Testimonies from Mexico

By Ruth Martinez-Ost

A pastoral couple had serious marriage problems and were on the verge of separation As we were finishing up one day, Vic said to the husband, “just treat and love your wife, like Christ loved the Church”. All the lights went on, from that moment forward everything changed in their marriage, family and church. Recently they invited us to speak to 25 couples at a Marriage Seminar they held in their church.

One on one is one of the most valuable opportunities of multiplication.

We would like to share another testimony regarding a now pastoral couple, who were former business people. As we opened the Saturday classes he was the first student to sign up, yet he seemed like the most unlikely candidate. Saturday after Saturday was spent pouring the Word into his life along with 5 other students. 18 months later they started a home group with 3 people and in three months grew to 30 people in an area of Monterrey where there are NO evangelical churches. There is only one dance hall in the whole area which they are now renting for a church. The growth has been because the noise is spreading that “miracles” are the norm.

Vic had triple surgery in his right eye and was told the best he could expect was just to see only objects. One day he was reading his Bible on the cellphone and I just said to him, “what don’t you cover up your good eye and see if you can read with the right eye?” Amazingly he was able to read!

A month ago we had the Encuentro Hermano Mayor (this is a yearly event called “the older brother and the purpose is to invite former students to meet and connect with the present students) On this occasion former students came that had not been here for 37 years. They shared an awesome testimony – He had very serious medical issues – weighed only 77 pounds, couldn’t see, couldn’t speak – leg was totally swollen almost to the point of amputation and had been in the hospital for weeks. In addition, his wife had breast cancer. After being told there was no hope; he said, “God I have preached that you are a miracle working God, we are trusting you as our ONLY hope”. Both are perfectly healed.

Faith, Hope and Love Center Victoria – As we were praying for the first time in the gang-infested swamp a purse was stolen from the car. The beginnings were a small tin-roof building and a tent. – I recall one evening everyone was clapping – slapping the mosquitos! We prayed and asked God for a miracle, “not one more bite until after the service” you could hear the silence, not one more mosquito bite til after the service! Since the land was a swamp we had to bring in 1500 truckloads of “landfill”. The place is now a finished building that seats 1400 people and there are starting the third Sunday service. Every week precious souls are coming to Jesus.

Vic and I have completed 50 years at the Bible School this year. During our February event we had a wonderful transition. Our youngest son David and his wife Cintia are now the Directors of the Bible School. Please pray for them as they also are Pastors at the 1rst theater we purchased in Monterrey.

Our oldest daughter Rebeca has been the Bible School Coordinator for 16 years. We ask you to pray for her as this is a bittersweet experience as there is “grief and relief”. She is teaching in a Christian school in southern Mexico.

To learn more about Victor and Ruth Martinez, visit www.mrcpartners.org. Ruth is on Facebook as Ruth Martinez-Ost.

The Israel Story – Why Did God Choose the Jews?

By Randy Alonso

There is a growing number of Christians who are awakening to the importance of Israel. It is a fulfillment of scripture and the growing, active work of the Holy Spirit today worldwide. Concerning the Jewish people, scripture is very clear.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 states “For you are a holy people to the Lord Your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than other people, for you were least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep His oath which He swore to your fathers…”

This text frames for us a very simple answer to the question, “Why did God choose the Jews?” There are two powerful reasons; because God promised to Abraham that He would do so, and God always keeps His promises.

God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) is the Magna Carta of Israel’s future. There is no subject today more talked about or controversial in the eyes of the world. It not only affects religion, it is a hugely geo-political issue as well.

The reason there is a growing number of Christians supporting Israel is because they are more aware than ever of its importance. However, while awareness and support has grown, there is also a great need for Christians to develop their theology concerning Israel. When they do, it will help them understand the great unrest that is in the world today, beginning in the Middle East.

As small as it is, Israel is not only the geopolitical center of the world but also the spiritual capital of the world. And, except for the USA, it is the most mentioned country in the world in daily news. Israel is the only democratic country in a sea of Arab nations that deny its very existence as a sovereign state. It is surrounded by countries that hate it and will not acknowledge it’s right to exist. This is what I want to help more followers of our Rabbi Yeshua, our Savior and Lord, to understand more clearly.

God’s covenant with Israel is an Unconditional Covenant. As you read it beginning in Genesis 12, you will notice God saying, “I will, I will, I will.” Everywhere else in the Bible, you see God say, “If you will, I will.” Yet in Genesis 12, people are not the condition: God is. He makes it clear, “It’s about Me. My plan for mankind. No annulment. No changing my mind. I will.”

It is also a Personal Covenant. He says, “I will bless you,” referring to Abraham. Not only was God going to bless His people, He was going to bless Abraham. And that is what He did in a big way with a large family, wealth, possessions, herds and a trained army (Genesis 14:14). Abraham lived to be 175 years old. God also told him he would make his name great, and He did. Not only was he well known among the people of his day, he’s well known by the people of our day – four thousand years later. Abraham’s name is respected, trusted and loved worldwide among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. God kept His promise.

It is a National Covenant. In Genesis 12:2, God says, “I will make you a great nation.” When you travel to Israel you actually realize how small it is. It is hard to comprehend how God would make it such a great nation. It is easy for us to comprehend the USA as a great nation, but tiny Israel? I live in Florida. You can fit five Israel’s within the border of our state.

The ultimate greatness of Israel is yet to come, when God sets up His kingdom and establishes it from Jerusalem. In the meantime, Israel is a world leader in technology, innovation, and medicine.

