SPRING | 2018
THE MAGAZINE OF CHRIST CHURCH
Rev. Shane Bishop
Rev. Michael Wooton
For a complete listing of the Christ Church Staff visit: www.MyChristChurch.com/staff.
Mission Of The Flame
Be inspirational through biblical articles and devotions. Be informative in the announcement of future events that connect people in ministry.
Hope. What does it mean to you? How do we find it in the midst of trials that never seem to end -- or that may end, but not as we anticipated? Where do we find strength to move forward when discouragement and despair may seem to be the order of the day? As Christians, we can probably repeat the answer together: “Why, it’s through Jesus, of course!” And we would be correct. But “fleshing it out” while you’re in the midst of severe trouble is another story. Living out the hope-filled, confident Christian life sometimes boils down to one day at a time, looking for ways to not be consumed by the obstacles before us.
I believe that true hope -- not the kind that offers wishful thinking, such as “I hope the weather gets better,” or “I hope I have a rich uncle who is leaving me a surprise inheritance” -- is grounded in the faith that says “no matter what, God is with us; He will not leave us or forsake us, and He is a comforter in the midst of all of our challenges and troubles.” Hope that says “He is an ever-present help in our afflictions.” Hope that says “we can put all our stock in His love for us, and, while we may have heartache and discouragement, He will carry us through.” Those aren’t wishful thoughts; those are biblical truths of immense proportions that will stand the test of time and every distress.
The writers in this issue have offered their hearts. Some have been through the fire and come out with the knowledge that God is a shield for the heart, and that He walks through the valley of the shadow of death with them. Some offer practical wisdom from God’s Word to instill hope in our hearts. All the writers understand that without Christ, there is no real hope, but with Jesus as the anchor, we can weather the storms of life, and in turn offer hope to others.
As your editor, here is my challenge to all of us: How do we find that hope in Christ? How do we search for Him in the dark valleys and storms? What effort do we make in prayer, in seeking after Him with our whole hearts through the Bible and through the true spiritual wisdom and help from others? Or, do we allow the hopeless situation to define us? I don’t know about you, but I’m for digging in deep through the storms, finding the light in the darkness and coming out stronger for Him, for my family and for the world around me. I hope you find all that you need in Jesus!
You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side -- Psalm 71:20-21 (The Holy Bible, New King James Version)
In His Service,
FROM THE EDITOR
Fairview Heights Campus
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The Flame Online
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4 Leaders Don’t Get Discouraged…Do They?
By Rev. Shane Bishop
5 Finding Contentment When You Walk Through the Valley
By Rev. Michael Wooton
6 Stepping Out in Faith - Carving a Believer
By Mackenzie Bradshaw
8 My Sorrow and Savior
By Donovan Hill
9 Spoken or Unspoken?
By Dave Merrill
10 Do Not Grow Weary and Lose Heart
By Dr. Steve Heitkamp
12 The Other Shoe That No Longer Dropped
By Jeffrey Bishop
14 My Plan, God's Will
By Kelly Costello
15 ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’
By Matthew LaFrance
16 And One Hundred Kids Prayed
By Lowell Sensinstaffer
17 Light in the Darkness
18 Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus
By Shannon Durio
19 Today Is Not That Day
By Becky Olroyd
By Kevin Siddle
21 Getting To Know You
22 Right Turn To Honduras
By Carrie Gaxiola with Jeff Bishop
26 God At Work
The Flame Magazine is a quarterly magazine published by Christ Church. ©2018 Christ Church. Learn more about Christ Church at MyChristChurch.com.
EDITOR: Carrie Gaxiola DESIGN: Justin Aymer COVER PHOTO: David Hanschu
Questions About The Flame?
Contact the Editor, Carrie Gaxiola, at CarrieGaxiola@MyChristChurch.com
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
By rev. Shane bishop
Rev. Shane Bishop
There’s a story of airline copilots who had a regular flight over Appalachia. Whenever they would fly over a certain spot, one of the pilots would look out the window and stare down at the land. During one of the flights the other pilot asked, “Why is it every time we fly over this spot you look outside so intently?” The other pilot just smiled and said, “Do you see that river down there? When I was young, I would sit on a log next to the river and fish. I would look up at the sky and wish I were flying. Now I look down at that river and wish I were fishing.”
Being content is never easy, but it is especially difficult when we are walking through the valley. Yet finding contentment is crucial for us to make it through difficult times. The Bible tells us we can find contentment in any circumstance through Christ. Philippians 4 says it like this, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” We can find contentment even in the most difficult of seasons. Here are a few tips on finding contentment in the valley:
1. Find the green spots.
It's said “The grass is always greener on the other side.” In the valley every other place seems greener than what we are going through. But I guarantee there are some “green spots” around you. Once you find the green spots it makes the season more bearable. Find the green spots! Maybe at your job there are opportunities for you. Some jobs will pay you to go to a conference. You may say to yourself, “I don't want to go to a boring conference.” My question would be, “Would you like to get away from your job for a couple days and get paid?” Another green spot may be special relationships that you can enjoy. Do you have children still living at home? Maybe this is an opportunity to spend time with them before they move on. Nurture and enjoy the relationships in the valley. Take time to find the green spots in this season.
2. God wants you to be content with Him, not the valley.
We are not supposed to be content with the bad or evil that's affecting our lives. God isn't happy that something bad is happening to us. In the valley God desires us to find contentment in his love and power despite what we are going through. We must focus on how much God loves us during the difficult times, not on the trouble we are walking through. God wants us to be content with him, not with the valley.
3. Lean on others.
One reason we become discontent is we try to do everything on our own. Many of us struggle with the idea of getting help because we feel like we are supposed to be totally self-sufficient. There is only one being that is totally self-sufficient, God. Me and you, we need God's help and an assist from a friend from time to time. Here are two simple ways we can lean on people. First, if you are going through something difficult ask someone to pray for you. Is there something really troubling you? You were not meant to bear that on your own! Ask for prayer and watch God change your situation! Second, if people want to give you help, accept it. Nine out of ten times when we ask God for help he sends people to help us. If someone wants to help you, they are your answered prayer! Accept their help, thank them and thank God for sending them. If we are going to be content we have to lean on others.
Being in the valley is not good, but we serve a good God even when we are in the valley. You are going to get through this; you just have to find contentment. When you find it, you will say with confidence, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
By Rev. Michael Wooton
I think everyone gets discouraged from time to time. Even wildly upbeat and optimistic people have their moments when they are dispirited (even if you can’t tell by looking at them). Everyone hits rough stretches of highway, everyone gets down from time to time and everyone walks “through the valley of the shadow.” Discouragement is the rent we pay living in a fallen world.
But what do you do when you are a church leader or volunteer and your discouragement is affecting your ministry or worse yet, your ministry is the source of your discouragement? The quick answer is that you better do something! Left untreated, discouragement can isolate you and not only exit you from your place of ministry but exit you from church and even from the faith. Christian leaders must view prolonged discouragement as a potentially serious spiritual disease. We all have the virus and symptoms flare up from time to time, but when discouragement lingers and intensifies, we need to act.
Are you discouraged in your service to the Lord? Have you lost the sheer joy you used to have in serving God and others? Is your enthusiasm for leadership and service ebbing? Do you find yourself finding excuses not to serve and even having signs of a critical spirit? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, I want you know that it happens to all of us. As much as we would like life and ministry to move “up and to the right,” we will all endure seasons of feeling apathetic, inadequate, overwhelmed, dejected, and we will be tempted to harbor ill will against others or even against God. I get that. The thing is that you can’t go there. Such attitudes are unsustainable for the person of faith. If God called you to lead or serve, you don’t get to quit; only God can release you. And given this reality, it behooves us to fight discouragement with all we have within us!
If you are discouraged, here are some ways to “get things turned around!”
1) Remember why you got into your ministry in the first place. Remembering that initial call or “ping” that put us into ministry in the first place is a wonderful way to “re-member” (put back together) what has been “dis-membered” (torn apart) from our lives.
2) Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Everyone in the Bible had tough times and everyone God has ever used throughout history had tough times. Jesus had the toughest time of all! Realize you are in good company when things get tough and cancel the pity party due to lack of interest.
