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Follow Me

by Sarah Elizabeth

Follow Me. Such simple words, and yet so powerful a statement. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, our lives are forever transformed. When we are re-birthed from the old man into the new (2 Corinthians 5:17), life does not get any easier.  In fact, one could argue that it actually gets much harder and more painful. I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it best when he stated, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”. When we listen to Christ’s voice and follow Him, He requires us to be willing to completely surrender in three ways in order that we may wholeheartedly serve Him:

The first aspect we must be willing to give up is our possessions. We must not allow the material, worldly provisions in our lives to have precedence. We must learn to be content in any circumstance-whether we have much or little (Philippians 4:11). We are storing up treasures in heaven that neither moth nor rust can destroy (Matthew 6:19-21). If God knows when a little sparrow falls, how much more so does He know what our needs are? We are not to worry about what we do or do not have. God will sustain us spiritually even when we are physically limited.

Second, we must be willing to forsake family and friends. While this may seem extreme, our sole purpose is to be obedient to His Word and Calling. Jesus said that he who loves mother or father or brother or sister more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:34-39). We must never compromise our convictions or what He has asked us to do. Our faith must be firmly rooted in His Word and our lives need to reflect this. Unfortunately, there is much controversy within and without the church as to how we should follow Him. Ultimately, we are to answer to the Word of God and nothing else. Not man made rules or any other influence outside of scriptural context. Religion destroys relationships. Only Jesus can bring them closer together. Unity amongst the brethren is a blessing and should never be taken for granted, yet we must never put anyone or anything before Him.

Third, we must be willing to lay our lives down for the sake of the gospel. Over the last several decades, believers in the West have never really pondered this reality. However, we are rapidly turning into a society in which obedience to God and standing for truth is considered a hate crime. In recent weeks, we have seen churches attacked in ways which many would never have believed to be possible. People everywhere have a growing genuine hatred for anyone who dares to go against their agenda. Persecution is coming to places it has not yet been, and it will grow even more in areas where it is already taking place. There is a paradigm shift in the world and it is not good. Every believer needs to be examining their hearts and prayerfully consider the following: Am I willing to suffer for the truth? Am I willing to die for the sake of the Gospel? What am I willing to die for?

In conclusion, the aspect of giving up possessions, family and friends is not a one time deal. It is a never ending, recurring sacrifice over the course of our lives. The only thing you can give once is your physical life. Following Jesus is a commitment to daily die to oneself. Emptying ourselves of all worldly, finite desires. Regardless of the circumstances, our priority is to follow His heart-even when the path is dangerous and weary. He is the One who fills us with His love, peace and joy in over abundance. It is this fullness of grace that gives us the strength and courage to pursue Him wholeheartedly and, if need be, gladly lay our lives down for Him.

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Liberty and Justice for All

by Shane Caskey

What is liberty? It is defined as, “being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by supernatural forces on one’s way of life, behavior or view. The power or scope to act as one pleases”. Are you willing to do what it takes to defend your liberties!? Are you willing to do what it takes to make a stand against the enemy-the great oppressor, satan??

In recent months many crises have been brewing all over the world. I am simply a concerned citizen aware of the fact that united voices for freedom will have a profound impact. Today, thousands of citizens of the kingdom of heaven are gathering to raise their voices against tyranny and oppression in prayer.

Will you join?
Will you make a stand?
Will you fight back?

God wants you!!

I don’t care whether you are non-denominational, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, or any other denomination you may adhere to. Will you stand with me and fight our common enemy!!?? Let’s go to war and take back this neighborhood, this city, this state, this country and this world for the Kingdom of God!! What are you willing to do in order to take as many souls with you to the Kingdom of God?? Time is short, it’s time to live each day like it’s our last and take action! Will you love your brother/sister enough to fight for their liberty and their soul? Let’s break the chains of the oppressed and set the captives free!!

I will. Who will stand with me??

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A Voice in the Wilderness

by Sarah Elizabeth

In times of civil turmoil and spiritual darkness, we may think that we have only two options. The first is to remain silent in the shadows. The second is to perform physical acts out in the open. But we have been given a third choice in these times of uncertainty: to be a voice. A voice crying out in the wilderness to a people in an evil world. God sent John the Baptist to be His voice to foretell and prepare the hearts of the nations for the next era. His voice spurred the revival which was desperately needed for people who had grown cold and parched to the word of the Lord.

As we read the headlines and events of what is happening around us, we must realise that we too, are on the brink of another revival. Our world is filled with those who love only themselves and have no regard for loving God or their neighbors. It is every man for himself as apathy of godliness and morals have been tossed to the wayside. God has called us to be a voice. To remind those around us of His love and ways. To be an oasis in the desert of hate. To be a voice, one must also be willing to suffer the cost of proclaiming the truth.

John the Baptist only had a voice for a certain amount of time before he was arrested and killed for his words. Thus, it is imperative for us to remember that when there is a spring of awakening and revival, persecution and hardships are only a few mere footsteps behind. It is so easy to be a voice when there is no fear of retribution. It is a completely different story when it comes with great risk. Be willing to take a stand for your voice-even if it means that everything is taken from you. Pray that your voice and the message you have been given never points back to you, but to the ONE who gave it to you in the first place. Amen.

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Walking in a Season of Singleness

by Laura Quam

Editor’s Note: Walking in a season of singleness isn’t easy. Whether you have been single for a long time or just recently have had a change in your relationship status, all of us have struggled with this at some point in our lives. Laura provides a wonderful reminder as to how we can use our single years as a time to live wholeheartedly for God. Productively using our gifts and talents which He has given us will not only benefit those of us who are still single, but when we are in a relationship as well. 

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Because I share about singleness I get asked how I walk through this season “well”. There are moments I don’t.

I struggle with it.

I wrestle in my heart at times.

I cry about it when the harder days come.

The things that I post about in singleness is what I feel like God is leading me to share. It doesn’t mean that I have it “all figured out” or that I “don’t have hard days”. I want to encourage you in this journey that we’re in. Because it’s a gift but the waiting can be so hard too. I trust God today, tomorrow and believe that this season has an abundance of purpose. So I will walk that out daily!

You don’t see the countless nights I’ve been broken before God not understanding His timing. The moments with crying to friends over situations that caused more pain than good. Those are moments that social media can’t show you and we ALL have those.

The moments that I kick and scream. I still go. I still move. I run to the arms of Jesus. Because He is enough. But that doesn’t mean that walk through with ease and patience at ALL times.

Something that I do know is that I am in control of how I live my life in the waiting.

I can cry and pout about it. Or I can live my life to the fullest seeing the dreams in my heart unfold.

Singles: marriage isn’t a pre-requisite for the call that God has set before you.

You’re breathing right now. So go live it out. Do what your heart longs to do. Is that travel? Is that writing a book? Is that buying a house? Anything under the sun that God has put on your heart. Go for it! God has made YOU for a purpose on purpose. We are called to steward the time that we have on earth to glorify God through every stage of life.

Don’t let your SINGLENESS stop you in your tracks to do exactly what you’re called to right now.

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Who is Your First Love?

by Sarah Elizabeth

When God gave the 10 commandments to the Israelites in the wilderness at Mount Sinai, the very first law He gave was “You are to have no other gods before me”. At first glance this command seems pretty straightforward and easy for any of us who are followers of Jesus to obey. However, if we take this command in context with the one that follows right after it and other scriptures which point back to this very first command, it is actually one that is much more in depth and intricate. For the Israelites, this was a command that they would find very easy to disregard and not take seriously. We will also take a holistic view of what this command truly means for us today so that we are able to better understand who our God truly is and where our loyalties should truly lie.

As the Lord was giving these very commands, which were to be the foundation for how they were to live and obey, the Israelites even then were falling away from Him. In Exodus 32, the people decided that they were tired of waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai and for them there was only one solution: to make a god out of gold to worship. Not only that, they were able to convince Moses’ brother Aaron to help them create the calf out of the jewelry they eagerly donated. Through the series of events that followed, Israel slowly and stubbornly began to recognize that the God of their fathers is not one to be ignored and that He is to be obeyed otherwise there will be consequences.

Shortly after their rebellious actions at Mount Sinai, Moses records these words found in Deuteronomy 6: “ you are to love the Lord your God with all  your heart, soul and mind”. Simply put, we are to place Him first in everything both internally and externally. It’s not just about physically having another “god” in our life but also understanding spiritually that we are having Him at the forefront of our thoughts and will in everything we say and do. Jesus later on in the gospel of Matthew states that not only are we to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind which is the greatest commandment, but that the only other command that we are to make sure we follow is to love our neighbor as ourselves. These two commands fulfill the law and the prophets. By loving God first and then others, it can help us eliminate other gods or idols in our lives.

One of my favorite examples of putting God first and serving and loving Him before anyone and anything else is the story of the TenBoom family during the time of World War Two.  Years before the Axis rose and began taking over Europe, the TenBooms were a family known for their faith, and the love they had for God and for their neighbors within their little community of Haarlem in the Netherlands. When the Germans took over the city, they began hiding Jews in their home and providing them with safe places to stay. Most of the family was directly involved in resistance groups. Their reasoning for doing this was simple: Hitler was not god nor were they going to obey him over the laws of the one true God. This obedience to putting Him first came at a cost. 

