are to be parents to their kids.”

Some of the dedicated workers who minister to children at The Door Church in Tucson

Some of the dedicated workers who minister to children at The Door Church in Tucson

Now, ever since King David issued those fateful orders, "Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest; then pull back so he will be killed,” history has taught us that the most strategic conflict is found wherever the fiercest battle is being fought.

On the national stage, this truth recently played out in the rancor and contention surrounding the confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

As a champion of school choice, Mrs. DeVos’s posture runs counter to the monopoly-style public education system which enjoys a $70 billion federal budget and almost absolute control over curriculum.

Monopolies remove objectivity and quality performance as criteria for funding.

They hike costs and slash quality.

This certainly describes our educational system.

At her confirmation hearings, DeVos highlighted the disparity between wealthier families – who are able to choose better schools for their children – and the poor, whose kids are often trapped in underperforming and even failing public schools – a situation which she terms a “national injustice.”

Former Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. (under Obama) summarized the opposition's opinion that “parents, teachers, community leaders and civil rights advocates are rightly insisting that the federal role in education should be to strengthen public education, not abandon it, and to protect student’s civil rights including students with disabilities, low-income students, students of culture, LGBT students, and immigrant students.”

Not much attention is given in this statement to a child's actual education, but rather to ideologies, politicized scripts, and social engineering.

And isn’t that the nub of the problem?

Taxpayers forced to pay for an educational system that does not serve us?

While school choice itself may not be the universal remedy to what ails our public education system, it does propagate the singular mixture of public and private education, including homeschooling.

But like most conflicts, this one is far more spiritual than we realize.

The education and welfare of today's children has been a major spiritual and social battleground for decades.

Betsy DeVos really represents an opportunity to de-stabilize the leftist control and ideological stranglehold over education from pre-school through college.

The absurd theatrics taking place on college campuses today is the culmination of decades of radical education revision.

The confusion and madness is simply the result of students acting out in a way they’ve been fed for years.

Author Eric Metaxas said, “Every day there’s a new and maddening report of progressive insanity at our nation’s universities: so-called ‘safe spaces’ where students can hide from ideas that offend them or make them uncomfortable, Ivy League schools providing feminine products in men’s rooms, wacko professors getting tenure while those who speak in favor of traditional morality get hounded off campus.”

Andrew McCarthy notes that radical agitators of the '60s who used to bomb public buildings have turned their attention to infiltrating the public education system.

In the National Review he observes: “It dawned on them that indoctrination inside the schoolhouse was more effective than blowing up the schoolhouse.”

The result is a highly politicized public school system that fosters gender-identity policies rather than actual education.

When you connect all the dots, it takes us straight to the Lord of Lords, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The One who said, “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in Me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

He is the One who really does mean it when He says, “It’s all about the children.”

Jesus wanted to make sure His church would genuinely embrace two groups: the least and the lost.

He took the most vulnerable class of people on the planet and elevated them to the highest access when He said “Let the children come to Me.”

These are not the words of a self-serving politician.

They come straight from the heart of Jesus, Lord of all. “A loose paraphrase of His words would sound like, 'Don’t you ever, ever, treat children like second class citizens,'” says James Emery White. “'Don’t ever give in to a culture that treats them this way.

“Don’t you ever do anything that keeps children from coming to Me. You have no idea how precious they are to Me. So let’s get this one straight: You want to know what makes Me angry with a righteous anger? If you want to mess with the heart of God, then mess with a child.'”

It's been said that if we reach kids at age 6 and 7, we won't have to rescue them at age 16 and 17.

The Door Church in Tucson has been incredibly blessed with some of the most dedicated people who have caught the vision to minister to and shape the next generation.

Vastly innovative, our church's Next Generation Ministries provides a full-fledged children’s service on Sunday mornings which ministers to kids through a highly successful puppet ministry, a Young Servants discipleship program, drama, object lessons, prayer, and altar calls.

During our annual International Bible Conference week,  we rent out not only the TCC Music Hall, but also the adjacent Leo Rich Theater, where NGM ministers to more than 150 children nightly.

Our children's Bible hour, Quest 119, makes deep deposits of God's Word in K-8 kids every Wednesday night.

This last effort has proved more effective than traditional Sunday school. 

I’m not saying it’s perfect, or for everyone. But it is in keeping with Jesus’s command, “let the children come.” Does it cause a little bit more stress and effort on parents to be on time Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m? Yes.

But, what price tag can you put on the impact of a rich deposit of the Word of God in the lives of both parents and children?

In children’s education, whether inside or outside the church, the key factor has been found to be the parents' involvement.

The Lord closes the Old Testament with this warning: "Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:5,6).

Can you see that this dynamic of blessing and cursing is contingent on the parents’ openness and involvement?

Last week, we conducted a funeral service for a longtime member of our church family who had a sincere burden for the children in our congregation.

She was remembered by many as Mama Lupe. Her ministry story began many years ago, when an 11-year-old girl told a 5-year-old girl about a cool music scene at a church called The Door.

The 5-year-old girl, one of Lupe's daughters, came to check it out, and gave her heart to Jesus. Not front page news in the paper or on the Web, but what a significant transaction in the kingdom of God!

Soon Lupe also came and got saved, and from this small beginning grew a beautiful 30-plus-year bond with the Gutierrez family that continues unbroken in our church to this very day.

Who ever said that God can’t do great things through the lives of our children?

How many times throughout Scripture, when God was ready to do great things, did He begin with a child?

 

NEXT GENERATION MINISTRIES: Assisting families in equipping the Next Generation to claim its rightful inheritance as Christ’s Church.

Susan and I were saved in 1975 in the original building on Veterans Boulevard.

Frank & Susan King

Frank & Susan King

We were part of the revival that filled the new half of that building soon after the walls came down.

As "older" converts (we were 26 at the time), our first impression was that of a very young yet vibrant congregation. As I look at the congregation today, I see a continuance of that church: a congregation with the vision to go into the world and preach, making disciples.

It is still a vibrant church full of young people who are ministering. But now I see many of the young people ministering who grew up within this very congregation. They are involved in ministry because God has blessed us with a pastor who has a vision for the youth; who over the years has modeled for us how to be confidently steadfast in our faith. We have always had a clear vision of what our local church should be, and that is because our headship has always been clear on transmitting that vision. In the early '80s, as we began to define the direction Next Generation Ministries (NGM) was to take, we took the local vision to heart. After exploring that vision, we asked each of the leaders to mentally create a "photo image” of what NGM should look like fifteen years down the road.

That image is very close to what we see today: children of the congregation have grown, matured, and developed into today's ministers.

Once we shared that vision with headship, we could determine our needs and request the necessary resources. I don’t recall ever asking for resources – be they people or finances – and not receiving them. We always had headship support. I never felt I had to change who I was in order to minister, so I didn’t expect others to change their personalities to fit in with the ministry.

God provided dozens of workers, each uniquely gifted for the ministry, and we allowed each person to express their own gifts of the Spirit.

Our only requirement was that we compared our actions to the church's standards and vision to ensure that we were part of that flow in the ministry.

The result is that we have numerous leaders in NGM who have been active for decades. The vision is steadfast, carried forward from leader to leader as young people step into roles of increasing responsibility.

— Frank King

We were hiking Mt. Bigelow when Timothy ran up to me with his prize: a clear plastic soda bottle filled with something bright red.

