Choose Life

Time and the television have moved on from the tragedy that happened a week and a half ago. Taking place during Hanukah and very close to the Christmas season, some have welcomed the relief of the holidays to move their focus away from something so painful by concentrating on the season known for peace and joy. But, there are many who cannot leave the sadness and heartbreaking images behind. Those who are directly affected by this senseless carnage will always carry scars that this societal wound has inflicted upon them.
I was riveted to the TV, watching the developing story on a national news network. When it first broke, the reports changed often, and the full toll of this act of violence was unknown. But as the day wore on, the tragedy’s full impact was unbelievably distressing: 26 lives gone, 20 of them children. The perpetrator added the life of his mother and his own life to the total. As evidenced in the myriad number of interviews and accounts in the media, we, as a nation, were stunned once again; this was the worst elementary school shooting in the United States, and the second worst school shooting ever, topped only by the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Amidst thoughts and prayers for the families and the hurting community are these contemplations: “What changes need to take place in relation to gun control?” “Do armed guards and airport-quality detectors need to be a part of every school?” “What role do sadistic video games play in the lives of those who perpetrate such crimes?” “Where was God on December 14th in Newtown, CT?” “Is there even a God, and does He care?” “How in the world did this happen again in America?” These will be normal ponderings in the wake of such an event. It is at the core of every caring heart to get to the bottom of this matter of random and pointless violence. However, do these questions address the underlying problem in America and the world today?
As did many pastors on the Sunday following the incident, our pastor addressed the issue. He talked about our society as being immersed in a culture of death. One does not have to look much beyond his backyard to understand the claim. Oh yes, there are still good things happening around us, but too often they are marred and upstaged by road rage and robberies and street gang violence and shootings, and the list goes on and on. Life is no longer precious. Counter to God’s admonition to “choose life,” as a culture we choose death through the things we allow to entertain us, in some of the choices of convenience we make, and even in a few of the laws that have come into being to rule our land. It is through these choices that evil can and will get its foothold. Interestingly, this culture of death is as old as the fall of man, but it seems to be spiraling out of control and is coming ever closer to what one might imagine the setting will be when God says enough and closes out the era of earth and heaven as it presently exists.
So, what is the answer to this dilemma? How best can we choose life, and how do we allow it to guide and direct our steps in and through our walk in this world? As with all things with which we deal in life, the answer is found in the Word of God, and in this case, the Word itself is the answer. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 14 NIV.
As we allow the Word of God to truly become a part of us, the Lord’s light and life can penetrate our inner thoughts and guide our actions. We can make choices that reflect our close relationship with Him. His Word that is, “sharper than any double-edged sword, [that] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, [will judge] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NIV. Even if years pass, the Holy Spirit can bring to mind a verse or passage from Scripture that will lead us to make a valiant move, or deter us from making a foolish or costly one. The Word, Jesus, will not just dwell among us, but fully in us and make a significant impact on the darkness that is all around us. If only that young man had the Word of God saturating His inner being, would we be living in the shadow of so dark a tragedy as we are today?
Throughout this holiday known as the season of light, “Let Christ’s Word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about God’s kindness. Sing to God in your hearts. Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Col 3:16-17, GWT. May this serve to provide to you and those around you a light-filled, joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
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Practicing God’s Presence

