Archive for the ‘Letter from Our Publisher’ Category

God’s Incredible Love

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As the seasons change from summer to fall and the air becomes cool and crisp, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes verse three, chapter one, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” During the past months, we have seen and experienced things none of us could have imagined or predicted. There has been much fear of the present and the future. But as Believers in Christ, we can be at peace. This verse reminds us that there is a time, place, and reason for everything…even sickness and unrest. Although this year has taken many of us by surprise, we would be foolish to think that God, in all of His glory, did not see it coming. And even though the seasons and everything around us may change, God “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We cannot blame Him for current events because the Bible clearly states that, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (1 Chronicles 16:11-12). If God is the same and gives good and perfect gifts, and there is a time for everything, then even in the year we have experienced, we can be at peace and at rest in Him. We can find comfort in His Word by searching out and memorizing the many truths that it offers us. Malinda Fugate’s book, The Other Three Sixteens, does precisely that. Many of us can recite John 3:16 from memory with no prompt. However, were we to be asked to recite Genesis 3:16 or Romans 3:16, we would be at a loss. Throughout Malinda’s book, she dives into each book of the Bible and expounds upon each chapter three, verse sixteen to show the numerous truths that can be found throughout the God’s Word and not just in John 3:16. She shows how a loving God and His mercy are woven throughout each chapter and verse of Scripture in seemingly unexpected ways.

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“John 3:16 is a central sentence, one of many anchors we find in the pages of Scripture. But every single chapter and verse has eternal value, from the eloquently poetic to the seemingly mundane, historical details. The words of the Bible weave a tapestry of love, particularly the love that our Heavenly Father has for His children. A love so deep and so wide that it cannot be contained in one memorized phrase. It takes multiple authors of sixty-six individual books to begin to explore the mystery of God’s care for us. I propose an adventure. It will be an expedition through the living and active Scriptures we hold in our hands and yet can’t truly contain. If every phrase in God’s word connects us to His love, then there are gems to uncover wherever we dare to seek them. Let’s take a cue from John and look at the third chapter and sixteenth verse in each book and see what we find. Now, it should be noted that “3:16” is not a magic code. The books of the Bible were written as individual documents and letters, only to have chapter and verse notations added after for our reference purposes. 3:16 will be the guide we choose for this particular quest.”

“Genesis 3:16 is one piece in the first story we read when we open the Word. Almighty God has masterfully created an entire universe and then concentrated His efforts on planet Earth. He carefully crafted sky and sea, mountain and tree, and creatures beyond imagination. Then it was time for His most precious creation – human beings – specifically, a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.

The devil, as a serpent, offered Eve the very fruit that God previously told His children to avoid. After brief hesitation, Eve decided that the serpent was on to something. She took the fruit and shared it with a willing Adam. There was no avoiding the consequence of sin.

Jump back to Genesis 3:16: “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very sever; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” Where is God’s love in these harsh words to Eve? We must remember the subtle differences between punishment and discipline. Punishment seeks to somehow even a score, answering a negative action with another equally bleak negative action. Discipline allows for necessary consequences, but it makes way for growth and redemption. Relationships are damaged by punishment, but they mature through discipline.

On the surface, the curse of Genesis 3:16 appears to be nothing but pain and suffering. Yet, it is rooted in the care of a loving God who refused to cast aside His daughter, Eve, despite her disobedience.
We know for certain that the Lord disciplines His children because He loves them. He loved Eve. He loved Adam. And He loves you.”

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“’For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice’ (James 3:16). A heart focused on self is toxic. We have only so much energy and effort available to us, and if we focus it all on ourselves, little to nothing is left for others and God. Few things are more destructive to our souls than selfishness. God knows this and will not tolerate anything that is harmful to His children.

Envy is another beast that needs to be tamed. If we allow jealousy to consume us, it will destroy us from the inside out. It transforms our hearts from caring for our neighbor to viewing our neighbor as a competitor.

Because God loves us, He wants to protect us from the toxins of envy and selfish ambition. First, He calls attention to the problem with Scriptures like James 3:16 and Romans 2:8. Once we recognize that our heart is poisoned by selfishness and envy, we are moved to do something about it. We must reach out beyond ourselves to the One who is able to break that cycle and bring us into freedom.

God lovingly designed this world and our existence. His gifts are good and for our benefit. He is not about to allow even one of His precious children to waste away in the desert of selfish ambition and envy. He loves us far too much for that.”

***

“So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). The Laodiceans thought they were rich but didn’t realize they were in poor shape. They needed to return to the Lord once more. Jesus reminded them that He disciplines those He love and that He is figuratively standing at their door and knocking. He was available to them, but they needed to welcome Him into their church and into their hearts again.

Throughout time, God has gone to extreme lengths to actively love His people. He is a passionate God. When His love fills the hearts of His dear children, we display His zeal in our own lives. Enthusiastic, exuberant love spills over onto everyone we encounter. It is not like any earthly love and is immediately recognized by anyone who experiences it. The Laodiceans were missing this love, and many of us miss it as well. It wasn’t too late for them to turn back to it, and it’s not too late for us. When we ask the Lord to pour out His fiery love on us, He is happy to fulfill our need. When we ask for anything in the name of Jesus, the Lord will provide. The passionate love of God is intended to overwhelm us, and it is limitless. Like a blazing fire, we are consumed by love. It is a love that cannot be tamed and a love that will satisfy our deepest longing as we constantly cry out for more. A love so extreme is beyond accurate description, but we can know it intimately. It is alive and crashing over us like unrelenting ocean waves.”