3) Stay faithful. Being faithful is easy when things are going great and tough when they are not. “What is the use?” is a lie the devil uses often in such seasons. The Bible commends faithfulness above all things. So keep battling in such a way as we hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
4) Remember tough times don’t last forever. They seem like they do but they don’t. God wins. Something will turn around at some point if you are on God’s side. The upside is that we normally emerge from life-storms even stronger than we were before they hit!
5) Learn your lesson. Some rough seasons are self-inflicted, others are inevitable, but all offer an opportunity for learning, leaning on Jesus and growth. It is often the lessons we learn in the valley that enable us to once again soar on the mountain top!
6) Attack the distract. In times of discouragement, instruments of mass distraction can be spiritually deadly. Silence the negative and divisive voices by choosing not to listen to them and firmly rebuking them. Even the voices in your own head. Surround yourself with voices of hope in tough times and allow yourself to be encouraged. There is no better way to attack negativity than with positivity!
7) Find a Life-Verse (and hang on to it!). Don’t have one? Try this one:
"I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD."
Psalm 40:1-3 (NKJV)
Seasons of discouragement are a natural part of serving God in a fallen world but discouragement must never become our permanent address.
Hang in there. Be faithful. Good things are coming!
Finding Contentment When You Walk Through the Valley
Rev. Michael Wooton
Leaders Don’t Get Discouraged…Do They?
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By Mackenzie Bradshaw
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A carver’s most valuable tools are patience and steady hands; a skilled craftsman can transform the most gnarled, forgotten piece of wood into a masterpiece. Twisted wedges of birch wood can become an elaborate picture frame. Coarse pine branches become humble figurines. Just as a carver shapes his wooden figures, I find myself constantly refining my beliefs. A carver reaches for different tools when he encounters a difficult piece of wood, and when faced with challenges, I reach for my hand-carved, wooden cross. Its rough-hewn edges graze my skin. Lines run through the cross like lyrics run through my mind. The cross’s meaning eluded me for years. My heart longed for purpose, any purpose, and it cried out, “Who am I,” “Why am I here,” “What is God’s plan”? But now each notch from the Carver’s tool signifies my struggle to find my identity as a Christian and my place in this world as a child of God. I was one piece of wood transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I admit the cross’s meaning seems unclear to the nonbeliever. It was unclear to me at first, too. But how and when I received my cross-- and what it stands for-- makes it meaningful now. Since my parents raised me in the Christian faith, I knew how to be what my well-meaning youth group leaders called a “mature Christian.” What I didn’t know was how to be a child of God. I did everything right. Bible school? Check. Volunteering at church? Check. Listening quietly to every sermon? Check. But I could not understand why I had to wake up early on Sundays and sit in a pew for an hour and a half while the pastor droned on about sin and sacrifice. It did not matter whether he preached about famine or flood; nothing my pastor said had an impact on my heart.
My soul longed for the Carver’s touch.
One Sunday morning, I greeted the day with a potent mixture of resentment and apathy. Church was my Goliath, and I found myself without a slingshot. An hour later, however, against my most ardent objections, my mother marched my sister and me into the sanctuary, all the time admonishing me to greet our fellow believers with enthusiasm… or else. At that moment, Fred Bishop -- a stout man with a grin that stretched up both sides of his blushing cheeks -- struck up a string of small talk with my parents. He took the opportunity to encourage my sister and me to pursue our predestined path by giving us crosses. “These will remind you who God intends for you to be,” he said. He gave one to me, and I stared at it. This cross, emitting an intoxicating pine scent, spanned the width of my hand. Hand-carved with squared edges, it was strung on a thick, beige strand of woolen twine. The surface was carved with precise strokes. I eagerly slipped the cross around my neck, unaware of how significant the ornament would become. My early-morning resentment began to morph into neutrality, and I was ready to sit through the service.
The choir stepped onto the risers, their uniform dress shoes skimming the olive green carpeting of the stage as they came forward to lead worship. I recognized my friend Lydia, her blonde curls gathered in ringlets framing her rosy cheeks. To her left was Evan, my Bible school classmate; he busied himself with adjusting the choir microphones. Each singer followed the regular routine as the bassist struck the beginning chord of the familiar praise tune “I Will Rise.” Then, I felt a strange energy surge through the room. Tingles spread through my limbs, causing the fine hairs at the nape of my neck to rise like my fellow churchgoers as they embraced the swaying rhythm. “There’s a peace I’ve come to know”-- the opening lyric bounced off my eardrums and my eyes welled with tears of intense sadness-- no, intense joy. They streamed down my face in a torrent. Catching my breath in quick, shallow spurts, I choked on the lyrics as they tried to squeeze through my airway. I felt the blood course through every individual vein, heightening my senses. My heart raced uncontrollably, creating an electric euphoria. I felt a distinct churning deep inside me. I was in awe. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Stronger than any sensation I had ever experienced, it was as if the Earth stopped spinning-- I stood in a still moment. The cross, my cross, sank into my chest, melting away my doubts, settling my soul. All I could manage to articulate was, “He’s filling me up.”
Unearthly. That is the only word I could use to describe the feeling. I left church in a daze. Goosebumps still prickled my skin. My vision blurred with tears, and my heart ached. I remembered the simple wooden cross dangling from my neck. I examined it. I found nothing remarkable. But I knew the experience had changed my perspective-- “and my faith shall be my eyes.” Even so, the necklace was initially just a spontaneous gift from a kind old man. But the cross had not yet revealed its true role in my life.
That simple wooden cross is now an outward representation of my faith that has changed to become the solid ground from which I gain strength and courage. Often, being a Christian is lonely since I am constantly surrounded by nonbelievers. I wear a mask of acceptance; it protects me from public ridicule, yet it isolates me from my peers. I feel as if it is just me and God. But I combat my discouragement and isolation by wearing my cross. When I wear the cross, it reminds me of the feeling I had on the Sunday I received it and realized that I really am a child of God. By showing me life’s tenderness, God carves my faith journey that started with a simple, pine cross. This special talisman reminds me that God is real. I have learned through personal struggle that whenever circumstances threaten my beliefs, my conviction about who God made me carves away any doubts I may have about my faith.
After experiencing my epiphany on that Sunday long ago, I know I hold a strong belief in God and in the power of His Holy Spirit. Every time I reach for the old pine cross around my neck, it reaffirms my conviction that I am a Christian. I am immersed in the memory of the first time I felt God’s presence begin to chisel the framework of my faith. When the choir sang the last notes, “The victory is won,” on that day, God won my soul. That was the day I truly believed. My cross is the object, the symbol, the carving that my soul feeds on to preserve my faith in Christ.
Stepping Out in Faith
- Carving a Believer
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
By Dave Merrill
My Sorrow and Savior
Flame Volunteer Writing
Spoken or Unspoken?
When Christians walk through storms in life and when we are burdened with challenging temptations, how are we called to address our grievances to the Lord Do I pray out loud? Do I pray silently? Do I share only with God? Or do I share my sin with a friend? I often hear fellow believers come forward for prayer with “unspoken” requests. Others will come requesting prayer with very specific “spoken” details about their need. Are both okay? For God to hear my prayer, does someone else have to hear it as well? Let’s explore a few passages of Scripture that may reveal insight:
Matthew 6:6 “...when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew clearly gives us an example of how God will value a prayer that is secret and personal. He commands we go into an inner room, shut the door, and pray to Him. The things unseen, and the things unspoken are seen and heard by God if our hearts and actions are in God’s will. And we will experience reward from those prayers. Our private and unspoken prayers are heard and answered.
James 5:16 “...confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.”
James suggests we are called to confess our sins to one another and share our troubles so we may be healed. Pastor Shane and Pastor Mike have both recently shared the importance of accountability partners. It is helpful to have a trusted Christian brother or sister with whom we can share our lives, our complaints, and our shortcomings. In the presence of a trusted, righteous man or woman, our collective prayers hold “great power to prevail.” In this case, spoken prayers of confession and repentance can go a long way toward reconciliation with God and with our neighbor.
Job 11:13-15 “...if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear.”
God’s servant Job expressed his troubles to the Lord from his heart with outward visible physical signs of his repentance. He “stretched out his hands” and he “put away his sins” so evil may no longer dwell within his tent. Without speaking, Job “devoted his heart to the Lord” and experienced the joy of being able to “lift up his face” and “stand firm without fear.” So here is an example of an outwardly visible prayer without spoken words.