Ken & Bonnie Laue

Ken & Bonnie Laue

He had scooped up hundreds of the beautiful ladybugs that gathered by the millions on the crest of the Catalina range, carpeting the brown bark of the pine trees till they turned a vibrant crimson.

 It was the early 1990s, and this was our first Young Servants Faith Camp.

When Timothy was a bright, inquisitive lad of ten, I picked him up each Sunday and we’d clamber down into the deep wash across the street from the church.

There, Ralph Galindez would deliver an open-air class – not exactly a Sermon on the Mount, but a training class for maybe a dozen and a half kids Timothy’s age who sat on the sand. Children’s Pastor Frank King developed the Young Servants (YS) curriculum to reach our “gap” kids – those who had graduated from children’s church but were still too young at 9, 10, or 11 to be involved in youth ministries. Kids naturally love to help, and completing the classes helped ensure they were qualified to work in children’s church. We oldsters now realize it would be hard to do what we do without our eager young helpers! When the YS class was handed off to me, I added a few lessons and suggested taking the kids on a camping trip as a reward for completing their training.

Ralph dubbed it Faith Camp, and the first two were tent camping trips on Mt. Lemmon.

Youth Pastor Ed Gutierrez pointed out the nearby Baptist camp, complete with cabins, a chapel, and a mess hall, that he was using for the teens’ Believers Boot Camp. He helped us organize some character building exercises to incorporate, and Faith Camp became a junior boot camp experience.

Guest speakers came to minister to the campers, including pastors Harold Warner, Bobby Rugnao, and Stacy Dillard.

I can never fully express my gratitude to the many men, women, and teens who labored to make Faith Camp a reality — setting up rope and obstacle courses, training hard to be good drill instructors and counselors; and of course, our fabulous kitchen workers.

My wife, Bonnie, and I continued to run Young Servants and Faith Camp until we slowed down in our later fifties; then our longtime assistants Tim and Cathy Martin stepped in and took over.

It was a timely passing of the baton, as I suffered a heart attack in 2009, followed by other serious medical issues; later, Bonnie got her two bionic knees.

Frank King is now functioning as an evangelist, and the Martins are the children’s church pastors.

And that eager young lad with the bottle full of ladybugs?

Timothy and Sophie Mason are pastoring a church in Cincinnati with their two daughters. The treasure isn’t ladybugs anymore. Now he’s scooping up souls.

Timothy’s story is just one of many, and the Young Servants are our treasure.

— Ken Laue

As I looked back on my many years of involvement in children’s ministry, I had to stop and reflect on what that ministry means.
   I’ve come to the conclusion that my specific area of interest, puppetry, has two integral parts.
  First, it is one of a variety of engaging methods we utilize in children’s ministry to teach biblical truths and concepts.

Puppets are eye-catching, so they encourage children to use their imaginations to visualize the Bible stories rather that simply hear them told.

The children are more apt to relate to puppets as real friends, and they tend to better remember the lessons that are presented using puppets.

Puppetry is a unique form of communication; a fun way to portray the gospel.

Secondly, being a puppet teacher is very rewarding and challenging.

The students who have been on the team have been discipled and encouraged to develop their God-given talents.

My personal expectation is to see them develop the highest standards of the best puppetry skills.

I encourage everyone to strive for excellence within themselves and also together with the team.

As I look around our church, I see many former team members involved in other ministries.

Some have even become pastors.

I pray that the discipline, skills, accountability, and relationships learned as Young Servants in children’s church is an integral part of who they’ve become.

My task as a leader is to continue to encourage and develop ministry within the team to produce important and longstanding impact until the Lord tells me otherwise!

I appreciate my leaders who have given me the freedom to do what I do, and I thank God that He deems me worthy of the task.

— Bonnie Laue

Herb & Cheryon Unruh

Herb & Cheryon Unruh

In 1978 my wife, Cheryon, and I helped pioneer the Next Generation Ministries (NGM) at The Door Church in Tucson. Since then we've worked in every facet of children's ministry, but in my study of Scripture, I've never found biblical support for a children's church.

The Bible is actually written to parents – specifically, to fathers – and since God undeniably places a burden on certain people's hearts to minister spiritual truths to children, that would make the children's worker a spiritual father, so to speak.

Because parents in modern society have come to rely on outside institutions to help train their children, God uses children's ministry as a means to strengthen their spirits.

“Providing a Platform for God's Spirit to Move” has been my guiding motto.

I've always wanted children to experience the power of the Holy Spirit for themselves, and to discover the satisfaction and joy of reading the Bible.

My biggest concern in recent years has been the biblical illiteracy of our children.

They don't know the Scriptures that are foundational to Christian beliefs. Our Wednesday children's Bible hour, Quest 119, hits at the heart of this problem, providing a Scripture-focused teaching of God's Word.

Rather than challenging children to read the Bible, many ministries present funny, watered-down renditions of Bible stories.

Unfortunately, many in the church world no longer believe the Bible is historically accurate, and this error comes across in their teaching.

Our children don't just need more memory verses.

They need the Word of God to come alive in their hearts and minds, and this is only possible when the teacher believes God and His Word.

“How can I influence the lives of these children in the time I have?” should be the focus; not “What do I do to fill the time?”

This wrong attitude can creep in and become a children's ministry killer.

Our family vision was to build relationships beyond the church with the people that worked beside us in ministry, and we have found that the lives that were influenced most were those that were mentored in this way.

You can't bat 1000, but when there is fruit, that's the ultimate reward.

– Herb Unruh

At The Door in Tucson I have served as the children's worship and choir leader and as the children's church pastor.
  Cheryon and I also pioneered the Faith Roots preschool and have taught Creation Science Sunday schools, as well as seminars at children's workers conferences on a wide variety of subjects.

We have designed and built sets and made costumes for major drama productions in the main service as well as in children's services.   
  In other ministry, we present HIS-storical reenactments in churches, schools, and other public venues. Apologetics has been the common thread throughout our 35 years of ministry, and we each have a teaching certificate from Answers in Genesis, a worldwide apologetics ministry.
  Our passion is for everyone to live by the infallibility of God's Word by strengthening their biblical worldview.

By Cheryon Unruh

Children's ministry is an interesting, satisfying, disappointing, exhausting, fun, and vital ministry.

The value of a children's ministry with a godly vision lies in the privilege of the workers to come alongside the parents and help them to usher their child into a relationship with Christ, modeling for them how they can explain the deep truths of the gospel at their level.

As you can see, this is a bit heavier than just grabbing some puppets or other entertainment to help you get through a service.

It is crucial that workers embrace a God-given vision for the children in their care in order to reach their godly goal (Proverbs 29:18).

They must take their calling seriously, realizing they are there to be the children's mentors, not their cool friends. It is a mistake to approach this ministry with the mentality of a babysitter or a Christian entertainer. Trying to compete with TV, video games, and “super church” children's programs will only result in a diet of spiritual fluff. Workers must never believe they are a cut above the parents in the congregation, but rather realize that they are partners together with them. When the child has a spiritual experience during service, they must share that with the parent; not to do so robs them of shepherding their own child.

Workers must believe that the Bible is the His-story book of the universe, God's Word written by our perfect God, and therefore perfectly true and reliable from Genesis to Revelation. Anything less will never help to strengthen and equip children and parents to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them” (1 Peter 3:15).