All of the members in the TenBoom family were affected greatly by this decision. In February of 1944 several members of the family were arrested and later taken to concentration camps. Two of the sisters, Corrie and Betsie, were sent to Ravensbruck a notorious prison camp known for its hard labor and high death rate. Even in the midst of the worst of living conditions, Betsie and Corrie began conducting Bible studies in the barracks and sharing the gospel with women and showing them firsthand the love of Christ even though they knew they could get in trouble for doing so. Even in the midst of darkness and terror, they continued to obey His voice. Shortly before her death in Ravensbruck, Betsie confidently stated with complete assurance, “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still”. 

After her miraculous release and the war was over, Corrie traveled all over the world sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and His love. She chose to keep Him first and serve Him despite losing everything, even the majority of her family because she served Him only and did not put anything or anyone over Him. Through her testimony, she was able to reach millions with the love of Christ and the joy that forgiveness and healing brings when we serve Him first. She and her family truly lived out the first commandment in their lives despite many repercussions and trials.

Loving and serving God first isn’t always easy. In fact for many, putting Jesus as our first love often is painful and difficult. Looking at the example of the TenBoom family, we have to really search our hearts and ask ourselves are we really willing to put Him first and love Him more than anything or anyone else? Jesus gave this admonishment to the disciples: “he who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” ( Matthew 10:37). He knew that putting Him first would divide families and cause fiery testings of our faith. 

This first commandment which God gave the Israelites at Mount Sinai centuries ago is not just a generic “don’t worship any other god” command. It is choosing to live a lifestyle that honors and loves Him first. It is a decision to serve Him and Him only no matter the circumstances- no matter the cost.

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

by Sarah Elizabeth

Americans have always prided themselves of the many freedoms which our country has stood for over the centuries. The ability to express one’s views and beliefs has been regarded as one of the most sacred human rights. It has been upheld by the constitution and activists from every religion, background and lifestyle. In recent years, the message of tolerance has become the resounding theme in both political and religious circles. While free speech and tolerance may appear to be similar factions on the outside, the definition of tolerance is not what it appears.

The problem with tolerance is that it desires to accept everyone’s beliefs and worldviews. It is ok to say you believe in God and go to church. That is simply being tolerant of one’s religious views. However, if someone says that Jesus Christ is the only way to obtain salvation and get to heaven, one is met with anger and hateful responses. To openly state that you believe abortion is murder and that you uphold the sanctity of life is also met with extreme anger. The defender of the unborn is promptly labeled as being “anti-women’s rights”.  Another example of this issue which has been of heated discussion, is that of traditional marriage. Stating that this institution was given by God for a man and woman only, is no longer politically correct. Anyone who says that homosexuality is a sin, is automatically slapped with a hate crime. 

Considering the historical founding of our nation, tolerance is not pro-American. Instead, tolerance reflects a socialist worldview because it seeks to force everyone to agree that it’s ok to agree with everything and anything. Tolerance and the acceptance of it is now more encouraged than that of actual truth. Differences of opinion or refusing to agree with the other party is considered hateful. Tolerance despises truth because it is forced to see the reality of one’s worldview, rather than viewing it through a rosy lens.

Truth strips away the grey, leaving us with only two choices: Right vs. Wrong. Good vs. Evil. Light vs. Darkness. The world wants to believe that everyone is on their own path to goodness. A “whatever works for you” mentality. When an unbeliever is faced with absolute truth, they are either overwhelmingly filled with remorse, repentance and then turn to Christ, or they are filled with overwhelming anger and hatred towards the messenger. Sadly few are they who are willing to accept the narrow path of truth.

The Christian then, has the responsibility of being tolerant towards the intolerant. While this might seem like an oxymoron, I beg you to hear me out. As believers we should be tolerant towards the person voicing opposing opinions. However, we should be intolerant to any beliefs which are unbiblical and unconstitutional. Jesus never said that we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves or for the truth. In fact, He encourages us to do so. For over three years, He stood up to the tyrannical laws that the pharisees had incorporated which had resulted in extreme legalism. He promoted social justice and encouraged equality. Jesus not only tolerated those who opposed Him, He LOVED them. He loved them so much that He became a sheep to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), so that God’s will could be carried out. It was this wondrous act of love which paved the way of salvation. 

While we have a sacred duty as believers and American citizens to speak and uphold the truth, there will come a time when the only response and act that we will have left is that of love. When persuasion or sound argument proves futile, love and sincerely forgiving our opposers is the only option. It is not right that we should become frustrated or give up on those who are hopelessly lost and deny the truth. Jesus never gave up on the worst of sinners. Thus following His example, we should turn the other cheek, offer our resources and walk that extra mile. Returning anger with kindness is how souls are won. We must remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against evil spiritual forces (Ephesisans 6:12).

In conclusion, we must address the promotion of tolerance with the message of truth. This truth is defined by the standards which have been laid out in Scripture regarding who Jesus Christ is and how to live a godly life. The Christian must respond to intolerance not with hatred but with love. Love is stronger than any form of human tolerance because it transcends the physical sphere and is rooted in the spiritual realm. It is love alone which has the victory over everything and anything-even death itself.

Tolerance is limited to certain ideals and finite human understanding. It was not out of tolerance that we have been rescued from eternal damnation, but because Christ loved us. It was His love which bought our freedom and shattered the gates of hell (John 3:16). If God was willing to love us long before we knew and loved Him, how much more so should we be willing to love those who despise us. May love be the only weapon which we use to share the beauty of absolute truth to the intolerant tolerant.

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Don’t be Ashamed

by Shane Caskey

Be not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto Salvation!

Don’t be ashamed. If God is working in you, share it! Testify! You have no idea how many lives it can change just seeing what God is doing in you. Maybe someone is going through the same thing you are. Change is good, welcome it.

There are some of you Christian believers who haven’t been ashamed, and I thank God for you! Keep doing what the Holy Spirit is asking you to do! Preach it! When I was in the dark, very recently, those messages spoke to me little by little and planted seeds in my heart. May God bless us all with the courage these people have!!

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To the Sleeping Church

by Kendra Williams

In the Bible the cry was, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?”…Now I ask, “My God! My God! Why have they – why have WE – forsaken You?” The Church is sleeping: she is falling away from her first love (Revelation 2:4-5). Where then is the light of the world, the city on a hill (Matthew 5:14)? The bride without spot? Have we forgotten His warnings against sleeping, going cold?

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.”  – 1 John 3:14

Blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” -Philippians 2:15

Are we? The Church is still alive, even thriving in some places; but her numbers are dwindling. At least in America. Yes, a lot of kids are accepting Christ as their Savior  but how far does it go? Does their commitment last beyond the surge of emotion? Does it “fall on good soil” (Matthew 13:18-23) and go deep into their hearts, deeper than the area in their hearts that is controlled by sheer emotion? How many Christian youth rallies have teens swarming to the alters, time and time again without any lasting changes being noted? With the hundreds of teens that accept Christ (some for the twentieth time) in these meetings, the churches and youth groups should be packed by now. Where are they? And why are the ones who just got baptized in the Spirit last week out binging again this week? Where’s the sign that a true commitment with Christ has been made?

The new generations depend solely on their feelings. Everything is based on what they feel, not on facts. Emotion isn’t the truth in our lives…. It’s the bonus. Little analogy here: Food is a necessity (real food, by the way). We eat it to live. The taste is the bonus; it allows us to enjoy a necessity – and, occasionally, help us know if something is harmful to eat. But we have gotten to the point where we eat for the taste, whether it is harmful to our bodies or not. In fact, the more we eat junk food, the harder it is to enjoy real food. We find that we’re joyfully killing ourselves.

Ok….the taste is the emotion. Where God gave it to us as a way to enjoy the good facts in life and make it easier to do what is good, we have often twisted and abused it. We now use it to judge and decide even when we have the facts! We let it decide for us whether we are having a good day or not. Emotion can’t be trusted, because it is a human weakness and Satan knows it. He attacks us there with guilt, anger, depression, etc. etc. and we find ourselves wondering, “Where did that come from? I was doing great till that hit.”

We need to get back to the truth. We need to come to God on a deeper level. The deeper the level, the stronger the commitment. Jesus said, “Whoever does my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me.” -John 14:21.

“This is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands“. – 2 John 6.

I have never run across a verse that says, “I know you love Me, because your heart is full of adoration” or something like that. Adoration is good, but love goes deeper than emotion. It is a commitment.

Jesus knows that feelings can’t be trusted. Look at His prayer in Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Your will be done.” What if He had followed His emotions? What if we follow ours in making the biggest decisions in our lives, especially in our relationship with Jesus? We may think, “Oh, it’s going ok. What’s the problem?” This is the problem: so many of us have put other things before God. We are friends with the world, followers of pleasure, the adulteress of Hosea. This may sound harsh, but check the Bible.

James 4:4 says,”Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend with the world makes himself an enemy with God.”

This is just one of the verses on this subject. We may think,”I’m not worshiping other gods or anything.” Putting things before God…isn’t this adultery? Isn’t pleasure the idol so many of us worship? That is the god of so many, if not all; even in the Church. Look! Even in our walk with God, how many seek the “feel-good” of His presence more than His heart? His hand more than His face? Is this His bride?

Feelings…desire for pleasure. Wanting God to bring everything to us. God already did 2000 years ago; now it’s our turn to bring our all to Him. Granted, we can’t do it on our own; do we dare even try (Philippians 2:12b-13)? But we can lean on His strength to draw near (Philippians 4:13). We need to seek His face, and seek Him diligently. The Bible says this as well.