Romans 8:26-27 “...the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Sometimes, we ache, or we are conflicted, or we cannot bring ourselves to do much more than groan in shame, doubt, or uncertainty. The Spirit will help us in such time. We don’t know how to pray (spoken or unspoken), but God promises His Spirit can intercede for us in ways “too deep for words.” The Spirit knows our hearts, knows our thoughts, and knows our prayers and intercedes for we who believe and desire to be in God’s will.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica goes one step further. Whether spoken or unspoken, whether public or private, whether good times or bad, we are commanded to “rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” As tough as that seems when life brings storms and our hearts are embroiled in guilt, sin, and shame, God says it is his will for our lives. God wants us to always experience joy. He wants us to continuously be in prayer (spoken or unspoken), and he wants us to use those prayers to give thanks in all circumstances.
So should our prayers be “spoken” or “unspoken”? Yes, says the Lord!
Her name was Charlotte. She had her father’s eyes, her mother’s smile, and the softest, most kissable cheeks you’d ever seen. She was our dream baby, and for nine months my wife and I prepared both heart and home for her arrival, anxiously anticipating how she would forever change our lives.
And change us, she did.
You see, Charlotte was born on August 1st, 2017, at 11:47 p.m. But three minutes prior to delivery, the placenta fully abrupted, causing her to lose blood and oxygen. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, she passed away after just ten hours of life.
I can still remember holding her lifeless little body in my arms, trying desperately to comprehend what had just happened. It was as if a lifetime’s worth of hopes and dreams had burned to the ground before my eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I wish I could tell you that I leaned on God in the coming weeks. But I could not bring myself to trust a God who would do something like this to me. After all, He allowed this tragedy to happen, so who’s to say He won’t let more terrible things happen to me? When I read Scripture, I gravitated toward the darkest, most ferocious Psalms I could find – the ones where the author screamed at God incessantly, and then put the pen down and walked away. I could relate to their musings, because they knew how I felt. They knew God was capable of letting them down.
But everything changed at a Christian grief counseling session. The counselor asked me how I was feeling, and I honestly told him I was both extremely disappointed in life, and mad at God for allowing something this terrible to happen.
The counselor leaned back in his chair, gathering his thoughts. Then he said:
“You know, you’re not wrong at all for feeling this way. Your world has been shaken, and yes, God allowed it to happen. But … He has also allowed a number of blessings that have made you extremely happy throughout your life, hasn’t He? It’s just hard to see right now because your current situation is so painful.
“That said, while you figure things out, God will be waiting for you, when you are ready. And don’t worry. He has really broad shoulders. He’s going to be just fine.”
For the first time, I realized that I was not “wrong” for being angry, but I had to ask myself … was I really mad at God? Or was I mad at the situation? The more I thought about it, I realized that my anger stemmed from the fact that I’d been dealt a dreadful injustice. And since God allowed it to happen, I unwittingly assumed that He wanted my daughter to die in the NICU.
But how can I know His motive? I know there’s a big difference between “allowing” and “willing” something into existence, but I had been quick to assume that both were the same. Bad things are going to happen in this life, and God never promised to rescue me from every affliction. God loves Charlotte, and He loves me. He is a GOOD God, even in the midst of these tribulations.
In other words:
My situation can be terrible. And … God can still be good.
Equipped with this new perspective, I revisited my favorite “angry” Psalms, only to discover that the authors’ writings actually fell perfectly in line with this reality. Their expressions of temporary dissatisfaction were undeniably valid. But they never stopped trusting God, because they knew He had brought them through many storms, and He was going to bring them through this one, too.
I also discovered that Jesus struggled with similar emotions in the Garden of Gethsemane, during the hours leading up to His crucifixion. He told His disciples that “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). He knew what was ahead, but he knew that God was still good.
Now, let’s be clear: I am still completely ruined. Every time a baby cries in the church foyer; every stroller in the checkout line ahead of me, makes my stomach sink. I will never stop missing Charlotte, but I can no longer blame God. Looking back, He has been beside me the entire time, grieving with me, and giving me the strength to make it through each moment.
Yes, this situation is terrible. But God is still good.
By Donovan Hill
Dr. Steve Heitkamp Horizon Hope Counseling, Inc.
By Dr. Steve Heitkamp
‘Do Not Grow Weary
and Lose Heart’
“For consider Him (Jesus) who has endured … so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” -- Hebrews 12:3
The writer of Hebrews recalls that Moses is called by God and was spared by God’s hand as an infant. By faith, he left the comfort of his privileged life to lead the Israelites out of bondage and slavery. The Bible retells the story of crossing the Red Sea as a poignant example of God’s deliverance -- both then and now, to us when we face trials.
Moses wandered for 40 years in the wilderness with the Israelites waiting to enter the Promised Land. “Surely, after I have done all this, I can finally experience the fruits of my labor and rest,” had to be what was on Moses’ heart and mind of Moses. Seeing the Promised Land, he was not allowed to enter and died before attaining the realized promise. Before he died, He passed the torch to Joshua, who instead led the nation of Israel to its awaited blessings.
Moses conveyed a command -- twice -- to the people, before they crossed the Jordan River, and these apply to all in uncertain times. How do these words speak to you in your time of suffering? “And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” -- Deuteronomy 31:8
Crossing the Jordan River is an image used throughout Scripture to express the truth that our pain and suffering is not the end of the story. The old hymn writer penned: “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, and cast a wishful eye, to Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie ... No chilling winds nor poisonous breath can reach that healthful shore; Sickness and sorrow, pain and death are felt and feared no more.”
Words such as painful, heart wrenching, and despair encapsulate the crucible of suffering that embodies the experiences of so many in this life. Whatever pain we experience, the gift to see beyond it is an act of faith. Hebrews 11 describes those who have gone before and lead a path of faith for us to follow.
Perhaps right now you are experiencing a painful time. Whether it is brief, or is lasting a lifetime, these words from Jesus will help us prepare and respond.
1. Don’t Panic
It is so easy to say ‘don’t panic’ when we are not the one panicking. It is quite another to calm ourselves and be like Jesus in the boat on the stormy sea, remaining calm during the crashing waves. Jesus tells us not to be anxious about this life, but to look at the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, and how God cares for them. If he cares for them, surely, He will care for us (Matthew 6:26-27. Do not be anxious … we must calm ourselves and rest in Him. Whatever you are experiencing right now, do not panic. Trust in Him.
2. Focus on What I Can Do
When we are overwhelmed, it is tempting to fixate on what we cannot do; which can be paralyzing. We must focus on what we can do during the struggle. I can focus on Jesus; I can focus on His promises; and I can focus on listening to his leading, so I don’t lose my way. Hebrews 12 warns us, “We lay aside that which distracts and entangles and focus our eyes on Jesus and move ahead.” Right now, what are three simple things you can do? Write them down, finish them, and then do three more.
3. Don’t Jump Too Far Ahead
When a daunting task is in front of us, we tend to rush ahead, thinking of potential outcomes. This occurs as we receive a bleak diagnosis, experience a catastrophe at work, run into an overwhelming problem, or endure broken relationships that wound us. We must take one step at a time and move ahead.
Each step in the wilderness that the Israelites experienced prepared the soles of their feet to step in the Jordan River, toward the full blessing of God. Tell yourself, “today, during this struggle, I will not jump too far ahead. I will choose not to worry, I will choose peace.”
4. Keep Perspective
When experiencing fear, it is difficult to hear the Lord telling us to not fear. Through pain and loss, it’s sometimes a struggle to hear Jesus reminding us to, “not let our hearts be troubled, but believe in God, believe also in me.” In times of agony, it can be perplexing to wonder if the Jesus’s words are true. They are true. Jesus says in John 14: 26 that the Holy Spirit will remind us of the words to help keep the perspective we need. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to You.” Lord, please remind me of the words I need to hear from you.
