Free

April 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Heather Allen –

Sometimes God’s words are a sweet, honey soothing balm. And other times, like tonight, they stick in my throat as I try to swallow them whole. I want a consecrated life but the dying process that leads me there, is truly killing me, my flesh at least.

My children have spent the day loved and are now tucked in blankets and prayer. I sit in the dim stillness of the midnight hour accompanied by a restless mind. I want to lay my head on the table and have a good cry, but the tears and the sleep are long in coming.

I have spent two weeks reading George Muller’s biography with my kids. And during these last two weeks there has been a financial decision my hubby and I have tried to make. Tried being the operative word. There seems to be an invisible fence hemming us in.  George Muller lived a fiscally amazing life, and he cared for thousands of orphans in the process. During his lifetime he had millions of dollars go through his hands. Yet he used the money for others, even when it was hard to buy food. The biography details how he read the Bible from cover to cover 300 times. And how he chose to be in need, giving away all excess, and waiting for God to fill the need. He was constant in prayer: asking, seeking and knocking.

I want to live like George Muller lived. He saw miracles every day. But tonight, with a mixture of frustration and fear I told God how hard it is to let go. The response back was “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” I grabbed my Bible and turned to this verse, not realizing it shows up in both the New and Old Testament.  And part of me, the part that is small and immature, wishes I had stuck with the Old Testament version. But I didn’t. I turned to Hebrews 13:5 also.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (NIV).

Here’s the thing, I really just wanted a pat on the back and some sympathy tonight. Being content with what I have doesn’t sound so good, and what I envision buying sounds great. Yet even as I write this I am reminded that what is seen is temporal.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV).

Somewhere along the way I befriended a lie. I often trust in resources and choose what is seen. If I ever have the courage to live like George Muller I think it will feel like miles of rope being cut off of me: freedom.

See I know God does not withhold good things from me, but I live like He might. I know He loves me as a daughter and is actively pruning my life, yet sometime I live like an orphan.  I know that any no ultimately gives way to a greater yes, yet I long for the yes.

In the midst of all this, He is the God who actively rescues me from trying to be my own salvation. He sets me free.

When the Internet Fails

March 24, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). 

We’ve all experienced the confusion. Last night your email was working, this morning – no go.

What’s going on? Usually no one can say.

Personally I think it’s a sign of the times. More than likely it’s a sign of my age. And if the truth be known, I don’t like computers, never have and don’t think I ever will.

Sure, I use them. Sure, sometimes they make my life easy, especially when you compare Word Perfect to the old fashioned hit and peck type-writer that we used in my day.  In retrospect I can hardly believe we had to type everything perfectly. There was no cut and paste. How did we do it? Now you can change every word from top to bottom in a heartbeat. That part I like.

But with each blessing also comes a test.

And computers have tested me sometimes beyond my ability to endure. I’m talking about my patience and kindness quotient. They seem to fly out the window whenever I talk to someone regarding technology, especially the guys from India.

Bless their hearts, it’s not their fault. I don’t know what happens to me. Something just comes over me. I like to think it’s a computer demon that jumps on me and says, “You don’t have to take this. Let her rip.”

But the truth is – it’s me. It’s that old flesh thing rising up inside, making itself known, keeping me humble and needing God.

As a result I spend more time feeling bad about my behavior and in repentance to God than I do in fixing the computer.

So God and I are working on this issue. He’s developed a new training program for me: Plan B – being kind in all circumstances.

Clearly Plan B does not come naturally to me. I thought it did, but since the invention of the computer, all bets are off.

My current problem is buffering. Surely, you’ve experienced it. It’s when you are trying to live stream or watch a download or U-tube video. The tape stops incessantly and is crazy making.

I know this is not a computer problem.  My computer is only three months old and everything is up to snuff. I’m finally even comfortable downloading updates.

But regardless the problem, I’ve spent hours with my server on the phone. We’ve checked my download service, my download speed and my router connection. A technician has come out and replaced some gadget on the side of my house.

Recently I was told it was my modem.  That might be true as this one was probably purchased in the year 2000. But why didn’t they tell me that the first time I called?

But praise God I was nice this time. And that is only by the grace of God. Everything in me wanted to use the age card and shout, “Do you not know I am an old person. Technology is not my thing!”

After a brief conversation, which in itself was pretty miraculous, I was told it was indeed my modem and was promised a new one within five days.

“It is easy to install,” the heavily accented voice on the other end of the line told me.

I’m skeptical. But sure, I’ll play.  Maybe, just maybe this time things will turn around. But if this is part of the test, my training has been ratcheted up a notch.

When I receive the new modem, I plan to follow the instructions to the letter. If that doesn’t work, then I’m going back to the tried and true “age card.”

What else is a grandmother to do if she wants her computer to work?

Milk-n-Honey

March 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano –

I recently had a conversation with an individual who just got out of prison. Like many inmates, this individual accepted Christ while incarcerated. This person went to prison for doing a lot of the same things I used to be involved in. We share a common understanding of life in a dark, dark world. Now that our lives are with Christ, we live differently. So much change has taken place that we spent hours just catching up.

I shared how I remember never sleeping at night. Always doing, selling, and sharing drugs with other drug dealers and users. I remember the constant phone calls from users waiting on the product to arrive.  I remember crashing hard when the product was delayed. I remember rarely leaving the house during the day. I don’t know why other than we called ourselves “people of the night,” and only the “people of the day” ventured their lives during the daylight hours.

There were always people, strangers, coming and going at all hours of the day and especially at night.  There was always pornography in the background, playing along with the music as people partied. I remember the constant feeling of paranoia, the looking over my shoulder, peering out windows, sitting huddled in the darkest corner of a room—hiding from something I thought I saw or heard. I used to hear police sirens in my head until one day I couldn’t distinguish if it was from the realm of fear or from reality. I remember getting beat up by my boyfriend. I remember thinking, “I don’t want to die in this house this way.” I remember the lies—there were many, many lies—on this side of darkness you trust no one—including yourself.

