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When Ben and Jessica Turner agreed to move overseas in hopes of sharing their faith in Jesus, they never imagined pizza would give them opportunities to connect with Muslim families on a gorgeous tropical island.

“God told us, ‘I want you to go to a place where there is nothing but people who don’t know Me, and where you won’t have all the distractions of the States,’” Jessica remembers.

The couple clung to Scripture as they prepared to leave their comfortable lives and become goers. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news.’” (Romans 10:14-15 ESV)

As they completed the process of confirmation, equipping, and support raising through the 100 People Network, the Turners planned to move to a country in Africa. Yet they couldn’t shake the desire to live in a strictly Muslim community. They longed to share the good news of a forgiving God who offers free grace through the perfect life of Jesus and His death and resurrection, in contrast to their Muslim friends who struggled as they failed at trying to be perfect.

Before the Turners left for Africa, God opened their hearts to another option. They met with a fellow Christian who shared about the bed and breakfast he owned on a remote tropical island in the Indian Ocean.

“The conversation sparked something in us,” Ben said. “We longed to work with Muslims, and he told us of a Muslim population that was unreached and unengaged.”

After visiting the island, they felt the Holy Spirit calling them there—despite the relentless heat and three-hour boat rides to buy groceries. It is a place where the majority of people have never heard of Jesus, and talking about Him openly is forbidden. It is a culture where the people do not easily trust one another and pride keeps them carrying a burden of perfection. It is an island that could easily be isolating for two American outsiders. Yet the Lord made a way.

“I’ve always been a chef, and I’ve always loved making pizzas,” Ben says. “It’s simple, and it reaches a wide spectrum of people. Everybody loves pizza.”

When they first moved, Jessica ran the bed and breakfast, and Ben used his degree in culinary arts to make traditional pizza for surfers taking advantage of the area’s dynamic waves. Ben thought they would appreciate something different to offset the tropical food choices of tuna and mango.

The pizza was so well-received that word of his delicacy spread among the locals and soon the entire village sought after it. They even rallied together and asked the Turners to open a little pizza place on the island.

Ben and Jessica prayed about the restaurant and saw it as an opportunity to grow in their relationships with others and to share God’s love. A family Ben and Jessica had invested time in was glad to fill the island’s requirement of a local partner. Another family donated all the concrete work through the company they owned. In addition, people came every day to help build walls and do electrical work.

“They are invested in the business, too. And that would have never, ever happened if God had not developed these relationships,” says Jessica. “Absolutely, hands down, no way.”

The restaurant features a large, open-air courtyard with handmade picnic tables, providing an inviting atmosphere. Entire families come to sit and eat pizza together, including the women, who are culturally not allowed to enter the cafes on the island. Husbands love having their wives along, and many consider it a date night.

Jessica was told by locals, “There is just something different about you and Ben. We love you guys, and we want to see this business succeed—because we want you to stay here.”

While their pizza business is a success, the Turners’ adventure is not all paradise. The isolation they feel can be painful, and sometimes, they are agonizingly lonely. Physical comfort is difficult to maintain, including when Jessica fought a high tropical fever in an apartment with no air conditioning and little circulation. Still, Ben and Jessica know that God has them on this remote island for a reason.sharing the Gospel with pizza

“We are making a difference in people’s lives,” Ben says. “But without Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we would not be able to stay.”

From the tall picnic tables of the open courtyard, one can see the beautiful waters, hear the crashing waves, and take in the breathtaking view. Ben and Jessica followed God’s lead to build a refuge that offers much more than a taste of pizza. They realize that they might be the only reflection of Jesus these people ever see.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Following Jesus can be a treacherous path of trying to change the world, as we see it, and running straight into the truth that we are, indeed, the one with the problem.  We need deliverance from:

  • … Our belief that it is up to us to change people.
  • … Our judgmental and legalistic ways.

Think about this:

In the beginning of Luke 19 – the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus.

(Raise your hand if you just started to sing “Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man, a wee little man was he!”)

Jesus is in Jericho and a crowd has gathered. The crooked tax collector Zaccheaus was there. He can’t see over the crowd so he climbs up a tree to see Jesus. In the middle of that crowd – which likely would have included more than a fair share of holy or influential or important or preferred or religious people – Jesus heads right for that tree and calls out to that guy – the one who is a social and religious outcast, ridiculously perched up in the branches – to come on down because Jesus wants to go to that guy’s house for supper.