5. See What Others Can’t See
Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen. The writer of Hebrews describes those who were given the promise of a new land but did not experience it in their lifetime. All those mentioned in the first part of Hebrews 11 died in faith, without receiving the promises, but rather having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance. The Biblical witness is filled with those who see what others can’t. Jesus saw the face of the man who denied him three times, but who later became the Rock on which Christ built the church. In this present suffering that is overwhelming me, I will ask God to help me see what He can do, even what I may not see. Lord, give me eyes of faith to see the Promised Land on the other side of this wilderness.
6. All Pain and Suffering is Temporary
The writer of Hebrews shows different ways the promise is fulfilled. There are those who experience answers to prayer in this life, as well as the in the life to come. Still, Hebrews 11:36 describes, “and others” experience vast amounts of suffering, which culminates in verses 39-40. “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised because God had provided something better for us.”
Perhaps today, you feel like one of “the others” who will only truly experience relief in Heaven. The words of the great Hymn still speak: “When we all get to Heaven, what a day of rejoicing it will be … When we all see Jesus … just one glimpse of him in Glory, will the toils of life repay.” The hope of Heaven brings a place of living in God’s presence, where pain and tears will be no more.
7. Join the Great Cloud of Witnesses
We are not alone. If you are suffering, you are not alone. The Bible tells of a banquet table seated with a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before. Others have suffered, endured, and found their strength in God. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “be encouraged by those who have gone before, and therefore fix your eyes on Jesus to finish the race set before us.” They did, and so can we. They focused on him, so that they would not grow weary and lose heart.
Today, as we talk about suffering; can you name one resilient person? How does remembering their example affect your life?
The Israelites were told to choose 12 stones of remembrance from the Jordan River to remind them of what God had done for them. I have a rock that is especially meaningful to me. I acquired the stone in my first year of college from the middle of a creek in Kentucky. Through the stone is a groove wide and deep, spanning the length of it. The groove weaves back and forth from a small stream etching a path. The result was a reminder to me that the form was not made with a chisel, but a small stream of water persistently working over time. It is a reminder that most often things take time to change. Persistence and results do come, if we do not grow weary and lose heart. Choose an object that speaks to you and brings to your memory the power of God who delivered the Israelites. The same God goes before you and prepares the way.
“And the Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” -- Deuteronomy 31:8
The Other Shoe That
No Longer Dropped
For as long as I could remember, I had lived in dread of the other shoe dropping.
This time-worn expression portends something bad coming on the heels of things going well. It’s the stock market crashing right as you start drawing on your retirement nest egg. Or your appendix nearly bursting a week before the marathon you’ve trained for. It’s some supernatural force snatching defeat from the jaws of expected victory.
For most of my childhood, my parents owned an art gallery, where they sold commercial and fine art lithographs and prints. It was a tough way to make a living, but where we lacked for income, we had plenty of pride – and hope! Riding a wave of hometown pride, my Dad, also an artist, painted the Wichita skyline and riverfront in a modern, commercial style.
Whatever financial reserves we had were invested in a few hundred prints of this painting; if he sold just a fraction of those signed and numbered limited-edition copies, we’d have it made, for a while anyway – especially if every print also required Dad’s matting and framing services.
None of that came to pass; on the day of the print release and signing party, we learned there had been a fire in the apartment above the gallery. Overnight, in a fit of depression, the resident had turned on the gas and blew out the pilot light, accidentally-on-purpose causing the fire. The smoke, and the water used to put out the blaze, damaged many of the prints. The Devil comes “to steal and kill and destroy,” (John 10:10). After taking a life, that tragedy robbed our family of the opportunity that Dad had struggled to make. The other shoe had dropped.
This fatalist point of view followed me into my young adult life – a near-constant dread that sapped all joy from every good moment or achievement I’d had. I was dating a wonderful Christian girl in college who would eventually help me along my own path to faith in God. But as good as those early years were – dating, then married life, a young career, starting a family, and walking closer with God every day – I nonetheless kept this fear about me, like an old insecurity blanket that I refused to get rid of.
It’s not that I didn’t want to get rid of it, but I didn’t know how. Really, it’s that I didn’t know that I could get rid of it. Every time things were good in my life, I waited for the inevitable bad to follow in short order. When it did, because it would – will – eventually, that was sufficient proof of my understanding of the way the world works.
That it also seemed “fair” – in that it balanced bad in some proportion to good, as if on a cosmic scale – made the idea all the more rational to my immature mind. Only an uninterrupted series of all-good events would have been able to dissuade me of this worldview. But even then, just as a gambler believes that the more successive losses he experiences, the closer he is to a big hit, I would’ve only seen a string of successes as propelling me closer and more rapidly to my inevitable and ever-greater downfall.
More deeply steeped in the Bible than I was in those younger days, I now know that my fatalist worldview was both theologically and practically impossible. I know that God is all-good, and that He only wants good for his followers. Indeed, “which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? How much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9, 11b). And, why should we worry about what we will eat or what we will wear? “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matt 6:26).
And yet, over these many years since I’ve found and followed Christ, we’ve still had our fair share of hardships; of course we have. We’ve lost babies in the womb, and we’ve struggled to bring to term and bear the babies that we’ve been blessed to raise. We’ve lost too many of our closest and dearest loved ones too soon. We scraped by for years under the pressures of modest incomes and school-loan debt, and endured more than a fair share of terrible bosses, whom we were all too glad to work for only because the threat of long-term unemployment was the significantly lesser sole choice available to us.
Only in Heaven will bad things stop happening to good-hearted believers. But while we are here, what God can – does – do for us is give us an eternal perspective on the bad things that will come to pass. At some point, as I grew closer to the Lord, this fear of the other shoe dropping simply went away. In reality, it was taken away; as a clever parent might distract a child, then lift away his filthy blanket to wash it. Likewise, God somehow took away my ever-present dread, washing the insecurity out of my life.
God is our security blanket. But as we walk this earth, even though He is in our lives, we won’t lose our troubles. And though we focus on Him and His goodness, we don’t lose sight of these trials, either. But with God, they are moved to the periphery; to their proper perspective and place in our lives.
Simply knowing that in Him every one of these troubles is going to work out to be okay, somehow, supernaturally, makes everything that comes our way, good or evil, bearable, and in that, we no longer need to carry worldly worries with us.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)
(All verses from The Bible, New International Version)
Flame Volunteer Writer
By Jeffrey Bishop
"For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
My Plan, God's Will
By Matthew LaFrance
Flame Volunteer Writer
By Kelly Costello
‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’
“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.”
As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mom. I grew up in the ’70s. Some of my most prized possessions were my baby doll, “Mandy,” and a child-sized kitchen set bought from the J.C. Penney catalog. My sister and I had quite the set up to be able to raise our doll family. We spent many hours playing in our make-believe world. But eventually my sister and I grew up and new things replaced the time we spent playing house. However, my maternal instinct never went away.
Fast forward 20 years: I was now married and we had one child, a girl. I was not lucky enough to be able to stay home with her, but we found a wonderful woman who had a home daycare, and we felt comfortable letting her watch our daughter. Our plan was to wait until our daughter turned four, and then start trying for baby #2. The new baby would slip into our daughter’s spot at daycare when she headed off to kindergarten. Since we had no problems getting pregnant the first time, we thought the second time would be easy and everything would work out perfectly -- right? Wrong!
After years spent trying to get pregnant a second time, we decided to see a specialist. I took my temperature every morning, injected my body with hormones that made me feel like I was on fire -- and that also made me a little … well, extremely difficult to live with. By this time, our daughter was asking for a brother or sister on a daily basis. I knew my husband wanted a son, and I couldn’t give that to him, which made me feel like even more of a failure. My body had betrayed me; denying me of the very thing it was designed to do. It had stolen my dream of having that picture-perfect family I’d imagined.
During this time I was angry about everything! I got mad at the lady at the grocery store complaining about her kids. I got mad at the pregnant, drug-addicted mother on the news. Why her and not me? Friends and family members were having babies all around me. People would always ask, “When are you going to give Allie a little brother or sister?” Those words stung like GermX in an open wound. The pain from this constant question finally had me at my limit and my anger was now focused on God. Psalm 37:4 states, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.” My heart’s desires … really? My heart’s desire was to have another child. I cried and I prayed until I couldn’t cry or pray anymore. I made bargains with God; you know the kind: “If you bless us with another baby I promise to …!”
