:: 10/20/2014 - 8:56am ::

Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God shares true stories from people all over the world who obeyed God despite insane consequences.

Perhaps it will surprise you—as it did me—to see God working in unexpected ways in ordinary people’s lives. Why does it surprise us to see the “upside-down logic”—the kingdom advancing as the persecution increases?

I loved Dmitri’s story.

Because the closest church was a 3-day walk, he began a weekly time of reading and teaching the Bible to his wife and 2 sons. As neighbors took note, they asked to join in. When the group grew to 25, local party officials paid a visit and accused Dmitri of beginning an illegal church. They warned that continuing would bring bad things.

As the group grew to 50, 75, and eventually 150, so did the consequences for Dmitri and his family. His wife lost her teaching job, his boys were expelled from school, and he was physically beaten. Eventually he was imprisoned for 17 years—all for the insanity of reading and teaching God’s Word.

Obedience to God brought economic, physical, and emotional consequences for not only Dmitri but also his family.

Are you and I willing to suffer to advance the kingdom? Are we courageous enough to ask for an insane assignment? Let’s ask God to surprise us and show us!

Laura Macfarlan speaks, writes, and teaches from northwest Arkansas, where she directs Heart Life women’s ministry at First Baptist Church, Siloam Springs. Connect with her at CrossMyHeartMinistry.com.

:: 10/15/2014 - 10:50am ::

The children hid from her every Wednesday night. Miss Thelma’s life revolved around missions, and she believed every child needed to be in a mission group. The children would gang up in the church hall, and she would usher them into classes.

Even though my brother-in-law and his family went to Malaysia as missionaries, I never thought about being involved with missions myself. That is not until we moved to Texas and I met Miss Thelma.

The day we joined our church, she recruited me to lead GA®. I had never done anything like that before. Then she encouraged me to attend a WMU leadership conference at Baylor University in Waco. Later on, instead of teaching about missions, I began to do missions. I became a prison ministry volunteer.

When we moved back to Alabama, I started writing about missions, encouraging others to learn, grow, and go. Miss Thelma would have been so proud. Every church needs a Miss Thelma to encourage missions. Does your church have one? Maybe it’s you.          

Sandra Knox Miller appreciates the impact Miss Thelma had on her life and family.

:: 10/13/2014 - 7:27am ::

The Insanity of God, by Nik Ripken, has been an encouraging, eye-opening, and prayer-prompting read. This book has challenged me to consider where God is calling me to follow in obedience—especially when obedience comes at a great cost. As I move into the “middle” stage of life, I know that I truly know God and I want my faith to be proven by my actions.

Ripken traveled around the world and listened. He heard stories from more than 600 believers across more than 60 countries. His book chronicles many of those stories. They are testimonies of real people who have endured great suffering—a concept difficult for our Western culture to completely understand.

Perhaps because the Cold War straddled my growing-up years, the stories from Communist Russia resonate in a special way.

There’s the deacon who was awakened in the middle of the night to take food to a starving mother and children. They were sent to Siberia when the father, a pastor, was sent to prison. The deacon protested:

  • “But, Lord, I can’t do that! It’s below zero outside. My horse might freeze and I might freeze!”
  • “Lord, you’ve got to know that there are wolves everywhere. They could eat my horse and if they do, they’ll then eat me! I’ll never make it back.”

The Holy Spirit’s response: “You don’t have to come back. You just have to go.”

It was an insane assignment.

Bottom-line lesson for this girl: Serving God on earth doesn’t always come with a happily-ever-after-in-this-world ending. But obedience to Him brings eternal blessings that trump earthly safety and security.

Let’s ask God for an insane assignment.

Laura Macfarlan speaks, writes, and teaches from northwest Arkansas, where she directs Heart Life women’s ministry at First Baptist Church, Siloam Springs. Connect with her at CrossMyHeartMinistry.com.

:: 10/08/2014 - 7:23am ::

A robot helped me fix my Internet. Well, maybe, she wasn’t a robot—exactly, but I did feel silly talking to a recording when my service went down. “There’s definitely a problem with your signal,” she said. “Let’s reset your modem. Just unplug it. When you’ve done that, say, ‘Continue.’”

Sometimes we get bogged down trying to keep our ministry going. That happened to our Women on Mission® group for a while. Searching for a new director, falling attendance, cancelled meetings—yes, it was challenging. But God was at work.

After being unplugged for a few months, we recently held our first meeting. Our new director has a passion for missions and brings a fresh vision to our group. She encouraged us to pray daily for missionaries. She wants to make our church more aware of missionaries’ needs. And she’s searching for ways to reach out and minister to people in our community.

When we bog down, sometimes we just need to unplug and reset our goals. But don’t forget that after you unplug and reset, it’s time to “go.”

Sandra Knox Miller is excited to be part of Women on Mission at Russell Chapel Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Alabama. 

:: 10/06/2014 - 7:59am ::

Dictionary.com’s definition of hunger shames me: “the painful sensation or state of weakness caused by the need of food.”

Have I ever been truly hungry? If dinner is an hour late, we often moan, “I’m STARVING!” The reality of hunger is more than 1 missed meal.

Southern Baptists recognize that reality and emphasize giving to fight hunger around the world on World Hunger Sunday, which falls on October 12 this year. Find ideas, downloads, and more information at GlobalHungerRelief.com.

As Christ followers, we are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission. But if the growling of the stomach drowns out the message, then the gospel is not heard. So as we feed the hungry, we also share the good news.