This is not just about rote scripture memorization. Memory verses can become nothing more than busy work if the teachers do not work also to see God's Word come alive in the children's minds and hearts.

Children's ministry is a platform for God to move on a child's heart at a child's level. We give them the milk, then the nuggets, and finally the meat of spiritual truths. This is especially important in this generation, where the grasp of biblical truths that past generations once had has been lost.

The enemy of our souls is sly, cunning, and subtle, and a sign of the times is the unashamed boldness of the seducing sprits and doctrines of devils spoken of in 1 Timothy 4:1.

Just as 1 Chronicles 12:32 tells of the men of Issachar who had “understanding of the times, knowing what Israel ought to do,” so workers must be aware of the dangers of today's cultural climate.

Our society is militant about what they want us and our children to believe, and we should be no less diligent, for we have the truth!

Today most people don't believe in absolutes, but buy into the lie that right and wrong are what each individual decides. We want our children to be able to discern the false teachings that schools and society are using to indoctrinate them. Each congregation will identify specific areas of ministry geared to challenges faced by their unique community, such as children being raised by grandparents. Our ministry is to bring Christ's healing to those wounds that are pertinent to our congregation (1 Chronicles 12:32).

For me, building relationships with children and their families beyond the church by making them part of our family has been the greatest area of joy and fruitfulness in this ministry. This is the discipleship mandate, and it brings the most reward.

Now we see many of those children raising up the next generation in such a way that the revival we were birthed in continues to be planted in new hearts – because God has no grandchildren by association only.

-- Cheryon Unruh

I remember going to children's church as a 5-year-old. I loved it. It was a place where I could go and learn about someone who loved me unconditionally.

Alex & Iris Flores

Alex & Iris Flores

It was a safe place for me, a haven in my chaotic life. At that time, my father was not saved, and he made it hard for us to go to church.

In order to keep the peace, my mother decided we would stop attending. I remember picking up the phone receiver and holding it out, begging my mom to call her friend and ask if she would give us a ride to church.

How I wanted to be in children’s church! I needed the stories they told, the skits they performed, the songs they sang – but most importantly, I needed the love of Christ that they shared.

Eventually she would give in and we’d go to church. Later my father got saved... and the rest is HIS-story!

My parents had the privilege of pioneering for many years in Mexico City.

Now, many years later, my husband and I have had the privilege of pastoring a church in California.

I sometimes wonder what my story would have been like if not for the children’s church workers who shared the love of Christ with me at The Door in Tucson.

Their dedication to God and their willingness to invest of themselves has had such a ripple effect on my life and on so many others.

As I grew up, I became a Young Servant and later a Senior Young Servant, and then an adult worker.

As a pastor's wife pioneering a baby church, I now run our own children's church, and I’m so grateful for the many lessons that I learned and for all that was imparted to me through Next Generation Ministries.

I learned that it’s very important that children’s church not become so focused on the entertainment aspect that the spiritual aspect is put aside. It's important that Young Servants maintain a testimony: we were required to turn in our grades from school in order to minister to the younger kids. We were required to sit in service when not ministering so that we could be spiritually fed. Otherwise, how could we hope to minister to the younger children?

As the baton passes from generation to generation of Young Servants and adult workers, there is much wisdom and knowledge to gain from those who have gone before and paved the way.

We have tried to model our own children's ministry after NGM in Tucson. This ministry offers us such a unique opportunity to impact the lives of children and their parents.

We are aware that while we only have their children for an hour or two a week, the parents are the main influencers, and we try our best to partner with the parents.

Teaching their children biblical principles in children’s church also gives us the opportunity to build friendships with the parents and families outside of church.

I want the kids in our children's church to see Jesus in the short amount of time we have to spend with them.

We have a small window in which to make a difference, and we must ask God to help us; we never know when these kids may be home picking up the phone and begging their parents to find a ride to church so they can go to children's church.

– Iris Flores

People who sought a touch of blessing, healing, or grace from the hand of Jesus often had to take risks or face adversity in the process.

The woman with the issue of blood, blind Bartimaeus, and the paralytic lowered through the roof all come to mind. 

The unsung heroes of Mark 10:13-16 are those who brought the little children to Jesus so that He might touch them and bless them.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers stood in the gap on behalf of their children – and faced harsh rejection from the disciples – because they believed in the power of a personal encounter with Jesus.

As usual, Jesus acted counter to the disciples’ thinking on the matter, and interrupted His discussion on divorce and adultery to turn His attention to the children. He extended His arms and His blessing to the innocent little ones, saying, “of such is the kingdom of God.”  In children’s ministry, our highest calling and privilege is to lead children to Jesus.

We do this in many different ways and in many creative forms, but our ultimate goal is to see the children we serve encounter their Savior and receive His touch.

The enemy of our souls has an aggressive agenda to capture the hearts and minds of our little ones. He preys on the innocent, seeking to destroy their future before it even begins.

We will surely face adversity, rejection, and many unforeseen difficulties when we answer the call to stand in the gap and love those who are unable to fight for themselves.

But in doing so, we align our hearts with the heart of Jesus. 

At the age of 4, I encountered Jesus as my Savior in children’s church, and that moment is clearly etched in my mind.

It was the beginning of my life-long Christ-following journey.

My husband and I are now carrying on the mantle of ministry, leading the next generation of children to Jesus.

Week after week, we link arms with our excellent team of volunteers, grab the hands of our kids, and dive into God's Word together.

On our quest through the Bible, we discover how every story points to Jesus as God's plan for redemption. 

He is the very center and heart of the gospel. Our Savior is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Because of this, when we make God's Word accessible, applicable, and alive to children, we lead them into the open arms of Jesus. 

-- Susanna Unruh

 Joshua and Susanna Unruh both grew up in the Tucson children's church congregation, where their parents were Next Generation Ministry pioneers. 

  Today, Joshua primarily serves as the technical director for NGM, discipling other young men to assist in this capacity.
  Susanna serves as the leader of the preschool ministry, Faith Roots. Her passion is to teach children the Word of God and to equip others to do the same. 
  Together, Joshua and Susanna developed Quest 119, a Bible study for kids which they lead on Wednesday nights at The Door in Tucson.

 

 

 

 

 

Keep your machete sharp!

By Ken Laue

The monsoons were long gone and the tall grass on the lower slopes of the Huachuca Range was dry and brown.

The whole world was dry and brown on that bitter cold November day in 1963 when I left Fort Huachuca.

Together with Mom and two of my brothers I rode the shuttle to Tucson, and from there we took a military plane to Charleston, South Carolina.

In the morning, we boarded a three-tailed Constellation prop-driven passenger liner for the long and arduous flight over the Caribbean and Central America.

After hours of turbulence, the flight crew opened the door and a blast of hot, humid air hit me in the face.

We had arrived at our destination: Howard Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone.

A tall, green wall of jungle blocked my entire view of the surrounding countryside.

I felt stifled and closed in by this tropical barrier, so different from the open vistas of distant mountain ranges I knew back home in Arizona.

Oh, how I hated this new place in my first moments!

The only bright spot was Dad, in uniform, waiting at the bottom of the walkway to whisk us home.

It was growing dark as we arrived at Fort Clayton, on the very edge of the rainforest.

But before we could safely get out of the car at our quarters, Dad and my big brother Steve killed a deadly fer-de-lance snake in the carport.

