Why Are You So Different?

It was March and cheerleading was over.  In just three months my young friend Annie would graduate high school with honors. Meanwhile, she landed a part-time waitressing job that would keep her in spending money until she left for the university in September.

Annie discovered that several of the young restaurant workers were into drugs, drinking and partying. Whenever she saw an opportunity she would ask them questions about their faith background, or what they believed would happen to them if they were to die. Two of the young men became interested in her beliefs, and in the Bible.

Until this job, she had no need to carry a purse. Now she needed a BIG purse for the booklets, CDs and Christian books she brought to share with the waiters/waitresses.

One night I received a phone call from a waiter, saying Annie had answered all the questions she could,  and suggested he call her mentor—me! I talked with him for over an hour. Before we hung up I told him he should not go another day until he gets right with God. He said he was ready NOW.  I then prayed with him over the phone and he received Christ. He began coming to church the very next Sunday!

There were two rough characters working at the restaurant. Both had drinking problems and both had been in jail.  Annie told them they needed to straighten up their lives and the only way they could do it was to receive Christ.  She suggested Teen Challenge.*

One night after closing, the employees gathered around a table with their milkshakes. They wanted to know why Annie was different. They were puzzled about why she had never smoked, used drugs or partied. They decided to go around the circle and share their life stories.

When they finished they had determined there were two reasons Annie’s life was different:
(1) She had God in her life.
(2) She had a mother who didn’t work outside the home.**

* Teen Challenge is the oldest, largest and most successful program of its kind in the world. It is a Christ-centered program providing youth, adults and children an effective solution to drug and alcohol addiction at no charge:   http://www.teenchallenge.org/

** I know Annie’s mother. She did childcare in her home so she could be with her children.  She knew the value of a mother in the home, because she herself grew up without a mother.

  • Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.     Romans 12:2
  • In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness.     Titus 2:7
  • SONG:  MY FRIEND:

 

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Church on Cruise Ship Flopped!

Dan and I were blessed to take a Mediterranean cruise. Unlike other cruise lines, this one did not offer a church service.  So I prayed and then went to see the cruise director. I offered to conduct an interdenominational service myself.  He was not interested.

I then made another suggestion.  “I noticed in the bulletin you offer meetings for Friends of Bill (A.A.) and Friends of Dorothy (LGBT).  Could I hold a Bible study/prayer meeting for “FRIENDS OF THE JESUS?”

“No, no! That would cause problems.”

“What if we called it “Friends of the WORD?”

He agreed to that!  He scheduled it and assigned me a conference room!  However, when the bulletin came out, it read, “Friends of the WORLD will meet…”   Not a draw!  In fact, only Dan came to show support!

The second time I asked the Activities Director to change it to “A Gathering of Believers.” The bulletin again read, “Friends of the World.” So I made a sign for the door: “Meeting of Believers.” One lady stopped by and asked, “What’s a Believer?” I told her a Believer is someone who believes in Jesus. She said she’d signed up for Bingo and off she went.

BUT, there was still fruit! I had Jesus booklets in the languages of the countries we visited and those precipitated fruitful encounters onshore. Moreover, since much of the crew was from the Philippines I brought some in their language of Tagalog. Sometimes I’d simply place it on the table above my plate. A waiter would spy it and say, “Hey! This is my language!”

I’d say, “If you can read it, it’s yours.”

One waiter asked, “What’s it about?”

“It’s about Jesus.”

He said, “I am very close to Jesus.” He paused and said, “And He is very close to me.”

Another crew member said, “I didn’t bring a Bible on board, but I will read this like a Bible.”

On the back of the booklets I had written the following websites:  www.godlife.com ,   www.muslimjourneytohope.com ,   and for multiple languages: www.whoisjesus-really.com

While waiting for our flight home from Venice, we met a pilot from Alitalia Airlines. He and his wife were waiting to fly standby. I shared an Italian tract with him, and told him it was about Jesus.

He thanked me and said, “I brought nothing with me to read. I’ll read this.”

God is good!

  • How have you shared the Good News while traveling?
  • He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”           Mark 16:15
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What if YOU Were God?

She was angry when she stopped at our Bible table at the beach.  She looked about 20 and was yelling as she approached:  “This is wrong!  You should not be permitted to be here!   It’s wrong when one group thinks they know the only way to God!  There are many ways to God!”

I spoke calmly, “I agree, it’s a hard concept to understand.  But may I ask what it is that you believe?”

She shouted,  “I don’t know what I believe!  But I don’t believe there is only one way!”

I said, “I’d love to talk with you about this. Can you take a minute?” She nodded and joined me on a nearby bench.