God is the only answer. I have little more to say, but God has plenty to say.

I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from where you have fallen; repent and do the things you did at first.” ~Revelation 2:4-5

If My people,who were called by My name, should humble themselves and pray; seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.” ~2 Chronicles 7:14

Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” ~1 John 3:14

WAKE UP!!!!

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The Snare of Relative Truth

by Sarah Elizabeth

There was a time not too long ago where society knew and understood boundaries. There was knowledge of what was right and what was wrong. Left versus Right. Light versus Darkness. Good versus Evil. At the end of the day, lines were drawn and people understood the effects when they were crossed or blurred. Recently, society has moved from recognizing right and wrong, to accepting all statements as relative. A, “your truth may not be my truth, but I accept your truth as long as you accept mine” mentality.

Thus, everything regarding morality becomes grey. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). While at first this may appear to be the utopia of all ideologies, it has in the long run, quite the opposite effect. When a nation accepts truth as being all relative, it is then when that nation begins to rapidly deteriorate, resulting in its ultimate destruction. Our world has entered into a new era where tolerance is of the essence. However, ironically, this only applies to certain statements.

When one declares something as an absolute truth, retribution is fast coming. It is disdainful to say that your truth is more factual than that of the person next to you. To say your truth is the only way is offensive and harmful to society. Absolute  truth is labeled as “hate speech” and has no place in a progressive environment. Relative truth seeks only to accept and not offend. Absolute truth only offends those who are resistant to the message.

In reality, there can be no such thing as relative truth. It is merely a facade to push an agenda which demoralizes a people. Anyone who dares to stand up for what is right and condemn that which is wrong, now faces certain punishment. As our country drifts closer towards self-destruction, the consequences for upholding absolute truths becomes stronger.

As Christians, we must be aware of the times. We must pray for wisdom as to how we should speak (1 Corinthians 12). When we engage we should do so from a heart of love towards those who aggressively hate our words. When accused of causing spite, let our actions reflect those of Christ so that no man can hold anything against us (Titus 2:8). We must be prepared to face the repercussions for sharing absolute truth-no matter the cost.

We must keep eternity’s values in view and not the current whims of the society which we live in. Truth is painful. Truth makes us wrestle with conviction. Truth causes us to draw a line in the sand. Truth defines what we are willing to die for. Truth forces us to choose whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). Absolute truth provides clarity and courage to stand for righteousness. Relative truth only provides confusion and compromise. How much better it is to suffer for absolute truth rather than be caught in the snare of relative truth which only yields empty solutions.

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The Top 5 Missionary Strategies: Living with a Missions Mindset

by Sarah Itterman

Working in missions or ministry is by far one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavors a person can embark upon. Over the years various strategies and methods have been experimentally driven. Some have proven fruitful while others have failed miserably despite the sincere efforts of those involved. One of the reasons there has been failure is from lack of following the guidelines laid out for us in Scripture (particularly in the New Testament) as to how we should approach gospel advancement and world missions. In the 13th-19th chapters of Acts there are 5 key strategies which the Apostles and Early Church engaged themselves passionately in and lived by. These approaches should be ones that we should seek to implement. Without them, the church will not build the foundations necessary in order to preach the gospel whether that be in a foreign land, our local community, or to our coworkers.

One of the most significant strategies, yet one that is often forgotten about, is to carefully listen and obey the voice of God. Throughout the book of Acts there are numerous recordings of how the believers sought guidance through prayer. When the Spirit told them to do or not do something and they obeyed, God used their obedience to grow and expand the church in the most phenomenal ways. In Acts 13 the Spirit tells the disciples to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the work which God had called them to do. Through obedience to this calling Paul would embark on his first of many missionary journeys which would ignite the flame for world evangelism.

Another example of listening to the voice of God would be in Acts chapter 16 where Paul received a vision from the Lord. In the vision a man from Macedonia was asking for help. Knowing that this was from God, Paul and the other disciples who were with him immediately set off for Macedonia. Upon arriving there, they were able to preach the gospel to many and perform miracles. Through the tribulations they faced by being imprisoned and beaten, they were able to share the good news with the jailor and his whole family became believers. Although listening and obeying God’s voice is not always easy nor is it sometimes safe, God uses every situation that He calls us to and anywhere He places us in order that through our obedience He can work not only in us but through us as we witness to those around us.

This leads us into the second strategy which is to do everything for the glory of God alone. This is perhaps most evident in Acts 14 after Paul and Barnabas had healed the lame man in Lystra. When the people saw what had happened they treated them as gods and began to worship them. Paul and Barnabas instead of reveling in the glory they were receiving sought to explain to them that God was the one who had healed the lame man, not themselves. If serving or doing anything in the name of Jesus is solely not for His glory but for wrong intentions, God will not bless it, nor will we be able to serve Him fully.

As the church and representatives of Christ, our desire and focus should primarily be to bring others to Him by striving to honor Him in everything we endeavor to do. To often, especially within the Western churches, the shift is more often than not taken off of God’s goodness and who He truly is and is rather put upon the people leading within the ministry. This can also lead to submitting people to rules or regulations which are not necessary or even biblical. The Apostles learned early on that these would be issues which would need to be constantly clarified and addressed as seen in Acts 15 and we would be wise to follow in their footsteps in this area.

The third strategy is to use contextualization when preaching the gospel.  Throughout the New Testament there are multiple illustrations of how the disciples and believers would use this concept as a means to share the gospel with whomever they were preaching to. In Acts 13, the Apostle Paul as he began to share the good news with the Jewish people in Antioch, delivered the message in a way which the Jews could relate to by using their culture, language, history and religion as evidence and examples for preaching the gospel. 

Paul uses the same strategy a few chapters later in Acts 17 when he has the opportunity to speak in front of a group of Greek philosophers. He was sensitive to their culture and practices as he began to unfold the scriptures to them. This would prompt Paul to write later on in one of his epistles, “ I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win the Jews…..To the weak I became weak to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).” In the same way, we should strive to share the gospel with those who come from other religions, ethnicities and cultural differences first by learning and seeking to understand, and then sharing in order that they might comprehend more fully what we are seeking to say.

Along with contextualizing the gospel it is important not to conform other people to that of your own culture or lifestyle. The disciples realized this in Acts 15 when they were faced with the issue of whether or not the new believers should become circumcised. It was causing disunity within the churches and misunderstandings as to whether or not those who were not circumcised were truly believers. After meeting with the elders in the church, the Apostles agreed that it is not by physical standards but rather spiritual ones which make a man clean and pure before God. In the same way, when we are living amongst and sharing the gospel with a group of people who are completely different from us, it is important that we do not try to make them like ourselves in order for them to think that that is the only way that they can become believers. As Christians our goal isn’t to convert people through man-made structures. Every culture and people group is unique and different in their own way; our ultimate role is to help them understand by using their own language, traditions and lifestyle to tell them about Jesus. 

Finally, but most important is to recognize how essential the power of the Holy Spirit is today in our own lives and those whom we are seeking to win for Christ. It is the Holy Spirit which guides and leads the hearts of men. It is not what we say or do, but rather the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us that enables people to realize that it is not by our own strength  but rather by Him who dwells within us. Without the Spirit, the church would not be as powerful as it is today. Throughout the book of Acts as it depicts the formation of the early church we see the Spirit moving in ways which for some of us is hard to imagine.

It is vital to recognize that the Spirit is moving just as powerfully in our own day and age just as during the time of the early church. Today this is perhaps most seen by the thousands of Muslims coming to Christ through dreams and visions. It is the healing and miraculous divine interventions which are occurring all over the world which are bringing people to Jesus.  If we fail to recognize the power of the Holy Spirit we are diminishing God himself. One question which we should ask ourselves is, “Am I allowing the Spirit to work in and through me every day?”. Without this in the forefront of our minds we can easily lose sight of how we should view the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives.

By implementing these 5 strategies into our work in missions, ministry or workplace (wherever that may be), we will be able to effectively and adequately serve God and share the gospel with whomever He puts in our path. As the body of Christ it is necessary that we study the book of Acts particularly in regards to Church growth, structure and discipleship. Not only must we study it, but we must determine to live by these standards wholeheartedly. By seeking to understand the principles and guidelines laid out for us we can then effectively carry out the great commission which Jesus gave us: to go into all nations and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

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Prayer

by Shane Caskey

Prayer is the KEY that unlocks the gates of heaven and locks the gates of hell. Prayer is a conversation with God. A conversation isn’t just one way is it? We tend to talk way too much when praying. For every minute we talk to God, we need to spend double of that amount listening. Just as in a human conversation, we talk and we listen. We don’t just walk up to someone, say what we have to say and then walk away. That’s just rude in our culture. You need to give the other person a chance to respond.

And we wonder why we don’t hear God. Most of us pray, but most of us don’t listen. It’s like we are giving God instructions, be we don’t wait for His. He’s like, “Wait, come back! I didn’t have a chance to speak. I didn’t finish what I was saying”. How many of us are bad about interrupting people while they talk? I am!! I’ll be the first one to admit it. Sometimes we just need to be quiet and let God finish what He is saying. 

We have too much noise in our lives. As soon as we get home, we hit the remote or continue about our agenda instead of God’s agenda. God told Abraham to leave home so He could reveal himself to Abraham on the mountain. There was too much noise at home. Nature is a wonderful place to really experience God’s presence. 

