But it’s just a Small Stain!

October 14, 2011 by  
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By Kathi Woodall –

Looking so pretty in one of her favorite dresses, my five-year-old daughter was ready for church. I warned her to be careful not to drip any chocolate milk on her dress.

“I’ll be careful, mom.”

She put the cup to her mouth. The next thing we knew and before we could stop it, the damaging drip rolled down the side of her mouth and landed on the front of her dress.

Her daddy told her to go to her room and pick a different dress from her closet. With chocolate still on her mouth, her face wrinkled up into a cry. “But it’s just a small stain!” she cried as the tears started to flow. True to her perseverant nature, or should I say stubborn nature, she continued to cry. Between sobs she would remind us, “But it’s just a small stain!”

As I loaded the dishwasher and watched this play out, her repetition of the phrase, “But it’s just a small stain!” struck something within me. As my five-year-old cried because she wasn’t getting her way, I wondered how many adults cry out those same words to God as the Spirit works to reveal the sin in their life.

The Spirit prompts, “Did you lie to your boss?”

You answer, “But it’s just a small stain!”

“Were you mean to your husband? Were you impatient with your children?”

You cry, “But it’s just a small stain!”

“Did you gossip at church?”

You plead, “But it’s just a small stain!”

We may think we are a good person and those small stains won’t really matter but God does not see it that way. I thought of the verse, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10 NIV). Whether the stain was small or ran all the way down my daughter’s front side didn’t matter. Either way, the dress was still stained and she could no longer wear it to church. Likewise, we all have stains on our souls. Because of those stains, we can no longer have a personal relationship with God. He looks at us and in His sovereignty says, “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me” (Jeremiah 2:22 NIV). However, He also looks at us with love and compassion stirs within Him. That is why He provided a way for our stains to be removed. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV).

Have you allowed Jesus to wash away your stains?  Don’t let stubbornness rule as you, like my daughter, keep crying, “But it’s just a small stain.”

Too Much Salt

October 11, 2011 by  
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By Alan Mowbray  –

We all know about salt. You put it on french fries, potato chips, pretty much anything your mother-in-law cooks (well, not mine, of course), and foods that just don’t make your tongue dance.

Why? ‘Cause it tastes good. Well, technically, that’s actually the result of using salt, but it doesn’t answer the question of why adding salt makes things taste good.

Salt is a flavor enhancer. Those of you that bake know that recipes for sweets often have a bit of salt added. It’s there just to make the sugar and other ingredients taste better. This is where the “Salt” part of this comes from.

As a Christian, the Word tells me (Matthew 5: 13-16) that I am “…the salt of the earth.” This is a description of who I am – or should be. Salt enhances flavors; not by making them saltier, but rather, by enhancing the flavors already present in the other ingredients.

If I am to be salt, my life, my actions and my character should enhance the life of others. How I think, speak, act, and interact should be run through this filter of: “Am I actually making this other person’s life ‘taste’ better to them, or am I actually making it worse?

Worse? How could that be?
Did you ever put too much salt on something? Bleh!

By being a bit too overbearing and lording our Christianity over others, we can cause their taste for Christ to bitter. Our lifestyle, demeanor, reaction to adversity, and etc. all reflect on whether we are enhancing the flavor of others’ lives or whether we are too “salty.”

When first learning how to witness my faith to others, I was trained to boldly confront everyone with the message of Jesus Christ, but the tactics I was trained to use gave ME a bad taste in MY mouth. I couldn’t stomach banging on a stranger’s door, asking him if he know where he would go if he died tonight, and telling him he was destined for hell if he wasn’t saved… not that this is necessarily bad, but is it a proper use of our loving salt?

Was I enhancing these people’s lives, or did they shut the door on me – solidifying their belief that Christians were pathetic and highly annoying losers? Even worse, there were times when the people I was with got into arguments with them.

Would you say that walking around picking fights on unsuspecting people is counterproductive, yet being ready for a fight, if you are attacked, is prudent? Using this thought pattern, let’s compare confrontational witnessing versus living a holy lifestyle – ready, at a moment’s notice, to explain why when asked?

