Friday, June 29, 2007

Resource: THE Big Question Christians Ask

Chip Ingram
Walk Thru the Bible
source: Crosswalk

"What is God's will for my life?"

Every time we wrestle with a big decision, it seems that if there were just some way to KNOW God's will, following that plan would be the easy part!

Obviously, God's will in some areas of our lives is very, very clear. Scripture is plain on morality, salvation, and brotherly love and service. But what about the gray areas, vague unknowns? Should I date? How about marriage? When? Which job should I take? Should I move? While God doesn't speak directly to these issues, He has provided clear guidelines that should inform our decisions.

First, we need to grasp two premises in order to discover God's will for our lives.

  1. God wants to lead us, even more than we want to be led! Psalm 25:12-14 promises that God will instruct us, and that He confides in those who fear Him. The understanding of God's will is not reserved only for the spiritually elite.

2. God's will is good. He always has our best interest in mind. Romans 12:2 says His will for us is
good, pleasing, and perfect.
  1. There are general, moral guidelines for all believers. For example, we are to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in EVERYTHING ( I Thess. 5:18), live sexually pure lives ( I Thess. 4:3), and be controlled by the Holy Spirit ( Eph. 5:17-18).

2. God's will can also be specific and individual. In Psalm 32:8 David wrote "God will instruct me in the way I should go," and Proverbs 16:9 tells us that although the mind of a man plans his way, the Lord directs his steps.

    As you seek to develop a lifestyle of decision-making that honors God, I'd like to share 7 Principles to guide you through the process:

    The Principle of Relationship

    (John 15) Finding God's will is more "knowing a Who" than "discovering a what." We want a sign from heaven, or a formula to follow, but the key to wise decisions is a rich, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ!

    The Principle of Obedience

    (Mark 4:23-25 ) Be faithful to what God has already made clear, and He'll give you the grace to follow Him further. As we respond in obedience to the light He's already given, He gives more!

    The Principle of Willingness

    (James 1:5-8; John 7:17) We need to be absolutely resolved to do what ever God asks of us. A willing spirit to do the will of God is a prerequisite for knowing the will of God.

    The Principle of Objectivity

    An "objective perspective" is critical for our safety. Sincerity, personal experience, or circumstances are never a substitute for the truth.

    How can we remain objective as we search for God's will? Search the Word! ( Prov. 2:1-5). Do your homework! Research the issues and develop a list of pros and cons (Prov. 12:27). Seek mature counsel! (Prov. 15:22.) Pray earnestly! (Prov. 19:21.)

    What pitfalls do you need to avoid? Refrain from making decisions based solely on circumstances or feelings, and don't demand that God provide you with miraculous signs along the way.

    The Principle of Promptings

    Listening, solitude and repeated "seemingly insignificant" impressions provide fertile ground for God's still, small voice to speak. Get alone, ask God what you should do, quiet your heart, and LISTEN. Then, test your prompting. Is it consistent with God's Word? Does it serve others and glorify God? Is it consistent with your gifts and calling? Be warned to reconsider a prompting if: it demands a major life change in a short amount of time; mature counselors who know and love you question it; it causes you to shatter important relationships; if it requires that you go deep into debt; if it puts others in an awkward or compromising position.

    The Principle of Faith

    (Heb. 11:6) Does this decision demand faith? Faith requires us to take risks, to accept the unseen over the seen, to focus on the eternal rather than the temporal, and often demands that we make "front-end" sacrifices in exchange for long-term gain.

    The Principle of Freedom

    God's will is a highway, not a tightrope! If you honestly want to please God, you can't go wrong if you stay within His guidelines.

    God's will is not a dot on a map to be hit or missed. It's a road to be traveled as you follow His precepts. The older you get in the faith, the less God has to do to steer you in the right direction. So relax, make good choices based on what you know, and God will honor them by revealing His will. Jesus says, " yoke is easy and my burden is light."

    Excerpted from EdgeNotes, the bimonthly newsletter of Living on the Edge. Used with permission. Copyright 2000 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.

    View and download complete issues of EdgeNotes now!

    Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.

    Walk Thru the Bible partners with the local church worldwide to teach God's Word in relevant ways for lasting life change. To fulfill this mission, Walk Thru the Bible creates and distributes high quality, award-winning resources in a variety of formats, helping individuals "walk thru" the Bible with greater clarity and understanding. Walk Thru the Bible seminars are taught in over 45 languages by more than 50,000 men and women in over 90 countries; Living on the Edge radio ministry broadcasts on more than 800 radio outlets reaching nearly one million listeners a week; and more than 100 million devotionals have been packaged into daily magazines, books and other publications that reach over five million people each year. Walk Thru the Bible was founded in 1976 and is based in Atlanta, GA.

    Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Dealing with Disappointment

    by Cinde Lucas
    Overflow Ministries
    source: Crosswalk

    Lately I have noticed that I tend to be more "testy" than usual. I've noticed it, but haven't addressed it. So this morning I asked, "Where is this anger coming from?" I had my Bible program open and so I put in the word "anger." One of the words that came up was "disappointment," and immediately I knew where the anger was coming from.



    Each of us has hopes and dreams for our lives. God actually designed us to be goal- and vision-oriented.  Proverbs 29:18 says that without a vision we actually perish. So it's not a bad thing to have plans, goals and desires for our lives. But what happens when those plans are diverted?   Proverbs 13:12 says that hope differed makes the heart sick. My heart had become sick with disappointments and I hadn't even realized it.



    Disappointment is a part of life that every person deals with. Our kids disappoint us; our spouse disappoints us; our friends disappoint us; we even disappoint ourselves. Left unchecked, these disappointments build up and begin to dam up the River of Life that God desires to flow through us. We must regularly ask the Holy Spirit to shine the light of Truth into our hearts and dislodge the hurts, disappointments, and offenses that threaten to cut off the fruit of God's Spirit in our lives. Bearing good fruit is God's greatest desire for our lives ( John 15) and so it is no wonder that Satan works overtime to dump garbage there! What we do with it greatly affects our life and the lives of those around us. All those little foxes destroy the vine of our lives!



    I had to admit that I've had several disappointments over the last several months. Then I had to repent and ask God to forgive me for carrying them. Rather than giving them over to God ( Matthew 11:28) and allowing His Spirit to strengthen me, I had 'stuffed' them, causing a dam to be built in me. Praise God I saw it today and not twenty years from now!



