Amazing Grace Visits Honduras and Meets Pastor Roman

God has different ways of communicating with us. Some are obvious; some are not. As believers we need to be available to God so He can use us. We also have to trust him, and know he is working behind the scenes for his purposes and plans to be drawn out. We don’t always know why things happen, but sometimes we can look back and see how God has his hand on every detail.

unspecified.jpg

World Vision is hosting the AmazingGrace.Life ministry team on our trip to Honduras. Since we have been here, we’ve been able to see how World Vision is helping tens of thousands of people and transforming entire communities with their program, which also creates sustainability for the villages. Each morning I do a devotional that I customized according to our itinerary. I start with a song to clear our heads, focus on the day, and to invite the Holy Spirit to cover us in his peace. I pray for the people we are going to meet, and that the Lord would go before us, behind us, and beside us. That he would prepare the hearts of those we will meet. And we could bring love, hope, encouragement to the kids. That we could be “Jesus in skin” to those who need it the most.

Our leader, Johnny Lopez, told us we would be going to see a man named Pastor Roman, who had a small church with dirt floors and a tin roof. The church is in a small village, called Amor Viviente, which means “living love.”

IMG_3558.jpg

As we came in the back door, Pastor Roman was speaking to about 60 children. He stopped and welcomed us. Johnny said to me, “Tell Pastor Roman why you are here.” So I said, “The Lord has put it on my heart to write this book, Amazing Grace, and get it into the hands of as many people as I can because it’s so important that you, your family, these kids, and their families hear about Jesus and that they realize he loves them and cares for them. They need to ask him into their lives to be their personal Lord and Savior.” At that moment, Pastor Roman’s face lit up! Our eyes connected, and I could tell he knew I had Jesus in my heart and know the Lord as my Savior. When Pastor Roman looked through the book, he said, “This is like a life vest for us. The kids don’t have Bibles, but now they have the gospel of Jesus Christ and that booklet will always be their Bible.” Pastor Roman began to act out one of the stories in the book. I could tell he has such a gift and a passion for the kids.

IMG_3512.jpg

I asked him, “Pastor Roman, what is your biggest need?” He said, “Food.” He started to cry. “I take care of 60 children, and the government only gives us a sack of rice and a sack of beans twice a month. I am their Papa. Most kids don’t have a father. The parents leave for work at 4am and don’t return home until 9pm, so there is no relationship between the children and their parents.” After we visited, I said to Johnny, “Is there a grocery store around here?” I had not seen anything that looked like a grocery store. He said, “If we drive an hour, I know of a big store.”  

IMG_E3613.jpg

We left Pastor Roman and told him we’d be back, but we didn’t tell him we were going to bring food back. We wanted to surprise him. We filled two trucks full of food, and when he saw all the things we bought, he was overcome with joy. We were overwhelmed with tears. It was an “ah-ha” moment for sure. He broke down crying and praying over the food. Thanking God for all he had done, thanking Him for His son, and praising God for being a wonderful God. He also said, “This is a dream for the children, to see that God is good. This is such a blessing.”

Later that night, Johnny told us that Pastor Roman never had a visitor before us. I know that was a divine appointment orchestrated by God. We showed up, we hugged the kids, and we played with them. We handed out beach balls and soccer balls, and brought new toothbrushes and toothpaste since they didn’t have their own. But most of all, we brought hope, love, and encouragement to Pastor Roman. I thanked him several times for being obedient to God’s call. I told him that we need more people like him! I told him, “When you get to heaven someday, all these kids are going to run up to you and say, “Thank you Pastor Roman for loving us and telling us about Jesus.” He cried. Then we cried again.

unspecified-4.jpg

God brings people into our lives in his perfect timing. We had no idea how important our visit was to Pastor Roman. Nobody had come by to pat him on the back and say, “Thank you for all you are doing for our kids.”

God put us there on that day at that time. We prayed for God’s wisdom and direction. We were available to the Lord, and as a result of that, great things happened. We got to be a part of it. The Holy Spirit was moving not only in his church, but in the lives of our team. We got to experience God working in our lives and also in Pastor Roman’s. We poured out our love and encouragement into Pastor Roman. We “refilled” his heart with joy, love, reassurance, and encouragement. He does that everyday with those kids.  

It was such a blessing to be a blessing.

Where is God working in your life? Who can you encourage today?

3 Ways to Follow God When the Path Isn't Clear

13807-path-through-forest-walk-background-social.1200w.tn.png.jpeg

God didn’t give Abram (later to be called Abraham) a detailed map or even show him the exact final destination. He basically said, “Abram, leave your comfort zone and go where I will show you.” However, God also added that he would bless Abram and his descendants if Abram obeyed him. Abram didn’t know where he would end up, but he knew and trusted God’s character, so he obeyed anyway. Abram’s obedience happened one step at a time. With each step, Abram heard a little more from God.

I feel that this is what God requires of me as well. In November, I lost my job. I don’t know exactly where God is taking me next but I am trusting that it will be a good place—a place of blessing. Each day since, I have been doing what I know to do within each day. I’ve been looking, applying, and networking. I’ve also been taking advantage of the time and learning some new skills. All the while remembering that God is a good God who loves to give good gifts to his children. Each day I feel like I’m a little closer to knowing where he is taking me next and this brings me peace even in the not knowing.

Like Abram, I am learning lessons as I walk through my journey. Three lessons that God is teaching me are:

1. Step Out of My Comfort Zone

SEE ALSO: 5 Tips Everyone Should Follow When Reading the Bible

God wants me to continually step out of my comfort zone and trust him with the unknowns. I have to leave room for God to guide me. If God were to come show me step-by-step his exact will for my life, it wouldn’t require faith for me to follow him. Moreover, if I know exactly where I’m going beforehand, the idea probably isn’t from God. It probably came out of my own head and ideals. God likes me to follow him in faith and trust—not in knowing. This frees me from getting stuck in my own ideas, which often can take me away from God’s will, because let’s face it, my own ideas can be very flawed as well as limited. God sees everything—past, present and future. He is not limited.

When I think back to times when I actually did step out of my comfort zone, it can give me confidence to do it again. A few years ago, I got married and moved many, many miles away from the state that I’d lived in my entire life. I knew it was for a good reason but I didn’t know a lot of the details that I would encounter after the move. But I did it anyway.

2. Take One Step at a Time

There’s also another reason God doesn’t want me to know too much too soon. If I know too quickly, I might get overwhelmed and give up because it seems too hard. I might know where I’ll end up but I won’t necessarily know how. And, this not knowing how would cause me to have all kinds of anxious and worried thoughts. Nobody can do their best work under stress. God doesn’t ask me to take a step that is five miles up the road. Each step of this step-by-step approach is made under the daylight of the present moment. Everyone can take one step at a time.