Rabbi Amnon Rubenstein writes, “Israel is minute in size, not much bigger than a sliver of Mediterranean coast line. It has withstood continuing Arab onslaughts, wars, boycotts, and terrorism. It has turned itself from a poor rural country to a post-industrial powerhouse. It has reduced social, educational, and health gaps among Arabs and Jews. Its achievements are unprecedented. Israeli Arabs have a higher life expectancy than almost all of the European whites. It has maintained freedom of the press in time of war. It stands as a singular Democratic post World War II island in a sea of Arab and Muslim poverty and backwardness.”

I have witnessed it first hand. It is my privilege to travel to the Land regularly and work with one of the great Christian ministries serving the Jewish people. I encourage you to check out bridgesforpeace.com.

Israel is surrounded by thirty-seven enemy nations. Those countries occupy a landmass of five million square miles. Israel has a landmass of nine thousand square miles. Israel is a prosperous nation today in the midst of tremendous opposition. There is a lot of news in the United States concerning immigration and refugees. President Trump’s recent temporary ban on seven known terrorist friendly nations saw violence erupt in our country, in protest. Many people would be shocked to know that Israeli citizens are banned from traveling to or entering sixteen different Arab nations. You won’t see that covered in the nightly news. Fact is, the Jewish people are a light in the dark world of the Middle East.

Yet most critical today, it is a Territorial Covenant. Genesis 12:1; So the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”

He traveled from his home in Haran to Canaan. And on the same day, in Genesis 15:18, the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.” The boundaries that God gave to the Jews have never been fully realized. If so, it would include modern day Israel, Lebanon, the West Bank, substantial portions of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Israel has never come close to that.

Some would say, ‘God certainly missed this. He must have been speaking figuratively or in hyperbole.’ But one day, rest assured, Israel will occupy all that God said they would. Because they do not currently occupy it doesn’t mean they don’t own it. Secularists say God was only making some kind of spiritual analogy. I think Abraham would look at the secularists cross-eyed and say, ‘’What are you talking about?’

God said it. It’s a real piece of real land. It belongs to Israel because God gave it to Abraham. No matter what anyone says, no matter how much they argue over it, the land of Israel belongs to Israel. The Word of God is clear, there’s no disputing it. It is the land of Canaan and will belong to Abraham’s descendants forever.

It is the most important piece of real estate on earth. It is the geographic center of Divine dealings for the ages among the nations. It is ground zero for the end times. It is the only land on earth not up for negotiation with anyone, at anytime, for any reason. It is the only nation ever formed by God. And, it is the only nation to have its history written in advance through the Word of God.

My encouragement to followers of Jesus is be sure that the foundation of your faith is clear according to this covenant. When God gave the land of Israel, He was clear in what it meant and how it would play out in His Divine plan. Why is this so important?

Because today there is constant pressure on Israel to give up its land by dividing it further, believing somehow this will bring peace. Here is a great truth; you can never disobey God and end up with peace. You have to really want to believe something else to not believe what God has already said. Here’s a sample of scriptures concerning God’s mind in this matter.

Jeremiah 32:37,41 “Behold, I will gather them out of the countries where I have driven them in My anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and will cause them to dwell safely. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all my soul.”

Ezekiel 11:17 Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”‘

Ezekiel 20:42 “Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers.”

You have to work hard at making stuff up, spiritualizing the land and even the people to rebel against what the Lord has said. If anyone tries to divide or parcel out God’s land, they are doing it in the face of a mountain of revealed Biblical evidence spoken by God who inspired it and wrote it.

How much does God care about this?

Deuteronomy 11:12, A land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.

Zechariah 2:8, For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”

I first traveled to Israel in 2001. I have been privileged to go there regularly ever since. In January of this year, while touring with and teaching fifty Pastors and Ministry leaders, I took a day at the end of our tour to go into the West Bank to witness for myself what is at stake. It’s surreal to see places like ancient Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant resided after the initial conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. Even stranger is it to drive through Ramallah and see the headquarters of Hamas. I visited a Muslim village of three thousand people where two hundred Hamas terrorists live. Why? A house church is being built for a young convert and his family. The gospel lives and brings eternal hope!

Intertwined in this difficult area of real estate are Jewish and Palestinian communities. You can feel the tension. It has been an honor for me to get to know the people who live in the land, including Jews and Arabs. I have found that people are generally friendly and want peace. However, the spiritual tension is obvious.

The truth is, no nation around Israel likes Israel. And it is not because they are not likeable. Why? Never forget, God’s eyes are always on her. The Jews are a chosen people. That is a very special privilege and at the same time a very heavy burden. This tiny group of people was commissioned by God to bring moral, civil, and spiritual law to all of mankind. They are purveyors of the heart and mind of God to all of humanity for all of human history. Human sin nature rebels against this.

The significance of the Jews being in the land today is in order for the future prophecies of Israel to come to pass. The Jews have to be at home in the land of Israel. They are making Aliyah in record numbers. Aliyah is the act of going up, in reference to Jerusalem. It is the return of the Jewish people out of the diaspora, to their homeland.

This all began in the modern age on May 14th, 1948. Israel was restored as a nation. It is the most significant sign leading to the return of Jesus. The Jewish people live on high alert. Every 18-year old man and woman serves in the Israel Defense Force. Everyone is trained and everyone serves as a reserve into their forties. They know how to guard their land. I’ve been to military installations, including a Counter Terrorism Training Center. It’s humbling and impressive.