I listened to her rant for awhile. Then I said, “Can I tell you what I’m thinking? I’m wondering what it must be like for God.  I mean, what if you were God and you created this world and everyone in it. Then you see the people you created stealing, lying, killing and ignoring you.  Sin becomes rampant and as God, you’re sad and disappointed because you know their sins will prevent them from someday entering heaven. So you devise a plan to save them.

“Your Son, Jesus Christ, is willing to come to earth to be their Savior. He would be required to live a sinless life so that He could be tortured and killed to pay for the sin of the world. He is willing to pay the price, and He does.

“But afterward the people say to God, ‘We don’t have to follow your Son!  We don’t even believe in your Son! There are many ways to heaven! We’ll choose our own way!’

“If you were the one true God, how would you feel if the people treated your plan to save them in this way?”

“That’s just a fairy tale. I still don’t believe there is only one way.”

I said, “If you study the major religions of the world, you will find that Buddha never expected people to worship him. He was still searching for truth at the end of his life. Mohammad never set himself up to be God. He wanted the people to worship one God instead of many gods. The Hindu religion believes in many different gods.

“God revealed Himself to the Jewish people and promised them a Messiah who would come through the Jewish tribe of Judah.  Yet most of the Jews did not want a spiritual savior. They wanted someone to deliver them from Roman rule.  Only a few of the Jews received Jesus and His teachings. They became the first missionaries and began spreading the good news of what Jesus had done for them and for all mankind.

“True Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with a living Savior. So what is a religion? A religion is a belief system where followers must do certain good works or rituals in order to be accepted by God. In all the religions of the world, you have people attempting to reach for God’s approval by fulfilling their different religious requirements. But in Christianity we have God reaching down to man and saying, ‘You can’t do it.  Jesus did it for you.’  We only need to receive the free gift that Jesus Christ has provided.”

She listened and asked questions. She was not ready to acknowledge there was only one way, but we parted on friendly terms. She was no longer angry.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.   John 3:16-1
  • Messianic Prophecies:  http://www.gotquestions.org/death-resurrection-Messiah.html
  • SONG: JOHN 3:16-18 

 

 

 

 

 

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How Do We Reach Out in Love?

A friend told me she grew up in a home that didn’t know God. The only time she was ever inside a church was for a wedding or funeral. Consequently, churches were mysterious and intimidating.

After she married she noticed her neighbors leaving for church on Sunday mornings carrying their Bibles.  She used to think, “If those people were real Christians, they’d invite me.”

Why didn’t they invite her? Do we invite our neighbors? Do we believe our neighbors would  be interested?  How do we know unless we ask?

Churches often have special holiday programs. We might make it an event!  Pray about who to invite and consider inviting them to your home afterward for pie and ice cream.

There are countless ways to reach out in love. When at church and we notice someone new, we might introduce ourselves and welcome them.  If they have a small child, we give that child some attention. We get down at the child’s level and speak to him. We ask him about his school or his pets. Children will respond and the parents will appreciate it.

We help when we see someone in need.  We listen. We don’t gossip.  We are there for them. We rejoice at their blessings and we cry with them when they’re sad.

We sit with them in the waiting room while their loved one undergoes surgery–they should not have to sit alone. We pray for them and we pray with them. If their loved one passes, we do not send a card listing all the Bible verses encouraging them to rejoice that their loved one is in heaven. They don’t want to rejoice.  They want to cry and they want someone to cry with them.  We need to be sensitive to where they are.

We give them time.  When it’s Thanksgiving we invite someone who is alone. We might introduce them to a new friend. If a friend is engaged to be married we give a shower. If someone else gives the shower, we offer to help. When we attend a wedding we don’t leave until after the wedding cake is served.

Reaching out in love is simply about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.

  • A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.   Ephesians 6:18
  • Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.   Romans 12:13
  • Do to others as you would have them do to you.   Luke 6:31

 

 

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Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

I gave my kids a warning when they were young:  I told them that someday they might be reading a book. Or perhaps they’ll be in a movie theater with friends.  Suddenly they may realize that what they are reading or watching is bad.

“I don’t know what it will be, but when the Holy Spirit speaks to your conscience, then you will know it’s something bad.

“If this ever happens, you must not linger.  If it’s a book, don’t even turn the page. If you’re in a movie theater, don’t ask your friends what they think. Don’t wait for your friends to say anything. Instead, you simply say, ‘I am not watching this. I’m going home. Goodbye.’ Then stand up, walk out and call me. I will pick you up.”

I explained that the first realization that bad stuff is on the screen is the Holy Spirit speaking to our conscience. If we ignore the Holy Spirit then very quickly Satan will jump in and take over.

