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Posts Tagged ‘love’

We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit and saw first hand the devastation storms can bring, but we saw so much more! We saw communities unite, churches and Christians mobilize, and a blanket of love encompass the area. A short time after Katrina hit, when our city was full of storm refugees, the Billy Graham crusade came through. Storm victims were living in our cities’ churches, surrounded by Christ’s love, and our cities were filled with an influx of caring, serving, giving Christians coming to see the crusade. As I saw people actively demonstrate Christ’s love, I was reminded that even during the storm–especially during the storm–God was there.

Today’s post comes from multi-published author, Cara Putman. When a powerful tornado ravished Joplin, Missouri, God called her to be His hands and feet–to share His love with the hurting. Despite looming deadlines, family commitments, and all the other demands on her time, Cara accepted God’s call. Because of her obedience, many hurting families experienced the love of Christ.

http://www.wlfi.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=9248

At the end of May 2011 and beginning of June, I tackled a project that grew exponentially. A little idea that took on a force of its own with the help of local media. As a result massive amounts of time disappeared as I collected and sorted boxes and bags of items for Joplin.

After the tornados that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, last year, I’ve been burdened by their horrific paths of destruction. I first asked God what I could do when I saw the horrific images of Alabama. Then the weekend storms hit Joplin. A third of the town…gone.

It’s almost too much to fathom.

But the burden wouldn’t leave. So I kept praying. A donation didn’t seem like enough, though I did that, too. I wanted to do something tangible. Something the kids could participate in like giving of clothes and books to those who have lost everything.

I mentioned an idea to my pastor’s wife, and literally, in twenty-four hours God exploded it into something so much bigger. I love how He does that! Our church is a collection point for material goods to go to a church in Joplin where my pastor’s brother serves as a worship pastor. I sent out a facebook message to 41 friends (don’t you love social networking) and three local churches partnered with us. I worried about how we would transport the goods, and one of those churches had a box truck we used.

So what can we do?
• Pray. I absolutely believe prayer is key.
• Give. There are excellent organizations like Convoy of Hope and Samaritan’s Purse that are on the ground making a difference.
• If you want to help with physical items when a disaster strikes, make sure you work with a church or organization already on the ground there.
• In Joplin, we learned desperately needed items included:
o Baby food
o formula
o diapers
o kids’ clothes from infant on up
o toys and books are welcome too, but think small since we’ll have to transport everything.
o tarps in all shapes and sizes.
o hygiene products — everything from hotel sample sized to full sized

But those needs may change based on the disaster. I refuse to stand paralyzed in the face of disaster. Instead, I choose to do something and be the hands and feet of Christ to those in desperate need.

***

Cara C. Putman lives in Indiana with her husband and four children. She’s an attorney and a teacher at her church as well as lecturer at Purdue. She has loved reading and writing from a young age and now realizes it was all training for writing books. She loves bringing history and romance to life.

An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska and George Mason University School of Law, Cara left small town Nebraska and headed to Washington, D.C., to launch her career in public policy.

Cara is an author chasing hard after God as she lives a crazy life. She invites you to join her on that journey. Learn more at: http://www.caraputman.com, http://blog.caraputman.com, http://www.facebook.com/caraputman, http://www.twitter.com/cara_putman, and http://www.pinterest.com/caraputman.

A Wedding Transpires in Mackinac Island:

Attorney Alanna Stone vowed long ago to avoid Mackinac Island. Although it may seem the perfect place to heal, for Alanna it holds too many memories of a painful past.

But an exhausting high profile case and an urgent plea from her parents have brought Alanna home. Moving into the house next to Jonathan Covington doesn’t help her. Jonathan may have been her first love, but he was also her first lesson in betrayal. Now Alanna must protect her privacy and her heart. Then Secrets and a murder intersect, and she’s thrust into controversy again as tragedy turns public opinion against her and potentially her family.