Do you want to learn how to hear the voice of God inside of you? I’m going to break it down in a very simplistic way: conscience. Think about it. There is something inside of us that tells us right from wrong and it’s been there all along. FOCUS on that voice. It’s God! The more you pay attention to that soft, quiet, humble voice, the more you will be able to hear it and begin to realize, hey, that IS God!!. Be careful though. There is that other voice that like to pretend it’s God too. Test it with scripture and discernment.

Sometimes God will talk to you in a way that is recognizable. He sounds like my earthly dad sometimes-especially when He is correcting me or disciplining me. I’ll hear that loud, “James Shannon Caskey!”, and think I’m in trouble. Or it can be like a voice of someone else who you love (whether alive or gone). It’s a perfect way to get our attention real quick. Remember, God is also our friend. No need for a fancy, eloquent prayer. Just talk to Him. I’ve gotten more responses from Him personally when I’ve gotten down right real with Him. He likes that! I’ve even gotten in “arguments” with Him before. I’m not meaning any disrespect at all, I’m just sharing my deep feelings with Him. Oh my goodness, will He respond!! And of course, I’m usually wrong, but I like to know why!

When I pray, I call Him “dad” alot. He really likes that. It’s a term of endearment. And it shows intimacy between Him and I. And we will start this, “I love you more”, “No, I love you more” thing that makes me really smile! We should also be serious when we pray and put our emotions and heart into it. Stale prayer and worship makes God want to qayah (the Hebrew word for vomit). He doesn’t like it at all.

God is the Commander in Chief. Don’t forget your daily briefing soldiers!! God loves speaking to you. Slow down and listen. A prayer strategy can be very important under certain circumstances. Especially if you want UNIFIED prayer. Pray and wait with EXPECTATIONS. Be specific with your prayers-this is very, very important!!!

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Do the Right Thing

by Sarah Elizabeth

In a world where evil runs rampant, those who oppose it’s advances become the primal target. Standing against satanic agendas in the name of truth and righteousness becomes a treasonous act. Such is the world in which we live today. It is vital that in this perilous era, we choose to do and say what is right- no matter the cost. Come what may, we have been given an honorable opportunity to promote God’s love in the darkest places. What a privilege to be counted worthy of such a task!

My brothers and sisters, we are not the first to be given this undertaking, nor should it cause us to hesitate to act now that it is upon our doorstep. Obedience to God is what we have been called to since we made the decision to surrender our lives and wills to that of His. A clear conscience before God, even though it may land us in the deepest dungeon, is far better than to compromise one’s faith in order to enjoy temporary freedom. It is in the darkest pit that His light shines upon us more brightly. He will give us grace and strength to endure the fiery trials. 

This light shines forth for all to witness the face of God in our weakened state. A light of truth to share to those who do not know Him. A light of love to show to those who have never experienced His. A light of forgiveness towards those who do us harm so that they may know the ultimate act of forgiveness which was given to save them from eternal hell. 

And so my brothers and sisters, praise Him in the valleys and on the mountains. Wherever He wills you to go, go without wavering or fear. Choose to do the right thing, being driven always by love. The suffering and adversity should cause us to rejoice that we have been counted worthy for His Name’s sake (James 1: 2-8). Go forth in Christ alone and in obedience to His sovereign will for HE is all we need. Amen.

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When You Walk Through the Fire

by Cassie Lynch

In the winter of 2018 I was asked by the university I was working at to put on a breakout session for the school’s women’s retreat – the topic they gave me was Embracing Hard Things. I was a bit taken aback because aside from my dad falling from spiritual leadership, I hadn’t really faced major difficulty or major trauma. Nonetheless I spent several months studying and reading and praying and I showed up with a session in hand. Amid a lot of good advice, the greatest takeaway was this reality: we can only thrive and survive in this life if our eyes are on Jesus.

I taught the class despite feeling slightly inexperienced in the topic and 3 months later my dad was in the ER, then getting brain surgery, then being diagnosed with terminal and aggressive brain cancer. Within a few months my entire world was being flipped on its head and I was grieving. Forced to drop everything, sell most of my belongings and move to a new state, I struggled for four months to find employment and then my biggest support, my dad, died. And all of the how-to lists became intangible. When the diagnosis came I rolled up my sleeves and was like, ‘I’m gonna be the best griever ever, I’m gonna grieve so well.” I started reading books, and listening to messages surrounding the topic.

Yet as the journey unfolded I quickly realized that the 10 step plans don’t work in the storm. The 10 step plans don’t work when you’re too sad to get out of bed. The 10 step plans don’t work when you’re supposed to find community and yet your deepest anguish hits at 3AM when you’re alone in your bed.
I had some good habits in place, but it’s amazing how the fire can burn away my resolve to be grateful, to commit to sitting in it until I see a transformation.
Yet as my greatest intentions were melting in the heat of these trials, one thing held true. In my deepest ache, in my darkest hour, my Lord was there.
Jesus who wasn’t afraid on the cross to say, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus who wasn’t ashamed to voice is suffering, to voice his sense of abandonment. Jesus who on the cross wasn’t afraid to declare his needs. He said I’m thirsty! Jesus who was able to endure that which he begged God to take from him, because he had an eternal perspective. He could see the joy on the other side.
Jesus who single-handedly made our suffering worth it, finally worth it, because there’s something greater awaiting. Jesus who knows my ache more intimately than even I, drew near.

As believers, we love to offer platitudes. We love to toss out phrases such as “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” It’s a lie! Think of Job. Think of Joseph. Think of Paul. Look at your own life! There is so much we must walk through that we most certainly cannot handle. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 Paul writes of his circumstances, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death.”

Have you ever been there? When the suffering mounts and mounts and mounts and you can’t see your way through the fog, you can’t imagine how any of it could turn good. Have you ever cried out to God, “this is too much! I can’t do this anymore,” have you felt this weariness? Maybe you’re facing it today. Maybe these questions, these sentiments ring true right now. If so, you need to hear the rest of the verse: “This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from peril and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”

So as we face the sufferings of this life. As we experience setback and heartbreak, and loss, and pain, let us not cling to empty platitudes. Let us lean all the more on the one who empathizes with our pain. Think of the gospel. My sin had me dead. Powerless. Weak. Useless. I could not overcome it. I could not move through it. Yet Christ bore my sin to death. My God who has the power to raise the dead to life is the one who can deliver me today and tomorrow as well. We must allow him to carry the load, to pour strength into our being, to bring mercy anew each morning, to deliver us.

In your anguish I urge you to cry out to the Lord. Run into the throne room like you are the child of the King (you are after all). Climb into the lap of the good good Father and ask him to carry you through. Cling to his promises. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze (Isaiah 43:2).”

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Oneness With God

by Shane Caskey

Alright, for all of you fasting right now since its fasting season, here’s a little nugget to help you. It’s up to you if you use it or not. Beware!! It will get you close to Him-if that is what you really want!?

Oneness with God:

-Tender, intimate fellowship with the Living God!!!!

-The secret is found in bent knees, wet eyes, and a broken heart.

-It has to be the most important thing in your life.

-It requires holiness

Continual and passionate daily fellowship with the Lord is also required:

– A close friendship with the Lord requires that you spend much time ALONE with Him. A genuine friendship where you can unload everything on your heart to Him.

-Spend more time in His Word – not just daily but hourly. Meditate on it, memorize it, hide it in your heart.

-“Abide and remain” in Jesus (John 15:4, John 17:21, 1 John 3, Galatians 5:17).

-“Being in Christ”, “abiding in Christ”, and “being filled with the Holy Spirit”, represents intimacy with God.

-Practice His presence. Living every minute of everyday, no matter what you are doing, as if it were precious and holy to God.

-Take every single thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

-Pray especially with thankfulness and praise.

-Tell The Lord how much you love Him through words and actions

-Intercede for others

-Be still and LISTEN to The Lord!!

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The Place Inside

by Kendra Williams

It’s a depressing and sober reality how far the world has fallen away from God. They mock Him, laugh at Him, curse Him- thinking how secure they are since He hasn’t done anything to them for their sin. Rather similar to the story of Noah, isn’t it? No, God’s not going to wipe out the world with a flood. But there will come a time when it’s too late. This may be as close as I’ll get to explaining why I can get so depressed sometimes…just where the pain comes from. You see, the attitude so completely against God comes too close to home. I think I’ve gotten a taste of what “agony” really means, a pain too deep and real to adequately put into words. I’ve watched people I love turn away from God, literally been watching loved ones dying knowing that there will be no peace for them or reunion after death. 

Without Jesus we’re dead inside… an eternal death and separation. I think deep down everyone knows it, they just don’t want to face it. Why is the world in such a frenzy to be entertained? Yet, no matter how much of it we get, in the end it’s never enough. In fact sometimes we feel emptier than before. Why? Because when God made us He put a special place inside that only He can fill. When He’s there, it’s so wonderful that it’s beyond description. When He’s not there it’s nothing more than a gaping hole, an emptiness too big and painful to just ignore. Oh, we can manage to put up with it for a while. We have so many things to occupy our thoughts. But have you noticed how torturous it is to be bored? Have nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to talk to, no entertaining thoughts…a place of seclusion where the things you’ve run from come and haunt you. 

