Back to Basics: Fasting

We recently had a  wonderful breakthrough in something we had been praying about for many years – in fact, for over 30 years in general, and very specifically for the last 7 years. Before Easter our pastor called our church to a time of corporate prayer and fasting. My husband and I both felt led to participate. We told each other, and as a couple supported each other with 3 specific goals in mind: 1) to support our pastor and church body, 2) to be obedient to Christ, and 3) to pray specifically for the salvation of someone very close to us whom we had been interceding for the last several years. At the end of our time of fasting, God acted on our behalf and this dear one accepted Christ! It was a glory day for us! A day that sprung out of faith in scriptural truth and obedience to that scripture. Specifically these scriptures:

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:17-18 ESV

“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Isaiah 64:4 NIV

So what is fasting? According to fasting is “to abstain from all food” or “to eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance.” The fasting we are talking about here is not abstaining from food before a medical procedure or to lose weight. No, we’re going with the second definition here, abstaining “as a religious observance.”

Now why in the world would we do that?

Here are a few reasons.

  1. Jesus fasted. Matthew 4:2 says about Jesus, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” As Jesus began his 3 years of ministry on earth, He started it off with a time of intense fasting and focusing on His heavenly Father. If Jesus set this example for us, we should follow this example.
  1. Scripture assumes that a Christ-follower will fast. Notice in Matthew 6:17 above the underlined phrase. It says “when you fast.” Fasting is a given. There is no waffling in scripture about “if you think you want to do this… .” It is expected of those who walk with God.
  1. Scripture offers examples of people of God fasting and praying and receiving answers to their prayers.
    In the Old Testament when Ezra was on his mission to rebuild the temple, he made this statement, “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:22-23 NIV) And in the New Testament we see the sweet picture of Anna, waiting faithfully in the temple for years for THAT day when she finally got to see her Savior, the baby Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph brought to the temple to dedicate. “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)

     Fasting and praying yields an answer from the Lord.

  1. Fasting brings instruction from the Lord. When we are wandering or wondering in our Christian walk, not knowing what to do or which choice to make, fasting turns God’s ear to us and opens the way for Him to bring instruction or direction. Acts 13:2 reveals a vivid example of this. It states, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ ” The Holy Spirit spoke to the body of Christ with specific instructions in response to their worship and fasting.

Ladies, we are a needy people. We need God to act on behalf of people we know –  of us even. And we desperately need direction, instruction, and wisdom from the Lord. So I encourage you, whether you are setting out to fast out of simple obedience to God or from a place of emotional desperation, needing the Father to intervene immediately for someone you love, it’s time to do it. We need to quit treating fasting as a habit of God’s elite followers and begin to see what it really is. Fasting is a spiritual discipline we are expected to do in our Christian walk just as much as we are expected to pray, read the scriptures, love our fellow-man and spread the gospel.

Let’s allow the Lord to set a table before us, and let us feast on His Word as we make fasting a regular part of our Christian discipline.

Indiana Jones Moments…

Although the Indiana Jones movies are now relics like the items Indy searched for in caves, there is one scene from the saga that will remain embedded in my memory forever. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, there is one gripping moment when Indiana has to take a step of faith. You can all imagine it with me: he is standing on the edge of a gaping chasm; there is no way around it; his father lies slowly dying behind him; he has to get to the other side if he wants to find the Holy Grail and save the world. At this point in the movie, even the audience is uncertain how Indiana will make it across. Indiana looks at the gap in front of him and says, “Impossible.” It seems that Indiana cannot use his trusty whip, and there is no hidden lever to lower a bridge. Simply put, Indiana’s normal strength and wits cannot save him.

This is where I find myself today.

In front of me is the gaping chasm of no job, not knowing what country I will be living in six months from now, and not seeing a clear way out. Additionally, my usual methods of planning my life and maintaining stability for my future are not working. Or rather they are not what God wants me to rely on right now so He has removed them. My normal crutches of being consistently hardworking, keeping a job, and planning ahead have been surrendered to God.

God said, “Lauren, it’s time to get serious.” Then He reminded me of my childhood call to missions. God made me read a book that stripped me of my American ideals of comfort and safety (Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis). God led me to accidentally meet some retired missionaries Bobbye and Jerry who turned out to be Dr. Jerry and Bobbye Rankin of the International Mission Board (he was the president of the IMB for seventeen years). God led me to read another book that reminded me that everyone is called to spread the Gospel (The Challenge to Great Commission Obedience by Jerry Rankin).