For years, Jonathan has stubbornly resisted the urging of his family and friends to date, believing he’s already found the perfect woman. With Alanna’s return, he begins to wonder if he’s waited too long for someone who isn’t the right one after all.

We are to be Christ’s hands and feet, His instruments of love to a hurting world. Can you share a time when God called you to reach out to someone experiencing great loss or trial? Or perhaps you were the one struggling, and God loved you through others. Share your story here so we can all rejoice in God’s merciful, ever-reaching love.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “Reach Out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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When I was a kid, while walking to and from school, I’d see signs showing which homes were “safe houses.” Should trouble ever arise, I knew where I could go. The welcome mat on these doorsteps meant exactly what it said.

Although safe houses still exist, it seems many have been replaced by no trespassing signs as we isolate ourselves further and further from one another. But as followers of Christ, I believe our homes should extend a loud and hearty welcome. You never know when God will use you to be a beacon of love and hope to one of His broken children.

Today’s post comes from Kenneth W. Bangs, a man who extended a welcome instead of a barrier, and in doing so, spoke love and acceptance into two people’s lives.

***

Herschel lived down the road. First time I saw him he was sitting on his porch. I realized we had a new neighbor so I stopped to say hey. He stood as I walked up…tall and thin with a demeanor that told me he had done time. I shook his hand, chatted a minute…could tell he was really uncomfortable so I drove on.

Some months later I was on a tractor and saw him pull up. He shuffled over, head down and said, “Boss would it be ok if I brought my grandson over to fish in your ponds?” I told him sure and he said, “You know I done some time.”

“I know,” I said.

“It was over dope and it was hard time because I acted the fool in the joint.” He looked up at me and said, “You’re police aren’t you?”

“Used to be.”

He nodded and started talking…told me his whole life story. I’d heard it so many times before…so hard, so violent. I prayed with him and told him to enjoy the fishing. He brought his grandson by several times and then stopped. I got a call from a local pastor. He told me Herschel had cancer, no insurance and asked if we could help. Of course we did. I talked with him from time to time, watched as the disease consumed him. Then he was gone. I saw that little grandson as I drove past the other day sitting on the porch steps with his face in his hands. He loved his grandfather and his grandfather loved him…love – so important to give and receive…it lives on long after we’re gone…

***

Stop for a moment and consider the chain events that occurred because Kenneth extended a hearty welcome and created a bridge instead of a barrier. For a moment, consider the impact Kenneth’s choice had on the grandson. Consider the memories, the precious moments, Kenneth’s pond allowed the boy and his grandfather to share.

Now, consider the impact this had on the shame-filled man–the message of love, grace, and forgiveness Kenneth’s actions revealed.

Powerful messages.

But the blessing wasn’t done. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God brought this man to Kenneth’s pond prior to the man’s bout with cancer. God’s timing is perfect. By acting in love and obedience, Kenneth built a bridge that allowed him to speak love, hope, and truth into this man’s life when he needed it most.

Consider also the long-term impact each pond visit had on this precious child. I’ve often shared stories of the countless Christians God placed in my path when I was a child. (Read more here.) As an adult, when I looked back over each encounter, I realized it was God loving me through them. I realized, because of the love poured out through His children, that God had never left my side.

Powerful messages provided by such a simple act of love.

Who can you love on today? And how authentic is your welcome mat?

I’d love to hear from you. Have you, like the precious child in our story, experienced God’s love and grace through the actions of another? Or like Kenneth, have you extended a welcome and seen it blossom into something more–something of eternal value?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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I’m excited to launch my “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign! The Bible tells us to spur one another on toward good deeds and to speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and praises. By seeing God’s love pour through others, we’re encouraged to allow Him to do the same with us. I pray the testimonies shared here will encourage you to live out your faith in obedience and love. As an added participation incentive, each month I’ll select one reader from subscribers and comments to win a free book, and I’ll invite you to choose your favorite “reach out” story. The winning contributor will receive the gift basket highlighted on the April’s Donors Page.

