By Nancy Strackany

 

 

While watching the Sunday service online, I opened the end of the gospel of Luke covering the last 24 hours in the life of Jesus. Luke 22:60-61, reads, ‘But Peter said, “Man I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he hadtold him, “Before a cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”’

 

As I put myself in the place of Peter, just realizing that he had denied Jesus, his friend, brother, teacher, it made me cry. It was all the more upsetting because Jesus wasn’t condemning Peter, He was reminding him of Who He was.

 

 

That morning, I decided to stay home from church and watch GFC online because it’s the only time my husband gets any church. I’ve learned certain things to do that make it a better experience, like make sure I serve breakfast before the service, don’t decide to get involved in a project before and never get into a controversy after the service. And most important, pray.

 

But today I forgot all of those things. Today we did a little work outside before-hand and I felt rushed and annoyed that my husband decided the early service was ready to go so why wait until 11:30. We hadn’t eaten breakfast and we quickly sat down to watch. The message was impactful and I could see that my husband was feeling upset. So, when I pressed him about his thoughts, he began to share his doubts.

 

Without listening long, I told him my reasons why he shouldn’t have any. Needless to say, it got a little ugly then and I ended up going back outside, my place of refuge. I cried and I asked God, “Why did I mess up again?” Then I remembered Peter. A day before his famous rooster event, Jesus also told Peter he would be praying for his faith not to fail. Later Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, warned his disciples, “pray that you will not give in to temptation,” and repeated the same when He found them all sleeping. Peter obviously did not heed these warnings. I felt a lot like him just then, a failure.

 

But what I know, that Peter did not, and as pastor Matt reminded us, is that the story has a good ending. That ending reveals that Jesus paid the price for Peters failure, and for mine. Jesus later made sure Peter knew how much He loved him, and He gave Peter and all of us His Holy Spirit to continue to help and encourage, us and pray for us when we need it most.

 

Jesus was telling me, “Look, you’re going to make mistakes, but don’t worry, I know the future, I am bigger than your mistakes, and this story has a happy ending. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Just turn around and encourage your husband, because tomorrow’s a new day.” I’m so thankful that when I cry out to God, he is faithful to answer me!

 

How have you heard God’s answer when you call to him?

By Kristin Bonham

 

 

Last June I was able to spend a day on the beach with a friend from High School. Tami and I have stayed connected and shared many celebrations and sorrows over our 35-year friendship so whenever I get to see her it it’s like we’ve never been apart. About a week later, she emailed me with an invitation to join her on a trip to Israel for our 50th birthdays leaving on my actual birthday 3 weeks ago.

 

 

I didn’t really have a strong desire to visit Israel… I wanted to see all the places I’ve read about nearly my whole life, but I had no idea that the type of trip I ended up taking existed. It was so much more than a tour. It was full of historical & cultural context, physically challenging, it was immersion in the Living Word!

 

 

Many people have asked me, “what was my biggest nugget from the trip?” It was like going to Bible School in the Land where it all took place and reading the Word in 4D!  I’m still processing all that God spoke to me in Israel and will for a long time. It’s hard to pick from all our travels so here are the ones I’m pondering today…

 

                                        

 

Sitting in a sheepfold reading of the Good Shepherd who is the Gate… When we are lost, he hears us, finds us and brings us back to him… protecting us at night so we can rest without fear.

 

            

 

Breakfast on the beach in Galilee after reading the account of Jesus meeting the disciples there. Jesus does all the work in repentance… he set the table of fellowship, found Peter and led him to repentance by asking him, “Do you love me?” The forgiver seeks us out and brings us back to him if we’re willing to be found.

 

  

 

 

Climbing down into a 3000 year-old Cistern to sing the Doxology after reading from Jeremiah 2:13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”  

 

 

Hiking the Wilderness of Zin where God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and said “Will you marry me?” Will you choose me over everything in your lives? Will you put me first, will you come out of slavery into freedom? I thought about the Wilderness times in my life and I see now that God is asking me the same thing.

 

 

 

Exploring Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul and prayed, “Give me the feet for the path you’ve put before me.” God, let this be my prayer!

 

 

I’m overwhelmed by God’s great love for us. That he would come to earth as a human being and lead us back to himself. That he does all the work. Like the running father to the prodigal, mercy runs faster than judgment. That he busts down fences, opens doors and restores when we can’t see our way. God is not random, His Word is not random. The Old and the New are linked together so beautifully and I’m thankful He’s given me a new lens to see it!

 

 

 

 

By Kari Dickerson

 

It was a brisk November day in Minnesota and I had just arrived to attend my dear Aunt Bev’s 90th birthday celebration, and I was so excited to visit with extended family that I rarely get to see. Not many live to see this big birthday! What a momentum occasion!

 

I hadn’t been at the party for even 20 minutes, when I received a call from my father who lives close-by. He was supposed to be arriving soon with my mother, but he informed me that they wouldn’t make it. He didn’t know what to do. Dad said, “I need to get her to the emergency room, but she refuses to go.” I said, “I will be right there, Dad.”