All these steps were God gently guiding me to the edge of the chasm. He pointed ahead toward the other side of overseas missions and nudged me to walk in faith. God says, “Step out where there is no bridge and watch Me build you one.” Maybe you are currently facing your own dark chasm that seems insurmountable. Every believer has different faith challenges because God is stretching every believer’s faith for a different purpose. God may not be calling you to go to another country and do mission work. God may be telling you to go back to college, to talk to your husband about getting pregnant one more time, to let your aging parents move in with you, to send your kids to a different school, to write a book, or to start praying for that crazy dream that is weighing on your heart. I do not know your next step of faith, and frankly you may not either. But you can rest in the peaceful realization that God always knows what is next, and He will take you safely across.

But that’s the next conundrum. Now that we are at the edge of the chasm, how do we get across? At this part in the movie, Indiana begins to recite part of the clue that lead him to this point. “A step of faith” seems to be the key phrase. But wouldn’t a step of faith in this instance lead Indiana to plunge into the darkness of the chasm and die a gruesome death? Wouldn’t it be foolish to trust the clue and walk into emptiness?

These seemingly “foolish” choices are sometimes exactly what God wants us to do. God called me to apply for overseas missions. I did not know that would mean I had to take a step away from job security and not sign a teaching contract for next year. I did not know that would mean waiting for more than a year after starting my application to see what mission job postings the International Mission Board (IMB) has available. I did not know it would mean cleaning out my classroom and saying goodbye to people I hold dear, even though I still do not know if the IMB will send me overseas. I did not know it would mean accepting that I might be 29 or 30 when I return from my overseas posting and that I might be single for the rest of my life. All of these steps of faith are movements that dissolve into utter darkness. I cannot see the ground beneath my foot. It seems like my step of faith has been hovering in the unknown for the past four months. I have still months of the unknown waiting to go and God is saying, “Lean in. Put your full weight on that foot hovering in the air.”


There is still the fear that in a few months when my full weight comes down I will be in a freefall. There is the human possibility that all of my inability to plan will fall crashing down on me, and I will end up spiritually crushed and lost in darkness. At the other end of this step could be God saying, “I am glad you had faith in Me, but that is not what I want you to do. Now let’s pick up the pieces and keep going.” There is the possibility that I will not be strong enough to get back up at that point. I might do some intense crying sessions and blame God for all the false hope He gave me. But if that happens, I have to believe that is part of God’s sovereign plan. He stretches our faith not just to give us what we think we need, but sometimes to tell us, “No.” That is the terrifying part, right? What if you step out in faith, and God intentionally lets you fall? That seems unloving and maybe not quite “Christian.” However, without the possibility of failure, there is no need for faith. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” These verses always remind me that it is not my job to figure out the future; it is my job to trust the One who has a different, higher plan for the future.

So I cannot leave you with some perfect promise that if you step out in faith God will always make the impossible possible. What I can promise is that God is able to make the impossible possible and that He wants you to take the steps of faith when He leads you to the wide chasm. We see this throughout the Bible. God did not make Abraham’s first son Ishmael the leader of Israel, but God did allow Sarah to have Isaac in her old age. God did not save Israel from being overtaken by the Babylonians and held captive for years, but He did rescue Israel out of slavery to the Egyptians. Even Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, but would not save Himself from a horrific death on the cross.

There are thousands of examples of God being able to heal, rescue, or save and still choosing not do so. But there are just as many examples of God miraculously choosing to heal, rescue, and save a people who were undeserving. So the challenge I leave with you is this: walk to the edge of the chasm of impossible problems, pick up your foot in faith that God can make it possible, and lean forward.


Without the possibility of failure there is no need for faith.

He is God (And I Am Not!)

A phone call with my sisters-in-law over some issue of family life often gets dramatic and opinionated. But at some point in any given phone call, you’re likely to hear one of us say, “Your omnipotence is showing.”

person-sunglasses-woman-smartphoneThat little phrase sprang out of a similar conversation years ago. One of us (most likely me, I’m the whiner – my sisters-in-law the wise ones) was lamenting over a “creative opportunity” (problem), and explaining what we thought God should do in the situation.

The other person commented that the real issue was a matter of wanting to control the situation. But THAT is God’s job, not ours. We are not omnipotent. He is. In that moment the phrase was born. And boy does it come in handy! We’ve used it dozens of times since then to remind each other that as much as we would like to be omnipotent – having all the power and all the answers of God – we don’t. We are limited and imperfect human beings.