Today, multi-published author and “Reach Out” book donor, Mary Ellis shares a touching story of sharing Christ’s love with the homeless.

***

I had the honor and privilege of volunteering for several years with the program “Operation Homes” in Ohio.

About seven or eight churches rotated assistance to the county’s homeless for one week every other month. We fed them dinner each night in the church basement, provided cots for sleeping (families were kept together in Sunday school rooms) and drove those without transportation to where they needed to go the next day. We helped complete unemployment compensation forms, apply for jobs, select suitable business attire at Goodwill, obtain medical treatment, and line up permanent housing for those ready to stand on their own. But most of all, we prayed with them, listened to them, and demonstrated lessons taught by the Savior. Several of them joined our church afterwards. What did I gain from the experience? There, but for the grace of God go I. These people were no different than you or me. Loss of employment or a serious illness could place any of us into dire straits. I get down on my knees each night and thank the Lord for His continued mercy and grace in my life.

***

Mary Ellis lives her faith out loud through acts of service, like the one referenced above, and through stories God stirs in her heart. To motivate others to live out their faith, she’s donating a copy of  An Amish Family Reunion:

During a rumschpringe visit to Niagara Falls, Phoebe Miller meets Eli Riehl, a young man who charms her—and everyone else—with his exceptional storytelling ability. When Phoebe sketches scenes to illustrate one of his tales, Eli encourages her incredible talent, and together they embark on a lofty and unlikely business venture for two young Amish people—writing and illustrating a children’s book.

Eli’s kindness and appeal extend beyond his knack for words to reach inside Phoebe’s heart. But he is an only son with five sisters, and when his father suffers a heart attack, Eli gives up his writing to assume responsibility on the farm. Though willing to abandon his dream of becoming an author, he won’t give up his beloved Phoebe.

Can their love for a good story develop into something that lasts forever, or will Phoebe’s deep-seated fear of desertion stand in their way?

Buy it here.

Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carols. Connect with her at:

www.maryellis.net

www.maryeellis.wordpress.com

Facebook.com

Mary’s testimony reminds me how important it is to spend time connecting with others, showing them the love of Jesus, and praying with them. Do have any similar stories you can share? Maybe of a time when you started a service project to find God calling you to pause to take time to love? Or perhaps a time when God loved on you through someone else? Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “reach out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.

April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A  Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)

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How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways ….

My husband is quite the romantic. He rarely buys me glitzy jewelry or takes me to five-star restaurants. He doesn’t read me poetry or take me dancing (perhaps you remember why. If not, you can read the reason here.), but he does buy me candied almonds when he’s at the outdoorsman store. He buys me jelly beans and packs of gum … just because. He sends me one sentence—uh … one word—emails, and calls me with absolutely nothing to say. :) It’s like a trail of love, small actions sprinkled throughout our sixteen years together, easily overlooked if I’m not paying attention, and yet able to penetrate deep into my heart if I am.

If you belong to Christ, you have a husband even more tender, more thoughtful, more attentive than mine. Daily, Christ showers us with love, for no other reason than because we are His beloved. His treasure.

Today my sweet friend  Elizabeth Veldboom shares how God sprinkled tokens of love before her, like hidden rose petals waiting to be discovered and cherished.

***

As I held the small angel ornaments in my hands, ready to purchase them, tears came to my eyes even as a smile touched my lips. I fingered the pretty white lace, and breathed in the words the angels held in their embrace: love, and joy. Yes, I had love. And I had joy, for I was loved.

But let me rewind a little bit. One morning last December in my prayer time I felt as if God were asking me to focus on “love” and “joy.” Love and joy? I thought, crinkling my brow. Could you be more specific, God? That’s kind of general.

If only I knew then how specific He could get.

A few days after that, I came across a blog post about the widespread phenomenon of the “one word for 2012” campaign. Basically, instead of concentrating on a huge resolutions list for the new year, participants were asked to consider focusing on just one word for 2012. They could do this through prayer, journaling, and just by asking God how He would have them apply that word throughout daily life.

