Displaying items by tag: for the heart

The Always and Forever Love of God

 
Over the past few months, we've started to read through The Jesus Storybook Bible with our 3-year-old daughter at bedtime.

It's a resource intended for kids, with fun pictures and summarized versions of some of the main events throughout God's story of redemption in the Old and New Testaments. Anabelle, my daughter, always asks to turn back and see the pictures of the characters (both men and women—she hasn't quite grasped the idea of a tunic yet) in their "princess dresses."

But the more we read through God's story with Anabelle, the more I'm convinced that she's not the primary beneficiary night by night... not by a long shot.

That's because The Jesus Storybook Bible is a kids' Bible that hits the nail on the head more than some commentaries I've stumbled upon. The book's subtitle, "Every story whispers his name," tips the reader off that its author, Sally Lloyd-Jones, intends to teach little ones (and their parents!) how every episode throughout Scripture points directly, unmistakably to Jesus.

This is exactly what the resurrected Christ explains to the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 when, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27).

And so, as we read through Anabelle's Bible night after night, I'm moved and refreshed by what Lloyd-Jones calls God's "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" for his people.

There's a more succinct way to sum up this special love God has for his people. It's God's covenant love. Or, as the Psalms refer to over and over, his "steadfast love."

God's good will for us

This is the love God promises to his people—who he promises to love simply because he loves them (Deuteronomy 7:8)—it's the love that reconciles sinners to himself, meeting us where we are in our sin and brokenness and making us his friends. It's the love that then painstakingly crafts us into the image of the Son he loves.

This is the love that assures us we have a Father who is invincible, and means to do good to us--regardless of the cost--in all circumstances:

What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all good things? (Romans 8:31-32).

The blood oath of God's Love

As this text points out, the Always and Forever love of God is the kind of love that's guaranteed with blood. The moment our first parents rebelled against God and their nakedness was exposed, the shedding of blood became necessary to clothe them and make them acceptable to the holy God against whom they sinned.

This theme is developed again and again throughout the biblical plotline. Noah offers a sacrifice following the flood. Abraham is spared from offering his son on the mountain (sound like a foreshadowing?) when God provides a ram. The lamb is slaughtered in every Hebrew house in order that the Destroyer would pass over the firstborn. And finally, the sacrificial system is established with the giving of the Law, offering an on-going reminder that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins." (Hebrews 9:22).

What's with all the blood? What did that all mean? And what's it got to do with love?

In a word, this is all about the Word. The Word of God taken on flesh and dwelling among men. Not only that, but taking on the form of a servant—a suffering servant who lived the life we should have lived, bore the wrath of a holy God in our place, conquered death, and disarmed Satan by his vicarious death for sinners and victorious resurrection.

In other words, "God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).

Or, as Paul rehearses this gospel to his beloved friends in Ephesus, "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:4-5).

This means that the love of God for us is entirely secure. Our position in his grace never changes. It can't be undone:

Who shall bring any charge against Gods elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was rasied--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separated us fro the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us... (Romans 8:33-37).

What costly love! What expensive and resolute mercy! It's the kind that never stops, never gives up, always lasts forever. It's the kind of love that multiplies and motivates our love for others and each other. It's the kind that sustains us on our worst day, humbles us on our best day, and gives us the strength to love those our Father brings along our way, no matter how bent on self-destruction and misery they may seem to us.

This is the kind of love Who has never given up--and will never give up--on me.

And it's the kind I'll never get tired of reveling in at my daughter's bedside.


by Jay Hobbs, Communications Assistant

Shelf Help: The Circle Maker

circlemaekr 
In The Circle Maker, author Mark Batterson draws out wonderful insights gleaned from the true legend of the circle maker.

The main character in the true story was a man named Honi, who lived during the first century B.C., and boldly prayed a prayer that brought an end to a long-standing drought, renewing hope for the Jewish people.

This well-told story encourages readers to dream big and pray persistently.

Here’s a line from the book to whet your appetite:

Drawing prayer circles around our dreams isn’t just a mechanism whereby we accomplish great things for God. It’s a mechanism whereby God accomplishes great things in us.

I found this book both delightful and inspirational, and I’m confident you will too!


To find out more, including ordering information, click here.

Book review by Betty McDowell, Director of Ministry Services

Behold Thy Kingdom

by Jor-El Godsey

From Take Heart | Volume 2, Issue 11

final logoAs the season of Advent unfolds and the focus on the birth of our Savior sharpens, the reality of this Scripture, like a diamond held up to the light, reveals multiple facets.