We have a God complex. We like to control things over which we have no power or authority. We’re trying to BE God in those situations. We pridefully put ourselves in the driver’s seat, expect to be in control, and demand it be done our way. And that’s scary! Because this was Satan’s sin – putting Himself equal to God. Pride.

pexels-photo1Each of us has control issues. We think we know best, and if the rest of the world would just listen to us things would be ok. We believe we sit at the control center of our own lives. Occasionally, we will let loose of our grip on the reins of control – after all, we’re generous people – as long as what the people around us do is tolerable to us. But when things begin to rub us wrong, we jerk those reins right out of the hands of our husband, children, friend, whoever dares to have a differing opinion on an important issue. At that point our pride and selfishness and sin nature kick in. We all need someone there to tell us our omnipotence is showing.

Remember the story of Job? He thought he was thinking wisely, until He was brought up short with no answers when the God of the Universe questioned him. In Job 38:4 God asks him, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” And in 38:12 the Father asks, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place?” And then in verse 19 of that chapter God inquires, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place?” If we could put ourselves in Job’s place I imagine we’d be trembling a little bit at that point.

God’s questions to Job aren’t really asked to be answered; they are rhetorical, questions used to make a point. These would definitely get a person to think. Me? They remind me how small I am and how little I know. It’s easy for me to feel like I am oh-so-wise when I’m measuring myself against another fallible, sinful human. But when God is showing His knowledge and power, wisdom and dominion, my measurement shrinks to an infinitesimal size! I suddenly become an absolute zero in comparison to Almighty God.

Years ago there was a song that many of our kids learned at Centri-kid camp. It’s called “Absolutely Zero.” The song is a conversation really. At different times, the lines are sung to different people. Hope it comes across clearly.

[To the crowd:]
“You’re absolutely zero when you count on fitting in this earth.You’re absolutely nothing til Jesus gives you worth.

[To God:]
For You are God and I am not, so give me understanding. To know your will and seek your way

[Pointing to those around you:]
For you are God – No you’re not!

[Pointing to God above:]
You are God! Yes you are!

Ladies, we are not the creator of the universe. We are the created. We do not know the best way to handle things, although many times we think we do. We are not Father God, full of perfect love and perfect wisdom. We are not the one who created time, has all power, and knows every thing there is to know in any situation. We are finite creations, limited in our wisdom and our ability to love purely. Limited in knowledge and power.

As we fight that daily struggle with our flesh, from inwardly judging a friend because they chose a path we think is unwise, to wanting to tell our husbands what to do because we know best, to controlling everyone and everything around us, let us check up and put ourselves in our places at times throughout the day. Let’s do some self-examination of the heart.

Many times since I first learned that little song at Centri-kid Camp, it has drifted into my mind to put me in my place. Often I’ve been worshipping in church singing a song with the phrase “You are God” and I’ll immediately think – “And I am not,” and the Father will begin to open up my mind to ways I’m trying to take on His role in my life. I have to repent of that self-sufficiency and controlling attitude.

Humility is hard. Dying to self is hard. Giving up wanting to have our way is hard. But I want to be whole-heartedly His, don’t you?

So let’s give up our faux-omnipotence, repent of that God-complex, and allow Him to have His way! He is God! And I am not!

And He [Jesus] was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25


Blessed to Be a Blessing!

A friend whose husband had passed away several months ago recently got an amazing blessing. Distant (and well off) family members were looking to invest in property in her area, and they offered to purchase her a home for her retirement years. No cost to her at all! What a blessing! She now has no financial worries for her retirement.

Blessings! Aren’t they great? I imagine you’re like me and the idea of being blessed – period – appeals to you. I love it when people buy me a Christmas gift no matter how large or small it is. I adore it when someone remembers my birthday and blesses me with a visit, a gift, or going out to lunch together. I get a warm feeling inside when I am blessed with any kind of special delivery – cards, flowers, or a surprise UPS box!

However, all of this seems small compared to my friend being blessed by her relative!

But even THAT seems small compared to the thought of being blessed by our Creator – the God of the universe. Now that would be a blessing!

All through scripture we see examples of God blessing people. He blessed them for their obedience. He blessed them for their faith. He blessed them because someone prayed for them. He blessed them because they prayed and requested it of Him. He blessed them because of their heritage – their parents or family line. He blessed them for no reason at all – simply because He chose to.

So my question for you to consider is
What is an appropriate response to a blessing?

Now, if a 4-year-old responds to a birthday gift at his party with, “What? I already have one of these. I don’t want it,” the parents are mortified and realize they haven’t managed to teach that child gratefulness just yet. Not an appropriate response to a blessing. If your dear 90-year-old grandmother responds to your gift to her by putting it away and saving it for later, and then you find it still with the tag on years later, you realize – not an appropriate response to a blessing. But those type of responses are forgiven and understood as errs due to their age.