Huh?   How do I explain that to my religious friends?

I mean, honestly.

  • Jesus always picks the wrong guy.

Of course, everyone in the crowd gets quite indignant, muttering among themselves about how Jesus is now the guest of a sinner. Not only did the guy betray his religion, Zacchaeus has betrayed his people, his nation, colluding with the powers that be for his own gain and oppressing the very people who were supposed to be his people.

Or how about the story of the town harlot of Samaria?   The infamous, “Woman at the Well”?  (John 4:1-42)  The longest conversation recorded of Jesus and one person was with this woman who had five husbands, and was with a guy she wasn’t married too when Jesus approached her.

There is our Jesus, sitting by a well…in forbidden Samaria.

Does anyone else see the humor in this story?

The town slut, (or Ho, Hussy, Loose, Sinner, etc. (as she would be called today) approaches Him.

Breaking the Christian rules with humility, grace and mercy

Image: Katie Bulmer

What?

Isn’t she hopeless and an embarrassment? And openly living in sin, (deep breath)!

Plus, Jesus, as a Jew, was not even supposed to be in Samaria, let alone talk to a woman, for heaven’s sake!!

That woman!!

We hate that woman!  Don’t we?  We can’t be seen talking to her.

  • Isn’t that breaking the rules?

Imagine if Jesus was in our world right now in the flesh,  and he heads right over to someone who cooperated with and benefitted from oppression of innocent people, someone who had traded integrity for political power, someone we distrust, someone who we feel is dangerous, someone who stole from people in a socially acceptable and governmentally blessed way, someone who took the very religious or national identity that we cherished and basically stomped all over it for his own gain.

I can think of a few already, but I won’t mention names.

Ugh. We hate that guy.

Don’t we?   I mean aren’t we supposed to keep ourselves clean by dissing those who are not living up to our standards as we interpret them?

Would we be murmuring and complaining and wondering about this Teacher who apparently had missed the important parts of the very Law he claims to teach.

Never mind He really came to fulfill the law Himself.

We don’t hang around with people like that, Jesus.  (Insert whine)

Don’t you know? Good people wouldn’t be caught dead with a man like that.

Just like we don’t hang around with women who are caught in the act of adultery, or fornication, and….

  • We don’t hang around with Samaritans,
  • We don’t hang around with powerless children,
  • We don’t hang around with women who have a bad reputation,
  • We don’t hang around with beggars or the poor or the oppressed or the criminal or the possessed or the socially marginalized or the ones who aren’t allowed to come to church with the good religious people, never!

Get it together, Jesus.

And, hey, news flash, we certainly don’t go to the personal home of a corrupt politician for a bite to eat or the apartment of the town prostitute for a cup of tea.

But Jesus does it anyway.

Jesus seems not to care about our who-is-in and who-is-out line in the sand. He doesn’t seem to care about what we think about all the wrong folks hanging around with him.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law but while also revealing the Love behind the Law, and the inadequacy of it, he came to replace the real love of a real God for their people.

Jesus came because God so loved the world.  After all, as Jesus tells Nicodemus in the book of John, it was because God so loved the world that Jesus came to us.

Jesus came, not to condemn the world but to save the world.

…Including the guy we would rather see condemned, to be honest.

How can we miss this?

Now take note of this fact:  because of an encounter with Jesus, Zaccheaus turns around gives half of everything away. He is so moved by Jesus, he vows to pay back anyone he has cheated four times the amount he stole.

The Samaritan woman?

Oh, she just became the first woman evangelist telling the whole town about Jesus.

Extravagant repentance.

Wild, reckless love for a man who was like no one they ever met.

They both were not just fulfilling the letter of the Law, they were repenting into the heart of Love Himself.

Looks like the presence of Jesus transforms everyone…even those of us who think we have it all together.

  • The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

Zaccheaus was lost, Jesus sought him out, and in this moment of repentance – which was so much more than just money or position – he’s reoriented to the Kingdom of God.   The woman at the well discovered that her bucket could only be filled with Jesus, not a multitude of lost men.

Now that is something to get excited about!

  • Think of the word “today” in that passage. Jesus says “Today I must stay at your house” and then later “Today salvation has come to this house.”

The time is now.

We’d rather another day, another house, another time, another kind of sinner.  Don’t bother us with the now.