It is a Territorial Covenant and every time (which is often) people try to divide up the land I think to myself, “No, don’t do that. God has already spoken on this. Be wise. Agree with God.”

If this subject is fairly new to you, I would encourage you to dig deeper. What can you do today? Be an advocate for the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people. Lead your church family to support Israel with your prayers, dollars, and participation. And most of all, make friends with Jewish people in your community.

We live in incredible times. God in His sovereign plan brought you and I into the world for such a time as this. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations, and then the end will come.” Sobering to think that we may very well be the generation that puts the finishing touch on the canvas of the church age. May you be encouraged today to be faithful in your calling.

Recommended reading;

Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

Israel and the Church: God’s Road Map, by Rebecca Brimmer and Bridges for Peace Leaders

The Destiny of Israel and the Church by Derek Prince

Sinai Speaks by Dr. Jim Solberg

The Jerusalem Dispatch a bi-monthly publication of Bridges for Peace

Scripture references are NKJV.

Randy Alonso is a certified coach, trainer, and speaker at the John Maxwell Team. He Randy was a senior pastor for over 30 years, and is now the Teaching Pastor at Central Life Church in Melbourne, Florida. He is a Senior Leader for Bridges for Peace and is an advocate of the land of Israel and the Jewish people. He also serves as President of the International Ministerial Fellowship serving over 1300 Christian leaders worldwide. Randy holds a DDiv degree from Masters International University of Divinity.

You can contact Randy Alonso at Ralonso@bfpusa.org

 

Overcoming Fear

There will be times in everyone’s life when they will be invaded by the spirit of fear! There are all kinds of circumstances & situations that may pop up in our lives unexpectedly that will cause you to doubt and fear. It’s so important to understand the influence fear can have and how it works against us and the promises of God for our lives. It can keep you from being all God has created you to be!

Fear is the opposite of Faith….and the devil works very hard to cause us to fear because it brings with it torment! (I John 4:18) It’s important that we remember, II Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)

Fear is designed to cripple your ability in the Lord and cause you to live a life full of torment & misery. It’s like a huge yoke placed upon your life, trying to prevent you from believing what God is Able to do in your life!

Fear begins as a thought and develops into an emotion that if you are not careful will cause you to make wrong decisions and rule your life or simply paralyze you from moving at all. How we think and ponder on our challenges in life has a lot to do with the results for our lives. (Prov. 23:7) The truth of the matter is most of our fear is birth out of a mind that has been formed by this world and it causes us to have a thought process that limits God. This is why God lets us know our transformation to who he created and called us to be will not fully manifest until we begin to renew our mind. (Romans 12:1-2)

We are expected as Christians to walk by faith and not by sight. (II Corth 5:7). We are to trust God in spite of what we see, hear or know. Our Faith must stand in the power and the ability of our Lord and on His Word!

When we become born again through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we actually become “recreated in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:10 AMP) So, whatever Jesus is, we are too. He is strong, and in Him, we are strong. He is courageous, in Him, we are courageous. He is a conqueror, so we can be too. He has peace and joy, so we have peace and joy. He’s capable and bold. In Christ, we can do whatever we need to do with His boldness. (quote by Joyce Meyers)

We must learn to fight the good fight of Faith and you’ll see…. you will have Victory over fear every time!

 

Pastor Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons Ministries

www.kimlyonsministries.com

Kim Y. Lyons is the Co-Pastor and Founder of “In Faith Ministries International” in Lima, Ohio and the Founder of KLM. She is a native of Dayton, Ohio and was licensed & ordained a minister of the gospel by Bishop Ted Willis of Second Baptist Church in Piqua, Ohio.

Some words to describe the Ministry of Kim Lyons would be, impacting, dynamic, radical, life- transforming and Real! She is affectionately known as “Mama Kim” because of her “keepin it real” approach in ministry and life.

The influence of her ministry has broken through racial, denominational, and economical barriers which have allowed her the privilege of impacting many people.  Her dynamic style and “Keepin it Real” approach to preaching and teaching Gods word has allowed her numerous opportunities to preach at conferences, workshops, and churches abroad.

She has been a frequent guest on WTLW TV 44 “Grace for Today” show as well as WTGN Radio “Prayer Time” and has served as a Chaplain for Marketplace Ministries a ministry designed to minister to people in the work place. She has recently birth out a monthly Prayer Impact – Prayer line that has been aggressive through social media and is making an Impact in the Kingdom of God!

Her passion is to assist people in reaching their full potential and discover their authentic purpose and destiny. She is the wife of the Michael Lyons the Senior Pastor of In Faith Ministries International and the proud parent of 4 children and 2 grandchildren. 

Is This My Job Or Is This My Calling?

By Jen Tringale

The word calling is a word we generally set apart to describe those selected for a specific task or purpose. When I was growing up in church; this word ‘calling’ was generally reserved to describe a person that was called to be a pastor, teacher or maybe a missionary. It wasn’t ever actually said to me but the assumption was that those that were “called” were sort of the ‘rock-star’ ministers given the task to really do something for God and the rest of us were merely here to attend church, maybe volunteer and cheer them on.

However, this word ‘calling’ speaks to the fact that there is divine purpose attached to what a person does and it is important to know that it does not always require a pulpit. Many times we hear someone say that they have “found their calling.” While a lot is being said in recent years about the topic of purpose or calling, we ought to make sure we rightly define exactly who it is that is called and for what purpose.

