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Monday, February 28, 2011

In the Form of a Dog

John Craig was a minister at Edinburgh. He was also a writer and mathematician. He had a special place where he would take his students to instruct them in both mathematics and Christianity. One day, during their lessons, a wounded soldier approached. Craig, upon seeing the wounds of the soldier spoke to him of Christ and gave him money for medical care.

Soon after this event, Craig was imprisoned for being a Huguenot. He was thrown into a watery pit to await his execution where he would be burned alive. By God's grace and through a bizarre series of events, Craig was freed from prison.

Craig could not return to his work. He had no clothes, no food, and no money. He prayed for God to meet his needs while at the same time thanking Him for delivery from the prison. The Lord directed him to a change house in the suburbs. As he warmed himself by the fire, Craig tossed about the idea of asking for food and shelter. He didn't want to be a beggar, but he didn't feel he had any other choice.

Before he could make his move, a soldier and his unit entered the change house. Craig did his best to avoid eye contact. He didn't want to be imprisoned again. Despite his attempts, he couldn't help but notice that the lead soldier eyed him suspiciously. Craig panicked as the soldier approached him. As events unfolded, the soldier informed Craig that he was the wounded soldier that Craig had helped a while back. The soldier, now healed and promoted, handed Craig a handful of money. "What you gave to me, plus interest," he said. This gave Craig what he needed to clothe and feed himself. But the money didn't last long.

As he struggled daily to make ends me, Craig noticed he had picked up a shadow. A beautiful dog followed him from place to place. Afraid that he would be accused of stealing such a lovely animal, Craig attempted to scare the dog off. No amount of hollering or shooing would make the dog leave. Craig finally accepted the company.

On a particular trying day when the money was gone, Craig fell to his knees and began to pour His heart out to God. He thanked Him for his faithful provision and pleaded with Him to provide once again. In the midst of His prayer, he felt a tapping on his shoulder. The tapping continued until he finally looked up. The dog stood there, a coin purse in his mouth. He dropped the purse on the ground, then looked from the purse to Craig. Craig met the dog's eyes, and then bent to pick up the purse. It was full of gold coins, all exactly alike. In his heart, Craig knew that His prayers had once again been answered, and the answer came in the form of a dog.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Time of Conviction

I would like to share with you a blog entry from a missionary friend of my sister.

Down but not out.....

Hey everybody; this is Ken. As many of you know Christie after 2 years badgering, praying, and begging got the opportunity to attend a Guarani language class about 25 miles from our house. We are still without our car(over 2 months now) and I am still in recovery from my heart surgery. As I don't [have] permission from my Dr to drive yet our friend, evangelist and by now our family member Saul has been driving her to the class everyday on the motorcycle. If you have read the blog you know that this is rain or shine effort with flats and electrical trouble and many other various adventures. This morning they rolled out of the house to find a bright, sunny day and endless beautiful Paraguayan countryside. They were almost to there destination and were hit by a Toyota Landcruiser. They were slowing to make a left turn and the truck was driving VERY fast and tried to pass on the left side before they made their turn. He scrape down their side and hit the handle bars ejecting Christie from the bike and knocking Saul and the bike to the ground. The car went on to roll over and literally through a small, brick house. In all this destruction no one lost their life. Praise God. The Landcruiser guy escaped with no injuries. Saul is scraped and bruised, with a pretty bad ankle sprain. Over all he will be very sore but fared well. Which brings us to Christie. Christie pealed most of the skin from her left leg, both elbows, knees, and hands. She has various bruises and generally is sore. The WORST IS SHE BROKE HER FEMUR ON THAT SAME LEFT LEG. The bone is a bad break slightly above the knee. At 8 pm,local time, she will have surgery to put a plate and screws in her leg to stabilize it. She is in a lot of pain and we really desire your prayers. I thank God we have some very faithful friends here taking fantastic care of us. Some of them are Paraguayans and some are other American missionaries. We are truly blessed to soberly view the days events from a hospital room and not the Funeral Home. Keep us in your prayers. Thanks Ken

You can read more about Christie's progress by checking out their blog.