But today is the day for the wrong guy…or the wrong woman.

It’s perhaps telling, where we see ourselves in that story.

Are we the crowd, resentful and muttering because we think THAT PERSON shouldn’t be included because they aren’t righteous enough or holy enough or good enough or acceptable enough or just enough?

  • Do we have a long list of people we’d probably be pretty mad to see Jesus hanging out with in our world? Do we begrudge seeing Jesus head right to a certain house with a certain person?

We have our sort of people we want to keep out.

Sure, we’re okay with this kind of sinner being included –but not that kind.

But over and over, Jesus picks the wrong person in our eyes.

He even picks you, and me!

Or perhaps we see ourselves more in the one who everyone else wants to keep out.

 “Today, today, today, I’m coming to your house.

And all we can do is receive Jesus with such joy and relief.

And our own sin – everything that damages us and damages our relationship with God and damages our relationships with one another – is over!

We stop putting God into a box of our own self righteous rules and let Him do what He came to do.

…Love on all of us and see lives transformed.

So we turn everything in our lives upside down and inside out to be with Jesus, to be Him extended to everyone…not just those we think won’t contaminate us.

…To cooperate in making all things right, today.

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Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Should we invite unbelievers to church?

Sure! Why not? Church should be a place where anyone who comes through the doors will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed!

The Scripture says, “The wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 6:23)

May this message be preached from every pulpit! But, we need to understand unbelievers are not part of the Church.

In Romans 8:9, Paul said:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him.

The church is the Body of Christ. Whoever is not of Christ is not part of His Body.

Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Ephesians 5:23)

Don’t let an unbeliever get comfortable. They need to be convicted.

We are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Though they’re in the doors, they’re still outside the Church until they repent of their sin and are reconciled to God in Christ Jesus.

And don’t use gimmicks to get them there. What you win them with is what you win them to.Should we invite unbelievers to church?

For the one who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Not one soul has ever come to Christ through pop music or door prizes. Give them the Word of God.

What’s more important than inviting unbelievers is going to unbelievers.

Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

This is evangelism.

How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

But they’ve not all obeyed the Gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he’s heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-17)

So yes, invite your unbelieving friend to church; AND take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the rest of the unbelieving world…

when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

 

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If you are a disciple of Jesus, then God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, just like he did for the first disciples! What kind of wonderful plan?

Well, Peter was crucified upside-down. Andrew, his brother was also crucified. James was executed by the sword. John, his brother was exiled and died of old age. Philip was tortured and then crucified upside-down. Bartholomew was skinned alive and he, too crucified upside down. Thomas was speared to death while praying. Matthew was also killed by the spear. Thaddeus and Simon and the other James…all crucified.

God’s wonderful plan for you is to preach the Gospel and make disciples – just like these men did. It’s why they were killed. The same Jesus who personally called these men has called us to do the same… even if it hurts. (And it might hurt!)

In Acts, chapter five, the disciples were arrested and beaten for preaching the Gospel. When they were let go, they left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ. And every day they continued to share the Gospel.

And when they had called in the Apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. They left the presence of the council, rejoicing hat they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that Christ is Jesus. (Acts 5:40-42)

Jesus said that you are blessed when others revile and persecute you and speak evil against you falsely on account of Him. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven!

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad! For your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-12)

God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your LifeSo God, indeed, has a wonderful plan for those who follow Jesus! (John 15:16, Romans 8:28-30, 1 Peter 1:3-5)

For those who don’t, His plan is to destroy all evil doers who do not believe in His Son. (Proverbs 16:4, John 3:36, Revelation 6:17)

Even in this, God will be glorified. (Romans 9:22-23, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)

So you shouldn’t tell an unbeliever that God has a wonderful plan for their life. You should tell them to turn from their sin and follow Jesus. Only His disciples are forgiven their sins, saved from death, and know his ways are wonderful… when we understand the text.

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network.)

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Reflections of Grace Slider2

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of  the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.  Jesus called out  to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”  And they left their nets at once and followed Him.”  (Matthew 4:18-20)

  • I don’t have the gift of evangelism.  My husband does and he loves it!  I love people and have a shepherd’s heart, but I am not one to focus on evangelism.  I am called to share daily Kingdom living with those who are interested, and I write, and I have the gift of counsel through the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  • It took years for me to get over the fear that someone was going to make me stand on a street corner and cry out like John, the Baptist, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
  • One day I was caught up in a crowd of people in an amusement park and I found myself slip into a different perspective of the people, who, quite frankly, seemed to be cutting off my air as they pressed in around me.  I had to purposely focus on breathing to avoid taking off running and screaming to get out of the park.  But as I stood there in the line of humanity I felt myself rising, somehow, to a God’s eye view of the multitudes.  It was like I was still in my body in the sweltering crowds, but another part of me was lifted up into the heavenlies.