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During these trying times, we need remember who we serve. We serve a God of second chances, a God of restoration, a God of forgiveness and peace, a God who disciplines those He loves for their benefit and growth, and most importantly, a God of love. If we are to be imitators of Christ, then we need to have a character like His. We can do this by accepting His peace in the place of the fear the world tries to tie us down with, by forgiving even when we feel wronged, and by accepting God’s love so that we, in turn, can show that same love to our neighbor instead of putting them down when their views or ideas are different than ours. We need to remember the other three sixteens in the Bible and how they show the love and mercy of God. Then, as Melinda Fugate states in the closing remarks of her book, we can “rest in the promise of His love that is faithful from generation to generation. Amen.”

To learn more about Malinda and The Other Three Sixteens, visit HERE.

The Truth Will Set You Free

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From our Publisher’s Desk
In a world full of white lies, fibs, exaggeration, near truths, and stretching of the truth, it can be hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. In the past few months, we can see this firsthand if we look closely at our politicians, media, and especially posts and pictures on Facebook from those we know. Everyone wants that picture perfect family appearance, that impeccable dinner picture, that cause worth sharing, and that Instagram worthy outfit and pose to photograph. In fact, that is all we see. Life is filtered through a camera lens so that only the perfect moment is captured, while the tantrums, tears, trials, and hard work are left off camera…behind the scenes. This filtered, idealistic living is so prevalent in today’s culture that it is hard to know who, and what, to believe.
   Christine Paxson and Rosemary Spiller address the fact that the Bible has all the answers, not just for the past, but for present circumstances as well in their book and study guide, No Half-Truths Allowed: Understanding the Complete Gospel Message. It is important that, as believers, we know the truths found within God’s Word so that we can share those truths with others and not get caught up in what society thinks of us and how they perceive us. They explore what Jesus has done for you and me. With society’s ever-changing cultural standards, we have to be rooted in the truth… God’s truth. We have to let Him reign in our hearts and lives so that we can bring glory back to Him by not compromising what is right and true, by reflecting that truth in and through our lives. We can do this by standing up and saying, “No more half-truths are allowed in my life!”
***
    “A person’s experience with the Gospel can be a lot like quilting. The beauty and seemingly simplistic message of the grace and love of God displayed in His only Son dying for us can draw our longing hearts in like moths to a flame, but if we do not take the time to study and understand the full message of the Gospel, we are selling ourselves – and God – short. The Gospel is the Word of God and the main message of the entire Bible. It is the saving power of God! Its power is not contained in the eloquence of the messenger, but in the message itself. That is why we need to get it right.”
“Most of us have asked basic, fundamental questions about the Gospel – and others like them – and have had them run through our heads at one time or another. For some of us, the Bible has been taught in a way that makes us believe many things are right. For others, culture, other religions’ ideas, and even TV commercials have planted ideas firmly in our minds. But we need to know what the Bible says about [the questions we have]. Remember, the goal for this book is to make sure that by the end, you have a clear understanding of what the full Gospel message is – not only for yourself, but also so that when you share it with others, they fully understand what they are either accepting or rejecting.”
“The bottom line is, if we emphasize that God is remaking or renewing the world but do not include how He is redeeming people to be in it, we have not proclaimed the Good News to them. We have left them ignorant of the saving message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why does the Church, the Bride of Christ, want to shove sin, and death, and the glorious message of the cross out of our vocabulary? Have we tried to become too relevant? Are people so self-centered that even the Church has to make their focus all about people and no longer God? Is it because our good deeds make us feel good about ourselves, but we find it hard to bring up the Gospel to someone? Are we believing some of these half-truths ourselves? Are we more intent on what God can do for us than we are about studying His Word? Is it because we just don’t know any better? Christian, it’s time for that examination, and we start with the question to ourselves, ‘Am I really a Christian?’
If you are a Christian, as we’ve described over and over again in this book, then the next questions should be, ‘Am I sharing the whole Gospel message?’ ‘Is my church sharing the whole Gospel message?’ If not, then what do we do about it?
Let’s make it our aim to glorify God by taking the message of the cross and making it central to everything else. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).” (Text taken from No Half-Truths Allowed book)
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    “As God’s chosen people, we need to make sure we are doing what we were created to do – glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! To do that, we need to know His Word, and we need to follow it. We need to spread the Gospel message, and we need to do it correctly! Will it be easy? Sometimes. Will it be hard? Sometimes. But it needs to be done. Therefore, let’s make it our aim to glorify God by taking the message of the cross and making it central to everything else.” (Text taken from No Half-Truths Allowed study guide)
***

    When we are tempted to get caught up in making our lives look perfect over Facebook or Instagram, or when we are unsure what to believe about our friends, neighbors, leaders, pastors, or politicians, let’s try to remember that we live in a fallen world, and no one is perfect. Let’s try to focus on showing our reality, and not a watered-down version of it. But most importantly, let us remember that  we are here to glorify God and help lead others to do the same. Be an example to those around you, don’t compromise, and don’t settle for sharing any half-truths!

