Unswerving Hope

January 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Personal Growth

By Rosemary Flaaten –

The rain pelted against my windshield with such force that the wipers could not keep it clear. The overwhelming volume of rain pooling on the roadway created a slick covering. As I crept along, hands tensely gripping the steering wheel, I feared that at any moment my car, with its bald tires, would be caught by a gust of wind and skid across the sea of water. Suddenly from behind, a large pick-up truck approached and passed with confidence and precision. This heavy bodied vehicle enabled the driver to manoeuvre the treacherous highways without fear of swerving or hydroplaning.

There is a phrase in scripture that reminds me of my stormy driving experience. Numerous times when we are admonished to hope, the adverb unswervingly is added. Hope by definition is having a desire for something and a reasonable confidence that it is going to happen. As Christians we say that our hope and confidence is in God. But, is it really?

When the torrents of life strike – teenage children go astray, a scary diagnosis is received, a spouse betrays, a parent dies, a friend ridicules, loneliness looms dark – does our hope hydroplane? Battered by the wind and rain, do we skid from one side of the road to another, perhaps even ending up in a wreck? Or, do we have an unswerving hope in God?

I surmise that my fellow driver in the large pick-up truck, who cut through the storm without fear, knew the capacity of his vehicle and was accustomed to driving in the present formidable circumstances. This leads me to ponder how well I know God? Have I studied His character and trustworthiness? Have I prepared for the storms of life by going deep into God’s word and fostering an intimate relationship with Him? Can I recount the storms I have weathered with Him remembering that He has proven faithful?

When our hope is placed in God’s faithful presence in our life, then we will have the confidence to go through any storm knowing that God is carrying us in the palm of His hand and nothing will overcome us. God is trustworthy. He will make our paths straight. God alone is our Rock.

QUOTE: “Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible, achieves the impossible.” Anonymous

BIBLE VERSE: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

Naptown, is That Very Far Away?

January 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Jarrod Spencer –

It is not uncommon for our family to run to “America’s Drive-In” a few times a week. Sometimes we will eat lunch there, while other times we will go through there to pick up a drink for my wife. Either of these times will be at the end of the typical lunch hour.

Following lunch, our children will take a nap. At least that is the ideal situation. Our two kids may go down for a nap at the same time, but may not end up sleeping at the same time, unfortunately. This lack of symmetric schedules often affects my wife much more than me.

One such day as we had been out running errands around town, we had gone by the drive in before we went home. It was later in the afternoon, and our kids were showing signs of fatigue, which meant that a nap was just a few minutes away.

After we left the drive-in, we came to an intersection. Our son asks us where we are going to go next. My reply was “Naptown, do you want to go?”

My son then responded, “Is that very far away?”

His mom, after her initial snicker at his remark, said “‘NAP-TOWN’ means you’re going to take a nap, it’s not a place.” My son is not usually a gullible person but this caught him off guard.

It reminds me of the times when I am trying to think my life’s plans instead of leaving them up to God. I want one outcome and God has another planned for my life.

PRAYER: Father, may I learn to enjoy or at least appreciate the interruptions You place in my life.

BIBLE VERSE: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, s are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 44:8-9).

Church Service Survival 101

January 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Carol Barnier –

This will probably get me in trouble, but … I think it’s possible that children shouldn’t be allowed in church, at least not until they’ve been trained. I don’t mean that typical genteel parental kind of training. I’m talking more like truly useful, kid-to-kid warning and wisdom. Call it “How-to-Survive-the-Next-Hour-Without-Getting-Spanked-101.”

For example, I learned at a very young age that, when the elderly Edith Cooper began her weekly snore, looking back at her would invariably produce a tiny ping from my mother’s index finger. Mother was a firm believer in the Head-Always-Forward theology. Once, when the second to the last pew completely collapsed, sending three people through the floor into the basement, emitting a cloud of centuries-old dust, I hesitantly glanced up at my mother only to watch her simply nod to the pastor and quietly say “Amen.” She was a rock.

Young children, coming to church for the first time, need to be warned. Don’t look back! Or if you must, do so with technique. I eventually learned that if I dropped the bulletin at the correct moment, when returning from my retrieval lean, I could swipe a quick backward glance that was, if not elegant, at least permissible. But there is a firm once-per-service allotment of this technique. Use judiciously. You’ve been warned.

Children should also be told about the risks involved when they are all taken up front for a “children’s message.” Who invented this terror-filled activity? This situation is fraught with peril. The most important rule is simple: don’t offer anything unless asked. Sharing that your sister has a bank of boogers on the inside slat of her bunk bed will not endear you to your parents. While there is a risk in saying too much, there can also be a risk in saying too little. A visiting pastor shared with us a time when he called all the children forward and asked a seemingly simple question.

“Hi, kids! Got a question for ya’. What’s little and gray, has a long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter?”

Total silence met this man’s eager face.

A little surprised, he nonetheless cheerily continued.

“Oh, come on, guys. Let’s try again. Little and gray, long fluffy tail, skitters around on trees and stores up nuts for the winter.”

Again … not a peep, but this time the children’s eyes were huge and fearful.

This visiting pastor was clearly becoming agitated.