The idea intrigued me, and I decided I, too, would focus on one word for 2012. As I mulled on it, my conversation with God a few days earlier came back to me. Focus on love and joy. Could those be the words God wanted me to concentrate on for 2012? I hoped not. They were two very broad terms. Besides, they were just that:two. I needed one word.

A week later found my mom and I at a craft fair. In the first room we entered, a woman selling lace angel ornaments caught our eye. As we ventured nearer, I felt a gentle tugging in my spirit to pay attention. Curious, I tried to listen closely to what God was trying to tell me. But instead of my ears, it was my eyes God used.

Looking up, one angel stood out from among the many. Love, I read. That would have been enough to make me wonder, but then I felt another gentle urging to keep looking. I swept my gaze to the side, and immediately recognized what I was supposed to see: joy, said another angel. I couldn’t believe it.

That was at least two months ago, but the words “love” and “joy” have kept resurfacing everywhere I go. And I’m not a bit surprised.

You see, I serve a God who takes joy out of the little things. Who never overlooks the smallest detail or tiniest trouble. Who orders and plans and organizes our steps. He is a God of greatness, yes-but He is also a God of the still, the small, the silent.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT.)

Every detail? Yes. Even the smallest: a single tear wetting the pillow; a snowflake drifting from the skies of heaven; the lace in an angel’s skirt.

No one is ever too insignificant for Him to notice. No problem too small for Him to care. Knowing He delights in and takes care of every little detail in our lives, we can rest easy and without fear.

I love that God delights in the details and in the small things. But even more-I love that God finds delight in the details of my small life.

I Hear Ya: In what small ways has God shown that He delights in the details of your life recently or in the past? What one word would you choose for 2012?

Elizabeth Veldboom is devoted to God, a small town girl, and a freelance writer.  She has previously been published in places like Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters. Visit her blog anytime at www.thefearlist.wordpress.com- the place that is for the faint of heart. **And visit her blog today to get in on a fun give-away! She’s giving away a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

And come back here Saturday as we talk about our spiritual vision. God’s always working, loving, speaking, guiding. If you can’t see His hand, perhaps you need to get your vision checked. :)

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Early in our marriage, with a young child underfoot and long hours changing diapers, cleaning blocks, and watching Teletubbies, I’d anxiously await my husband’s return from work. If only to have adult conversation. But back then his work schedule was crazy, with long hours, sometimes 14 day stretches, calls at all hours. We’d plan an event, maybe a trip to the ice cream store or an evening at the park, and invariably, his phone would ring. So what’d I do? I got upset, and soured the rest of our night.

Then one day it hit me. My attitude was hurting me, and my daughter. By throwing a fit and focusing on the negative, I was robbing us all of a chance to grab hold of the rare moment we had. I decided to change my attitude and my focus.

In today’s post by Anita Estes, her husband made the same choice, and the result was beautiful. As you read her account of her husband’s gift of grace, ask yourself how you can give your spouse that same gift this Valentine’s Day. Because we live in a fallen world with stress, disappointments, responsibilities, frustrations, and demands. Life’s going to throw hurdles your way. Most likely your spouse will also, on occasion. Will you respond with anger or with grace?

God Rekindles Marriages—
With Grace
By Anita Estes

My husband’s twelve to midnight schedule had the habit of ruining evenings together, especially Friday nights when he often slept through to Saturday. But this weekend held hope for a date night, since he’d taken the previous night off. We had planned on going to the movies, so on the way home from work I bought a newspaper with the theatre listings. It had been a crazy week for me with grades due for 700 students, Bible study, lesson plans and coursework, so when I came home I collapsed on the couch. Looking through the listings, the only promising show was across the river. I doubted he would go that far, but he owed me this one since he had cancelled our previous night out, and I desired to be with him.