It was really pretty amazing.

I perceived in the spirit what God sees when He looks down on earth and the very expansiveness of the amount of people He sees and I knew He knew each one by name.  And for a brief moment I experienced His kind of love for them.  That is how I knew it was Him.  I didn’t know these people from every nation that seemed to be surrounding me.

  • It was pretty much blowing my mind.  I felt very, very small as I looked on with Him from His vantage point.  I thought of how our small groups we hang out with think they have it all figured out and have all the answers…and I saw how absolutely bazaar it is to think we have God, the universe and all the people in it, figured out.

Only God knows each and every heart.  Can you even imagine?

  • “So Lord”, I said.  “What does it mean to fish for people?  I don’t think it means to grab them and scare them into repenting!”

And as is His custom with me, He began to teach.Image: iStockphoto

The common image of a fisherman in our day is of a man with a fishing pole casting a lure into the waters of a stream or a lake. However, such was not the case when Jesus called his disciples. They caught fish with nets and by experience they found that their best fishing took place at night.

  • We know that this is true by looking at Luke 5:5, when Jesus told Peter to cast his nets on the other side of the boat he said, Master we have toiled all night and caught nothing.  Nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”

How did they fish at night?

They used a very powerful and effective method.

  • Light!

Fish were attracted to light!  Now I was onto something!

Just as fish are attracted to the disciple’s light, God wants people to be drawn to His light shining through His people. The light of every believer is the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lives.

  • Paul stated in his second letter to the Corinthians (4:6-7), “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power of God may be of God and not of us.”
  • We are not the light—we merely reflect the light of Jesus.

Now let’s look at what kind of man Jesus was while He walked this earth.  I have heard it said that Jesus was not strolling through the Israeli countryside offering poetry readings.

He was on a mission to rescue a people who are so utterly deceived, most of them didn’t even want to be rescued.

  • I saw that Jesus talked straight.
  • Sometimes He’s playful; sometimes He’s fierce; the next moment He’s generous.  As He is so are we in this earth!  This is the beauty of his wonderfully disruptive honesty—you can count on Jesus to tell you the truth in the best possible way for you to hear it.
  • Could this be one of the reasons why we struggle to spend time with Christ or to listen to His thoughts on our life, world and relationships—because He’ll tell us the truth?

What would it be like to have someone in your life that knows you intimately, loves you regardless, and is willing to be completely honest with you?  Yes, it would be a little unnerving, certainly disruptive—but doesn’t part of you also crave it?

Jesus heals a leper.  He doesn’t ask Him if He is saved first.

  • What?

He forgives a prostitute.  He just told her to go and sin no more.

Wouldn’t you want to know more about this man?

He dines with tax collectors and in that day and time that was taboo for “righteous” folk.  Would you be intrigued?

Jesus wasn’t concerned with His reputation.  Why isn’t He?

Jesus doesn’t seem to care what people think.  But we know He cares very deeply about the right things.

  • What does Jesus’ scandalous freedom in living and relating to others stir up in you?

Jesus sets before us a deeper, truer view of holiness.

We are in a world full of darkness.  We are the light of Jesus where He has placed us in the this world.  The fish are attracted to light.  The people are attracted to the light of Him in us.

  • “What is it you have that I don’t have?”, they say.

And you reel them in as you simply introduce them to source of the light.

Profoundly simple, yet so profound.

  • All those external “rules of men” do nothing to promote a genuine holiness.  But they do make people Pharisees.

By the truckload.

  • Remember, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The only possible way that can happen is through an internal revolution, a changed heart.  When we have a heart like Jesus’. Bingo!  Open door to share Him in all of His uniqueness.

  • The more you fall in love with Jesus’ genuine goodness, which is true goodness, the more you will absolutely detest the counterfeit of a false piety and a shallow morality.  And the more they will swim around the light and grab the bait!

As they did with Him.