    Don't be afraid to be honest about what you're dealing with. When we agree with God, His grace empowers us to do that which we cannot do on our own. And I don't care how much you try, you can never overcome without the Holy Spirit's Help. Apart from Him you can do NOTHING!



    I pray that today the River of Living Water will well up inside of you and dislodge all the hurts and disappointments in your life. I ask the Holy Spirit to work within you to bring healing and restoration to your body, mind, soul and spirit. May you be filled with the fullness of God's love and may your life abound with lots of good, healthy fruit;  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, meekness, gentleness, and self-control! (Gal. 5:22-23). May you be empowered by God in your inner being so that you may be completed flooded with His grace, His power and His peace.





    Cinde Lucas is an ordinary person, who happens to LOVE to encourage and motivate people! She has a passion to share the Love of God with people and to let them know that God is GOOD and He has an AWESOME plan for their lives! Cinde truly desires to lead people into a closer relationship with God through music; her prayer is that the ministry we share will uplift and encourage people to be all that God created them to be. Visit Overflow Ministries at

    Saturday, June 23, 2007

    Overcome Shame

    Whitney Hopler

    Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Donald Hilliard's new book,  After the Fall: Resurrecting Your Life from Shame, Disgrace, and Guilt, (Destiny Image Publishers, 2007).


    Shame is like a weight that pulls you down every time you try to rise toward your God-given destiny. No matter what has caused your shame – filing for bankruptcy, struggling with an addiction to alcohol or pornography, losing your job because of a mistake you made, or anything else – God wants to help you overcome shame so you can fulfill His purposes for your life.


    ·        Make a crucial choice. Decide whether you want to continue to allow shame to fill you with the poison of bitterness and rob your confidence and energy, or whether you want to do what it takes to turn your life around from shame and toward God. If you decide that you're tired of wasting time living in shame, choose to embrace God's mercy and invite Him to lead you through the healing process.


    ·        Surrender your fears to God. Consider what tragedies plague you and your family and cause you shame – such as a legacy of divorces, financial ruin, drug addiction, or mental illness. Be honest with God about how these scare you and make you feel as if you're not worthy enough to live a healthy life. Consider how your fears have led you to make mistakes of your own, that have led to more shame. Then surrender all of these situations to God, realizing that He is able to redeem your past and guide you into a better future. Trust God to help you overcome anything when you rely on His unlimited power.


    ·        Take responsibility. Stop making excuses for your own sins and the sins of those close to you. Take personal responsibility for the mistakes you've made, acknowledge that you were wrong, and realize that you don't have to be a victim of anyone else's choices.


    ·        Let the bad move you toward the good. Realize that even though shame is bad to wallow in, it can be a powerful tool to move you toward something good – repentance. Repent by changing the direction of your life to move away from sin and toward God. Stop doing the things you were doing to produce shame. If you can't break free of a particular behavior that has caused you shame, ask God to kill that behavior before it kills you. Pray for God's help to end the affair, break the addiction, or remove whatever other stumbling block is standing in the way of your spiritual progress.


    ·        Renounce everything in your life that doesn't please God. Don't just feel sorry that you did something you know doesn't please God. Go a step beyond that by deciding that you'll have absolutely nothing more to do with that behavior anymore, for any reason. Beware if you catch yourself twisting Scripture to try to justify wrong behavior, or explaining your wrong behavior to other people in the hope that they'll understand you and condone your actions. Don't be deceived; pray regularly for the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can embrace biblical truth. Every time a persistent sin tries to pop up in your life, forbid it from entering and contaminating your life by renouncing it in prayer. Understand that by renouncing everything that is not like God, you free yourself to embrace everything that is like God so you can start living a life that pleases Him and is free of shame.



    Resist Satan. Recognize that you have a powerful enemy – Satan – who is determined to do everything possible to keep you enslaved to shame. Ask God to help you discern Satan's strategies and realize what's going on when he attacks you. Be alert and aggressive in resisting Satan, knowing that if you resist him, he will flee from you. Use the spiritual power that Jesus has given you to defend yourself against evil.


    ·        Renew your vows to Jesus. Know that God will meet you where you are when you decide to pursue Him with your whole heart. Admit your weaknesses and proclaim your complete dependence on God. Place all your hope in Jesus' death on the cross for your sins. Thank Jesus that because of His sacrifice, you can enjoy God's mercy and grace. Freely confess your sins, repent of them, and accept God's forgiveness with gratitude that renews your passion for Jesus.


    ·        Rehearse your future. Don't just wish you might someday enjoy a future free of shame; believe that you absolutely will, with God's help. Ask God to give you a vision of what He wants your future to be like. Then move into that future with confidence and a vibrant faith. Incorporate prayer into your life every day instead of just on Sundays. Rather than praying on the run, pray until God's done with whatever situation you're going through. Embrace your true identity as God's beloved child, and learn more about it by reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible daily. Don't settle for reading just one verse a day; work your way up to reading at least one chapter of Scripture each day. Pack God's wisdom into your mind so it will transform you into someone who grows in the obedience that leads to holiness. Use the Bible as a spiritual mirror to learn to see yourself as God sees you. Ask God to humble you and be honest about all of your sins and your ongoing need for Him. Apply biblical principles to your life in every situation. Don't compromise the truth when you face temptation, such as to date a non-Christian or cheat on your taxes. Stake your future on God's Word, trusting Him to lead you into a future that's free of shame and full of promise.


    ·        Let God reposition you. Realize that, because of your relationship with Jesus, the old you has passed away and the new you has arrived. Understand that shame no longer has to hold you back; you're free to move to the next level in your relationship with God. Answer God's call to service and invite Him to use you to contribute to His work on Earth in powerful ways. Don't allow other people to use your past against you; remember that your destiny has changed. Associate with people who support and encourage you as you walk in your newfound confidence. Ask God to constantly remind you of His vision for your life, and give your all to pursue it.