Watching it for one minute may be enough to snag you. Then you won’t want to stop watching. If you obey the Holy Spirit immediately, then Satan cannot step in.

We need to be careful about what enters our mind through our eyes and ears. What goes in stays in.  It can cause bad thoughts and we don’t want to be reminded of evil. If it never enters our mind, then it cannot bother us.

I told the kids, “It might even be an assigned book at school. If this happens, tell the teacher it’s against your religion to read it.  By law, the teacher will have to replace it.”

This actually happened in a high school Honors English class.  The student said nothing to his parents until later. Instead, he took the book to the teacher and told her he could not read it—it offended his religious beliefs. The teacher replaced it with another book.

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Teen Can’t Read

I first met Monica when she was 16 and incarcerated for the eighth time. She told me she had multiple problems for which she took an abundance of medication.

She said she had ADD—Attention Deficit Disorder.  She claimed she could not read and struggled with depression, fears, anxieties and social phobias.

I handed her my Bible and asked her to read John 3:16. “You said you can’t read. I want to see how bad your reading is.”

She stumbled over some words, but slowly read the entire verse.

I said, “Monica, you CAN read! I suspect you don’t read very often. Is this true?”

She nodded.

“I think if I brought you a book that was simple and really interesting, you could read it. I believe if you were to begin reading a little bit every day, your reading would get better and better. God loves you, Monica. He wants you to be able to read and to enjoy reading. He wants you to read the Bible, too, and learn more about Him and His plans for you. I think we should pray and ask Him to help you.

“Here’s an idea!  Next week I’ll bring a good but simple book. We will pray and ask God to give you understanding. We’ll pray that He will help your reading get better and better and better. What do you think?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you willing to try? Would you like to see what God can do in your life?”

“Yes.”

I began bringing her books for early readers. We would pray that God would give her understanding. Week after week she would proudly tell me she’d read my book/s. She progressed until she was reading The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder—how she loved those! Every week she was waiting to tell me she’d finished another book and was eager to begin a new one.  One day she said, “My mother is so happy. She can’t believe I’m reading books!”

Not only was she reading books, she was also reading the Bible. One day she said she didn’t require as much medication anymore. God had removed her anxieties—but she still had her social phobia.

“What? You still have social phobia? Monica, when the call came for Bible study tonight, I saw you stand.  I saw the other girls sneer and make remarks as you walked away. Yet you stood tall and came anyway.  That took guts!  If you still had social phobia you could not have done that.

“God has changed you so much and you don’t even realize it!  Let’s thank Him for what He has already done and for what He will continue to do in your life.”

  • ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.                  Zechariah 4:6

 

 

 

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If America Falls

Nisha is a woman in India who writes via Global Media Outreach. She is growing in her Christian faith, but she is fearful:

“We have always thought of America as strong and good. The world has looked to America to lead. Now we see your leaders making wrong decisions. America is becoming weak. I am afraid. If America falls, we all fall!”

I responded, “Dear Nisha,  There is much we cannot control. But we can rest in the truth that ultimately, God IS in control. Moreover, there is hope and security for each of us who trust in Jesus Christ. You have received Him as your personal Savior. You are secure for all eternity.  This life we live on earth is temporary and it’s going to disappoint. We cannot depend on government leaders to save us and make things right. Jesus promised that in this life we would have tribulation.

“Whether we approve of our leaders or not, God wants us to pray for them and their decisions. God wants us to love others and share the good news of Jesus with them. We are not to fear.  We are told in 2 Timothy 1:7 that ‘God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ (KJV).

“You will find that when you begin to praise God and thank Him for even the difficulties in your life, that fear will lift. You will begin to trust God more–and trusting God is what the Christian life is all about. You will experience the peace of God that passes understanding. That peace will actually protect your mind and your heart. I have experienced that peace, Nisha. You will too.”

  • I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.                         Philippians 4:6-7
  • SONG:  I LOVE THE LORD  – by Kathleen
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I Want to Come Back

Monique is a Caribbean teen I’ve been mentoring via Global Media Outreach. She began writing ten months ago, several times a week.  She’s intelligent, writes well and asks profound questions, which led me to believe she was an older teen.

One day I asked what her plans were after graduation–fully expecting she was university-bound.  She avoided my question for some time.  One day she said, “I’m embarrassed to tell you my age.  I’m 13.”

Incredible!  She continued to grow in her faith, renouncing a cult she was involved in and began doing our online study in the Gospel of Mark.  Then five months ago she wrote to say, “I’ve lost my faith in God. Why was God so harsh in the Old Testament? I just can’t believe it. I’m now an atheist.”