SEE ALSO: 3 'Bad Christians' Share What it Means to Follow Jesus

I once tried a ropes course that was over twenty feet above the ground. My initial thought was that there was no way I could balance myself and walk across those ropes. I wore a safety harness but my jitters didn’t seem to understand that I was completely safe. It was still scary. But…as I took one step at a time, I reached my destination.

3. Action Lessens Worry

I tend to overanalyze everything and overanalyzing causes me to worry and even become paralyzed. Taking action erases a lot of these worries because the act of doing something takes on a life of its own. I concentrate on the task at hand, not the results that will come later. Worry about future results usually happens before I ever take an action to complete something. Taking actions regularly is a way of living in the moment and often deletes some of the fears of the future and regrets of the past.

Also in that ropes course, I realized that most of my worries came before I started each section. Thinking about the possibility of falling happened before my first step. But…when I took the action necessary and started moving, my action really did erase a few fears because I wasn’t thinking about them.

SEE ALSO: How You Can Follow Jesus on the Job

Bonus Lesson:  God is With Me as I Go

Abram was able to trust God in the not knowing because he believed that God was with him. I also have this assurance because Jesus said, “…be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Even to the end of the age means in every moment of my life.

Is God speaking to you about leaving your comfort zone and going without knowing? If he is, spend some time in the Bible and in reflective thought and wait for him to give you your first step, not the whole plan, just the first step.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8).

Jennifer Heeren loves to write and wants to live in such a way that people are encouraged by her writing and her attitude. She loves to write things that bring people hope and encouragement. Her cup is always at least half-full, even when circumstances aren’t ideal. She regularly contributes to Crosswalk.com. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. Visit her at www.jenniferheeren.com.

Click here for the original article

A Visit to Sutherland Springs Baptist Church

methode-times-prod-web-bin-f52c0668-c2d7-11e7-92dc-06edfbca4aab.jpg

On November 7, 2017, the worst thing that could ever happened, happened… In a church. One place you would think you would be safe. My husband and I went to Sutherland Springs to serve dinner earlier this month with Mercy Chefs. We passed out food, prayed over the people, and loved on them throughout the night. Everyone in Sutherland Sprimgs is still in much need of our prayers.

Unknown-2.jpeg

As she broke down, one lady told me, “this is my church and my town." We hugged her, and cried with her as she told us her story. “I had planned on going to church that day, but my grandson came down with fever so I stayed home with him. As soon as I got the call about the shooting, his fever broke. God kept me from going to church that day. There are stories just like mine all around the town.“

Unknown.jpeg

I thought to myself, God protected her and her grandson that day and many others in the town. I don’t know why he chose the ones he did to stay at home that day, but we will find that out when we get to heaven. God doesn’t ask us to understand why things happen. He says, “Trust Me.“

Another lady named Freda told me that she was shot five times in the legs! During her two-hour surgery, her family gathered in the waiting room, hugging each other and crying together. They all thought she was going to die. Two weeks later, she walked out of the hospital without even a cane or a wheelchair! Now that is a miracle! There is a reason Freda is alive. She told me that she moved to Sutherland Springs to get away from Hurricane Harvey, so she survived a hurricane and a shooting! Hand that woman a pen and paper and let her write a book!

Unknown-4.jpeg

There are no words to explain what happened or why. All I can do is point people to God and tell them to focus on him. He is the healer, wonderful, Counselor, Almighty, Prince of Peace... this verse comes to mind: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭

What happened that day is unexplainable, and excusable, and one of the most horrific things that have happened in my lifetime. I know that God can bring something good out of something bad. We may never know what it is but that doesn’t matter. Just trust.

- Amy Simmons Crafton, Founder of AmazingGrace.Life 

2 Years of AmazingGrace.Life!

Carver Elementary School.jpg

Two years ago today, AmazingGrace.Life was started! It has been so exciting to see God work. It’s amazing to see what happens when you make yourself available to Him, and depend on Him to guide and direct you!

AmazingGrace.Life Meals.jpg

When we started the website www.amazinggrace.life, we thought, “wouldn’t it be so cool if we had 200 people visit the website? Turns out over 85,000 have come to the website looking for answers and wanting to know more about Jesus! How cool is that?! Only God could make that happen!

Behind Every Door Summer Camp.jpg

When you trust God and are available to Him so he can use you, great things happen! I always pray, “God, I want to be in your will, please guide and direct me in the way you want me to go. I’m available to you so you can use me for YOUR purposes and what you want me to do with my life.” When you ask God to be in His will, get ready to experience things only God can do!

Mercy Chefs Dinner at Behind Every Door.jpg

From the beginning, our mission has been to educate people about the truth and life of Jesus Christ, and how to become a Christian. It is our hope to reach tens of millions of people all over the world with the Gospel of Jesus. We wrote a booklet called Amazing Grace to share the Gospel of Jesus. It shares the story of Jesus’s life, and why God sent his only son to earth. We have distributed over 110,000 books in four languages all over the world. It’s so inspiring to get emails from kids who are reading our book across the United States, and in other countries as far as Russia, India and Sudan. The book is available on our website at www.amazinggrace.life. Or, if you would like a physical copy of the Amazing Grace book, please email us at info@amazinggrace.life.

Operation Care International.jpg

So what’s next?

We are hopefully going to get the Amazing Grace book distributed through large organizations like World Vision, Samaritans Purse, Salvation Army and Compassion International. Now, wouldn’t that would be a God thing? We can only imagine how many kids/adults lives we could reach if these organizations took our booklets all around the world! We can’t wait to see what God is going to do in our third year!

Sharing Life Community Outreach.jpg

Let’s help lead others to Christ! Please join our team in helping educate others about the truth of Jesus Christ! You can do this by sharing our posts with all of your friends so that they might go to the website, and learn about Christ and the hope, grace, mercy, love and forgiveness He has for those who love Him and know Him as their personal Lord and Savior

Thank you for being a part of our journey!

What Our World Needs Now

peace.jpg

When Jesus was walking on the earth, he encouraged people to follow Him.  He brought healing, comfort, peace and forgiveness to anyone who asked for it.  He lived in a time when executions were common.  People were scared to death for any given reason, murdered for political disagreements, and rulers’ enslaved people. No matter what was going on around Jesus, he brought peace, love and comfort.  That is what our world needs now.  PEACE, LOVE, COMFORT. Jesus is LOVE!

 

Philippians 4:1 says, “The way to stand firm is to keep our eyes on Christ, this world is not our home.”  If we believe in Jesus He will bring us peace, comfort, love and forgiveness.  Who would not want that? The Bible says, “In the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” It’s so hard to understand why horrible things happen, but God doesn’t ask us to understand.  He says, ‘Trust Me.’  We will face difficult times and tragedy in our lives, but with Jesus in our hearts he can bring you peace in the midst of your crisis. Once you invite Jesus into your life, he will ALWAYS be there for you. If you follow him and develop a relationship with him, you can talk to Jesus anytime of day, like you would a friend.