But what about you? What about me? When I am blessed by my Heavenly Father, do I sometimes act ungratefully? And how about those moments I grumble about what I don’t have rather than appreciate the blessings I do? Do you sometimes put away the blessing that God gave you and never manage to get around to getting it out, using it, sharing it, and blessing others with it? Do we hoard our resources God Has blessed us with? How about times we hoard the Gospel (our greatest blessing) and don’t bother to share it because it’s inconvenient in the moment, or we’re a bit embarrassed, or it’s awkward to know how to start talking to another person, or    (insert your excuse here)   .

In Genesis 12:2 God says to Abram, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.” In these words we see one of God’s purposes for blessing. He blesses us in order for us to be a blessing to others. In God’s economy, He blesses us for a reason. God has a trickle down economy. Contrary to popular politics, a trickle down economy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least God’s kind isn’t. He blesses us to bless others. Cause and effect. We benefit. Others benefit. All benefit.

We don’t always see the reason we’ve been blessed. We won’t always know what is going to occur when we in turn bless others. He doesn’t always tell us as He did Abram. When we receive a blessing with open hands we may be a blessing to just one other person, or like Abram, we may be that channel of blessing to a huge group of people. We may never know exactly what will become of it when we bless others. A pastor once explained that it’s like a pipe that God keeps pouring into as long as we keep pouring out the other end and into other people’s lives. Let’s not allow that conduit to get stopped up!

So is your pipe flowing? Are blessings flowing from you to others?

I have seen this pipeline at work many times. Here are a few examples off the top of my head. God blessed a friend at church with financial wisdom that he uses pexels-photo-302544to teach others how to handle their finances wisely. God blessed my sister-in-law with a seminary degree that she uses to bless preschoolers and their parents. He blessed my husband, myself and our children with a run-in with Leukemia which taught our hearts more in one year than I had learned in the 36 years before, and allows us to bless others in similar circumstances with compassion, prayer, and help in their desperate times. He blessed a retired lady I know with time on her hands to go to doctor’s appointments with people and take them meals and be a help in many ways. He blessed my friend Fran with an excellent job and she in turn blesses servers at restaurants with 100% tips. Yes, I said 100%!

What has God blessed you with? And what are you doing with it?

I would challenge you to seek to react to your blessings in a few specific ways.

1) Bless God – Be Grateful. Don’t just take it all in with an attitude. Enjoy. Thank. Be grateful in your heart. Even for the little things. The gas in your tank lasted until payday. Thank you Lord! You got a chance to work on that special project at work you’d hoped for. I’m grateful, Lord! The scholarship came through; you can go back to college. Yes Lord, you are good to me even when I don’t deserve it. Practice the habit of gratefulness and you will find yourself happier in life.

2) Bless Others – Don’t hoard your resources; use what God has blessed you with. Don’t put it on a shelf and save it for a better day. If you have an artistic talent, use it for God’s glory. If you have material resources, spread the material blessings to those who have need. If you have intellectual or writing talents, write Bible lessons or encouraging articles or a book even. If you can sew like my friend Kathy, you give of your free time  making special stitched gifts for breast cancer patients.

3) Bless Others – Don’t ignore opportunities; do good whenever it is within your power, even if it’s inconvenient. Things aren’t nearly as accidental as people believe. A person with a need is a divine appointment. Seek the way the Father would want you to respond. My very mechanical husband has a knack for this; if you’ve ever had car trouble within his range of vision, chances are you have been helped, often to the delay of family plans. But that is not bad. Share the skills with which you’ve been blessed. 

4) Bless Yourself – Don’t focus on what you don’t have; rejoice in your many blessings. It’s too easy to bemoan what you don’t have and wish you did. This negative, cynical mindset keeps our mind off of the things of God. Break this habit. Change this mindset. When you find yourself thinking or speaking “if only” or “poor me” thoughts and words, replace them with a run down of your blessings! Count your blessings name them one by one!

5) Bless Your Heavenly Father and the World – Get past the awkwardness and share the gospel. Your best gift to the Father is obedience. When you are grateful for His blessings to you, let that be a trigger for you to obey Him. Obey His great commission and “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) Don’t hold back. Be a blessing.

So this evening, as you are settling in for bed and spending a few moments counting your blessings before the Lord, remember to thank Him. Ask Him to show you how you can use what you’ve been blessed with to bless someone around you. You are blessed to be a blessing!


You are blessed to be a blessing! Shower it on others!

