Lives Intertwined

                    I’ve shared in previous posts how difficult our move to Nebraska has been for all of us. It has been less than two months now, but a blip, and yet, already we feel at home. Why? Because God placed us in a community of believers that opened wide their arms and have accepted us as family. The other night, reflecting on all God has done through the grace-filled men and women at our church, my husband and I discussed how difficult life must be for those who don’t have such a community.

Today’s post comes from a fellow Christ to the World writer. Vona Elkins Bankston’s dramas are broadcasted, via radio-waves, across the globe, sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ with millions, many in areas hostile to the gospel. Today she talks about leaving a faith-driven legacy. Her story reminds me, our church body is more than a gathering of people–it is an interconnected body, a family, divinely designed to provide love, community, and support.

A  Legacy of “Living out loud”  by Vona Elkins Bankston   

Psalms 145: One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your mighty acts.       

Nestled at the bottom of Bankhead Forest in Northwest Alabama, lies a little community called Wren. As you look to your left going south, you see a stately church with a steeple rising toward the heavens as a monument to the grace and love of a faithful God.

Since 1847-1848when the first Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established… to the present time, the church has embraced the mandate given by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This community of believers, (now in the third building) has been living out loud through evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship.

Recently the Young Adult men’s Sunday school class led by Rodger Nix, heard of a young couple with many needs who had moved into the community. The father was battling cancer; the mother was working alongside him in a tree grinding business trying to eke out a living for them and their four year old daughter.

The little church they attended helped as much as possible but were unable to provide that which the family needed most– better housing.

 Knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, the desire of the father’s heart was to see his wife Deborah, and daughter Shirley Mae, settled into a warm, comfortable home before he passed from this life.

By talking among themselves and spreading the word around, others in the church and community joined in with the Young Adult Men’s class and started remodeling a house about five miles from the couple’s mobile home.  Materials were donated, monetary gifts were received and skilled laborers donated time and talent. The women joined the effort by providing household goods and furnishings.

A few weeks before his death, Gregg asked if he could come in person to express his gratitude to the church and the volunteers for being the hands and feet of Jesus to him and his family. There were few dry eyes in the church that morning as the little family stood before the congregation.

Not many weeks after that Gregg went to be with the Lord. The house was not quite ready for Deborah and Shirley Mae to move into, but Gregg died, knowing a comfortable earthly home would soon be ready for his little family to move in to.

 11 Corinthians, 5:1 says:   For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gregg died at peace,  knowing he could look forward to living  in a house not made by human hands but by the hand of his loving Heavenly Father.

By “Living Out-Loud”  the Young Adult Sunday School Class left a legacy that will reach into future generations and witness to the mighty acts of God.

Vona Elkins Bankston has 3 married children,7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

She writes Biblical monologues, skits for my church,and dramas and HEAR THE WORD Bible studies for Christ to the World Ministries. She belongs to a writer’s group called “STEPPING STONES” OF NORTH ALABAMA. Currently, they are writing short devotionals for a local newspaper. She has a heart for missions and believes the methods for reaching people can change, but the message must remain the same.
***
 
Life is tough. Tragedy and difficulties are bound to come. When they do, will you have a close family of believers to lean on? If not, how you can begin to develop those vital relationships *today*? No church body will be perfect. Humans are going to mess up. They’ll let us down, say and do things they regret. As will we. Finding community isn’t about finding perfection but instead, relationships. Don’t let unrealistic expectations or past hurts keep you from experiencing one of God’s greatest gifts–Christ-centered relationships.
 
 
I want to give a shout-out thank you to all the August’s Reach Out Donors:
 
Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancer, a novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chance, another novel with an outreach focus; and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
 
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.
 
Have a great, interdependent week in Christ!
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When God Guides, God Provides

Host of Wielding the Sword of the Spirit Radio Show interviewed Larry Alston, President of Christ to the World Ministries, a ministry that uses radio waves to share the gospel of Christ. During the interview, Larry shared a story of a writer, now in her eighties, who’d always wanted to be a missionary to India. Illustrating his point that serving doesn’t take formal training, but instead, a willing heart, he went on to tell of the series she wrote, how it was aired in India, and of the great response the series received.

This ministry started maybe 7 years ago, and today, broadcasts in 32 countries, by the grace of God. They don’t have a formal fundraising campaign, and yet, God continues to provide and expand their boundaries. Because when God guides, He provides. What an amazing testimony of what God can do with willing, surrendered hearts!

Listen to the interview here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf

Listen to internet radio with Donald James Parker on Blog Talk Radio

What’s Holding You Back?