Dad told us that one soldier on the base had narrowly escaped death recently from a fer-de-lance bite.

It took all the doctoring the doctors could muster, and the guy just barely survived his ordeal.

Due to this and other types of poisonous snakes (like the large bushmasters) – and to the other perils real or imagined – most of the Americans on Fort Clayton never ventured into the rainforest.

But to teenage boys like my friend Rick, and big brother Steve and me, the jungle was a never-ending source of adventure just waiting to be lived.

And the key to exploring the wonders of tropical nature here was the machete. We each kept one in hand at all times.

I had never heard of a machete, let alone used one. But in Panama I found it was essential in blazing a trail through the rainforest.

Even established trails were quickly overgrown again within a few days, requiring the maintenance of the cold, hard edge of the oversized knife.

  But without a file along for sharpening, you would quickly find your adventure cut short.

  Because the endless chopping and slashing of vines, branches, and brush quickly dull the machete’s cutting edge, doubling or even tripling the effort required.

Plus, you know the old Boy Scout adage that a dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp one.

A dull blade can glance off its target and rebound into its wielder.

Yes, the simple machete was our constant companion on our explorations. It also doubled as protection against snakes and other dangerous creatures… and even against two-legged predators.

These reminisces about my teenage adventures remind me of some principles of the Christian life.

Every good machete needs a file, and every good Christian needs to be sharpened.

Proverbs 27:17 says: "Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

If you want to be an effective believer, you can't be a "lone ranger Christian" – that is, one who is not attached to a local Bible-believing church.

Just like a dull machete is more dangerous than a sharp one, a dull Christian is scarcely an asset to the Kingdom. When it comes to raising kids, we as Christian parents must be the file to the sharpen the spiritual blades that we want our children to grow up to become... which means we parents have to be sharp instruments ourselves.

But how can we be effective spiritual teachers unless we place ourselves in a body of believers where our Christian leaders and church-mates can keep up sharp? 

We must strive to maintain a teachable attitude, to be able to teach, and to be a good example.

We must develop the ability to take a warranted rebuke from another believer or leader before we are qualified to correct others, especially our kids.

Have you ever been pulled over for a traffic violation while your kids are with you in the car?

How did you treat the officer?

With respect and humility?

Or was your annoyance what was being projected?

If you're in the wrong, you have to own up to it, or your kids will learn to blame others for their own shortcomings.

Sharper than any machete, the Word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword," it tells us inHebrews 4:12.

But I submit to you that the Word is at the same time a file that, when applied to our lives, will keep us sharp.

The Word of God received through our daily Bible study, the sermons of our pastors, or in the advice of a church friend, is a basic element of that file that shapes the machete of our lives.

Just as my file during my teen years in Panama was the key to adventure as much as the cutting edge of that long blade was, so allowing spiritual files to be applied to the cold, hard edge of your life is the key to a fulfilling adventure in living for Christ. 

 

Definitely, absolutely, completely!

By Rachel Armenta

I have a confession. I like exclamation points. A lot.

If I’m texting a friend I will most certainly overuse them.

To be completely honest, I overuse both exclamation points and adverbs.

I really, positively, and profoundly like adverbs.

The adverb I’m pretty sure I abuse the most is so. “It’s so cool!” “That’s so wrong!” “You’re so right!” 
  The overuse and general misuse of such words are common in our tech-savvy but dictionary-lacking culture.

So is one of those words that we tack haphazardly onto random phrases in the most carefree way.
  However, the word so, in this same adverbial form, actually appears in the Bible. Jesus used it, and of all the times to employ the word, it was in a conversation with one of the most educated men of His day, Nicodemus.

Jesus Christ wasn’t one to weaken or cheapen the meaning of His carefully selected words.

In the shadows of a quiet Jerusalem night, Jesus used the word so to convey one of the most passionate phrases in all of time and eternity: “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16). SO loved. In this context, the definition of the word so is “to such a great extent.”

 God loved this world to such a great extent that He willingly sacrificed His only beloved Son so that the very ones who brutally nailed Him to the cross could have life everlasting life and be called the friends of God. It wasn’t enough for Jesus to tell Nicodemus that God loved the world.
  Jesus used the word so to convey the fervent, desperate, and unrelenting love of a God consumed with saving a lost world.

 Such a small word. A word often overlooked because it’s often overused.

Yet, it is a word divinely placed in the annals of Scripture to express the tremendous love the Father has for us.

As I grow older on my walk with Christ I find I often have the tendency to treat some of the most powerful revelations in the Bible as if they were cheap nourishment at a drive-thru.

A subtle danger lurks here: the Bible can become nothing more to me than a check mark on my daily to-do list or a merit to be earned by speed-reading through it in a year.

What a tragedy that such life-altering verses as John 3:16 might become nothing more to me than pretty typography on Pinterest or embroidery on a throw pillow!

It’s time to get back to the basics. Time to ask God for a new perspective on His Word. So is just one of twenty-five words that make up John 3: 16, yet this one small word gives such depth and understanding to what Jesus was saying.

There are incredible truths hidden in plain sight. Truths that God longs for us to discover in order to deepen our relationship with Him.

 Grab the Bible and a dictionary and begin to study the words that make up your favorite scriptures.

It can definitely, absolutely, and completely change your life!

 

That’s why it’s called amazing grace

By Michael Gualtieri

After pioneering for six years and coming back to your home church, you really do see things differently.
   I can honestly say that we take what we have for granted and don't appreciate the little things we are blessed with.

Back in 2009 my family and I were sent out to pioneer a church in Apple Valley, California.

It was such a blessing and an amazing adventure.

There's just something about being on the front lines planting a church that is extraordinary.

You meet so many people from different walks of life, and to see them come into our small church and leave changed forever by God's grace is a memory that will always abide in me.

After hard work and involvement in various activities, I graduated high school as valedictorian in 2016, and my dad blessed me with my first car.

One November night as I prayed in my room, God told me that I needed to move back to Arizona in order to further my walk with Him.

I told my parents, and they were in full support of this move. To be honest, at the time I was somewhat taken aback and a bit upset.

I had just enrolled in our local community college to study Computer Science, and I was excited about that.

But now I realize now that if I hadn't have taken that step of obedience, I probably would have lost my relationship with God.

As I kept the move in heavy prayer, God arranged for me to stay with a family in the Tucson church for a few months while I got established in my new area.

But before we could even leave Apple Valley, the transmission went out on my car, and we couldn't find an affordable mechanic.

So we parked it and headed for Tucson anyway.

Once there, my dad blessed me with another car. I can't say enough about how grateful I am for my parents and the support they have provided me!

Within just a week of prayer and searching, God moved and gave me a job at Best Buy.

Things were going well, and I was on my way to Pastor Frank Bravo's house to carpool up to the Men's Discipleship class in Phoenix with him, when I decided that texting while driving was a fine idea.

After running a red light and T-boning a UPS truck at 40 m.p.h. – knocking it on its side on top of yet another vehicle – I walked away without a scratch. Nobody was hurt in any of the vehicles, thank God, and I give Him all the glory for saving my life that day.

I powered through to attend the meetings in Phoenix that night, and I thank God that I did.

Not only did I enjoy some wonderful preaching there, but I was given the opportunity for a better job with better pay. This was great news, since I had new bills due to the accident and was still searching for a place to stay.

