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A Return On Investment
Have you ever put your hard-earned money in an investment that resulted in a partial loss or total failure?
Early in our marriage, Judy and I invested a large sum of money in a venture that we were sure to make a great return. Many of our friends were also convinced this was a money-maker, so literally hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested from people in the Grand Rapids area. All of us were excited about how this new opportunity could make life economically easier.
Then the bombshell exploded and the company went bankrupt, leaving each investor with nothing but a piece of paper with an empty promise.
I am a very forgiving person and can overlook people’s mistakes and shortcomings. However, I find it more difficult to trust people when they refuse to take responsibility for their actions.
I grew up in a family of five children. Mistakes and bad decisions were always forgiven, but excuses were not tolerated.
When Dad told us to complete a work project, he expected us to do it. If it was not completed, he wanted to know why. If our reasons made sense he gave extra time to complete the project, but if we gave him excuses it resulted in extra work. More excuses equaled more work!
When you look in the mirror what do you see? Do you see only your physical body or do you see the eternal son or daughter God has birthed you to be?
We are trained by the world to think about temporal things. Life becomes a matter of survival. Goals and purpose are replaced by worry and anxiety over daily needs. The hope of a bright future fades with each passing day. Life becomes a burden rather than an adventure.
God has called us to revival, not survival. We were not made to merely exist; we were created to reflect God’s character to those who live in our sphere of influence.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
When we receive Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior, eternal genes are implanted in us. We become God’s offspring to reflect His character in a dark and confused world.
I had a memorable experience this morning during my devotional time. I heard a pecking behind me on the sliding door window in our family room. I thought it was possibly a confused robin, aggressively attacking its own reflection in the window. We have witnessed this behavior many times over the years. However, when I turned around I was surprised to see a flock of fifteen turkeys in our back yard.
The turkey in the above picture was pecking at the window trying to communicate with its own reflection. The bird was dumbfounded over the lack of response from the turkey in the window.
As I was reflecting upon this experience God began to speak to me about the necessity of knowing who we really are when we see a reflection of ourselves in the mirror.
Do you see yourself as a survivalist or one who is empowered by an almighty God to fulfill a divine purpose?
But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul reminds the Philippian church that their true identity is anchored in heaven. This truth gave them the ability to have joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, or just plain mundane living.
I would like to encourage you to get in touch with the eternal person who lives in your body. Then act in accordance to your true identity – a child of God.
In Judges 6, God called Gideon to lead Israel in their fight against the Midianite enemies. Gideon was afraid and gave God every excuse why he was not the man for this mission.
In verse 12, the angel of the Lord addresses him as “a mighty warrior.” The angel also assures him that “the Lord is with [him]”.
Gideon had to focus on God’s greatness and power rather than his own weakness and limitations. The result was a great victory for the Israelites over the Midianites.
The next time you look at your reflection in the mirror, take a cue from this turkey: Don’t be confused at the reflection, but see yourself as God’s son or daughter. Get in touch with the eternal child that lives in you.
Have you heard the term 'Get A Grip'? When a person is in a panic or their emotions are skyrocketing...someone usually says, "Hey, you need to get a grip!"
I was watching a movie a few years ago, where a team of rock climbers were heading up the side of a mountain and one girl lost her footing...she had a rope around her waist...but she began swinging uncontrollably in midair. The climber in front of her shouted, "Get a grip on the rope and don't worry about the wind...just stay calm!"
Oh ya sure...hanging hundreds of feet in the air by a rope and she was supposed to remain calm and just hang on until the wind died down...but that's exactly what she did. Then she finished her climb.
In the days we are living in we need to stay calm and 'Get A Grip' too. Almost every time I turn on the news...I hear about the horrific atrocities happening around the world and even in our own country. I couldn't sleep last night so I watched a Christian TV station at about 1:00 am. They were talking about little children being killed in barbaric ways, for their faith in God. I found myself weeping for them and their families and for a moment I felt fear around me. Then, I sensed that God wanted me to get quiet and listen with my heart.
The Spirit of God reminded me that wars can be won on the battle fields of prayer. This is where we truly engage the enemies of this seen and unseen world. He brought to my mind that Satan’s strategy is always to use one of his most powerful weapons...Fear, and then fear spins us into confusion.