To be honest, when I first heard Christie's tale, I was convicted. Here is a woman who was traveling 25 miles on a motorcycle in the heat of Paraguay so that she could learn a language that would enable her to be a witness to more people. When was the last time I walked to my neighbor's house to be a witness? When was the last time I spoke to someone about Christ while at the grocery store? We have it so easy in America. We could be such great witnesses. Christie's story reminded me that I should be doing more. The Bible commands us to be a living sacrifice, but from what I can see, not many of us are sacrificing much. May Christie's story light a fire within us and compel us to strive harder to reach the lost.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. - Romans 12:1

Monday, February 21, 2011

Be On Guard!

The weather last Friday was absolutely beautiful. I had been looking forward to it all week. I had plans to take my dogs out on their favorite hike, after which we could sit at the lake, and I could write while they played. It was a good plan; unfortunately, things don't always work out the way we plan.

From the very start of the day, I sensed that something wasn't right, but I shook it off as paranoia. When I arrived and we began our hike, I felt out of sorts and not truly happy to be out. For whatever reason, my cell signal was acting crazy, making it impossible for me to do any of my work. Frustrated, I decided to finish the hike and just go home. I literally said the words, "Maybe God just doesn't want me to be here today."

As I walked, however, I noticed smoking rising from the area where they had just done a controlled burn. With the heavy winds, I feared something had ignited, so I decided to go back and check. Big mistake. I never made it to the area where I saw the smoke because as we came out of the woods, a furry blur sped past me and attacked my dog, Mitch. Before I realized what was happening, five or six dogs were on top of him, biting and pulling at him. I screamed at the dogs, hoping to scare them, but they continued. Their owner called to them calmly to stop. I directed my screams at her, "Get them off." In the meantime I was looking around for a branch to start swinging. Those of you who know me know that I would NEVER harm an animal, but when another animal is hurting my "baby," you better get out of the way.

My beagle, Tippy, concerned for her brother, raced into the fray. She took on one of the smaller dogs and was able to pull it away from Mitch. The other owner was finally making some effort to pull her dogs away, but they were intent on attacking. They pulled at him and bit him. He cried out of pain and fear. I was finally able to reach his collar and drag him away from the angry mob. He whimpered and shook as he tried to place himself between me and the dogs. It took every ounce of strength I had to remain upright and to drag both of my dogs in the direction of the woods from which we had just emerged. I knew I couldn't check their injuries or anything else until I got them away from the other dogs.

I won't go into the details from there for it would take far too long. I'll just say there were a lot of tears, and it took a good while before I was steady on my feet. Jason had to leave work to come get us because Mitch was in no shape to climb back up the mountain. I'm happy to say that despite some scratches and teeth marks, both of my dogs are okay. Mitch is limping due to some severe bites on his leg, but otherwise, we're all fine. . . more or less.

I can't tell you how many times I've replayed the scene in my mind. Even this morning, as I sat down to type out this post, all I could think about was the attack. But on the heels of that thought, I remembered I Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.

If nothing else, Friday's attack served as a reminder that Satan is looking to do that much and more to Christians. And because we have been warned, we need to be vigilant. I wasn't watching as carefully as I should have on Friday. I should have been aware of the other dogs. I can guarantee I'll be more careful in the future. Hopefully, I'll be more vigilant in watching out for the devil. What about you? Are you watching?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Soulprint by Mark Batterson

"Who am I?" It is a question asked by every person at some point along life's journey. The problem lies in the places some will look to find the answer. In Soulprint, Mark Batterson takes the reader through the life of David, explaining how and where David found the answer to one of life's greatest questions. His book is focused on the unique nature and talents that God has given to each of us and how those unique features define who we are and who we will become. Just as no two fingerprints are alike, no two soulprints are alike. We are each unique creations, and God has a plan for each of us.

Batterson puts it this way: "This book is all about you, but it's not about you at all. The fact that there never has been and never will be anyone like you simply means that no one can worship God like you or for you. You were created to worship God in a way that no one else can. How? By living a life no one else can--your life."

After reading the back cover of Soulprint, I was intrigued, but a little leery. The message had great potential as long as the author didn't dive off the deep end. To my surprise and relief, Batterson does just the opposite. He hits every point straight and true. He uses the Bible and the life of David to present a powerful plea to discover who you are and what you are destined to be. As I read, I came across so many profound statements that I felt the need to keep my highlighter handy at all times. Batterson has done an excellent job with this book, and I think it would be a tremendous resource to use in any kind of youth ministry (not to say that it's not appropriate for adults).