That next week I got rides to work with friends and family.

With my dad's help, I sold my car in California, transmission issues and all, for $2000.

My brothers blessed me with some extra cash and I bought a beautiful working car.

I now live in “The House” with some brothers in the Tucson church and I am working a full-time job. Praise God!

I look forward to seeing what God's going to do in my life during the year 2017. Never forget to count your blessings and be thankful for friends, family, and the grace of God .

 

True confessions of faith

“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed, from faith to faith; for the just shall live by faith.”  — Romans 1:16-17

By Fatimah Ibrahim

Let’s be honest: it is not considered cool or socially acceptable to openly declare that you have a personal relationship with God and hold to a moral standard of holiness.

That’s because it confronts those around us with a decision: they must acknowledge the principles that guide their own lives or the lack thereof.

“Should I remain the way I am or must I change?” Their conscience tells them that if they remain unchanged, they reject the truth that has just been revealed to them.

God is working to convict their hearts through this assessment.

“But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

We all have a hard time admitting to the evil inside us.

But if we honestly examine our hearts in humility, we will recognize the affliction we have caused in ourselves and others.

Only then can we assess the situation correctly.

1 Peter 5:5 says: “Submit yourself to God and clothe yourself in humility, for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

When we resist or refuse to be associated with God, two things happen.

First, we cut ourselves off from the power of God because of our unbelief. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that“without faith it is impossible to please God.”

Second, we personally reject the One who orchestrates the universe; who holds all power in His hands.

Rejection hurts everyone, and ultimately, we break the heart of God.

Jesus reminds us that God knows us down to the last detail; that He even knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Then He says, “Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before My Father which is in heaven; but whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Bottom line: God loves us even though He knows us down to the minutest detail.

God knows us down to the minutest detail and He’s still not ashamed to let the whole world know He thinks we are to die for.

That means all our sins, failures, shortcomings, and insecurities —  and He’s still not ashamed to let the whole world know He thinks we are to die for; that His blood rights all the wrongs our sin has caused.

So I dare ask: how can we reject the only One in all the universe who knows us entirely and loves us just the same; whose only desire is to give us good things, a future, and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)?

How can we reject someone like that?

Remember that fork in the road, where we choose to either change or remain the way we are?

This is truly a to-be-or-not-to-be moment. God uses this decision to determine who is for Him and who is not; the humble heart versus the devil’s victim with tunnel vision.

In Matthew 10:34-35 Jesus says: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

It is our choice to be a victim of circumstance or to be humble and honest about our response to God and to the circumstances of life.

We must accept the truth that our own decisions have played a role in making us who we are today, and in the way we have come to treat others.

Controlling our emotions is our responsibility. Just because we are in pain right now doesn’t give us the right to inflict pain on others.

When we are hurt, we must go to God in prayer, asking Him to help us see the truth in our affliction and to grant us grace to address the situation correctly.

1 Peter 5:6 says: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”

We find new trust in God as we humble ourselves, which in turn causes Him to reveal to us His righteousness.

As it says in Numbers 23:19, God is not like men. He doesn’t lie and He doesn’t need to repent. He fulfills His promises.

So we can rest assured that if God said it, it will surely happen. When we trust in our God who cannot lie, that trust builds confidence, which in turn builds boldness.

This boldness empowers us to speak the truth and not be afraid to address the lie.

Our newfound godly confidence stirs within us the desire to introduce others to this awesome God that we know on a personal level.

The more we get to know Him, the more our faith grows, and it is growing from faith to faith that gives us the bold confidence to ask for help, knowing that His delight is to step in and perform it.

In Romans 10:9-15 God promises“that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

“Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between persons, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”

God loves us and doesn’t care what a mess we are or what we have done.

If we choose to accept His love, we allow His blood to wash away the wrongs done to us and through us. Now we have a real relationship with Him, and He has promised He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5).

Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us that it is this promise that gives us strength and courage: “Be strong and very courageous; do not be afraid for the Lord your God is with you.”

   In Romans 1:17 we read that the just shall live by faith. But who are the just? Simply, those who are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ.

  It is blood of Jesus that washes away sin, and that means that without His blood we cannot stand in the presence of God.

And what God wants most is for us to stand in His presence. As it says in 2 Peter 3:9, the Lord is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

He wants everyone to experience salvation! That is why he sent Jesus to be the Savior for all humanity.

It is God’s desire that not one of us be lost. He wants us to know the truth and to choose Him.

Jesus says He is the truth. He is the way to the Father. He is life itself (John 14:6).

Simply put, to deny Him is to reject the truth; but to know Him is to love Him.

If you find yourself at that fork in the road, I pray you make the right choice.

 

Fatal feminism: a woman’s right to excuse

By Jessica Greer

The Women's March on Washington was an unprecedented backlash to a presidential inauguration, if only for the sheer numbers that were organized into global protests.

It was publicly declared not an Anti-Trump rally, but rather a pro-thousands-of-subcultures-against-the-Trump-presidency “unity.”

These women stood on the platform of pro-choice to carry their supposed torch of freedom for political identities of every stripe.

Leaders of the current feminist renaissance are mobilizing to promote solidarity among all “marginalized” groups, subcultures, sub-subcultures... the multicultural divisions are endless.

From the gay community to LGBT, and now to LGBTQIA... and they have 19 letters in the alphabet yet to explore.

The list of the alleged victims of micro-aggressions and overt bigotry presented on the Women's March website is in itself divisive.

Former President Obama’s most schismatic strategy was to introduce identity politics on the executive stage.

Suddenly, to be a progressive, democratic citizen, you had to accept leftist litany or be labelled a backward cynic.

After all, lest we forget, middle-class Americans “cling to their guns or religion or antipathy towards people who aren’t like them.”

The incongruity of identity politics is that it reduces individuals and ethnic minorities to the lowest common denominator while requiring a democratic celebration of their diversity.

The issue of sin is a matter of the heart, and there does not exist a policy effective enough to eliminate it.

In theory, identity politics is the ideal that demands equal respect for every person. In reality, it is an exclusive club where each sub-schism demands respect for their label of choice and condemns as bigotry any attack on their version of truth.

This makes it easy to wrap leftist ideas around any protected identity and accuse the opposition of attacking an entire people group.

The demand that both government and citizenry cater to the social demands of each group actually impedes the pluralism they are paid to scream about every Saturday for the next four years.

Regardless of President Trump's outrageous presentations, it seems unlikely that he could single-handedly take credit for a divided America.

Then there is the ultimate declared goal and alleged right of the women's movement: abortion.

As it claws its way back into mainstream pop culture, the movement demands a following of collective thinkers who embrace abortion, because it is this that is foundational to all else.

In her podcast Women of the Hour, Lena Dunham praised women who have abortions as such courageous heroes that she felt regret at not having had an abortion of her own.

Other celebrities like Chelsea Handler brag about their multiple abortions as if they were medals decorating a feminist uniform.

It is interesting to note that the Women's March on Washington excluded the pro-life feminist group called The New Wave Feminists, declaring: “The Women’s March platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one…The anti-choice organization in question is not a partner of the Women’s March on Washington.”

When, exactly, was Day One for this supposedly grassroots movement?

The illegitimacy of this movement is based on the delusion that they are the modern extension of the original women’s rights movement of the late 19th century.