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WWUTT Slider FINAL

At Lifechurch.tv, Christine Caine recently said, “The Holy Spirit came to give us the power to be witnesses, not to do witnessing. And so we need a generation of Christians that understand it’s not about standing on a street corner to do witnessing, but to be witnesses on the earth. To bring salt and light in the midst of our darkness. That’s what God has called us to do.”

So, according to Christine, we’re not to go preach the Gospel, we are to just exist as Christians in the world; and not to judge or call out sin. Rather, we just need to bring salt and light.

Well, I guess Peter and the rest of the Apostles did it wrong when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and went into Jerusalem during a festival, preaching the Gospel and telling the people to repent of their sins:

“When the people heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:37-38)

“And with many other words, he bore witness to them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation!’” (Acts 2:40)

And Paul did it wrong when he went to the Areopagus and told the Greeks not to be ignorant, but to repent of their sins because Jesus would soon return to judge the world.

“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

 Then, Paul went to Corinth and tried to preach to the Jews, but they wouldn’t listen to him…

“And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on, I will go to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 18:6)

And Jesus did it wrong when in the same public sermon He preached about being salt and light, He said:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Then Jesus went on to say:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven… Many will say to me, ‘Lord, didn’t we do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will say to them ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Or, maybe Christine Caine is wrong, and we should wage the good warfare, lest by rejecting it we make a shipwreck of our faith.

“Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:18-19)

Being witnesses means that we speak the truth and expose lies.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)salt and light

Being salt and light means that we hold out the Word of God and expose sin.

“Be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16)

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just “be” and not “do”.

They’re liars.

To see more like this, visit www.wwutt.com.

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Reflections of Grace Slider

I’m sharing a testimony with you today that you can actually find in my first book, Climbing Out of the Box,  Entitled there as “The Long Dark Hallway”.

A testimony to His profound amazing grace and to what extents he will take us to find one lost soul waiting for the truth…even to the end of their life.

The long dark hallway seemed to go on forever as we made our way to my Grandpa’s room at the end of the long corridor. The smells of old people and urine permeated the convalescent home where Grandpa Dick was being cared for in his last days on this earth. We were coming to say good-bye.

I have never been one to feel the call to the sometimes-forgotten generation of the aged, as the sights and sounds of these care facilities have always made me want to run away from the reality of it. I try to be spiritual about making visits, but truth be known, it terrifies me. Why, I don’t know. It is not like some poor soul in a wheelchair is going to jump up and grab me. I think the horror of watching some little old lady clutching a doll as if it is her baby, or some gentlemanly soul calling out for his long-ago love actually makes us all look at our own mortality.

Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

As Greg and I made our way down that corridor holding hands, we both heard a distant voice crying out, “Help me, help me, won’t someone come help me?” over and over. We didn’t even look at each other; we just kept walking. We continued to hear the cry for help, but assumed a nurse would see to the gentleman. Lord knows, we didn’t want to search out the voice in some scary, dark corridor. So, unlike the spiritual man and woman that we are, we both acted like we didn’t hear it.

We visited Grandpa, and said our good-byes. I kissed him and said that when I got to Heaven, I would meet him just inside the eastern gate. Being in a light coma, he couldn’t respond, but there was a definite reaction from him, and I knew he was saying, “Yep, Dickie, “ (his special nickname for me since my childhood), “I will meet you there, and I’ll have Grandma with me.” Having said our tearful good byes, we started back down that seemingly endless dark corridor. I knew Grandpa was in Jesus’ loving arms, so I was just in a hurry to escape that place of unpleasantness.

Not far down the hall, we heard the voice again. “Won’t someone out there please help me?” At first, we sped up to escape our discomfort. But then the Holy Spirit spoke to us both at the same time. We stopped abruptly, turned to look at each other, and knew we were meant to search out the voice.   Drawing courage from one another, we cautiously started peering into rooms until we found the source of the cries for help.

There, lying in a bed, was a perfectly sane-looking elderly man, whom I thought resembled Charlton Heston. (I am a romantic at heart.) When we walked into his room to see what he was crying out for, he saw us and said, “Finally, someone has heard me! I am freezing to death. Please give me another blanket.”   (For some reason we never once saw a nurse while we were there). I promptly grabbed a blanket off the nearby shelf and tucked it securely around him. He thanked us profusely.

