Wednesday

The Secret of Praying for Unbelievers

Think of a person you care about who doesn’t know Christ as their Savior.

If you’re like me, every time you think of this person, your heart aches, because you know if they don’t accept Christ, they will die one day and spend eternity in hell. This frightens me—that someone I love could spend eternity separated from God (and from me). May it never be.

But the reality is that one day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account. The entrance exam to heaven has one question: 

In whom are you trusting?

There’s only one right answer: “I’m trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior.”

For years I couldn’t give that answer. The best I could do was hope my good works outweighed my bad works on judgment day. Some of my acquaintances, friends, and loved ones can’t give this answer because they haven’t yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. They’re still trusting in their works to get them into heaven. They don’t understand the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man shall boast.”

Because I love them, I witness to them, serve them, and do my best to demonstrate God’s love to them. But the most important thing I can do is to pray for them. 

I ask God to open their hearts to believe. Scripture tells us that no one comes to God unless the Father draws him (John 6:65), so it makes sense to ask God to draw our loved ones to himself and open their hearts to believe.

The book of Acts tells of a woman named Lydia. She was a religious woman who was trying to worship God as best she knew how. But she hadn’t trusted Jesus as her Savior. Paul shared the Gospel with her, like we should with our unbelieving loved ones. And then something miraculous happened. Acts 16:14 describes it this way:

“The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.” 

Apart from God opening a person’s heart to believe, the message of the Gospel falls on deaf ears. The spiritually dead cannot receive the life-giving truths of Scripture unless God opens their hearts. This is what we should pray for.

The take away from Acts 16 is simple: Pray for the people you love who don’t know Christ as their Savior. And when you pray, ask God to open their hearts. Pray and don’t stop.

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Rom. 10:10).

If you leave your loved one's first name in the comment box below, I'd be honored to pray for them.



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Tuesday

Why Christians Need Toastmasters (Blog + video)

I never envisioned myself as a professional speaker.

But as my blog grew and my books launched, I began to receive invitations to speak more often at women's ministry events, writers' conferences, and homeschool conventions. A long-time Bible teacher and homeschool support group leader, I'd had many opportunities to speak, but I deeply desired to become the best speaker for the Lord I could be. 

I never wanted God's message to be hindered by my delivery. 

In my quest to further develop my speaking ability, I attended the Christian Communicators conference in Asheville, North Carolina. This dynamic, exhausting, exhilarating, empowering 5-days of training just whetted my appetite. 

Then my friend Kim Jackson, accomplished speaker and founder of Elder Orphan Care, recommended Toastmasters International. 

I'd heard of Toastmasters, but knew little about it. I pictured a bunch of stodgy, middle-aged white men presenting boring speeches to sleepy colleagues. Not quite what I had in mind. "I LOVE Toastmasters," she said, and since she wasn't a stodgy, middle-aged, white man who gave boring speeches, I sat up and took notice. "It's the best ongoing speaker training I've ever had. And it's inexpensive." 

The words best and inexpensive seldom appear in the same sentence in my world, so her endorsement added extra credibility to her recommendation. 

I did a web search on Toastmasters International and discovered that there were 31 Toastmasters clubs within a 25-mile radius of Columbia. Plenty from which to choose. I selected the club that met in a location and at a time that best fit my schedule and emailed the president. The next week, I visited, and I've been attending ever since. 

While I expected good training, I never thought it would be so much fun. 

Unlike my early mental picture, Columbia Toastmasters 1393 is comprised of people of all ages, stages, ethnicities, and genders. Our members are housewives, city leaders, healthcare workers, and students. Each member has different interests, passions, and personalities that come out in their formal and informal speaking, which makes every meeting an adventure. 

After three years, I agree with my friend Kim, Toastmasters is the best ongoing speaker training I've ever experienced. 

But what if you're not interested in being a women's ministry speaker? You still need Toastmasters.

Why? Because of 1 Peter 3:15. God commands all believers, "Be ready always to give a reason for the hope that lies within you. . ." 

Whether you ever set foot on a stage, you are a public speaker. Every day you interact with family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, customers, and strangers. And every day you communicate with them. 

Whether you communicate well or you communicate poorly determines, in large part, the success of your relationships. And of your witness. And who doesn't want to have better relationships and a better witness?


Toastmasters International is about more than just learning to present a formal speech in front of a group. It's about maximizing every opportunity we have to share the message that's most important to us. 

For many of us, that's Jesus--what he's done for us, and what he can do for others. 

I never want God's message to be hindered by my delivery. How about you? 

For more information on Toastmasters International and to find a club in your area, click here. Read about it, then visit a club. It doesn't cost a thing to check it out, and it just might change your life. And someone else's.


Earlier this year I competed in the 2016 Toastmasters International Speech Competition. I won at the club, area, and division (2nd place) levels. 

If you'd like to hear my winning speech, "I Am Rich," click the play button below. If you're reading by email, click here to hear "I Am Rich."







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Monday

Hungry for God Wins Prestigious Award

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
is pleased to announce that 
Hungry for God ... Starving for Time 
has received the 
2016 Christian Small Publishers 
Book of the Year Award 



The Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year Award is designed to promote small publishers in the Christian marketplace and bring recognition to outstanding Christian books from a small publisher.

This prestigious award is given based on reader and retailer feedback in eight categories. To read more about the CSPA award and see the winners, click HERE.

Many of you voted for Hungry for God during January and February. THANK YOU! May God be glorified.





Not familiar with Hungry for God? Here's a short blurb:



 Hungry for God Starving for Time
You want to connect with God, but in the craziness of life, it’s just not happening. You want practical, biblical answers to situations you face every day, but you don’t have hours to pore over Scripture.

You need a resource that answers the questions you’re afraid to ask out loud. Questions like:

• Is my situation hopeless?
• If God already knows what he’s going to do, why bother to pray? 
• Why have you allowed this to happen to me? 
• No one appreciates what I do. Why shouldn’t I quit? 

Each devotion begins with a Facetime question and ends with a biblical answer wrapped in a modern day parable. Like a spiritual power bar, Hungry for God … Starving for Time is packed with enough scriptural nutrition to get you through the day. Wherever you are—in break rooms, carpool lines, or wherever you can snatch five minutes of quiet reflection—Hungry for God … Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women is for you.

And if you're one of the faithful readers who voted for Hungry for God, why not share a copy with one of the busy women in your life?


 

 

Thursday

"Is God There Even When a Priest Is About to Rape a Boy?"

I recently re-posted a meme from a Facebook page called Christian Today on my Hungry for God page. It said, “Faith tells me that no matter what lies ahead, God is already there.” A person named Phil left a comment that broke my heart. He asked, is God there “even when a priest is about to rape a boy?” 

Now Phil could be one of those people who trolls Facebook and Twitter looking for opportunities to stir up trouble by being contrary, quarrelsome, and generally unpleasant. The best way to deal with this type of commenter, I’ve found, is to ignore them. 

Or Phil could be a real person whose heart is genuinely troubled by the fact that people in authority sometimes abuse their positions and do horrible things to others. Phil might even have been that boy who was raped by a priest. 

I’m going to assume Phil is sincerely asking the question, “Where is God when people are hurting other people?” 

Phil, I can’t give an exhaustive answer to your question. The parameters of my blog and the limits of my theological knowledge don’t allow for it. But I would like to share a few things I know to be true, both from Scripture and from my own experience. 

1. Yes, God is there when a priest is about to rape a boy. God is all knowing and everywhere. He sees. He knows. And his heart breaks. 

2. Then why doesn’t he stop it? is the next logical question. If he’s so powerful, why doesn’t he prevent tragedies like this? 

God created mankind with a free will. He gave us the ability to choose our own way. We can choose to honor him with our actions, or we can choose to dishonor him. The ability to choose between good and evil is what makes us different from animals. 

In the beginning of time, God created a beautiful world free from sin. No murder. No rape. No one in authority using his power to hurt those who trust them. He placed Adam and Eve there. Every day he walked and talked with them in the cool of the day. He provided everything they needed to be happy. 

But perfection wasn’t good enough. They wanted more. They wanted the one thing God had withheld from them—the ability to determine right and wrong for themselves. Their disobedience introduced sin into God’s perfect paradise, and every generation since then has followed in our forefathers’ sinful ways. 

3. Sadly, the freedom to choose means many will choose to sin against each other, like this priest you reference in your question, but also like me, and like you. If God chose to intervene every time we sinned against each other, we would no longer have free will. Instead, we’d be automatons, and God didn’t create automatons. He created human beings. 

4. Although God doesn’t stop every act of cruelty that man commits, he does make several promises: 

First, everyone who has rejected Christ as his/her Savior will stand before the judgment seat of God and give an account of their actions. That priest will not escape ultimate justice at the hands of God, who saw every thought, word, and action he committed. As Jonathan Edwards said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.” 

Sin, especially sin committed against a child, makes God very angry. Listen to his Words in Luke 17:2: “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”  

Second, God can use everything, even a horrible, cruel, devastating action such as rape, for good in our lives if we surrender it to God. For many of us, it was the very thing that could have destroyed us that God used to bring us to himself. When Jesus saw the sinfulness of the people of Jerusalem, his heart broke. He wept, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). Jesus wants to heal us. 

Finally, God can redeem and restore those who have been harmed by the sinful actions of others. World-renowned Bible teacher Beth Moore was the victim of childhood sexual abuse. She has said, “God will often take our pain and turn it into a passion.” Beth has dedicated her life to helping women find restoration and hope a life by surrendering to Christ. She’s a powerful testimony to the fact that God can turn our misery into ministry when we place it in his hands. 

Cec Murphy, author and co-author of over 135 books, including 90 Minutes in Heaven, was also the victim of child sexual abuse. He writes about it in his book, Not Quite Healed: 40 Truths for Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse and on his blog, Shattering the Silence. Cec and Beth, along with countless others, surrendered their pain to God and allowed him to redeem it. They’re living the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 

Phil, if you are that boy who was raped by a priest, I am so sorry. I understand a little of your pain. A trusted adult also molested someone I love. While that horrible action changed her life forever, it also thrust her into the arms of Jesus, where she found cleansing, healing, and hope. 

I pray this will be true for you as well. 

Placing our faith in Jesus Christ is our only hope in this sin-sick world. This is why he came—to break the power of sin like the one Phil mentions and offer us the hope of heaven. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I’d love to share my story with you. CLICK HERE to hear what someone told with me about how to know for sure when I died that I’d go to heaven.





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Sunday

Worse than Kicking a Puppy

Most of us would never kick a puppy. Or strike a child. Or abuse an elderly person. Sadly, however, we possess the ability to hurt and harm in other ways, sometimes thoughtlessly, other times deliberately. 

The apostle James described it this way: “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2). 


James either struggled with his tongue or lived with someone who did. 

“Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. . .” he says. 

We gossip in the name of “sharing.” 
We complain in the name of “venting.” 
We criticize in the name of “rebuking.” 
We speak sarcastically in the name of “humor.” 

We walk through our days, marriages, and lives gathering bits of ammunition until one day, usually when our intended target least expects it, we pull the trigger. Like buckshot, our destructive words puncture dozens of tiny holes that cause the lifeblood of our relationships to drain away. 

Some days we are the hunter, and other days we are the prey. 

“. . . no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (v. 8). 

Critical words steal ambition. 
Angry words build relational walls. 
Careless words wound tender spirits. 
Manipulative words plant guilt instead of grace. 
Unspoken words say more than a hundred audible ones. 

Worst of all, we speak with a divided tongue, revealing to all who will listen what’s really in our hearts (Mat. 12:34). 

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing” (v. 9-10). 

My brothers (and sisters), this should not be. 

What if, for one day, then one week, then perhaps one lifetime, we commit to ask three questions before a word leaves our mouths: 

1. Is it true? 

2. Is it kind? 

3. Is it necessary? 


What if we wielded our verbal sword with arms of love, using our words to vanquish discouragement, doubt, and defeat? What if we raised the standard of grace and the guns of mercy in the name of kindness, kinship, and Christ? What if we jumped into the fray of social chaos and spoke the truth in love while sacrificially serving those whom we most want to reach? 

What if we used our words to heal instead of hurt? 

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 

Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (Jas. 3:17-18). 

Will you join me in using our words for God’s glory instead of his shame?



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