 

After I asked Jesus into my heart at a very young age, I remember talking to him like a friend.  I knew he was there for me. Still to this day, I talk to him, sometimes out loud, sometimes silently, and sometimes I just sing out loud in my car songs of worship that come over the radio! It makes me feel good! It brings me peace and closer to God when I tell him how I’m feeling and ask him and trust him for everything I need.

 

I need Jesus, you need Jesus. We all need Jesus.  Our country needs a revival! I challenge you right now to start praying on a regular basis, daily, moment by moment.  Pray for the victims and first responders for EVERY crisis, storm, shooting or tragedy.  We need more people like you to pray and encourage others to pray. I also encourage you to get in a small group or church that feeds your spiritual needs.  Make sure it is “Jesus” centered and they believe He is the Son of God.

 

Have you sought Jesus to bring you peace, healing and comfort during this time of tragedy? Send us an email at info@amazinggrace.life about how God is working in your life.

 

8 Simple Ways to Share God’s Love with Your Little Ones All Day Long

proverbs.jpg

If you’re looking for ways to share God with your little ones, here are 8 simple things that you can start doing today:

Pray Out Loud Throughout the Day

As you go through your day, look for reasons to praise God out loud. Ask Him for help. Pray over your husband and children. Show them that prayer can happen anytime, anywhere because God is with us all the time, everywhere. While there is definitely a need for solo prayer time with God, by sharing some of your prayer time with your children, you’re laying a strong foundation for them as they learn what it means to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Read the Bible Out Loud

I try to read at least one chapter from God’s Word out loud to my daughter every single day. She’s too young right now to understand the need to sit still and listen, so I just read to her while she crawls around on the floor and plays with her toys. She’s still hearing God’s precious Word, and I pray that she will, as a result, learn to crave daily time with Him. Even if your children are too young to really pay attention, start reading the Bible out loud to them today.

Play Worship Music (And, of course, have dance parties!)

My husband is really good about this one! He’ll come in for work, put on worship music, and dance with our daughter while I’m making dinner. The music and dancing make the entire house seem brighter and lovelier. During the day, put on some worship music, sing and dance with your kids. Enjoy worshiping the Lord together!

Tell Your Children God Loves Them (and repeat continuously!)

Before each sleep time (naps and nighttime) I tell my daughter 3 things: “I love you, your daddy loves you, and, most of all, God loves you!” I want her to hear this so much that she doesn’t ever question how much she is loved by her earthly parents and her Heavenly Father. Also, incorporate this into teaching games. My daughter is starting to learn where her body parts are so this is a fun one for us! Point to your child’s nose and say, “God loves your nose!” And so on. Such a fun way to teach them that God loves every part of them!

Use Everyday Things to Teach Your Child about God

It’s so easy to lose our wonder in the world around us and all that God has created. Start using small, everyday things to teach your children about God’s creation. When you see a butterfly, say “God created that beautiful butterfly.” Or a sunset. Or a flower. Share in the beauty God has created with your children all day long.

Read Children’s Christian Books during Story Time

There are so many wonderful Christian children’s books out there that make learning about God lots of fun! We love The Jesus Storybook BibleJust in Case You Ever WonderGod Gave Us You, and If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart. As your little ones are getting ready for naps or nighttime sleep, take a few moments to read from one of these books.

Get Your Children Involved in Serving Others

This one can seem a little more intimidating than the rest but is still doable, even if you have very young children. If you’re sending out a care package or a handwritten note to someone in need of love, have your child make a finger painting (or even just a hand or footprint) to include. There’s something about baby “artwork” that seems to brighten just about anyone’s day! Also, take your children with you as you serve others. My husband and I started volunteering at a homeless ministry when our daughter was about 4 months old. I would cook the food and then we’d all go together to deliver it. I would hold our daughter as my husband helped serve the food. She wasn’t able to actually participate, of course, but she’s still seeing an important aspect of following Christ: Service to others. Also, having her with me gave me opportunities to share God’s love with the other moms and children there. As she gets older, we’re looking forward to teaching her about donating her toys to children in need, among many other service opportunities.

Talk about God Regularly in Everyday Conversations

Remember, kids are always listening! As you talk with your friends, family, and others in the community, make sure you mention God regularly. Don’t be afraid to talk about how God has brought you through struggles and how He has blessed you. Your children will benefit from knowing that God is with us through every struggle, every season, and every joy in life. Don’t relegate God to a “Sunday church conversation.” Make Him a part of every aspect of your life and let your children hear you do this.

You May Also Enjoy:

16 Bible Verses For Wives and Moms who are Fighting for their Families

Teaching Yourself to Crave God’s Word

Taking Time to Focus on what Really Matters Today

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to share God’s love with your young children, just start with these small, simple strategies. Don’t worry about finding perfection in time, method, or place. Simply include God in every aspect of your day with your little ones.

Read original article HERE

A Prayer For Victims of Harvey

pray.jpg

Dear God,

Thank You for the many precious promises in Your Word that reassure us that the various sufferings that we face today are but for a short time, and are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us in the eternal ages to come.

Thank You that the pain we must endure is but for a season, and will give way to joys that are unspeakable and full of glory, knowing that we have been promised an eternal rest, when all tears will be wiped from our eyes.

All glory be to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort that we ourselves receive from the Lord - how we praise Your holy name,

Amen

Ways We Can Help Victims of Harvey

920x1240.jpg

General Relief

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner established a Harvey relief fund at The Greater Houston Community Foundation. The organization connects donors with a network of nonprofits and innovative solutions in the social sector.

GlobalGiving, which calls itself the largest global crowdfunding community, has a goal of raising $2 million for its Harvey relief fund. Funds will be used first for immediate needs of food, water and shelter and then transition to long-term recovery efforts.

United Way of Greater Houston has launched a relief fund for storm-related needs and recovery. The organization says it already maintains a disaster relief fund but anticipates the needs of Harvey will far exceed those existing resources.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy has also launched a Hurricane Harvey relief fund. The organization says its strategy emphasizes "investing well rather than investing quickly, addressing the greatest needs and gaps in funding that may be yet to emerge."

GoFundMe, the social fundraising site, has created a landing page that gathers the campaigns on its platform related to Harvey.

The Salvation Army says it is providing food and water to first responders and preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents.

Send Relief and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief says its teams began responding before Harvey made landfall and continues on-the-ground relief work.

Samaritan's Purse is accepting donations as well as volunteers for Harvey disaster relief for the coming months.

Blood

As well as the American Red Cross, local organizations accepting blood donations are Carter BloodCare and the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

Shelter

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County coordinates the city's response to homelessness, serving as "a backbone organization" to groups that offer direct service. It has been providing updated information on shelters with available beds.