If you don’t have Jesus inside, then there is definitely a feeling- maybe you don’t quite know what it is- that is very uncomfortable. It’s the terrible feeling of emptiness, an inner death; it’s the feeling of being far from life itself. But people run from God, fearing the feeling of nothing inside, yet fearing losing sinful fun even more. In truth, they see the loss instead of the gain. If they could see the whole picture, their fun versus what God has in store, they would feel like a child choosing toy money over a 14 karat gold crown inlaid with precious stones. If only they could see their choice. Worthless over priceless. Pain over joy. Death over life. If only they could see…

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A Pawn in the Hands of Almighty God

by Sarah Itterman

Life for the believer is like a strategic game of chess. The board represents our journey through this world and into eternity. Each piece has a different move and each has a unique purpose in order to win the game. Examining chess from a Christian perspective, God is the Grand Master and we are His pawns. On the other side of the board resides satan and his demons ready to kill and destroy.

While any other player would choose to use their pawns first, it was not so for Christ. In one of His first moves, He sacrificed His most powerful piece-His only Son. At that moment, we can only imagine what the reaction at the opposite end of the board must have been. The enemy probably had a huge smirk on his face. He gleefully laughed because he thought he had won the game. “What a foolish move to make”, he roared. 

However, three moves (days) later Jesus Christ was resurrected and entered back onto the playing board. How the devil must have trembled then. He realized he no longer had the upper hand. In a furious rage he then began to focus on the other pieces. The pawns were now at the center of  his attention.

For over 2,000 years since then, the church has been engaged in an all out battle. Through the seasons the church has had times of prosperity and peace. At other times it has been nearly demolished under the onslaught of attacks. In times when the pawns are dropping like flies off the chess board, one wonders why there isn’t a better strategy or greater protection by the Master Chessman.

Why are some pawns sacrificed more quickly than others? There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the game. It is in times like these that we must remember that we tend to view life from a finite perspective. Trusting that our God is omniscient and that He is carrying out everything according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), enables us to see life in a new light.

We can rejoice that we have been given the greatest blessing to be members of His army. When the enemy attempts to destroy us, we must remember that our sacrifice is but a small price to pay. For if the Master Chessman was willing to sacrifice the winning piece (His Son) before any of us in order that we might partake in the ultimate victory, how much more willing should we be to gladly give our lives for this cause. Yes, we may be just pawns, but we are His pawns. We can be rest assured that no matter how fierce the battle, we are on the winning side. What a blessing that we have been counted worthy to be a pawn in the hands of our Almighty God. Amen.

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Scared Spitless

by Kendra Williams

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom….I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”                                                                                                                            –1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Paul often boasted about his moments of weakness, and we all know why. But it wasn’t until this last year and a half that I’ve come to realize just how great a thing he was onto here. Somehow, at least for me, it’s easy to look at the Bible in an almost romanticized light: The disciples and apostles walking around speaking great words of wisdom, always knowing what to say and do, having the utmost integrity and confidence- in a way, the perfect Christians. People we’d go to (and do, in a sense) for advice on every subject. But here, Paul’s admitting to everyone: “I was scared spitless when I came to talk to you about Jesus. It freaked me out so bad, I was actually shaking and spoke clumsily. And yet that’s exactly what you needed: God’s power in a humbling moment, not my skill, or wisdom, or knowledge….so I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

How typical of God!!! I mean, this is Paul we’re talking about here! God took someone that could’ve said “No way! I’m not cut out for this!” and made a powerful tool that continues to affect people even today. See, here’s the key that Paul understood: We are the most effective when we feel the most ineffective, because that’s where we tend to throw everything in God’s lap and say “I can’t do this! Please, You do it!” That’s exactly the point God drives us to, just for that moment of utter surrender….Then, and sometimes only then, will He roll up His sleeves and say “Finally. Here we go!”

A simple truth? One you’ve heard a million times? Most likely. You’ve probably even experienced it from time to time. “Oh, it was so cool because God stepped in- right when I was at my wit’s end!” That’s what I’ve been experiencing for the last year and a half… I’ve walked into work day after day, terrified of not being able to handle situations or of missing opportunities to help the students learn something important. But God, in my complete weakness, will softly whisper, “Kendra…you’re not doing this shift alone. I am right here.” and without fail, the most amazing things happen. In fact, the time in my life that I felt the most inadequate was when He moved through me the greatest.  As strange as it seems, during that time I felt moved to start a prayer group at work that became so intense that the women’s floor took a turn for the better… and, in a round-about way, saved my life. So: I was a mess, at the breaking point, needing God desperately…and through that need, God moved mightily.

That was a strangely special season when I began to discover Paul’s secret. But do you know what was different about Paul? He intentionally lived at his breaking point, constantly in need of God, because he knew that’s what it took for his “wits” to get out of the way and God’s power to work freely through him on a day to day basis. Can you live like that? Can I? That is an extreme walk of faith! I’m coming to discover this about Jesus- He’s always, ALWAYS searching for your surrender, so He can work without hindrance. If you really want to live this life His way, be prepared to be scared spitless….and be prepared to be one amazed witness of His power in action.

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The Word of God is Alive

by Shane Caskey

I’m about to share something with you that God has put on my heart. A way of thinking outside of the “religious box”. Did you know that we can all hear the voice of God? It’s not just for pastors, it’s for all of us. The Word of God is alive, active and powerful! The Word of God is not just a book. So many people are stuck on that idea. The “scriptures” are very important yes, but that is not the Word of God. It’s so much more than that. For those of us who belong to Jesus Christ, the Word of God is alive, lives within us and is written on our heart and soul. 

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human incarnate) (John 1:14). The Word that God speaks is alive and full of power (Hebrews 4:12; Acts 7:38; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit that we wield against the enemy (Ephesians 6:17). The Word of God is living water used to cleanse us (Ephesians 5:26).

The Book of Law (Old Testament) was written before Jesus came to earth. Joshua 1:8 says that we are to, “meditate in the written word day and night”. And it says that many times over and over again throughout the Old Testament. But notice that it changes in the New Testament AFTER Jesus came. In Ephesians 6:18, the Apostle Paul encourages us to continue to meditate on the Word day and night. But rather than saying the term “written”, Paul changes the word to “living”. We are to pray in the Spirit (who is not a book). The same Holy Spirit who is Jesus Christ who IS the Word of God day and night. And who lives inside of us? The Holy Spirit who is Jesus, the Living Word Of God (1 Peter 1:23; Revelations 19:13; Hebrews 1:2)! 

You will also notice that in Hebrews 6:5 it says that you can actually “feel” the Word of God or, as some translations say, “taste”. It’s hard to feel or taste a physical book internally isn’t it? But you can feel or taste what lives inside of you. Also, take a look at John 8:31-32 and tell me what you think when you read that. Where is Jesus now? He’s in heaven right? How else can we hear His voice, The Word of God through His Holy Spirit, unless He is living in us?

I’m not saying to not read your Bible. You need to!! The scriptures are very, very important and contain the foundation of everything we believe. We DO need to read it, memorize it and understand it. I’m merely trying to open your eyes to understanding something so much bigger and greater. We often wonder how sometimes a passage of scripture will come to our mouths and how we have wisdom which we don’t even know where it came from because it’s something we never saw or learned. But yet it’s there. Written on your heart inside of you! If you want power to destroy the enemy, focus on what’s inside of you. Meditate on it and listen. It’s been there all along. You need to take up the Sword of the Spirit and have your feet fitted with the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6). The armor we put on (sword, shoes, etc.), consists of different elements. That little thing we call a conscience inside of us IS God, the Holy Spirit. And if you listen close enough, focus and pay attention to what He is saying to you, you will finally be able to hear God speaking to you inside of you. He will confirm a lot of things, and it’s important to pay attention, through the scripture, through people, through your pastor, through the radio, through billboards, etc.. Wherever you are or whatever you are doing, pay attention all over the place. It all begins with the Word of God, the Holy Spirit  and Jesus Christ who lives within you. I hope this helps you to hear Him more clearly. God bless!!   

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Hearing God’s Voice: How We Can Determine it is His and Not Our Own

by Sarah Itterman

The phrases, “God told me…” or “I believe God wants me to…” are not uncommon words which we hear many Christians claim today (and perhaps even ourselves at times). The question we must ask ourselves before coming to any conclusion about hearing God’s voice is whether we are truly seeking to hear from Him or whether what it is we are desiring Him to say to us. Every believer at some point has experienced that they thought they heard God speaking to them, but in the end it was apparent that it was not really God’s voice they were listening too. Understanding how to effectively listen for and recognize the voice of God is vital for us as Christians in our daily walk. Without this, our relationship with Him becomes diminished.

Submission to His voice is the greatest lesson we can learn. We must be willing to lay down our dreams and desires for that of His, trusting in His perfect will for our lives. The Apostle Paul stressed this firmly to the church in Corinth when he said, “to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)”. Another important lesson is to understand that God speaks to us in different ways; sometimes not in the way in which we would like Him to or think that He should.

One unique illustration which Loren Cunningham taught in his book, “Is that really you God?” Was the Axehead Principle. This is based on the account in 2 Kings 6. When Elijah asks the man whose axehead went into the water to point to where it had gone down, Elijah commanded the axehead to come up. In the same way, it is important for us to go back to the last time when we last heard the cutting edge of God’s voice.  Remembrance of what He said and when He said will enable us to look back and see what God has done in and through our lives since we last heard His voice. When we understand the direction which He has taken us, it will help us better determine whether He is speaking to us.