Behold. Be aware. Observe. Consider. This is the first step for us. We must open our eyes to see what is already at hand. The busyness of our schedule, the volume o f our workload, the needs of the ministry all can conspire to crowd our vision and actually shrink our awareness of anything but the urgent. It may take a moment to step away from the inbox, set aside the volunteer schedule, wait to review the financials, and simply focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing.

The Kingdom of God is all that He is and all that He controls. Think about that for a moment. Where is He not King? To what places does His reign not extend? Perhaps there are regions of our hearts and issues that have yet to be yielded to His Lordship, but He is certainly present even there, just as He is present in our ministry and among His people.

Indeed, the Kingdom “is in your midst,” right where you are. Truly, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of your staff meeting and each shift of volunteers. The King is with you during your event planning and while you stare at the blank page that awaits your monthly appeal letter. The Holy Spirit is present when you see the red numbers on the financials. He knows your pain and your tears.

The kingdom of God is even there with you in a board meeting (whether or not every board member has read the reports in advance!). He often speaks through this group that is assembled for the care and concern of the work that He has inspired. Whether you’re the executive director, board chair, treasurer, counselor, or administrative assistant, He, and His kingdom, is in your midst.

Lean, Not Necessarily Mean

By Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat Vice-President, Ministry Services

From Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6

Pre-2009 celebration at Heartbeat.  Even the birthday cakes for staff fell to cost-cutting measures.  Counter clockwise, starting with birthday girl:  Peggy Hartshorn, Joe Young, Deb Schirtzinger, John Ensor, Betty McDowell, Virginia Cline, Jor-El Godsey.

The water cooler is long gone.  Paper plates, plastic-ware, coffee and creamer are strictly by contribution only.  Even the birthday cakes for Heartbeat staff have been reduced to a simple card and a group sing.  (Seriously, picture a dozen people standing near your desk belting out the familiar tune!)  Expenses for office supplies have been cut dramatically.  Many such ideas came from staff brain-storming sessions during some very lean months.

Cost-cutting measures for Heartbeat turned really serious beginning with the summer of 2008.  The pregnancy help movement felt the economic downturn earlier than most non-profits.  As you well know, cost cutting is hard to do when you’re a non-profit and already operating on somewhat of a shoestring.  We took even more stringent measures.  We trimmed budgeted expenses, reduced benefits, and the whole staff even took two sacrificial, week-long furloughs.

While cutting expenses dramatically, we also put the word out that we needed help.  The first and (fortunately) only emergency plea for funds went out to donors and affiliates alike.  In addition, special, one-on-one asks to major donors helped us close the gap between income and outflow.  As we began to understand the extent of the crisis we took an additional step...

Two years of fasting and praying. . .   Boy are we hungry!

Yep, you read that right.  Fasting for two years!  Well okay, it wasn’t every single day for two years.  Actually, it wasn’t even every week.  But one day each month since July of 2008, the Heartbeat staff has set aside a day of fasting with specific times throughout that day to gather in prayer for the needs of Heartbeat.  Okay, that’s not nearly as impressive sounding as fasting for two years, but still that’s how long we’ve been practicing the discipline as a staff.  (Fasting is optional, but almost everyone fasts on our special day. Even board members, intercessors and other close friends join us.)

Prayer is hardly foreign to us at Heartbeat.  We gather each and every day around 9:15 a.m. to pray for our affiliates, staff needs, upcoming events, faithful and generous donors, our partners and the mission and pregnancy help movement.  So, if you’re calling our office between 9:15 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., you might not reach us directly because we’ve gathered to pray.  It’s not mandatory but everyone’s usually there if they can be.

Setting a specific time to fast and pray clearly has been vital in getting us through some tough times.  Focusing on God in the midst of our crisis and working diligently to do what we could saw us through a very difficult time.  In the waning hours of 2008, we watched the Lord work a miracle where the year-end giving closed the year’s expense gap!  In gratitude, we rejoiced!  We partied!  And then we went to work implementing our newer, leaner budget for 2009.

I’m glad to report that in 2009 we finished in the black.  In 2010, things are challenging but not at crisis level.  God is faithful.  And we’ve continued to fast and pray one day each month. And yes, we’re hungry.  Hungry for God as He leads and provides for the mission and vision that He’s firmly planted in our hearts.

Prayer helped us in many ways cope with the crisis we experienced. Prayer served to calm our fears and to put our trust in the best source – God.  Prayer helped us unite as a staff even as we faced significant threats to our work and vocation. Prayer helped us not to get “mean” even as we were getting lean.