Airbnb has set up an urgent accommodations site, where people can open their homes to evacuees from the storm or find shelter themselves. Service fees are waived for those who check in by Sept. 1.

Food

A number of food banks will be aiding the affected region. Consider donating money instead of food, as it allows a food bank to use your donation most efficiently.

Feeding Texas is a statewide nonprofit that works alongside state and federal relief efforts. The organization says it steps in during major disasters to "coordinate with the state and other providers so that relief reaches families quickly and the 'second disaster' of an unorganized response is avoided."

Here is its list of food banks in Texas likely to be affected by Harvey:

Houston Food Bank

Galveston Food Bank

Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Victoria)

Corpus Christi Food Bank

Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont)

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (Pharr)

Brazos Valley Food Bank (Bryan)

Central Texas Food Bank (Austin)

San Antonio Food Bank

People With Disabilities

Portlight Strategies facilitates projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. The organization says its hotline for Inclusive Disaster Strategies has received urgent requests from people in need.

Kids

The Texas Diaper Bank, based in San Antonio, works to meet the basic needs of vulnerable babies, children with disabilities, and seniors. It focuses on providing partner agencies with diapers and goods.

Animals

The SPCA of Texas is organizing evacuations of pets in Texas (including 123 cats from a shelter in Corpus Christi) and offers resources on pet-friendly housing for evacuees.

Austin Pets Alive! says it has transported more than 235 animals to its shelter. The organization seeks donations, as well as people who can adopt animals. It says it has received so many donated supplies that it's running out of storage space, so financial donations are what it needs most.

Resources found HERE

Hurricane Harvey & Our Response to Pray and Help

hurricane-harvey-rescue-3-ap-jt-170827_12x5_992.jpg

We’ve all been watching with concern these past few days as Hurricane Harvey ravages the countless communities and cities in South Texas. News reports continue to indicate that the storm’s heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding are unprecedented and exceeding expectations. According to ABC News, the United States government is responding through the deployment of 3,000 national and state guard service members, as well as 500 vehicles and 14 aircraft.

Although it is reassuring to see the ways government workers and officials are responding to the disaster, many still wonder: is there anything we can do to help? From far away, it is easy to feel powerless. Often, our immediate reaction is to try and find the nearest plane, train, or automobile, hitch a ride, and hope that our presence at the scene of the crisis will ultimately help serve those in need. Or, it is the exact opposite—we wring our hands and do nothing. But before you or anyone you know tries to go and singlehandedly rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, or just sits anxiously watching the television, here are some practical ways you can help right now.

First, pray. As Christ followers, our first inclination in times of struggle and strife should be to fix our eyes not on the disaster itself, but on the God who promises His steady presence throughout it. When we find ourselves slipping into dangerous patterns of worry on behalf of those in need, prayer is our best and surest remedy.

We can get together with fellow believers and pray for the safety of victims and their families. We can ask God to stop the storm and cause the floodwaters to recede. We can allow the Lord to reorient our hearts and fill our minds with the truth of His promises. He is, after all, the One who can calm every storm whether off the coast of Texas or in our very hearts.

Second, start thinking about the next opportunity today, and make plans to become a trained volunteer. Before a natural disaster is even on the Weather Channel’s radar, we can begin the work involved in preparing for its coming. Becoming an informed, well-trained volunteer will help ensure a more effective, timely relief effort in the event of natural disaster.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency formed Praise and Preparedness to help church congregations prepare themselves and their communities for natural disasters. According to Janay Stargell, GEMA’s faith-based and non-governmental organization coordinator, communities often look for “churches to help respond” during times of recovery from a disaster. As Christ’s Church, this gives us an incredible opportunity to be His hands and feet when disaster strikes, both at home in our own communities and beyond. But it takes preparing before the moment of crisis. You may not be ready to help on the ground today, but you could be ready for the next time of desperate need.

Third, be well informed. Even for those prayerfully engaging from a distance, it can be surprising how valuable knowledge of the situation and the victims’ specific needs can be. Sending socks, winter parkas, and snow boots is a nice gesture for victims of a snowstorm, but it would do nothing to assist victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or Hurricane Harvey today. That example is a bit silly, but it makes a point. There is always a way to find out the specific needs of a situation, and with all the communication today, it shouldn’t take you long to research. It’s a simple rule: before you try to help, make sure you know who you’re helping.

Last, consider donating. Even if you can’t go, you can help the relief workers and supplies get where they are most needed. In many cases, donations are just as effective as volunteer work. That being said, before writing the check or mailing the cash, it is important to find reputable, well-established relief agencies that are on the ground at the site of the disaster and ready to work. An arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the North American Mission Board, promises donors that 100% of the donations they receive go directly to disaster relief efforts through their SEND Relief division. Groups like Convoy of Hope pride themselves on their rapid response times to ensure that victims get the help they need precisely when they need it. Also, consider other organizations that have good protocol during disaster relief times: Lutheran Church Missouri SynodSamaritan’s PurseReachGlobal (EFCA), and CAMA are just a few.

The One We Look To

Matthew 8 is a powerful example of what we are called to do when disasters are imminent and we feel out of control. We look to Jesus, the One who, by speaking a word, can calm all storms. We focus on Him, knowing that He is in control. And we do that by praying.

And then we follow Him into the disaster as He guides—whether through getting preparation for the next disaster or finding creative ways to help in the current crisis. Whatever He calls us to do, we can be sure of one thing: He isn’t calling us to do nothing. What we see on television impacts us whether we live in Texas or not. When one suffers, all suffer, and this can be the time when the Church shines the brightest.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

Original article from Christianity Today

Blessings for the New School Year

pexels-photo-207658.jpeg

When my kids were young, I loved taking them to pick out their new backpacks, school supplies, clothes and shoes for school. We would spend the day knocking it all out at once as we store hopped on a determined buying mission. We checked it all off our lists as we braved the trenches of school supply aisles in the local super center. We would be armed and ready for whatever the new school year would bring.

As the first day of school closed in on us, endless questions plagued my anxious mind. Would the kids like their new teachers? Would they get to be in the same classroom as their best buddies?

We would all have to get into a new routine, back to making those bagged lunches and after school snacks. There would be rides to practices, and piles of homework. Of course there would always be a few extra trips to the school to schlep the carelessly forgotten gear, lunches, and assignments.

These days the school supplies in my family have been replaced with apartment furnishings, car insurance and college text books.

There are many times I wish I could go back to the days of making those early morning waffles floating in maple syrup before school. Those days that seemed so rushed, stressed and hurried now are just cherished memories of a time I wish I could have back again. It has flown by so quickly and without my permission. They are suddenly grown and gone.

I realized that as we are reluctantly handing our kids over to new teachers, dorms, coaches, and even their own apartments, we can simultaneously hand them over to the complete, unchanging, infinite, protection of God!

