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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Non-fiction Book Reviews: What on Earth is Happening? and Your Identity in Christ

Photo by: Serge Bertasius Photography

What on Earth is Happening? Signs of the End Times by Val Waldeck. I was surprised to finish the book and find out that Val Waldeck is a woman. What on Earth is Happening? strings together the Scriptures about end-time prophecy, specifically the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ. She is pre-trib, doesn’t mention the millennium at all, and believes the Rapture is imminent. What she says about prophecy is sound and biblical. I got the book free on Kindle, interested because I thought it might have a nice, neat timeline and talk about what is happening today in the world. While she does talk about moving towards one-world government, religion, and monetary currency, she really doesn’t commit herself further about where we are in prophecy. (Perhaps that’s good.) She’s short on specifics and long on generalizations. Ms. Waldeck clearly believes that the one-world religion, the one serving the Antichrist will be New Age.

Overall, it was a nice little introduction to prophecy but not what I was looking for. It is very general and omits many clear prophetic Bible passages. I personally think that a religion that worships the embodiment of Satan will not be New Age or any other religion that we know today—though it may have elements of known religions. It will be something new and diabolical, set up by the Antichrist when he takes power. I cannot recommend this book, as it doesn’t cover the subject in a thorough manner. (I looked up the author and can’t find out anything about her except that she’s a Bible teacher who specializes in prophecy.)

Your Identity in Christ: 100 Powerful Reminders of Who You Truly Are in Jesus by John Stange is another Kindle freebie I picked up, wanting an encouraging read. In some ways, the book succeeds. It’s short and easy to read. The verses used are Bible (ESV). Mr. Stange begins the book with being born again, though he doesn’t tell an unsaved person how to be born again. Mr. Stange assumes at the beginning that he’s talking only to Christians, which is fine. Some of the passages and statements seem like a stretch to me. For example, he says, “I am faithful.” It’s followed by the verse Ephesians 1:1, which says, Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus. That verse is a greeting from Paul to those people in that church who were faithful. It doesn’t say that in Christ, all are faithful. Another one that seems like a stretch is where the author says, “I am holy and blameless.” He uses Ephesians 1:4a, According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him, which is only part of a sentence that explains how we are holy and without blame because of redemption in Jesus. In Him, this is true. But, just to say we are holy and without blame gives the impression that we are that, when the part of the verse he used doesn’t mention the Lord. Here’s another one I felt was maybe not a true representation of every Christian, “I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ.” He couples that statement with Acts 1:8, But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Jesus said this to those disciples that would receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The disciples would have special powers while beginning those first-century churches. While it is true that that the Holy Spirit gives us boldness in witnessing, we cannot say that every Christian is a good witness for Christ. The next statement is “I am God’s coworker.” If a Christian is walking in obedience to God, I believe these statements can all be true. If. So, a nice little read, if done with discernment. It presents the ideal, not the reality. I wouldn’t personally recommend it.

P.S. Just because I don’t recommend something doesn’t mean it’s wholly without merit. It only means I don’t put my stamp of approval on it. In the case of these two books, I explain why. When I recommend a book, I feel it has something valuable to offer the reader, even if it’s only entertainment. I tend to be harder on non-fiction, as these books purport authority on their subjects. Especially when an author presents the Bible, he should be very careful of context and interpretation. I will not slam a book I don't like on social media or on Amazon. If I don't like it, my only review will be seen here, on my personal blog. If I think it is really lousy, you won't even find a review here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Trust Without Borders"

Photo by: anankkml

I saw the phrase “trust without borders” in a pretty, lettered sign. It’s also the title of a new missionary book. I’d like to take this phrase and go in a different direction. I’m not talking about physical borders like countries and provinces. 

I’m talking about trust because of Who God is.

In the Disney movie Aladdin, the title character often says, “Trust me.” At the opening scene, he’s stealing. Should Princess Jasmine trust him? Of course not! But, sometimes she does, and in true Disney fashion, in the end, they swoop off on a magic carpet to live happily ever after.