It took many years to accept that it would just be the three of us. Acceptance doesn’t mean the desire goes away, just that you have to trust that God has something else planned for you. It’s like putting together a puzzle when you don’t have the picture on the box; all the pieces are there, but you don’t see the beauty in His plan until all the pieces come together. Proverbs 3:5 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” If I was going to live my life for Christ, it was time for me to accept His plan.
It was during this time our daughter started saying that she loved being an only child. I stopped asking the “Why?” questions. My husband and I started to focus on what we did have instead of what we didn’t have.
Sometimes it’s hard to hear God in the midst of our storms. God truly does know the desires of my heart; it’s just that sometimes those desires do not align with God’s plan. I still have my moments. I can’t say that I don’t think about the “what if’s? …” But I do know that God loves me, and He hurts when I hurt.
My daughter’s favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for good and not disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” It reminds me that If we put our trust in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart; perhaps just not always in the way that we had hoped.
When it comes to progressing through life, I’m a few chips short of a bag of Lay’s. I’ve hit a few of the checkmarks people my age ought to have; I have my health, a good job, a nice home … but, boy are there a lot of blank boxes yet to fill. I’m one of those people who’s surrounded by others his age who are all getting married, having kids, starting careers; meanwhile, I’m off in the corner like, “I just started reading this new book …”
I lay in bed, either trying to fall asleep or having just woken up, and I contemplate the direction my life is going. Sadly, I haven’t the faintest idea what direction that is. Because, to me, I’m standing still; no steam in my engine propelling me down the rails of Life Railroad. Now, I’m not bothered by it every waking minute of every day; however, it is something that hits me from time to time. It’s an attack by the enemy, made to draw my attention away from God.
Let me tell you, it’s a darn fine attack, too. Not that it works, but boy does it take a lot to keep my mind focused on the Lord!
By this point I’m sure most of you reading this are expecting me to start a monologue about how Jeremiah 29:11 is such a great support for such circumstances: “For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” But, you know, to me, that’s such a clichéd Christian response. When you’re stressed, worried, and freaking out about things totally out of your control, the standard Christian response is just irritating. It’s the last thing you want to hear, because you’ve been told it a thousand times by a thousand people. And after having heard it the first two hundred times, the following eight hundred just seem void of any substance.
No. To get me through these difficult times, I prefer some less-often-quoted passages of scripture:
“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” -- Ecclesiastes 8:15
“A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies - so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” -- Ecclesiastes 7:1-4
And a prayer for when one finds oneself feeling down about the uncertainties of life: “But deal well with me, O Sovereign Lord, for the sake of your own reputation! Rescue me because you are so faithful and good. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is full of pain. I am fading like a shadow at dusk; I am brushed off like a locust. My knees are weak from fasting, and I am skin and bones. I am a joke to people everywhere: when they see me, they shake their heads in scorn.” -- Psalms 109:21-25
Are these the greatest passages the Bible has ever spoken? No. But knowing “Dr. God’s” prescription for life is a healthy dose of fun, and funerals helps you deal with your own uncertainties. Or, as the modern poet Bobby McFerrin sang it, “don’t worry, be happy.”
I still deal with the uncertainties with my future. The enemy is a relentless bombardier who won’t stop trying to level the city of your faith. But God is in control. And in his control, I know he has plans for me. I’ve been told so a thousand times. But until those plans come to fruition, I’m going to try to relax and have fun, and wait for the day when the Lord comes for me.
All verses from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation
And One Hundred
By Lowell Sensinstaffer
Light in the
I was 21 years old and a junior at the University of Missouri-Rolla. I left my apartment that afternoon, guitar in hand, headed to preach at a children's event in Dixon, Missouri—over 100 children ages 3 to 12 had gathered from local churches for the service. As I walked out to my car, my landlady burst out her front door and rushed to her car. “Jesse has been run over by a garbage truck!” she cried out. “Please pray!!” Jesse was her 4-year-old grandson and one of the kids I taught in children’s church. I was torn. “Should I cancel the engagement and head to the hospital or go to Dixon and preach?” I headed to Dixon.
Prior to preaching to the kids, I called the hospital. Jesse was in critical condition. A 12-ton truck had crushed his left shoulder, left rib cage, pelvis and abdomen, nearly severing his left leg. Blood pressure 30/0. Blood was transfusing. Headed to the OR. It seemed awfully bleak.
I proceeded to preach to the 100+ kids about Peter, contrasting his cowardice before Jesus’ crucifixion with his boldness after Pentecost. I dressed as a surgeon in blue scrubs, gown and mask for the sermon. I took a child and proceeded to "surgically" remove a live chicken from his belly while talking about Peter and how the Holy Spirit “got the chicken out” of him--an object lesson. God wants all of us, even kids, to be bold with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The sermon went well. Children were rapt with attention, and they did not harm my chicken when I let her loose in the church. But my thoughts were elsewhere. After finishing the sermon, I pulled a 4-year-old boy out of a pew. I explained to the kids:
“I’m not a real doctor. This was a pretend surgery illustrating a spiritual lesson. But at this very moment there are real doctors dressed just like me, operating on a real little boy just this big [pointing to the 4-year-old standing with me]. And that little guy has been crushed by a big truck. Satan wants to kill him, but we need to pray and pray hard.”
The church was absolutely silent. I immediately left for the hospital and turned the service over to one of the other ministers.
A miracle happened that day. Jesse lived. His leg was saved. Recovery was expected to take several months and would’ve likely resulted in significant disability. But he was riding his bicycle in five short weeks. No disability at all.
Tragically, a year later, Jesse’s father died unexpectedly. Several months after that, I married Jesse's mother, Diana. Jesse's children's pastor had become his step-father.
Four years later, I had been accepted to medical school on an Air Force scholarship. I went to Texas for six weeks of officer training. While there, the 700 Club heard of Jesse’s miracle and flew Diana and Jesse to Virginia Beach to appear on the show. After their appearance, they were invited to appear on another Christian talk show in Chicago. They scheduled the appearance after my officer training so I could appear with them. We drove to Chicago for the taping of the TV show. During the interview, I told them about the kids in Dixon. Walking off the set, the next guest grabbed me by the arm as she stepped up. "I have to talk to you," she whispered, "Please don’t leave!!”
After her interview, she approached us.
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“I was the minister you left all those kids with in Dixon, Missouri.”
“Oh! I'm so sorry!”
“No worries! You don’t know the rest of the story. After you left, those 100 kids prayed. Even the little ones. And they prayed fervently for well over an hour. Unprompted. Uncoached. Without additional encouragement or adult direction. It was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen."
I believe the prayers of those kids in Dixon had much to do with Jesse’s miracle. They didn’t know Jesse at all, but they still fervently prayed. I’m so thankful for God’s mercy and faithfulness and the obedience of those children.
Eventually all of us will experience tough times. When they do, and you’re moved to pray for that person, pray really hard. Pray like a kid.
It has been said that no one can know the mind of God. We cannot view God with our natural senses; that is not where we find God. We find Him as He reveals Himself in our everyday lives (Romans 8:16). Even in our darkest hour, when we feel He has left our side, our Father is showing His love and faithfulness. We have the capacity to experience Him because we were originally created to commune with Him just as Adam and Eve did in the garden. (Genesis 1) Jesus Himself taught us how to navigate through this fallen world seeking and pursuing God. He is not opposed to revealing Himself to us. In fact, it has been during my most difficult times that I learned how ever-present God is.
In a time when I was most broken and oppressed, God expressed His goodness to me, healed me and showed me He wanted to be part of every aspect of my life.The most poignant time in the valley was when I discovered my child had been sexually abused.
This is a difficult topic to share. I venture to guess too many of us have our own story of abuse or one of the unthinkable: abuse of our children. It is a silent trauma that is all too common in our culture and one that needs to be brought to light. Only God can give hope in such a devastating situation. Only God can bring light to this darkness.