Let me explain why. My husband and I have been married over thirty three years and it’s been a rocky road—one littered with broken promises, near poverty, problems with addiction, and marital strife. We’ve met with no less than five counselors and are now on our seventh. This one laid out some strict guidelines for my husband, who baulked at the reigns being tightened. You see, he has been a very independent person, partly due to his heritage and my independent personality, which kicked in when he pulled away from me. But now with the children out of the house (for the most part), I’ve really needed and wanted him.

For years he weaved in and out of a close relationship to God and me, fighting depression and bouts of addiction. This drove me into a strong relationship with Jesus and my children. They became my world, and my spouse would pop in and out of ours. I didn’t grow bitter, but my lack of respect became evident to the point of putting him down in front of the children. He reacted by withdrawing affection and love. At times we would move closer to each other, then something would happen again, and he would build a wall around himself. This went on for years with only minor improvement. At one time, I had contemplated divorce.

But now he and I are beginning to experience some real breakthrough. I am praying for his emotional healing and trusting God with the outcome. He is trying to love me for who I am, and we are both trying to accept our differences. We are learning to operate in grace towards each other and listening to our counselor’s advice. My assignment is to respect my spouse more, and his is to love me more. That’s what ensued.

Sitting on the couch, tired and in a bad mood, I announced the location of the movie, to which he barked back. “No way, I’m not going that far!” Annoyed, I threw down the newspaper and retorted, “You can never make any sacrifices for me!” He replied, “You’re being quite nasty. I’m not going anywhere with you.” A fight was brewing. Then suddenly he caught himself and said, “I’m not going to let this ruin the day. I’m going to choose to love you.” The fight fizzled. I backed down and apologized, which is hard for me to do. We smoothed things over, found a great movie and had a wonderful time together.

So what was different this time? The application of grace. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 2:9).” My husband extended grace to me like God does to us. It’s grace that gave me the ability to love my husband in good times and bad. It gave me the ability to persevere, to trust God’s timing and receive grace back from my husband. Grace poured over me when I didn’t deserve it; it poured over him when he messed up.

After thirty three years of marriage, I can see it’s becoming what God intended it to be, not the American dream, but the vision God has for us—a married couple working together to perform His will, bound together in mature love. We have endured difficult times with God’s grace. Now we are reaping the harvest as we submit to His plan for our marriage, to each other and to wise counsel.

To those of you in difficult marriages, my advice is: fall in love with Your Savior first, read the Word of God and let it dwell richly within you, take time for your relationship with Him and extend grace to your spouse. Seek the godly counsel of others and submit one to another. Love and respect each other. It’s a tall order, but God’s abundant storehouse of grace is limitless!

Recommended reading: Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Anita Estes resides in the beautiful Hudson Valley of upstate New York with her husband and son. She is an art teacher, freelance writer and avid gardener. As an educator, she has been honored  in “Who’s Who of American Teachers” for 2000 and 2005. Her work appears in several compilations including God Allows U-Turns, A Cup of Comfort, Deliver Me and Adams Media books. Her devotions have been published in Penned from the Heart, “Upper Room” and on-line.
She is the author of When God Speaks: 40 Days of His PromisesTransformed—Inspiring Stories of Freedom and Letters to God on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction through Prayer.  Her passion is encouraging others in their Christian walk, by calling the church to intimate and honest communication with God. She desires to help others break the bonds of addiction and pain through an understanding of God’s promises.  Visit her at www.anitaestes.com and http://anitaestes7.blogspot.com/
Anita Estes, author of When God Speaks, invites you to come along on a life changing journey through the landscape of God’s Promises. Your destination –the Promised Land. Once you embark on this forty- day excursion, you  will gain valuable insights into key promises in which God communicates concerning: Your True Identity, Divine Guidance, Resurrection Life, Hope, True Prosperity, Empowering Love, Healing and much more. Each day of When God Speaks is loaded with nuggets of wisdom that Anita Estes shares in her inspirational stories, prayers, application and evening meditation. As you reflect on these powerful verses you will be challenged and equipped to implement them into your daily life. God has given you everything you need for spiritual victory, but you must take the first step.
Letters to God, on a Prodigal SonOvercoming Addiction Through Prayer is the poignant, true story of a parent’s journey through the minefield of her adult child’s addiction. It is the heartfelt cry of a mother who finds peace in the midst of her tsunami and discovers the secret of victorious prayer! It is a potent journal packed with prayers, practical advice and key spiritual insights. Letters to God will unlock the secrets to successful prayer, not only for those dealing with prodigals, but for anyone facing their own storm.