But, we’re not talking Disney, and we’re not talking fairy tales. We’re talking about normal Christians and their God. 

Why is it that we fear trusting God completely? 

Is it:
  • That we’re human and therefore limited? So, we think of God in human terms?
  • Because we lack an understanding of God--of who He is and how He works?
  • Because we’re naturally doubters? We’re skeptical and cynical, even about God. 
  • That we have been burned in the past, and we’re afraid to trust anyone again?
  • That we don’t know how to trust with a hands-off kind of trust?
I believe it’s a combination of these for every Christian. Sometimes we limit God. Sometimes we don’t understand His greatness or how He works. Sometimes we doubt. Sometimes our past hurts keep us from trusting. And sometimes, we just don’t know how to take our hands off.

How can we trust God “without borders”--completely? 

I’m working on this myself--a lifetime of living and learning--but I can share some Bible verses that will help you to trust God fully. They will help you take your hands off. They will help you to trust.

I’ll begin with my favorite and go on from there: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct (make straight) thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). This gives several clues for successful trusting: 
  1. It needs to be with all your heart, a decision of the heart, the heart’s response to God and His sovereignty.
  2. We’re not to lean on our own understanding. So many times the ways of God are nothing like our own. (Isaiah 55:9)
  3. We must get to know God. The word acknowledge means to know and understand God. This can only be done through reading the Bible and looking for what it tells us about God.
  4. Then, God’s the One who directs our paths. We let Him do it for us. We let Him show us. This is trust!
There’s an old illustration about a chair. 
Question: Do you see this chair? 
Answer: Yes. 
Q: Do you think that’s a good chair? 
A: Yes, it looks like a good chair.
Q: Do you think you can sit on that chair?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you think it will hold you up?
A: Yes, I think so.
Q: How can you prove that to me?
A: I could sit on it.

The person answering then proves his trust by sitting on the chair. It holds him up. He has put his faith in the chair. He's acted on his faith.

The same goes for our faith in God. We actually prove our trust when we “sit on the chair,” spiritually. We put all our “weight” in God’s hands.

This goes for all of our spiritual life--salvation, growth, and trusting Him.

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

Do you want to trust? This verse is so rich! Let’s read it in detail.

What is the lamp? God’s Word, the Bible. If you want light on your path, you have to know the Word. Think back on the lamps in the times of the Bible. What did they look like? Well, they were little oil lamps, made of clay, and they lit a room much as a candle gives light. The image in Psalm 119:105 is of a person who’s walking. It says, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. A lamp--think candle--gives light for the next step. Isn’t it interesting that God doesn’t say, “Thy word is a sun that lights half the globe”? 

It’s because God wants us to trust Him for the next step. He wants us to be totally dependent on Him for each tread. He doesn’t illumine the whole length of the path on purpose! (He could, you know! He made the sun, moon, and stars in one breath! Genesis 1:14-18) God desires that we live our lives depending on Him--step by step.

 . . . and a light unto my path. God shows the way!

When we trust God to guide us, we’re trusting the Greatest Person in the world! 

God is:
  • good (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18)
  • faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9; 10:13)
  • true (John 3:33)
  • powerful (Matthew 28:18)
  • present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-10)
  • the Creator (Genesis 1:1)
  • all-wise (Proverbs 2:6-7)
  • love (John 4:8, 16)
  • wanting to bless (Psalm 37:4)
  • understanding (Hebrews 4:15)
  • caring (1 Peter 5:7)
  • strong (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • forgiving (1 John 1:9)
  • eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27)

We can trust an all-powerful, always there, loving God! We can trust Him “without borders” because He is Who He is.