There’s a feeling of helplessness when you become a parent. This tiny human being has been entrusted to you and then what? As much as I would strive to protect my child, the abuse happened when out of my care. I have felt helpless, overwhelmed, guilty, and full of anguish. What could I have done differently? How could this evil have touched my child? Only God could step in and show me that He would somehow orchestrate my worst times into this tapestry that would intertwine His faithfulness and this terrible experience. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Daily I had to talk to God and get His help. Children are not equipped to deal with this level of pain. There were so many emotions, behavioral issues and even denial that we walked through. The pain had become too much for both of us and we hit a brick wall. I had to seek outside help and ultimately we went to a Christian counselor. I wanted her to fix this issue that seemed unfixable. In the process, my own past sexual abuse came rushing back. This was something I’d hidden for years. I had to make a tough decision: Do I hide it all again and save myself or do I come clean and allow God to be glorified in me to heal me and help my child? I didn’t want to be embarrassed or feel that shame, but after praying for guidance and courage, I knew God’s power would flood the situation. (John 12:23-25)
I talked openly with my child. Together we maneuvered through the pain, talked out the tough issues, used the scriptures to overcome the circumstances and prayed often. Over time, God manifested healing through my surrendered state for me and my child. That dark place in my life no longer had control over me. We both gained freedom. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for our good. When I laid down my fear of being vulnerable, God empowered me as a believer.
Inner peace comes from exposing the lies and challenges that Satan brings. As Christians we cannot win the world if we are being phony or hiding the deliverance God has made possible for us! As we show the world that God who lives in us is the antidote for all our pain and suffering, He will dwell in us with strength and step into that fiery furnace just as he did with Daniel and the three Hebrew boys. Jesus Christ is our hope and the only answer for our troubles.
"For God who said , "Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have these treasures in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4: 6,7)
All verses from The Holy Bible, New International Version
Flame Volunteer Writer
By Becky Olroyd
Feeling the silence filling the car, I glanced in the rearview mirror at my daughter, and my heart sank. She was sitting straight up, her eyes full of tears. I knew if she just blinked once, they’d spill over. So she didn’t blink.
I felt a familiar lump in my throat. It was Monday morning, so she was headed back to her dad’s house for the next seven days, per our shared custody agreement. She knew exactly how long this ride lasted and allowed herself to feel the emotions associated with the transition for only a few minutes before putting on her “brave face.” She’d be crushed if her daddy knew she’d been crying.
She had it down to a science. At the age of seven.
It was neither here nor there for her. She loves both parents fiercely. It was the stress of splitting her life in half, packing up her favorite things to take to the next house, and yet still trying to protect everyone’s hearts. It’s a burden she shouldn’t have to bear - one she didn’t choose.
I went through intensive Christian counseling after my divorce and learned some powerful lessons in healing and forgiveness. But when I looked at my daughter, I wondered … Do the consequences of divorce -- of sin -- ever truly fade? Would they force her to settle, never finding the “amazing” God intended?
One particularly tough Monday morning, I sat in traffic and questioned where God was in my shared custody heartbreak. I flipped the radio on and caught an interview with Christian recording artist, Britt Nicole. She was sharing the story behind a song she had written called “All This Time.” She explained that her parents divorced when she was seven, and it was in the midst of that heartache that she truly found Jesus.
That night, I told my daughter her story and played the song. She listened intently, and then quietly reached for her headphones. For days, she listened to the song on repeat.
In what I believe to be divine intervention, I learned Britt Nicole was coming to St. Louis the very next week … for a sold out concert. When the radio station heard my daughter’s story, they offered us two free tickets. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t care about the little things!
I sat in the audience that evening, full eyes and full heart, listening to the sweet voice of my little girl singing along:
All this time
From the first tear cried
To today's sunrise
And every single moment between
You were there
You were always there
It was You and I
You've been walking with me all this time
It was at that moment that I realized that while the consequences of sin are real, they drive us to conversation -- to community. A complete stranger (yet a sister in Christ) was helping connect my daughter to Jesus by shifting the narrative of their shared experience from pain to grace. She understood she wasn’t alone.
I look around Christ Church on Sundays, the pews filled with individuals and families who all have their own stories - broken, blended, and beautiful; the orphans and the adopted; the newlyweds, divorcees, and widows; prodigals and those awaiting their return. We all experience grief, regret, and loss whether it be a direct result of our sin or unavoidable circumstances. But we still have hope; we can still find “amazing” by “ … fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2a). And as we keep our eyes fixed, we can look to our left and our right and find Jesus in the flesh. Brothers and sisters, journeying together in community.
The tangible presence of Jesus in community -- at a concert, in a sanctuary, or during a quiet car ride with my daughter -- is a powerful force fueled by the love of God. He is, indeed, our “strength and portion forever.” What if His love toward us is expressed in strength through others -- through community? What might we miss if we neglect this piece of our promised portion?
God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit themselves exist in community. It's a divine, eternal concept! I want my daughter, and my son, to know Jesus as the best, most trustworthy, and faithful friend they will ever have. I also want them to experience the joy and fulfillment that comes from being connected to a community of faith. Because when they need “Jesus with skin on,” or “Jesus with a song to share,” or “Jesus with a truth to declare,” they will be surrounded. And that will be amazing.
by Shannon Durio
TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY
Flame Volunteer Writer
Flame Volunteer Writer
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope! Early morning, April 25, 2001, my husband, Jim, and I ascended the front lobby escalator of St. Louis University Hospital with wide smiles and hearts full of hope. We were met at the top with warm embraces from Jim’s brother, Terry, and his wife, Pat. Jim desperately needed a new kidney, and the next day Terry would donate one of his.
Be patient in affliction! With our four children at my side, we patiently began the long wait on that April 26th early morning. “Surgery has begun.” “Donor’s kidney is removed.” Transplantation has begun.” “A minor problem with anastomosis.” (Medical jargon for connection.) Then nothing – for hours. Patience wore thin until fourteen hours later when we found ourselves in an ICU waiting room to learn that severe bleeding had put Jim’s life in jeopardy!
Be patient in affliction! Hours turned into days, days into weeks, and weeks into months. Many subsequent surgeries and many returns to ICU dimmed our hope and taxed our patience.
Be faithful in prayer! Each of the hundreds of times that I stepped from the elevator onto the seventh floor of St. Louis University Hospital, I prayed for strength and courage. Every time! Literally thousands of hits were made on a rudimentary website created to detail Jim’s progress on his journey to recovery. (Long before Carebridge was a thing.) Cards poured in offering prayer. Prayer masses were said. And Jim was on more church prayer lists than is fathomable. Most nights found me offering my prayers next to Jim’s bed or reclining on an ICU bench, often pleading that if it were God’s will, let him die in peace.
After weeks, and desperate for relief from his suffering, Jim asked his surgeon, “Is it time for us to have the talk?” Dr. Garvin’s response was, “Jim, when it is time for the talk, we will have it. But today is not that day.” Dr. Garvin never had that talk with Jim. It wasn’t God’s will for Jim to die on Dr. Garvin’s watch.
I can only imagine what our good Lord thought about all those prayers being offered up for one man. But each new day brought new resolve -- the strongest resolve and determination in a human being I have ever seen. You could feel it and see it in his eyes as Jim watched each second tick away of the clock that hung on his wall. You could feel it in the love and support of the hours upon hours spent at his bedside by his loving brother who had long ago recovered and returned home. Resolve shone in our children who indulged me with hundreds of games of rummy, comic relief over lousy cafeteria food, and merely their presence. God indulged me with music which I played loudly in my car if ever I could go home for the night. My walks on the SLUH campus courtyard brought me clarity. We were blessed with visits and well wishes from friends, hospital workers, casual acquaintances and Jim’s angel of mercy, Carrie, who filled him with notions of grace.
So how did we come out on the other side of that valley of the shadow of death that started with so much joyful hope? Yes, patience was a factor, and I have no doubt that faithful prayer sealed the deal. But I am convinced that what had the greatest impact on our survival of that ordeal, and Jim’s ultimate, complete recovery, was the love and devotion shared by two people, the love and commitment of our family and the love of a strong community of faith that could only have come from the love of a Holy Father who heard those many prayers, smiled, and said, “Today, is not that day.”
To get a perspective on this essay, I reached out to our children. One daughter immediately said that, like me, her dad’s transplant experience was the most traumatic event of her life. But the other two with whom I talked told me that their dad’s death, eleven years later, had impacted them more. Ironically, those two went on to have successful kidney transplants of their own. Regarding his dad’s transplant experience, our son simply said, “Mom. it was inspirational.” Indeed, it was. Full of so much hope, patience, faithful prayer and love.