Another important lesson is that God will use those whom He has placed in our paths to guide us when making certain decisions. This has been very beneficial in my own life as in during different seasons those who have been mentors, friends or family have said similar things to which God has laid on my heart. When a position came up within our church for a leadership position, I was praying and seeking guidance from the Lord to see whether I should pursue it or not. Without me saying anything to anyone, six people who were leaders within the church approached me separately without the others knowing and said they believed that the Lord was saying that I should take that position. For me, this was a solid confirmation of the direction which the Lord was wanting to lead me in.

At the same time, when we receive opposition from those around us about deciding to go in a particular direction, this can be another tool which God uses to test us to see if we will be obedient to His will or not. During the time that I believed that the Lord was guiding me into the direction of church leadership, I received opposition from family members who were not believers who claimed that it would be a waste of time and that there were many other things I could be doing with my life. In a way, this encouraged me to want to pursue my calling to ministry as I understood that this opposition was a method of spiritual warfare as a test to see if I would be obedient to the Lord in this area.

Finally and most importantly, in the end it is our friendship that we have with the Lord which will define how we interpret that it is truly Him speaking to us. Often, we  tend to think of our relationship with God as one sided and that He is the one who is supposed to be in constant communication with us when instead He desires for it to be a mutual exchange of words. Sharing our lives with our best friend is what deepens and strengthens intimacy. As we develop this relationship, over time as we ask ourselves, “Is this you speaking to me God?”, the easier it is to interpret whether it is or not. If our hearts are in tune with His word, our ears will be also.

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Father

by Kendra Williams

It seems that whenever trouble comes, God is the first to be blamed… Why? Why is it that the very One to be there for us gets accused if something goes wrong? “Well, He shouldn’t let it happen.” Poor excuse. It’s angering that people find satan so intriguing, and then turn around and make God the scapegoat-blaming Him for what is actually satan’s doing. I think a lot of people visualize God differently than what He really is…me for one. For so long, I’ve seen Him as an angry, hating God just looking for an excuse to condemn me. He was always glaring at me, but loving everyone else. Over the past year or so, He has been showing me the real Him, and He is WAY different from what I pictured. I’ve dared to call Him Father, and that has become the dearest name in the world to me. “Father” is an extremely endearing name and yet calls for respect. He is my Father. When I see Him in my mind’s eye, He is looking at me with eyes full of tender love and compassion – a picture I hardly dared to imagine before. You see, God doesn’t want us to get hurt. But when we do, He can use it to our advantage by teaching us by it. There can be a lot of tough questions about why God allows bad things to happen. Here’s a neat analogy I once heard a dad say in answer to such questions:

” If my daughter falls and scrapes her knee that doesn’t mean I wanted it to happen. But I can be right there to pick her up and hold her when it does.”

And God is always there for us, to hold and help us when there is trouble. So often it may seem like He isn’t really there. Another analogy: do you ever notice that when there is fog it always seems to be just across the street, never right around you? And yet across the street you would see it around your own house. Sometimes it’s hard to see God in the middle of something tough. But when you look back, He’ll be so much a part of the picture that you’ll wonder how you never noticed. I have a wonderful loving Father who is and always will be there to comfort and guide me. He wants to be that for each individual person alive. Will you let Him be that for you?

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The Watchmen

by Shane Caskey

A Watchman is defined as “one who looks out”, “one who spies, or “one who watches” according to Webster’s Dictionary. Another appropriate interpretation would be someone who is a prophet. “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed and stationed watchmen (prophets), who will never keep silent day or night; you who profess the Lord take no rest for yourselves (Isaiah 62:6).

Watchmen are responsible for protecting towns and military installations from surprise enemy attacks and other potential dangers. Their job is to literally keep watch and WARN people of impending threats. When people are going about saying peace, peace, but when there is no peace, God will give the watchmen visions of warning (2 Kings 9:17; 2 Chronicles 20:24; Jeremiah 6:17). They were commanded to blow a trumpet to get the people’s attention (Habakkuk 2:1-20). Sometimes they fill the role of being scouts. They become spies behind enemy lines, gaining insight to their tactics. They also keep an eye out for their friends who may be in danger (the gift of discernment is very important here). A blind or disobedient watchman leaves the people he is called to protect. OBEDIENCE is ultimately the ONLY course of action for a watchman.

Here is a list of other roles watchmen participate in:

  • They announce the start of a new day (Psalm 130:6; Isaiah 21:11-12)
  • They safeguard fields and vineyards during harvest time (Isaiah 5:1-2; Matthew 21:33; Mark 12:1)
  • Prophets are appointed by God as spiritual watchmen over the souls of His people, including being in the trenches of spiritual warfare (Ezekiel 33:7; Hosea 9:8)
  • Watchmen URGE God’s people to live faithfully and warn them of the peril involved in falling away from the Lord and doing evil. They are to chastise those who fall away (Song of Solomon 5:7)
  • They also warn wicked people of the judgement and destruction that comes unless they turn from their evil ways
  • Just as in biblical times, watchmen bear a very heavy responsibility before God. If they fail to warn others as God has appointed them to do, his own life will be in danger and he will be held accountable for the sins of the people (Ezekiel 33:2-6)
  • Watchmen pray at all times in the Spirit. Keeping alert with perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18)
  • Watchmen will prepare ambushes for the enemy (Jeremiah 51:12) and seek to confuse them (Micah 7:4)
  • Watchmen are given revelation when the time is near for Jesus’s return (Jeremiah 31:6)

In conclusion, watchmen are blessed and highly favored by God (Proverbs 8:34-35). They are leaders among leaders because of the responsibility they have been given (Ezekiel 34:1-31; Isaiah 56:10). They are similar to the apostles having no earthly father, teacher or instructor. They are ordained by God, not man (Matthew 28:8-10). Finally, encourage your watchmen and fill them with joy. Not only does it benefit them, but it benefits you as well (Hebrews 13:17)!

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Ash Wednesday

by Cassie Lynch

This morning I attended my second ever Ash Wednesday service. As I sat under the teaching of a dear friend, he beckoned us to take today and this lent season to shift our gaze to death, to ashes, to longing. For in this reflection, we recognize our desperate need of life, of growth, of fulfillment. Of Christ.

I slowly made my way forward to feel the ashen cross (a bittersweet symbol of an incarnate God who entered our death-bound world), to hear the words “remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

As I waited, my heart weighed heavy. I realized that despite my attempts at intentional grief this year, I’d chosen instead to intentionally turn my gaze away. Instead of facing loss, I’ve spent 10 months trying to return. Return, to a time when death was an idea, not a tangible reality. Return to a time when I knew of death, but had never heard a last breath drawn. Return to a time when I knew that we would all one day pass, but had never seen the life vanish from eyes as a man turned into a corpse. And i’m sorry if this seems graphic, but I saw it. I saw death. I can now see the thestrals. And I hate it.

So as I sat this morning and I was encouraged to look at it, look at death, my skin crawled. I didn’t want to. I don’t like it.

But my friend was right. It is important that we look at it. Look at the mess! Look at the pain! Look at the brokenness! Look at the loss! Look at the depravity! Look at the death. For when we look at death, we can become aware of it’s defeater. Christ conquered death. But if I refuse to look at death. I miss it. I miss the great lengths our Lord traversed to conquer it.

So I’ve decided to look. From now until Good Friday I will look at death.

It’s only day one and I’ve already cried and raged against death. It took my dad. It took him from me and I had to see it at work firsthand. And as lent carries on I will continue to face it. And I know that as my longing grows, my craving for resurrection, so will grow my joy. Christ faced this wretched ash, but he defeated it. And though for now I have to face the pain and longing of loss, I know that one day I will stand face to face with my rescuer. And I will see my dad with life in his eyes, in his skin, in his smile.

But today I will look at the ashes. Today I will let the pain grow into gratitude. Today I will look at death.

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What are You Doing Today?

by Shane Caskey

Question, what would happen if you died today?? You never know do you.

What if Jesus came back today, would you be ready? Or would you feel like there is more you need to do?

Some of us have what’s called a bucket list. Things we would like to do before we die. Skiing, skydiving, mountain climbing, travel to Italy, make a million dollars, white water rafting,…. I can go on and on. My point is, what should your bucket list look like as a follower of Christ? Very different, I think.

I believe God is gonna ask us two questions when we get to heaven:

What did you do with what I gave you (Talents, spiritual gifts)?

What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?

Our bucket list should look like this:

How many souls can I reach for the kingdom.

How many times can I praise God for all He is and all that He does.

How many people can I make smile today and make a difference in their lives.

How can I make my Father in heaven proud of me.

How many people can I invite to church with me today.

How many times can I hug someone that just needed a hug (with something so simple you may have stopped them from committing suicide).

How many people can I show the Love of God to.

How can I be an example (especially if you are in a position of leadership, lead by example) to people around me of what it looks like to live for Jesus (make people wonder and want to ask, what is different about you, then bammm perfect opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them).

I can go on and on, but you catch my meaning.

We need to wake up Christians. We need to quit being haughty and proud and think we are better than others. Even Jesus sat with sinners, but didn’t sin with them. At one time we were one of them. It’s time for us to get to work for God’s kingdom and quit being “pew sitters”. We need to start living our lives for God DAILY, and start making a difference in this world that’s getting worse. The devil is laughing at us while we sit on the sidelines just watching! I don’t like being laughed at, do you? God has given all of us all spiritual gifts. If you don’t know what they are, I encourage you to find out what they are and start using them for the Glory of God and His Kingdom.