I’ve spent a few years tossing this issue in my head and I understand now that I was being too salty. Instead of enhancing and watering seedlings of hope and faith, I was flooding them with briny, brackish fleshly water.

Now, I still believe that one should tell others about Jesus, but I’ve changed my personal message. It’s no longer – “HERE’S WHAT JESUS CAN DO FOR YOU IF ONLY YOU’D JUST BELIEVE – YOU IDIOT!!!!!” My message is now – “Here’s what Jesus does for me every day, even though I don’t deserve it!”

When you become salt of the world, you aren’t pushing the Gospel down people’s throats; you’re living life with them – loving them. That is true witnessing. That’s what Jesus did.

We are here to enhance the lives of others. Done in love, our lives too, will taste sweeter as a result.

Here Comes Harold Camping’s October 21, 2011!

October 7, 2011 by  
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By Dianne E. Butts –

Last spring, Harold Camping made national news when he predicted the Rapture would occur May 21, 2011. What’s the Rapture? It is an event that many Christians believe will occur during the “End Times,” which we talked about a little in my column last month.

One of the foundational beliefs of Christianity is that Jesus will return to earth—as an adult, just like when He died, alive and powerful. We believe this because Scripture tells us so in many places. Here are just couple:

  • Jesus Himself talked about His coming. Three of the four gospel writers recorded this conversation: Matthew in his book’s chapter 24, Mark in chapter 13, and Luke in 21. Jesus talked about many things that would happen just before He comes, including wars, earthquakes, and natural disasters that would increase in intensity and frequency like a woman’s birth pangs.
  • Also, as the resurrected Jesus was ascending into heaven, two angels appeared suddenly and said, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Some Christians believe that just before His second coming, the Rapture will take place. The Rapture is when all true Christians are suddenly whisked away, taken out of the world to meet the Lord. This belief is based on Bible verses like 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, which says in part, “…we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”

The Bible describes the “End Times” as the last seven years of human history as we know it, known as the great “Tribulation.” This seven year period is divided into two halves of three and a half years each. Some Christians believe the Rapture will occur at the beginning of the seven years, as sort of a kick-off event. Others believe it will take place at the halfway point.

Harold Camping said he’d done some calculations (I don’t know what) and that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. But on May 22 we were still here. Quickly afterwards media reported he said he had miscalculated or that God was giving us another five months—until  October 21, 2011.

Since May, I’ve heard Harold Camping called a false prophet. And that is true, because a true prophet of God can’t be wrong. If a “prophet’s” prediction does not come true, it was not from God and so he or she is a false prophet.

However Mr. Camping sure had people talking. And I think that’s a good thing. I heard one radio talk show on a mainstream (meaning not “Christian”) radio station with a host that was Jewish. He was asking questions about the “Rapture” and Christians were calling in explaining what that meant. The host just kept saying he was blown away by how well-informed the Christians were!

Only nineteen days after Mr. Camping’s failed prediction, on June 9th, he suffered a stroke from which he is still recovering. I found myself wondering if Harold Camping would live to see October 21, 2011, or if his own personal “rapture” would occur by then. Whether his stroke was a judgment from God or not I’ll let you decide.

But I believe God can use even false prophets for His glory and I hope even more people are talking and thinking about God this October. And I hope Christians will continue to talk about what they know, because there are people out there who are curious, are listening, and are taking note.

What Might Soothe Their Wounds

October 5, 2011 by  
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By Janet Perez Eckles -

Some months ago after a visit to my doctor, I stopped by the receptionist counter. “Is this all I need?” She placed papers in my hand, “Sure is, have a great day.” Her tone rang with tenderness.

“Thank you,” I said, leaning toward the desk. “Stay as sweet as you are.”

After a few moments, she said, “That is the nicest thing I heard in a long time.” Her voice choked.

I’d not said anything profound or particularly complimentary. But I was touched, really touched but also intensely enlightened.

How could a few words evoke such reactions in others? How can our tone accompanying our words stir a response of gratitude, or even a reaction of admiration and gladness?