Greg, having an evangelist’s heart, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak to the man about his soul. He approached the side of his bed and said, “Sir, I perceive you to be an intelligent man and one who makes wise decisions.” This got the old man’s attention. He said, “Well, son, I try to do my best.” Greg asked, “Have you considered where you will go when your time on this earth is through?” The man said, “No, haven’t given it much thought, son.” “Are you interested in hearing how you can go to Heaven when you die?” Greg asked. “Well, yes, I believe I would like to hear how to do that, now that you are here,” the man said. Greg proceeded to share the good news of the gospel with him, showing him that the way to Heaven is through Jesus Christ. He then asked the man if he would like to accept Jesus as his Savior. The man answered, “Yes, son, I believe I am ready to do that.” I watched in absolute wonder as Greg introduced this man to the Lord Jesus. I realized at that moment that the cry for help was not really for a blanket; it was the cry of this lost soul before he left this world for the next.

Image: Tom Whitaker

Image: Tom Whitaker

At the conclusion of their prayer together, a woman entered the room with a puzzled look on her face. Realizing that she was wondering who these strangers were with her loved one, I was quick to introduce ourselves and explain what had happened from the moment we had heard his cries out in the corridor. I told her that we were called into the room, and that Greg had just led her family member to Christ. She started crying and said she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “You are not going to believe this, but this man’s son is a Pastor in Ireland. He has a church body that meets in a castle.   He and his congregation have been praying every day for his Dad to meet Christ before he is taken into eternity. They are praying right now!”

We were truly amazed at God’s ways. Who knew that this was the plan all along, and the reason why we were to go to that convalescent home on that particular day? We thought it was to say good-bye to Grandpa; but God had greater plans of bringing another family member into the fold at the persistent prayers of a beloved son. I don’t even know the elderly man’s name, but I do know I will see him in Heaven. I imagined him meeting Grandpa on the way there and them having a laugh together.

This reminds me of a quote by the author Andrew Farley, from his book, The Naked Gospel, to wind up my testimony of God’s miraculous grace and how he uses us here on earth.

“Many Christians struggle to articulate what the resurrection means to them personally. I’ve asked groups of Christians what the resurrection means, and I often don’t get a response beyond that it demonstrated God’s power over death.

Is that all there is? Paul stated that if there was no resurrection, then the whole gospel message is meaningless and we are to be pitied for our beliefs (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). There has to be more to the resurrection than God showing off His power. After all, God has already shown off through creation, the flood, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and even the resurrection of Lazarus.

There is more to the resurrection. The life we possess within us is not merely Jesus a Man who lived, taught, and died after thirty-three years on Earth. Sure, that’s part of his track record. But the life housed within us is the risen Christ, who now sits right beside God.

Hence, we’re not being asked to merely imitate recorded actions of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, we’re invited to allow Jesus Christ to simply do what He has always done– be Himself. The resurrected Christ wants to do this through our unique personalities in every moment of every day.

Imagine billions of unique canvases throughout history- different sizes, shapes, and textures. The Master Painter wants to paint expressions of His resurrection life on you.

You might say, “Who am I to display God’s life?” But God wants to make his mark on your life with beautiful resurrection brushstrokes that only He can fashion together to form a masterpiece.

Although God has painted His heart out countless times throughout history, He jealously desires to do it all over again on your canvas.

And it’s quality art every time.”

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Reflections of Grace Slider

We have been looking at the following scripture up close and personal.

Isaiah 26: 3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you!!

Last week we got up to “him whose mind is steadfast.  This week we are starting with:

“Because he trusts in you”….. the Hebrew word trust is batach, to attach oneself.  To confide in, feel safe, be confident, secure.   Picture a baby with her mom or dad, don’t we want to trust God like that child who is utterly dependent.

  • Let’s pray for a deeper trust to have an open mind so God can work in our lives.   His plan for us is not to harm us but to prosper us!!  Jeremiah 29:11…
  • Invite Him once again to be the watchman over your mind.

Now let’s look at this word out of 2 Corinthians 10:5taking thoughts captive

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

  • Divine power to demolish strongholds!!  The word for demolish in Hebrew implies a kind of destruction requiring tremendous power—divine power.   You might think of it this way:  A stronghold is anything we hold onto that ends up holding us.
  • Much of the reason believers end up in a yoke of slavery is because we swat at our own strongholds like they are gnats.  Strongholds are like concrete fortresses we’ve constructed around our lives block by block, ordinarily over the course of years.  We created them, whether or not we were aware, for protection and comfort.  Inevitably these fortresses become prisons.  At some point we realize we no longer control them but they control us..