As I openly shared my personal experiences with this individual, I noticed the frequent nodding of the head, saying to me, “Yep, I know exactly what you mean!”

This is true for all people of the night. They know exactly what I mean when I describe life in that dark, dark world. They understand the constant drama that comes with that life. They learn to live with mistrust and misuse. There is no friendship, no grace, no mercy, nor family for those who live in darkness. They harden their hearts, discard their feelings, and always carry a sharp eye and a loaded gun.

More nodding of the head but this time the nod is more pronounced, saying to me, “Man, you nailed it!”

Back in those days, I used to long for a simple life with no drama, no drugs, no darkness, and no paranoia. More nods, but these nods were gentle ones, saying to me, “Yeah, I want that too.”

I shared how God has taken me out of the land of darkness and brought me into a land of milk-n-honey. Today, I have a home that is safe and peaceful. I lead a simple life filled with grace and mercy. These days the only drama in my life is sitting in my back yard watching the brilliant colors of the sunrise and sunset. And the only things I do at night are watch for shooting stars across the sky.

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness” (Isaiah 42:6-7 NIV).

Abba (Father), thank you for bringing me out of darkness and for keeping me in the Light of your Presence. Thank you for setting me free and for bringing me into a place of grace and mercy. I will forever praise your name.

In His Right Mind

March 5, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Marty Norman –

Storytelling is a gift. Some people have it and some don’t. I don’t, though I’ve wished for it since I was a child. I just never felt equipped.

That’s why, when invited to join a Bible Study on storytelling, my first reaction was a resounding, “Are you kidding?  Not me – it’s not my cup of tea.”

“Why? It’s right up your alley”, my friend argued, pressing her point again and again. Finally she wore me down. Relenting, I joined the group to please her. My plan: attend a couple of sessions then fade away.

Scripture tells us that we are to be hearers of the word:  “blessed are they who hear the word and obey”, Luke 11:28 NIV; and “faith comes from hearing the message.” Romans 10:17 NIV.  Storytelling is based on these scriptures. The purpose: learn the age-old tradition of storytelling practiced by the patriarchs and early civilizations from the American Indian to the Himalayan people groups. Based on biblical tradition, the good news of the gospel is told through oral tradition, different from our modern techniques of video, reading and visual aids.

Was I ever surprised?

The first class was titillating, exciting and challenging. Definitely my cup of tea.  I sat mesmerized as Sharon, the leader, told the story of Jesus and the demoniac. The story was more than familiar; I’d read it numerous times but hearing it told in this manner brought a whole new perspective.

I visualized the demoniac cutting himself with stones and throwing fits. I could see the 2000 pigs as they raced to the lake and drowned. I joined the herdsmen as they stood amazed at what they saw.

The turning point hit me hard. When the townspeople saw the demoniac “dressed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus”, they became afraid. I understood the aversion of many to the truth of the gospel. When faced with the might and power of this man Jesus, people are afraid. They wonder what kind of man this is that heals a demoniac from evil spirits. They shy away from one who commands the wind and waves to cease. They see the demoniac’s transformation and understand that being in a right mind is all about being in a right relationship with God.

Somewhere deep inside, the question lurks for the hearer. If the demoniac changed, even though in a good way, I, too, might have to change. And I don’t want to. No one does. We all like our habits, even if they are harmful to us or to others. We are comfortable in our ways, only willing to change when we are desperate. The demoniac was desperate. He was not only open but willing.

In the mystery that is God, the story of the demoniac, when told without visual aid, reached deep into the hearts of the hearers in a profound way. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told so many stories and parables because when digested, they speak to the heart of the hearer and bring about changed lives.

This is such a story. The demoniac experienced the healing, power, love and mercy of a mighty God. As a result, he ended up in his right mind in a right relationship with the Father, through the power of Jesus Christ. In the end, isn’t that what we all really want.

If that’s not a perfect cup of tea – I don’t know what is.

The Ministry of the Midwife

February 14, 2020 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Nina Medrano – 

Exodus 1:15-21 (NIV)
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.  Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”   The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”   So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Chances are, if you are a faithful member of a church you have been a midwife in a ministry.

Whether you serve in the nursery, or on a worship team, or pastor the sheep– you assist in birthing God’s plan and purpose for His Bride.

The ministry of the midwife is a position that gets to observe some of the most hidden, private, intimate parts of human nature.  It’s a position that often rewards and encourages.  And, at other times, will raise the question of whether to remain or get out!  Because of the sensitive role of the midwife, Satan and his demons, will try to entrap and threaten the midwife into aborting the purpose and plan of God.

What is the enemy’s greatest scheme?   It is offenses.

If he can get us to be offended at the one giving birth then we have given him power to stop God’s plan for the Church as well as for our lives.

What is our greatest protection?  The fear of the Lord.

Psalm 34:7 (NLT) reads, “For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.”

Psalm 61:5 (NLT) reads, “…You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear your name.”

The Hebrew midwives feared God more than the King and they did not succumb to the king’s threat.  God saw this and rewarded the midwives by giving them families of their own.

When we choose to stay in the fear of the Lord, God will defend us and will reward us with His intended purpose and ministry of our own.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us in his writings to the Galatian Church: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up”  (Galatians 6:9).

Lord, protect me against the voices of offense that surround me and frequently point out the shortcomings of those in ministry.  Help me to stay in the presence of the fear of the Lord.  Season my heart with much grace and mercy towards myself and with others—as we continue to be transformed into the image of Christ.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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