The Women’s March activists may have felt empowered carrying a bold, pink Planned Parenthood banner while walking hand in hand with the Black Lives Matter protestors.

However, a little historical connection would afford them a bit of that irony that millennials seem to value so much.

There is a haunting history connected to birth control via the abortion and sterilization of marginalized people, especially within the Black community.

Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and champion of second wave feminism, was a believer in eugenics, a debunked science based on racial superiority.

Sanger wrote that birth control “is nothing more or less than the facilitation of the process of weeding out the unfit, of preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives.”

She advocated the sterilization of those populations considered inferior.

  Juxtapose this history with that of the birth of the first women’s movement in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention.

  Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a fervent abolitionist.

 In 1840, she and many other anti-slavery activists attended the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in London alongside their husbands.

But once there, these women who had been instrumental as leaders of the movement in the United States were prevented from participating or speaking. This exclusion was based solely on their gender.

A new struggle began as they realized that women must have the right to vote and must be given full social equality if they were going to be effective citizens in a working democracy.

Various strategies were implemented as different women led the charge of the suffragettes, but one constant remained: not one of them embraced abortion as a reproductive right.

Alice Paul, perhaps the most radical suffragist of her time, asked: “How can one protect and help women by killing them as babies?” and concluded, “Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”

Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president in 1872 said, “Wives deliberately permit themselves to become pregnant … then, as deliberately murder their babies while yet in their wombs. Can there be a more demoralized condition?... They fully realize the enormity of their crime.”

Thesematriarchs of the women's rights movement became a national moral conscience.

The causes they championed were founded upon a solid base of morality, respect for the sanctity of life, and such a passion for all people to be free that the institution of slavery was challenged as sin against God.

The struggle for women’s equality in our democratic society did not end when the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.

Many women still remain disenfranchised from policy making and economic mobility, and it is this group that is being used for political currency in the new intersectional wave of fatal feminism.

The question is, what are the pro-life, abortion-scorning Christians doing to shift this paradigm?

As the new administration takes a hard line stance on abortion, many Evangelicals feel encouraged to repeal Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that upheld a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy – but we would be remiss if we overlook the historical effects of trying to legislate morality.

Consider the 18th Amendment.

Temperance was another moral cause taken up by women in an attempt to cure the social ills caused by alcohol.

At this time women did not have a vote, marital protection, custody laws, or economic equality.

If a husband was an angry, raging alcoholic, his wife and children were subject to violence, lack of income, and even death.

But the decent society envisioned by the Prohibition Law drafters was a far cry from reality.

From theratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919 to its repeal in 1933, the underbelly of American culture grew even darker and more deviant.

San Francisco was the first city to open underground topless bars to accommodate clandestine clients.

Chicago became the capital of organized crime, bootleg alcohol, and ruthless criminals like Al Capone; Sin City, Nevada, on the Las Vegas strip added yet another addiction.

Trying to legislate morality is like trying to add legalism to your theology. The result is greater depravity as human nature resorts to the shadows to get its fix.

The issue of sin is a matter of the heart, and there does not exist a policy effective enough to eliminate it.

Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” 

Man's law can't offer true freedom if it is in direct opposition to God’s law. Such is the case with the legalization of abortion and murder.

Historically, Christians have played a crucial role in reaching out to the hopeless.

Morality is most effective when it is expressed through love.

In 1869, women's activist Mattie Brinkerhoff wrote: “When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society; so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.”

Balancing this with the belief in choice and a free will to sin, there is a message here that pro-life women’s rights circles aim to acknowledge.

It is not only about exposing the hypocrisy and fatal consequences of the pro-choice platform that the current wave of feminism stands on, but also about reminding pro-life advocates that the argument does not stop at “murder is wrong.”

As Sister Joan Chittister put it, “Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth.”

Matthew 25:39-40 says, “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?”

Meeting the needs of women in our sin-stained society does not translate into making Lena Dunham’s wish come true with a taxpayer abortion. On the contrary, we must challenge ourselves to acknowledge that all lives have purpose.

And because they have purpose, we must force ourselves to face our own responsibility to the many children who we believe deserve to be born instead terminated.

 

My Marathon

running

By Sharon Byrd

Let us run the race, we heard from Paul, to win – but more: to finish.
Let us train our bodies as athletes train, to withstand the enemy in this.
Let us walk with Jesus to refresh us in each and every place,
The Author and the Finisher of this amazing race.
Let us run our race with endurance, knowing each and every step
Is bringing us closer than when we first believed and we are not finished yet.

Confidence will carry your walk, but only part of the way.
Steadfast, immovable, unshakable, that will make you stay.
And in this great big marathon, you will seek and find
Faith to be your shield, Paul says, to block the enemies of your mind.

We are not of those who shrink back, fizzle out in flames and done,
Who quit before the race is through and end their battle run;
We are those who courage drives.

Who sees the end, in constant strives,
Every pace and every phase:
Lonely, happy, and fearful days,
No matter what our lives may bring,
We see our God in everything.
We are of those who belong to Christ,
Our courage comes from sacrifice:
Not just of ours, but because of His,
The race, our faith, comes down to this:

My marathon is nothing like yours.
I have different windows and different doors.
But the same great God who started me,
The same great God who set me free,
Will see to it I win my race.
My marathon ends when I see His face!

This great promise, be sure of this,
Is as much to be yours as mine;
A guarantee of our simple faith
Will bring us to the finish line.

So let us run with endurance and let us run with zeal,
Constant in every valley, steadfast through every field.
Training in the Word of God, we keep on marching on.
Let us run the race; let us finish strong
Our lifelong marathon.

 

Where’s Jesus? Or, how to survive behind enemy lines

From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by that every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” -  Ephesians 4:16

By Ken Laue

New Mexico felt like nothing more than an obstacle between my young grandkids in Denver and my home and job in Tucson.

I-25 stretched out before me in a long, endless ribbon. I desperately needed a change of scenery.

My map insisted that the Land of Enchantment had a lot more to offer. So I decided to investigate State Route 90 between Silver City and Lordsburg.

Somewhere on that expansive, beautiful landscape, not far from the town of Tyrone, I took a leg-stretcher at a historical marker.

Here I read the story of Judge and Mrs. McComas, who were murdered as they traveled along this very same route in 1883, toward the end of the Apache wars.

Alone and unescorted, the family was ambushed by Chiricahua Apache Chief Chatto and his warriors, who killed the judge and his wife and kidnapped their 6-year-old son.

 A manhunt for the renegade Indians was mounted, but the boy was never rescued, and was more than likely enslaved.

While most of the Apache bands of those days had long since ceased their warfare and acquiesced to reservation life, it was common knowledge that notorious renegade bands like Chatto’s and Geronimo’s still remained at large. Why, then, did this family expose themselves to such a risk? 

The marker did not offer an explanation.

If we keep the eyes of our understanding open, these often harsh realities of our physical world can illustrate spiritual truths.

 Just as Jesus taught heavenly lessons through earthly stories (parables), this account of the McComas family's fate may serve for our instruction.

It is a cautionary tale of a world filled with predators, whether these be animal or human, physical or spiritual.

The truth is that in our fallen world, the weak, the injured – and especially the solitary and the isolated – are easy marks for predation.

Just as this 19th Century family made themselves the targets of a wily, skilled, and deadly enemy, Christians who isolate themselves from Jesus and the family of God may also become vulnerable to spiritual attacks. Without Christ in our lives, human beings are also vulnerable to the predation of Satan and his dark forces.