When did you last break a stronghold in your own strength and end up feeling powerless and totally defeated?   Do you see any patterns?demolishing strongholds

  • Human effort is useless in demolishing strongholds.  No amount of discipline or determination will do it.  Satanic strongholds require divine demolition.  Discipline and determination often help in opening your life to the supernatural power of God, but only he can provide the divine dynamite.
  • Interesting point I have seen is that Satan’s power comes from his power to bluff.  Once we learn the truth and how to use it, he loses his hold.

Think about a stronghold you have experienced my friend.  What part did insecurity play in it?

Insecurity played a major part in the strongholds the enemy built in my life.  An important part of learning for me to live in victory has been discerning the heart rumblings of insecurity.

  • My stronghold of weight story is included in this podcast that I have been sharing each week.
  • To be filled with Him works its way to our whole being, spirit, soul and body.   We are trying to fill that hole in our soul with food.   And it has created an endless cycle of defeat in our lives.
  • Our greatest inmost desire is for the love of God, even though we don’t realize it most of the time.  The Hand of God carves out places in us only He can fill.   Oh what a day of rejoicing when we really get this.  He can fill us up when food cannot!!  He wants to flood your life with His unfailing love.

I had to learn to pour out my heart to God and acknowledge every hollow place.  I had to surrender my eating habits to Him every day

“When you make a daily practice of inviting His love to fill your hollow places and make sure you are not hindering the process, God will begin to satisfy you more than a double cheeseburger.”    …Halleluiah!!

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Reflections of Grace Slider

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you!!” (Isaiah 26: 3 )

Let’s take a look at this word up close and personal:

  1.  “You will keep” …Satan is very cunning.  Our knowledge alone will not keep us protected.  What we need is a watchman.  And we do have Jesus who is willing and able if we will set our minds on him.
  • The Hebrew word for keep is nasar, meaning to guard, keep, and protect.   The Holy Spirit is the perfect watchman over our minds.
  • Surrendering our thought lives to God is not just a means to more consistent victory.  It is the safeguard against being given over to defeat.
  • Give God your whole heart and mind.World-Peace-Scrabble
  1. “in perfect peace”  The Hebrew term translated perfect peace means ‘shalom’ meaning to be safe, be complete, whole , secure…it denotes a satisfied condition, a state of peacefulness, and a sense of well being.
  • Just as surely as the kingdom of God prospers when we are steadfast in Him, so do our hearts and minds.
  • God is faithful to His word.  If you remain steadfast in Him you will be built up.

3.  Him whose mind is steadfast”.    We see events from our own perspective and context.  Have you noticed how two people can look at the same experience so differently?  They put the picture of what happened in different frames and act accordingly.  Our reaction depends on how we framed the event.

  • When temptations and troubling thoughts come the steadfast believer chooses to lay her hand on God’s word and know that it is the truth.
  • The Holy Spirit never fails to bring our minds comfort when we fight this fight.  He promises actually, His perfect peace.

Included in this podcast is my stronghold of weight story I have been sharing each week.

  • Remember, anything that cheats you of what God has for you in this life could be a stronghold.   He wants you free to enjoy His provisions for you spirit, soul, and body.

Write these scriptures down and meditate on them.God-loves-you-sparklers

  • Did you know?

You are deeply and completely loved. (Romans 8:38–39)

You are totally and completely forgiven. (1 John 2:12)

When God sees you, he sees the righteousness of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

You mean the whole world to him. (John 3:16)

He thinks you are beautiful. Right now. (Song of Songs 4:1)

He is committed to your restoration. (Romans 8:29)

You are not now, nor have you ever been, alone. (Hebrews 13:5)

Meditate on these scriptures friends. They will completely change the way you think about yourself.

For more information, visit ReflectionsOfGraceHome.com

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Christian bible teaching about how to bring the church back to today's men and boys. How men and boys need to follow Jesus Christ, read scripture, and become a mature Christian, participate in discipleship, and learn then teach the truth about God.

The modern self-esteem movement is celebrating its 50th birthday. In 1965, sociologist Morris Rosenberg invented “The Self-Esteem Scale” — the first academic tool that assessed a person’s view of himself. In 1969 Psychologist Nathaniel Branden took that data and released “The Psychology of Self-Esteem,” which became the bible of the modern self-esteem movement.

