:: 10/29/2014 - 7:45am ::

Have you ever taken a spiritual survey of your city? I’m not talking about going door to door with a pencil and paper to count how many Christians live in your area. Just drive around and look to see what’s there.

That sounds ridiculous, I know. But as the prayer ministry coordinator for my church, I looked around and discovered a mission field in my backyard. Five prisons sat on the north side of our town.

I had joined a small group of women praying over our city. We drove to those prisons every week, sat in the parking lot, and prayed for God’s Word to permeate those buildings and grounds.

Surprise! Surprise! I received an invitation to teach Bible studies in those prisons. Be ready. When we pray, God opens doors. If we’re willing to go, then we just might find our greatest joy in serving others.

Sandra Knox Miller now lives in Sylacauga, Alabama, and continues to pray for open doors.

:: 10/27/2014 - 8:32am ::

Nik Ripken’s The Insanity of God has this subtitle: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. The book is both historical and prophetic—it shares true stories from people all over the world but also leaves the reader both propelled and compelled to step out in insane obedience to follow Christ.

Each story testifies to the truth that Christianity flourishes under persecution. As believers walk in insane obedience, God releases and pours out blessing. Because these persecuted believers did not fear death, they were free to really live. Why does this surprise me? I know God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8–9)! Each story enabled me to learn a little more about God—to consider that He often works in unexpected ways in our world.

My heart was pricked by the powerful words issued to Ripken by an Eastern European believer named Stoyan: “Don’t ever give up in freedom what we would never have given up in persecution! This is our witness to the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!”

Lord, would I be more committed to sharing my faith if my government made it illegal to do so? If the Bible were deemed contraband, would I be more determined to know and share its truth? Forgive me, God! Resurrect my faith—fill me with an insane urgency to know You and make You known!

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.

:: 10/22/2014 - 7:47am ::

Many men and women throughout history have left a legacy of faith as a model for us. I love to read their stories. A few years ago, I bought a book about George Müller, a 19th-century evangelist, at a writer’s conference.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the July 2014 Missions Mosaic magazine and discovered Virginia Kreimeyer’s article about Müller’s prayer life. Her article encouraged me to drag my book off the shelf and read it again.

Müller’s life amazes me. He gave up his salary and vowed to live on God’s provision alone. Wow! Do we have that kind of faith? It seems impossible in today’s culture. How would we feed our families? How would we get around? After all, the price of gasoline is outrageous.

Müller prayed over every need. And God provided, not only for his family but also for 5 orphanages filled with children. Do we trust that if God opens a door for ministry, He will meet our needs?

We have “a great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us (Heb. 12:1). Let’s read their stories and learn how to build our lives on prayer and faith.

Sandra Knox Miller lives in Sylacauga, Alabama, and prays for open doors.

:: 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.

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