Photo: Todd Quackenbush
On October 24, I celebrated my 64th birthday. The Bible describes our lives as a vapor because it is so short.
The young man I once was has disappeared when I see a reflection of myself in the mirror. My future days on this earth are fewer than my past. If my focus was only on this life, birthdays would be dark days reminding me that this earthly life is quickly slipping away.
However, as a follower of Christ, the Bible tells me in John 3:16 that my faith in Jesus Christ assures me eternal life, the best of both worlds, now and beyond death. Eternity is becoming more real with each birthday celebration.
Many of my loved ones have entered eternity. I wish I had the assurance they were all in heaven. Many of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived life on their own terms and showed little desire for spiritual truth. My hope is that they made their peace with God, through Jesus Christ, before they died.
The brevity of life reminds me to make better choices for my time, talents and relationships – temporal things are becoming less important, eternal focus is real. The only thing I can bring to heaven with me are my relationships. Therefore, my immediate and extended biological family has become an increasing concern.
Also, the Crossfire Church family is becoming a greater priority. My job description, according to Ephesians 4:11-12, is that God gave the church “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip His people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up.”
In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands the apostles to “make disciples”, or disciplined believers. The legacy we leave after death will be those we have influenced for Christ. I encourage you to make the coming days, months and years count for the kingdom of God.
On October 18, I attended the Free International Missions yearly banquet at Mount Hope Church in Portland, Michigan. Free International Missions was birthed over 20 years ago by my good friend and brother in Christ, Bishop Anthony Yeboah.
Since its inception, over 400 churches in 10 African countries have been formed; sixteen-hundred pastors have been trained in his Bible school. In 2012, his beloved wife, Marilyn, died of brain cancer. Anthony’s loss has created a greater sense of urgency in his ministry. He is returning to Ghana, West Africa, to support the pastors and churches in the West African nations who have been affected by the Ebola virus. His life is in danger, but his love for God and his people trumps his fear of death.
Pastor Joe Robbe is the chairman of Anthony’s mission’s board. He spoke to the dinner guests about his trips to West Africa. He choked up with tears running down his face as he described his mission’s experiences with Free International Missions. He made this comment that challenges me, and I know will challenge you:
“Recently, my wife and I have reallocated a greater portion of our retirement account to support eternal ministry that builds God’s kingdom. In other words, I want our finances to live on in people beyond our deaths.”
I am challenged and I challenge you to live your life in the light of eternity.
Have you ever thought about how you got to where you are today? Sometimes it's good to think about how God brought you from one place in your life, to establish you in another.
The church that my husband Keith and I co-pastor is Crossfire. We believe this is the name that The Lord impressed on our hearts almost 10 years ago.
The first part of the name is Cross and represents the cross of Jesus Christ on which He willingly gave His life, so we could be restored back to our Heavenly Father. This is the foundation of our faith.
The second half is Fire and represents the presence of The Spirit of God, Who ignites passion and empowers the work of the cross in our lives.
The cross is such a beautiful picture of survival to me; I think of Jesus who literally saved my life. My home was filled with alcoholism....fear and abuse, but my Heavenly Father sent His son Jesus to rescue me....an 8-year-old child.
I grew up in a small church. I attended alone, but I felt like I had a new family. Sometimes, I was invited to a home for Sunday lunch. I loved the peace and joy I felt in their homes.
When I turned eleven the pastor shared a message that gripped my heart. It was about the love of God being an all-consuming fire and that His Spirit could awaken passion in us to live a strong and courageous life for God. So people gathered around the altar and I heard a beautiful sound coming from them as they prayed with tears flowing and hands raised.
Years before, I had asked Jesus into my heart, but I believed this was something new! As I knelt at the altar I felt the warmth of His love fill me deep inside. I let the tears fall as I lifted my hands and asked Jesus to baptize me with the Holy Spirit and fire. Something definitely changed in me. I had my very own personal survival-to-revival experience!
Little did I know God was preparing me for a life of ministry that began at 13 years of age. Now, over 50 years later I am married to a godly man and pastoring a church together with that same burning passion I felt around that altar at eleven-years-old.
[John said], "I baptize you in water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I'm not worthy to carry. He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
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.