by Tim Stephens, EWS Developer/Designer/Digital Marketing Specialist
". . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. . ."Hebrews 12:2
Joy is a unique and beautiful concept. We regularly associate joy with feelings of happiness and glee and other fortunate states of wellbeing, but in the life of a Christ-follower, joy is often best represented in a steadfast service to His Kingdom during our trials and pain. Happiness and joy are not mutually exclusive, but while happiness is primarily influenced by external factors, joy is a consistent and internal state that surpasses our circumstance.
This is iterated time and time again throughout the Bible:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” 1 Peter 1:6
“. . . sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:10
As followers of Christ, we desire to imitate the servant spirit that Jesus has exemplified for us. His unrelenting and sacrificial servanthood and care endured all things - all trials, even to the cross – with Joy! Philippians 2:5 tells us that our attitude “should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” We are called to serve, as He did, with joy.
We aren’t promised happiness, particularly as we seek to serve the weary, the broken, the poor and the hurting, but we can find joy in the work that we do… and what better service to find joy in than to speak to and rescue life? In fact, what better service to experience happiness birthed from joy? As we reach the women and men that are scared and hurting, as we see the lives of innocent children saved and as we have opportunity to see first-hand some of those children grow and experience life, we can receive a happiness and glee beyond measure.
As I write this, I’m reminded of one of my favorite lyrics:
“Ever singing, march we onward,
victors in the midst of strife;
joyful music leads us sunward,
in the triumph song of life.”
Take time today to be encouraged and to encourage others as we march onward as victors in the midst of strife. We may be opposed, oppressed, and ostracized, yet we will move forward in obedience, with joy in our hearts and our eyes fixed on Jesus, in the triumph song of life.
Want more Tim Stephens? Join him and a team of Heartbeat experts for an In-Depth Day about reaching women through websites, social media, local search, and more. Just sign up for If You're Going to Change Her World, She'll Need to Find You First. He will also be presenting a workshop called Effective Websites for a Digital World in the Marketing Ministries track.
by Ducia Hamm, Associate Director of Affiliate Services
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV (emphasis added)
Back in the 1950’s, Curt Richter, a well-known Harvard graduate and scientist with Johns Hopkins University did a series of rather unorthodox experiments using water, buckets and rats that resulted in an amazing discovery. He wanted to see how long rats could swim before they drowned. Cringe-worthy no doubt! So you ask “What’s so amazing about knowing how long it takes for a rat to drown?” Bear with me for a bit longer…
Richter put rats into large buckets, half-filled with circulating water. Being notoriously good swimmers – the rats lasted about 15 minutes before giving up and succumbing to the depths of the bucket. Not impressed – I wasn’t either. All I was thinking was “Poor rat!” Richter must have read my mind.
In a follow-up experiment, as the rats started to give up and sink, he pulled the drowning rodents to safety, dried them off, gave them a brief period of rest only to put them right back into that same bucket. Here comes the amazing part – those same rats now swam for an average of 60 hours – YEP – that’s six with a zero or two and a half days.
A rat that was temporarily saved survived 240 times longer than one that was not given any intervention.
Richter’s conclusion: that saving a rat from drowning – even temporarily, gave that rat hope.
More often than not – clients come through your doors on any given day emotionally, spiritually and sometimes even physically “drowning”. They’re trying to just tread water as their life seemingly swirls around them, feeling as if they are getting pulled under at every turn. What these hurting women and men need is an infusion of hope. And that’s exactly what you do – when you answer the phone with a cheerful voice, when your clients are made to feel welcome by a friendly receptionist, when your Client Advocate radiates the Love of Christ so they treat clients as honored guests and not unwelcome, bothersome interruptions. You are essentially taking them out of the swirling waters of their lives, drying them off, providing your clients an opportunity to rest and give them an infusion of hope.
And that’s just what Heartbeat International wants you, as our treasured affiliates to experience as well. We understand that there will be times in your respective ministries that you will feel like you’re “drowning”. When those moments arise – and they will – we want you to know that help is just a phone call or email away. We are here for you with an encouraging word. We are available to listen and advise on an ongoing issue. Heartbeat consultants are available to provide affordable training seminars for staff, board and/or volunteers of pregnancy help organizations.
Also, Heartbeat International’s Pregnancy Help Conference provides a time to “dry off and rest”, offering that infusion of hope and strength to continue on in your mission. Heartbeat is here to encourage, empower and educate so you have the tools and resources that act as “life-preservers” enabling you to keep “swimming” until you reach the shore or at the very least, are in a place where your feet touch bottom (something those poor rats didn’t have).