 This realization is basic to our faith, and instructive to us as we obey the Lord's command to go into all the world to reach the lost.

Ifmy premise, then, is that being isolated from Jesus is deadly, then the vital question becomes Where exactly is Jesus?

In the late 1980’s, illustrator Martin Handford created the Where’s Waldo books.

Searching for Waldo in his trademark striped hat among the intricate, detailed illustrations of huge crowds of people offered Waldo fans an enjoyable challenge.

Jesus told us we will be locating ourselves with Him when He said, “Where I am, there My servant will be also” (John 12:26).

 Okay then, we need to find out where Jesus is, so we can be with Him.

   Now, we know that when we ask Jesus into our hearts, He’s definitely located and living inside us.

  But while that is the most critical part, there is more to discover about God's plan for our location in Him.

  As it turns out, the question of Where's Jesus is a lot easier to answer than Where's Waldo.

  Jesus inhabits the local Bible-believing church headed by a Bible-preaching pastor.

Psalm 68:5-6 tells us that God is Father to the fatherless and a defender of widows, setting the solitary in families.

God wants to put His believers in families; that is, literal bodies of Bible-believing brothers and sisters.

   So if you're a Christian, it is imperative that you attach yourself to and get actively involved in such a church.

  That will go a long way toward keeping you steadfast and firmly grounded in your faith.

Jesus said He would be where two or more believers are gathered together (Matthew 18:20).

Together we are the body of Christ, Paul told the Corinthians.

He also emphasized that the body is never made up of only one part, and that each part supplies what the other parts lack, so the entire body works together to build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).

The answer for the early settlers was to attach themselves to a wagon train and to circle the wagons while under attack, in order to defend one another against the common enemy.

While we're not settlers fending off Apaches in the midst of territorial wars, it is vital to realize that this entire fallen world is enemy territory, temporarily under the evil one’s administration, and we dare not travel it alone.

 

Prepare to be amazed!

“Turn us again, O God, and cause Your face to shine; and we shall be saved.” - Psalm 80:3

By Kelly Cilano

Revival? No problem.
I'll sign up for extra nursery duty, revisit my list of crockpot dinners, buy extra cereal for after-church snacks, throw some coloring books in the kids' bags, and wash and lay out everybody's clothes for each night.

The older kids will finish their homework during the sermon – ideally before altar call – and my wifely/motherly revival duties will be done.

Oh, and I'll ask that unbelieving friend and that backslidden co-worker out, and I'll expect their usual polite yet firm “no way”, then settle in for great preaching and eagerly wait to see who will receive or give a word of prophecy.

Then it'll be back to life as we know it.

That's all I expect.

Not pessimistic, just routine.

Right? Church as usual, like dinner as usual?

How about apathetic?

How about lukewarm?

In reality, my expectation is to expect nothing at all. Nothing out of the ordinary.

No excitement.

No amazing move of God.

Is this what revival means to you?

This is notrevival.

When the paramedics revive the patient, the patient has been dead and has been brought back to life.

When we are desperate enough to ask God to step on the scene and bring us back to life, we'll have therevival He means us to have.

That revival is just around the corner, and it will come as we pray for it with expectant hearts.

That revival will not only impact us. It will impact the world.

When Moses and Aaron faced Pharaoh, even the Egyptians were affected!

Exodus 4:29-31 says: "And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel; and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.

“And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped."

Judges 10:10 says “the children of Israel cried unto the Lord."

This is a common thread.

 Each of the five revivals that we read of in the Book of Judges came as Israel cried out to the Lord, just as Israel cried out before they were delivered from Pharaoh in Egypt.

Another common thread is repentant hearts brought about by the preaching of God's Word.

In Luke chapter 3, John the Baptist begins a great revival with his message of repentance – the same message Jesus began His earthly ministry with.

The Holy Spirit convicted the people’s hearts and they repented of their sins and turned away from their evil ways.

The same thing happened on the Day of Pentecost, as Peter preached repentance from sin and three thousand souls were saved.

This revival was a slammer!

And just before they hit the streets, the disciples were in one accord in the upper room doing what?

Praying!

The Spirit of the Lord entered the house like a mighty wind “and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

This was such a powerful move of God that it couldn't be contained!

All 120 of those disciples ran out to the crowds in the street and began to witness, each in a different language.

All the people who had journeyed to Jerusalem from other countries to celebrate the Passover were amazed!

 They each heard these uneducated men speaking in their own native language!

How could this happen?

Because of prayer.

God's people cried out to Him in full expectation of a miracle, and that's what He delivered.

The Word of God was preached and hearts were convicted of sin.

Repentance took place because the people saw their sin as God sees it: dreadfully ugly.

The Spirit of God enters the scene and, look out! Amazing things begin to happen!

The blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and hearts are healed from their rotting sin!

Now, that's what I call revival! 

We're on the cusp of a great wave that's about to break.

God is setting things up for a tremendous revival that is about to hit.

It will change this country and it will change the world.

Do you dare jump in and be a part of it?

Go to God in prayer, laying down your expectations and embracing His.

Ask to be used!

Get your heart right before God, repent, and clean house before He comes so that you can be ready to receive His presence beginning with Day One of this great revival that He's about to bring.

  Pray and ask God to send His Spirit ahead of you to the people that you will witness to and bring to Him, and then prepare to follow up on those new believers.

  We are all commissioned by God to be His witnesses, and new believers need mentors who will care for them.

You don't need to have all the answers; that’s God’s job.

But you do need to be a friend and caregiver.

Physical preparation is needed for revival, certainly.

But we must prepare spiritually, as well, in order for God to move.

When we are all crying out for a move of God... praying in one accord . . . the Spirit of God comes down and anything can happen!

Don’t let routine set in and apathy rob you of your expectation, your hope, and your miracle.

A great revival is coming, and God wants to use each of us for His glory.

Be ready!

 

 

Keep calm and trust God

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward...you need to persevere...we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35, 39

By Jose Urbina

Hey, you gonna make it?
I’m sure you've been asked this question lately. In today's culture, this has become a common greeting.

It's a cross between a soft rebuke and some good, old, grandparently encouragement.

It helps us gain perspective, yet shows much love.

Our theme this year is like that. We are encouraged to be confident, and then to be steadfast in that confidence.

How do we get to that place? Through our faith.

Sounds good... till we think of the process as it relates to the end product, the salvation of our souls (v. 39).

The letter to the Hebrews was written in order to help Jewish believers trade the old Torah for a new Torah. To help them to transition from the Old Testament Law to finding a new and better way in the good news, the gospel.

To help them to realize that the old priesthood was just a shadow of Jesus, our High Priest.

Can people have confidence in a shadow rather than in the real thing? Sadly, some still do.

In times of severe testing, we tend to cling to what we used to know.

Embracing the dignity of the gospel was critical for these new believers in a time when Christians were literally dying for their faith.

Some of them were returning to the “beggarly elements” of their former belief system, and the plea here was for them not to throw away their confidence. It was a plea for them not to shrink back in fear.

But shrinking back in the face of fear is a very natural reaction.

Consider snakes. Even people who have never seen a live one fear them. These creatures stimulate our innate sense of self-preservation.