Let’s get ready to plop on that chair!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Six Practical Ways to Share Bible Truth with Teens

Photo by: Ambro

Now that we’ve loved, laughed with, and listened to our teens, here are a few helpful ideas for teaching them Bible truths:
  1. Show Them the Bible Verses--Instead of a list of do’s and don’ts, show your teens from the Bible why you believe what you believe. Make sure they understand the Ten Commandments (God’s moral law) for starters. Make sure they see with their own eyes why you believe certain practices are sin. Show them in the Bible--both Old and New Testaments--why we don’t do some things. Show them from the Bible why we feel other practices are important. When you can show a teen, “This is what God says,” the teaching has authority. When it’s just “Do as I say,” it doesn’t. If you can’t find it in the Bible, then it’s not a biblical principle. You should discuss matters honestly with your teen. I remember in our own family talking about some of the gray areas, where the Bible doesn’t come out on one side or the other. It’s also okay to say, “I don’t know. I’ll look it up and get back to you.” When teens see clear biblical instruction, they will know what’s right and wrong. It will give their beliefs backbone.
  2. Use Visuals--Just as teens need to see Bible verses for themselves, they also need to see biblical concepts taught with clear visual illustrations. When a preacher or teacher uses visuals and object lessons to go with his teaching, it reinforces his words. For some reason, teens need visuals. When they actually see with their eyes, they're more able to respond in their minds and hearts.
  3. Give Teens Individual Attention--Any person of any age can sit down next to a teen and show personal interest. This is especially important in the church. Teens are open to friendships with people of all ages. A grandma like me can make teen friends. So can children and people his parents’ age. Youth leaders should get one-on-one time with the kids in the youth group. This is very important for effective leadership.
  4. Arrange for Teens to Serve--Teens are blessed with energy and zeal. Get your teens involved in projects for others. Ask them for their ideas for service endeavors. Years ago, one of our supporting churches used their teens in all kinds of outreach projects. They regularly visited nursing homes. They did yard work for the elderly. They washed cars and raised funds for missionaries’ special projects. When we visited the church, we were greeted by friendly, happy, and completely normal teenagers. I have no doubt that they went on to become awesome adults. These kids weren’t back bench warmers; they were a vibrant element in their church. One of the most important steps in the Christian life is learning to serve others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7a). Enlist your teens today!
  5. In the Church, Include Teens--I sometimes wonder if it’s so important to have a “youth group” as a separate entity in the church. (I’m not saying I’m against youth groups, but I believe that dividing the church into peer groups might not be the best way of including kids in ministry. I think it might be better to serve the Lord together--teens, singles, married people, and children. It’s my personal opinion. It’s okay if you differ with me on this. We can still be friends!) Why not do evangelism with teens and adults together? (I went as a newly-born-again twelve-year-old with godly women in my church.) Why not enlist teens to help with decorating and organizing church social events? How about doing retirement home ministry with family units that include teens? How about teen ushers? Could teen musicians sing and play instruments with others? Older teens can help in children’s Sunday school classes. How about integrating our teens into normal church ministry? The teens in our churches are the church of the future. They will learn God’s work as they work alongside us.
  6. Provide Avenues for Teens to Share Their Salvation Testimonies with Others--I believe it’s important to encourage teens to write, to do artwork, to be musical, and to be able to express themselves. How about a church blog for teens, by teens? How about an online newspaper that shares personal testimonies and experiences, ideas, artwork, and fun things with other teens? How about encouraging kids to compose music that honors the Lord? How about sharing teen poetry in a service? Teens can take part in holiday cantatas and dramas. How about letting teens share their personal testimonies and devotional thoughts in a midweek church service?
Our teens have much to offer the church and the Christian community. They are fresh, energetic, and full of ideas. Harness some of that energy in your church. Help teens to feel valued as full-fledged members of your church family. 

They are the future!

O God, thou hast taught me from my youth
and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works (Psalm 71:17).