    Adapted from After the Fall: Resurrecting Your Life from Shame, Disgrace, and Guilt , copyright 2007 by Donald Hilliard.  Published by Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., Shippensburg, Pa., .   
    Dr. Donald Hilliard, Jr. is the senior pastor of The Cathedral International in Perth Amboy, Asbury Park, and Plainfield, New Jersey – one church in three locations. His ministry is distinguished by cutting-edge leadership, community development and a strong emphasis on family and fatherhood. Dr. Hilliard and his wife Phyllis have three lovely daughters: Leah, Charisma, and Destiny.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Raise a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World

    Whitney Hopler
    source: Crosswalk

    The culture your daughter must face today is often hostile to God's values. Too many girls are simply sucked into the culture, losing their virtue in the process. But with your help, your daughter can counteract the culture and live the life God wants for her.

    Here are some ways you can raise a godly daughter in an ungodly world:

    • Prepare for battle. Don't sit back and allow your daughter to be indoctrinated into the culture's current popular thinking by default. Commit to investing as much time and energy as it takes to train her to counteract the culture with God's timeless truths. Recognize the great power you have as her mother to influence your daughter. Model a life of faith in action for her, and regularly discuss biblical principles with her.

    • Monitor her outside influences. Know who your daughter's friends are and what values they embrace. Help her eliminate negative influences and build a peer group of strong, godly friends. Set boundaries on the types of television shows, movies, music, magazines, books, and Web sites your daughter accesses. Regularly discuss media content with her and talk about how it relates to her faith.

    • Help her choose courage over conformity. Teach your daughter how to be in the world without being of the world. Help her understand how to be transformed by the renewing of her mind. Explain to her why God set up moral absolutes of right and wrong so she doesn't cave into the fuzzy thinking of our culture's moral relativism. Demonstrate in your own life how to consistently follow God's Word. Acknowledge times when your faith has been inconsistent, ask your daughter's forgiveness for not modeling the integrity you want her to see, and ask God to help you do better.

    • Teach her how to define her true self worth. Explain to your daughter that the world's formulas for defining self worth don't work. Let her know that her worth doesn't equal what she looks like (God is more concerned with her inner heart than her outward appearance), what she does (God cares more about who she is than her accomplishments), or what other people think of her (it only matters what God thinks). Tell her that God's formula is the only one that works: Her worth equals who she is in Jesus Christ.

    • Refute myths about sex with the truth. Realize that you should be your daughter's primary source of information about sexuality. Strive to provide her with lots of accurate information. Refute the common myths that "Everyone is doing it," "As long as you love the person, it's okay to have sex," "It's not sex unless you go all the way," and "Condoms protect against unwanted pregnancies and STDs."

    Help her understand some of the reasons she should wait until she's married to have sex: Her body is not her own; it belongs to God. A large majority of teen girls who have sex regret it. She will likely get a bad reputation if she does have premarital sex. One in four sexually active teens gets a sexually transmitted disease every year. Forty percent of sexually active girls will become pregnant at least once by age 20.

    Help your daughter see that God's call for sexual purity is not exclusively meant for sexual intercourse, but for all sexual activity. Encourage her to make a personal pledge to God to save sex for marriage, and to seek out friends who have also made such pledges themselves. Let her know that God created sex as something beautiful to be enjoyed in the confines of marriage, and that if the gift if misused, it can have devastating physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences.

    Encourage her to dress modestly. Explain to your daughter why dressing modestly is an important way to honor God with the body He has given her. Help her understand that immodest clothes send wrong messages to guys and stimulate them to think lustfully toward her. Let her know why choosing to be modest is a vital part of respecting her dignity as a person. Ask God to give her the confidence she needs to refrain from seeking attention in the wrong way, such as by dressing immodestly to flaunt her body and gain approval from others.

    • Help her discern the difference between facts and fairy tales. Help prevent your daughter from falling for the cultural lie that finding her Prince Charming will equal a life that's happily ever after. Know that if she expects a guy to complete her, she's setting herself up for disappointment and heartache. Tell her that only Christ's love can completely fill her heart. Encourage her to pursue her ultimate needs through a relationship with Christ rather than trying to get them met through a romantic relationship.

    Let her know that it's unfair and unreasonable to place the burden of her personal happiness on another person. Help her realize that healthy marriages include a big dose of reality and require time and hard work from both spouses.

    • Create a wise plan for dating. Ask God to help you develop a plan for when your daughter becomes old enough to date. Don't allow her to date simply for fun or to be able to say that's she's going out with someone. Let her know that dating is not something she should enter into lightly.

    Help her avoid dating that's based more on feelings that on God's standards. Don't let her get into a "joined-at-the-hip" dating relationship in which she and her boyfriend spend more time with each other than they do with their family and friends. Save her much heartache by not allowing her to date guys who aren't Christians.

    * Help her choose kindness over meanness. Help her make sure that her peer group doesn't become a clique (a group that purposely excludes others and acts superior to everyone else). When another girl is mean to her, pray for that girl with her and encourage her to do something nice for the girl, knowing that her act of kindness may change the girl's heart.

    Encourage your daughter not to participate in gossip, no matter how many others around her are doing so. Help her to avoid jealousy by coming to believe in the unique and special person God created her to be. Help her process moments of disappointment before they grow into jealousy.

    • Help her get to know and trust the Bible. Explain to your daughter why the Bible isn't just another book filled with nice stories and principles; it's God's inspired, living Word. Help her understand that the Bible is God's revelation of Himself to people, unveiling His eternal plan for all humankind.

    Let her know how the Bible's reliability is supported by archaeology, Scripture's consistency over the years, and fulfilled prophecy. Show her how the Bible is relevant to her life. Buy her a Bible of her own and help her set and maintain a regular devotional time.

    • Help her learn how to pray. Encourage her to pray often, and to listen to God instead of just talking to Him. Explain the different types of prayers (praising God, confessing her sins and asking for forgiveness, thanking God, and asking God for something for herself or other people) and encourage her to pray a variety of prayers. Pray with and for your daughter regularly.

    • Don't compromise your own faith so she won't want to compromise hers. Avoid these attitudes and behaviors: Not attending church regularly, worshipping only on Sundays (not integrating your faith into your life every day), worrying or failing to trust God in times of adversity, failing to follow God's principles for how you should use your money, whining instead of being grateful for God's blessings, not sharing your faith with others, molding your faith to fit your life rather than molding your life to fit your faith, letting your past rule your present and future rather than trusting God to heal you and help you move forward, being prideful and legalistic, and failing to have a daily quiet time.