Another question: What are you angry about?

Are you angry  that the world is becoming the place it is today?

Are you angry children are getting rapped?

Are you angry about the human trafficking going on right here in Atlanta Georgia?

Are you angry because someone stole from you?

There’s lots to be angry about. And that’s ok. Believe me, God is just as angry about these things. Learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates. He loves the people but hates the sin.

And we should be angry with Satan! He is trying to, with all that he has, to destroy our lives!! Lets get angry at the devil and fight back and get off our rear ends and do something-anything!! A friend of mine always said, “Don’t talk about it, be about it!”.

Some may ask, well what can we do to help? We need to get on our knees and start praying earnestly for those around us. Believe me, there is POWER in prayer. We need to ask God to unleash the legions of angels and go to war with the enemy around us as we begin to discern where the enemy is hitting. There are people all over this world crying out for help. I’ve also learned that the enemy doesn’t like it when we worship and sing to God wholeheartedly. He doesn’t like scripture either especially when quoted out loud from someone who really believes in what they are quoting. The bucket list above is another way to fight back.

I love you all! And I pray that God’s love and blessings be poured out on your lives! I pray that God places a hedge of protection around you as you begin to step out of your comfort zones and take part in trying to make a difference in this world. In Jesus’ precious and Holy Name I pray! Amen.

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Peace

by Cassie Lynch

One of the most famous verses in all of scripture regarding peace and worry is Philippians 4:6. We hear it again and again. Be anxious for nothing. Be anxious for nothing. Be anxious for nothing. 

I want to pause for a moment and encourage you. This isn’t going to be an article on how to muster up the willpower to defeat anxiety. This isn’t going to be a verse pulled out of context and preached at you.

 “Be anxious for nothing,” This isn’t helpful. It’s not enough. We have to see more. 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

Ah. So the method here is prayer and petition. Prayer, which is as simple as talking to God. And supplication. One of the definitions of supplication is ‘to seek or pursue,’. 

So talk to God and seek him with thanksgiving. 

With a firm grip on his faithfulness and his goodness and his presence and his provision in life up until this very moment, let your need be made known to God. 

The word here for ‘making it known’ is the Greek word gnōrizō, which means ‘to know intimately’. In fact, it comes from the Greek root word for sexual intimacy. The idea here is this- making your need known at the most intimate level. Let him become so well acquainted with your need that it is vulnerable to him, exposed to him, laid bare to him. Get the need as near as possible, as voiced as possible, as seen as possible. 

This only happens if we step into his space. If we draw near.

This is not a casual passing prayer. This is not throwing a word in with the big guy. This is intimate. It requires relationship and nearness and exposure. 

And because of the work Christ did on the cross, that kind of intimate access is available to us. 

Jesus says, ‘come to me you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest!’ 

Jesus says, ‘enter my throne room of grace with confidence my child! The way has been paved!’

And in that intimate space we get to meet the Prince of Peace. 

In chapter 4 he says this peace that transcends understanding will guard your heart (what you feel) and your mind (what you think). 

Oh. You mean, the two parts of us that engage in this thing called worry? Yes. He’s going to protect and care for those parts of us when we get near and share with him our fears. 

Continuing in chapter 4, you’re going to notice that he says to focus on a list of things. Good things. But, when you pause long enough, you will learn that the list is all talking about one thing. Him. 

Dwell on Christ. Eyes on Christ. The power of the cross paves a way for us to draw near and we do that by sharing, but we also do that by keeping our gaze on him. 

What good does this do? 

Carry on, and we find Paul begins to talk about the secret to contentment – which is the opposite of worry. Now this may not come as a shock, but it’s worth noting: Paul says that the key to contentment is you must draw near to the Prince of Peace. 

Paul says, do you know why I can be content in the face of beatings and death threats and abandonment? I’ll tell you. Christ. In. Me. I can do all things because Christ is in me! Everything is going to be okay because I know who is in charge. He is with me. He is near to me. He knows me. He knows my circumstances. I can lose it all and I can still experience life abundant because he is the living water, he is my comfort, he is my fulfillment, he is EVERY SINGLE THING I NEED. 

When the storms and the questions and the concerns knock at your door, you get to stand and say that it’s all going to be okay because you are not alone in this and you are seen.

This isn’t a mantra you can beat into your head. It’s a deep conviction that comes when you seek the Lord gratefully to share your worries as your eyes stay locked on him. 

Let’s review. 

  1. Look at your life and note the goodness, let gratitude well up.
  2. Now, with gratitude in your heart and on your tongue, it’s time to get real. Dump your fears and feelings and stresses at the feet of Jesus. Be frank and honest. Don’t hold back. 
  3. Focus on his nearness and on his goodness as you lean on the Prince of Peace. Recognize that he is in you.
  4. Repeat until the peace begins to lift your eyes above the storm. Peace won’t be born out of denial, but out of a deep and authentic comprehension of who is in charge. (Spoiler, it’s the Prince of Peace and he loves you dearly). 

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Lift Your Banners High!

by Shane Caskey

Lift your banners high! Blow the trumpets! Holy nations sanctified will be our battle cry!! I encourage you to listen to the Casting Crowns song, “Until the Whole World Hears”. Pay attention to the lyrics!

The revelation of repentance to a lukewarm lethargic (slow to move or act) generation is about to begin. It’s time for the Sleeping Giant (The Church/Body of Christ) to awake!

Could you imagine the possibilities of a united church on the front battline!! Standing together as One Body of Christ!! This is how the church should begin to awaken.

Maria Woodworth Etter believed God is upset with some of the churches today, because they refuse to allow the people to openly and freely express themselves to God ( I personally feel the Holy Spirit saying the same message to me as well).

If people can’t express themselves to God, then He can’t move upon them. Our church MUST have a fresh movement of God that affects the EMOTIONS. 

God’s presence begins to manifest in a church when believers commit to doing the following: 

  1. Cleaning the church (sanctuary). This involves anointing and applying the blood of Jesus to every doorway to keep demons from coming in
  2. Praying at the beginning of EVERY service. We need to ask the Lord to send heavenly warriors to escort any demonic forces that made it on the inside to be taken out.
  3. We then need to prayerfully invite the presence of Almighty God inside.

In this way, a real powerful service will begin!

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TRUTH

by Sarah Itterman

TRUTH. Such a broad yet narrow word. The world we live in defines truth in ways which do not even make sense. The pure truth is slandered and demonized. The truth which they want everyone to believe is placed on a soapbox of lies and empty meaning. Truth is placed in the dark shadows. Anyone who goes in search of it risks much who find the answers. What truths do we deem necessary to undergo dangers for? What are we willing to sacrifice to unveil the curtain? Are some truths worth taking extreme perils for more than others? Truth is never easy to keep hold of. Perhaps that is how we know when it is worth everything, even our very lives, to find it. Few are willing to suffer the consequences, yet it is the few who grasp the truth who are set free. It’s not about physical freedom. It’s the spiritual freedom gained which provides the strength to carry on. What an honor it is to know truth and share this priceless gem to those around us!

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A Lesson From Ezra

by Kendra Williams

“Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping….” –Ezra 3:11-13

The first time I read this passage I thought the elderly were weeping out of joy. They had witnessed a devastation in their lifetime- the destruction of the first temple- and probably hadn’t expected to live long enough to see the restoration of their beloved building. But the weeping told about here is written in contrast to the joy of the rest of the people. The elderly weren’t weeping for joy… they were grieving.

Why? Why would they grieve the restoration of something so precious to them? Because they didn’t want something new, they wanted the old that was lost. They remembered well how the first was anointed, how God dwelt there and all the dedicated effort they themselves poured into it. Who knows what kind of God-encounters these elderly men had witnessed in that place? It was like the glory days, immortal in their memories. They got so stuck on the anointing of the past that they failed to see God’s work and anointing on the present. They missed one of the greatest blessings ever given in their lifetime. They missed it, even as it unfolded right before their eyes… all because they failed to move onThe idea that God’s new dwelling could be as beloved and anointed as the first was lost on them. By nature, failure to move on has the view that nothing could be as great as what’s already been. As we can see here this is a blinding lie.

I was mulling over this passage this morning at work. Something about it resonated, so I tried to figure out what it was I was missing. We can relate to passages of Scripture in every chapter of our lives but there’s always a lesson to walk away with. For some reason I couldn’t place it with this. I tried to think it through but it was difficult focusing because of the memories that constantly hamper my thoughts at work. They’re so vivid sometimes I can’t see where I am, almost like flashbacks. Every single room triggers unbidden memories, snatches of days past. Days I grieve because of all the recent losses in the ministry and the resulting change it produced in me and many others. That’s when it dawned on me. I’ve missed the blessed work of God going on right before my eyes because of grieving the destruction of His past work. The first temple was built and used (the original ministry days), destroyed (ministry dramatically altered and hurt), and then restored with a new temple (ministry continued in a new way). But I couldn’t see the restoration. In fact, the restoration’s been resented and keeps the wound fresh. I’ve failed to let go of the glory days and see God’s work on the new foundations.