As a youngster, I had a friend who stuck closer than a brother. His name was Teddy, and lest you think that I met a Theodore at school, church or in the neighborhood, and he became my bosom buddy, Teddy was my stuffed bear. (Incredibly creative name, don’t you think?) No one but me could understand the attraction; he was an ordinary bear to the unperceptive eye. My mom rescued him from the attic of our first home, which had also been her childhood home. A little washing, a little fluffing, and I was in love! No other stuffed character ever matched Teddy’s appeal. Teddy was my constant nighttime companion and was a big part of my daytime play as well. I talked his ear off (almost literally), and the testament to Teddy’s friendship and faithfulness in my life is his presence in a plastic bag on my closet shelf. Despite his ragged and haggard appearance, I just couldn’t bear to get rid of him.
Twice this week in my devotional time, I’ve come across the phrase, “practice the presence of Christ.” As believers, we can always count on God to be with us, but how does one keep himself fully aware of His constant companionship? There are two exercises that instantly come to mind: prayer, along with reading, understanding and memorizing God’s Word.
Unlike Teddy, one cannot see God nor physically touch His being, but He is always there. He does not listen to us with stuffed ears that perceive nothing, but with a compassionate ear and a heart that hears prayers, cares about our needs and “works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28. He is so attuned to our person and our needs that He even knows those needs before we verbalize them. To speak to Him in prayer confirms and nurtures one’s relationship with Him and allows Him the place to speak back to us in various ways.
While Teddy never entered into the long talks that I initiated, God does! Some will hear the “still small voice” that God can use to speak to the hearts of those who have a relationship with Him. Sometimes God will use circumstances to speak volumes to His children, or He will use the words of others to make an impact on people’s lives. Certainly, God uses His own Word, His letter to humanity, to express His desires, commands, love and grace that He holds for those who follow Him, and to call to those who do not yet know Him in a personal way. When one reads the Bible and makes the literal words and the concepts a part of his being, God can bring those verses and passages to his mind and heart when guidance, comfort or even correction is needed. Taking time to read the Bible and memorize its precious promises, timely advice, and apt cautions will open a direct line of communication to the heart of God. This discipline, combined with prayer, will help one to recognize and acknowledge God’s presence every day.
Goodbye, Teddy. Hello, most gracious, loving Lord! Your presence is my heart’s desire, both now and in eternity. Thank you for the ways that You make yourself known and that I can daily experience Your love and care in my life. Amen!
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Inner Beauty

We found ourselves in a large exhibit building on a county fairground in a small town. The floors were cement and the walls cinderblock with garage doors set in one end to allow vehicles to enter. This was early Friday evening, and we were among a handful of people setting up booths for the following day’s event. There was very little indication as to the type of exhibits, décor or atmosphere that would occupy the space on Saturday. We set up our section in about two hours and went home.
Fast forward thirteen hours: Lights, colorful tinsel curtains, a runway carpet, a room full of vendors selling fancy, frilly items, and children, mostly girls, of all ages with curls, up-dos, manicured nails and the latest tot chic left no doubt as to the purpose of the day. We were at a fashion show and pageant for youngsters and teens. We came to share the love of Jesus using our CD and presenting puppet shows for the participants and their supporters. The mood was party-like with lots of energy accompanied by giggling, running and dancing. As we would begin a skit or start the music, children would immediately gather in front of the puppet stage to watch. Such sweet faces; lives full of hope and promise. Many were there for the fun of participating in such an event; they walked the runway, they sang and they danced. Some were there to progress through the pageant ranks to go on to a Miss County, Miss State, Miss America or Miss USA title someday. It was apparent that poise, appearance and performance were important to all those involved.
So, why were we there? Yes, we wanted to share the Word of God and the love of Jesus through music in a fun, entertaining way. On the surface we might seem to be an unlikely match for such an event. But, if one is determined to capture real beauty, where is it found? Amongst the pretty bows, fashionable clothes and make-up tables, we were there to promote inner beauty for the mind and heart. The Bible would call our presence there beautiful! (“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” Isaiah 52:7.) Our intention was to plant seeds in minds and hearts, both young and old, which could lead to the growth of beauty within.
As a family, we never tried the pageant scene, though at times one child or another was invited to do so. But, I am so blessed to be able to say that my children are beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. The amazing Word of God is the perfect beauty treatment for within. It continues to lead my adult children to love and serve God and humanity. What could be more beautiful than that?
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Know Him Through His Word