Five to seven years ago, God nudged me to start a web-based children’s ministry. This was a major learning curve, but God was faithful, and day-by-day, the ministry grew. I traveled around the United States, from Southern California, to Maryland, speaking to various Sunday school classes, youth groups, Bible study groups, Christian school classes, and homeschool groups. (I also performed monologues, embarrassing, but effective.) My sister joined me, making the endeavor all the sweeter.

A large portion of our ministry was online. Because we believed in the power of story, we turned everything into a story, from biblical history and apologetics to devotionals.

But then things got hard. Web-hackers came in droves. One got in on my birthday and messed with a page, moving the text around. My computer started acting like it had influenza, crashing, locking up, digesting large documents. We never lost our audience, but experienced so many problems coming from so many different directions, I began to spend ALL my time doing defensive-web work and 0 time proclaiming the gospel. My sister got busy, and before long, I continued alone, climbing a steep, gravel slope, and getting nowhere.

Sermon after sermon, verse after verse, reminded me we weren’t to go it alone. That God provides partners to help us complete the ministry He has for us. This frustrated and hurt me, because I felt He had abandoned me and my ministry. After all, I didn’t choose to go it alone. I lost my partner. I didn’t realize He was laying the groundwork for a future ministry, one I wasn’t even aware of at that time.

At first I persevered, but the more I prayed about it, the more I felt God pulling me from the ministry. It didn’t make sense. Had I heard Him wrong when He first called me to it? But no, the call had been clear and I’d received ample confirmation. Had I messed up? Failed?

The latter question worried me for some time because I couldn’t wrap my head around why God would call me to launch a ministry, then pull me from it. So I kept trudging through, fighting with my computer and the hackers, ignoring the still, small voice that called me to move on.

Our site had a store. When hackers got into my online store and blocked me out, my stomach sank. I can’t quite describe the feeling. Luckily all the information on our site was encrypted and secure, but I was done–out of my league and ill-equipped to deal with the onslaught. All I wanted to do was tell people about Jesus, yet, all I was doing was fixing computer problems. Pointless, frustrating, discouraging.

So I shut it down. It broke my heart, left me more confused than ever. I began to question my ability to hear God. And again, I felt like I’d failed.

And then I stumbled upon Christ to the World Ministry, an international ministry that uses…stories…(radio dramas) to proclaim the gospel of Christ. When Dr. Art Criscoe, my editor, invited me to join the CTTW team, suddenly it all made sense. The earlier ministry wasn’t a mistake. I hadn’t heard wrong. It was merely a stepping stone, training, so I would be equipped for the one God had planned. And now, I can do what I love–write–without having to worry about computer stuff or hackers or tax forms. Plus, God’s expanded my reach, from the US to world-wide.

And had I clung to the latter, I would have missed out.

Closing our ministry was painful. Confusing. Discouraging. I had no idea what lay ahead, and I wanted to cling to the familiar, even though it wasn’t working. But to move ahead, I had to let go.

The same was true of the Israelites mentioned in the book of Ezra. After 70 years of captivity, the exiles from Judah were allowed to return. Almost 50,000 made the long journey home, but many stayed in Persia. They’d grown comfortable with their new lifestyle. Many had accumulated wealth, and the journey back to Jerusalem was long and rough. For them, embarking on the unknown wasn’t worth giving up what they had. They wouldn’t let go and therefore, remained in the land of their captivity.

As 2012 starts, I challenge you to spend some time in prayer asking God what He has for planned for you this year. Is there something you need to let go of in order to follow after His better? Is there a sin or time-sapping habit getting in the way?

Or maybe you’re still in captivity, clinging to a life that’s not really a life, afraid to take that step of faith. But like the Jewish captives, God longs to bring you freedom. The journey may not always be easy, but it will be glorious, healing, freeing, fulfilling. And you won’t have to go it alone. God will walk with, will carry you if He needs to, every step of the way.

He’s calling to you. Release the death-grip you’re holding onto your life. Let it go, so you may live.

Prayerfully listen to the words of the following song, with an open heart.

Let’s talk about this!

Join me at Living by Grace as we encourage one another to live in full surrender, letting go of those things that get in God’s way as we press toward the goal He has mapped out for us.

What about you? Has God asked you to let go of something? What made that hard? And what was the result?

Exponential Expansion

God continues to amaze me with His rapid expansion of Christ to the World Ministries. It is extremely fulfilling to know the material I write reaches millions in countries all around the world, many living in areas hostile to the gospel. Broadcasting in over 23 different countries, it’s hard to believe this ministry is only six (seven?) years old.

I just received an email telling of CTTW’s continued expansion into Africa. The goal? To reach all the African countries within the next five years. And based on their progress thus far, I’d say that is an attainable goal (God willing, of course).

Find out more about this Christ-centered, gospel-sharing ministry I write for, what God’s doing and how you can help us fulfill the Great Commission: Waves of Progress