Back to Basics: Authentic Community

Hello, my name is Gina and I…

Lately the ladies in our office have been discussing sharing and how important it is to share your life with others. Not just what you did over the weekend or the latest thing your child did, but real, authentic sharing. Sharing of struggles and hurts and dreams that did not come true. It’s easy to share our wins with others but why is it hard to share our struggles? Why is it that we always want to put on a front and not be real with the community that God has put around us?

Ladies, there is someone out there who has struggled with infertility, who has lost a job, whose filed for bankruptcy, whose husband has left them, whose child is away from God, whose loved one has an addiction to drugs, pain killers, pornography, or alcohol, who has suffered a miscarriage, who is battling depression or another mental illness, who has a child with special needs, who has post-partum depression, who is struggling with having an empty nest home, whose spouse has cheated on them, who is caring for an aging parent, who has been physically or mentally abused, who has an eating disorder, who has had an abortion or an unplanned pregnancy, who is struggling with being single, who is lonely, who is grieving the death of a child, who is in an unhappy marriage – the list could go on and on. We all have stories to tell.


Our Father doesn’t want us to keep these hurts and struggles bottled up inside and hidden from the world – I believe He wants us to share so we can help others and bring Him glory. Your struggle is part of your story, your testimony and your journey with Him. You never know what someone else has walked through but how are we to know who that person is unless you share? Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief]” (emphasis mine).

Since this topic first came up in my life it has come up in many conversations the past few weeks and I have seen people talking about it on social media. I keep going back to work and saying – “guess what I talked about with so and so today – sharing”! I believe that the Lord can really heal our hearts and bond us together through this.

We need to embrace the community that God has placed in our life. This community is there to lift you up and pray for you when you are struggling and having a hard time. Community is there to call you out (in love of course), community is there to make sure you are not alone – Satan wants nothing more than to isolate you and make you think you are the only one. You do not have to be overwhelmed alone! There is wholeness and transformation when we share our stories with each other. Galatians 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


Pastor Pete Scazzero says, “The church is hopefully the place where people can come and it’s safe. We want to be in a place where we admit we are broken, we are vulnerable and we are authentic. If we really believe in grace, we can come out of hiding and hopefully be something that will make the world a little thirsty for Christ. Without transparency I’m not sure we have much to offer the world.”

Ladies, we need each other and it is so important to never stop sharing the stories…your story…my story…so let’s not stop. Keep sharing, keep loving, keep encouraging and keep talking to people around you.

I’ll start it – Hello, my name is Gina and in January I had a miscarriage. What’s your story?

Celebrate Women!

Celebrate the Women i Your Life Today!-2Mother’s Day is a mixed bag, sheer joy for some, loneliness for others, downright depressing for many.

pexels-photo-265996The new mom is ecstatic.

The woman with empty arms is dreading going to church.

The mom of the senior in high school is beginning to mourn (or celebrate) depending on her personality.

pexels-photo-144433The lady with kids far away is wondering if she’ll hear from them.

The single woman with no children feels awkward when the moms are acknowledged in the church service. This day is all about women – but where does she fit in?

The frail frame of the one in the nursing home bed longs for a family touch and conversation.

pexels-photo.jpegThe single mom may be struggling to make ends meet and to be both dad and mom, while feeling abandoned and longing for more.

The wife with a house full of kids is thrilled to have a day that Dad and the kids will cook and clean where she can put her feet up.

The pregnant woman is waiting with anticipation for the day she will have that babe in her arms, or else she’s living in fear of another miscarriage.

people-mother-family-fatherThe single CEO is proud of what she’s accomplished, but reminded again of what she doesn’t have.

The empty-nester is looking back wistfully on those precious memories.

The first time grandma’s are some of the most thrilled of all.

On this gorgeous Lord’s Day, may we women encourage one another wherever we are and whoever the women are around us. Hug someone today! Love unconditionally! See every woman you meet as one in need of your blessing today!



V.B.S. – Very Busy Season

2014 Randolph vacation Bible schoolIt’s that time of year again! You know what I mean. School is winding down, but the kid’s ministry at church is gearing up. The Big Week is just around the corner – that life-changing time for kids in our communities. Crafts are being dreamed up and inflatables reserved. What is it?


You are most likely familiar with these letters. VBSVacation Bible School, that focused week of Bible teaching and fun for elementary kids that many churches offer each summer. Maybe yours is the first week of June, or maybe it’s mid-summer. Whichever it is, plans are being made, supplies are being gathered, decorations purchased, cookies and Kool-aid donated, and folks in your church have begun praying for the salvation of the children that will attend.

pexels-photo-83761But possibly when you see those letters, VBS, all you can see is a Very Busy Season. You think of all there is to do before the end of the school year, and you just want to rest when it’s over. Or you think of the challenge ahead this summer – keeping the kids entertained so you don’t hear continuous whining and fighting. Perhaps you’re in the heat of planning a family trip, getting ready for a wedding celebration, or transitioning a graduating senior to college. Even if it is something more constant like a demanding job, being a caregiver, or fighting a terminal disease, many of us can only see the busy-ness at this time of year.