So take heart in your situation. Set aside time to pray.  Consider a time of fasting.  Always remember to look upward as well as inward in any time of crisis.

Back to Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6

 

Better Together is God's Idea

by Betty McDowell, Heartbeat Director of Affiliate Services

From Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.  You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift.  The text for this is,

  • He climbed the high mountain,
  • He captured the enemy and seized the booty,
  • He handed it all out in gifts to the people.

Is it not true that the One who climbed up also climbed down, down to the valley of earth? And the One who climbed down is the One who climbed back up, up to highest heaven. He handed out gifts above and below, filled heaven with his gifts, filled earth with his gifts. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ (Ephesians 4:4-13 The Message).

It is awe inspiring to think about how this scripture points out how much we have in common and how we are so much better together.  We are not to be a threat to each other.  But what a threat we can be to the Father of Lies when we are united in heart and purpose!

Each of us has but one Master who has given us many gifts and callings.  What a blessing and an honor to grant each other the freedom to be who God made us to be, to develop our talents in ministry, and to recognize the calling on each other’s lives.

Today you have a choice.  You can  look around and feel threatened or insecure about your position or future in ministry or you can bless and acknowledge those around you who have the same heart, who serve the same God, who are part of the same body, who desire, like you, to be fully alive in Christ.  We are better together because this is God’s idea and He desires unity for us and with us.

Back to Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 6

Toy Soldiers

by Kirk Walden

final logoRecently I noticed a photo of toy soldiers in my files from a Disney trip last year. It’s not often that I get inspiration from toy soldiers, but it hit me that in the Christian life there are True Christian Soldiers, and there are Toy Soldiers.

Right now, many in our ministry are discouraged and tired. I have an email in my inbox right now from another who wonders if it is time to give up. I understand.

But there is good news for True Soldiers like you. For one, if you are involved in this ministry you are no Toy Soldier. You know the Toy Soldiers. We pray for them, those who come to church dressed perfectly, always smiling brightly and never flustered.

Toy Soldiers march in at the right time and as soon as the clock hits the right mark, they march out again. No scuffs on those shoes and not a mark anywhere else. Toy Soldiering is a great life, or so it appears.

After all, if you never involve yourself in combat there are no scars, no pain.

True Soldiering involves battles. Our uniform gets dirty. We get marks on our bodies and our emotions are worn thin. We wake up not knowing what is around the next corner, wondering whether the next battle will bring victory or a devastating defeat.

While we know that ultimately the war is won, we don’t know what it is going to take to get to that victory. And, we don’t know whether we are going to suffer in the process.

Toy Soldiering is dress-up, and we see it too often. To be honest, we feel sorry for the Toy Soldiers. 
To the Toy Soldier we want to cry out, “Join us in the battle. Hearts are at stake. Lives are on the line! Be a part of a glorious victory!”

But to the Toy Soldier, the risk of a wound is too much of a bother—even with lives hanging in the balance.

Yet while we hurt for the Toy Soldiers, True Soldiers start each day on a valiant mission to advance a calling of reconciliation and the calling of life—a mission launched, carried out, and carried on by none other than Jesus Christ.

Sure, we’re going to get dirty. And we can count on battle scars along the way. We know that. It’s no secret to any one of us.

Some will desert. Others will criticize. Still others—the Toy Soldiers—will look at us with a condescending smile and say, “That sounds like nice work.” They have no idea, yet we know better than to explain.
So instead of explaining, instead of responding to criticism, instead of running after the deserters, we soldier on.

Dear soldiers, as Paul told Timothy in II Tim. 2:4, let’s not entangle ourselves with the affairs of everyday life. There is no time for that.

Without pride in ourselves or malice toward others, let’s band together as True Soldiers, ready to fight the good fight each and every day—for God’s glory.

Perhaps I don’t know you personally, but if you are in this ministry I know your heart, which is that of a True Soldier.

From this writer, “thank you.” I appreciate your service. Let others say what they want. I for one am proud to stand with you. It is . . . An honor.

Kirk Walden is the author of The Life Trends Connection (TLC), proven development ideas and concrete action steps. TLC, now powered by Heartbeat International. TLC is yet another valuable benefit for Heartbeat affiliates.

 

A Servant's Garment

by Debra Neybert, Heartbeat International, Training Specialist

(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him… When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place (John 13:3-5, 12).

As Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, He was able to see beyond where He was… about to lay down His life. He was able to see Himself seated at the right hand of God. What divine security, a security that we can take hope in! As a result, Jesus was willing to release “His rights” as God’s Son and walk in humility always doing His Father’s will.

Jesus was about to express His greatest act of love. The word used in John’s Gospel passage for “took off” (tithemi – related to a classical Greek word) is not the common word used for this action; this form of “took off” refers to Jesus' imminent laying down of his life. Interestingly, the word used in John’s Gospel for “put on” His clothes (lambano) was used to describe the act of taking up His life again. These same words are used again in John 10:17-18: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life— only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Without His outer garment, Jesus was left with a tunic, a shorter garment like a long undershirt that gentile slaves would often wear to serve a meal.

We see this pictured in Philippians 2:5-8. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross.”

In this season let us lay down anything that prevents us from uniting and advancing the life- giving Kingdom of God. Let us put on love, serving and preferring one another. Love never fails. As we take up new life in Christ we take up God’s purposes, His wisdom, and His plans. This empowers us to succeed against all the plans of the wicked one and to experience victory.

Return to Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 2.

 

Taking the Long View

by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat International Vice President, Ministry Services

(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 1)

A year ending with a zero is a great time to look back at the last time that occurred – 2000 – the unforgettable “Y2K.” Think of all that’s transpired in your organization since 2000. Remember where you were during the dawn of the new millennium. Take note of how different the ministry, the movement, and even the mission appeared to be then. The look back can reveal a journey of challenges and triumphs, victories and setbacks, celebrations and sorrow.

Here’s a question: from the vantage point of 2000, what view did you see out there on the 2010 horizon? What decisions made then are producing dynamic results now for you, your mission, and the movement? What plans were set down then but have yet to come to fruition? How is 2010 different for your community, your peer counseling, and your commitment to the mission?

This year of 2010 is a good time to look forward to the next ten years and begin to develop a “2020 Vision.” Crafting and casting a vision with the year 2020 in mind can help leaders to see beyond the tyranny of the urgent and formulate a vivid picture that can serve to guide the organization well. In clarifying your “2020 Vision,” there are five key concepts to consider:

  1. Positioning versus Planning – “To fail to plan is to plan to fail.” The saying holds true for short-range (one to three-year) planning but can break down over a longer period. Pull out your written plans from 2000. How do the plans from 2000 match the 2010 reality? Of course, planning is simply not possible for some things. A worldwide economic downturn was hardly on anyone’s radar looking back just to 2005 or 2006. But those who positioned themselves well financially (a success that involves -- at the least -- some core planning)– with reserve funds, low or no debt, broad donor base and/or conservative budgeting – have had more leeway to adapt to financial crisis. True, perfect planning requires perfect predictions so only God’s Plan is perfect. Still, good positioning financially, organizationally, relationally, and spiritually can enable positive results even in unexpected environments.
  2. Message versus Method – In 2000, communication methods like I-Pod, Youtube, and Facebook didn’t exist. Today, the methods for marketing and ministry must adapt to account for changes in our target audiences and the culture that influences them. In the midst of these changing methods, the message of pregnancy help work remains constant (even eternal): Christ-centered, compassionate, life-affirming care for those who are challenged by an unintended pregnancy. This core message is carrying the pregnancy help movement to new heights of acceptance even outside the pro-life realm. Our opposition’s deployment of legislative maneuvers and slanderous attacks reveals how effective our message (with varying methods) has been.
  3. Discerning versus Deciding  Any look ahead must involve spiritual discernment. Pregnancy help work is hard. In fact, this work takes more than what we bring to it. It requires the help of the One who called us to it. We desperately need the active involvement of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of the work – especially looking ahead. Prayer – personal and corporate – is a necessary action item to discern what 2020 will look like for the organization including those who lead the mission and fulfill it.
  4. Innovation versus Insulation – A glance back 30+ years shows how much the pregnancy help ministry has grown and changed. Innovation and entrepreneurship were hallmarks of the pioneers who have labored to advance this work. External and internal challenges tempt us to insulate against uncomfortable changes, entice us to formalize the familiar, and lure us to scoff at anything that’s not “the way we’ve always done it.” Over emphasis on “playing it safe” with static processes, antiquated tools, and outdated methods will not serve a mission that faces dynamic transition. Good practices are a “must.” Reliance on stale practices can make us too soon obsolete. Finding the right balance of the tried, the true, and the new is truly a gift from the Holy Spirit.
  5. Leadership versus Management – The mission continues to require leadership at every level and in every aspect. Leadership is different from management. While management is necessary for efficiency, leadership is critical for effectiveness. The pregnancy help movement will see major transitions in leadership over the next ten years. (Yes, even more change than we’ve already seen.) Leaders must nurture leadership in others and try to prepare others to hear the call of God to service. We nurture leadership in others by the example of our own stewardship, the practice of Christian principles, and intentionally mentoring the next generation of leaders. A vivid “2020 Vision” will require new leaders, along with managers, to push the envelope, deepen the impact, and maximize ministry.