(Friday’s post was about getting to know our teens. If you missed it, scroll down.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Eight Suggestions for Understanding Teenagers

Photo by: Ambro

Teenagers are some of my favorite people. Throughout this post, you’ll see why. I feel that maybe they’ve gotten short shrift in Christian circles. Maybe it’s because we forget who we were at that age. I don’t know. But, let me offer a few ideas for understanding and teaching teens. (They go hand-in-hand.) These ideas are for parents, youth workers, and anyone desiring to influence teens for God.
  1. Listen and Watch--The cries of anguish and thirst for attention are expressed in different ways, depending on each individual teen’s personality. He may be the class clown, or she may be all made up and gaudy. He might be always in a corner with his smartphone, and she may spend hours in her room chatting online. He might drive fast and try to impress his buddies with goofy crudeness. She might play basketball and never cry when hurt. He or she might spend money like water. How the teen cries for attention reveals who he is. It’s so important that adults watch. Watching is part of listening. Talk, yes, but listen more. Don’t try to intrude, but find out where the teen is in his life. Only then can you meet his needs with the most adequate type of attention.
  2. Be Kind--No one wants someone down on him and on his case. You don’t, and your teen doesn’t. In these hormonally challenged years, teens are especially sensitive and touchy. They need thoughtfully kind, sincere compliments. They need a treat--think food--on a hard day. They need positive remarks, not negative criticism. Say please and thank you when you ask them to do tasks. A little kindness goes a long way.
  3. Build Bridges--To minister to a teen, you have to find common ground. Find an interest the two of you have in common. Discover a common challenge or goal. This takes communication, of course. How do you communicate with your teen? If they are gadget freaks, get a gadget and text them. If they are withdrawn, find something quiet you can enjoy together. If the teen likes music, get tickets and go to a concert together. If he hikes or bikes, do it with him. If he likes a certain sport, make popcorn and watch it with him. Sharing builds confidence, and confidence opens up talking and ministry.
  4. Laugh--Nothing is less appealing to a teen than a prune-faced Christian. Show teens good, wholesome fun. I believe it’s very important to plan games and activities where no one is singled out, where no one is embarrassed, and where everyone participates and joins in on the fun. The activities should include all the kids--the sporty ones and the nerds. Do crazy, simple, silly activities. Laugh along with (not at) the kids. Cheer. This goes for families as well as teen leaders. When Dad and Mom are the coolest, funniest people on earth, teens will listen to your ideas.
  5. Show--Teens quickly pick up on hypocrisy. They see right off whether you practice what you preach--or not. Be consistent. Be godly. Be real. I believe that one of the biggest reasons that children don’t follow their parents’ habits of church attendance and Bible reading is the poor example they see at home. Dad sits down to a movie and says, “Don’t come in here, Bobby; this movie is only for adults.” What message does 13-year-old Bobby get? Oh, it’s okay for my dad to be looking at filth, but it’s not for me? He jumps to the conclusion: my dad’s a hypocrite, and when I get older, I’ll watch whatever I want. Your personal godliness and discipline are being watched every day of your life. Make sure your example is consistent. This goes for parents and everyone else. No one picks up on hypocrisy in the church faster than teens! And, when you blow it--you will--apologize privately to each teen that your actions affect. Believe it or not, you will go up in their eyes, not down. Be big enough to admit mistakes.
  6. Love--Kids pick up super fast whether you genuinely love them or if you’re only tolerating them. Be genuinely loving. Don’t hold hands with your fourteen year old son or daughter in public, but hug them in private. Touching, like a pat on the arm or a tag as you walk by, shows your son or daughter you care for and love them. Don’t embarrass them in public, but demonstrate love as a family, at home. 
  7. Ask Your Teen for Advice--When teens see that we value what they think and what they have to say, they will automatically take us more seriously. They may lack maturity, but they have innovative and interesting ideas and solutions. Ask them for problem-solving measures. Then, take them seriously and act on their ideas. Let your teens figure out how to budget your vacation and let him express where he’d like to go. Let him show you what he’d do to fix a machine, your car, or a decorating issue. Talk about interpersonal problems, and see what he or she advises. Let the kids plan and cook meals. Find out their ideas on many subjects. Let them help you think.
  8. Expect Great Things--I don’t know where it started, but there’s a very damaging philosophy out there: that teens will be rebellious, and adults just expect it. I really don’t think that’s right. As a parent, tell your pre-teen, “I’m looking forward to your teen years. Then, we can . . . .” Anticipate the teen years as something good and positive. Then, when the kids arrive at the age of thirteen, celebrate! Later, start giving them more responsibilities--a little at a time--to prepare them for adulthood. Before you know it, your thirteen-year-old will be eighteen! You can give your older teen more freedom (within limits) and teach him to do things on his own. Enjoy your older children! Enjoy the teens in your church! Don’t expect rebellion. Expect godliness. The Bible teaches that a young person is responsible for his actions. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9). God wants young people to be examples. Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12).
Just as adults like to be respected and taken seriously, so do our teens. They feel like adults in some ways and like children in others. They’re in that in-between, growing up part of life, and they need to be understood. Take the time and effort needed to get closer to your teens today. Love them exactly as they are. Enjoy them!