However, God has equipped us to overcome fear with His love...His power...and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Lord has given us weapons to fight against the forces of darkness and our greatest weapon is the Word of God.
Like the female climber...when we lose our footing in life's situations and fear tries to swing us around uncontrollably...we can remain calm (peaceful), when we have the Belt of Truth (God’s Word) securely around our waist to keep us from falling. So, let's 'Get A Grip' on the Word of God and let the Word 'Keep A Grip' on us.
Stand, therefore having girded (wrapped tightly) your waist with Truth (God's Word).
Photo: Ales Krivec
What a gorgeous day! We were hurrying to get in the car and head out to our granddaughter’s volleyball game. It seemed like I had been running all day. Once we were on the road, my mind began to slow down and the business of the day seemed to fade. The bright colors of the fall leaves began to catch my attention and I found myself smiling as I took a deep breath and just relaxed. I thought...life is good.
Then it hit me...this is October... Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It was 2 years ago this month that I walked out of the doctor’s office...sat in my car and just stared out the window; the reality of my diagnosis still not quite seeming real. I drove home that day feeling numb inside.
As I walked in the door...the phone rang...it was the doctor’s office wanting to schedule a surgery date. I couldn't breathe...I suddenly felt panic rising up inside. It was more than I could handle at that moment. I remember shaking...fighting back tears and saying, "I'm sorry, but I just can't do this right now." I wanted to run, but I could barely walk to the living room.
I sat on the couch and tried to make sense out of this. My primary doctor had said I would just need a very tiny spot removed and I'd be good as new by the weekend, but this surgeon was suggesting I consider a double mastectomy. I could barely hear her as she kept talking about radiation treatments, surgeries and recovery time. My world was crashing around me...would my life ever be the same again?
The answer was 'No'.
After a year of surgeries and countless visits to the surgeon’s office...I thought the nightmare was over, but I was given a routine blood test that showed the possibility of cancer in another place in my body. I had to wait 4 weeks to retake the test and those results were even more concerning, so I was given a PET/CT scan from my brain to my knees. Telling my children that I needed the scan was extremely difficult, because I didn't want them to be afraid, but God kept us all in such peace.
Thank God...the results showed I was cancer free! Sometimes it's hard to understand why we have to go through something like this, but I do know that God is with us and He fills us with His peace.
Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
May you find comfort in knowing Jesus is close and He always brings peace with Him.
Photo: Joshua Earle
The Rockford Baptist Church was recently shaken by the death of their dear pastor. He was a treasured, valuable resource to the Rockford-area churches. He was a thorough student of God’s word and mentored many pastors and Christian leaders throughout his life. He and his wife successfully reared four wonderful boys, who are all serving our Lord.
This pastor was an author, seminary teacher and respected speaker in his denomination. He was scheduled to retire in December 2014, with plans to write more books, teach in area churches and to enjoy his precious family.
Two other clergy members in the Rockford area retired in June 2014. The Rockford Area Ministerial Association decided to honor these pastors and spouses by gathering for a potluck dinner at the home of the Congregational Church’s pastor. What a night! we all laughed and told hilarious stories about ourselves and ministries. There was no indication that the Rockford Baptist pastor was in a life and death struggle. Two months later, he died.
The clergy were badly shaken because no one knew the pain and struggle he was going through. He had a rare leukemia that originated in his bones.
He was taking chemotherapy and was also struggling with chronic back pain, which caused sleep deprivation.
Why am I sharing this?
We live in a fast-paced life where we often see people with tunnel vision. We applaud and recognize people’s gifts and talents, but often don’t take the time to really get to know them. Sometimes the most gifted people are unable to reach out to others when they face pain and disappointment. We all need each other. I love the phrase, “It takes all of us to make each of us successful.”
We need one another in our churches and we need each other in our community.
The Rockford area pastors decided to create an opportunity for fellowship with each other. They set a time from 1:00 - 2:00 every Tuesday to meet at a local coffee shop.
The agenda would be set by those present each week. In our seminary and Bible school days, some of the most meaningful conversations were over a cup of coffee. When pastors get to know each other they will then trust each other with their joys and concerns.
In our first meeting, five pastors developed a deeper level of trust and friendship.
How does this relate to Crossfire Church? It is our privilege and responsibility to be acquainted with those in our church fellowship. We need to create opportunities to invest in one another. We are a community where every family member is important. I encourage you to pay attention to those in our church who amy be quietly suffering. May God help us be a healing community where no one is overlooked.