1000w_q95Whatever season you are in at the moment, I challenge you to get a VBS mindset! VBS is the Vital Business of our Savior! This concentrated time of teaching, prayer, and fun, is crucial for the spiritual life of our children. Those who are in lonely and broken situations will be able to experience the love and acceptance of the Father through the hands of those VBS workers. The hurt and wounded will hear stories of God’s healing and redemption of any situation. Hope is given to the heart of many a child during VBS.

pexels-photo-261895But most importantly, this is an opportunity for each child to come into a saving relationship with his/her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How are we to know but what this may be their only exposure to the Gospel. It’s time for us to jump in on this Vital Business of the Savior: teaching, praying, giving, setting up, baby-sitting for the leaders as they prepare, donating supplies, making things, studying the lessons to teach, planning the fun!

How will you jump in and get involved?

VBS rings out with beautiful children’s Voices Blended in Singing.

It offers Vital Bible Study to teach these little ones the ways of Christ.

It plants Victory-Bearing Scripture in each child, a seed that will grow in their little hearts like a plant and bear fruit in a future season. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

And it gives a View of our Beautiful Savior that they will carry with them throughout their entire lives.

VBSVow to Be Serving these little ones in whatever way you can, no matter how busy the season is. And remember, no matter how small or how large a part we play, we are all needed.

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16

Will You Face Your Giant with Fear or with Faith?

by Debbie Stovall

Sitting in the waiting room, staring at all the terribly sick people around us, my first thought was, “We don’t belong here.” But we did belong there. That hematologist’s office was just where we belonged. maxresdefaultOver the next few months we would be so grateful to be there to receive answers, healing, and life-saving treatment.

You may have been in that same place. You may have found yourself face-to-face with a life-threatening diagnosis. At that point your emotions are high and you start really evaluating what you believe. It’s not a fun place to be. I would never choose to put myself back there, but I would also never give up that period of our life because of the lessons learned through that journey.

If you are just stepping onto that path you probably feel afraid. You are probably wondering if this will be the end, or if the treatments will cause much pain and discomfort, or why did God allow this? But there are no answers. It is a walk “not by sight” whether you want it to be or not.

But whether it is a walk of faith… now that is your choice.

When my husband was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia in 1997, all I knew was there was no cure for this blood cancer. I didn’t know if he would live to teach any of our 4 children, then under 11-years-old, to drive. I didn’t know what ramifications it would have for our children or how I could ever live and raise a family without the love of my life and our financial provider. I didn’t even know what a hematologist was until we ended up in that waiting room. It came out of nowhere and I was caught totally flat-footed.

pexels-photo-e1492726890993.jpgI would love to tell you that I handled the physician’s diagnosis that day with faith, totally depending on God, but that wouldn’t be true. My first reaction to this news was fear. I danced with denial, tried to brush off reality, but finally came up against a wall in a hematology office. Cold fear gripped me so much that it was a physical sensation down in the depths of my stomach. I lived for weeks with fear as my constant sidekick. I cried. I prayed desperate prayers. I freaked out to any friend who would listen. I lay awake in the night staring at my sweet husband trying to memorize his face in case he died. I kept going to church regularly, sitting in the back weeping the whole service. But sadly, what I did not do was I did not choose the path of faith right away. Over those months I learned that when we can’t see what lies ahead we have a choice to make: to walk by faith or by fear.

Jesus replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” John 8:26

One morning, alone in my living room, I cried out to God. Literally. I vocally shouted out to God, “Please don’t let my husband die!” At that moment God began to work in my heart. He confronted me with my fears. He made me acknowledge that I didn’t know what was best for my life, but He did; and even if that meant losing my husband, that He, Father God, would be with me every step. He opened my eyes to see the reality that He loved me and cared for me and would be with me through every hard and horrible situation I would face in life. Did I have the faith to grasp onto that and let go of the fear?

1After that day we faced chemo, neutropenic fever, hospital stays, bone marrow biopsies, blood tests, isolation rooms, doctor visits and all the other not-so-fun things that go with cancer treatment. It was a long, tiring, often emotional journey. But we learned what mattered in life and what didn’t. We learned to walk by faith, not fear. We learned how deeply the Father loved us. We learned that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us was our treasure.