Put it all together and add in the opportunity to network with fellow workers, you have the assurance that you are not swimming alone.
by Pastor Andy Merritt
Let me share with you why I believe the Heartbeat Conference is so important for you to attend. In Ezekiel 22 God confronts the nation of Israel with the sins that eventually brought God’s judgment, the most prominent being the shedding of innocent blood mentioned eight times. At the end of the chapter God says, I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.
It takes great courage and involves great risk of life to stand in the gap; to rush to where the breach is in the wall, where the enemies of God are pouring in like a flood, to fight back the forces of evil, and repair the wall of righteousness. Sadly, in Ezekiel’s day, God found no one to stand in the gap. However, today you have chosen to stand in the gap in your local pregnancy center ministry. You are doing battle with the forces of evil to end the shedding of innocent blood, to rescue precious babies, and see their mothers and others redeemed by God’s grace.
Thank you for standing in gap! Thank you for being a contemporary hero of faith!
My point is this.
Standing in the gap is costly because it is there were the battle is most fierce, and in pregnancy center ministry we have seen the battle intensify and persecution escalate. It is inevitable wounds will be suffered, and often the greatest battle is not with the enemy, but with our own pain, weariness, & discouragement. Every soldier needs some R&R and that is why the Heartbeat Conference is so important for you to attend.
The Conference is a safe place to receive encouragement, equipping, and spiritual renewal in order to return to stand in the gap with even greater effectiveness. The theme for the Conference is “World Changers” and the key to changing the world is for God to change me. There is no greater priority than our personal relationship with God, because power to stand in the gap is dependent upon purity of heart and life in Christ.
I invite you to attend the sessions I will be leading which will focus on spiritual renewal for the battle. Everything shared will be in the context of and applied directly to pregnancy center ministry. The first is a Tuesday Pre-Conference In Depth Day, entitled, “How to Fight Through Adversity and Discouragement.” The second is a Wednesday 10:00am workshop, entitled, “Serving the God of the Impossible” (How To Deal With Hard Cases). My love and prayers are with you.
Hope to see you in Anaheim!
“Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the father . . . but an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the father in spirit and in truth . . . .” John 4: 21-23
There’s a Polish proverb which millennials often use today: “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” It’s a way of saying, “Don’t drag me into your drama and your issues—I’m not getting involved.”
My daughter used this phrase once and it captured me, because Jesus used this thinking often. The Samaritan Woman at the well in John 4 is a perfect example. We know the story; when Jesus asks the woman to call her husband, she says, “I have no husband.”
And what does Jesus say to this? He tells her something he would not be expected to know; that she has had five husbands and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. Stunned I’m sure, she responds, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.”
Let’s pause for a moment and say collectively, “No kidding!”
She goes on however: “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain and you people (Jews) say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus response? In the words of the Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” In John 4:21-23 he cuts right to the heart of the matter, saying it doesn’t matter where we worship; it matters who and how we worship.
I love it. Jesus never got sucked in to religious debates on non-essential issues. He was about one thing: Reconciling men and women with his father. To Jesus, peripheral matters were a waste of time.
When we reach out to those who enter our centers, clinics and maternity homes, we can count on faith questions. But just like the Samaritan Woman, many of these questions will be peripheral, such as “Do you believe in this doctrine? Do you believe a Christian can do this? That?”
Most of the time, those seeking answers to peripheral issues want to find a dividing point; a way to say, “You don’t believe like me, so I won’t listen to you.”
If we wish to reach others with the love of Christ, our mission begins by finding the heart of the matter, like Jesus did. A few moments after the Woman at the Well asked her non-essential question, Jesus’ response—piercing her heart—led her to say, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.”
Aha. Jesus prodded her to something new, something bigger than her “where do we worship?” question.
Then, Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he.”
Wow. All because Jesus found the heart of the matter. For Jesus, the “where to worship” argument was “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” And within minutes, a heart was changed.
It’s a good lesson for us. Let’s seek the wisdom to lovingly say, “Not my circus, not my monkeys” to some of the questions we are asked—and seek the heart of the matter. For someone searching for true answers, it can make all the difference in the world.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
by Keith Ferrin, Guest Writer
The new year is upon us. For most people, that means New Year’s Resolutions. And for most Christians, one of the resolutions includes some form of the phrase “read the Bible more consistently.”
But how do we do it? How do we stick with it? How do we find a way to truly connect with God through His Word on a regular basis?
Helping people answer these questions has been my passion – and the centerpiece of my writing and speaking ministry – for the last 22 years.
In all transparency, I am passionate about it because I haven’t always loved the Bible. There…I said it.