If you're struggling with the question of who you are and what the Lord intends for you, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of Mark Batterson's Soulprint.

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's Better Not to Know

Have you ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? It's where someone, in an attempt to keep something from happening, actually causes the event to happen. For example, if you knew you were to die in an accident tomorrow, you would probably stay home and in bed, right? That way, you couldn't be killed in a car accident. So, you stay home only to discover that it was a home accident and not a car accident that kills you. By trying to avoid the event, you actually brought it to pass.

Do you think maybe that's why God doesn't show us the entire plan for our lives? If He did, would things work out the way they're supposed to? Probably not. We would see the hard times, try to avoid them, and end up causing much more pain in the process. Too much information is not always a good thing.

God knows we have enough to deal with if we simply take one day at a time. Today will have enough joys, enough troubles, enough laughter, and enough tears. It is all we need, and all we can handle. Let's leave our tomorrows in His hands. He has a plan. He knows how it will unfold. We don't need to know what tomorrow holds. We only need to know Who holds tomorrow.

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. - Matthew 6:34

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Searching for Warmth

I'm fascinated at the white clouds of vapor that come out of my mouth in the cool air. Every breath, every word, every sigh produces a new cloud. My teeth shatter, and my body shakes. My shoulders feel as if they are dangling from my ears, so hiked up are they in an attempt to conserve body heat. Yes, this is a very typical day in South Carolina in February.

What is not typical is that I'm inside, and it's still that cold! You see, our heating unit, which is probably as old as I am, went out several years back. An inconvenience, but not a problem since our house has a very nice wood stove. It does an excellent job of keeping the house comfortable. . . when we have wood to put in it.

For several years, we had no problem collecting enough wood to see us through the winter. In fact, we often collected so much that we gave a lot away to family, friends, and church members. Since Jason has changed jobs, however, his schedule does not allow the time for us to go cut firewood like we used to. For the past couple of years, we've been keeping just enough to get us through. But when Jason's schedule became overwhelming last week, we weren't able to go out and get any wood. We ran out last weekend, and we haven't had the opportunity to get any.

We know some people at church who cut and deliver firewood, so we agreed to talk with them on Sunday. They were supposed to bring us a trailer-load of wood on Monday or Tuesday. As of this writing, it still hasn't arrived. The really bad part is that the weathermen are calling for snow tonight!

Thankfully, I have a space heater that does an excellent job of keeping the bedroom warm. I am currently snuggled in bed and working from my laptop. It's not an ideal situation, but it's cozy. And more importantly, it's warm. My house is falling apart because it's too cold in the other parts of the house to sweep, dust, straighten, etc. I can barely keep up with the dishes and laundry. Still, I'm thankful for my refuge.

This world is a cold place, and as much as I hate to admit it, it seems as if it's getting colder. Isn't it a blessing to know that we, as Christians, have a refuge? We have a place to go where we can find comfort, peace, and love. No matter how cold or dark the world may be, we can always run to the Father. He's waiting with open arms. And no space heater in the world can offer the warmth that only He can provide.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Shelter of God's Promises by Sheila Walsh

In a world of uncertainty, pain, and struggle, where do you find solid assurance and unshakable truth?

Gifted Bible teacher and inspiring Women of Faith speaker, Sheila Walsh, offers powerful, heart-filled teaching on ten bedrock promises of God, providing the foundation for daily confidence, joy, and hope.

In The Shelter of God’s Promises, Sheila searches Scripture for what God has promised us, what God's promises mean, and how encounters with Christ are the eternal fulfillment of His unrelenting commitment to us. In this riveting walk through some of the Bible's most compelling stories, Walsh unveils ten foundational promises of God that secure our lives during even the most difficult times. Sheila weaves her hallmark storytelling, inspiring personal experience, and Scripture to help readers gain a trust in God that will sustain them for a lifetime.

As I read through this book, I found myself saying, "This is me." Throughout her stories and illustrations, I saw my life, my struggles, and my failures. At times I would laugh through my tears as I was reminded that God does have a plan for my life and that even though I may not understand the pain, He has made me a promise. . . several, in fact. Every page of this book delivered hope and peace.