Note: April is National Donate Life Month. Please pray for donors and those in need of organ transplantation.
FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS
I still remember it vividly. I was sitting in the back of the coffee cafe at a Going Deeper service after one of many bad days. I was exhausted and emotionally destroyed. I felt like everything was falling apart. Fortunately, at the same time, my faith was growing rapidly. I was feeling closer to God than I had in years, I was learning to have a relationship with Jesus and I was receiving confirmation from Him. It was a very difficult time because I felt as if there was a tug-of-war between the world and God, but I was the rope. Finally, I broke, and God won.
That night I cried out to God. I told Him I was done fighting, and I just wanted to do "God stuff." I wanted to pursue Him more and I wanted Him to guide my life, not the world. I let God know then and there that I was done trying to control everything, and I surrendered to His will.
There was no flash of lightning or crash of thunder. In fact, I don't think anyone had a clue what happened. I had finally surrendered to God. You have to understand how big this was. I had always been a control freak. My experience had been that if I put all my effort into something, I would probably get the result I was hoping for. The issue with that is it didn't leave any room for God to lead. By relinquishing control over my life, I was finally putting God first.
One month later, I got the call to ministry.
And the tug-of-war began again.
I knew that I had asked God to change my life, and I wanted to do "God stuff," but I hadn't thought what that meant. I was excited, surprised, and a bit worried when He called me to ministry. What would all of this mean? What would have to change for me to follow Jesus in this new way? What would my future look like?
And then, as an answer to prayer, Pastor Shane gave a sermon on Luke 5:1-11 about Jesus calling Simon Peter, James, and John to follow him. In that account, the three fisherman had finished a long night of fishing with nothing to show for it. Jesus tells the men to go to deeper water and try again. Reluctantly, they head back out and their nets become so full of fish, that it almost sinks the boats. Realizing what had happened, the men were awestruck.
Then in verse Luke 5:10b Jesus says something beautiful to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!"
Don't be afraid! Jesus is going to ask us to do things that we don't want to do. I didn't want to change everything in my life. I wanted to have a little bit of both, but God wasn't going to allow me to do that. He wasn't going to let the world keep me in a tug-of-war. I surrendered to Him and He pulled me to the Jesus team. On the Jesus team, we will do the "hard" stuff. We will offer forgiveness, show love, mend relationships, repent, and fully pursue Him. It's not easy, and sometimes it can be a little scary.
But Jesus tells us not to be afraid. We never need to be afraid of what Jesus is asking us to do. He knows our hearts, thoughts, and actions. Jesus will never leave us or lead us astray. We can be confident that wherever Jesus leads us, it is for the best.
Maybe you're reading this and you're feeling like I did in the coffee cafe. Your life is falling apart all around you and you don't know what to do. Maybe everything in your life is going great! Regardless of the situation, I would suggest that you pray the same prayer.
Jesus, I pray that your will be done in my life. Please lead me, guide me, and teach me how to show your love to others. Be the master of my life and help me to not be afraid of what you'll ask of me. I pray this all in the strong and powerful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
What made you decide to attend this church?
My friend, Noel Russell, recommended the church to me when I moved here from North Carolina.
What do you think delights God above everything else?
When we love one another with our whole hearts.
If you could perform miracles, what would you do?
I would heal every sick child I could.
When is it most difficult to trust God? What about trusting other people?
When things aren’t going as planned in your life sometimes we doubt God instead of embracing His love and guidance.
When you think about God – what is the first thing that comes to mind?
What are your biggest questions about your relationship with God?
Am I living up to the vision you have for me?
How can I be better?
What superpower would you most like to have, and why?
The power to heal. No child should ever be sick.
Who do you respect the most?
What is the first thing you notice about people?
What do you think the secret to a good life is?
Loving others and being grateful for what you have.
What school subjects were you the best at and what subjects did you struggle with?
I excelled at English and Science. I struggled with Math.
What is your favorite food?
Sushi or Pizza
Are you a 'morning' or 'night' person?
How many cities have you lived in?
What jobs have you done?
I have been a preschool teacher, a special needs preschool teacher, a preschool Literacy Coach, a juvenile delinquency coach, and a kindergarten teacher.
Which do you prefer, sunrises or sunsets?
What is one food that you would never give up?
What is your most favorite time of the year?
What are your hobbies?
I love to read, work out, online shopping, and sleeping
What drives you every day?
Where do you like to vacation?
Anywhere with a beach
Are you a Cubs or Cardinal fan?
What book are you reading now?
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
What drives you crazy?
Do you prefer to text or talk on the phone?
Are you a Facebook person?
Most hated chore on the household chore list?
Do you feel you have a purpose or calling in life?
To teach children
How do you handle stress?
Organization and coffee
What cartoon character best describes you?
What is your motto?
Be your own kind of beautiful.
What is your goal in life?
To be the best Christian, Mother, Daughter, and Friend I am capable of being.
Early Childhood Ministry Coordinator
Leading the Creation Corner Ministry for children 6 weeks to Kindergarten.
Connecting children and their families with Christ. Leading a facilitating volunteers and staff members throughout the week.
Flame Volunteer Writer
"Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!"
Getting To Know You
By KEVIN SIDDLE
By Carrie Gaxiola with Jeff Bishop
Right Turn To Honduras
Q & A
with Cheryl Shoffstall, President, Right Turn Ministries
1. What is the Right Turn Ministries story, and how did it start?
God laid the vision of the ministry on me sometime around 2015, but it wasn't until October 2016 that God really grabbed me and told me I would never be ready in my own strength, and that I just needed to trust Him and He would give me what I needed to be ready.
God laid on my heart the vision of sustainability in Christ. It was clear that God wanted us to get busy getting Jesus in to the hearts of people who had little to no access to Him. We needed to be feeding them physically as well, and after we did that, we needed to make sure children could get a Christian bilingual education so they could be sustainable in their own culture.
2. What are your greatest needs for the ministry, and how can people get involved?
There are several ways people can get involved: Go and serve … be the boots-on-the-ground in Honduras; stay and serve … prepare those who go as the boots; support and serve … help financially support the ministry; and most importantly, pray and serve … which is exactly what it is. To be successful, a ministry takes all these types of servants; we cannot function without each area fully covered.
3. What does the name Right Turn Ministries mean to you?
For too long, God kept telling me things like “I need you to make a detour … I need you to turn right and do something different … I have other work for you to do …” I just kept ignoring Him; I liked the path I was on. Detours scare me -- you never know where they are going to lead! Then, one Sunday I was sitting in the sanctuary listening to the sermon, and I finally got it! I was like, “OK God, You win! I am going to make that right turn.” In that moment, Right Turn Ministries was born.
4. What has been the ministry’s biggest challenge so far?
Obviously a need we have is financial. We are proud that 100 percent of all donations go straight to connecting people with Jesus. Our board members cover all ministry administrative fees. I think that is very important for people to know. People need to be assured when they give money, it is going directly to change the life of somebody in Honduras.
Anytime a new ministry is born, Satan doesn't like it, and push back is inevitable. We knew we would face the same issues every ministry faces. But overall, the blessings we have received have far outweighed any challenge we could ever face. To this day, God has held true to His word … He has made a way when at times, there seemed no way -- and we expect He will continue to do so!
5. In God’s will, what has been your greatest success with this ministry?
Our biggest success has to be the lives we see changing every day day for Jesus. In 2017, we Baptized eight people, in July 2018, we will Baptize another 25. Hearts are being won for Christ … not just the people in Honduras, but with the people who have travelled with us on this journey. Ask anybody who has been with us, or has been a part of this amazing journey, and you can see that God not only works in the hearts of those we serve, but in the hearts of those who serve as well.
If you are interested in getting involved with Right Turn Ministries, please contact Cheryl Shoffstall at email@example.com or visit their website at
Right Turn Ministries makes frequent mission trips to San Pedro Sulas, Honduras, to help build better lives and connect people to Jesus Christ. I was blessed to take the trip with the ministry in February; here, I share excerpts from the social media posts I made during my visit.
Day One: Arrived in Honduras after flight delays; armed guards all over the airport. Wonderfully kind Honduran people; participated in a home study, and Bible study participants received prayer shawls made by the ladies of Christ Church.