 

I raced to the home I grew up in, and was immediately so saddened by the sight. Yes, Mom’s been sick for a long while, but it’s still hard to see your loved one in such a state. She was so pale and weak, yet stubborn and unrelenting. She was dazed and confused, yet so sure of her resolve. Her clothes were a mishmash of items that should never, ever be put together; yet my love, adoration and desire to protect her could not have been greater.

 

Dad and I finally coaxed her into the car and drove the 40 minutes to the hospital emergency room where they knew her so well. We knew the drill…lab work, neuro assessment, the very difficult IV stick, and the familiar questions. We also knew she was severely anemic again from all of the blood loss. She just kept looking at us both in disgust. It was so hard to bear. “Why? Why did you bring me here again? Don’t make me do this,” she kept repeating. The glaring looks continued as Dad and I tell the doctor the truth about what’s going on.

 

It didn’t take long for the labs to come back and the units of blood to be hung up and begin infusing. Shortly thereafter, we see color coming back into my sweet mom’s cheeks and a smile forming on her face. “Wow, I feel so much better,” she says. “Thank you for making me come here! I don’t know what I would do without you both. I don’t deserve you.”

 

At that moment, God so clearly spoke to me and said, “Look at how quickly replenishing human blood brings back life, restores, and changes the attitude and perspective of a dying mind and body. How much more life-giving is the blood of Jesus to change our hopelessness into joy, and not just bring back life, but give the gift of eternal salvation.

 

Just as my mom felt she didn’t deserve my dad and I; none of us deserve the gift of His body and blood that our Lord Jesus gave for us on the cross. Just as some come reluctantly to be healed in an emergency room, some come reluctantly, near hopelessness to the church, not knowing how much they need to be healed. Who do you know that urgently needs the blood of Jesus Christ right now?

 

By Lisa Crumbley

 

Recently, this world lost one of the most inspiring spiritual leaders it has ever know. The Reverend Billy Graham, who was known as America’s pastor, has passed and entered into a place that he had longed to be. Heaven.

 

 

In the documentary that aired last Sunday on FOX, he said “I have been asked many times if I fear death … No … I  look forward to death with great anticipation”. In his preaching, he had one poignant question for his attendees. “ I know I am going to heaven when I die….do you?”

 

I can only imagine the multitude of people of all races and nationalities who were there at his homecoming because he led them to Jesus Christ. What a legacy for any Christian to leave behind. I am sure that the seed he scattered is still reaping a harvest even after his death. Family trees were changed because of his bold, unapologetic, way of preaching the Gospel.

 

It got me thinking, am I scattering seed? Am I talking to friends, family, or even strangers about The Great Commission as God calls us to do in Mark 16:15?

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

It’s really not that hard to plant seeds and Reverend Graham summed it up in a simple message:

Jesus Christ loves you and God is love. 

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done in your past  – He loves you and He sent his son to earth to be made flesh and die on the cross so our sins could be forgiven.

 

I remember hearing this message preached at Raymond James stadium in 1998. We went to hear a popular Christian group, DC Talk. I was hoping that my then 12-year-old son would see a different side of the church other than the traditional Catholic Mass on a Sunday.

 

I will always remember my son turning to me when Billy Graham asked the people who wanted to accept Christ to come to the field. He said “Mom can I go down there?”  I thought he was just caught up in the moment, but when I said to him “ You’ve already been baptized and know Christ in your life”, he said, “ I need to make sure mom.” Even though being “saved” was a foreign concept to me as a Catholic Christian at that time in my life, I reluctantly agreed. It turned out to be a wonderful memory that I will never forget.

 

Did God use Billy Graham to minister to you or your family? If so, share your story in the comment section.

By Aly Rivera

 

 

When I first meet someone, I often share my name, exchange a handshake, a smile or maybe even a hug. I would bet you do the same.  Some impressions are long lasting while others seem to be less memorable. Recently, I met someone who left an imprint in the lives of many.

 

I attended the funeral of a grandmother to one of my husbands’ childhood friends. I didn’t know the deceased and barely even knew the family. When I arrived at the funeral home, there were people standing around the lobby greeting those that came in.

 

What was different, was that people were smiling and reminiscing of the life of a woman that had meant so much to them. Everyone began exchanging stories of the past and sharing what her last days looked like. She had asked to die at home surrounded by family with love, prayers and singing.

 

Her children and spouse spoke of a woman that had spent her life loving God and serving Him by sharing His love to those that she encountered. From children to adults, people felt the love of God flowing out of her just by being around her. Even when she was firm, she still showed love and compassion.

 

I sat there listening to each person go up to the podium and share the imprint that she had left in their lives. I was in awe of the legacy that she had left and her unwavering faith even during her last moments of life fighting cancer at age 82. I heard she encouraged her family not to wear black at her funeral but instead to sing her favorite hymns in celebration of her return home.

 

It’s said, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” The impression left on my heart that day encouraged me and also challenged me. This lady helped me see the difference I can make today and the potential I have before me.

 

Christ asks us to continually act out of love. To be selfless and show in our actions what His love looks like. To give grace just as He gives it to us. To show forgiveness just as He shows forgiveness to us. What could our lives look like if we simply loved and forgave when it was difficult to do?

 

Ephesians 5:1-2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” NAS