If you’re like me, listening to a scholarly individual preach/teach from the Word of God leaves me a bit awestruck over the intellectual’s ability. Not only is it obvious that he is well read and well prepared, but the words just seem to flow continuously, publicizing an enormous vocabulary, and the mastery of the subject is without question. When I look at the verses that are being shared, I wonder if I’m reading from the same passage, let alone the same translation. The interpretation is profound, and listeners can come away feeling as if they’ve just truly learned something valuable, or one can scratch his/her head and come away wondering, “What in the world was that all about?” In truth, if this person has a relationship with the Lord, he would tell you that he too is learning and that there are many things that will be left unanswered until he is face to face with Jesus.
By contrast, one might assume that a very young child does not have the capacity to understand the Gospel to be able to receive the gracious gift of salvation. I was faced with this dilemma when at four years old my very precocious daughter began not just talking about how Jesus loved her and she loved Jesus, but she repeatedly kept saying that she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart. Now, I was thinking about how much Kelley was hearing that phrase in our home and at church, and I was highly skeptical that she could understand salvation and forgiveness enough to actually begin a true relationship with the Lord. I was aware that in three out of the four Gospels, Jesus called on a little child to stand amongst his disciples as an example of the innocence and humility that God desires in those who come to Him. But, surely this was an illustration of the type of posture any person that was mature enough should take when coming to the Lord. “Little child,” the words used in the account recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, surely did not mean a preschooler.
I continued to think about Kelley’s express desire to receive the Lord into her life. I kept telling her how nice it was that she loved Jesus, and I prayed for wisdom to know how to respond to my insistent little girl. It was in one of my prayer and pondering times that I heard the Lord’s still, small voice speak loudly and clearly, “Who are you to decide what Kelley can or cannot understand? Lead her to me!” Later that day with her brother and me by her side, Kelley prayed to receive God’s precious gift of salvation, and she is still boldly serving Him today.
“The Word of the Lord is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (emphasis added). It is appropriate for people of any status or category. To the learned it offers a wealth of knowledge to explore and devour; to those who are just learning, it offers a simple, straightforward message that can be easily grasped and appreciated as truth. That is why we do what we do – Godstruck Ministries 4 Kids exists to help children hide the Word of God in their hearts through His wonderful gift of music. God wants all people, educated or unschooled, rich or poor, child or adult to know Him through His Word. He is ready to meet each one there in a way that is personal and appropriate, from the oldest scholar to the youngest child. Praise the Lord!
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The One Who is the Rock

God never wastes a moment. He always allows circumstances in our lives that have purpose and value. Even those challenges we face, maybe most especially those challenges we face, are working to improve our character, our faith or our life’s perspective. Sometimes, as in the case of the man who was born blind (John 9), God’s purpose is to display His glory in the situation. At other times, just like a loving parent who desires to bless a child, God is seeking to bless us because of the love and care He has for us as His children. In conveying the following personal experience, I see a combination of all of what’s best about God’s hand in our everyday lives.
Our executive pastor taught from the Word this past weekend on the subject of God as our refuge in difficult times, which he entitled, “Refuge: Between The Rock and A Hard Place.” I thought it was very insightful and compelling, and I went home prepared to make sure that in my devotional time I would go over the notes and glean further from what God’s Word has to say about God as our refuge.
The next evening I was thinking about where Godstruck is as a ministry and questioning how we might go forward. We had made no sales of our CD, Sing God’s Word – Psalms in Tune in over a month, and it brought on a rather dejected mood. I mulled over everything again the next morning before I began to pray. In considering the circumstances, it caused the phrase, “I feel as if I were between a rock and a hard place,” to pop into my mind. I immediately remembered the sermon and just began praying to God my refuge, the One who is The Rock. As I shared things with my daughter via Skype that afternoon (she’s our marketing director), she just started typing letters to some of the staff involved in children’s ministry at her church regarding the possibility of reaching the kids and families with news of the CD. Within a very short time, she received a response from one of the pastors approving the presence of a Godstruck Ministries table at their Fall Festival. What an incredible demonstration of His power and the answers that are found when taking refuge in “The Rock that is higher than I!” We are moving forward with a resurgence of purpose and a trust that no matter what things look like or how they feel, God is in control. He will work all things together for good because we do love Him and we have been called to do His work. Being between The Rock and a hard place is not a crushing experience; it is a place where one finds a strong, yet tender embrace that will never let go. It does not immobilize, but moves one forward to a greater depth of character and a launch into better works for the glory of God and the good of His Kingdom.
Moment noted: All glory, praise and thanks to God for allowing us to live through this circumstance!
A grateful witness to His many blessings,
Godstruck Ministries 4 Kids
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