    Adapted from Your Girl: Raising a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World, copyright 2004 by Vicki Courtney. Published by Broadman & Holman, Nashville, Tn.,

    Vicki Courtney is "in the trenches" of ministry to preteen and teen girls and their mothers. She has seen firsthand the devastating consequences our provocative culture is having on women, both young and old. Vicki is the founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries and, an online magazine for middle school girls, high school girls, college women, and adult women. She is a national speaker and the author of several Bible studies, including Virtuous Reality: The Virtuous Woman and Get a Life! She resides in Texas with her husband and three children.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2007

    Resource: Before We Met: Dealing With a Spouse's Imperfect Past

     by Lee Wilson
    source: CrossWalk
    "Couples who've had sex before marriage will inevitably have sexual difficulties in marriage."

    That's what Joe Beam, marriage expert and president of Family Dynamics Institute, said to a large audience of married couples. Through Family Dynamics Institute's work with thousands of couples, we've learned that the emotional results of premarital sex, in most cases, negatively affect many aspects of a marriage.


    More than half of those who marry today bring sexual histories into their marriage, and wringing our hands over the issue isn't going to help those struggling with the consequences in their relationships today.


    So what can be done about marriage difficulties that result from premarital sex? I have some suggestions that have helped others who've approached me about the issue.


    1. Confess. It's good for the soul, they say. It's also good for your marriage. If he doesn't know you had sex with someone before you married him, he needs to know. He especially needs to know if it is responsible for struggles in the bedroom. He can't fight an enemy he doesn't even know exists and if you want true intimacy with him then you need to share everything about yourself.


    Your spouse will probably be hurt by the news. I didn't say it would be easy, but if you want to overcome the guilt and intimacy issues that often come with having a sexual past, you have to eliminate secrets (except of course, what you're getting him or her for Valentine's day). I don't mean you flood your spouse with all the details of your past encounters. Usually telling the basics will suffice, but tell as much as he or she wants to know. That way he knows you aren't keeping secrets from him, and so do you.


    An intimate marriage with no secrets can overcome most of life's obstacles. So the first step to overcoming a sexual past is to strengthen your relationship by bringing your past out in the open. Obviously, this is a two-way street.


    2. Differentiate. Sometimes each spouse enters marriage with a sexual past. Even if you are guilty of having a sexual past, it's hard to fight the feeling of betrayal if you also discover your spouse committed sexual sins before marriage.


    The reason it hurts to learn of the sexual past of our spouse is due to something I believe God put inside each one of us--the desire for privileged rights with another person. We want to share the most personal parts of ourselves with another person and to experience the same from that person. We want to share something with our spouse that is different and separate from any experience he or she has ever had with anyone else.


    When we learn that another person has experienced the deepest, most hidden parts of our spouse, we feel cheated. We feel as though we've been robbed of something that should only belong to us. We actually feel violated by sharing our spouse with another person, even if it happened a long time ago.


    Therefore, it is essential that we are able to reclaim that privileged right to our spouse. We've got to have something together that no one else has (or can have) with him or her.


    Think and pray long and hard on this: Determine why you chose your spouse over anyone else. Determine what makes your marriage special and unique. Find something that the two of you can cling to as sacred and shared only by the two of you. Use that as a focal point and a continual source of security when you or your spouse experience the guilt, regret, or pain that results from your sexual pasts.


    3. Pay attention to the link between your sex life and your emotional health. Many times your sex life reflects the overall health of your relationship. If you have feelings of comfort and happiness at the thought of sex with your spouse, usually your relationship is in good shape. But when you have negative thoughts about sex with your spouse, with the exception of periodic physical complications, many times it means that you and your spouse are emotionally distant.


    When your relationship is in good shape, sex should be a natural result. It's the outcome of a good relationship where each spouse feels secure, appreciated, understood and loved. And, after a certain level of emotional health is reached, sex makes vital contributions to the emotional health of a marriage. Make sure you understand the importance of your sexual and emotional relationship with your spouse and act accordingly.


    Though these suggestions are not a quick fix, I believe they are effective in addressing the problems that arise from having a less-than-perfect past. Other couples have put these suggestions into practice, and it has worked. I'm convinced they will work in your marriage as well.

    Lee Wilson is a ministry consultant at Family Dynamics Institute, a marriage and family ministry that works with churches and concerned Christians to build strong, healthy marriages. You can visit their Web site at or call them at 1-800-650-9995.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    Moved into the Presence of God

    source: Christianity Today
    Ruth Graham tells what book has influenced her the most.
    Ruth Graham | posted 6/14/2007 06:08PM

    This article originally appeared in the September 2, 1983 issue of Christianity Today.

    The Confessions of St. Augustine are currently stirring me at a very deep level. Some years ago I read a copy of Louis Bertrand's biography of Augustine. Perhaps it is good to read that biography before reading the Confessions. Against the background of Augustine's life, the pouring out of his heart to God takes on additional meaning.

    The pouring out of any soul before God is something one approaches prayerfully, reads reverently, and thinks about. But such a soul as Augustine moves one into the presence of God. We have all responded to his now well-known statement: "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee."

    Elsewhere, referring to God, he says, "O Thou my tardy joy!" He also recounts the sins and follies of his youth, the influence of his mother, and many of his experiences. These teach me, for instance, that sin, when confessed—truly confessed—will not be described in all its lurid details. True confession implies a genuine sorrow for sin that would negate any desire to say anything more about it than absolutely necessary.

    I question the wisdom of anyone today writing a confession of private sins without first reading the Confessions. Here sins are alluded to only enough to let us know why the author is so forever and eternally grateful to God for his goodness and mercy in Christ Jesus. God's forgiveness captivates the whole of his life and being, which pours itself out in worship and love to God who has redeemed him.

    We also learn of the faithful persistence of Augustine's mother. He tells us that she went to a certain well-known bishop in Carthage to plead with him to talk with Augustine, who had already developed a distaste for the Scriptures and been led into doctrinal error by the Manichaeans. But the bishop, aware of Augustine's brilliance, did not want to tangle with him. When his mother, Monica, persisted, the bishop replied, "Go thy way and God bless thee, for it is not possible that the son of these tears should perish."

    Then comes the moving account of how he slips away from his mother by lying to her and proceeding to Rome and Milan. His mother prayed that he would not sail, but Augustine says God regarded not what she then asked, that he might make of him "what she ever asked."

    Often I have made a request of God with earnest pleadings even backed up with Scripture, only to have him say "No" because he had something better in store.