(When I started writing this, I quickly realized it would run to two posts. The sequel will address how to teach biblical truths to Christian teens. Lord willing, it will be posted on Monday. Stay tuned!)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Really Should Scare Us

Illustration by: digitalart

Halloween is around the corner, and kids (and adults) are scampering around to buy their costumes. Every year, it seems that the scary stuff gets scarier. When I was a kid, the spooks were wearing witch hats and skeleton costumes. I even saw a Casper-style ghost one year. Now, you have rotting flesh, the walking dead, and the aftermath of chain saw massacres. Masks are realistic and about as gross as it gets.

People love to get scared at this time of year. They watch horror films and go to “haunted houses,” just for laughs and screams. Some of it is fun and in fairly good taste, and some goes way overboard, but the idea is the same: scaring people.

Of course, the October world of haunted graveyards and spook houses is just silliness, and those who dress up do it for fun.* 

But, along with all the scary stuff, maybe we're missing what we should really be scared of:


It’s not a popular theme. A lot of people don’t even believe it exists. Probably most people in the world think it’s a myth. Others believe it’s an orgy that goes on and on and on. Some even joke, saying they want to go there--to be with all their friends! 

Some die smirking, and then they see it’s real.

The Bible tells of two men who lived and died. It’s a true story, not a parable. Jesus tells the story. It goes like this: There was a rich man who lived well and a beggar named Lazarus, who couldn’t walk and had sores, that begged at the rich man’s gate. The beggar died, and then the rich man died. The beggar went to heaven, and the rich man went to hell. The Bible says, And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

What did the rich man want? He wanted a drop of water to cool his tongue, because he was in torment in flames. He wasn’t having a party with his evil friends who had gone before. He wasn’t having pleasure in hell. He didn’t even mention seeing anyone around him. (Are people in hell alone for eternity? I don’t know.)

We continue the story. Abraham answered him, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

The rich man responded to Abraham, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

Abraham replied, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

But the man answered, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

Abraham then stated the sad fact: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:19-31).

Hell is real. It’s a place of flame and torment.

Jesus spoke of hell at least twenty-seven times.

The man in hell wanted to warn his brothers. He wanted to send the beggar to them. It's very interesting that Abraham told him his brothers wouldn’t listen even if someone rose from the dead.

That’s exactly what Jesus did! 

Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind, so that no one would go to hell. Then, He rose from the grave. The Bible says, The Lord . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Jesus provided the way to salvation through His sacrifice on the cross. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:8-9).

For the wages of sin is death (hell, separation from God); but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The Bible says that everyone has sinned. That’s why we all need a Savior. That’s why we all need Jesus.

Nobody really wants to go to hell!

 And fear not them which kill the body, 
but are not able to kill the soul: 
but rather fear him which is able to destroy
 both soul and body in hell.
(Matthew 10:28)

There’s hope in Jesus:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, 
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; 
but that the world through him might be saved. 
(John 3:16-17) 

* My personal thoughts on Halloween are here.

Some of the many Bible verses that describe hell: Matthew 7:13; 13:50; 23:33; 25:41; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:7, 13; Revelation 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:1-15; 21:8.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Concepts That Will Change Your World

Illustration by: pat138241

Have you ever watched the news and thought, “I’d like to change the world”?  Have you ever wanted to make a real, lasting difference? 

You can!