For my part, I have not only seen a live snake, but actually touched one – a harmless specimen, to be sure. — but just the memory of this experience creeps me out.

In her article “How Fear Works,” Julia Layton tells us that fear sets off a chain reaction inside you.

Your breathing speeds up. Your heart races. Your muscles tighten.

But this is a good thing, because it's a survival instinct.

“If we couldn't be afraid, we wouldn't survive for long,” Layton says. “We'd be walking into oncoming traffic, stepping off of rooftops and carelessly handling poisonous snakes.
   “We'd be hanging out with people who have tuberculosis. In humans and in all animals, the purpose of fear is to promote survival.”

However, the kind of fear we find in these verses from the book of Hebrews was a fear that would actually work in reverse.

It was the very vehicle that would ultimately cause those fearful souls to perish, because they trusted in the wrong thing.

Their thinking was clouded, and clouded thinking can be fatal.

In his book Silent Warrior, The Marine Sniper’s Vietnam Story Continues, Sgt. Charles Henderson tells the story of a marine who was out on a routine mission when he suddenly came face to face with a bamboo viper, flicking black tongue and all.

Rather than react to his fear in that moment, he relied on his training and discipline, and that faith saved his life.

In actuality, the total count of fatalities in Vietnam from snake bite was quite small.

But the enemy knew of the American troops' fear of snakes, and used it to their tactical advantage.

Fear can also cause us to cast away our confidence in the very thing that may save us.

One of the most fascinating stories about exploration in modern times is that of the fanciful, near tragic expedition to the South Pole by the men on the Endurance.

After the beautifully built but ill-designed ship was caught and crushed by an island of ice, the crew was marooned.

Rations were almost gone when Captain Jim Templeton decided they would make the 800-mile trip back to civilization.

The rub came in that they only had three life boats in which to set out, and one navigator who was unsure of the way back based on his navigational charts.

The weather was inclement and the seas were rough.

The sky was overcast and even a slight error in navigation could strand them far from land.

Imagine, no GPS or other perks of modern technology. Yet they took that bold step and set out in the life boats and they did find help, and they did live to tell the story.

The confidence that these verses in Hebrews speak about is just like those life boats.

The crew could have broken them up for shelter and hunkered down under them until they died.

 But instead, the boats served their ultimate purpose: they preserved life.

In Christ, we can come boldly before the throne of grace to find grace and help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

This is the new and living way that is the only way to come before the Father, that He may give us life.

 Tossing this new way aside only leaves the old covenant of works without faith, which brings death. “I do not set aside the grace of God,” Paul says in Galatians 2:21, “For if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ died in vain.”

Life comes from God’s gracealone. If we’re to experience it, we must draw near to Him in faith.

To shrink back is to lose out.

We must be like Enoch of old, walking close to the Father.

We must also hold fast to our profession (that is, the practice) of our faith. We practice our faith when we provoke one another to love, assembling together and exhorting each other to good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).

We do this because we are convinced that God is pleased that we trust in Him, and we are no longer trying to work in order to earn our own salvation.

So let us make this year count.

It is critical that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture and the signs that are before us in these last days.

The way is certainly treacherous, but our confidence and trust is that God will see us through.

 

Confidently weathering the storms

But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. – Job 23:10-11

By Dianne Schroeder

Dateline: December 28, 2015 – Pictured: The victims of the freak holiday storms that claimed the lives of forty-seven people.
   Pummeling the South with 200 m.p.h. winds, the tornados claimed lives in Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Illinois, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas.

The storms swept one woman off an overpass as she sat in her car texting her husband on Facebook, and intercepted one small 7-year-old on his way to the safety of Grandma’s house.

Yet another victim was to have celebrated his 48th birthday on the Sunday that followed that fateful day.

The victims were likely in a celebratory frame of mind: perhaps attending school pageants, visiting Santa Claus, purchasing, wrapping, and exchanging gifts, shopping for and preparing food, and arranging festive holiday parties.

That December was later reported to have been the deadliest in sixty-two years.

The storms of life may also strike unexpectedly, claiming the strong and the vulnerable alike.

Whole families may lose their spiritual lives and direction in the wake of the untimely death of a loved one or an extended illness.

A betrayal of trust. Divorce papers. A child wandering away from the faith.

Many of these tornados leave a wide path of spiritual wreckage.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” may seem a trite cliché when real or perceived devastation is all that the human mind, heart, and eye can focus upon.

Storms of varied duration may blast away at the firmest of foundations and, if we lose hope, those foundations will crumble.

When things look worse instead of better, we must dig in our spiritual heels and refuse to accept defeat.

The world is clearly not becoming a better abode for God’s human creation. We find ourselves on the front lines in a war of epic proportions.

Yes, storms, hurricanes, and tornados, can all be killers.

But God allows them into our lives as teaching tools. They aren’t intended for our utter and complete destruction.

They can and should push us toward the ultimate source of light, power, wisdom, strength, and freedom from bondage.

This is where our hope and confidence lie, as it tells us in Psalm 37:23-24: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”

Perhaps your vision is clouded; right now you can’t see God.

Our feelings and perceptions can be strong determining factors, contributing to our fate during a storm.

They are also frequently unreliable.

In those times of zero visibility, trust your instruments: they include His Word and the promises declared within it; prayer and faith in His faithfulness, as evidenced by your testimonies of the past.

When lightning strikes our fondest dreams and reduces them to a heap of ashes in a nanosecond, we can immediately bring them to Jesus, refusing to lose hope and faith.

After His presence carries us through a reasonable time of grief, He gives us beauty for those ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). Faith is most difficult to maintain when dreams are repeatedly shattered, hope has died again and again, and answers to prayer are delayed over years of time.

The turbulence of hopelessness can be violent and may even prove fatal, if you don’t take authority over your hurricane.

   Say to it: “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).

Hebrews 13:5 tells us that we serve a God who never changes and who will never leave us nor forsake us, so that we may boldly say, “the Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

   God’s ability to build up our faith through times of focused prayer, Scripture reading, and fellowship has not diminished.

We can, we should, and we must remain confidently steadfast in our faith.

Don’t shrink back (that is, backslide) and don’t hide in darkness, lying to yourself and others.

Your best friend, Jesus, knows the truth anyway, and He still loves you. There is no wall you can build that He can’t get through to save you. Jesus was crushed during the storm He experienced on the cross.

He rose from the grave so that our storms could be redemptive rather than destructive.

It’s difficult to imagine, but the same catastrophes that wreak havoc and disaster also have a great capacity for benefit.

While recent snow and heavy rains in northern California did cause flooding, automobile accidents, and other negative impacts, not all news for them was bad.

The storms put the first major dent in a long California drought. The highest level of drought (40%) was knocked down 16% to the smallest level in years.

As of January 26, 2017, rain and snow had caused drought to vacate the state altogether.

The enemy of our souls may send attacks against us in the form of mental lightning bolts, verbal thunderings of opposition, or a thick, gray cloud cover of depression. Floods of emotion may threaten to lay waste our lives and relationships.

But these signs of bad weather can also take us to Jesus, if we will just go there.

He is our strong tower to run to and hide in until the storm passes, and as we emerge we’ll no doubt discover He has used what we just went through to bring us out of a spiritual drought.

No matter how the winds howl, always remember: God’s grace and mercy will carry you through every storm of life, and God’s victory is waiting for you on the other side.