That was it.  She ignored my explanations and stopped writing.  I was concerned and prayed for her daily. Every three weeks or so I’d send a short, friendly note. No response.  Then last month I was overjoyed to see her name in my inbox!  A letter!

“I’m sorry for not writing. Once I called myself an atheist I began living as an atheist and my grades dropped. To be honest, I didn’t care about anything. It’s common in my country for kids to use bad words. So I was one of them. But I began having fears and every night I’d get scared and I’d always run back to Jesus. So that is what made me catch back my Christian beliefs.

“Being an atheist made me change a lot. This was my cycle for the past few months: I would act as if I didn’t know God during the day and at the night I’d pray asking God to protect me and to forgive me, even if I didn’t mean it. When I was younger I was a goodie girl. I’d feel badly if I disobeyed my parents or hurt someone. But as an atheist I became the opposite.  I’m tired of living that life. I want to come back to Jesus.”

That was three weeks ago and I’m praising God for the sweet letters of faith she’s again writing. She’s now back to where she left off in the study of Mark. She’s happy and learning to thank God for what she went through. Her big concern now is that her family does not yet know the Lord. Her current purpose in life is to love them and be an example of Christ living before them.

Please join me in prayer for precious Monique. It’s not easy being 13 and the only follower of Jesus in the home and among friends.

  • In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.   Matthew 5:16
  • Check out GMO:   http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/   OR,  www.Godlife.com
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Please Hug Them

I cannot remember a time of more universal tragedy and confusion as in the past 12 months. Nor do I see its end in sight!

As an online missionary with Global Media Outreach,  I receive daily emails from people worldwide who are suffering and desperate.  My heart breaks for them.  Then we read about fellow believers in prison for their faith, some are tortured and killed.  How can we help?

I believe it’s time for the followers of Jesus to seriously fast and pray.  In Esther 4:16 the people were asked to pray and fast for three days and nights! How difficult that would be!  Truthfully, I’m more of a prayer wimp than a prayer warrior. But the daily news challenges me to strive to become obedient to God’s call to pray.

Moreover, many of us can also give.  I prefer supporting member organizations of ECFA, the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability.    Here are a few worthwhile ministries–and there are many more:

China Aid:  ChinaAid                                                                                                                            Global Media Outreach:   http://www.globalmediaoutreach.com/                                 Open Doors:   https://www.opendoors.org/                                                                               Samaritans Purse:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org/                                                         Voice of the Martyrs:   http://www.persecution.com/                                                  8thirty8:      https://www.facebook.com/8thirty8

Liana Wendy Howarth at https:/ /poetrycottage.wordpress.com/  is a poet/songwriter who resides in Australia.  She asked if I would put music to some of her work. Here is one I recorded recently that focuses on praying for those in extreme hardship.

Listen to HUG THEM:

  • Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.        Esther 4:16
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.  Ephesians 6:18

 

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Baby Talk—Or Isaiah 55:11?

I loved our babies passionately. I would smother their faces with kisses, just as my mother would do with us. I was also passionate about God, and I yearned for our children to have that same passion.

I enjoyed talking to my babies, but I didn’t want to talk baby talk.   We did play “This little piggy went to market,” and they loved “Hickory dickory dock” when my fingers played mouse from their toes to their nose. But this mom wanted something meaningful to talk about.  So as well as nursery rhymes, I recited Scripture!

The idea came to me after reading Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV) “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Wow! God’s Word would prosper our children!

I also read in Deuteronomy 11:18-19 that we are to teach our children God’s Word and talk to them about it when we walk down the road, when we sit in our homes, when we lie down and when we rise up. In other words, all the time!

I began praying aloud with them when they were newborn. It soon became routine to recite Scripture aloud when I changed diapers. I spoke with expression, careful to enunciate each word as if I expected them to understand. After all, God’s Word is alive and powerful!  I was amazed to discover God’s Word had a calming effect on my babies—even and especially when they were crying.

Memorizing comes easily for the very young, especially when put to music.  So I would also sing Scripture and simple hymns. Soon after our babies could speak their first words, God’s Word began spilling out of their mouths: John 3:16-18, Proverbs 3:5-6 and later the Lord’s Prayer.

Of course, it was reinforced through the years.  The kids are now grown. It blesses me to see them raising their children, in the same way, on God’s Word.

Children need to learn God’s Word at a young age.  As they grow, they need to learn to appropriate God’s Word in their lives. They need to see their parents doing the same. We learn God’s Word so it becomes a part of us—so that when life gets difficult, when temptation is there, we can use what we have stored in our hearts. We can cling to the promises and claim them for ourselves.

  • So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.   Isaiah 55:11 NKJV
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