    Putting Pressure in Its Place

    source: Christianity Today
    Ruth Bell Graham on the purpose of stress.
    Ruth Graham | posted 6/14/2007 06:04PM

    This article originally appeared as the first of Ruth Graham's By the Way columns in the May 8, 1981 issue of Christianity Today.
    Related articles and links

    With this issue, we begin a new column by Ruth Bell Graham, brief snippets—observations, reflections—out of her life. Homemaker, author (Sitting by My Laughing Fire, Word, 1977), wife of evangelist Billy Graham, her brief, pithy comments will add a new dimension to Christianity Today.

    Discussing the column in a recent letter to CT she shared the following experience quite literally out of her life as she wrote the words of this first column on the subject of pressure:

    * * *

    I had no sooner gotten started when I got word that a Chinese pastor and his wife I had been permitted to call on in China had been reimprisoned by the antitheistic regime because of something I had said to them. I placed a call to a nearby office, only to have the rumor confirmed (later found false).

    I hadn't gotten over the shock when I got a call from a young friend about to be released from prison. He a great guy, with real potential, but he sounded as if he were experiencing the spiritual "bends" at the prospect of facing the real world again He needed reassurance and a lead to a job. A call to Chuck Colson's office fixed that one up.

    I had just settled back to pontificate about pressure when I got a call that a lady had shot and killed herself at the home of a friend down the mountain. Would I come? Gathering old towels, cleaning material, and bunch of plastic bags, I headed down. A man from the rescue squad was doing a first-rate job of cleaning and helped me stuff the bedspreads and curtains into the trunk of my car before the two young girls got back from school. When they returned, I gathered them and their mother up and brought them home to spend the night while neighbors repainted the room.

    The next morning I went out to check on the bedspreads and curtains before sending them to the cleaners, and suddenly thought to myself, "What am I doing out here in the driveway picking brains off curtains when I should be writing a column on pressure?"

    The next one was going to be on tension. I'm not sure I've got the nerve.

    * * *

    A mutilated blob floated on the surface of the ocean. "A depth fish," explained the captain of the small fishing boat. There are fish living so far beneath the ocean surface that when one happens to be caught and hauled to the surface along with the rest of the fisherman's catch, it is unable to exist without the pressure that holds it together: it simply explodes.

    There are people like this. They live continually under incredible pressure. But when for some reason that pressure is removed, they fall apart. Newspapers have told us of Russian writers, dissidents expelled from their homeland now living in a neutral country, who have become unproductive. I know children of a Christian family, living under unbelievable pressures of a hostile regime, who have grown up firm in their Christian faith and commitment. I have read about other children who fled that same environment, growing up in America with all her "freedoms" 'and "permissiveness," who drifted away over the years from the faith of their childhood.

    Much has been written about tension, pressure, and friction—mostly on ways to escape them. We have become a generation of escape artists. J. N. Darby translates Psalm 11:1 thus: "In pressure thou hast enlarged me." William Barclay tells us that the Greek word for affliction (as in 2 Cor. 6:4) means "pressures." They are, he says, "the things that press sore upon us. Originally it expressed sheer physical pressure on a man. … The sheer pressure of the demands of life upon one."

    Have you ever studied an old stone arch? The capstone supports the weight of the whole: it bears the pressure. We appreciate the value of pressure when we see a tourniquet applied and the flow of blood stopped to the saving of a person's life.

    J. Hudson Taylor, that great missionary statesman, used to say we should not mind how great the pressure is—only where the pressure lies. If we make sure it never comes between us and our Lord, then the greater the pressure, the more it presses us to him.

    Actor Dustin Hoffman says of director Mike Nichols, "Mike has grace under pressure" (Look magazine, April 2,1968). What a lovely thing to have said of one! Perhaps our secret of "grace under pressure" lies in accepting that pressure as from the Lord. It may be an interruption, it may be one more request than we think we can fulfill, one more responsibility than we think we can manage. Yet as we accept it as from him, asking him to teach us what he would have us learn through the experience and to use it for the good of others and for his glory, pressure will have fulfilled its purpose.

    An old copy of the London Times has this thought-provoking statement: "The grace of vital perseverance is that quality of patience which is always equal to the pressure of the passing moment, because it is rooted in that eternal order over which the passing moment has no power."

    News: Ruth Graham Dies at 87

    source: Christianity Today

    Billy Graham's wife of nearly 64 years was a distinguished communicator of God's power and peace in her own right.
    Marshall Shelley | posted 6/14/2007 06:02PM

    Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham, died Thursday at her home at Little Piney Cove in Montreat, North Carolina. She was 87.

    She was born to missionary parents in Tsingkiang, China, in 1920, where she was raised in staunch Presbyterian piety, with daily doses of private and family devotions and being expected to memorize large portions of the Bible. Her high school years were spent in a boarding school in Pyongyang (now North Korea).

    In 1940, at Wheaton College in Illinois, she met a classmate who invited her to a performance of Handel's Messiah. From that first date, the relationship between Ruth Bell and Billy Graham took off. Before they parted for the summer of 1941, Billy asked Ruth to marry him. She didn't say yes immediately, but within a few weeks, she wrote him to say that she believed their relationship was "of the Lord."

    They graduated from Wheaton in June 1943 and were married on Friday, August 13. Returning from their honeymoon, Ruth fell sick, but instead of calling to cancel his preaching engagement in Ohio to stay by her bedside, Billy checked Ruth into a hospital and kept the speaking appointment, sending her a telegram and a box of candy.

    So began her adjustment to her husband's intense calling to preach, which meant extended times of separation. Yet "I'd rather have Bill part-time," she often said, "than anybody else full-time."

    Ruth was a student of the Bible. "She knows the Bible a lot better than I do," Billy was quick to admit. And she provided a measure of grit that complemented Billy's more diplomatic style.

    When Billy warmly recalled his meeting with the president of Mexico—"He even embraced me"—Ruth quickly added, "Oh, Bill, don't be flattered. He did that to Castro, too."

    Yet she never tried to place herself in the spotlight: "That's not my wad of gum."

    Much of her ministry was with her 5 children, 19 grandchildren, and more than a dozen great-grandchildren. She personally selected and purchased 150 heavily wooded acres near Black Mountain, North Carolina, where she designed the "mountain primitive" house that became their home.