“Kids … this isn’t tough. The story won’t work unless you answer. So help me out.” He shot through the question again. “Little and gray. Long fluffy tail. Skitters around on trees. Stores up nuts for the winter!”

Finally, one kid timidly raised his hand. Clearly fearful at this line of questioning, he nonetheless took a deep breath and said, “Pastor … I know we’re always supposed to say ‘Jesus’ … but that really sounds like a squirrel to me.”

This kid knew one of the most basic forms of church survival. When in doubt, answer “Jesus.” Nine times out of ten, it’ll be the answer they want. But, as it turns out, listening is also a pretty good strategy. Who knew?

I actually love the buried truth in that concept. When in doubt, answer “Jesus.” Not only is it usually the right answer to the teacher’s question, it’s the right answer to most of life’s questions. I love it when we actually learn something from our kids. Maybe that’s why Jesus turned to the pompous adults in his company and said, “Be more like kids.”

Maybe we should let them back in church after all.

A New Year’s Resolution Solution: It’s All in Your Head!

By Laurette Willis –

Does fitness begin by doing physical acrobatics or is it mental acrobatics that must come first? God gives us the answer in Romans 12:2 (NIV). “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

It’s what’s on your mind that counts! It’s estimated that we think about 60,000 thoughts per day at a speed of 600-800 words per minute.

Do you find your thoughts consistently running along positive paths or negative ones? When something bad happens do you think or say, “It figures. Nothing good ever happens to me.” Or do you say, “You know what? I’m not moved by this because God says in Psalm 34, ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all,’ so I’m coming out of this one, too!”

Does God “tell it like it is”?

Why are people who quote God’s Word called extremists and fanatics while those who quote Murphy’s Law are considered realists who are just telling it like it is? Did you know God never told us to “tell it like it is?” In fact, if that were the way God operated, creation would not have happened.

Imagine if God had stepped out into the black void of space and said, “Hey, it sure is dark out here.” It would still be dark! God chose not to “tell it like it is.” Instead He “calls those things which do not exist as though they did”(Romans 4:17 KJV).

He used His Word and said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3 NIV). And there was light. Since we’re made in the image of God and Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be “imitators of God as dear children,” doesn’t it make sense to say what God says instead of what the enemy and the world say?

Start Looking in a New Mirror

Thinking and speaking God’s words and thoughts will change you! Your faith will grow as you hear the Word of God. You will begin to see yourself in a new light with a new mirror: the Word of God. It will become easier for you to encourage and bring hope to others, for you’ll begin to know that the Lord can help them. Situations that used to baffle you will become easier to understand.

Health and fitness issues will also become easier to solve, for godly fitness is tied to what the Lord is telling you that you can and should do to take care of your body. Your health and fitness also depends on the development of the fruit of the Spirit–especially self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23)–more than any diet or exercise routine.

Look at yourself in the mirror of God’s Word today. You will LOVE the way you look..in Him!

Endurance Training

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Jennifer Slattery –

A few years ago, I underwent intense training in order to compete in a triathlon. Having a defined goal to shoot for encouraged me to push past laziness, run through drizzle, and fight against my self-justifying tendencies. I had a two part-goal: To develop endurance and to train muscle memory. Muscle memory is when your body responds as if by instinct, allowing your body to work more effectively.

Endurance comes through repetition and consistently pushing your body one step, one hill, one mile farther. They call this “brick-workouts” and like the cement blocks that hold a house aright, these long training sessions carry the athlete through the bulk of their race. They in turn have a two-part function: to develop an “I can” mind-set and reduce the amount of fatigue an athlete experiences during a race.

In our spiritual lives, trials and disappointments often serve the same purpose. They take the sting out of many of life’s events, enabling us to press through without giving up. The first trial might leave us sore and trembling, like a first work-out does, but over time, it gets easier. In fact, we develop “spiritual memory.” Our actions, like responding in love when we’ve been wronged or biting our tongue in a tense situation, become more natural, and soon turn into habit.

And like with running, the mental component here is equally important. Everything is more manageable when we face it with the right mindset. If we have other “brick-workouts” to look back on, suddenly our current training session doesn’t appear so daunting. In fact, we know we can make it through because we’ve done it before.

But like with any training, the minute we take our eyes off the goal—the minute we quit moving forward, we start slipping backward. This leads to unsightly flab. It’s easy to spot the physical flab. It encircles our mid-section, widens our backsides, and creates less than appealing jiggles in diverse areas. Spiritual flab is often equally apparent—quick tempers, apathy, selfishness. To truly battle the “bulge,” we need to take our training seriously. Otherwise we give in to comfort more often than not, and choose the path of least resistance.

My current exercise schedule is a perfect example. Now that I’m not training, I find it increasingly difficult to stay on task. My rest days grow more frequent and I don’t approach my work-outs with the same intensity. Break a sweat? I’d rather not. Feel the burn? Maybe tomorrow. Or Friday. Better yet, next week. The result? A little more cushion around my middle and less endurance to carry me through the day.

I think our spirituality is a lot like that. Without goals and intentionality, we’ll muddle through, never quite breaking a sweat, and thus, lingering near immaturity. But God has called us to more. He’s called us to excellence—to run after Him with everything we’ve got. Why?

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