The book includes an in-depth Bible study, and as I read, I couldn't help but think what a wonderful topic this would make for my next series of Sunday School lessons. In these dark times, we all need to be reminded of the promises of God. As the old song says, "You can't stand on promises if you don't know what they are." Sheila has done a wonderful job of making sure that her readers not only know God's promises, but understand them as well. This is a must read for anyone who has ever asked, "What now, Lord?"

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chased by Promises

I think I'm being chased. . . by Bible verses. Don't laugh. I'm serious. Let me explain. On Saturday, Jason and I were discussing some different songs. As I started listing some of my favorites, I discovered there was a common theme. They all dealt with the promise that we will never be alone. I shared my realization with Jason and then commented, "Well, it makes sense. That is my favorite promise of God." On several different occasions at church on Sunday, that same promise was mentioned.

Also on Sunday morning, our Sunday School attendant brought a brief challenge on how God's Word is a mirror for our lives (sound familiar?). He used the passage of James 1:22-24. On Monday morning, verse 22 showed up on the Verse of the Day widget I have on my phone. I took that as a sign to write the blog entry from the challenge he gave. As the day continued, I opened my devotional book to the next chapter and found the opening verse to be Hebrews 13:5-6. You know, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." So, it appeared that theme was carrying over from Saturday, but it didn't stop there.

On Tuesday morning, I awoke and looked at my phone. Care to guess what verse was on my Verse of the Day widget? If you guessed Hebrews 13:5-6, you see where this is going. As I sat in church Wednesday night, I couldn't help but smile as a lady sang, "He's my best Friend. He will never leave me." I'm excited, yet a little nervous to see where all this leads.

Today, as I read through my devotions, my heart ached. In it was my favorite verse which contains two promises -- one good and one bad.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

First off, God promises tribulation. These words came to life even this morning as I received a text informing me that my niece has the flu followed by a phone call from my dad telling me that he may have to put his beloved dog down. I cried as I hung up the phone, God's promise of tribulation heavy on my heart. My dad's news had brought back the pain of having to put my own dog to sleep a few years back. In this world ye shall have tribulation. The first words that come to mind? "No joke!"

But it's during these times that we must be reminded that the verse doesn't end there. The bad promise is followed by a good one. No matter how bad it gets, how hard it is, or how discouraged we become, Christ has won! And through Him, we can win! Yes, the world has troubles and hard times, but it won't last. And what a joy to know that even in the dark times, we are not alone. Trust me. I've been reminded a time or two!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dirty Steeples

The church at the end of our road recently got a new steeple. The process, which took several days, was an interesting one. First, they took down the old steeple one piece at a time. They removed everything down to a small section at the bottom. Why they left that piece, I really don't know. Every time I drove by the church, I glanced up to see the progress on the new steeple. Finally, it was complete.

The new steeple is beautiful. It's also VERY white. The problem with this is that the section they left from the old steeple is no longer white. Time and weather have caused it to become a rather dull shade of greenish-gray. I didn't notice it before the new steeple was put on, but now as I see the two together, there is definitely a difference. I had hoped that once the construction was finished, they would clean or repaint the old section. As of the time of this writing, it still hasn't happened. It's sad because now when I look at the steeple, I don't see the beauty of the new steeple but the dirt of the old.

I wonder how many people are going through life thinking they're good because compared to the next guy, their steeple is white. If only these people would stop and examine their lives when compared to the Jesus Christ. Then they would see that their steeples are not so white after all. Good works and clean living can't get anyone to Heaven because when God looks at them, He sees what I see each time I look at that steeple. Sure, the work is good, but it's not good enough. It may look white at first, but not when compared to new life.

The Bible is clear that there is only one way to Heaven. When we place our trust in Christ, He doesn't just clean up our lives. He replaces them. Our old lives are passed away. We truly become new creatures. He doesn't just remove some of the filth. He takes it all. Now, when God looks at me, He doesn't see my faults or sins. No, He sees only my steeple made white by the blood of the Lamb.

What does your steeple look like today? Are you trying to maintain it on your own? How does it look when compared to the Lamb of God? If you truly desire a new life, there's only one way to get it. Call on Jesus. He's waiting. He's listening. He will answer.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. - II Corinthians 5:17