To learn more about Christine and Rose and No Half-Truths Allowed, visit HERE.

 

Will You Chicken IN?

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From our Publisher’s Desk

  I believe we can all agree that the past two months have not gone as any of us anticipated this year would. It feels as though there is no escape from the constant battering of news, safety updates, and personal social distancing requirements. The good news is that as believers in Christ, we do have an escape, a refuge from the storms of life, and a constant peace in times of trial. God is our strength and salvation, so we do not have to fear the unknown. He has a plan to work all things for good in our lives, even things that the enemy tries to use to come against us.
  Life has become much simpler. There has been much more time spent with family and/or resting. We have been forced to slow down and change our pace. But instead of looking at our current circumstances as devastating, we should take the extra time we have been given to focus on what is truly important in life: building strong relationships with family, friends, and those around us, encouraging them in their walk with Christ, and for those who do not have a relationship with Him, to continually point them to God and to show His love. Let us use this time to better ourselves and grow spiritually.
JJ Gutierrez talks about building a life of faith instead of fear in her book entitled Chickening IN. She examines how things around us may be scary, due to the unknown, but if we have a relationship with God, we can have a courageous faith.
Although, we may be living in unpredictable and uncontrollable times, we can defeat feelings of fear, doubt, and anxiety by reconstructing them into faith in God and His promises, by stepping into the calling that God has placed on each of our lives, and by not backing down or chickening out.

***

   “The Bible is full of examples of people who acted upon God’s word in faith. They couldn’t see the end result, but without action they were sure not to arrive at the destination. This is the key difference between the stuck and the unstuck, being trapped in a broken, discouraged life or being transformed into a new life of healing, joy, and wholeness. The key is action.”

“During times of fear, self-preservation, and retreat, we often need someone to speak encouragement into our lives – a friend, mentor, or coach – someone to wake us up, to shake us up. That’s exactly what Mordecai did for Queen Esther when he spoke these wise and powerful words, “What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? This is the most well-known verse in the book of Esther and for good reason. Esther was in a position of influence unlike anyone else. Her identity as a Jew had been concealed. She was beautiful and found favor with the king. She had learned the customs of the palace and understood how to behave in her new culture. What appeared to be many coincidences was actually God’s providence for the Jewish people – Esther was positioned for this moment.
Have you ever experienced being positioned well and you knew it was your time to execute? It was as if God prepared you all along through your past, your resources, and your relationships lining up, and what seemed disconnected was coming together for a single purpose.”

“Taking risks, living with courage, and following God will most likely lead to unfamiliar roads. There are many kinds of unknown roads. Think of them not just as physical places, but mental, emotional, and spiritual places you’ve never been. Most often they will steer us to climb steep mountains, cross desert plains, sail uncharted oceans, or soar to new heights. If we are willing to travel these unknown roads, we will be challenged by our fears and doubts, and we may be temped to turn back. However, if we refuse to give in to the fear bully, we might discover something new and amazing about ourselves, God, and life.”

“Over and over God invites us to have courageous faith. In fact, there are more than 300 Bible verses commanding us to fear not, don’t be afraid, or to have courage. Christine Caine says in her book Undaunted, “He knew that we would be afraid, that we would doubt. That’s why He tells us again and again in the Bible, ‘Fear not.’” Maybe that’s why God dedicates a chunk of Scripture to encouraging us to be brave – He knew we would need reassurance and support not just once, but on an ongoing basis. However, in order be strengthened by God’s Word, we have to know it. We must study and learn the Scriptures to become the courageous and fearless women [and men] we desire to be.”

***

These past two months have been extremely trying for everyone regardless of age, ethnicity, or status. We have all experienced many of the same feelings and emotions. We have fought back fear of the unknown, worry of what tomorrow will hold in store, and the crushing disappointment of a lost job, trip, etc. But we can all stand to learn a powerful lesson from JJ Gutierrez’s book, Chickening IN. We can still have faith in God and His Sovereign plan for us. We can still be obedient to Matthew 6:34 when it tells us, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And most of all, we can be courageous in our walk with God and grow in His likeness during these times by being obedient to Him. We can’t let fear hold us back from living to the full potential for which God has created and called us. Now, more than ever, is the time to step out of fear and into a courageous faith. We need to start Chickening IN.

To learn more about JJ and Chickening IN, visit HERE.

It’s Time to Breathe. . .

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As we move into March, many of us are already feeling the weight of business and the rush of life pulling us in a million different directions. It can be hard to find the time in our busy schedules to slow down, be still, and just breathe and rest in God’s presence.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, it is important for us not to get caught up in the festivities of the day, and instead to think about what the day actually represents. Instead of focusing on wearing green or not being pinched, we should take a moment to get away from the noise around us, take a breather, and spend some time alone with God. The real St. Patrick would emphasize the importance of us maintaining our spiritual health in order to be spiritual leaders and make disciples for Christ. How can we show and reflect who Christ is in our own lives if we don’t take time out of each day to spend with Him and learn more about who He is?
A Whisper in the Woods    Martin Wiles emphasizes the importance of stepping into quiet escapes with God in his book A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World. This book provides weekly devotionals that can transport readers out of the noisy world around them and into the quiet escape of a beautiful forest with tall trees where the voice of God is more clearly heard throughout nature. In his book, Martin provides tools that help readers hear God’s words of comfort as they face the mountains and the valleys that this life often and unavoidably brings. Throughout A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World, Martin lays out ways to take a step back, adjust our focus, and spend some quiet time resting in God’s presence.

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     “The psalmist was a morning person. He had no alarm clock to awaken him, but he rose early and took his requests to the Lord.
While God doesn’t dictate morning as the time we must come to Him, He does have a lot to say through those who followed Him about the advantages of coming to Him in the morning. Jesus Himself did.
Our minds are fresher in the morning. I may still be sleepy, but the clutter of the day hasn’t cluttered my mind yet. Some function better at night, but the advantages of the morning are weighty. Quiet reigns, which allows me to focus.
When I approach God in the morning, the day is before me. I’ve not made any mistakes or decisions yet. The potential, however, is there. What day doesn’t involve decisions, temptations, or potential mistakes? Coming to God in the morning allows me to petition Him for guidance, strength, and wisdom.

Regardless of what time I come before God, coming consistently is important. Just as regular communication with others stabilizes friendships, so spending time each day with God cements our relationship with Him.
Morning by morning – or whenever is good for you – spend time with God.”

***

     “Since life has many paths – represented by the numerous decisions I have to make – knowing the right one is essential. Otherwise, I might find myself in unnecessary debt, broken relationships, jail, or any other number of unpleasant situations.Martin Wiles
Taking the right path is possible when I consult the guidebook. God calls it His Word. We call it the Bible. Any direction I need is found there. Life progresses, scientist discover, and technology advances, but the principles of God’s Word never get outdated. They are good for all time.
Prayer keeps me on the right path. Through prayer, I petition God to give me full understanding of His Word, to help me know how to apply it to daily situations, and to guide others in the same path I’m traveling. Prayer helps the guidebook come alive in daily life.
Communing with other believers is also wise. Passing other hikers who were coming from the direction we were going assured us we were traveling tin the right direction – even if we had not seen any blazes. There is strength and comfort in numbers.
Don’t guess about whether or not you’re on the right path. You can know.
Prayer: Father, lead us along the right paths in life so we’ll end up where You want us to be.”

***

     Instead of getting caught up in the world’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, take a moment to remember the real St. Patrick, take time out of your busy day to sit down, take a breath, stop worrying, and rest in God’s presence and purpose. Let Him refresh you and make you more like Him. And in doing so, let God use you (just as He used St. Patrick) to share His word and make Him known.

To learn more about Martin and A Whisper in the Woods, visit HERE.

Choosing Love

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As the new year continues to unfold, it brings with it a very special holiday. Whether single, dating, or married, Valentine’s Day can be a very special day for everyone. It is a day where we can show the loved ones in our life (whether that be family members or a significant other) just how much they mean to us and how much we care. Not only that, but we can also remember how much our heavenly Father loves us and wants what is best for us. It is important that in any relationship (no matter what stage it is at) that we keep God first.

Lindsey Holder explores how to keep God at the center of life while dating in her book, Waiting While Dating. Although dating can be a challenge in today’s culture, Lindsey focuses on the questions we should be asking as we take steps towards that special person and grow deeper in our relationship them. Some of these questions include how much time should be spent together, should we serve in the same area at church, and what do social media boundaries look like?
“[God] is not to be argued with, half listened to, or disputed against. You do not doubt God’s direction. There is no option of partially obeying the Lord without bearing the consequences of shame and separation. Partial faithfulness is non-existent. It is one way to believe God’s Word, and it is another to obey it. It is one way to believe God’s Word and another to admit what you are actually doing.”
“In today’s culture, we plan and prepare for our future with education, training, and working diligently to be successful in our business ventures and career. We thirst for knowledge, crave to be the best, and chip at it every day to be the guru in our field. But in relationships, we tend to fail ourselves so easily. We allow our hearts to be carefree, not planning for our heart’s future, for our emotional health, or for the memories we make. We easily connect, giving so much of ourselves before it is time and without truly understanding who we are giving that to and without having received an ordained commitment of marriage in return. Why are the most precious gifts given so freely?”
“It’s easy to read and be clear on paper prior to reality. To get to know someone requires you to share gradually to establish if indeed they are that marriage partner. What questions do you ask your potential partner and when? What boundaries do you set? At what point in the relationship do you bring Christ into it? What is over the limit and appropriate?
As you study His Word, you will find God provides you all of the wisdom you need to find the qualities and characteristics of a marriage partner. But He expects you to study His Word, obey His Word, and have a faithful heart in the interim.”
“God’s Word is God’s protection. Your free will is not free, as every choice has its consequences. It is up to you to decide whether you want positive or negative ones. However, those set boundaries may be different for every couple. May this book help you along your way to finding your partner with holiness, faithfulness, and obedience, with God’s word at the center.”

For those who have passed the dating stage, Randy Blankenship, Sr. in his book, The Mystery and the Masterpiece, discusses what a Biblical portrait of marriage should look like. There are many who are no longer dating and have moved into the next stage of life: marriage. But do we understand the message that marriage was designed to teach us? Randy shows this message throughout the pages of The Mystery and the Masterpiece.
“Marriage is the picture God painted to portray and reveal the kind of relationship He desires to have with mankind. He painted this picture in the beginning, and this has been His intent from the start.
I have heard many teach about marriage. I have read many books on marriage. The vast majority of them miss the main point of God’s purpose for marriage. It seems to me, in most teachings today, the main purpose of marriage and human sexual behavior is completely absent.”
“The first brushstroke in God’s great portrait of marriage begins with man being made in the image of God. Our marriages are intended to be an illustration of the relationship God wants with us! He made us in His image. We are to show forth His picture.”
“I have used terms like portrait, picture, and masterpiece to illustrate what I believe to be this central truth: that Christ will be eternally married to His people and our earthly marriages are intended to be the greatest illustration of that truth.”
“As followers of Christ, sometimes we try so hard at getting other people to also follow Christ. We make all kinds of efforts – that’s not bad. Marriage is work too. We should work at our marriages – but if it is only work, it’s not a happy marriage.
If we will simply allow Jesus to come into us – if we will experience the joy of Him coming into us, new life will automatically happen. It can’t not happen!”
“Marriage is God’s masterpiece. It is His great piece of artwork designed to show the relationships that He wants to have with us. It can only be what the Master Painter painted. It should be cherished and highly valued as He intended. It should be our desire to live that out before the world in our relationships.”

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let us remember to keep God at the center of our relationships, strive to serve Him and His plan, and to follow His purpose in both dating and marriage.

New Year’s Resolutions: A Letter from Our Publisher

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Every year millions of people make resolutions of changes they would like to make in their lifestyle with a “New Year’s Resolution.” Some common changes people want to make are becoming more active, getting into shape, and getting back on track spiritually. In fact, many of us can probably say that we have followed this trend and made a resolution at some point in our life that matches up with one of these three changes. Many of us can probably also say that we have fallen short when it came time to keep the resolution we made. Change can be hard when it means we have to step outside of our comfort zone in order to accomplish a task that we previously couldn’t.

Kelly Wypych talks about stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing through difficult changes and challenges in life within her book Ten Iron Principles: Persevering Through Difficult Situations. She tells her story of becoming an endurance racer, and how, through God’s grace and mercy, she came to salvation through a triathlon. As she became stronger physically, she found that she was also becoming stronger spiritually. By making changes to her lifestyle and old routines, she found her Kingdom purpose. We can learn about the power of perseverance from Kelly’s experience and words of wisdom.

“Many parallels existed in my life between the quest for physical endurance and my trek to salvation. During this unbelievable life voyage, I completed the race and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He became real to me. As I inched nearer and nearer to race day, I grew closer and closer to God.”Ten Iron Principles

“My achievement definitely did not result from my inner strength because I demonstrated incredible weakness. God wanted to settle His love unequivocally in my heart and mind. I am not alone; I never have been. God carried me to the finish. He showed me my life is powered by God.”

“Nothing is wasted. [God] uses whatever sufferings occur in our lives to mold us, teaching us the necessary lessons, so we may change our behaviors. This growth enables us to become the sons and daughters God needs us to be. He knows you, too.”

“My words of advice? If He calls you, go. Bring all you’ve got. But don’t take it from me; remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 14:27, ‘Take courage! It is I. don’t be afraid’ (NIV).”

“The road to the Ironman proved to me that change is a process and occurs even when I take a few steps backwards. Chipping away requires dedication and persistence, especially when the road is long, and the outcome is unknown.”Ironman

Iron Principle #1 – You Are Not the Driver
“The biggest self-perpetuated delusion of my life (and possibly your life, too) is I retain control of it…As much as we sometimes wish we were in control, think we are in control, or even try to be in control, God holds the reins.”

Iron Principle #2 – Show Up
“Showing up is one of the hardest things for people to do and one of my greatest frustrations in relationships…Things are tough? Show up. Don’t give up. Do not give in. Keep participating to the fullest in your life and in the steps God has shown you for your recovery and inevitable victory in Him. Do not fall short of your pledged commitment. But if you do: smile, shake it off, and start again. Forgiveness is always available.”

Iron Principle #3 – Rounding the Bend
“Perseverance produces power. But take heart. You will make it through this time and “round the bend.” I call it “rounding the bend” because of the way I visualize it. Think of a learning curve depicted on a graph. The line on the graph steeply rises and then begins to arc as it plateaus and levels out. I imagine myself as a stick figure or cartoon running up the curve as if on a mountain. My little stick figure self struggles and sweats, huffing and puffing up the steep climb. Then, like magic, I go over the curve and things get easier, and I get faster because the trajectory flattens.”

Iron Principles #4 – Buoy to Buoy
“In my first open water swim, I heard a coach nearby ask his athletes how far they had to swim. After mumbled responses, he told them they only had to “Swim to the next buoy.” I stood transfixed thinking what an amazing philosophy this was. Sometimes looking ahead to a big goal can be disarming and overwhelming. Keep the big goal or the finish line always in in the back of your mind but remember to focus on the next upcoming goal or ‘buoy.’”

Iron Principle #5 – The Skittle Philosophy
“In the Beach to Battleship iron-distance triathlon, I altered my nutrition strategy from sports products to Skittles and Sweet Tarts because I could not stomach the nutrition products any longer. The Skittles tell the twisted tale of how we all need to be adaptable. Not all things will go according to plan, and you need to roll with the punches. Create the plan and follow it step by step, rounding the bend, and aiming for the next buoy.”

Iron Principle #6 – Run the Mile You Are In
“No matter how long the race, you can run only one mile at a time; you can run only the mile you are in…While keeping your eye on the prize, do not forget today is all you have. Try to ensure every day you are doing something, however small, to push you closer to your goal, to your “finish line” even if it means resting. Make the most of every effort and avoid getting so caught up in the finish line that you miss the journey.”

Iron Principle #7 – Use Whatever You’re Doing as a Time for Worship
“In whatever you attempt, remember God blesses you with the necessary gifts to be able to attack your goal. Be thankful and show your gratefulness through your efforts… You can easily incorporate prayer into your job, relationships, or into the dark times.”

Iron Principle #8 – Some Days Just Suck
“A few big misconceptions are that successful people never fail, they never experience pain or doubt, and they have it all together. No, they don’t… You will fail now and again when trying to reach your goals. Failure happens, but do not dwell on it. Get back up and dust yourself off… If the day beats you up, go to sleep and remember tomorrow is another day.”

Iron Principle #9 – CFM (Continuous Forward Motion)
“No matter how far, no matter how big the goal, no matter how insurmountable the task, if you keep moving forward, regardless of speed, you will get to the finish line. Whether with big strides or baby steps, keep moving forward.”

Iron Principle #10 – We Win
“It is easy to get engrossed in our problems and trials and how they affect us. It is easy to get stuck in the pain and hurt. But, try to keep a part of yourself focused on the eternal reward even if only a teeny, tiny bit. You may not understand or see the outcome of your situation, your struggle, or your life, however, if you are saved, you know how your soul turns out. You realize the result of the final fight. Jesus wins. He triumphs in victory. The battle was fought and won two thousand years ago on a cross. Jesus defeated Satan and death. Boo-yah.

Try to remember this. Try to keep the hope of spending eternity in heaven with the Lord in your mind’s eye! Amazing! Keeping salvation at the forefront helps us to remember the right choices are not always the easy choices, and it gives us the strength to move in the proper direction. Focusing on our deliverance helps us to stand up when we feel more like sitting. It guides us to remain in His strength when we feel weak.”

As you head into your new year, take Kelly’s advice and her Ten Iron Principles to heart. Don’t become overwhelmed by the length of the coming year, the amount of work required to reach your goals, or the many daunting tasks you may have to accomplish. But instead, try to take it day by day, one task at a time, hour by hour, or even minute by minute. Remember the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11, “The race is not given to the swift nor the strong but he who endures until the end.”

Is Christ in Your Christmas?: A Letter from Our Publisher

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For many adults and children alike, Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Families come together, gifts are exchanged, and plenty of food is eaten. But with so much going on, we can find ourselves so wrapped up in the business and blur of the season that we miss what Christmas is all about. We become so enveloped in trying to find the perfect Christmas tree, sing the perfect Christmas songs, and find that perfect gift for loved ones that we forget that these minor things are not the true meaning of Christmas. It is so important for us to realize that we need to slow down and be reminded of our Savior’s birth and the story of the first Christmas.
 Author Karen Straszheim shares her experience and thoughts about Christmas in her book A Sanctuary in Our Midst. She walks readers through that first Christmas night, shares of the events leading up to it, and explores what it means to us today. She reminds us not to get caught up or strung out in the midst of the holiday madness and rush. Her book helps place the focus where it should be during the busy Christmas season: on Jesus.

“People in the Bible were glad for what they learned about God from prophecy. At Christmas, we also can be glad for what we learn about God from Scripture. One day, we will enter heaven with everlasting joy. For now, we can enter Christmas with singing, gladness, and joy. He came so we can know Him.”

“If God had not loved and protected Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, what would have been the outcome for them? In Matthew, it says that “Herod gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” There was heard among the people “weeping and great mourning . . . Parents weeping for their children . . . because they [were] no more” (Matt. 2:16,18). But Joseph and Mary returned to Israel with their child still living. God’s love was shown to them through the protection of their child’s life.

“Some people feel unloved or abandoned throughout the year and these feelings are noticed even more in the Christmas season. Our culture says this is a time to be with family. But for some, the people they’d like to be with are absent. A parent hasn’t been there for them as a child or an adult. For others, an important person has left, quit, walked out or died, leaving them feeling deserted, cast off, or rejected. A person who has been abandoned can feel lonely, forgotten, forlorn, or sometimes hopeless.
”God, however, says, ‘I will live among the [people] and won’t abandon my people’ (1 Kings 6:13). Jesus had a Father who loved Him and didn’t abandon Him to permanent death. We have the same Father who gives the same love and care to us He gave to His son Jesus (John 17:23, 26). We have hope in a love that is unfailing (Ps. 147:11). He shows us His love with the forgiveness He of­fers us. His compassions are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). He is merciful and faithful to us (Heb. 2:17). God is a parent who is there for His children. He listens to us attentively: ‘ . . . You will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jer. 29:12-13).

“If you are feeling lonely or forgotten this Christmas, call on your heav­enly Father. A Sanctuary in Our MidstPray and let Him know how you are and what you need. He will be there for you.”
“God is both supremely above us and with us. Jesus, He who saves, is also Immanuel, God with us. He is a king who is a servant to His people (John 13:1-16). God gave me a banquet of knowledge about Himself and then proclaimed a holiday. He “distributed gifts with royal liberality,” which included the gift of rest (Esther 2:18). This idea changed my thinking about Christmas.

“Christmas, for me, now isn’t the usual, a time to be busy. It has become a time for understanding what rest is: rest from sin and rest from work; a time for having joy in who Jesus is and what He came to do. Ezekiel 37:28 says, “The nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy when my sanctuary is among them forever.” As a sanctuary, God shelters His people. He watches over us and takes care of us. He is in our midst to help us in the ways we need. This Christmas, may you, too, find Him doing the unexpected in your life in ways that show you He is a sanctuary.”

To learn more about Straszheim and A Sanctuary in Our Midst, visit HERE.

To Love a Child…: A Letter from Our Publisher

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As families come together to celebrate Thanksgiving, one tradition is to go around the table and list the things which you are thankful for. Many give the expected response of friends, their home, food, etc. But what we may not realize is that while we are thankful for these things, November also recognizes children without homes, without families, and some without friends. November is Orphan Awareness Month. There are many children around the world who will not have the opportunity to sit down and enjoy a meal with a family this holiday season.
Mary Sandford explores life for children in an orphanage in her book titled Unwanted. Mary follows the life of Debbie Spencer. She is like most children her age, she has friends who she cares about, she loves to play and laugh with them, and she has no fear praying to her Heavenly Father. However, unlike most children, she lives in an orphanage…even though she is not technically an orphan. Mary Sandford shows how Debbie, and many of the other children in the orphanage, felt not having a family there with them to comfort and love them.

*****

       “I didn’t know what made me more embarrassed, wanting Daddy or being scared over a silly commercial in the first place. After I was back in the dormitory, thinking about the awful music kept me awake for hours every night. That’s when longing for Daddy was the worst. He should have been alive to protect me from scary commercials and bad dreams.”
“For weeks I’d cried myself to sleep. I’d hoped and prayed and waited. My mother never came to see me. Not once. Not even when I had the mumps. After that, I had stopped thinking of her. I’d made myself stop, and now, I never did and didn’t want to start.
Patricia [one of the members of staff at the orphanage] led me into the office and closed the door behind me. My mother stood next to Miss Ritz and her desk.
“Thisss isss my daww-ter.” My mother’s voice was loud but might not be heard over the singing. She wrapped her arms around me and clung to me like she needed me, if only to stay upright. I wanted to step aside and watch her fall. I wanted to pay her back for all the times I’d longed to be needed and wanted but never was.
I pulled away from her arms.
She gave me a bleary-eyed gaze squinting like she couldn’t see clearly. “Ssstill looksss jusss like her Daddy.”
Miss Ritz went around the desk to her chair as if my mother wasn’t there bent over and crying into her lap.”

*****

       “Concentrating on the chairs worked only for a moment. Everything that happened before I came to the home bombarded my thoughts.
I remembered waking up to find a cake on the table with “Happy Birthday, Debbie, 12 years old,” written in blue letters across the smooth white frosting. I’d swiped a taste off of the side and ran into Gram’s room to thank her. But Gram wasn’t there. Before I could figure out why, Uncle Lloyd came bursting in.
“What are you doing in here?” he’d asked. “My mother is gone. Her heart gave out, and it’s all Carol’s fault.” He grabbed my arm and added, “And yours.” Then he shoved me out of the room and slammed the door.
Ever since Uncle Lloyd came home from the war and he’d had to sleep on the orange velveteen davenport, he’d been mad. Mad at Gram for letting us move in when Daddy went back to Korea. Mad like he wanted Gram all to himself to take care of him and his wounded hip without my mother and me there, too.
My mother never even tried because, ever since Daddy left for Korea, all my mother did was lay on Uncle Lloyd’s davenport all day with the brown and yellow afghan spread over her. Until the day after my ninth birthday when she got the telegram.
She had started to read it out loud. “We regret to inform you…” but she stopped, and no one ever told me what else it said. No one told me why my mother ran out of the house without a coat or even shoes. No one told me where she’d been before Uncle Lloyd found her. I heard him tell Gram he’d taken her to the hospital, but I didn’t know why until Gram had tucked me into bed with tears in her eyes.”
Just before all of the chaos with her mother coming to visit her in the orphanage, Debbie’s heart was lightened by some much-needed good news.
“An outing. Folks who cared for orphans were coming to take us out? Folks who liked children and maybe wanted a child. My chest swelled up with hope. Was God answering my prayers for a new family?
No matter what I knew, telling Sharon and Noreen wasn’t a good idea at all. I wasn’t telling anyone. It was supposed to be a secret. A secret that could make my biggest wish come true. I was just sure of it.
Gram would have been proud of me thinking of someone else’s feelings like she’s always told me, a sure sign I was starting to put others first or at least for a quick second.”

*****           Mary E. Sandford

It is important to recognize the children who spend holidays in an orphanage or alone, and if we are able, to show them the love they need and deserve as shown in Mary Sandford’s book, Unwanted.
We also want to thank and show gratitude to those who have opened their doors to children and embraced them as their own with loving and outstretched arms. Thank you for sacrificing your time and energy in order to invest in a life. Thank you for being Jesus to these little ones and saying, “let them come unto me, and do not hinder them” (Matthew 19:14).

To learn more about Sandford and Unwanted, visit HERE.

Eyes of Faith: A Letter from Our Publisher

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The month of October is filled with pumpkin spice flavored everything, the excitement of trick-or-treating, the anticipation of Halloween, the delicious taste of candy corns, the joy of choosing the perfect costume, and the exhilaration of getting to dress up as someone/something else! The once green leaves on the trees are changing to red, yellow, orange, and brown. Pumpkins can be found in abundance along with all things fall themed. It is almost as if fall is in the air.
      For many people around the world, dressing up is something fun to do; however, for missionary Amy Carmichael it was something completely different. Amy was a missionary to the children of India. Growing up, she had always been so disappointed that her eyes were brown instead of blue. But God had a plan for her, and her eyes helped her to dress up and blend in when she needed to most.

Author Derick Bingham describes Amy Carmichael’s life as a missionary to India in his book The Wild-Bird Child. Throughout the telling of her story, he uncovers God’s plan for her and how He used her dark eyes and a costume to help further His plan for Amy’s life.

“With a passion, Amy was determined that God would change the color of her eyes from brown to blue. Blue was her favorite color; and it is not without significance that most of her books were to be bound in blue cloth. Let her poetry tell the story:

Just a tiny little child,
Three years old,
And a mother with heart
All of gold.

Often did that mother say,
“Jesus hears us when we pray,
For He’s never far away;
And He always answers.”

Now, that tiny little child
Had brown eyes;
And she wanted blue instead,
Like blue skies.
For her mother’s eyes were blue,
Like forget-me-nots. She knew
All her mother said was true –
Jesus always answered.

So she prayed for two blue eyes,
Said “Good night,”
Went to sleep in deep content
And delight.
Woke up early, climbed a chair
By a mirror. Where, O where
Could the blue eyes be? Not there!
Jesus hadn’t answered.

Hadn’t answered her at all!
Never more
Could she pray – her eyes were brown
As before.
Did a little soft wind blow?
Came a whisper, soft and low,
“Jesus answered. He said ‘No.’
Isn’t ‘No’ an answer?”

During the Second World War, a Jewish rescue farm was set up near Millisle [Northern Ireland]. Those brown eyes of Amy Carmichael were to be one of her most useful attributes, when she would be led to rescue hundreds of brown-eyed children from unspeakable things and establish a faraway home for them.”

“Soon, Amy was glad that God had said “No” to her childhood prayer in Millisle for blue eyes. One night, she disguised herself by staining her hands and face with coffee and, dressed in a sari, she got right past the priests. Eventually, she got to the inner shrine and then entered a larger room where ten little girls, all aged between four and six, stood in line waiting. Dressed in silk saris and sparkling with jewels, they were perfumed and wore flowers in their hair, but their eyes were filled with fear. A door opened, weird music burst from behind the door, and a priest led them in. Amy did not need to be told what it was all about. But how was she to tell the world and the authorities that the horrors were real, and not imagined?”

“The broken-hearted Amy lifted her eyes away beyond her immediate circumstances to the vast sub-continent in which God had placed her; and the light of guidance was dawning upon her, that what she was doing had vast repercussions.
We have looked at some of the facts she collected regarding the Temple children; but here, in her own words, the seed-thought is expressed for what lay ahead:

‘We are hoping to gather facts concerning the Temple children matter during the next year, and then probably through the Missionary body of South India, approach Government upon the subject… if only the facts can be brought to light, something will surely be done. The difficulty is to get the facts: facts of the sort which will compel action on the part of the Government. The law as it stands is inadequate to cope with this trade in children. We realize that it will be difficult to frame the law, that its purpose cannot be evaded, but when one sees so many thoughtful men and women, some of them Government Officials, tackling the question, one feels as if the day when right will be done may not be so very far distant. I have begun with this because I want your prayers. The subject is National, not just Missionary, in its bearing.’

Amy, the missionary, was on her way to becoming a social reformer to the huge benefit of the nation she loved and of which she had become a part.” Amy Carmichael

“As Christmas 1930 approached, the experience of asking for blue eyes in Millisle, Co. Down sixty years before, was still fresh in her heart. In December 1930, she quotes the words of her famous poem about her childhood experience of asking for blue eyes: ‘I find the Dohnavur Letter goes to quite a number of people who have kept the heart of the child. And more than one of that sort here has found an answer to many a question in the last line of this song – the question that answers itself. As for the genuine child, it never tires of the nonsense of it. We have baby song evenings in my room sometimes, and Godfrey plays on his auto-harp and the children crowd round with their own little Baby Song M.S. books. What shall we sing? Blue Eyes! They cry all at once, and with emphasis – so just to share our nonsense as well as our sense, her it is….’ She includes not only the words of her poem but the music to sing it as a song.”

As we prepare for fall, as we decorate with pumpkins, and as we choose costumes and dress up as someone/something different, let us remember that we are each unique, let us embrace that we each have a unique call on our lives that only we can fulfill,  and let us love and accept ourselves the way God created us just as Amy Carmichael did.

To learn more about Bingham and The Wild-Bird Child, visit HERE.