At least, you can begin something that will affect you and everyone around you. You can put into effect one of the big secrets of Christian living. (Actually, it just seems like a secret. It’s been known for thousands of years.)

A Pharisee once asked Jesus, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? That was a legitimate question. He was being testy, but he wanted to know.

So, what’s the Great Commandment? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

The First Way to Change Your World: Love God with every part of you: your heart, soul, and mind. This is a complete giving of oneself to God. The characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 are all about giving. Love is about dedicating oneself to please another. It’s unselfish. It’s unlimited. It’s unconditional. Love is the most beautiful quality one can have. When you love God with all your being, God will change you.

Jesus wasn’t through with His answer. He continued, And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The Second Way to Change Your World: Love others, just like you love yourself. The Bible says that no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it (from Ephesians 5:29). So, you need to love others, take care of others, nourish and cherish them, just as you love yourself. Just like your love for God, this loving other people is all about unselfish giving.

Jesus summed it all up for the Pharisee: On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.* The law--The Ten Commandments plus the other rules in the Old Testament--and all the prophecies in Scripture are summed up in these two concepts: 1. Love God. 2. Love others.

Do you love God? 
  • Do you know Him? Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me (John 7:28-29). We can know God through His Son Jesus Christ, Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 4:6-11). Is Jesus Christ your Lord?
  • Do you love God with all your being? 
  • Is He your Everything? 
  • Do you want to please Him in everything you do, say, and think? 
  • Do you love Him sacrificially, unconditionally, unselfishly, and forever?

Do you love others?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your time, energy, and money for the good of others? 
  • Do you value other people as highly as you do yourself? The Bible says, Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3). We’re to put others before ourselves!
  • Are you completely unselfish?

It never hurts to be reminded of the qualities of love as listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. 

  • Puts up with, is patient
  • Is kind
  • Doesn’t envy
  • Doesn’t boast
  • Isn’t proud
  • Doesn’t behave badly
  • Isn’t selfish
  • Isn’t irritable
  • Doesn’t think badly of others
  • Doesn’t enjoy sin
  • Enjoys truth (the Bible, God Himself)
  • Forbears
  • Believes
  • Trusts
  • Endures
  • Never fails

So, look back over the characteristics of love and analyze your love for God. Do you really love Him? 

Look at them again and think about how you love people (family and others). Do you really love people?

Think how practical it is that God gave us a two-point outline for our lives. Imagine a world where people love God with their whole beings and truly love people also. 

Now, that’s revolutionary.

Let it begin with you! 

You’ll change your world.

*The main story is found in Matthew 22:34-40; it’s also in Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: Freefall by Kristen Heitzmann

Photo by: Apolonia

I have always enjoyed Kristen Heitzmann’s books, but this one gets my vote for best yet! It’s exciting, very well written, and the Christian message is loud and clear without taking over the story line. I loved it!

Freefall begins with a young woman waking up from a severe concussion. She’s on a rock and has a head injury. She doesn’t know where she is, how she got there, and she doesn’t remember anything—not the fall, not even who she is. After a little while, though, she decides to climb out of the steep valley, and she ends up in someone’s yard. There, she meets Monica, who asks her who she is, tends her wound, and takes care of her, nicknaming her “Jade” for her green eyes and beauty.

Several days later, Jade goes to the doctor, who does a scan and informs her she’ll start to recover her memory, but it will be little by little. Three days after her fall, Jade remembers she hadn’t been alone. She doesn’t know who was with her, but she knows there was someone.

The search begins. Someone might be at the point of death—or worse. In the meantime, Monica has called her brother Cameron, who ends up going with this young woman who doesn’t even know who she is to try to find someone she doesn’t remember. Jade has fuzzy memories sometimes, and when they reach the bottom, she recognizes where she had been, so Cameron goes exploring. He realizes that Jade’s head injury is serious, and he would rather take risks than cause her further harm.

The story takes off. Others know who Jade is before she does, and she’s in grave danger. As her memory slowly comes back in bits and pieces, Jade confronts the paparazzi, meets the person who pushed her, and deals with some personal challenges having to do with her career and her true identity. At the same time, Cameron is trying to balance protecting “Jade,” his work, and his growing romantic interest.