I always felt like I “should” read it more consistently. I “should” know it better after being in the church my whole life. I “should” talk about it more. I “should” memorize more verses. The “shoulds” kept piling up…for almost 25 years!
Then, beginning in the spring of 1993, the “should” changed to “want.” It was amazing!
I started looking at the Bible differently. I started reading it differently. I started enjoying it more. I started studying it in a way that I remembered it days and weeks later. My time in the Word began to have a greater impact on my everyday life.
In short, I made two shifts in my Bible reading.
Pause and ask yourself this question: Why do I read the Bible?
What was your answer? I have asked this question hundreds of times to thousands of people. A majority of the time, the answer comes down to something like this…
“I read the Bible to know what God wants me to know, so I can do what God wants me to do, and live a life that glorifies Him.”
Sounds good, right? After all, knowing, doing, living, and glorifying are good things!
While all four of these are fantastic, I no longer believe they are the primary reason for being in God’s Word. Here is what God revealed to me over the course of 12-18 months starting in the spring of 1993…
“The primary purpose for reading the Bible is to hang out with Jesus. The Bible is the only book that’s ever been written for the purpose of helping you fall in love with the Author.”
Put even more simply: Read the Bible relationally, not informationally.
The best part is that the more relational our approach – and the more we fall in love with Jesus – the more He will teach us, encourage us, shape us, challenge us, and mold us into people who live lives that glorify Him.
We are not setting aside knowing, doing, living, and glorifying. We still accomplish all of those things as an outflowing of the beautiful relationship God has desired all along!
My approach to HOW I study the Bible (and the flaws I see with many of the Bible study methods I have tried in the past) can best be explained by thinking about movies. (Yup…movies.)
I love movies. Funny. Moving. Intense. True stories. Twisty-Turny. I love all kinds of movies.
Now, imagine you and I sit down to watch a movie neither of us has ever seen. The opening credits fade into the first scene. We are both drawn into the characters, setting, and mood of the film. As Scene 1 transitions to Scene 2, I push the Pause button and say, “Let’s discuss that. What did you think?”
After an awkward conversation, I push Play and we watch Scene 2. Then I pause the movie again and want to discuss it. Then Scene 3…
What do you think? Would you enjoy that? Me neither!
And yet, don’t we frequently do that with the Bible? We read one verse, or maybe a chapter. Then we study it, think about what it means, and try to find the truth to apply. The next day, we do it again.
We study the scenes before we watch the movie!
Don’t get me wrong. Studying the “scenes” in the Bible is immensely valuable. However, if you truly want to enjoy the Bible watching the “movie” of an entire book is where we need to start.
If you and I watch a movie, and after the movie we discuss a scene, character, or plot twist, the watching AND the discussing will BOTH be enjoyable.
If you want to enjoy – and remember – what you read in the Bible, start with a relational mindset. Then pick up a book of the Bible and “watch the movie.” Read the book – in its entirety – every day for a couple weeks. Then go back and “study the scenes.”
You will be amazed at how much more you see. And how much more you enjoy what you read!
Keith Ferrin is the author of Falling in Love with God's Word. If you would like to hear more from Keith, register for his webinar, Jumpsart YOUR Time in God's Word on January 18, 2018!
Founder of That You May Know Ministries, Keith has been doing Scripture presentations since March 1996. He has served as a speaker for retreats, conferences, outreach events, and fundraisers. His practical, humorous, and thought-provoking style makes the Word come alive for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. From December of 1991 to August of 1997, Keith was a youth and worship pastor in Tacoma, Washington. Since then, That You May Know Ministries has been his primary vocation.
“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Acts 21:13
Paul was a man on a mission, headed for Jerusalem—even when common sense stood in the way. In Acts 21 we see the story of Paul’s travels and a couple of uncommon occurrences. First, in Acts 21:4 the disciples warn Paul (through the spirit of God, no less) not to set foot in Jerusalem.
Yet, Paul appears to ignore this counsel, instead moving toward that very city, stopping in Caesarea to stay with Philip the evangelist. While there, we have our second uncommon occurrence: A prophet, Agabus, came from Judea. He took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands saying, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
Those gathered did what any of us would likely do; they begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12). Common sense, right? How many times did God have to make this clear?
Everything added up perfectly. Paul’s response then, should have been, “I’ll stay right here with you folks; Jerusalem is off my list of destinations.”
But Paul decided to go anyway. Some might read this and say, “This was Paul’s mistake.” Maybe they are right.
Perhaps however, Paul was being given a choice. Knowing danger awaited in Jerusalem, he could choose the common-sense path and avoid persecution. Or, he could go forward in service to Christ, knowing exactly what was ahead.