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How many times have we heard the phrase, “It’s not about you?” And while this is so true, reminding us that most often people respond based on their own thoughts, perceptions, and hurts, if you are a follower of Christ, you can’t rely on the “but that’s how I feel” crutch. Your call is to flip things–to fight the human tendency toward self-centeredness as you place others interest above your own. This means taking the time to look at people–truly look at them, evaluating your words not only in terms of what you are trying to say, but in how they might be perceived. As you read about the ancient prophet named Jonah, retold by Robin Prater from the Robin’s Nest, think of your own life. Does Christ’s love really dwell within you and flow through you, or are you too centered on self? Remember, it isn’t about you.

Sometimes we can’t see the writing in the sand until we are washed ashore by Robin Prater

Is is really all about us? How many times have you woke up bright and bushy-tailed only to have someone walk through the kitchen with a poor attitude? Then all of a sudden your smile parishes and now your attitude is like thick mud?
We often think more of ourselves than those around us. How do we know? It shows in our attitude. It shows in our actions. The sad accompaniment to our actions is that they rub off on those around us.
Look at Jonah. Yes, Jonah, the Prophet, the one called by God, who did what when called? He ran. He didn’t want anything to do with Nineveh. He hated the people of Nineveh. But God loved them and wanted them to repent. He wanted to see them worship Him instead of their gods. But Mr. Selfish himself said no to God. In his one action of saying, “No, God”, made the earth around him tremble.
When Jonah said no to God, he ran aboard a ship filled with men. Men who needed God, but what did they see? A man running from God. Jonah’s actions touched these men before him. As God caused the waters to roar, these sea-faring men were in fear of their life. These men lived on the sea. They had seen storms before. For them to be in fear, this must have been a monster.
They called upon their gods to save them and where is Jonah? Sleeping down below. He isn’t thinking of his God, the men aboard the ship, nor the people of Nineveh. How could he sleep in such peace? I have to ask myself the same question. At times there is so much going on around me and instead of being in prayer or reaching out to others, I high tail into my own little world and say, “Who cares. Let someone else take care of that.” This is exactly what Jonah did.
But what catches my eye is the fact that after these men find Jonah and cast lots, Jonah, tells them to throw him off ship. They don’t! Instead they try to row their way back to shore. These unsaved men, heathens as Jonah would have called them, had more regard for Jonah, than this man of God had for a whole city of people dying. How many of us have been aboard that same ship?
The storm didn’t calm so the men threw Jonah off the ship. The waters turned smooth and all is as it was before they ever saw the likes of Jonah. But everything changed for Jonah. He lands in the belly of a big fish and remains there for three days.
Jonah is spit out and he goes to the people in Nineveh. They repent. They see that there is a God and what does Jonah do? He gets angry with God for not punishing them.
The very grace that God showed Jonah was great, but the grace He Jonah felt the grace God showed to the people of Nineveh was unjustified. Did he really think he deserved God’s grace more than they did? Did he really think his sin wasn’t as big? How often to we judge those around us and find our sins to be small in comparison? Oh, I don’t have enough time to count the accusations I have made, the judgements and claims of, “Well, maybe they deserve to sit in their shame for a while”. How can we be so full of ourselves?
What I gain today is the fact that I need to see those very people around me, not through my eyes, but through God’s. I need to love those around me with His kind of love. When God calls me to speak, I need to speak. When He calls me to move I need to move on His behalf. There is always someone watching and waiting to say, “Hey, she isn’t a Christian. Look at her actions.” You know, to a point they are right. I am in no way perfect. I am a work in progress, just like Jonah. I fail and I fall hard. But I believe in a God who chooses to love me for me. I have faith in a God who washes me in His grace and covers me in forgiveness when I choose to walk a different way. He calls me back to Him just as He did Jonah.
Sometimes we can be slow learners. It took a ship, a storm, a big fish, a country of people, a plant and God’s sovereign love to show Jonah that life wasn’t about him, but all about God and His will for our lives.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in time of honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.”
Romans 12:9-17
Lord, as You wash me with Your forgiving grace daily, help me to do the same to those around me. Guide me in the right path and set before me, Your will. Give me the wisdom I need to serve You in every way and the understanding when I cannot see the end in sight. May I love those around me with Your love. I want to be so focused on You that when You call I hear and I will answer according to Your will for my life. Help me to be a witness those around me and may my walk with You shine before all men bringing honor and glory to Your holy name.
Robin Prater blogs at the Robin’s Nest and reviews for numerous publishers. She is a sinner saved by grace who uses her words to glorify Christ and share His love with others. Visit her blog to find out more about her and her writing or shoot her an email at srprater(at)gmail(dot)com.
This concludes my top 20 of 2011! Remember, if you loved today’s post and want to see it make it to the top three, leave a comment, FB share it, “like’ it, or tweet it. Then come back (either tomorrow or Friday) when I reveal the top three, chosen by *you*!

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Have you ever had a conversation that started out great only to take an immediate nose-dive? Even worse, those that ended with division, distrust, and harsh feelings? Not productive, especially when we’re sharing our faith. And when we’re there, in the moment, armed with truth and righteousness, it’s easy to give in to pride and turn what should be a gentle act of love into a verbal arsenal. We may even tell ourselves we’re doing the right thing. We’re speaking truth, after all. Taking a stand for Christ, only somewhere in the mix, we lost our focus–to build a bridge, and we’ve begun to build a barrier instead.

About eight years ago, while gathered with a dozen or so women, I began to teach some basics of the Christian faith. The women were excited, and asked countless questions about creation, the fall, and the flood. But one woman in particular wasn’t so enthralled, and soon popped off with questions of her own. I started to answer her questions, but my answers only seemed to add fuel to her fire, and she soon dominated the conversation. It took me a moment to clue in, but I realized how counter-productive things were becoming. Although her questions on the surface appeared legitimate, they were smoke-screens and stood in the way of my initial purpose, to lovingly share the gospel with the other women.

I believe this may be the type of situation Paul talked about in 2 Timothy 1:3-8 (NLT)

3 When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.

 5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.

 8 We know that the law is good when used correctly.

People in Macedonia taught false doctrine, and sucked others in endless discussions, thus robbing the others of learning and teaching time. These discussions had zero value because they failed to help people live a life of faith in God. I can sense Paul’s frustration in the above passage.

The whole purpose of his instruction was to help believers be “filled with the love that comes from a pure heart, clear conscience, and genuine faith.” But some people missed the point and got so focused on the argument–the facts and details and being right–they’d forgotten their purpose, to bring glory to God, demonstrate Christ’s love, and be an instrument of grace.

And that, I believe, should be the deciding factor in all our discussions: Does this conversation, article, or blog post help my listener/reader live a life of faith in God?

We know all Scripture is beneficial for teaching, correcting, and rebuking (2 Timothy 3:16), so, when talking of Scripture, it’s not the “what” but the “how.” As 1 Timothy 1:8 says, “We know the law is good, when used correctly.”

This is where it gets tricky, for knowledge puffs up–feeds our pride–but love builds up, which means, whatever is not spoken in genuine love has the potential to create barriers instead of bridges. Therefore, when sharing our faith, we need to do so prayerfully, with a steady eye on our listener. Our goal must never be to win an argument or fill the head, but instead, to reach the heart.

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