In Philippians 2:20, the apostle Paul honors Epaphroditus with these words:
I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare.
I urge you to pray for those in our church and community that need encouragement and support. When those around us see this type of love for one another, they will want the Jesus who lives inside us.
Photo: Sonja Langford
As I sit here in my favorite spot to write, I feel the tears rising in my eyes and falling down my face. Oh it's not because I'm sad...it's because I am so grateful to my Lord.
In June my daughter Virginia, and daughter-in-law Diana, faced horrible physical attacks on their healthy bodies. They both have lived the worst nightmares of their lives in the past 3 months. Their suffering has resulted in great weigh loss, mental and emotional stress and wondering when they'd be able to return to normal living again.
They endured painful, extensive testing and treatments, but kept their focus on Jesus as they made it through one day at a time.
When Diana was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous tumor, my son flew her to Houston Texas, where she began the fight of her life...facing chemo and radiation treatments that pushed her body and mind to the limits. My son, a successful business man in Michigan and father of six, stayed by her side through this process. He would say to her everyday, "Diana we're going to focus on today, not tomorrow...just today."
God has promised us strength for today. So everyday he would ask her the same question, "What day is it?" and she would work up a smile and say, "Today."
On September 23, Virginia was given good news, no surgery needed, her problem would be manageable and not life threading. Soon after hearing that news, Diana's plane landed. After 9 weeks of being away from her family, she was finally home.
We all waited with balloons waving, welcome signs and huge smiles, while fighting back the tears. This was the 'Today' she had been looking forward to. Finally, she rounded the corner and when she was within earshot, we all shouted in unison, "What day is it?!!!"
With a huge smile and her arms lifted high and tears flowing down her precious face, she shouted back with all the strength she could find..."TODAY!!!!!"
And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, "We have seen extraordinary things TODAY."
This is our 'TODAY' that the Lord has made, so lets rejoice in it and be glad!
When I think about survival, I think about the necessity of hope, for without 'Hope' we tend to give up. Hope is the confident expectation, the sure certainty that what God has promised in the Word is true, it has occurred and/or will occur in His time and in His way.
Last week I was asked to pray for a woman who had been touched and encouraged by Christine Caine's message of God’s healing power. She was young and wore a sleeveless sun dress to the event. I mention this because she had about a 3-inch cut with stitches just below her collar bone. She was in stage 4 of breast cancer with visible tumors on her upper body. She was pregnant when given this medical report, but gave birth just 3 months ago to a beautiful healthy baby. Now, this mother of 3 had a definite reason to fight for survival and she believed that with God...anything was possible.
In my mind I was quickly reminded of a statement that Lisa Bevere made when she spoke that morning, "If your prayers don't scare you...then they certainly aren't scaring the devil."
I knew that all my determination in the world couldn't change this young woman's situation, but I Knew that God could! He was greater in her than any sickness or disease, and I wanted to scare the devil out of her by praying and believing that the Lord would remove those tumors.
I asked the young woman if I could anoint her with oil and talked with her a bit more about Jesus. I saw in her eyes peace...not desperation...not fear...but peace and hope. Her believing mother joined us in prayer. We took authority in Jesus’ name and spoke to those cancerous tumors and demanded that they dissipate and leave her body. Then we asked for God’s healing power to manifest inside her. After we prayed she said that the visible tumor under her left arm was noticeably smaller. I believe that God is building her faith and continuing to give her 'Hope'.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
In order to keep going...to survive whatever battle we are facing...we must have 'Hope'.
I encourage you to keep believing and to keep trusting in the God of all Hope! No matter what you are facing, 'Hope' is ready to stand with you - His name is Jesus!
Photo: Orlova Maria
Some time ago I made this statement in our church: The older I get, the less I am impressed.
Trends and ideas usually show up in different ways from one decade to another. Powerful spiritual figures come and go. Sometimes their ministries flourish and sometimes they are short-lived. However, what really inspires me is how Jesus Christ can change one’s life.
Recently, Pastor David Ogren, from Great Commission Media Ministries (GCMM), spoke at our church. He led a training session explaining their media campaigns in mega cities throughout the world. The title of their evangelism ministry is The Power to Change. This slogan captures the interest from all cultures.
People from all walks of life are bound by a dynamic power that the Bible calls sin. It reveals itself in what Galatians 5:19-21 says are the acts of the sinful nature.
…Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like…
Verse 21 emphatically states, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In other words, regardless of the culture, people are bound by behaviors that are rooted in sin. The only power that is greater than sin is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul states in Romans 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. [Includes all ethnic groups.] For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
II Corinthians 5:17 says that when we receive the forgiveness of our sins we become a new creation. Other portions of scripture identify believers in Jesus as children of God. (Galatians 3:26-29, 4:6-7)
Therefore, the power of sin is broken and we have the power to change because Jesus Christ is working His life in us (Philippians 1:6); His character becomes our character.
The GCMM campaign lasts for 30 days, where they blast the city with a symphony of media: television programming and advertising, fliers in every home, banners, billboards, bus advertising, newspaper and radio ads. They touch about 90% of cities with life stories from people who have been changed by Jesus.
All media has a telephone number that is directed to a call center where people receive counsel and prayer. Their names are forwarded to churches who follow up the visit with a 100-page Power to Change booklet featuring real life stories, a clear explanation of the gospel and answers to life’s questions.
Bible studies are started, churches assimilate the new believers and the atmosphere of the city changes. People become receptive to hear the gospel.
After the training session, Crossfire attendees buzzed with excitement. Why? Because life produces life. Every believer in Jesus wants others to experience this life-changing power.
Participants were asked to write down ten names of people they want to come to Christ. They were asked to pray for an opportunity to share the gospel with them. Without Jesus, there is no power to change.
If you would like this power to change, I invite you to pray this prayer:
Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I can’t change myself because the power of sin has ruled my life. I now invite You into my life as my personal Lord and Savior. Live Your life through me and give me the power to change. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Photo: Lizzy Gadd
It seems like every day I hear of someone going through not just difficult, but horrible circumstances. We hear of the sufferings of Christians in other countries and even on our own home soil. We visit loved ones in hospitals and weep over their pain as they struggle to be freed of disease, healed of broken bones, or restored from mental disorders.
People everywhere are fighting to survive in the midst of tragic situations. Many are dealing with financial ruin, while others are trying to hold their marriages together. Still, some are literally fighting for their lives or those they love. I've spent time with young people fighting the battle of drug addiction and other abusive vices. I've prayed with many who seem to be losing a grip on life, as they fight off the influence of negative and destructive thoughts in their minds.
We will all at one time or another face a situation that is out of our control and we will have to make a choice. Will we use our mental...physical....and spiritual strength to the fullest measure to survive or will we just give up and let go?
Tests and trials are for our benefit...not our demise. They are in our lives to teach us how to rise above fear and hopelessness and to become dangerous to the kingdom of darkness, as we persevere to be examples for the children of light. We are in the school of 'Hard Knocks' and I look forward to the day when I finally graduate.
Until then I am determined to continue to grow in strength and wisdom with each trial I face. I have learned that preparation is not only the key for survival...it’s imperative in order to experience the joy of revival. We all know that it's logical to study and be prepared when taking a test in school, so why wouldn't it be just as logical to study God’s Word in preparation for the times our faith and endurance will be tested?
All successful runners prepare before running the race. They have run the distance in practice and have built up their endurance. Now, after stretching their muscles...they focus on the goal line with confidence...Not to just survive the race...But to thrive by winning it!
Isn't it time to start stretching your spiritual muscles and look at the race set before you with confidence? You can do this!
Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and compete, not lacking anything.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Recently, Pastor Judy asked this question to our elders and deacons: What does the word commitment look like?
My immediate response was, “The people in this room.”
I Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 describe the qualifications for elders and deacons. There are many that pertain to only elders and some to deacons, however, there are shared qualifications for both: above reproach or blameless, faithful to his wife, temperate, respectable, not given to drunkenness, manages his own family well, sees that his children obey him, does not pursue dishonest gain and holds to the truth.
These are qualities of commitment. Each has a track record of loving people to the point where they give their lives away to serve others. I am absolutely humbled when I am in their presence because their example of commitment, fueled by love, pulls me to be a more passionate follower of Christ.
What makes this group of leaders special?
First, they prioritize their lives by making time for Bible reading, reflection, prayer and worship.
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.
Regular daily time communing with the Holy Spirit keeps our focus on God and not ourselves or our circumstances.
Second, Crossfire leaders understand the importance of the local church.
I Corinthians 3:16-17
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.
The pronoun “you” is plural, meaning that church (called “temple”) consists of many members. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says that the Holy Spirit occupies our bodies, which are called the temple of God. Individual temples make up the corporate temple that the Bible calls the Church.
The apostle Paul clearly warns those who try to destroy this divine group will in essence be annihilated themselves. The church with all of its imperfection is God-ordained to reach our lost world for Jesus Christ. Therefore, our leaders are committed to Crossfire’s success and highly protective of their church family.
One of the greatest challenges church leadership faces is to raise up committed people. Our mission statement is “Loving God, Loving People”. Basically this is a commitment statement. Today’s society is highly self-centered. The internet has created an information culture and relationship vacuum. Therefore, we have a fragmented church with attenders but not committed members.
Many in our church culture tune into the radio station WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. They are excited about spiritual truths and practices until they come to an understanding of commitment and sacrifice. Some disappear, searching for a fantasy church that never disappoints or requires anything from them.
Mature believers see the importance of committed relationships and service.
Leaders at Crossfire church deal with weaknesses and disappointments like any other Christian. What makes them leaders is commitment. All of them have been offended, misused and disappointed in their ministry roles, but they have chosen to grow rather than retreat. Each has a deep sense that God has called them to Crossfire Church so they have made a covenant with God that overrides their disappointments in life.
They also have committed themselves to our church body because people are depending upon them for leadership and support. A husband and wife often work out hurts and disagreements in their marriage because the kids depend on both of them for their security. Our leaders realize their presence brings peace and security to the church family.
Every Christian needs to be planted in a church; we were made for community. Get committed and watch how your spiritual life will soar with excitement!
Aaron and Pastor Keith with their fish!
Many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. They knew everything there was to know about finding, attracting and catching fish. Their livelihood depended on their fishing skills.
Jesus used their common knowledge to help them understand spiritual truth. In Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17 and Luke 5:10, Jesus told his disciples to fish for men.
What is the parallel between fishing in the wild and fishing for people?
Recently, Jesus’ words became clearer to me. My son Aaron and I went fishing out of Pentwater, Michigan, on a charter boat for King Salmon, Cohoe Salmon and Steelhead. The charter boat captain and his helper knew exactly what they needed to do to catch fish.
The time of day is extremely important.
We had to leave home by 4:00 am to get to the fishing boat on time. Big fish especially feed in the early morning when the sun is down. The dark water camouflages the larger fish from the bait-fish they prey upon. When the sun comes up the smaller fish are able to see the shadow of the larger prey fish. When the lures are in the vicinity of the bait-fish the larger prey fish are more likely to pursue and attack the lure. Result: fish on and the fun starts.
The charter boat crew sets out between ten and twelve lines with different bait at different depths. This allows fish at different depths to see the lures and be attracted to them. Fish can only be attracted to bait if they can see it.
The captain has a device that marks fish at various depths and measures the upper and lower water speeds along with the water temperature. His goal is to fish in waters that are about 50° because this temperature causes the fish to be more active and aggressive.
The captain marks hot spots in his GPS and saves the location directions in his computer device so he can return to that spot. Then the captain relies on radio communications with other charter boat captains to locate fish.
Our captain was a seasoned veteran, so our trip was very successful. We caught thirteen fish; eleven ranged from 5 – 7 pounds and two King Salmon weighed 15 pounds each.
The fish in our freezers remind us of this wonderful trip.
Angling for people has a parallel with fishing. We need to be where people are congregated and can see the bait we put before them. We can’t expect people to adjust to our schedules, but rather we have to be willing to adjust to them. We need to study the conditions and environment of those in our sphere of influence to attract them to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For example, Crossfire Church is focusing on reaching people for the gospel in the month of October. Our theme is, “Preparing to bring in the harvest.” We have events planned inside our church and in the community that are designed to attract people to Christ.
The sacrifice of time, energy and money is worth it when people come to Jesus.
Who are the people you interact with on a regular basis? This is your fishing spot, the one where God has called you to angle for people.
Pray over them and ask God for ideas on how you can attract and catch them for Christ.
Reading about fishing does not make you a fisherman, fishermen catch fish.