    Ruth authored several books, including One Wintry Night, a collection of her poetry, and Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, which draw on her experience as a mother of two "spiritual wanderers" to encourage others whose loved ones strayed from the faith.

    Her ministry also took other forms. After inheriting a tidy sum from her father's estate, she gave it all away, mostly to an orphanage in Mexico. She also cared for female prisoners, including Velma Barfield, a North Carolina woman who made a commitment to Christ while on death row before her execution for murder. Ruth was also a driving force in creating the Ruth and Billy Graham Children's Health Center at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

    In 1988, thanks to Ruth's efforts, the Grahams went on a 17-day trip through China, where she was greeted as "a daughter of China" and Billy as "a man of peace." Both of them were received by Premier Li Peng.

    On May 2, 1996, Billy and Ruth Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a citizen, in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

    In his remarks, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole said, "When the idea of awarding a Congressional Gold Medal to Dr. Graham was first raised, it received something rare in this building—unanimous approval. So too, did the idea of honoring Ruth Graham, Billy's remarkable partner of 53 years and a distinguished communicator of God's power and peace in her own right.

    Ruth was known for being a woman of grace but also of outspoken forthrightness and wit.

    When asked if she and her husband always agreed on everything, she said, "My goodness, no! If we did, there would be no need for one of us!"

    When Ruth answered the phone one day, the caller asked, "Is Billy handy?" She retorted, "Not very. But he keeps trying."

    In 1952, Billy briefly entertained the possibility of running for President. Ruth quickly quashed that notion by calling him to say: "I don't think the American people would vote for a divorced president, and if you leave ministry for politics, you will certainly have a divorce on your hands."

    Billy once described the secret of their more than 60-year marriage: "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."

    Perhaps the best assessment of her contributions, however, came from the late T. W. Wilson, a boyhood friend of Billy's who became a trusted member of his evangelistic team.

    "There would have been no Billy Graham as we know him today had it not been for Ruth," he said. "They have been a great team."


    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    How to Nurture Your Wife Spiritually

    source: Crosswalk
    Dr. John Barnett
    Discover the Book Ministries

    We have come to the most crucial element of a growing dad. Do you remember the three keys we are in the midst of learning? Lets turn back now to Deuteronomy and note these keys for becoming a godly dad.

    Key Number One: Lead the Family Devotions


    Deuteronomy 6:7-9  And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

    ·          And remember the essence of all Biblical communication is simplicity. When Jesus taught the common people (the unschooled and unpolished) heard Him gladly. If you analyze the Word of God you will find that some of the greatest portions of God's Word are the simplest. The Sermon on the Mount, known and loved around the world is 60% monosyllabic words. The great love chapter I Corinthians 13 is over 50% one-syllable words.

    ·          What was the teaching style of Jesus? Outdoors, indoors, sitting, walking, standing anytime or place, He shared from life around them. Using the elements of the world they all understood He spoke of sowers and seeds, reapers and harvests, tombs and bones, plants and animals, coins and jobs, trees and birds, Heaven and Hell. Just the words and pictures of common people.

    ·          The power of Christ's teaching was in the absolute conviction He had of the truth of what He was saying. Are you emphasizing the personal talking about God in your family? Are you initiating talks about God with all the members of your family? Take the challenge. Introduce God into the daily life of your family!

    Key Number Two: Raise Pure Children  


    Deuteronomy 6:10-15  And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, 11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; 12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.  13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. 14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; 15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

    ·          Are we guarding the minds of our families as much as we protect our lawns from weeds? Do you emphasize hand washing more than soul consecration? What steps are we taking to insure our homes are havens for spiritual growth?

    Key Number Three: Disciple your wife


    Deuteronomy 6:4-6  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

    Now we look at the hardest part of a godly dad's role. There is no way we can ever minister to our wife's deepest needs if we are not holy! The key to a godly marriage and a powerful Christian home is the personal experience of godliness. We try so hard and then lessen our grip on the essentials and then they slip away! Remember the humorous recounting of our lessening of our loving care of our wives?



    Winston Churchill [1] once attended a formal banquet in London at which the attending dignitaries were asked the question, "If you could not be who you are, who would you like to be?" Naturally everyone was curious as to what Churchill, seated next to his beloved Clemmie, would say. When it finally came Churchill's turn, the old man, who was the dinner's last respondent to the question, rose and gave his answer. "If I could not be who I am, I would most like to be" — here he paused to take his wife's hand — "Lady Churchill's second husband." The old boy made some points that night. But his comments also apply to everyone who has a good marriage.


    Several years ago, the Saturday Evening Post published an article entitled "The Seven Ages of the Married Cold."  It revealed the reaction of a husband to his wife's colds during their first seven years of marriage.  It went something like this:

    ·         The first year:  "Sugar dumpling, I'm really worried about my baby girl.  You've got a bad sniffle, and there's no telling about these things with all this strep throat going around.  I'm putting you in the hospital this afternoon for a general checkup and a good rest.  I know the food's lousy, but I'll be bringing your meals in from Rossini's.  I've already got it all arranged with the floor superintendent."

    ·         The second year:  "Listen, darling, I don't like the sound of that cough.  I called Doc Miller and asked him to rush over here.  Now you go to bed like a good girl, please?  Just for papa."

    ·         The third year:  "Maybe you'd better lie down, honey; nothing like a little rest when you feel lousy.  I'll bring you something to eat.  Have you got any canned soup?"

    ·         The fourth year:  "Now look, dear, be sensible.  After you've fed the kids, washed the dishes, and finished the floor, you'd better lie down."

    ·         The fifth year:  "Why don't you take a couple of aspirin?"

    ·         The sixth year:  "I wish you'd just gargle or something, instead of sitting around all evening barking like a seal!"

    ·         The seventh year:  "For Pete's sake, stop sneezing!  Are you trying to give me pneumonia?!

    The decline of marriage as seen through the common cold is a funny look at a not-so-funny reality.

    One gifted author [2] has identified 25 ways to be a husband discipling his wife:

    1.       A husband discipling his wife includes his wife in envisioning the future. 

    2.       A husband discipling his wife accepts spiritual responsibility for his family. 


    3.       A husband discipling his wife is willing to say "I'm sorry" and "forgive me" to his family. 

    4.       A husband discipling his wife discusses household responsibilities with his wife and makes sure these are fairly distributed. 