He can and will be there to pick up the slack for us weary, anxious, parents. We can trust Him to always be there when we cannot. Whether our kids are coloring at the first grade art table or they are 500 miles away from us on a college campus, We can trust that our almighty God is watching over them and He will never leave them nor forsake them (see Hebrews13:5).

I like to start my mornings, coffee and Bible in hand, sitting on my back patio with my dog curled up next to me. It's where I have my morning prayer time with God. It is where I hand it all over, my concerns, fears and worries and ask Him to amazingly bless the days of my children. I ask for His ultimate protection over them. I visualize them covered in the full, securing, armor of God. I pray that His perfect will be done in their lives, and that they would make wise choices according to His word. I ask for His unceasing favor and noble grace to be upon them. I ask for Him to send a legion of His heavenly angels to surround my children continuously and to pluck them out of harms way. I pray for wonderful Christian friends and teachers to surround them. I visualize the mighty hand of God holding them up, so safe and protected, so strong, changeless and unfailing. Then as I continue on in my day, I know that my words will not return to me void (see Isaiah 55:11). I know God has heard me and if it is His will, He will honor my requests.

So as we begin this and all new school years and as we are diligently packing up the school gear, waking the kids up early, and sending them out the door, let's send them securely wrapped in the Lord's arms with an abundance of favor and blessings heaped upon them, dressed in their new shoes and of course in the full armor of God!!

By Nina Keegan, find the original article HERE

How to Embrace Rest When Work Never Ends

After every vacation, my husband inevitably returns to work buried in emails. Since he’s in sales he always has customers in need of his product, so while he might be on vacation from work, his customers are not. In an ever-connected digital age, work never stops.

My experience after a vacation is a little different. While I may not come home to an inbox full of emails, I return to another monstrosity—laundry. Maybe it’s my season of life (three kids younger than 3) or maybe it’s just the fact that there are five people in our house, but laundry is my overflowing inbox. Everything else takes a vacation when we are gone (the cleaning, the cooking, and so on), but the laundry just keeps coming. It sleeps for no one.

Whatever part of your work is overflowing when you end your vacation, we all face this dilemma, don’t we? What do we do with the work that never ends? Taking it a step further, can rest sometimes look like work?

Work vs. Play

Since work is a fluid part of my life, with no real beginning and end, a question keeps arising in my own mind, and maybe in yours as well: What’s the difference between rest and play? Is it resting to read a book to your child? Is it resting to eat dinner when you open your home for hospitality? It can be difficult to discern what’s work and what’s play when it all melds together.

But if work is about people, our rest is as well. Just as we’re tempted to view our work as done for our own glory, we’re tempted to view our rest the same way. I see this in my own life when I lament my lack of rest—by which I mean I haven’t had a break from my kids in a while. But I can rest while watching a show with them, playing soccer with them outside, or eating dinner with them. Sometimes rest is watching Netflix by myself, and sometimes it’s eating pizza in the living room with my kids.

As Kevin DeYoung observes, “Effective love is rarely efficient. People take time. Relationships are messy.” Anyone who spends any amount of time investing in people knows this to be true. DeYoung isn’t saying we don’t rest when our work involves people; he’s simply saying a people-oriented life might change the way our rest looks—or might make us even busier than we intended to be. He goes on to write, “Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve.” I long assumed I can only rest when doing the things I want to do, the things I find restful. But rest is sometimes about enjoying my kids, enjoying the fruit of my labors.

We view rest and work as things that exist for us. But they don’t.

Rest as Neighbor Love

Marva Dawn, author of Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, says that this view of rest actually frees us to love people more, since we aren’t seeing them as a means to an end:

When we are not under the compulsion to be productive, we are given the time to dwell with others, to be with them and thereby to discover who they are.

Rest is about people as much as work is. People aren’t efficient, and can sometimes be draining, but they’re part of our Sabbath rest.

The church community must be our accountability here. We can serve our fellow believers in their quest for rest by helping with chores around their home, participating in a restful activity together, and even encouraging the weary to sleep. This is another reminder that, along with the work itself, the rest from it is a community effort. Left to ourselves, we would either be lazy or workaholics.

By embracing time in our Sabbath rest, we’re free to love others in our resting. Since we’re not bound to productivity or a schedule, people aren’t a hindrance to those things. Dawn notes that if we’re resting in God’s grace, we can fold others into that freedom also. When our kids interrupt us, but it doesn’t derail our day. When our neighbor needs help moving a piece of furniture, and we can joyfully serve. In our resting we’re not a slave to the clock. In Christ, we’re free to serve because he’s the Lord of the Sabbath. Dawn procceds to say that this ceasing opens us up for inefficient things like “sitting quietly together and enjoying each other’s company.” Without the demands of life and work, we aren’t blinded to the people in front of us. Rest gives us the chance to value the people for whom we labor every day.

While we might cease from work in our rest, we don’t cease from delight. Our resting makes way for feasting. And our ceasing makes way for embracing and loving others. Of course, this requires a shift in our thinking. Work and rest are about loving our neighbor. Work and rest are about worshiping God and enjoying the good things he has given us. Yes, balance is needed. Personality types and seasons of life determine how much individual rest we need. But it’s not all about our own personal gratification.

Sometimes our rest includes others (like playing with our children), and sometimes it’s just us. But it’s always about God. 

Article by Courtney Reissig / Click here to read the original article

What Does it Really Mean to #Blessed?

Feeling blessed is in vogue. 

A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. 

College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed.

As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God? 

The Good Life

For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life.

But does it? If someone had all those things, would they be extraordinarily blessed? 

Rather than turning to God, they might feel self-sufficient and proud. Perhaps a bit smug and self-righteous. After all, their hard work would be yielding good fruit.

Moreover, they wouldn’t need to cry out to God for deliverance; everything would already be perfect. They wouldn’t need to trust God; they could trust in themselves. They wouldn’t need God to fill them; they would already be satisfied.

God’s Richest Blessings

My desire for God is greatly fueled by my need. And it is in the areas of loss where I feel my need most intensely. Unmet desires keep me on my knees. Deepen my prayer life. Make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.

Earthly blessings are temporary; they can all be taken away. Job’s blessings all disappeared in one fateful day. I, too, had a comfortable life that was stripped away within a span of weeks. My marriage dissolved. My children rebelled. My health spiraled downward. My family fell apart. My dreams were shattered. 

And yet, in the midst of those painful events, I experienced God’s richest blessings. A stronger faith than I had experienced before. A deeper love than I had ever known. A more intimate walk than I could explain. My trials grounded my faith in ways that prosperity and abundance never could.

While my trials were not blessings in themselves, they were channels for them. As Laura Story asks in her song “Blessings,” “What if your blessings come through rain drops? What if trials of this life — the rain, the storms, the hardest nights — are your mercies in disguise?”

