Monday, September 28, 2015

Interrupted Plans

Fall brings change and reminds us that God is at work in this world and He creates beauty during that change.

For many of us, fall is a time that can be stressfully busy.  Many programs are launched for the year, school is back in session, and we have last minute projects that need to be done before the weather turns.  We find ourselves with deadlines, pressure, and check lists.  We make a plan, we get ourselves focused and we prepare to stay on task.

Yet God is in the habit of interrupting our plans.  He does so in the form of a person crossing our path when we are in the middle of a task, or plans get cancelled, or doors won’t open.  We may feel we are on a mission from God gaining great momentum when we are stopped in our tracks. 

Someone with a need or a concern seeks our attention in the middle of a busy day.  How do we respond at that moment?  Do we get frustrated and impatient?  Do we try to brush them aside to keep going on our way?  Or do we practice humility and open ourselves up to this new opportunity God designed for us for that moment?

 We need to ready ourselves to allow God to disrupt our day.  Otherwise, we may overlook the real reason for that moment in time when He placed someone or something directly in our path. 

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

God prepare my heart each day for the schedule You have planned out before me.  May I move forward on my life’s journey, ready to be interrupted by You.  Help me to respond in a way that glorifies you, and allows me to practice humility as I remember You are the Creator of all moments and seasons, and the Designer of my path.  Thank you for planning my life and my steps out for me in such a unique and beautiful way that only You can imagine.

~Sue Parrott

Monday, September 21, 2015


A friend of mine, who is currently doing mission service in Romania, posed these questions in his last update:  Would you give your entire 401k if you knew it would ensure one person’s salvation?  Most of us, I’m fairly certain, think we would say yes.  But consider this:  Would you give your entire retirement savings if there were only a SLIM chance of ensuring another’s salvation?

I’ve never been a big fan of these “hypothetical ultimatums,” since they’re generally absurd and have little practical application, but this one really got me thinking.  I guess because, well, I don’t know if I would. 
All of my retirement money?
My security?
My life-savings?
And it doesn’t even guarantee their salvation?  Sounds like a risky bet to me. 

What does this reveal about what I view as important?  I know that salvation in Jesus is the absolute utmost priority, but now I wonder…….would I be willing to give it all up for only “the possibility” of someone’s salvation?

Jesus says this to a man who desires to have eternal life:  If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven.  Then, come follow me (Matt 19:21).  But the man was unable to do it. He went away grieving because he had great wealth. I can just picture him hanging his head, walking away from Jesus thinking, I have not murdered, I have not stolen, I haven’t committed adultery, I have honored my parents, my testimonies have been true.  But my land and my money?  Anything but that, please God, not that. 

Similar to how the hypothetic statement above exposed something about how importantly I view another’s salvation, this command Jesus gave the rich man exposed where he put his security.  Jesus knew this man was willing, but he saw that there was something blocking his full commitment, and in typical Jesus fashion, He exposed it.  He shows us that it can only take one thing to block a full relationship with God. 

I don’t believe that Jesus is asking us to think of hypothetical scenarios where we can surely answer every one “yes, absolutely, no question.”  That would be silly, and more importantly, it puts the focus on the wrong thing.  The question isn’t, what are we willing to give up?  The question is, how fully are we willing to trust God? 

Please join me in praying:

Dear God, is there something in my life that is blocking me from having complete freedom in Christ Jesus?  Please, expose an area of my life to me where I have not fully invited you in and help me to trust in you completely.

~ Kristin VanZanten

Monday, September 14, 2015


Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22

I find myself awake again.
It’s the third night in a row of sleep suddenly tossed off like a blanket when too warm. I lift my head to see the clock. It stares back at me in slow motion. The minutes lolligag, taking their time as if they hadn’t a care in the world.

There is a silence in the house and it shook me awake.

Oh, there is the familiar sound of the air conditioner, the friendly creak of the house. Yes, I mustn't forget the hum of the new overhead fan, whose breeze came at a great cost to my handyman pride earlier in the week when I almost installed it correctly.

There is a silence in the house and it’s loud.

Ruby and I knew this would happen. We knew the day we brought him home from the hospital. We knew the day we dedicated him to the Lord. We knew the days when we grounded him, when we had the “come to Jesus” talk, the day when we saw a heart overwhelmed by compassion. We knew that this day would come as we corrected, instructed, coached, affirmed, encouraged and enjoyed our son. We knew someday that he would be gone from his room, this house. He is not here, he is asleep (hopefully by this hour) in another room, away at college.

I am awake and I am afraid. My mind races (unlike the clock), what have we missed, is he ok? Will he remember what we taught him, will he follow Christ, will he be wise…will he study?

In the deafening silence of the house I am reminded:

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

Do not worry about your life, says Jesus, who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Luke 12:22-29

There is a silence in the house and I am quiet.

These scriptures collectively speak of the Lord, “I am good and you can trust me no matter what”. I whisper back, “I believe you and I will trust you.”

There is a silence in the house and all is well for sleep has returned til the morning.

May you be encouraged this week if you find yourself awake in the silence.

~ Brian Vander Ark

Monday, September 7, 2015

Real Conversation

 It amazes me how formulaic praying can be. If you ask anyone when you should pray, you get answers like "before you eat," "before you go to bed," or "when something important is going to happen or has happened." Christians have formulated praying to a response to something that has happened or is about to happen, but what if there is something more than just responding? What if we looked at praying as a conversation and not a response? 

See, a few years ago while working at a church, life seemed to be going well until a tragic event happened that radically changed my life. As the events began to unfold, I prayed that this tragedy would not play out the way it did. I pleaded to God, cried out to him to save us all from this horrible, life-changing event. But the answer I wanted did not come and neither did resolution. Days after this tragedy, I stopped praying.

At this point, prayer was still formulaic to me where we thanked God for what he did or does for us, or we ask Him for what we are hoping for. Since I did not want to thank God for the tremendous bomb he dropped in my life and my family's life, I just stopped praying. I didn't have anything to hope for anymore. The formula for praying just did not add up. But something else started to happen. I started talking to God.

Weeks, even months, following this life-changing event I did not pray, but I did talk to God. I found myself starting conversations with God. Not the “Dear Father, thank you for…or Bless this food," but real conversations where I asked Him, why or what’s next for me. I would even tell Him how I felt about my life, about what He had done, and if everything would be okay. My “prayer” was more of a real conversation with a real God that I had a real relationship with. It was not a chore, it was not formulaic, and it was not childish. 

It was a real man having a real conversation with God, and it happened at anytime of the day at any moment. I Thessalonians 5:17 says to pray continually, and that’s exactly what I did. We would talk during work, on the drive home, while at a coffee shop, or even before I got out of bed. And I soon realized that when we stop making prayer formulaic, or something half-hearted, and allow it to be a real conversation, we truly open ourselves up to God and it is helpful, therapeutic, and beneficial. 

Formulaic prayer may have its place, but what if we all had real conversations with God? What if we went to Him and talked to him as our counselor, father figure, or mentor?

~ Don Ball