One of my best friends said it could be easy to go down the road of grief, to focus on the losses in life and get stuck in them. She chooses to approach each day seeking for God’s blessings in the present, even when things hurt. Considering how long I’ve had a relationship with Jesus, it shouldn’t be surprising when a recent conversation and stumbled-upon verse coincide so completely on a point. As always, I’ll try to follow her example. The blessings of the past will always be missed. But how can I treasure the memories- not grieve them- and seek out the blessings of today? Where can I witness God’s work and anointing like it was seen before? I’m blinded by the past. It’s time to see what’s happening before my eyes

Life may have changed. Seasons, people, callings…. beginnings and endings are inevitable. But God is unchanging and He is doing what He’s always done. Lord, like we’d talked about awhile ago, my desire is to rub shoulders with You in the work. You never stopped…I did. Help me to regain Your heart and join You again. Help me to shout Your praises instead of weep.

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United

by Shane Caskey

United we stand divided we fall!

This goes back to the very principles of what this country was founded on. The church today is too divided. Instead of working together as the body of Christ should, we are arguing and stuck on interpretations of the scripture. What matters the MOST is we stand on ONE principle: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We all believe in God and we all should believe in Jesus our Lord and Savior. The King of this earth who died, conquered death and rose again on the third day. Through His blood we are given authority over the principalities of darkness. Claim that authority and let’s start fighting back!! Let’s stand together and fight this demon who is laughing at us because of our petty differences!

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You are Free

by Cassie Lynch

Perhaps it’s because I never looked closely enough. Perhaps it’s because I watched the Prince of Egypt too many times growing up. Regardless of the reasoning, I’ve always imagined the Hebrew people crossing the Red Sea in slave clothes. 

But that’s not at all what happened. 

Before any miracles. Before any plagues. Before the great exodus out of slavery in Egypt. God laid out the plan. In Exodus 3:21 he says that the Hebrew women, when the time comes, will ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold and clothing and they are to dress their sons and daughters in it. It would be their plunder of the Egyptians who had abused them for so long. 

Can you see it? 

Slaves their whole lives. Abused and mistreated and broken down. For so long having cried for rescue. And rescue had finally come. The people of God marched across the sea on dry land and their children were no longer wearing slave clothes. No! They walked into freedom dressed in the wealth of their captors. 

God didn’t just set them free – which would have sufficed- no he lavished them in excess. 

The Lord wanted his people to know they were no longer slaves. They were his children, his people. They were valued and dignified and loved. 

And what makes this reality all the more unbelievable is that the jewelry hanging from their necks and wrists and ears would be the very gold they would soon melt together to form the golden calf- a rejection of the one who set them free.The all-knowing God, fully aware of what this jewelry would become, still told his people to take it. 

Is it possible that his highest concern for his people in that moment was identity- not future sin? (Sin he would deal with severely when it came to pass). When Jesus paid the price to welcome us into the family of God, he set did the work to us free. Before, we were slaves to sin. But now, we’ve been given a Red Sea moment; the cross has paved the way for us to march into freedom.

And we will fail. We still stumble. We will abuse his gift. 

But know this. Today. Right now.  God wants you to know you are his. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are free.

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Things Eternal Film

This is an excellent, thought provoking production based on real life events. The spiritual realm is real and one that we need to take seriously. I encourage you to take time to watch the whole thing!

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God is in the Fire

by Shane Caskey

If you are going through some hard times, I want you to remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. They didn’t burn, God saved them.

Keep going brothers and sisters. When you think all of hell is after you, remember who has you, and who you belong too! God has you, just trust Him!

Winston Churchhill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”

Let me tell you, if all of hell is coming after you, you should consider yourself honored and highly favored by God. For some reason the enemy is freaking out and trying to stop you. If the enemy is after you that badly, you must be doing something right! Keep going!! Don’t let anything stop you. Let God keep ordering and directing your steps. Just stay focused on Him. And if you need help and feel like it’s too much to handle, reach out to a brother or sister in Christ and ask them to help you and pray for you. We aren’t supposed to do this alone. We need each other. I am praying for all of you! Whatever you are going through, just praise Him in the storm and the enemy will flee!! I pray a hedge of protection around you and that God will send His angels to look out for you and protect you. Just know that fire can be cleansing, and when you come out on the other side you will be stronger than ever before!

Praise God!! Bless His Holy Name Forever!!

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Humility

by Sarah Itterman

God, give me humility. May my wants and desires never take precedence over Yours. Give me strength to remain humble and not allow pride to get in the way. May Your words be on my lips and not my own. Give me the courage to do what is right when my flesh is screaming to be complacent. Give me the strength to run the race which You have set before me. Let me not stumble or fall by the wayside for the sake of peace and rest. Encapsulate my soul with Your love and how You see those who would do me harm. Help me to forgive and share Your heart with them. May my life be an offering that only points to You. As I raise a hallelujah, let fear wash away into an ocean of hope and joy which can only be found in You. When the flower of my life is crushed beneath the feet of the enemy, let the aroma be a taste of who You are. God, give me humility. 

Heaven, My Home

by Kendra Williams

You know, no matter how hard things get, the most comforting and peaceful thoughts I have are about home and Who is there…I think about Heaven. Even if things aren’t going well, I can lay back at the end of the day and think about Home. All the tightened muscles in my face relax into an expression of peace and contentment. One may think it a boring topic. Actually, there is so much to be imagined! Some see Heaven as a bunch of clouds, or a city of golden buildings with no furniture inside. And worst of all, there’s nothing to do! Think about something for a moment. If God made  such beautiful nature here on earth, why wouldn’t He want it in Heaven? It says in Genesis that God walked with Adam in the Garden every evening. I’m sure God relished those walks. He was pleased with His creation. Just look around! Every natural thing of beauty is His idea. So when I see Heaven in my mind’s eye, it’s unbelievable. I’ll describe it this way…

It’s very quiet and peaceful. I look up at the rolling hills and notice a bright light crowning the top of the hill directly in front of me. Climbing the hill, a gasp breaks from my lips, for in front of me is a city built by no man. The walls surrounding it are higher than skyscrapers and reach as far as the eye can see in either direction (Revelation 21:15-17). There are twelve massive gates, elaborate with precious stones and indescribable designs inset in its pearly surface. In fact, the gate itself is pearl (Revelation 21:21). Guarding each gate are angels clad in armor, many of them around forty feet tall. The most extreme fantasy angel pictures you can find now days doesn’t come close to them: unimaginable strength mixed with deadly grace in their movements, their eyes of pure, white fire reflecting off of their armor like a mirror. They stand watch, swords of fire and lightening held with the familiarity of a master in their massive hands. There’s something human-like about them, and yet not. They are neither human nor monster, they are simply- well- Guardians.   With their permission I walk through the gateway and into the City. Imagine taking that first breath entering Heaven – so fragrant, fresh, and reviving, drinking it in as if it were the first breath of life itself!

On entering Heaven, I see the most magnificent city unfold before my eyes. It is with mixed feelings that I call it a city, because each mansion has its own grounds. No two mansions are alike, but neither could you say that one is more beautiful than the other. Each is designed and decorated specially according to the person’s deepest likes and style. The city is nestled in the arms of gigantic mountains that would make Mt. Everest seem nothing more than a hill. The snow-capped peaks shine bright against a colorful sky– dawn, midday, and sunset put all together being the only way to describe it. Even from a distance I can see the Son’s reflection on the waterfalls and rivers that flow down the mountains (Revelation 21:23). One waterfall drops hundreds of feet over a vertical rocky surface to be lost in a glade of mist-enshrouded Secoyas at the bottom. A rainbow of nameless colors crowns the scene. The sound of laughter breaks my trance. I turn to see children playing and splashing around in a river illuminating many colors from under its surface. Curious, I jump in. Immediately I feel as if I were being cleansed of every unclean thing, both inside and out. Looking down, I see the reason for the colors I first noticed in the water. Imagine scooping up a few pebbles from the bottom of a stream. That’s exactly what I did, only what I came up with were diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls ..every natural rock of earthly worth was in the river. As I looked at them, I suddenly realized I had no need to resurface for oxygen. Remember, this place is beyond Death. Coming out of the water, I see something hard to describe.

The source of the river is directly above us, cascading down beside a huge staircase winding up to the throne of God. The River of Life (for that is its name) begins at the base of the throne (Revelation 22:1), gushing out and making me think of the water from a rock in the time of Moses (Numbers 20:11). Now, I cannot describe the throne room of Heaven better than John does, so I will quote him here (Revelation 4:3-11) :

“He Who sat (on the throne) was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne , and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. the first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying,’Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’ Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him Who sits on the throne, Who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him Who sits on the throne and worship Him Who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.’”

Wow! What an awesome sight! I could write on and on about the throne room, but I’ll leave it as it is. There is so much in Heaven that I could write about… the great host of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1); the enormous library, more magnificent than a cathedral, filled with books holding every detail of our lives in them; the angels’ different names and personalities (God’s not one for cloning, as nature is living proof. I imagine angels have their own likes and dislikes, personal character, specific strengths, etc. Being perfect doesn’t signify a lack of personality). But I don’t think I’ll have enough space to write about all that. Mentioning them is enough. Next time I write I’ll tell you about Jesus. I’ve intentionally left my description of Him til last because it’s the best part. That’s how a Christian life goes, isn’t it? Best for last. I can hardly wait to write about Him!

Just to let everyone know, not all that I’ve described about Heaven was my original idea. It’s either straight from the Bible or from someone else’s description that I’ve read. This is what I’ve built on for my own imagining. Ah, I can’t wait to get Home!

“We who are in this tent (our bodies) groan, being burdened.” – 2 Corinthians 5:4

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18 

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