As your 2010 unfolds, take time to plan a “2020 Vision” session. Whether in a dedicated meeting of a few hours or a discussion that unfolds over many months, the important thing is to take the time. Take time to sow seed that will flourish for those who will take up the mantle in 2020. Your decisions today will be their harvest then, so take the long view.

 

Because of God...

by Debra Neybert, Heartbeat International, Training Specialist

(from Take Heart Volume 2, Issue 1)

Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, "It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father's household." The second son he named Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering," Genesis 41:50-51.

We have entered a new year and a new decade; the future is bright for those of us that trust in the Lord. Each season of life has its blessings and its trials. Last year may have held some unexpected trials for you. Joseph had a long season of imprisonment that included: being misunderstood, abandoned, falsely accused, forgotten, and rejected.

Joseph persevered under very difficult circumstances. When it was God’s time to set him free, he was literally raised up overnight into the destiny God had for him all along. Psalm 105:17-19 says “and he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles; his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass till the word of the LORD proved him true.”

Joseph’s imprisonment did end and he was able to proclaim that God caused him to forget his sorrow. In addition to that, in the very land where he suffered mistreatment, God made him fruitful. What a proclamation!

We may never forget the circumstances of our hardships but God is able to take the sting and sorrow from our hearts so that our souls are not left wounded and traumatized. He is the God of restoration. Scriptures tell us that someday He will wipe every tear from our eyes. In that time, full restoration will be our portion!

What about being fruitful in the very place where you have suffered? When we let God have His way, fruit is produced even though we may not be aware of it. Certainly, the trials we endure can produce more of the fruit of the spirit: more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But what about seeing streams in the desert, life in a place of barrenness, comfort for a broken heart, healing for a longtime illness?

You may look at your life and ministry wondering, “What was last year all about?” (And perhaps even years past!) It’s been preparation; Joseph found himself finally released from years of disappointment, able to forget the pain of the past and become fruitful in the land of his suffering.

Joseph starts both of his statements with, “It is because God” Yes, it is because God is able to make us more than conquers that we are able to forget the sting of the past and move into a fruitful place for His Kingdom sake. It is because God!!!!

 

Missing Mail

by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat Vice President of Ministry Services

Have you received your “Thank you” card yet?  Mother’s Day just passed and Father’s Day is just around the corner.   The greeting card companies, flower folks, tie makers, chandlers, and other vendors who profit from the sale of popular gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Day owe you at least a “Thank you!”

As a dad, I rarely shop alone with my elementary-age daughter and son.  But a few days before Mother’s Day, we were on our annual hunt for those precious tokens of our genuine appreciation for their mom and my wife.  The marketing signs were direct, “Show Your Mom You Love Her on May 9th.”  My 9-year-old son was quick to scoff at such crass commercialism saying, “You should show your mom you love her all year long!”   Right you are, son, because moms certainly are worthy.   And so are dads. . .

How many other nine-year olds look for just the right card or the perfect gift for their mom and dad (within their budgets)?  That special smile of love, a homemade card, the warm embrace of their infants -- how many moms and dads are filled with these joys because they found a pregnancy help center?

Since the earliest pregnancy resource centers appeared more than 40 years ago, a million or more moms and dads have enjoyed their Day because of the help of a pregnancy center.  These are special celebrations because they were at risk of never happening.  The newborn we celebrate in our ministry is not just a life, but also a lifetime!  For the majority of babies we see born, there will be dozens of Mother’s and Father’s Day cards, gifts, and phone calls.

Okay, so I don’t really expect a “Thank you!” in my mailbox from the phone company or Hallmark or the florist.  But the reality of the Great Work we are involved in -- the breadth and depth of our efforts to affirm the Gift of Life and the Giver of Life -- constantly amazes me.  The picture of the positive outcomes we all share in is a “Thank you!” in a class by itself.

Life is truly precious, so take heart!  And thank you!

From Take Heart | Vol. 2, Issue 5

Page 10 of 14