In Ephesians 4:1 Paul the apostle writes and very strongly admonishes ALL believers to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called”…”

The word ‘calling’ here simply means, “A divine invitation to service or a summons to employment.”

This vocational calling that Paul is speaking about is backing up what God originally instituted with Adam in Genesis Chapter 2, “…to be fruitful, multiply and to have dominion…,” and then again when He gave us the great commission in Matt 28 and in Mark 16. In each case God is reiterating His plan that every believer has been issued a call, an invitation to a kingdom assignment. We are to impact our culture to bring together His family and to establish His kingdom in the earth. It is because of this call – this purpose – that you and I are here.

It is vitally important that we understand that you and I did not just come from our parents, we merely came through our parents. In Jeremiah

1:5 God says, “Before you were even in your mother’s womb I knew you.”

At some point God our creator had the idea of you and because He does everything with purpose attached to it, He also attached to you a calling, a purpose, and a divine invitation to employment!

This divine calling will utilize the gifts, talents and abilities that God has given each of us to in some way be an answer to a problem and to bring a solution to societies’ needs. This changes how we approach what we do vocationally. For the believer, there is no such thing as mere secular employment but a better description would be that you have a vocational calling.

In fact, Jesus made this plain when He first announced His purpose and strategy for how we were to carry on when He was gone when He told Peter, “…And upon this rock, I will build my church,”(Matthew 16:18).

Jesus used the Greek word “ecclesia” here when He spoke of His church. Without going into lengthy historical detail, let me give you a snapshot of what Jesus was referencing.

The “ecclesia” was a roman legislative group made up of people very skilled in their various vocations. The Romans would send out the ecclesia into their newly defeated territories. This skilled group was made up of law-makers, judges, educators, artisans, musicians, builders, architects, as well as others. Their job was to take positions of influence throughout the cities of these newly conquered territories. As they began to function in their vocations, they were assimilating the people into Roman ways of living. Slowly, thru their influence, they would begin to transform the people’s thinking and their way of life into all things Roman! They began to teach in the schools using Roman methods. The musicians shifted the sound, lawmakers introduced Roman policies, and on and on it went.

All of this was a strategic way to get the people to forget their old identity and in a matter of time the ecclesia would have transformed the culture to look, sound and function just like Rome. Isn’t it interesting that this is the concept that Jesus referenced when He spoke of building His church? He was not speaking of us meeting in a building; rather He spoke of us building the kingdom in the culture we are in! To be salt and light, to be a city set on a hill, which speaks of having positions of influence.

For years we have tried to change the culture merely through the church alone, but it takes more than the 5-fold ministry gifts. Their function is actually to equip the saints; which is why it is vitally important that we as believers are planted in the local church where this equipping can take place. But that equipping is to help all believers, men and women of God to function in their calling. That those who are educators, care-takers, law-makers, musicians and many others would take their place of influence thru the ability and the anointing that comes with the calling!

Let me sum this up with 3 basic principles every believer needs to know about their calling.

  1. God always has a plan and He has a plan for you. Don’t settle for anything less.
  2. Who God calls He equips. You’ve got the raw materials of what it takes.
  3. Never judge what you do as insignificant. Allow the Holy Spirit to ignite the destiny seed of God in you and lead you into the calling He designed you for.

I call you blessed,

Jen Tringale

 

New Book: “Your Defining Moment” can be Pre-Ordered at www.jentringale.com

For booking information please call 1-877-286-2995

Jen Tringale Ministries

PO Box 161205

Fort Worth Texas 76161

 

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3 Crucial Things We Must Protect As Leaders

By Lysa Terkeurst

Whether your dream is to get a degree, publish a book, be a singer, hold a leadership position, open your own business, or any of the hundreds of other dreams people have, there are three things worth protecting at all costs.

The world will beg us to trade them in for a quicker taste of success.

But if we do, every bit of the success that follows will feel horribly shallow and hauntingly meaningless.

What are these 3 crucial things?

  1. Identity

Know who you are and Whose you are. This is the number one lesson my husband and I have taught our kids. Every Biblical, moral, and crucial life lesson we’ve ever taught them can be wrapped up in one simple statement: “Remember who you are.”

A few years ago, our youngest child Brooke was making a cake. The cake was supposed to cook for 50 minutes but at the 30-minute mark, the cake looked done.

It smelled done. She wanted it to be done.

So, despite knowing the proper directions, she removed the cake from the oven. A few short minutes later, she watched with great sadness as the cake caved in. The cake couldn’t withstand the weight of an undone center.

And neither can we.

We must know who we are before tasting success in our dreams. Otherwise, our dreams will threaten to become our identities. As success ebbs and flows, it crushes those whose identities aren’t grounded in the assurance of God’s love for them.

  1. Integrity

Know what you stand for and determine to stand for more than just yourself. Success in your dream won’t be enough. There has got to be a higher purpose to it all. I like to say as you reach higher, you must remember to also stoop lower. God has a purpose in our dreams and it isn’t to make us happy, rich, or famous. It’s to enable us to make a bigger difference in the lives of people.

That’s true whether we’re seeking to write a book, hold an office, or become a great parent. I often challenge myself to say this statement about any blessing I receive: “This is happening so that I might bless whom?”

  1. Intent

Know why you’re following your dream. If my intent is to get something I feel I’m missing in my life, I’ll forever be disappointed. If my intent is to give something back in this life, no matter where I am in the process, this can be true.

Always trying to get something positions me to be selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed. But if my intent is always looking to give something, I can be free to live that part of my dream today.