“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” – Jesus questioned the disciples on their fear. Their fear was seen as a direct response to their lack of faith. Here’s the whole story:

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calmThe men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” John 8:23-27

How often do we find ourselves alone in a storm? Or maybe not totally alone, maybe we’re going through that storm with our family who are also Christians. But among all of us, just like among the 12 disciples, we find we can’t muster up the courage to face it. We’re overwhelmed with fear of death, destruction, and devastation. We feel like we’re drowning. This passage reminds us of how the disciples dealt with their fear: they went to the Lord. “They woke him,” it says. God is not asleep on us, but sometimes we feel so afraid and alone we feel like saying, “Hey Jesus, wake up. Are you there? Do you see what’s happening to me?” And that’s ok. Just like with the disciples, Jesus will get up, ask us why we “of little faith” are so afraid, and will handle the situation. We then find it is suddenly completely calm. We find the “peace that passes understanding” that Philippians 4:6-8 talks about, and awe and amazement of Him overwhelms us!


It’s now been 20 years since our leukemia journey started. Randy is still alive, and yes, he taught all our kids to drive! We still face the yearly blood test to see if his numbers are good. We hold our breath for a few days. And his segs and bands come out normal again. (Praise the Lord for being average!)  I know not everyone gets those results and I’m grateful we have. But even if we hadn’t, God would still be good and still be in control. I’m grateful that we learned to walk with God the Father through every valley. (And we have faced several serious valley’s since 1997.) What we went through with leukemia is the thing that built our foundation in Christ and gives us the will to walk by faith not fear when we can’t walk by sight.

As you face your giant, whatever it is that is in front of you igniting that fear reaction, pause and take time to think. It is your choice whether you fight that giant everyday. But it is a wearisome battle. You cannot know the future. But you can know the God who will get you through it. His Word will reveal Him to you. He is loving. He is caring. He is faithful. He forgives you. He will fight for you. He is on your side. He has plans for your life. Though bad things come, He has no intention of harm to you, but rather works things out for your good. And so you have two choices, A) to walk this unknown path with fear gnawing away at you every day, or B) to walk this unknown path with faith in this One who is a good, good Father. You don’t have to fight that giant; have faith in the One who fights for you!

Will you walk by Faith or Fear?

The Recipe for Peace

by Dena Green

Philippians 4:4-9  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the PEACE of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of PEACE will be with you.

Recipe books by our favorite television chef or cute little recipe cards neatly stacked in a dainty box on our kitchen counter somewhere are nice to have.  The ingredients on those recipes are listed there, but unless we make an effort and take the time to purchase the ingredients and actually prepare a meal, they are pretty much just sitting there gathering dust and are of little use to us.

God shows us clearly in his word a “recipe” and the “ingredients” that we can apply to our lives to have that supernatural peace that He provides. In our world that seems to be spinning completely out of control, we can experience the peace of God in our lives. He even says that it surpasses all imagination, this peace that He will provide. I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t desire peace in their life, but I can think of many who don’t have peace. Are you searching for peace? Read through the verses for yourself and see what ingredients are present in your life.

  • peace-recipe.jpgRejoice and rejoice some more! Always. Not in our circumstances, but in the Lord.
  • Be reasonable and get along with others. Broken relationships disrupt our peace.
  • Do not be anxious…Oh, how I struggle with this one sometimes. One of my wise teacher friends says that we have to command our soul to trust God just as David did in the midst of trouble. (Psalm 62 1-2) God commands us to be still and know that he is God. (Psalm 46:10)
  • Pray for yourself and for others. Let your requests be known to Him. He cares so much. I Peter 5:7 Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
  • Think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Dwelling on these will lift your spirit.

Are you missing some ingredients?

I love to cook. Sometimes, if I am missing an ingredient, I will use a substitute. For some dishes that I prepare, that is fine. But for others, a substitution can be disaster. It is clear in Philippians 4:4-9 how to have peace. God laid out the plan. We need to follow it. We can’t substitute what we think will work – people, possessions, having things our way, or any other thing you may be seeking. They don’t work in God’s recipe. In order for a recipe to turn out as you desire, you must follow the instructions and add the ingredients that are called for.  Notice that God’s word says you WILL have peace.  Follow His plan. You must be deliberate.  He says to practice these things. “Practice makes perfect” we’ve all heard, and in this case, it makes perfect peace.

Notice that these ingredients turn our eyes away from ourselves and our situation and turn our thoughts outward to God and others. Our circumstances may not change, but HIS peace that passes all understanding is deep-seated in our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ even in the saddest and darkest moments that we experience in this life.