Agabus’ prophecy proved correct. In Jerusalem, Paul was dragged from the temple, beaten and bound with chains (Acts 21:30-33).
Yet something else happened in Jerusalem, too. Jews and Gentiles alike were encouraged through Paul’s visit there. In addition, the good news flourished, even as Paul experienced incarceration and several trials.
In our lives and in our work, sometimes all the arrows appear to point toward a common-sense decision. Sometimes, those arrows are correct. But we need to at least leave room for uncommon-sense decisions which appear to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.
We must also be aware that “uncommon” decisions can lead to trial. We might lose something—as Paul lost a portion of his freedom—through an uncommon-sense decision.
Biblical historians may argue over whether Paul made the right choice, but we can know this: Paul’s decision was based on a desire to serve his master, and to take the good news message anywhere it was needed—no matter the personal cost. Because of Paul’s decision to think in terms of serving, God continued to use him in a mighty way.
When we find our work has a cost, we can take heart. We may not always make the correct decision, but we can know that if our heart is one of servanthood, God can work through us in ways we cannot imagine.
by Jay Hobbs, Communications and Marketing Director
You’d be hard-pressed to wordsmith a more hopeless turn of phrase than what we find in Isaiah 8:20—especially if you’ve ever endured a sleepless night, searching the horizon for the first sign of sunlight.
In his indictment of the self-righteous Southern Kingdom of Israel, the prophet Isaiah charges that, rather than hearing the word of God and listening to it, the nation’s leaders and teachers had shrunk back in embarrassment from God’s truth.
“To the teaching and to the testimony!” calls Isaiah, with the fervor of a battle-tested general. “If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.”
And there’s the hammer: “They have no dawn.”
What could be more hopeless than an endless night, with no hope that the sun will ever shed its glorious rays? Like nothing else on earth, sunlight dispels the gloom of night, giving life and vitality to what was—just moments before—cloaked in mystery and doubt.
And at that moment in history, Israel’s dawnless night was about to get far worse. Soon, all of the Northern Kingdom would be occupied by Assyria while the Southern Kingdom would be led off into 70 years of Babylonian captivity, only to return to a land laid bare in their two generations of expulsion.
Called and beloved as the people of God—His own vessel for shedding the light of His glory to the surrounding nations—Israel was plunged into “distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish,” Isaiah says to conclude chapter 8.
A darkness with no dawn. Sounds almost too bad to be true, until you realize that it’s not just a people in some far off land who walked through this night. It’s all of us, wandering hopelessly through the darkness.
It’s a darkness written all over the faces of the women we serve every day. A darkness that’s often intensified by a lifetime of broken promises and emotional abandonment has now come to another point of darkness.
To her, it’s a darkness without any hope of a dawn.
Kind of makes you want to light that first Advent candle—the “Hope” candle—and sing a Christmas carol, doesn’t it?
Amazingly, that’s just what Isaiah does. In the very next verse, he delivers a message from the Lord that, against this grim backdrop: “There will be no gloom for her who was in anguish” (Isaiah 9:1).
Instead of gloom, shame and devastation, God would bring about a glorious change that wouldn’t just heal Israel, but would extend God’s love and favor to those of “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9).
Against the deepest darkness of a dawnless night, and into “a land of deep darkness,” God was going to one day bring light: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2).
Of course, looking ahead 700 years from Isaiah’s word, Jesus himself—“The true light, which gives light to everyone.” (John 1:9)—would fulfill this prophecy. Against all odds and amid the wreckage of abandoned hope, God shed His light onto a darkened world.
This Christmas season, we remember that the hope of light has come into our darkened world. And that light’s name is Jesus.
May our hearts be enlightened by His Advent, and may God shine His light on every woman, every man and every child we seek to serve this season.
“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19
We’ve been told countless times how we should be “slow to speak and slow to anger,” as James writes. Many of us have been taught to “count to ten” before we speak, so that we won’t be driven by impulse and say the wrong thing.
This is important wisdom we should live by each day.
And yet, there is something else in James’ exhortation to his readers: an admonition to be “quick to hear.” It’s an interesting use of words, isn’t it? For how can we hear “quickly?”
As we know, James is not talking about jumping to conclusions on what we are hearing, or listening “fast” so we can get it over with. Perhaps James wants us to focus in on those we are listening to, saying to ourselves, “What this person is about to say is important to me. They need my undivided attention, and quick-like.”
Too often we can find ourselves “waiting to speak” instead of stopping to truly listen. Because of this, we have miscommunication, which can lead to frustration, division and anger. But when we are “quick” to listen, we set aside our desire to create a retort and instead wait patiently to hear the core of what our friend is saying.