Over the next two decades higher self-esteem came to be seen as the antidote to crime, drug abuse, teen pregnancy and student underachievement. Parents were taught to lavish praise on their children. Schools eliminated failing grades. Sports leagues gave everyone a trophy.Selfie Hipster

The results are in – and all this self-esteem boosting has done little to stanch crime, drug abuse, etc. In fact, many critics believe the movement has actually harmed young adults, by causing them to shy away from any experience that makes them anxious or uncomfortable. Some Millennials, unaccustomed to even mild feelings of rejection or social alienation, are walking away from institutions and relationships at the first sign of difficulty.

Where does this leave the church? A generation bathed in self-esteem is having a hard time integrating into institutional Christianity for a number of reasons:

  1. Our message starts with sin. Yes, the Gospel is Good News, but it begins with bad news: all have sinned. Young adults may have a hard time believing they are sinners because they’ve never been told they’re guilty of anything worse than “poor decision making.”
  2. Churches are led by flawed people. Thanks to the self-esteem movement, many young people are blissfully unaware of their own shortcomings – but can easily identify fault in others. As a result, they may have a hard time extending grace to imperfect spiritual leaders.
  3. To get the most from church you must participate beyond worship services – which means dealing with difficult people. Self-esteemers may feel tempted to cut and run the moment they have an unpleasant interaction with a fellow churchgoer.
  4. The Gospel itself is harsh. Jesus specialized in making people feel uncomfortable. Millennials may misinterpret spiritual conviction as a sign that something is wrong.
  5. There is no perfect church. Young adults may quickly reject a church the moment they see or hear something they perceive as improper – and view themselves as noble for doing so.

Now, I’m not saying all young adults are this touchy. But increasing numbers are approaching institutions with a growing wariness and cynicism.

Our grandparents weren’t schooled with self-esteem. In fact, they were institutionally shamed (dunce caps), whipped with razor straps and ranked by ability (go to the head of the class). These methods would be considered abusive today, but made sense in a time when life was much tougher. Our grandparents developed a thick skin that enabled them to keep calm and carry on through less than ideal circumstances. The “greatest generation” stuck with sour marriages, less-than-fulfilling jobs and irritating churches because they were trained to persevere through pain.

Then came my generation – the Baby Boomers. We grew up in relative wealth, peace and abundance. We had choices our grandparents never dreamed of – and we learned to shop around for experiences. We were the first generation of “church hoppers” – moving from congregation to congregation to meet our needs. We re-created the church in our own image, throwing centuries of tradition overboard and turning worship into a rock concert.

Our children watched us shopping for spiritual fulfillment and took our consumerism to the next level – rejecting institutional church altogether and cobbling together a spiritual life apart from any ecclesiastical standard. Instead of joining with established churches, many young adults choose to captain their own religious ships. They’ve taken Cafeteria Christianity to its logical end – choosing only the most palatable morsels of faith, leaving everything else behind.

Erin Lane is a millennial Christian who has forgotten how to belong to the church:Erin Lane

Sometimes, to borrow a phrase, we long to be in the church but not of it. We love Christ, but the church is full of people—and problems—we’d rather avoid.

Church has always been a messy, multi-generational institution where you are absolutely guaranteed to be rejected or uncomfortable at some point. You’re going to hear a sermon you disagree with – or a song that drives you nuts. You’ll get crossways with another believer. You’ll sit next to a tone-deaf person who sings at the top of her lungs. You’ll have a great idea – and the church leadership will bury it.

Any time people come together in community there’s the possibility of comfort and joy – alongside frustration and betrayal. I fear the upcoming generation of adults does not understand this dual reality.

At Church for Men, we fight this battle every day. Our goal is to help churches be more welcoming to men and boys – but we’re seeing a real reluctance among young Christian men to commit to anything – a woman, a career, or a church.

In the meantime, I pray the influence of the self-esteem movement will continue to wane. Life is tough – a lesson kids need to learn early. We are not all little vessels of light.

What can churches do? Reform starts with the new members’ class. We tend to tell newbies how wonderful life will be as a Christian. We focus on all the great programs and opportunities the church has to offer. Rarely do we mention how difficult it is to be a churchgoer – and how normal it is to feel betrayed. We don’t need to make people paranoid – but they do need to be prepared.

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