As in all good novels, there are plenty of complications, a great love story within a love story—actually two of them—and the bad guy gets caught in the end. It has a wonderfully Christian view of some very sticky issues.

The only negative was quite a few kisses by unmarried people and one heavy scene of temptation—where no one succumbed.

I give Freefall five stars, a thumbs up, and I recommend it for a fun read. I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Understanding and Encouraging Your Missionaries

Photo by Sira Anamwong

A missionary on any field faces situations and trials that most people would never dream of. Let me share some of ours from the very first years with you. I hope it will open your eyes to how to pray for your church’s missionaries and how to encourage your missionary friends.

On arrival, we understood not one word of Spanish. Not one. That meant that we had to rely on our co-workers for everything. We bought a car, we found an apartment, we applied for residency—all with our co-worker translating at our side. We moved into our apartment and began doing things on our own. We went to the grocery store and had no idea what we were buying. We looked at pictures on the labels. The big problems were the market—where you had to ask for things—and the meat counter (same story). We couldn’t understand, let alone speak. People went ahead of us in line because we couldn’t say anything. My husband would draw pictures of things he needed and take the pictures to the hardware store. The man there really worked with us. We were always thankful for kind faces.

When we came to Spain, we had no idea how Europeans dressed. Plus, we were quite a bit taller than the average Spanish person. We’d get on the bus to go to language school, and everyone stared. We wouldn’t have stuck out more if we’d had green hair!

Because we looked so different and were the novelty of the neighborhood—high towers of apartments—it was very difficult to find anyone who would talk to us. We tried to smile and say hello and be friendly, but there were no takers. It was like this for the whole five-year first term.

When we went to church, we didn’t understand the messages—for about two years. We were fed spiritually only through our own Bible reading and the odd cassette tape message our co-workers passed on to us. I started volunteering for nursery duty. (My Spanish was at nursery level!)

Back when we came to Spain, it took about three weeks to get a letter from here to America and just as long to receive them. There were no personal computers, only typewriters. For us to communicate with our loved ones, we made copies of our typed letters and sent them in envelopes to our family members and friends. If we needed an answer to any question, we had to wait and wait and wait. Thankfully, today, we have many technological advances. Even phone calls are cheaper! We enjoy Skype and e-mail. Correspondence takes minutes rather than two months. The only thing that’s worse today than back then is receiving packages. Now, the customs import price is almost is as much as the item itself. Needless to say, we try to buy everything we can locally.

Almost every beginning missionary feels those same emotions that we did thirty years ago. They are stared at. They’re adults trying to learn a language that sounds like gibberish. They are trying to fit into a culture—it doesn’t matter where—that’s totally different from their home country. They don’t usually have any family members anywhere nearby. They feel lonely, overwhelmed, starving spiritually, wanting fellowship. In short, they feel like strangers in a strange land.

So, what can you do to help your church’s missionaries through their first term (or second, third, or tenth)? How can you encourage them? 

Here are some very simple things that will greatly encourage your ambassadors on the field:

  1. Pray—But, don’t only pray. Tell them you’re praying. Send them a note (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter). Pray specifically for the people and situations expressed in their prayer letters. Let them know you’re praying for those items. Pray for their family, their marriage, and their children (by name). Pray that they would find spiritual refreshment from the Word and that God would provide them with fellowship. Pray for the struggles they don’t tell people about. 
  2. Write to them—I don’t know why, but it seems so easy for people to text their friends and business associates, but when it comes to missionaries, they think they can’t write them. It takes about one minute to compose an e-mail or Facebook private message. It can say something like this: I am Mrs. Tigger* from Tri-City Church* in Belleville, Utah.* I’d just like to tell you that I’ve been praying for you today. I was reading this verse this morning, and I’d like to share it with you. “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.” (Psalm 116:7) I am praying that you will find the Lord to be sufficient today and that you might rest in Him. Is there anything specific you’d like for me to pray for this week? God bless you as you serve Him in Dyasunga Land.*” Speaking of writing, most missionaries are on Facebook, Linkedin, and other social media sites. Many write blogs. Have your church people “friend” them on social media. (Make sure they identify themselves through a private message, so the missionary will know who they are.) Read their blogs and tell others in your church about them. (Hint, hint!)
  3. Give to your church’s missionary fund. In most countries, the missionaries rely 100% on support from their home countries. They are not allowed to work a job on their field.
  4. Take on a project. It can be as small as taking up an offering to help a child go to camp or getting together craft supplies they can’t find in their country. It might be helping to buy gospel tracts or medicines. It might be getting together a surprise package for a missionary child. It might be buying a $25 Amazon gift card for your missionary. There are lots of things you can do to be a blessing to your missionaries. Youth groups, children’s Sunday schools, ladies’ groups, and others can be a special blessing to missionaries.
  5. Remember their birthdays. An e-card, real card, Facebook greeting, or an e-mail on a missionary’s birthday is truly special. Again, identify who you are and what church you’re from (state, also).
  6. Visit—or send your pastor and his wife. Nothing gives a true picture of missions to the people back home more than a trip to the field. See if your church can send your pastor and his wife to the mission field from time to time. Your pastor will be an encouragement to the missionary, and the pastor will come back with a burden for that field and ministry. Sometimes, a mission team will be a great help to the missionary’s ministry. (Ask before planning. It really depends on the situation.) Sometimes a person or couple could visit on their own, maybe as part of a vacation. (If you visit for more than a few days, make sure you can help with expenses. If you send a team, make sure they are funded so as not to be a burden on the missionary.)
Encourage a missionary today! 

* As you can tell, the names and places are made-up.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Pumpkin Spice Latte

Photo by: Michelle Meiklejohn

Today, my friends rejoiced in their pumpkin spice lattes. I am glad for them.


You see, I'm a coffee lover, and anything that even smacks of coffee—with even one bean in it—rates in my book.

But, I’ve never even seen a pumpkin spice latte.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a latte. What’s a latte?

Google to the rescue! Make that Wikipedia, accessed by Google. (It’s the most authoritative source of information, for your information. Just kidding, of course!) It says a latte is espresso coffee with steamed milk.

Revelation: I have had a latte! (Although in Spain, we call it café con leche.)

You can call it a latte if you want.

Pumpkin spice latte. Hmmmmm . . . . I read the ingredients on social media. They go like this: milk and espresso coffee (So far, so good.), pumpkin spice flavored sauce (It consists of: sugar, condensed nonfat milk, sweetened condensed nonfat milk, annatto, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, salt, and potassium sorbate.), whipped cream, pumpkin spice topping (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, sulfites). No pumpkin at all in a pumpkin spice latte. Just thought you might want to know.

I had to look up annatto. It’s a yellow-orange coloring, made from a South American fruit from the achiote tree. They used to use it for coloring cheddar cheese.

I’m sure that all that sweetness and all those artificial flavors, condensed milks and pumpkin spiced this and that have got to taste amazing when paired with coffee and steamed milk.

But you see, I’d have to drive five hours to reach the nearest Starbucks store. I've lived all my life without paying whatever you pay for a pumpkin spice latte. Even though it sounds delicious, after reading the ingredients list, I think I’ll pass—though if someone handed me one, I’d never ask questions for conscience sake. (Boy, is that stretching 1 Corinthians 10:25-28!)

I have an alternative in mind. How about I bake the pumpkins we grow organically in our garden, puré the flesh, and make some pumpkin pies with normal, natural ingredients, topping them with lightly sweetened whipped cream. On the side, I drink my home-brewed drip coffee with steamed milk (a.k.a. latte), and I enjoy those flavors in my own home, sitting beside a roaring fire in the wood stove?

No, it’s not the same.

But again, there’s more than one way to enjoy pumpkin, spices, and coffee.

Enjoy yours, however you like it!


Whether therefore ye eat, or drink,
or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.

(1 Corinthians 10:31)