James is a practical writer. Later in his letter he will tell us how faith must lead to actions on our part, or it is not faith at all.
In this short excerpt, James wants us to know faith leads to listening with our whole heart. When we choose to listen with all we have—and choose to focus on our speaker in a hurry—many potential problems are averted.
As we serve those we see, let’s be quick to listen. We might hear a heart which is open to the love and faith we offer.
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” Colossians 4:5
When we see attacks on pregnancy help ministries by those who oppose us, our first reaction can be to fight back, and sometimes we must do those things necessary to repel these onslaughts.
For instance, when we see false reviews of our ministries on Facebook, Google and Yelp we must set the record straight. It’s unfair not just to us, but to our potential patients and clients, when a false review deters them from seeking our services.
And yet Paul, in wisdom that can only come from the Lord, writes that we must “conduct ourselves with wisdom toward outsiders . . .” Outsiders are those outside of the faith, like so many who work with the abortion industry.
Wisdom dictates that in our communication with these outsiders, we must, as Paul says, make “the most of the opportunity.” Where we see a threat—and it is—Paul sees something greater; an opportunity.
When attacks come, we have an opportunity to do so many things: We can show the world how Christians best respond to attacks, shining the light of Christ in a dark world. We can show our clients and patients we are never deterred and always looking out for their best interests.
In addition, we can show the abortion industry—the very group attacking us—that we will not cower but will choose to advance as we love those who come in our door.
Every outsider, whether a client, patient or even one who wishes to tear us down, is an opportunity. When we begin to look at each person or each situation as an opportunity instead of as a trial, we find the wisdom we need to reach out with love, compassion and strength.
So, who is coming in the door today? Is it someone with a problem? Or is this someone who presents an opportunity to show the love of Christ?
Paul had the wisdom to find opportunities in all situations, whether in a jail with Silas in Acts 16 when they sang and a miracle took place, or in front of kings, as he shared his message. Paul was an ordinary person with an extraordinary message.
And that makes us . . . just like Paul. Let’s look for opportunities. We never know what God might do.
by Hannah Ellis, International Program Specialist
In a recent piece on Pregnancy Help News, Heartbeat shared that Life Choices, a pregnancy help organization in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, is on the verge of opening their first maternity home, “The Inn.”
After hearing the story of the home’s beginnings from Christy Pittman, Project Coordinator, and Bri Sherman, Development Assistant, I noticed a prominent theme that may be helpful to share with others in the pregnancy help movement as you strategize for the future.
In the beginning, Life Choices had a plan for the new maternity home.
Initially, they wanted a large structure that had a lot of rooms (eight, if you want to get specific). Yet, in their searching and looking at properties, God kept bringing them back to the idea of focusing on the relationships with the clients more than the structure of the program. When they began praying through properties, that’s when the funds started coming in and God showed them the house He had for them – a smaller, more intimate house with potential for growth.
Throughout the decision-making process, Christy and Bri realized they also needed to let go of their control over the details of the houseparent situation, and just a week after they did, a couple surfaced who wanted to fill the role.
The team officially closed on the maternity house this summer, and they have begun buying supplies and setting up policies and programming—which, it goes without saying, will be easier to implement in the smaller house. The staff is overjoyed about The Inn, and the official housewarming party will be on September 22, 2017. They are inviting supporters and community members, and are fully anticipating a waiting list.
Life Choice’s motto is “every life valued.” At the new maternity home—named after the inn that was too full for our Lord’s birth—the motto is “two lives at a time.” The Inn offers a safe haven for these women, where there hasn’t been room for them anywhere else. These young women now have a place of refuge where they are free to choose a parenting direction that is best for them.
Proverbs 16 tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Christy and Bri look back now and laugh about their wanting to be in control and said they’ve “learned to let go and let God move.” He has shown that His faithfulness and provision is beyond their own understanding.
Don’t we do that all too often?
We do more planning than praying and more scheming than surrendering, only to find out God’s design is far better than we could think up or imagine. It’s almost like giving an architect a blueprint for how to build our house. Except, add in the fact that the Architect doesn’t follow human rules or reasoning, and sees the whole picture where we see only a part.
When our Crayola-drawn blueprint gets superimposed with His intricate plan, we are humbled to a place of total trust in His more than capable hands.
What about you? Are you holding on to your design with a tight grip? Or, are you letting God hold the pen as He drafts His intricately beautiful plan? Let’s put the crayons down and instead clasp those hands in prayer, asking God what He wants to do. Trust me; He will blow your mind with what He’ll use you to accomplish.
Ephesians 3:20 – “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
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