One of my favorite parts of this whole passage in Philippians is the part that I have overlooked until just recently. “The Lord is at hand.” All of the other things that we notice in the scripture instruct us on what we should or should not do in order to have peace.  But the writer reminds us who is close by just waiting on us to realize He is there!  How wonderful is this reminder that our creator, the one true and living God is near us. His presence is close and what comfort and peace we can experience in knowing and believing.

What ingredients for peace do you need to add to your life?

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.



Back to Basics: Scripture Memory 2

“Mary had a little lamb… ”

“Thirty days hath September… ”

“O beautiful for spacious skies…”

I bet you could quote the rest of each of those! You probably learned them by first or second grade, but you’ll never forget them. I imagine that those, along with “Jesus Loves Me” and John 3:16, will be some of the things I will still be able to recall even if I live to be a hundred and have failing memory.

God created us with this amazing brain that has a huge memory. It still baffles scientists, and no computer created by man has been able to come close to doing all our brain does. Yet we tend to shortchange and doubt the capability of our brain’s memory. Especially when it comes to scripture memory.

We remember all the lyrics to songs on the radio. We can quote scenes from movies with our friends. We remember word for word the argument we had with our husband. (Yikes! Am I hitting too close to home?) But we cast off this great potential we possess when it comes to memorizing scripture with statements like, “I’m not good at memorizing things,” “I’ve tried. I never can remember scriptures,” or “I guess I’m getting too old to memorize scripture.”

Allow me to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

Those are just excuses! Granted some people seem to have a greater capacity for recall, and yes, remembering things does become more challenging as we age. But it’s not impossible. What we’re saying with our excuses is “It’s not a priority for me,” “I have other things I’d rather invest my time in,” or “I’m too spiritually lazy to try.”

Paul tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) If we truly believe this, it should drive us to fill our minds with God’s Word. We need teaching and training. And though we don’t like it, we also need rebuking and correcting. And I believe each of you would say you want to be thoroughly equipped for everything God has for you to do.

So let’s get serious. Are you willing to put the time in to make a change? Are you ready to take on the challenge of hiding God’s word in your heart?

If you haven’t already read it, go back and check out Joy’s article on scripture memory first. Then come back here and check out these tips that will help as you get into high gear memorizing scripture. I’ve used all of these myself, so I know they work. 2017-04-19 08.28.39

    1. Write your verse out by hand. (The more senses we include in memorizing the better it will stick. This also applies to #2 and #3.)
    2. Read the verse several times a day. Reading it out loud is even better! You’re tripling the reinforcement by letting your brain see, speak, and hear it at the same time.
    3. Listen to the verse repeated over and over. Simply record it on an app and let it play over and over as you’re working out, cleaning house, driving to work, whatever!
    4. Keep the verse in front of you in any way possible:
      • Write it on your calendar.
      • Use Post-it notes and put it in places you look frequently (computer screen, kitchen cabinet, dash of your car, etc.).
      • Use a spiral or ring index card holder to keep in your purse for review in any spare time. Put one verse per card. This way you can easily review old ones.
      • 2017-04-19 08.35.06Set it as your screen saver or lock screen on your computer or phone.
      • Write it on you bathroom mirror with permanent marker. You’ll see it and can work on it as you get ready and brush your teeth every day. (Don’t worry, it comes off easily with fingernail polish remover and a cotton ball.)
    5. Sing the verse. Just to reinforce what Joy already suggested… Set your verse to a tune you already know, or google scripture memory songs and find a composition that works for you.
    6. Make a game of it. (See examples below.)
      • Make a chart with the verse repeated over and over several times. In each repetition underline the next key word or phrase. Read each repetition aloud emphasizing the underlined word. This helps you see the deeper meaning in what you’re memorizing.
      • Type the same verse out several times on one page. Randomly leave out 3-5 words on each subsequent repetition. Print this out and keep it in a handy place. Work on reading the verse in its entirety first. After a couple of days, fold the lines of the entire verse over and try to say the verse while looking at the next entry with a few words missing. Can you recall the words? After a couple of days more, fold that over and go to the next repetition that has 6-10 words missing. Try saying the verse looking at this. Are you recalling everything? Keep doing this process until you reach the bottom of the page and do not need to look at it at all to recite the verse.
      • Print out a chapter of the Bible one verse at a time, leaving space beside it and draw pictures depicting each verse. (This is similar to the idea of a doodling or journaling Bible. The difference is the purpose; you draw pictures verse by verse to help you with recall, not for the artistic value.)
      • Check out these Word document samples: Scripture Memory helps

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