Day Two: We learned that an orphanage missionary will save all they can to take care of the children, even a few pennies for white paint. We bought colored paint for the girls’ room and that was simply enough to make them smile. Honduras is a beautiful country, the poorest of the poor love deeply and give the most. My teammates did all the painting and organizing. I played soccer and frisbee and bathed poopy bottoms -- and fell in love with the sweetest of God’s babies.
Day Three: I woke up to the church bells ringing this morning. What a beautiful sound! We attended our sister church that we sponsor. A concrete building in the middle of the barrio is host to many people, worshipping and falling in love with Jesus. No frills, no air conditioning. Just gathered for one purpose.
In the Honduran neighborhoods they schedule power outages lasting all day. Today was the day for this little church. Did they complain? No, not even in 85-degree heat. We all just set out to do what we came to do ... worship God. Well, about 10 minutes into the service, the power came on! I can’t explain what some of us felt at that moment! It was electrifying. We wept at the goodness of God in such a gracious act of His plan of changing a “planned” power outage! Amazing!
Day Four: I have struggled with being a first-time mission trip traveler. What would I see? How would I feel? Would I just be another “do-gooder” patting myself on the back because I wanted to feel better about myself? Not today; today I was broken to being speechless. I’m still reeling.
Never have I really felt the pain of such raw humanity as I did today. The squalor, the makeshift shacks with no hope for better. Handing out toys, beans and rice, toothbrushes, clothing; what could possibly improve this? One beautiful soul said “thank you, God bless you,” in Spanish. We hugged and I got a kiss of gratitude from this old woman that may have known no other life. Another lady wanted to know if we were giving away the duffel bags that held our goods. We said no, we had to have something to put things in when we came back next time. She said, “Ok, you remember, you will come back.” She knew the teams had been before. A little hope in her heart. Another lady said “thank you for making us happy - today.”
In the heart of people is the need to be loved. To be remembered. These people and their circumstances may or may not change. I can’t say I understand it. But Jesus reached out to their hearts and said, “I remember you. Today.” My prayer is they will wake up in the morning and the next and they will remember. But for today, He made them happy.
Day Five: We started the day with breakfast, visiting with Mario, a young man that had been living on the wrong side of life, but met Cheryl and her team last year. God has turned his life around! They tell me he is a new person because of love and the gospel.
Next we went to the public school where our sister church’s pastor teaches. The children made us all pictures and welcomed us. We handed out supplies and had a sweet time with the kids. You see, in Honduras, if you can’t purchase a uniform or supplies, you don’t go to school; many children cannot go to school because of this. Thank God we have what we do! Today I pray these children will continue their education because we helped a little bit.
The Faces of Jeremiah 29:11 Mission is a place where two people were called by God to leave what they knew in America and take in “the least of these”. Children whose parents died; who were abused severely in every way; who were homeless, broken, battered. Society’s throw-aways -- but not God’s. They are God’s treasures, the ones His heart breaks for. Children with disabilities, or severe medical and emotional needs; people of humanity who need love. These are the faces of this house; no, wait -- this home, where love abides.
I am in awe of how the ministry leaders, Chuck and Joyce Harper, have hearts so big. I am in awe of how they live day-to-day, seeing God meet their needs for their 40-plus babies, children, and a few women. I’m in awe of a God who says -- even in our pride -- He says He is pleased when we care for the orphans and widows. This has been a continually humbling experience. I won’t be the same. I’m not sure what the changed me will look like, but these children have left an imprint on my heart. What is imprinting your heart today? May it be something that will change your world!
Day Six: Last day in this beautiful country. What a whirlwind adventure! I have felt every emotion this week: pure joy, overwhelming sadness, smatterings of fear, immense gratitude, and a sense of wonder at how a people can live day-to-day, oppressed by their government, some in abject poverty, with unknown futures, and facing so much more. Yet they get up each morning and face the day.
We started and ended our day handing out Bibles. In less than 10 minutes we handed out nine cases (about 220 Bibles), at the park that is always full of people. We are coming home with no Bibles. They are all in the hands of many Hondurans. Thank God.
We then took about 45 children from the Jeremiah 29:11 home, and some of the sponsor children and their families, to the most beautiful beach to just play. And they did! It was amazing to hear their laughter, watch their sweet faces, have splash wars with them, and just rejoice that they could be kids. The ocean is already my happy place, but today it was music I’d never heard; the music of the heart. The heart that longs to be loved and longs to be free. Today those little hearts made beautiful music. Today I’m praying one heart that received a Bible will hear the God of all creation singing over them through His word and they will know True Love. It’s been a good, good trip. Seeds were planted, hearts were touched. Today.
Day Seven: Home and reunited with my family. I love this beautiful country and her beautiful, loving people. God is working in the midst of darkness. He is light and His light outshines the darkness. I am grateful to be used as one of His candles. Honestly, though, I don’t know who brought more light and fortitude to press on in this life: my new Honduran friends or me. I think they taught me. Thank you for all the prayers, and for understanding that Jesus said go! I truly understand what that means now.
Children of Honduras
Lord, we Your forgotten children
Reach out to you
From our birth place of poverty and hunger
In our silent suffering we reach out to You
With empty stomachs and tears that tell our story
From an unheard story we reach out to You
We are small children in a big world
With small voices we reach out to You
From here it is hard for us to dream of tomorrow
With hopeful hearts we are reaching out to You
Lost and lonely we were born and live in this world
With hearts longing for love we reach out to You
Hear our call, Oh Lord, reach out to us
Send us an angel to fill our empty hearts
And answer us, Lord, for we need to know
Is this the world you have created for us?
We have heard your response, Lord
You send us more than an angel
You send us a Savior
Teach us, Lord, how to live in peace and contentment
For surely this is the world You have created for us
As you teach us to live
We will teach others
Lord, we Your beloved children
Reach out to You with hearts filled with hope and praise
We say, “Worthy is the Lord and great is His love for us!”
Mighty is His hand of mercy and many will He save
The work of the cross is for us
And we will share it with a broken world
Pray for the poor children of Honduras
Written by Chuck Harper
Director and Papa of Jeremiah 29:11 Mission and Orphanage (background picture)
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Contact Carrie Gaxiola at CarrieGaxiola@mychristchurch.com
October Average Worship: 2,412
October Average Connection: 640
November Average Worship: 2630
November Average Connection: 354
December Average Worship: 3,149
December Average Connection: 307
January Average Worship: 2,427
January Average Connection: 219
February Average Worship: 2,602
February Average Connection: 476
Kimberly R. Erskine
James K. Rundquist
Mary E. Gehrs
Robert H. Gehrs
Brittany Taylor Green
Craig Eugene Gross
Dinah Johnson Langridge
Craig M. Peterman
David A Roth
Donna Marie Roth
Michael Jay Russell
James R. Wilson
Sara Louise Yankey
Joyce Elaine Blankenship
Lindsey Michele Dunn
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G. William Winter
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Zachary David Davis
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Christopher W. Kirtlink – October 18
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Faith Christine Immken
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Michael James Crowder
Zachary David Davis
Help Mackenzie send babies home from the NICU with what they need "Whatever you've done for the least of these, you've done for Me" - Matthew 25:40
Jordan Rudzinski & Ramona Goff – October 6
God At Work
October 2017 – February 2018
Canned meats, chicken, fish, beans, peanut butter, dry or evaporated milk, infant formula, puddings, jello, canned fruits and vegetables, jellies, soups, sauces, pasta, juices, boxed or packaged noodles, rice, cereals, crackers, flour, helpers, cake or pancake mixes, cooking oils, dressings, syrups, sugar, mayo, mustard, ketchup, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, hand & body soaps, shampoo, laundry & dish soaps, male and female hygiene products.
Christ Church has supported the Fairview Heights Food Pantry since it’s inception in 1987
and has had a member on their board since then.
FOOD DRIVE IN MAY AT CHRIST CHURCH
If you have any questions about monetary or food donations,
or would like to help with this effort please contact:
Let’s Fill the Fairview Heights Food Bank!
Please bring your non-perishable food items, canned or bottled goods, and basic supplies to all services or to the FH Campus during office hours.