This revolutionary idea of blessing is also firmly established in Scripture.

The Common Thread

One translation of the New Testament (ESV) has 112 references with the words bless, blessing, or blessed, none of which connect blessing to material prosperity. Consider these passages:

“Suffering and trials are not blessings in themselves, but they are channels for God’s grace.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . . Blessed are those who mourn. . . . Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:3–410–11)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven. (Romans 4:7; quoting Psalm 32:1)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. (James 1:12)

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. . . . Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:1319:9)

There is no hint of material prosperity or perfect circumstances in any New Testament reference. On the contrary, blessing is typically connected with either poverty and trial or the spiritual benefits of being joined by faith to Jesus. 

According to the Key-Word Study Bible, “The Greek word translated blessed in these passages is makarioi which means to be fully satisfied. It refers to those receiving God’s favor, regardless of the circumstances” (emphasis added).

What is blessing, then? Scripture shows that blessing is anything God gives that makes us fully satisfied in him. Anything that draws us closer to Jesus. Anything that helps us relinquish the temporal and hold on more tightly to the eternal. And often it is the struggles and trials, the aching disappointments and the unfulfilled longings that best enable us to do that. 

Truly Blessed

“Unmet desires keep me on my knees and make me ransack the Bible for God’s promises.”

Pain and loss transform us. While they sometimes unravel us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what he can do or achieve for us. 

In pain and loss, we long for Presence. We long to know that God is for us and with us and in us. Great families, financial wealth, and good health are all wonderful gifts we can thank God for, but they are not his greatest blessings. They may make us delight, not in God, but in his gifts.

God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.

Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner, a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Desiring God. Click HERE to read the original article.

Fresh Ways to Refocus Your Mindset on God's Word

There are many ways to focus your mind on "what is above" (see Colossians 3:1-2). If you're feeling a bit stuck, try developing fresh habits. Whether you're getting back to spiritual disciplines, just starting out, or in the middle of a long run, here are some ideas you may want to try:

  • Write a prayer that expresses your heartfelt desire to follow God in this season of your life. If you keep it somewhere close, then you have a starting point for your daily time with God.
  • Read one Psalm each day.
  • Use a journal. You can write your prayers to God. You can list concerns or what you're grateful for. You can write the first thing that comes to mind when you consider what God is doing in your life.
  • Stop and listen. Too often we feel we aren't doing anything if we aren't doing anything. That's not true. Sit before God in silence, inviting Him to recalibrate your soul (see Psalm 46:10).
  • Practice posturing. Allow your body to reflect your heart. Bow low in humility before God, get on your knees in prayer, or hold your hands out in acknowledgement that anything you receive comes from God.
  • Get a Bible dictionary and read some background information about the Bible passage you're reading. Understand more about the ears those words first fell on. You might read something in a whole new light (see Psalm 119:33-35).
  • Think more deeply about small bits. Let that one verse roll around in your mind for a few minutes instead of reading five more verses. Give God room to surprise you with insight. If you read only three verses in that sitting, that's OK (see Psalm 119:47-48).
  • Pray Scripture back to God. Pick a passage and pray the same one for a week at a time, allowing it to fully sink in.
  • Get really honest with God. Let go of old ideas about how you "should" approach God. Pour out your heart to Him (see Psalm 62:8). Trust Him to be big enough to handle whatever you're dealing with.

Read the original article here

25 Ways to Spend Time with God on the Go

Are you longing to spend refreshing moments with God, your Bible, and a cup of coffee? The most important thing we can do as we minister to the next generation is to ensure that our relationship with God is strong. And devoted daily time with God is critical.

Sometimes, though, we miss those times and can run on empty spiritually. Is lack of time forcing you to abandon your dream of a time alone with God each day? Instead of rushing off on a guilt trip, use these 25 tips to spend time with God on the go!

  1. As you drive around, tune in to a Christian station or play your favorite praise and worship music. Don’t be afraid to sing along as you drive. No one can hear you. And besides, your smile will be contagious.
  2. Sing your favorite praise songs as you mop up your chores.
  3. Whenever you’re faced with a dilemma, thank God for being with you in the midst of it. Then ask God to give you wisdom.
  4. Count your blessings whenever you write a check. Thank God for providing for you.
  5. On a 3X5 card, make a list of people who need prayer. Beside each name, jot a note to remind you of that person’s prayer need. Post the note in your kitchen. While you prepare a meal or clean up, glance at the list and pray.
  6. As you drive to work, think about each staff member. Create a prayer acrostic for each person to help you pray for him or her. For example, T — time he wants with his family; O — obedience to God even when it hurts; and M — ministry with fifth-graders will flourish.
  7. When you see a school, skyscraper, hospital, prison, business, or cult meeting area, ask God to break the power of the enemy on the lives of the people inside.
  8. At the sound of an approaching siren, ask God to protect the people involved in the emergency. Pray that God’s love will shine into that situation.
  9. If a face stands out in a crowd, pray for God’s blessing and guidance in that person’s life.
  10. Stuck in a traffic jam again? Don’t sweat it; pray for the other motorists around you.
  11. Get some fresh air and a renewed spirit with a listening walk — even if it’s only a quick trot to the mailbox or a whirl around the grocery store. Ask God to speak to you. Listen quietly for God’s voice.
  12. Whenever you look at your watch, take time to ask for God’s presence to guide you through the day.
  13. When you stop at a stop sign, stop and pray for someone in your family.
  14. Pray for your city, country, and leaders whenever you see a flag.
  15. Whenever you think of someone who has wronged you, ask God to give you the grace to forgive the person.
  16. If someone is rude to you, ask God to bless the person.
  17. As you kiss family members goodbye, ask God to bless and protect them through their day.
  18. Instead of looking at your speedometer when you pass a policeman, pray for his or her protection. Do the same for firefighters.
  19. Pick a different neighbor family to pray for each week. Whenever you pass their home, ask God to bless them and pray for any needs you know of.
  20. Whenever you see a cross, remember that Jesus died for you. Thank God for the gift of his Son.
  21. If you drive through the country, let the sight of sheep remind you of your good shepherd. Thank God for his love and care.
  22. Allow the sight of stained glass to remind you of the stains Christ removed from your life. Thank God.
  23. Leave your Bible by the television. Before you turn your television on, read a verse or two from Proverbs or Psalms.
  24. Trade Bible teaching tapes with your friends or church library and listen while you work.
  25. Listen to the Bible as you run errands in your car or wash dishes.

Read the original article here

5 Ways to Stay Strong in Your Faith During the Summer

by BRODY MCCURDY  

The school year is finally coming to a close and as we start to climb the giant mountain that is exam season, we are finally catching a glimpse of the promised land we have been waiting for since the first few days of school – summertime! The time for hanging out with friends, vegging out on the couch, taking cool trips, and of course bingeing on all the shows and movies that homework/studying prevented you from watching. 