Today, I may not be able to have— but I can certainly decide to give.

Which of these three things speaks to you the most? How can you work on checking and protecting your identity, integrity, and intent in your leadership position?

Climb on the Cross

“It’s over. We’ve surely failed”. These were our thoughts after we had planted our first church and things didn’t go as planned. Little did we know that through all our blood, sweat, and tears, God was going to use this time to teach us and train us- not only to pick ourselves up and learn from what was perceived as failure, but to feel what His Son felt while He endured His journey to the Cross. We had to learn to walk in Jesus’ shoes…literally. Why? We had to sense His heartbeat so that we too could reach those closest to His heart.

There are seasons in our lives in which God wants to hit home a particular principle because He has a purpose for it. In 2006, after going through an emotionally devastating time in the ministry, God placed the theme of the Cross in our hearts. When it landed in our spirit, it was one of those revelation moments. God did not tell us the expected- “Pick up your cross and carry it, but rather to “Pick up your cross and climb on it! And do it daily!” It was one of those a-ha moments- so that’s how He wants us to feel His heartbeat- to climb on the cross like Him! Yes, He died on the Cross for our sins so we wouldn’t have to take on the burdens of the world, but, He is closer than a brother, our great Teacher, our best friend, our daddy, and He yearns for a close relationship with each of us. In Genesis, from the very beginning, God walked with Adam in the garden in “the cool of the day”- establishing the importance of relationship from the start, and that relationship was still just as important in the end- all the way to the Cross- and beyond.

It was the true revelation of what climbing on the cross really meant, that changed our total perspective of ministry. We had always believed in carrying our cross, but failed to realize the true importance of the cross- that it isn’t just a means of identifying with Christ, but rather our source of power from Christ. It’s a sin crushing, life-giving cross that gives hope and freedom to the lost and hurting, and we have the power of Christ made available to us if we only realize one major point. We must climb on it instead of carrying it, and the only way we could do that was to stop being defensive of our ministry. It was to truly turn the other cheek as Christ had done, to say nothing when accused, to endure the pain without complaining, even though we were innocent, and let God bring about the outcome of the situation.

For years, the principle of the cross showed us how to wade through conflict, deal with difficulties, and persevere onward setting our face like flint toward the future. Now, eight years later, we have a new heartbeat- grace. He is now showing us a different side of Himself- the side of mercy, forgiveness, and love for the new flock that He has given us to care for- the flock we’d never imagine we’d have- in a place we never imagined we’d be.

In 2008, while in Louisiana doing ministry consultant work, we received a phone call about planting a new church in Lawton, Oklahoma. After scoping out the city and thinking “this place is ugly!”, God dropped another bombshell. As clear as day, He said, “Where there is no beauty, bring beauty with you.” Wow. Four months later, God had begun to give us a love for the city and its people so we relocated to begin the new journey- and what a journey it has been!

On February 21, 2014, Celebration Church of Lawton, celebrated its four year anniversary! What started out as a perceived failure in our church planting journey, has brought us to where we are now- thriving and growing in a multi-cultural, fun-loving, genuinely friendly church in a military town. God has enabled our church in its few short years to impact our city in ways that really show Him off and He has used and continues to use the most “unlikely” people to do so! We told God from the beginning, “We want those who nobody else wants.” So, He put us to the test! He brought us people who are homosexuals, people who are DJ’s, people with tattoos all over, people who were formerly Muslim, people who stood in our yard cussing and smoking, people who had suffered through abortions, and many others. He put us to the test and we said yes. If we couldn’t love these people like Jesus loved them, then we needed to put away our Bible on the shelf and close it for good. What did we do? We said “let’s go!” and off into the community we went and began to serve!

We stood at gas stations and grocery stores after a blizzard and handed out thousands of dollars in free gas and grocery gift cards. We fed midnight ER crews homemade meals, university student’s breakfast during finals week, Cajun food to firefighters on Ft. Sill, sent Christmas stockings to inner city children in New York, relief to crisis areas after tornadoes, medicines to people in the Amazon jungle, and construction workers to Costa Rica. We’ve picked up trash in our city, handed out Valentine’s and Christmas gifts at nursing homes, and popsicles in the park. We’ve worked with city leaders at prayer conferences, put on first-class women’s and men’s retreats, had another congregation merge with us and have been given debt-free land and buildings which we are currently renovating! We’ve sent numerous people to ministry school, licensed ministers from within, and had people trained for disaster relief.

To think that all of this and much more has been done in just four short years is astounding. The question is, how did we arrive here? We believe that by being obedient to God’s leading and climbing on the cross daily, humbly seeking His purposes and not our own, that God has sped up time and accelerated the work in which He would have us to do. He is providing us with the right people with the right heart with an abundance of resources. He is giving us grace for the journey, and the power of His Cross. Author and speaker, Lisa Bevere writes, “The Cross is the ultimate assurance of every promise kept. It is a sword that slays every last remnant of hostility between heaven and earth, just as surely as it is a sword that transforms us through the surgery of the Word. The Cross was your hope even before you realized you were hopeless, the answer before you realized there was a problem. The Cross symbolizes God’s faithfulness while it expresses his faith in us. Through the Cross we are equipped to walk in him.”

Amazing love, how can it be, that you would die for me? Thank you, Jesus, for allowing us to step in your shoes, feel your heartbeat, climb on the cross with You, endure for a moment your feelings, your pain, your love, your grace. Thank you for believing in us so that we could reach those who are closest to your heart- the ones nobody else wants, the ones you hold close, the ones with that tattoos, abortions, alternative lifestyles, the ones who say, “I have nothing left. I humbly come to you. Take all of me. I’m yours.” Selah.

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What’s In A Name?


Former VP for Prince Charles’s charity, International Speaker & author Jo Naughton explains how God wants to mark your identity
 

We don’t know much about Abraham’s upbringing.  His dad clearly had his best interests at heart when he gave him a great name. Abram means ‘exalted father‘. Perhaps Terah had an inkling of the battle his son would fight to become a dad. Or maybe he had high expectations of him becoming a leader in their tribe. Whatever the reason, Terah did good.

The same is true for Sarah. She was given a positive name by her parents.  Sarai means ruler. Or to put it into 21st century language, manageress. Her mother and father were declaring leadership over her right from the start.

However, God had a problem with these names. They were good, but His plans for this special couple were great.  Maybe you see yourself as relatively successful. Perhaps you think you’ve reached the top of your tree.  Maybe you believe you’re not quite as gifted as other people.  If your view of yourself is mediocre, it’s time to get God’s perspective.

God gave Abram a new name, Abraham, which means father of multitudes. So every time someone shouted to him, he was reminded of his calling.  To Sarai, God gave the name Sarah which means queen. “No longer will people call you boss, now they will address you as queen.” He was preparing them for their destiny.

My Story

When I met my husband, I was in my final months of Bible School.  He had just planted a church so as soon as we were wed, I joined him in ministry.  After graduating, I sought secular work while the church was still small. The favour of God opened doors and I was quickly promoted until I was running the Communications Division of Prince Charles’s most prestigious charity.

I was a wife, mother, pastor and Vice President.  Each role gave my life a sense of value. The titles and kudos that went with them built my confidence. They made me feel whole. The stage was set for success. Or was it?

My self-esteem was based on what I did rather than who I was and my identity was wrapped up in my roles. As a result, I was not stable. If my job makes me feel good about myself, what happens if I lose it? If being called ‘Pastor’ makes me feel valuable, how will I cope with the rejections of ministry? God wants our security to be founded in His, and not man’s, view of us.

God would not raise me up on shaky foundations. He had to go to the root of my identity flaws. He revealed rejection deep within and showed me my insecurities. He uncovered old wounds so that He could heal me.  He broke down my veneer in order to build the real me back up.

I have always related to Jacob.  He was raised in a good home and had God-fearing parents. The call of God was on his life and he loved The Lord. However, he had a difficult journey.

Jacob’s Journey

Right from the start, his dad spoke negative words over his life.  He gave him a name which means deceiver. So every time his father called him, it was as though he was shouting, “Hey, cheat!” As he grew up not much changed. His dad openly preferred his twin brother.

I believe that Jacob’s identity was moulded by a mixture of words and rejection. So it was not long before he was living his name. He tricked Esau out of his birthright and then deceived his dad into giving him the first born blessing that was rightfully his brother’s.

Despite any shortcomings, God will never give up on us. Jacob messed up and went about things the wrong way but The Lord was with Him through it all. During the years when I took confidence from my gifts and talents, God, in His love and mercy, still used me and prospered me.

Jacob left home to start a family. He met Rachel (and Leah), married (twice) and had lots of destiny children.  He became extremely successful.  However, marriage, family, ministry and wealth can never heal a damaged identity.

The day came when Jacob decided enough was enough. He made a decision: I am not leaving my prayer closet until something changes. God did not breathe fire from heaven. He did not release earth-quaking power.  The Lord simply asked him his name.  God, who created heaven and earth and knows everything, asked him his name.

Jacob’s name symbolised the pain and failings of the past. It represented his dad’s disdain and reminded him of the error of his ways. God was asking Jacob to acknowledge his hurts and hindrances. The Lord never wants us to brush over wounds, He sent Jesus to heal them. Like David who cried out to God about all his hurts, we need to learn to release our pain in His presence.

“Pour out your heart like water before the face of The Lord.” Lamentations 2:19

Jacob faced the truth and God out poured His healing love.  The Lord then made a new pronouncement over his servant: “You will no longer be Jacob, the rejected cheat.  From now on, you are Israel – Prince with God.” The Lord gave him a new identity based on love and acceptance.

So what is identity?

Stop for a moment and answer the following question, as honestly as you can. What do you believe that other people think about you? Jot down your first impressions on a piece of paper.

Your identity is made up of three parts: your self-image, your self-esteem and your individuality. Your self-image is the picture, that is quite resistant to change, that you have of yourself. The little exercise above is a simple indicator of yours. You can decide if you think that it is healthy.

Self-esteem is your emotional evaluation of your worth. It is a judgment and an attitude about your value. It includes beliefs like ‘I am successful’ or ‘I am not good enough’ and emotions such as confidence or shame. Individuality is the sense of your own needs, desires or goals, separate from others.

Too small

One of the most significant words I received was spoken over me at Bible College.  I can’t remember the topic being taught that day or why I had gone to the front of the auditorium for prayer.  However, I will never forget what the Dean of Students pronounced as he prayed over me: “You’re too small! You’re too small in your own eyes.”  I can still hear those words like it was yesterday.

You know the story of the 12 spies. Their job was to glean information about the promised land and report back to Moses. Remember, God had sworn that He would give them the land.  He performed miracle after miracle delivering the Jewish people from Pharaoh and then providing for them in the desert. They knew from experience that God was both faithful and able. However, that was not enough. For God to use us we must believe in Him. But we must also believe in ourselves. The spies did not believe they were able.

“As a man thinks in his heart so is the man” Proverbs 23:7

Your self-image is like a projector. It conveys who you are to others.  If you have a healthy identity, that will be relayed. However, if you feel inadequate or unimportant, that will seep out. I had a low self esteem and a confused self-image.  On one hand, I was a bag of insecurities and on the other hand I was full of self-importance.  God had to do a deep work to heal me and straighten out every crooked way. Eventually, my opinion of myself started to match God’s view.

What do you see?

The Lord is looking to take the lid off your limitations and show you your real value. You have often heard it said that good is the enemy of best. Allow The Lord to paint a bigger picture of your purpose in your heart.

You may have a pretty healthy inner image, perhaps simply needing a new injection of faith. On the other hand, perhaps as you read you recognise that yours is flawed and needs healing.

To be free, we need to face the truth. As we acknowledge hurts or hindrances, He will heal.  He takes away the old in order to establish the new. He heals our hearts and then seeks to give us a new identity based on His love and acceptance.

 

 

How to Have Longevity in Children’s Ministry

My name is Scott Kinney and I am the Children’s Pastor at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant, SC. I have been on staff with Seacoast for 12+ years and have been involved with Children’s ministry in every possible capacity since I was 16 years old …and that was a long time ago! Over the years, I have faced frustration, aggravation, and burn-out. So, how am I still doing this after all those years? It’s kind of simple, it’s my calling.

Oh, I have wanted to walk away, not just from Children’s Ministry, but ministry all together. There were times in ministry that I thought it would be more fulfilling to work as a greeter at Wal-Mart. To be able to stand and say hello as folks walked by, give a smiley face sticker to a kid (do they even do that at Wal-Mart anymore?) or to point someone in the right direction. Yes, there have been times I wanted to give up ministry all together. The problem was… God hadn’t released me. In those times, I had to stop and realign myself with the calling God had placed on my life.  Here are some things I have learned over the years, when I wanted to throw in the towel and just give up.

  • Am I working at a job or a calling? – In those moments when I’m frustrated, God reminds me that HE has called me to this. It isn’t a job, it isn’t a career – it is a calling – and until he releases me from where he has called me, I am to keep on running the race that is before me. I have a poster that hangs on my bulletin board by my desk that was put out by Group Publishing a few years ago. It is titled “Job or Ministry?” I keep it there to remind me that “Some people have a job in the church, others involve themselves in ministry!” I never want my work for the Lord to become just a job – but to continue to do ministry for the One who called me.
  • Who am I working for? – Another thing I need to check myself on is who am I trying to please? Am I working to please my Senior Pastor, my Campus Pastor, my team, the children, the parents, my family, myself? …the list goes on and on! When I forget that God called me to Children’s Ministry and when I take focus off of pleasing Him, I get frustrated, mad and upset. I’m not talking just about Children’s Ministry programing, I’m also talking about things like: Am I wearing the right clothes? Do I have the right “look”? Am I still young and hip enough to do what I do? When I try to please man it makes me lose focus on what really matters. Only when I stop and realize the reason I do what I do is for an audience of ONE can I put things in perspective and refocus on my calling.
  • How is my God time? – I know what you are thinking, “you work for God, you’re always spending time with Him.” Not true. I can easily get wrapped up in thinking that because I am working on a weekend or midweek lesson that it counts as “quiet time with the Lord”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now, there have been lots of times that God teaches me things when I am preparing a lesson, but it is not actually my time with God, it really is work. I need to regularly check myself and ask: Have I been spending time with God? Am I reading His word? Talking to Him? Listening to Him? It’s easy for me to talk to God, but to be still and listen to Him takes a lot more work on my end. If this is an area of my life and walk that is not so good, I might need to take some time away from the office and get things right with God first. I’m of no use to my team, or the children I’m responsible for, if I am not in alignment with God.  Another area of my God time is: Am I being fed? Am I attending regular worship services? I know after all my time in Children’s Ministry, it isn’t easy to get into attend a service on the weekends, so what we have started doing as a Children’s Ministry team is watching the message together on Monday morning. Fortunately for us here at Seacoast, we have an Online service and the online campus pastor set up a special service just for us to watch on Monday mornings.  However, if your church does not record weekend services, there are tons of churches out there that do – watch a podcast together as  a team or another online church service. However, it is not where we want to be as a team. Our goal is to have enough strong leaders (volunteers) leading the classrooms so that we can attend services with our families – that is the ultimate goal. So for now, we found a quick fix and that is attending together as a team on Monday mornings.
  • What is the enemy up to? – One other area I need to look at when I get to the point of giving up is: What is the enemy up to? We really do have an enemy in our lives. It’s not the kids or their parents. It’s not your boss, your co-workers, or even your spouse – there is a real enemy lurking about. The Bible says in John 10:10 that the thief (Satan) comes to steal, kill and destroy. What is it that the enemy is trying to steal from you? Your joy? The children in your ministry? What is he trying to kill? Your passion for serving kids and families? What is he trying to destroy? Your work? Your calling?  There are times when I want to throw in the towel and God reminds me of the enemy and tells me to stand my ground! Satan would like nothing more than to see all of us throw up our hands and say “we quit!” I would hate to quit and allow the enemy to win in the life of one of our kids. Remember Ephesians 6:10-18

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[c] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[d] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[e] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[f]

So, let me wrap up by saying that Children’s Ministry is not easy and there will be times you want to throw in the towel and take a job at Wal-Mart, but don’t! You will be missing out on some of the most wonderful blessings you could ever imagine.