Join me in asking God to open our eyes to see the hungry and give us an active faith to help meet the need.

Laura Macfarlan speaks, writes, and teaches from northwest Arkansas, where she directs Heart Life women’s ministry at First Baptist Church, Siloam Springs. Connect with her at CrossMyHeartMinistry.com.

:: 09/24/2014 - 7:23am ::

I have always loved reading missionary biographies, even as a child and youth in GAs and Acteens®, so I am glad to recommend this short book of 5 missionary stories to you: Five Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Akin recounted the stories of 5 heroes of the faith and pioneers of modern missions: William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Lottie Moon, Bill Wallace, and Jim Elliot. He tied each life story to a Scripture passage that exemplifies the leading characteristics of each missionary’s calling.

At only 100 pages long, this little book could be used for personal devotion and encouragement to a greater passion for the nations or in a book club, Bible study, or missions group.

Remembering those who have gone before us is an important way we spur ourselves and others on in service to the Lord, and this book is a good way to begin knowing more about these missionary pioneers.

Beth Holmes is a stay-at-home mom, blogger, gardener, and community ministry advocate who lives in Owensboro, Kentucky. Read more of her adventures at BethHolmes.wordpress.com.

:: 09/22/2014 - 10:27am ::

“That’s not my thing. I don’t have time. You can’t make me!”

OK. Maybe the latter is really only true when attempting to involve others in mission projects. But these may be typical responses when the call goes out for the next planned event. However, do not become discouraged when involvement declines.

Support those slow to commit with doable solutions. In reality, most are not making excuses. They don’t feel qualified, are already stretched to the max, or may be drawn to the proposed project but don’t know how to help.

A recent pillowcase dressmaking marathon involved working women, homebound women, busy teens, and nonchurch members—ranging from ages 10–93. Several strategies helped make it successful:

  • Schedule—2:00–7:00 p.m. drew a good-sized crowd for all ages. Snacks and soup were provided.
  • Accommodate—some truly could not attend; they contributed fabric and ribbon. One homebound woman earnestly desired to help and was delivered dresses to hem. A Sunday School class purchased materials, and one member did the sewing.
  • Invite—everyone was included! Preteens learned sewing skills. The inexperienced, but eager, ironed and cut patterns. The relative of a church member contributed amazing talents.

Not everyone will participate. But offer creative opportunities and flexibility. All will benefit.

Cynthia Price is privileged to be part of a group who sews and sends hundreds of dresses.

:: 09/17/2014 - 7:31am ::

As a verb, surrender means to give up control. It is not a popular idea in our culture. We live in a “me first” world—my rights, my ideas, my beliefs, my life. Rarely do we see someone who is willing to fully surrender control of his or her life to anyone else, even the God of the universe. We just don’t like the idea of not being in control.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

A surrendered life is what God calls all believers to live—a life that denies self and embraces Christ. What does surrender look like for a Christian who is on mission?

  • Putting the needs of others first
  • Stepping out in obedience, even when it is hard or unpopular
  • Seeking God’s direction
  • Finding an area of service and working hard
  • Being in touch with the work of the Holy Spirit—moving when He moves

Take a few minutes to evaluate your life. Can you honestly say you are surrendered to God in every way? What is 1 area you need to surrender to Him today?

Beth Holmes is a stay-at-home mom, blogger, gardener, and community ministry advocate who lives in Owensboro, Kentucky. Read more of her adventures at BethHolmes.wordpress.com.

:: 09/15/2014 - 9:35am ::

“I spent $2,500 to go on a mission trip to Africa last year. But in my own town, I hadn’t shared the gospel.” Such were the honest words of 17-year-old Abi after participating in outreach activities in her city during summer vacation.

The 25/40 Mission Project, based on Matthew 25:40, teaches ministering to “the least of these.” This past summer, youth from churches in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas partnered to fulfill this principle. Games, crafts, and Bible studies for children produced many smiling faces and receptive hearts. A free car wash was held. The crisis pregnancy center was the beneficiary of extra cleaning services. Bingo and conversation brought delight to nursing home residents. A block party with more than 100 children and parents in attendance capped off the week.

Youth Director Doug told his teens, “Missions changes your life—not just the people you minister to.” That statement held true as reports of the week were heard: 

“Go to a nursing home? Why? But I learned it is never too late to share.”

“I thought everyone knew Who Jesus was. They don’t.”           

“We are all the same race: the human race.”

Going away or staying home—sharing the gospel is not optional.

Cynthia Price witnessed firsthand the results of this citywide “mission trip”!

:: 09/10/2014 - 7:41am ::

Sometimes God calls us to unexpected places. Maybe He’ll move us to a different city or country. But sometimes He’s calling us to step out of our church buildings and into our communities.

Two years ago, God opened our eyes to the reality that our beautiful church building, with our polished programs and activities, is sitting in the middle of one of the poorest areas in our county. He allowed us to see what is happening around us: children raising themselves, parents addicted to meth, poverty beyond our imagination, hunger, and deep need.

And then He began to give us opportunities to step out of our comfort zones, to sit and talk with people who live different lifestyles, who know deep heartache and pain. We fed them, played with their little children, and tutored their older children.

And we gained so much more than we gave.

God wants all Christians to be on mission with Him. He has a place of service designed especially for your gifts and abilities. Whatever you feel you lack, He provides. Will you answer in obedience to Him today?

Beth Holmes is a stay-at-home mom, blogger, gardener, and community ministry advocate who lives in Owensboro, Kentucky. Read more of her adventures at BethHolmes.wordpress.com.

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