    5.       A husband discipling his wife seeks the consultation of his wife on all major financial decisions. 

    6.       A husband discipling his wife follows through with commitments he has made to his wife. 

    7.       A husband discipling his wife anticipates the different states his marriage will pass through. 

    8.       A husband discipling his wife, likewise, anticipates the stages his children will pass through. 

    9.       A husband discipling his wife frequently tells his wife what he likes about her. 

    10.   A husband discipling his wife provides financially for his family's basic living expenses.

    11.   A husband discipling his wife deals with distractions so that he can talk with his wife and family. 

    12.   A husband discipling his wife prays with his wife on a regular basis. 

    13.   A husband discipling his wife initiates meaningful family traditions. 

    14.   A husband discipling his wife initiates fun outings for the family on a monthly basis, or even more often. 

    15.   A husband discipling his wife takes the time to gibe his children practical instruction about life, which in turn gibes them confidence with their peers.

    16.   A husband discipling his wife goes over the upcoming week with his wife to clarify their schedule and anticipate any pressure points.

    17.   A husband discipling his wife keeps the family out of debt. 

    18.   A husband discipling his wife lets his children into the interior of his life. 

    19.   A husband discipling his wife makes sure he and his wife have drawn up a will and arranged a well-conceived a plan for their children in case of death. 

    20.   A husband discipling his wife lets his children into the interior of his life. 

    21.   A husband discipling his wife praises his wife often in public. 

    22.   A husband discipling his wife explains sex to each child in a way that gives him or her a wholesome perspective. 

    23.   A husband discipling his wife encourages his wife to grow as an individual. 

    24.   A husband discipling his wife takes the lead in establishing wit his wife clear and will-reasoned convictions. 

    25.   A husband discipling his wife joins a small group of men who are dedicated to improvising their skills as husbands and fathers. 

    26.   A husband discipling his wife provides time for his wife to pursue personal interests. 


    What Are We to do As Husbands to Disciple [3] Our Wife?

    1.   First we need to consider what every wife needs to succeed:

    v      COMPANIONSHIP: Proverbs 31:11  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

    v      SECURITY: Proverbs 31:12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

    v      SIGNIFICANCE: Proverbs 31:10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.

    v      EMOTIONAL RESPONSIVENESS: Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

    2.   Second, we as husbands [4] need to provide for our wife what she desperately wants to know about us:

    v      What we look to as we define our identity,

    v      How very deep is our insecurity,

    v      How we measure our success by our performance. 

    Then our wife can understand [5] that we need them to help us succeed:

    1.      A husband needs to feel his wife's admiration,

    2.      A husband needs to feel his wife's support,

    3.      A husband needs to feel that his wife supports him in his work,

    4.      A husband needs to feel his wife's support for him in public,

    5.      A husband needs to feel his wife's support through all the seasons of life.   

    For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit .  

    Parenting: A Teachable Moment Goes Both Ways

    by Dave Burchett
    sourcew: Crosswalk
    So far our married children have not blessed us with grandchildren. So Joni and I enjoy our grand-dogs and practice varying amounts of patience as we await grand-parenthood. However, my beautiful nieces and not quite as beautiful nephew have produced some awesome grandnieces and grandnephews. I am proud of every single one of them.

    A recent story from my niece Diana made me both thankful and thoughtful. She experienced a "teachable moment" with her youngest son Caleb. This is the Encarta website definition of a teachable moment.

    A moment of educational opportunity: a time at which a person, especially a child, is likely to be particularly disposed to learn something or particularly responsive to being taught or made aware of something.

    In this story both Mom and Son learned something about grace. Diana picks up the story.

    Caleb was supposed to be in our backyard playing. That was the deal we had made. When I looked out he was not there. By the time I got to the front door, he was there holding his eye and screaming that he could not see. After a quick look, I decided we would be off to the emergency room. 

    In the car I asked Caleb what had happened. He reluctantly shared that he had ventured down to the neighbor's yard to play croquet. I was pleased that he told the truth because we both already knew he had broken the rules.  I was upset with Caleb for not obeying and that was obvious to him as we rushed down the highway to the hospital. 

    In the ER Caleb sat quietly for a long time. Finally he asked me if his eye was going to be okay.  I did not know the answer to his question and I did not want to say something that could be untrue.  I  could only tell him that I didn't know and that we would see what the doctor had to say.

    Caleb was quiet again for what seemed like a very long time. Finally he reached over from his ER bed and grabbed my hand. "Mom, I know you are upset with me, but will you pray for my eye anyway?" 

    What an amazing lesson for Diana and for all of us. Caleb knew that his actions were wrong. The consequences of those actions had placed him in the hospital. But instead of getting mad and blaming someone else for his injury Caleb wanted to take his pain and his wrong actions to the throne of grace. I thought of Jesus and how He often challenged us with the simple faith of children. This story in Matthew is one example.

    About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?"  Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."

    Caleb had modeled that humility as he appealed for grace from Jesus…and from his Mom. He got both.

    Diana finished the story.

    I sat down on the side of his bed and together we prayed for his eye.  I assured him that Mom would always pray for him no matter what the circumstance and that I could NEVER be that upset with him.  Shortly after, the Doctor came in and said Caleb was a lucky little boy, and that it appeared his eye would be fine.  Caleb looked over at me and smiled.  How could I remain even remotely upset with him now?

    That is grace. A little boy disobeyed and cost his parents a little money and a few grey hairs. But he was forgiven because he is loved. Caleb learned that grace is always available when he makes a mistake because of that love. Diana learned that the humble faith of a child brought perspective on what really matters.

    Satan doesn't want us to think about God's grace when we sin. Satan wants us to think that God is too upset with us to love us if we wander away and break the rules. Recently I wrote about a personal failing in my own life. I was busy beating myself up but then I had a "Caleb' moment and I remembered again what grace means to me. Yes, I had failed miserably. Yes, I was disappointed in myself. Yes, I was a little embarrassed that I have written and spoken so boldly and flopped so easily. But here is what poured over my soul from the Holy Spirit.

    You are my child.
    I love you.

    Grace always takes me by surprise. I am not conditioned by this world to expect love and acceptance when I have failed. I am conditioned to expect condemnation, shame, and rejection. But there was the Father God patiently and lovingly dealing with me. 