For those of you leading Children’s Ministry Directors, Ministers, or Pastors be sure to encourage them. Be sure to pour into them, love on them, and appreciate them. Watch for signs of burnout or frustration and step in and offer to help out. Help them to remember that they are called by God to do what they are doing. Remind them that they are working for an audience of ONE! Ask them how their time with God is going? Pray for them and against the attack of the enemy. They really are valuable to your church. I heard a Children’s Pastor once say; “You can do church without greeters and ushers – things might get crazy but you can do it. You can even do church without coffee and donuts. But try doing church without Children’s Ministry and things will shut down quickly.” Children’s Ministry isn’t babysitting anymore – it is hard work dealing with kids, parents and volunteers week after week. Show some love to your Children’s workers today – you’ll be glad you did.

If You Had Been Here

John 11:21(b) NIV …”if you had been here…”

When I think of the infamous bible story of Lazarus’ death, I can’t help but think about the response of Mary and Martha, his sisters. Often times when circumstances or situations don’t turn out the way we planned or hoped, there usually is a period of disappointment to deal with. I believe that our actions during these times can do either of two things: Resurrect and redirect us or pin us down like a hopeless animal caught in the jaws of his prey, leaving one immobile and left to die.

John 11:21 reveals the raw conversation between Jesus and Martha. It is clear that Martha is perplexed by Jesus’ timing, as it relates to her brother’s sickness and now his death. “…If you had been here…” depicts that somehow Jesus neglected to respond their very needs; like he was not there for them when they really needed him the most. This statement would leave one to think that “bad evil” had won, in a sense. We all have had a …if you had been here…moment in our journey with Christ. It’s the old adage that says, “If God loves us, why did he allow this “bad evil” to happen?

Martha, in my opinion, had every right to question, in a sense, Jesus’ late appearance; for they had a very close relationship with him. Surely, if Jesus was going to show up for anybody, it would have been for this family…for he visited them quite frequently and Mary even ministered at his feet.

However, Martha chose to rise above the apparent disappointing situation and allowed her faith to negotiate the possibility of a new outcome. Martha’s statement of faith was, “BUT, I know that even now, God will give you whatever you ask.” This changed the whole trajectory of this emotionally charged conversation because Jesus responds” Your brother will rise again…because I am the Resurrection and the life.”

Sometimes in life we question, why God allows certain things to go on or why he didn’t answer a certain prayer, at a certain time. My dear friend, I do not have all the answers to life’s hardest question, but I do know this…Sometimes God just wants to display his UNUSAL GLORY in an ugly situation. He will allow “ugly” to only appear to have the upper hand, until the power of His word, and goodness reveals his glory.

We know from the text, Jesus was informed about the physical condition of his friend Lazarus and yet, he chose to delay his travels. Jesus was using this situation to train his disciples to stretch their faith, while preparing this family to see another side of his goodness and authority. Jesus knew along what he was going to do concerning Lazarus. Therefore, we can rest assure that Jesus knows what he’s going to do in our life and in our grievous situations.

So, dear reader, perhaps the very problem that your family is facing right now; or your church is dealing with; or your business or even that sickness that’s in your body…could it be that God is going to use the difficulty to reveal his goodness and Glory. In other words, God’s goodness will out do and outshine the darkness of your dead and grievous circumstance. It’s not over until God get the Glory!

For more information about Tomekia, please visit www.tomekiawilliams.com.

Be Kind

When most people think of Christians, they think of religious, judgmental people who are hypocritical and usually mean. Then they see how we treat each other and decide they don’t want to be a Christian. Not because they don’t want Jesus, they just don’t want to be like us.

Jesus told the His disciples to love one another so the world will know we are Christ’s disciples John 13:34-35). He wanted the world to see our love not our hypocrisy and anger. Many know that the fruit of the Christian spirit is love, joy, peace & patients but most stop there. However, the next fruit listed is KINDNESS (Galatians 5:22,23). Kindness is just as important for us as love and joy.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, the apostle Paul wrote of the characteristics of love and mentioned that “loves suffers long AND IS KIND…”

Kindness simply means “useful”. Not just having skills but using them appropriately. What good is having love is we can’t display it or use it to help others.

I’ve been in the ministry almost 25 years and I’ve heard and seen too often of how Christians and even ministers have thought by being mean and judgmental towards sinners they will somehow win them over. This is simply a lie.

Theologian William Barclay once said, More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world. We must remember that the world is broken. People are hurting. They don’t need us to keep reminding them of how bad they are or how quickly their going to hell. They need to see true kindness at work.

Think about the story Jesus told of the good Samaritan. Jesus praised him for being the only one to show kindness (Luke 10:25-37).

I remember early in my ministry, a fellow minister was very hurtful and cruel to me. I wanted to get even and tell him off, but instead I prayed for him and when I saw him again, I was very kind. My words were gentle and I offered to help him if he needed it. I remember how surprised he was. He thought I would be angry and hateful. After I helped him with his project he told me how much my help meant to him and we became friends.

In my church, we have men and women who will go around our community doing acts of kindness to neighbors and strangers and it’s amazing how grateful they are and we seen them come to church because of it.

Let’s do our best to reverse the worlds thinking about Christians. Let’s begin to show kindness everywhere we go. Begin looking for opportunities to help people and watch how God will use our kindness as a door to bring Jesus into their lives.