But when it comes to our spiritual lives, summertime can be a time of spiritual dryness – a time when we fall off our spiritual path – especially when some youth groups don’t meet as often, if at all during the two months of summer break.

During the school year, youth groups serve as places where we can reenergize and rest from the many spiritual battles of the week – a place where we can talk spiritual strategy, encourage one another, and learn from our mistakes so that we can jump back into the battle, armed and ready for whatever weekly challenges lie ahead. But when this isn’t available to us during the summer, what can we do? How can we grow spiritually when it feels like we are left to fend for ourselves?

Pondering these questions, I challenged myself to investigate the best ways to prevent a summer vacation from turning into a temporary vacation from God and compiled them into this short survival guide so that you can be prepared for the months ahead.

1. Shoot for the Moon

Forgive me if I sound like a DIY self-improvement book, but one of the keys to accomplishing anything – in this case staying spiritually fit during the summer – is setting goals for yourself. And just like heading to the gym, learning a new language, or mastering the art of Kung fu, you have to set objectives or resolutions for your spiritual life in order to make/continue any progress.

Set reasonable goals for yourself, like making a commitment to pray a decade of the rosary every day or reading a small part of the Bible every morning, and be creative. I once had a friend who made entering the bathroom a reminder for her to pray. Although this might sound strange, designating a space (i.e. bathroom, the car, a classroom) you use daily to remind yourself of your goals (i.e. praying) is not only creative, but extremely effective.

2. Gather

I think one of the most important parts of youth group is the support that the members provide one another throughout the spiritual highs and lows we encounter. This network of support acts like a harness that keeps us from flying away during the twists and turns we so often face on a daily basis – and this support doesn’t have to end when youth group isn’t in session.

A great way to continue and deepen in our faith journey during the summer is to form a community of friends with whom we can build trust and establish relationships. In this way we can create a group of people (or even just one person) that can hold one another accountable, support one another, pray together, have fun and enjoy each other’s company. As Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

3. Answer the Call to Serve

By living out our faith it can grow tremendously. As stated in James 2:14-26, faith without works is dead, and thus service is the very embodiment of our faith put into action. Jesus calls on us to be His hands and feet to our neighbors and local communities by completing the Spiritual and Physical Works of mercy.

With no school, summer is a great time to meet Christ face to face out in the community through various volunteering opportunities like helping out at your church’s Vacation Bible School and/or CCD, or volunteering at a soup kitchen that serves the less fortunate in your area.

In any case find a cause or service you are passionate about and pursue it, not for the service hours, but for the greater glory of God. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body on earth now but yours” so this summer, be Christ’s body, live out your faith, and answer His call to serve.

4. Read Books for the Soul

Reading the Word of God is an essential part in any Christian’s spiritual journey, and thankfully it is the most widely available book in the world. But for many of us, we treat the Bible more as a paperweight than as the inspired Word of God, and it sits on a counter or bookshelf, untouched, unread, and unused.

Make this the summer that changes that.

Reading the Bible can seem like an insurmountable task. Its sheer length and complexity are enough to scare of any determined soul – and many times it is this seeming difficulty that prevents us from peeking into the book’s contents.

That’s why you need to find an approach that works best for you, whether that’s finding an app/website (see below) that gives you the Bible verse of the day, or setting a time or place where you commit yourself to reading a chapter of one of the gospels – anything, even the slightest steps, that gets you into the Word every day. 

But you don’t have to stop there. Because Christianity has been around for 2,000 years, there have been countless books written by amazing Christians who have gone before us. These authors, many of them saints, have walked the walk and have talked the talk and can help us do the same. These are some of the works I recommend, but there is no end to the list of spiritual reading: St. Thérèse of Lisieux (Story of a Soul), C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Space Trilogy, A Case for the Christian Faith), G.K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, The Father Brown Detective Series), St. Teresa of Avila (Interior Castle), The writings Mother Teresa (Come Be My Light), the Liturgy of the Hours, (a book that contains daily prayers, devotions, and scripture readings that every priest, nun, brother and deacon carries with them) and much, much more.

5. Stay Connected

We, undeniably, live in a highly connected world in which we are bombarded 24/7 with status updates, posts, and news feeds on social media – but this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. There are also countless websites, apps, and Facebook pages that can shine the light of the Good News while you surf or scroll in the heat of the summer.

Read the original article here

Are you looking to the cross to find your way?

I am in a part of the world I've never been in before, St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands. It's near the equator that separates the northern and southern hemisphere's. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The water color is dark navy blue, light blue, and turquoise.

Last night, the boat captain pointed out that when you are this far south there are four stars that form a perfectly shaped cross, called, "the southern cross."

For centuries sailors have used the southern cross and the north star as guideposts for navigation. If they get disoriented they look to the cross to find their way. 

Jesus died willingly on the cross for you and me so that we can have eternal life if we believe in him. Are you looking to the cross to find your way? Jesus is waiting for you to ask him into your life so he can help you find your way.

Taking God with You

In Hebrews 13:5, God says 'I will never leave you nor forsake you." But are you actively taking God with you wherever you go? Here are 25 ways you can make God a part of your daily routine: 

  1. As you drive around, tune in to a Christian station or play your favorite praise and worship music. Don’t be afraid to sing along as you drive. No one can hear you. And besides, your smile will be contagious.
  2. Sing your favorite praise songs as you mop up your chores.
  3. Whenever you’re faced with a dilemma, thank God for being with you in the midst of it. Then ask God to give you wisdom.
  4. Count your blessings whenever you write a check. Thank God for providing for you.
  5. On a 3X5 card, make a list of people who need prayer. Beside each name, jot a note to remind you of that person’s prayer need. Post the note in your kitchen. While you prepare a meal or clean up, glance at the list and pray.
  6. As you drive to work, think about each staff member. Create a prayer acrostic for each person to help you pray for him or her. For example, T — time he wants with his family; O — obedience to God even when it hurts; and M — ministry with fifth-graders will flourish.
  7. When you see a school, skyscraper, hospital, prison, business, or cult meeting area, ask God to break the power of the enemy on the lives of the people inside.
  8. At the sound of an approaching siren, ask God to protect the people involved in the emergency. Pray that God’s love will shine into that situation.
  9. If a face stands out in a crowd, pray for God’s blessing and guidance in that person’s life.
  10. Stuck in a traffic jam again? Don’t sweat it; pray for the other motorists around you.
  11. Get some fresh air and a renewed spirit with a listening walk — even if it’s only a quick trot to the mailbox or a whirl around the grocery store. Ask God to speak to you. Listen quietly for God’s voice.
  12. Whenever you look at your watch, take time to ask for God’s presence to guide you through the day.
  13. When you stop at a stop sign, stop and pray for someone in your family.
  14. Pray for your city, country, and leaders whenever you see a flag.
  15. Whenever you think of someone who has wronged you, ask God to give you the grace to forgive the person.
  16. If someone is rude to you, ask God to bless the person.
  17. As you kiss family members goodbye, ask God to bless and protect them through their day.
  18. Instead of looking at your speedometer when you pass a policeman, pray for his or her protection. Do the same for firefighters.
  19. Pick a different neighbor family to pray for each week. Whenever you pass their home, ask God to bless them and pray for any needs you know of.
  20. Whenever you see a cross, remember that Jesus died for you. Thank God for the gift of his Son.
  21. If you drive through the country, let the sight of sheep remind you of your good shepherd. Thank God for his love and care.
  22. Allow the sight of stained glass to remind you of the stains Christ removed from your life. Thank God.
  23. Leave your Bible by the television. Before you turn your television on, read a verse or two from Proverbs or Psalms.
  24. Trade Bible teaching tapes with your friends or church library and listen while you work.
  25. Listen to the Bible as you run errands in your car or wash dishes.

These tips were taken from Children's Ministry Magazine, read the full article HERE

The Season for New Beginnings

It's the season for new beginnings, new eras, and new commitments. High school and college graduations are happening all over the world! A lot of people are very excited but also may be a little nervous as well. No matter what transition is going on in your life, don't forget to PRAY! Sometimes we don't know how to pray or what to ask for, so we are going to be posting prayers for the next couple of weeks to get you started. Below is a prayer for transition, we encourage you to pray this prayer with those in your life who are experiencing change. 

Dear Lord, 

As I start a new era and a new chapter in my life, please guide and direct me to the path you have chosen for me. Block my way if I go the wrong direction. I am available to you, please give me YOUR wisdom and knowledge. Help me be aware and attentive to what is going on around me, so I can see how you are working in my life. 

I trust you Lord, it is in YOUR name, the name of Jesus I pray these things, 

Amen

When You Feel Like you Have Lost Everything...

When you pray, are you asking God for something? Do you thank Him when he answers your prayers? Do you see how he is working in your life? Do you feel God blesses you? Even in a crisis? 

As you might have heard East Texas was in the path of 5 tornadoes April 29th, 2017.

I drove to Canton, Texas to volunteer and help bring food, water, encouragement, prayer, and the Amazing Grace booklets to the survivors of the devastating storm system, I call them little “love gifts.” I had never done this before, and I had no idea what to expect. As I pulled into an area that was in the path of the tornado, it amazed me that more people didn’t die*.

When I heard about the storms, I began to pray immediately for the people in the path of the storms and God heard my prayers along with everyone else who was praying as well.

As I drove down the country roads to deliver “love gifts” to people, I wasn’t sure how they would respond. I smiled really big as I approached a man cleaning up his yard and said, “Hi! I’ve brought you some food and water.” He was so appreciative, and I found out his is a policeman. His girlfriend was so appreciative and nice. She told us the whole story of what happened. I told them, “even though I don’t know your names, I was praying for you.” The man’s eyes teared up, and he said, “I know that’s what got us through.” He got choked up, the so did I. My friend Joy, who is part of the AmazingGrace.Life team asked, “Can we pray for you?” So the six of us stood there in the midst of crushed trees, and metal wrapped around phone poles, and prayed. Joy thanked the Lord for sparing their lives and prayed for continued health and safety throughout the days ahead. She prayed for a lot of things, but mainly thanking the Lord for these people. That he saved them from injury and death. As she closed the prayer, she prayed, “and we pray all of this in the name of Jesus.” I noticed the man had taken his hat off to pray and again his eyes filled with tears.

We talked to a lot of people that day, and I was so encouraged that they had such a good attitude, they seemed happy and were so appreciative of our small little love gifts. They were happy because they were alive! God answered so many prayers that night. These people were blessed and spared by God. They had lost everything, and they were not afraid to say, “God has His hand on us.” They knew, because they experienced God’s grace and protection in the midst of the storm.. literally!

These people have a story. It’s their story. God intervened and saved their lives. They will forever be grateful for His mercy and protection. Like the man said, “God was with us.”

So even though these people lost everything, they were thankful to God for what they had… eachother, their lives being spared, and a new understanding of the power of prayer.

*Unfortunately, several people died in the storm. I did not meet anyone that knew that families of those that passed away. My heart goes out to them, and I pray for the Lord to bring them peace and comfort.

 

 

Lent: Day 39: Come to the Lord

Last August, my husband and I went to Seattle for a Christian counseling conference. The entire city was experiencing an “unprecedented heat wave” of 80-degree days, which to us felt like a welcome reprieve from the sweltering weather we’d been suffering in Tennessee. On the second to last day of the conference, we noticed another couple at our table smirk when the facilitator apologized yet again for the weather, and quickly struck up a conversation about our common hatred of humidity.

As it turned out, they were from Atlanta, and since we only had a few minutes to chat, the couple asked if we wanted to join them that night for dinner. They’d had reservations for their anniversary at an acclaimed waterfront restaurant for more than six months, but the wife assured me that she could call and get the hostess to add two more seats to the table.

What unfolded that night over dinner was nothing short of the gospel. As the sun melted into the water, our conversation went wide and deep, covering the vast terrain of our lives. We tasted grilled octopus and braised lamb shoulder and homemade pastas. When the entrees arrived, Patrick and I ordered the most expensive bottle of wine we could afford, hoping to offer a small gesture of gratitude to our new friends for sharing their anniversary reservation with us. I still remember looking at the price and wondering if we’d gone a little overboard. But this night was special; there was something providential about it. 

Several hours later, I noticed the waitress drop a black folded book in front of our new friends. I elbowed my husband in the ribs hard—the universal wife-code for ‘get out your wallet!’—but it was too late. The check had been paid. A signature was already on the bottom of the receipt. 

“But,” I started, embarrassed. “That was a really expensive meal. We wanted to…” I looked to Patrick for back-up. “…This was your anniversary!”

It’s hard to think of the extravagance of that night without imagining the extravagance of Jesus. Isaiah paints us a picture of the most opulent love—a free gift available to anyone and everyone. No one is excluded. No one is unwelcome. Our God says, “Come!” He prepares a table before us with food—not just for our bodies, but for our souls. And it costs us nothing. The view from that table will be magnificent because our host, our friend, is the Son of God. 

Isaiah and Jesus invite all to come. But as the bride of Christ, we, too, can join in offering the invitation, which echoes from the Old Testament straight through the book of Revelation:

The Spirit and the bride say, Come! And let him who hears say, Come! Whoever is thirsty let him come and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17

Let nothing keep us from joining in the feast. For as gracious as our God has been in His invitation, not one of us can fathom the goodness He’s prepared for us—for all who love Him—in the days to come (1 Corinthians 2:9). 

Thanks be to God.

By Claire Gibson

Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.

Original article from She Reads Truth