    Like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son, God is waiting to race to greet us when we turn away from self  and toward Him. There is no cleanup required. A heart of repentance is all that He asks. That is the same God that gently instructed this mother and child during a teachable moment. His grace is sufficient…and always amazing. 

    Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church

    Antidote for 'Corinthian Disease': Agape Love

    by Eric Hogue
    source: CrossWalk
    The best I can say today is..."I survived last week."

    We all see through a dimly visible window of God's purpose for our lives. Last week I was pressing and striving to make things happen, and they did - nothing worth remembering and praising God for today. I lost my focus on grace, and I lost my desperate need of Jesus' love for me and through me to others.

    I was striving, and I failed.

    I sit here in great repentance, swimming in a river of grace not seeking to get out of the cleansing water until I 'feel better' (yes, I need to feel better) about myself. It may take some time to get over tonight. I know in my knower it's alright, I just have to forgive myself and fall in love with love again. 

    This is what happens when you get too self marveled.

    When we see ourselves as the 'key' ingredient for God's measure of change inside of creation, we have reached the status of the Corinthian disease - better, a virus of self, that contaminates the purest intentions of love.

    The antidote: Knowing that I don't have all of the answers (not even close), I just know him and thank God he knows me.

    I'm encouraged by Paul's letter to the church in Corinth, a church (and I say this with great affection ) full of 'Jesus People' that I resemble all too often.

    Seriously, ask me where I'd like to attend church in the New Testament, and I would say Corinth - you should see the looks when I answer this way, as if we are any better than the brothers and sisters of Corinth. Get real. 

    Yes, I'd want to hang with the worst of the worst, so to never forget the depth of God's grace for me and my sin situation. The Corinthians were real, authentic and raw. Ragamuffins in every measure, and we tend to dump on them way too often. Maybe we should look a little closer to that reflection in the morning mirror.

    The Corinthians were Jesus believers with tough outer skin, "spiritual knuckle-heads" just like me.

    They were loved into the Jesus relationship with a 'come as you are' attitude. It grabbed their hearts providing for them a google map to grace's river flow. When they started to operate as "Christians", that derogatory term of slang, their outer skin remained (great, me too!), as their fleshly hearts grew in relationship with Jesus.

    After Paul left for another hot spot the Corinthians set out to make a difference, only to be grabbed by the religions ploy of self focus.

    As my great-grandmother used to say, if the enemy can't pull you, he'll be glad to simply push - away from the authentic elements of Jesus' relationahip for you and the world in love.

    The Corinthians were religiously pushed, began to divide over personalities, styles, teacher's resumes, achievements and created creeds and formulas. If they could have, I believe they would have joined the 'Corinthian Fundamentalist Conservative Coalition' and forced certain followers into certain categories of world view and marketplace convictions and mandates.

    They had forgotten the love that Jesus changed them with, a love that reaches through a real relationship from the inside out. No religion, no denominational creeds, no self celebrating, just the love of a Creator God, reaching through a delivered Jesus for mankind.

    Paul hears about the 'love abyss' and writes back to the donkeys (PG) in waiting. He goes over all the previously ground, covering once again Jesus' work, salvation and love for each person breathing. Paul focuses on unity, a focused determination to - if you're going to work on something - work on the glorious and gracious details of God's saving love to a world full of hungry, hurting people.

    In other words, leave behind man's religion and pick up God's loving reach; Get over yourselves, you're not as needed as you think - just look in the mirror. It's Jesus' love fool, not your presentation of intelligence.

    Paul breaks out four areas of consideration: ( 1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

    "If you speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, and have no love flowing through you, you're a rusty gate." There are many speakers, teachers, preachers, radio teachers, talkers, political leaders and celebrities in today's arena, but if we don't have the accepting love of Jesus in and through our lives, we become a gate that rusts, falls off of its hinges and causes people to discard.

    "If you speak with power, revealing mysteries and great wisdom, offering formulas for followers to follow and you have no love, you are an empty voice." How often we get caught up with the presentation of something new, some additional "add on" to the faith that will take us to the next level of righteousness and holiness.

    Paul says, if you want to be about a formula that takes you higher, turn up the volume of your love to the world around you. A holy love that is set apart from man's concocted love, both in and outside of the church.

    "If I speak of faith that can move mountains, make things happen - make things jump, and I don't have love, I have nothing of true effect." Without love, we become great marketers for the institutions and organizations of religion. Join the club, become a member of the isolated self-righteous, make something of yourself.

    I may make great resumes, draw large crowds and sell many books, but if I don't  have love for the abortionists, sexually active teenager, adulterer, homosexual, divorced, transgender, prostitute, atheist, drug dealer, child pornographer... I'm nothing but a noisy publicity stunt.

    "If I give all of my money to the poor, and even to the degrees of seeking persecution unto death, and I have no love, I'm bankrupt." What good is giving, if it's not from the core of love? I hear of so many who want to meet needs for the cause of a 'drive-by evangelical' shooting. I'll be evangelical by feeding, clothing and loving.

    Paul states: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, meet the needs of others... because you love them, because you see them as yourself, in great need of love from God. Meet them, meet their needs and meet them in love. I must be about loving love; his love in me and through me to others, as my first and foremost priority.

    When I see myself as a sinner touched by love, then I can touch other sinners with his love. The danger is when we see ourselves above the sin, the mess and the decay of creation. I want to stay focused on a  love that hugged me, washes me (right now, today) and clothes me in a robe of grace.

    A love that drives me, not me striving. A love that compels me to proximity in relationships of authenticity. A love that makes me a lover of kingdom essence, not religious bondages or legalisms. An agape love that, at times, needs to be sloppy... just like me.

    "Jesus forgive me, this ragamuffin has fallen prey to the sinful condition again. Give me your love, so I can pour love for others."

    Eric Hogue is a 25-plus year radio professional. A 2004 recipient of the Andy Anderson Award for excellence in broadcasting. Hogue has a background in sports play-by-play for both radio and television. He was raised a fundamental legalist, became a contemporary cultural pastor and now resides in "Graceland" as a saved Ragamuffin. Hogue is also a veteran husband, a learning father of two teenagers daughters. During his years as a general market 'News/Talk Radio Host', he worked in Cleveland, Ohio, and Sacramento, California. "The Eric Hogue Show" can be heard all over Northern California on radio stations 710am KFIA in Sacramento, and 1100am KFAX in San Francisco and San Jose . Comments:; Web: