How to Share the Gospel

how to share the gospel

[Guest Post by Gail Davis – Some of my favorite bloggers are from South Africa, so when I heard from Gail Davis I couldn’t wait to post her with you. If you struggle with sharing your faith to others, be encouraged today!]

Watching the world change, people are in fewer relationships.

They are isolated. This should not be the case for Christians. Jesus commands them (Christians) to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey Him (Matthew 28:18-20).

Christians are supposed to be relational.
They are to talk with people.
Make disciples.
And teach them.

Believers often find this difficult because of the non-relational way the world exists. They are afraid to speak to strangers or tell them about Jesus. What keeps Christians from being relational and sharing the Gospel? Rejection.

Believers must remember, people will not be rejecting them, but, instead, Jesus. One of the best ways to overcome this fear is to take a course or two on witnessing. Put it into action.

The more times Christians share with others, the easier it will become.

Most importantly, believers must care for the person with whom they speak. When God saves people through Jesus, He puts His love through His Holy Spirit in them. This love is that upon which believers must call.

Put aside your limitations, selves, and prejudices and allow God to love people through you. People just want to know you care! People want to be listened to and to trust others. This is what we call relationship evangelism — God’s love for others shining through believers.

God wants a relationship with you.
He loves you.

Witnessing to someone is easier if the person is known to the Christian. Your effort to listen as the other person tells about them self will help him or her open up and trust you. Then you will see they are human, too; one who needs love and friendship. This will unlock the other person’s heart and allow them to trust you.

If you’re curious on how to share the Gospel — try the FIRE method!

Family
Interests
Religious Experience
Evangelism. 

The application is not hard. It requires Christians to be human and take an interest in another person. It requires listening more than talking.

Get to know the person. Ask about their family. Do they have kids or grand kids? Who lives at home with them? From where do they come?

Find out what the person’s interests are. Do they like to read, play an instrument, play computer games, camp? Do they have something in common with you, the believer?

Ask about their religious background. Do they go to a church? Which faith system do they follow? What are the person’s thoughts on what happens after this life?

Once you have taken time to get to know the person, the other person will realize they can trust your care for them.

Tell the person about your own family, interests, and religious experiences. Upon listening to the other person, you will begin to recognize their needs. Tell them of your religious experience with Jesus, and relate how God can meet them, too.

Share that Jesus gives life abundantly because He loves them. Share how God and Jesus showed that love and how it changed your life. Tell the person how your life changed since you gave your life to Jesus. You will, eventually, reach a point where you ask if the other person would like to be in a relationship with Jesus, a relationship where Jesus gives life, meaning, and forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is there for us, and wants us to follow Him.

Tell the person how your life changed since you gave your life to Jesus. Ask if the other person wants to make a commitment to Jesus, to follow Him as his or her Lord and Savior. Lead him or her in a prayer of confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their Savior. Make sure to commit to help them grow in discipleship, to be more Christlike.

It is a relational way to speak to someone about Jesus, His love, and sacrifice.
Try it more than once.
Be intentional.

Go out once a week with the only agenda being to seek a person who needs to hear about Jesus and to hear someone cares for them. Go out and be in the public without needing to shop. You will be more open to seeing people in need and with whom God is leading you to speak. It is a relationship thing.

Question: What is stopping you from sharing the Gospel with others? 

Gail DavisI am Gail Davis and my husband is Ronnie Davis. We have been missionaries to Cape Town, South Africa for 14 years with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I work with refugees from other African nations by teaching them English using the Gospel of Mark. I have four children, two in college in the USA, our son, James, and our daughter, Sydney, and two still in primary and secondary school in Cape Town, Simeon (11th grade) and Samuel (7th grade). Connect with me on my blog.

[Photo: KOREphotos, Creative Commons]

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How to Treat Your Body as a Temple

how to treat your body as a temple

[Guest Post by Amy – I love this thought from Amy today, and if you haven’t read her first article entitled The Pit of Depression, you won’t want to miss that one either! I always appreciate it when guest posters ask to post again (hint hint).]

I grew up in what I like to refer to as the “The Deep South Land of Southern Baptists”.

I learned the books of the Bible, about Abraham and Moses and all the other Biblical heroes, and of course that drinking or dancing would lead to complete moral destruction.

I also learned about the all important Pot-Luck Dinner. One of the main theological tenets of the Southern Baptist World is the Pot-Luck. It is hallowed, set-apart, and holy.

It’s also killing us one bite at a time.

There were many Bible studies about treating our bodies like the temple of God, but it seemed to always revolve around pre-marital sex.  Somehow I turned those lessons into a presupposition that all verses that talked about our bodies were ultimately talking about sexual sin. And no one ever taught me that was wrong. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

It wasn’t until I was older that God opened my eyes to the fact that there are other aspects of my body as well.

That my body is the vehicle I get through life with, and if I allow it to breakdown then future ministry will be out of the question.

When you truly start to pray and seek God about how to treat your body as a temple, verses you’ve heard your whole life suddenly have little light bulbs going off over them.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17).

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

“For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And I could go on and on.

When you start to think through the fact that God does care about your body, focus seems to shift. No longer is it “I want to lose 10 pounds to fit in my old jeans”, but “I want to lose 10 pounds because they will eventually hold me back from doing something God may be calling me to do.”

If we continue to abuse our bodies and pretend that what we put in our mouths does not matter, then we may be “benched” a lot earlier than God had planned for us just due to diabetes/heart disease/cancer/etc. that were caused by our lack of concern.

The book Every Body Matters, by Gary Thomas, is an amazing book that should be a wake up call for every Christian. One of my favorite quotes from his book is this:

“We are not angels, pursuing God without physical covering, and if we try to pretend that we are – living as though the state of our bodies has no effect on the condition of our souls – all the proper doctrine in the world can’t save us from eating away our sensitivity to God’s presence or throwing away years of potential ministry if we wreck our heart’s physical home” (Gary Thomas).

I think it’s time that we as Christians wake up to the fact that it is a spiritual pursuit to live healthy lives.

We need to hear this from the pulpit. 

Then maybe our neighbors and friends will not only know us by “our love for each other”, but also by our unusual health and vitality to serve the Lord.

May we all be on this journey together.

Pieces of AmyAmy is a new west Texan and loving life where there isn’t so much humidity she has to wear her hair curly.  She blogs about the messiness of life and living with depression and anxiety in an authentic way and with a little humor sprinkled in. Come visit at www.piecesofamy.net.

[Photo: scrambldmeggs, Creative Commons]

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Are You a Bored Christian?

bored Christian

[Guest Post by Y. Lola Mitchell – I met this beauty online when she asked if she could guest post for Devotional Diva. I always love meeting new people who have a heart to encourage others. Please welcome Lola!]

Not too long ago I came across this devotional that I wrote to myself when I was feeling really stagnant in my relationship with Christ.

Church had become boring, and I really needed a change. I lamented to my husband about my feelings and decided to get real with myself and really evaluate the problem by writing it down.

And this is what came out…

I recently had a thought about my relationship with God and how it has changed over the years. At times it’s on fire and I’m full of Godly motivation, but recently I’ve found myself without zeal for God. Almost with an “I’ve heard it all before” attitude.

I compare it to the feeling of being a mathematician and feeling like your sitting in Algebra class. There have literally been times in Bible study or regular service when I’ve wanted to raise my hand and say,

“I’m sorry, but I think we did this same lesson last week?”

Not to say I’m an expert in all things Godly, because I’m not! But I have been going to church my whole life, so certain things about serving God have become commonplace.

My cousin “K” once told me, When you start to feel like, now what? Well, it means God is trying to get your attention.”

God is trying to take all of the things He taught you in Algebra I and II, and He wants you to use them to learn Calculus. He doesn’t want us to stay at the same place. It’s like with anything else in life if you’re not growing in a certain area it becomes boring and without purpose.

This is even true in both bad and good relationships. If a person is not growing in a relationship he/she may start to get bored with that relationship.

When I’m a bored Christian or feeling bored with my relationship with God it’s because I’m not allowing myself to grow.

How do I not allow myself to grow?

Well, by not seeking out the knowledge and truth that God wants to give me. Being a habitual Christian may be just as bad as being a “fair-weather” Christian. Where a “fair weather” Christian only goes to God when it’s convenient a habitual Christian serves God only out of habit not out of a thirst for His teaching.

So what does this mean for me?

Overall, I think it means that it’s not about the quantity right now for me as a Christian i.e. loading up on more bible studies, services, and fellowships, it’s the quality. I need to stop what I think I’m doing — or in my case not doing — and start doing something new for my Christian faith.

I need to keep the spark in my relationship with Christ and not settle for a monotonous routine.

I need to start asking new and different questions.
I need to start looking at books in the Bible that I previously did not desire to read.
I need to buy a new study Bible with different commentary, and I need to allow the Spirit of God the time and space, to deposit in my spirit the “purpose” behind ever new word and experience.

At the end of the day I care far too much about the future of my love and relationship with God to let the flame die out.

I hope you feel the same and stay hungry for Christ.

“He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter taste sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).

Y. Lola MitchellY. Lola Mitchell is a graduate of Purdue University with her degree in Secondary English Education. When she moved from the windy city of Chicago to Sunny California she took the opportunity to follow one of her other purposes in life, sharing her testimony, while encouraging women to seize the life that God has planned for them. Her first book is currently available on Kindle called Lola’s Prayer Cocktail. More information can be found on her website, www.godyouandme.com.

[Photo: deadoll via photopin cc]

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Top 10 Christian Speakers for Women's Events

christian speakers

After speaking for almost 5 years, I (Renee Fisher) thought it was time to make a top 10 list of the top 10 Christian Speakers for Women’s Events!

Some of you may not know, but I used to book Christian Speakers through Outreach Events. I worked with top notch quality speakers such as Kirk Cameron, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel.

Unfortunately, I was told early on that I wouldn’t book many women speakers. I was dumbfounded when my boss was right. People would call, but they couldn’t afford to pay to host speakers such as Bethany Hamilton, Sheila Walsh, or Lisa Whelchel. It also saddened me that churches would pay the same amount to host a man speaker, but not a woman speaker.

I make this list because I know these women personally. I have either heard them speak LIVE or via the Internet. I know they are top notch and affordable.

It’s also important to consider:

+ Is she a women of integrity?
+ Does she actually care about you–the listener?
+ Does she stay away from gossiping or slandering other Christian speakers?
+ Is she accessible on social media to make you feel a part of her ministry?
+ Is she connected with her local church?

I don’t what attracts you to listen to a speaker, but it is definitely not the amount of money paid to host them. There are plenty of amazing women speakers who don’t cost an arm and a leg and would be honored to speak at a church women’s retreat or women’s event.

 

1. Pam Farrel (traveling from San Diego, CA)
Website: http://www.love-wise.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PamFarrel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-and-Pam-Farrel/64685369332

She travels more than 200 days a year, so if you want to book Pam to speak at your women’s event — you’ll have to ask in advance! She and I will be joining ChristianMingle and their Los Angeles Board Members in 2014. She is also my mentor, and I love her.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, and marriage retreats.

2. Arlene Pellicane (traveling from San Diego, CA)
Website: http://arlenepellicane.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArlenePellicane
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arlene.pellicane

She is a fellow Harvest House author and the author of 31 Days to a Younger You, 31 Days to a Happy Husband, and is almost ready to release her new book 31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife. She is an amazing Christian speaker for women’s events! I have listened to her in person plenty of times.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, and marriage retreats.

3. Sarah Raymond Cunningham (traveling from South Central Michigan)
Website: http://www.sarahcunningham.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahcunning
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahcunninghampage

Sarah is multi talented and has spoken in many different types of venues. A few years back she helped me launch Throw Mountains, a speaking event for the 20/30-somethings. She now works with Story Conference in Chicago and just released The Well Balanced World Changer with Moody.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, and church leadership events.

4. Mary DeMuth (Traveling from TX)
Website: http://www.marydemuth.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaryDeMuth
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaryDeMuth

Mary is an amazing resource as she has written over 15 books and been speaking for many years. She is a versatile Christian speaker who would make an amazing addition to your event whether it’s to women or writers.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, writers groups, 20/30-somethings, and church planters.

5. Sarah Francis Martin (Traveling from TX)
Website: http://liveitoutblog.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahfmartin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liveitoutblog

Sarah and I go w-a-y back to the days before we were both published authors. I am so excited that she is now working on her second book (her first is Stress Point with Thomas Nelson, a Bible study for 20-something women). She’s super friendly and loves speaking to women. She would love hearing from you!!

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, 20/30-somethings, and singles events.

6. Crystal Renaud (Traveling from Shawnee, KS)
Website: http://crystalrenaud.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/crystalrenaud
Facebook: http://facebook.com/crystalrenaud

Crystal recently hosted the WHOLE Women Conference, an online event for women. She would make a great addition especially on the topic of singleness, relationships, and overcoming addictions.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events and singles events.

7. Nicole Unice (Traveling from Richmond, VA)
Website: http://www.nicoleunice.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nicoleunice
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicole.unice

Nicole and I have known of each other before we both became published authors. It was a pleasure to meet her at the Story Chicago Conference, and her book She’s Got Issues is amazing (I should know I endorsed it). She is launching her first ever women’s conference in 2014. She is a spitfire Christian speaker for women!

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, 20/30-somethings, and singles events.

8. Tracy Steel (Traveling from Albuquerque, NM)
Website: http://onedegreeministries.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tracy_steel
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OneDegreeMinistries

Tracy is just about one of the sweetest ladies ever. I can’t wait to finally meet her in person soon. She would make an amazing addition to your women’s speaking event. She describes herself more as a speaker and less of a blogger. She is an IN PERSON woman who loves getting personal and encouraging women face-to-face!

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events, MOPS groups, and singles events.

9. Jaimie Bowman (Traveling from Los Angeles, CA)
Website: http://jaimiebowman.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jmebowman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jmebowman

Jaimie and I met at the Re:Think Conference and I quickly realized how amazing she was. She writes on ministry and motherhood and just released her first eBook for mothers. She couldn’t be more authentic about both!

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events or MOPS groups.

10. Ronel Sidney (Traveling from San Diego, CA)
Website: http://www.ronelsidney.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RonelSidney
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rmsidney

Ronel is a woman who goes hard after God. I have had the pleasure of knowing her for quite a few years in person and online. I love how transparent she is–even when she is not doing what she wishes she was doing. She is the Vice President/National Director for Praise and Coffee and has been speaking at women’s for many years.

She would make a great Christian speaker for women’s events or MOPS groups.

Honorable Mentions – Top 31 Christian Speakers for Women’s Events

Because I certainly couldn’t stop with 10–I decided to list, in NO particular order, women also worth connecting with to speak at your women’s event. I am listed last or 31st (also my age)!

If I forgot someone or you would like to add someone to the list–please leave a comment below. Thanks!

11. Lisa Velthouse (CA) – http://www.pickyourportion.com
12. Addie Zierman (MI) – http://www.addiezierman.com/
13. Lisa Whittle (TX) – http://www.lisawhittle.com/
14. Rayni Peavy (CA) – http://www.raynipeavy.com/
15. Kimberly Davidson Campbell  (AR) – http://www.kd316.com/
16. Rachel Berry (CA) – http://www.perseveringdreams.com/
17. Brenda Rogers – http://www.triplebraidedlife.com/
18. Laurie Coombs –http://lauriecoombs.org/
19. Dabney Hedegard – http://www.dabneyland.com/ 
20. Annie Downs – (TN) http://www.anniedowns.com/
21. Sarah Markley (CA) – http://www.sarahmarkley.com/
22. Paige Omartian (TN) – http://www.paigeomartian.com/
23. Tricia Davis (TN) – http://refineus.org/
24. Bethany Jett – http://www.bethanyjett.com/
25. Anne Marie Miller (TN) – http://www.annemariemiller.com/
26. Tiffany Dawn – http://www.tiffany-dawn.net/
27. Ava Pennington – (CO) http://avawrites.com/
28. Dawn Marie Wilson (CA) – http://upgradewithdawn.com/
29. Marcia Ramsland (CA) – http://organizingpro.com/
30. Jo Saxton – http://weare3dm.com/josaxton/
31. Renee Fisher (CA) – http://www.reneefisher.com/

[Photo: Profound Whatever via photopincc]

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Daily Devotional Tips for 2014

Bible Study

The New Year is almost here! I wanted to share some daily devotional tips and Bible reading tips to give you a jump start to 2014, starting with 10 Tips to Renew Your Devotional Life.

1. BE A FOLLOWER. Disciple simply means follower. It’s not a spiritual term.

QUESTION: You follow people on Twitter and Facebook, so why not be mindful to follow God FIRST?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).

2. DISCIPLINE TAKES TIME. Over the years I’ve discovered what works for me. Daily eVerses + Yearly devotionals + One Year Bible + journal/pen = a VERY happy Renee.

QUESTION: What have you found works best for you?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NLT).

3. IF YOU’RE BORED, GOD’S BORED. My friend Monique told me this phrase, and it’s always stuck with me. If you’re in the middle of reading your daily this & daily don’t be afraid to get creative. Try a new Bible translation, time of the day, or devotional book.

QUESTION: In the past what have you found most helpful in getting creative with changing up your devotional life with God?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts” (Exodus 31:1-3, NLT).

4. DON’T DO IT ALONE. We need community. We need people. We need help. See if one of your friends or family can keep you accountable to spend your time daily with God. If you don’t tell others, they won’t know to ask.

QUESTION: Write down the names of one or two people who help keep you accountable for reading the Word daily. If you can’t think of anyone, write down the name(s) of people who you will ask this week:

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NLT).

5. ASK FOR HELP. Don’t be afraid to lean on your accountability partner for help. When trials come (and they will), God tangibly offers His support in the form of those who are made in His image (your friends and family).

QUESTION: Are you afraid to ask others for help?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening” (Acts 16:25, NLT).

6. KEEP WATCHING! Even when we’re asking others for support and encouragement—ultimately we need to take responsibility to stand watch and keep watching for the Lord to speak to us.

QUESTION: Where do you go to watch for the Lord? Write down at least three places including your room, the outdoors, private gardens, etc.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint” (Habakkuk 2:1-2, NLT).

7. USE YOUR SENSES. I don’t know about you, but I love the taste of food. I like how it fills me up, tastes good, and gives me energy. The Bible is like that too. We taste and see that God is good by spending time daily in the Word, through prayer, and meeting with others.

QUESTION: How do you use your senses to connect with Jesus daily?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:33, 35, NLT).

8. FIND YOUR PROMISE. It took me eleven months and twenty-six days to find my promise of healing from God. He told me specifically “In kindness He called me to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after I have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen me, and He will place me on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT-emphasis mine).

QUESTION: What kind of promise from the Lord are you desperately searching for or have you already found one?

YOUR BIBLICAL EXAMPLE HERE ________.

9. MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE. If you can quote your favorite movie, you can memorize Scripture. Just sayin’.

QUESTION: When was the last time you memorized a favorite passage of Scripture?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8, NLT).

10. LIVING FOR ETERNITY. God has given us every spiritual gift we need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3, NLT). Don’t let Judgment day catch you by surprise. Live each day with for eternity. Add goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection, and love to your faith daily.

QUESTION: What attribute do you find most difficult and/or easy to live out loud?

BIBLICAL EXAMPLE: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13, NLT).

15 Reasons to Read the Bible in 2014

1. Get to know Jesus. If you like someone you’re going to spend time & money getting to know them. It’s really that simple!

2. Be a follower. Disciple = follower. It’s not a spiritual term. You follow people on Twitter and Facebook, so why not be mindful to follow God FIRST?

3. Discipline takes time. Over the years I’ve discovered what works for me. Yearly devotional + One Year Bible + journal = a very happy Renee. Find what works best for you and stick with it!!

4. If you’re bored, God’s bored. I don’t remember who told me that, but it’s stuck with me. If you’re in the middle of reading your daily this & daily that and you find that you’ve replaced the ritual with religion. Get. Out. Quick. Find something else. Do something else. Go somewhere else. Ask someone else.

5. Don’t be afraid. Perfect love (from God) casts out all fear. Throughout a year’s time you and I will encounter trials and temptations. Watch for them and stay alert. Mostly though don’t be afraid. If you need help remembering this just open to Joshua 1. I think God says it like 8 times. Don’t be afraid…Don’t be afraid…just keep swimming…just keep swimming…

6. Ask. Just because you or I am in the Word daily doesn’t mean we still struggle. Ask for help!

7. Don’t do it alone. We need community. We need people. We need help. See if one of your friends or family can keep you accountable to spend your time daily with God. If you don’t tell others, they won’t know to ask.

8. Learn more! I’m like a sponge. I soak up everything I see, touch, taste, smell, read, etc. Here is a great way to spark learning in your life. Take a topic you read about in your daily quiet time and dig deeper.

9. Use helpful tools. My favorites are NLT One Year Bible, Streams in the Desert (devotional), My Utmost For His Highest (devotional), BibleGateway.comYou Version, and Logos.

10. Use your senses. The Bible actually says to taste and see what is good (Psalm 34:8). Food tastes good, your time with God should too!

11. Find your promise. There are a million (okay maybe not a million) promises. I like to treat my Bible as a text book and underline my favorite verses and write “Promise” up on the top margin to remind me of God’s promises.

12. Memorize Scripture. If you can quote your favorite movie, you can memorize Scripture. Just sayin’

13. Fall in love with God. No matter what you read, how difficult a passage is, or how frustrating it is to find time to spend with Him…He is worth it! All of it. All the marbles, all the money, everything in the world does not compare to Him!

14. His grace is enough. My heartache is knowing God, seeing that He can heal, and watching when He says no. Grace is figuring out that He is enough. No. Matter. What.

15. God is the Beginning and the End. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That means that January 1-December 31st is all under His control.

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Why is it that Christians Hurt Me the Most?

Christians Hurt Me

[Guest Post by Mary DeMuth – If you or anyone you know has been hurt by Christians, the church, or anyone who claims to love God–please forward this to them! Be encouraged.]

I wish it weren’t true. But I can honestly say being hurt by other Christians, particularly Christian leaders, has devastated me.

I don’t have a category for the grief because of all the shoulds. (Those leaders should know better than to act that way. They should not have said those hateful words.)

In the aftermath of the pain, I’ve not always processed it well.

I’ve been angry.

I’ve wanted vengeance.

The writer in me wanted to craft a piece that exposed all that awful stuff. (Truth be told, I was so hurt by one Christian woman, I made her a character in one of my novels…I won’t tell who…and actually found healing in writing her. I began to have empathy for her).

It took me a few years to get beyond the anger of one particular hairball of a ministry hurt. Eventually, Jesus helped me overcome my frustration and learn to live with grace and kick bitterness to the curb.

So I wrote a book (natch…isn’t that what authors do?).

I kept meeting people who had my experience—trying to process pain from others, particularly those closest to them. I’ve seen people leave the church because a Christian leader deeply wounded them. There had to be a way through.

The Wall Around Your HeartThe Wall Around Your Heart shows my way through.

I help readers walk the path of The Lord’s Prayer in an entirely new way—with an eye toward relationship. I’m honest about my own struggles. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real.

The truth is relational pain is probably our largest pain on this earth.

And Jesus gets it.

He experienced it.

Who better than Him to help us navigate the waters of betrayal?

My prayer is that book will set an entire generation of bitter Christians FREE from living constantly in reaction to the past. That they will find the joy of NOW, healed from injury, daring to forgive and move on.

That’s why I wrote the book—that we’ll all experience the abundant life Jesus promises, but feels so far from our everyday experience.

Mary DeMuthMary DeMuth is the author of over a dozen books including her latest, The Wall Around Your Heart: How Jesus Heals You When Others Hurt You (http://amzn.to/15Q19xh) Find out more at MaryDeMuth.com.

[Photo: EssG, Creative Commons]

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My Christian Boyfriend is Gay

My Christian boyfriend is gay

[Guest Post by Brenda Rodgers – I appreciate her honesty on a topic that is super sensitive. I know she’s not the only one who’s broken up with someone only to find out that their ex turned gay. I hope you are encouraged by her honesty.]

I found out a year after the four year facade.

Overlooking over the railing on the second floor of the mall, right outside of J. Crew, I heard the words on the other end of my cell phone. A friend was telling me my ex-boyfriend was gay.

Even though that was the not-so-secret-secret in my mind, a stabbing piercing went through my chest.

I called him.

We hadn’t talked for a year, but I called him anyway.

I said I knew. He laughed the nervous laugh. I asked him why he used me like he did. He rattled off some stuff with twisting words that only the enemy would use. There was no “I’m sorry.”

I was calm.

I was collected.

I was very matter-of-fact.

And I spoke truth.

“You know Jesus”, I said. “You know truth. I encourage you to get some counseling”.

Then I prayed for him. Honest, tear-stained, mourning prayers. At the end of the day he was a soul. A soul in turmoil.

During those days following the revelation, thoughts flooded through me in a way that I couldn’t even decipher reality from fantasy.

See, me and this boy? We met in the second grade. We grew up together. He was my best friend. We went to church together.

Every.

Single.

Sunday.

When we were dating.

There were red flags. There were even rumors. And, believe it or not, we talked about them. My heart broke for the boy whose father abandoned him. Whose life was lived behind murmurs and gossip. So I chose love instead. I chose to believe him. I chose to not be another one to abandon him.

When a girl learns that her Christian boyfriend is gay, you can imagine the effects it leaves on her psyche.

The enemy wasn’t done. He wanted me to stay in bondage, tormented in my head over the questions. He wanted to use the questions to paralyze my future relationships. He wanted to destroy me.

Instead, I chose, and continue to choose, truth. You see, even today these feelings rear their ugly little head, poking around the corners of my mind. I have to slay them.

Sometimes daily.

Still.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

What’s wrong with me?

Embarrassed.

That sums up what I felt.

I came to a place of admitting that yes, I am a broken woman who exhibited some dangerous codependent behaviors. Behaviors that could have easily changed my life forever. Behaviors with deep roots that extend far into my past.

But God.

But God built my identity on something firmer than mere choices I make in life. His grace was holding me, protecting me in so many ways, and His grace reminds me that my identity does not correlate to my brokenness.

Why did he use me?

I was used. I do not know if it was intentional or not. I want to think it wasn’t intentional, but I was used so that my ex-boyfriend could “figure it out”. There is no doubt about it. I was wronged.

But just as I am broken woman in need of a Savior, so is my ex-boyfriend. He is broken, too. He is in need of a Savior. Jesus forgave. So I must forgive.

There’s nothing more to say.

It’s not easy. And it hasn’t been a one-stop “I forgive you” and then move on. But today I can completely say I have forgiven him. Not because I don’t wish life had been different, but because I feel empathy. I know what brokenness is like.

Why didn’t I just trust God?

For me, being in this relationship was a sin. Why? Because the Holy Spirit continually pricked my soul and told me something wasn’t right.

But I was scared. I was broken. I wanted affirmation. I wanted attention. And so I ignored His voice. I made the security of a person an idol instead of allowing God to be my only security.

If I hadn’t heard His voice, of course it would not have been a sin. But I did, and I blatantly ignored Him.

I have repented and asked God to forgive me for not trusting Him.

How could they let this happen to me?

My first response was to find someone to blame. My friends. My parents. How could they watch this happen? And yes, in some ways they did watch it happen by not being direct with me and their concerns.

However, there is no one to blame. We all could have handled the relationship differently. And the bottom line is that I am the one who knew I was outside of God’s will. I have to take responsibility for my actions.

Brenda

Brenda is a wife, new mom, and self-proclaimed “recovering single”. Her passion is mentoring young women to live abundant lives surrendered to Jesus. She wrote the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single, and she blogs at www.BrendaHRodgers.com.

[Photo: fer tapia, Creative Commons]

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Mental Health Boot Camp

mental health

[Guest Post by Anonymous – My heart goes out to people who feel like they have to hide their story. Obviously it’s a good thing to protect your child(ren) or family, but I hope this person’s courage will help you find true healing in Christ.]

As a mom with a physical chronic condition I am familiar with the complexities of having a demanding disease.

I have long admitted that although I could see how God has worked through my physical ailment, I still did not understand mental illness.

It was a world I had not been a participant of, a language I did not speak. And then my young sons’s struggles began to worsen.

My biggest fear as a mom with a chronic illness was that he would need me in ways I would not be able to provide–like needing to be picked up when he was two or having me chase after him at a park when he was four.

But at five years old he screamed, “I am not meant for this world. I am not like everybody else! I want to die!”

How could he believe this, or even articulate it, when his world was as innocent as cartoons of planes and trains that spoke? How had the world stung him so deeply, so quickly?

He is now ten and the last year has been all about survival. Counseling, hospital mental health programs, family therapy, support groups, psychiatrists, testing, over and over. I have read books, joined groups online, sought out answers to “is this normal?” and “what now?”

We no longer do therapy or church or vacations–we do therapy. We no longer celebrate typical accomplishments–we rejoice that he is letting me brush his teeth three days in a row or that he ate half a sandwich.

A good day is when he doesn’t speak of death–mine or his own.

We search for answers.

What does he have?

How badly does he have it?

What medications will work?

What side effects do they cause?

And how on earth can we get another pill into him?

If he has ADHD he should stay on a stimulant, if he has bipolar the stimulant will make it worse. The doctors vote for the stimulant. I am left to decide how bad it will get before it is considered “worse.” They see him five minutes. We see him at 4 AM, wide awake looking for a toy he needs right now.

ADHD, OCD, ODD, GAD, IEP. Our life has turned into alphabet soup.

The Internet provides a wealth of information and so I read and read and read, because I will be held responsible for how much effort I put into searching for the diagnosis. I may not be able to cure him, but someday I can tell him I did my best–for twenty years, I did my best.

As the mom, I am responsible for educating the teacher, the principal, the counselor, the doctor, the psychiatrist, the Sunday School teacher, and Boy Scout leader (if he ever returns). The books tell me to introduce myself–not to the teacher of an extra curricular activity–but to the police, the staff at the emergency room. We need to. Someone nearly called the police this week.

A two-hour appointment with a new psychiatrist results in her telling me,

“We just don’t know with kids this age. Your job is to create a medical paper trail, so if it gets worse, he can be diagnosed correctly–quickly.”

I tell my son he is God’s child. He is strong and courageous, and yet, Satan is trying to get his claws into him.

I tell him just to whisper the name of Jesus when the anxiety rules him–in class, anywhere.

“God is going to make you a soldier for Him,” I tell my son. “He has great plans for you in a world where He will need strong men. But first you have to go through Boot Camp. Most people don’t go through Boot Camp until their twenties or thirties, so God must have extraordinary plans for you because you started training at about age 8.”

I believe it.

I pray for him.

I talk to teachers, his doctors.

I advocate.

I try not to take it personally when his illness speaks to me with contempt, and instead focus on his heart when he apologizes later. But life is hard. I cry. I doubt. I ask God why He would allow His child to be touched by mental illness.

He hasn’t responded yet.

But I believe He will.

Life is hard, but God is good.

We are all in our own mental health boot camp–and some of us start early.

[Photo: The U.S. Army, Creative Commons]

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Host a Small Group on Forgiveness

Quote 8

I recently recorded Chapter Videos to go along with my new book “Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me” for those of you who want to host a small group on forgiveness.

They go along with the Discussion Questions at the back of the book (pages 175-178).

You can cover each chapter a week for seven weeks or space it out as you desire. Since forgiveness isn’t a fluffy topic, but weighty and often times difficult–hear me when I say this–feel free to go at your own pace.

Without further ado, here is the first Chapter Video, and the rest can be viewed at http://www.forgivingme.com.

Ch: 1 Video & Chapter Discussion from Renee Fisher on Vimeo.

[Photo: rlmoore1, Creative Commons]

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When God Intervenes

When God Intervenes

[Guest Post by Dabney Hedegard – Her story inspired me and I couldn’t wait to share. Through her story, God showed me how proud I had become towards my future children. If God could allow Dabney to have her first child while battling cancer, what’s my excuse? I hope you enjoy. You can purchase a copy of her new book, When God Intervenes here.]

We brought Madison home after a week in the NICU.

I finally learned how to cradle and dress her ­five-​­pound preemie body without feeling as if I’d break something. I couldn’t kiss and snuggle with her enough.

A week and a half after Madison’s birth, she and Jason kept me company during my oncology appointment. I had prayed so long for this moment that I fully expected my doctor to slide my ­first-​­trip-​­to-​­the-​­ER films and my most recent scans into the light box and ­proclaim—​­hands ­extended—“Dabney, it’s a miracle. Your cancer’s gone!”

I’d clap joyously and jump about, praising God. I saw the vision; I just needed to hear the words.

When Dr. McGarry smiled and said something along the lines of, “Dabney, it’s a miracle,” my heart quickened. “Your cancer is about the same size today as it was the day you walked through the ER doors six months ago.” He pointed with the end of his pen, examining the oddity.

My shoulders slumped, and I stared at my misshapen lungs, compensating for the cancerous growth that still entangled them. He compared the films and continued on about the size of my tumor and his amazement at how I had carried Madison so low and how my breathing wasn’t affected until the end. He confessed that he hadn’t thought I’d be able to carry her past thirty weeks. And he certainly had not expected that I’d be able to wait to start treatment until the middle of my second trimester. He paused. “You don’t look as amazed as I do.”

“As silly as it sounds, I prayed that God would heal me. I really thought the cancer would be gone.” I looked at the floor.

“Did you not hear what I said? Your tiny chest and abdomen carried a 14.5 x 17 cm bulky mass and a baby nearly ­full-​­term with limited complications. And now your tumor is measuring 9 x 16 cm.”

But that wasn’t the miracle I had prayed for.

I didn’t hear much more of what my favorite doctor had to say, although he kept talking about the new treatment and when I’d start and how the odds seemed to be in my favor.

What had happened? I had believed. I mean, really believed this time. Everyone had prayed. I had kept the baby. I trusted God. Jason massaged my bony shoulders until they hurt, trying to be the compassionate husband. He whispered, “Don’t worry. God has everything under control.”

When Dr. McGarry left, Jason turned me toward him. “God told me your illness would get worse before it improved. Then he’d restore your health.” His eyes locked onto mine because he knew from my crossed arms and deflated body that I was playing the pouting game. “Remember that? Don’t get discouraged.”

My ­hope—​­the one I could almost touch if I stood on the tips of my toes and stretched my fingers with the determination of a ­five-​­year-​­old reaching for a forbidden ­cookie—​­had been pushed out of reach.

Dr. McGarry had expected my tumor to increase in size each month I waited to begin treatment. I, on the other hand, had presumed my cancer would vanish and God would be credited. But the greater miracle, I knew, lived and breathed and had survived ­thirty-​­four weeks until she could be born.

On Sunday morning our pastor brought us forward for the congregation to pray over us. After the service I stood in the walkway with a renewed sense of peace, until a friend pulled me aside. “We’ve prayed hard for you,” he said, patting my shoulder with his weathered hand. “But I’m trying to figure out why God isn’t healing you. Do you think there’s any unresolved sin in your life and maybe that’s the reason?”

I blinked. “Uh.” My mind went blank. “No, none that I can think of.”

“We love you guys, and we’ll continue to pray. But I feel God wants you to have more faith than this. He can heal you if you truly believe.” He smiled, and the creases around his mouth deepened.

I twisted the strap of my purse, trying hard not to let tears fall.

When I arrived home, I thumbed through the Scriptures for some sign that resorting to modern medicine to save my life wasn’t a sin.

First I stumbled on John 9:1-7, the story about a man born blind and how the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents, that he was born this way: “‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’” (John 9:3, nlt). I wanted so badly to encounter that same man at church so I could tell him, confidently, from the Scriptures, that sometimes people go through sickness so that God’s work may be shown to others. Only I had no idea what my cancer had to do with bringing God any glory.

Who was I kidding? The disciples, of all people, had just asked Jesus who sinned. What made my friend at church any different for asking the same question?

But what I found in Isaiah 38 blessed me more than anything else I’d read in a long time. The prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah that he would die. Hezekiah begged the Lord to save him, and God mercifully granted him fifteen more years to live. Isaiah instructed the king to prepare an ointment from figs and apply it over his boil. The king recovered as promised through the use of a common medicinal practice of the day: a poultice.

That clicked with me. God uses miracles, medicine, or any combination of whatever he likes to bring about his will.

God used different healing methods throughout the Bible. Had he chosen one specific formula for each miracle, my type A personality would have duplicated the procedure. Spit in mud to form paste. Smear globby mess across the diseased area . . . In other words, I wanted the easy way out. God, show me a formula to cure my ailment so I can get on with a normal life, which doesn’t necessarily include furthering your Kingdom but will bring about temporary happiness.

No. God’s plans were bigger than my simple mind could conceive.

Relying on him required weakness.

(Taken from When God Intervenes by Dabney Hedegard. Copyright © 2013 by Dabney Hedegard. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Buy her book on Amazon.)

Dabney HedegardDabney is a wife, speaker, and professional patient. However, her most important role is managing The Hedegard Academy (est. 2003) where she instructs four gifted children. Writing, speaking, jogging (more like a fast walk with a hop), and chasing kids are her passions.

[Photo: annakwilliams, Flickr]

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