Words hold power, often greater than swords in our hands. Those words that slip from our tongue, those letters that we string together in emails, those responses to telemarketers or drivers on the road, even to those we love  either plant a sweet scent of encouragement or drip dark gloom into someone’s day.

A friend of mine begins her emails with: Hello dear sweet Janet.” A warm wave of delight caresses my heart when reading her greeting. And in turn, prompts me to ripple that same feeling to someone else.

Conversely, confessing my faults, I’ve had moments when the words I poured out spurred ugly regret. Words to friends, hubby and even my children. And while turning the pages of the album of my heart, I wonder what words ring in my sons’ ears, or echo still?

Not long ago, I asked them. “Hey guys, do you remember the notes I used to Scotch tape to your pillows?”

“Got every one of them. I saved them mom,” my oldest son said.

“I remember the notes that you’d put in our lunch boxes,” chimed my twenty-five year old.”

They remember, I thought with delight. Like a soft Fall breeze, gladness swept over me. They may have forgotten moments when I blurted instructions, quick demands, and harsh scoldings. But something prompted me to spend those few seconds jotting simple words on a piece of paper and stuff them in their lunch boxes. Perhaps it was an attempt to fill the role of a good mom, or to make-up for my feelings of inadequacies, insecurities.

Or just a tug at my heart, wanting them to know they were loved, really loved.

As they got older, longer notes that expanded on life’s insights, admonishments and praises for their achievements waited for them on their pillows.

Words whether written or said, can transform and turn wounds to healing, dark moments into hope, defeat into victory and even despair into joy. Struggles and fears abound, they did for my sons. And also swirl in the lives of those we touch. The words we sprinkle might just be the balm that soothes their broken world.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:1).

Grandma’s Words

October 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Heather Arbuckle –

“You’ve always been strong-willed.” Grandma’s words stung as my wounded heart wilted for a moment. Searching for understanding, I shared my dismay at her characterization of me, her oldest grandchild, and asked her to explain. “It’s not a bad thing,” she clarified. “Ever since you were a little girl, you knew what you believed. And once your mind is set, it will not be swayed. You are strong. I have never worried that you would lose your way.”

It was one of the last conversations I had with my Grandmother this side of Heaven. Months later, she lost her battle with cancer and God took her home to be in His presence.  For years, when I reflected on our exchange, my heart hurt just a little. At the time, I wasn’t sure she knew me at all.  After all, I didn’t feel strong. I didn’t know which way to go. Life for me, a young woman in her twenties, was filled with uncertainties. In fact, most of the time the world made me want to retreat into hiding. Still, as I have grown, I have come to realize my Grandma saw me with faith filled eyes. She saw the me that was yet to be. And she had faith that God would lead me on my way.

Now, many years later, my heart smiles when I recall our last exchange. Though she is not here to teach my children, my Grandmother is part of the legacy I am growing in them. Today, as I raise up Godly children in a world hostile to absolute truth, I understand what my Grandma saw in me. For regardless of what political arguments may grip our nation, I am determined to raise my children God’s way. After all, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV).

For me, the right path was easy to find, for I had my Grandmother to walk it with me. She read me God’s word. Took me to Sunday School. She even paid for me to attend the church camp where I received Christ as my Lord and Savior.  But even more than that, she prayed for me and believed that God would finished what He had started in me even after she was gone.

Truly, my Grandma knew the right path when she saw it. She passed it on to me, and now I am teaching my own children to follow it as well. It’s the path of Christ and it leads to eternal life in God’s holy presence. To be sure, she would recognize the same spunky spirit in my own children that she saw in me. Those apples seem to have fallen right next to the tree! When I gaze upon them and teach them His ways, I recognize the strength looking back at me. It is the same look that lit the eyes of a little girl my Grandma understood quite well. For she knew me better than I knew myself, and she believed that God was faithful to His promises.

On my behalf, she claimed the promise that when we “train up a child in the way he should go, when he is older he shall not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). It’s a truth that endures for sons. For daughters. For granddaughters. And now, when I reflect on the words of my Grandmother, a knowing smile comes over my heart.

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