A Tale of Two Teachers

     “…we love the wrong things.
We elevate youth and beauty. We want funny more than we want wise. We want our teachers to tell us a joke that we can laugh at. We don’t want to weep over our sin.”

This is good and so true. I wish I had written it. Amberlee explains exactly how I feel.

willnotbetaken

A while ago I went to a women’s conference in another state with some of my relatives. We heard two different Bible teachers speak. Both of these women had written books. Both were well known. That is where the similarities ended. One women was older. In fact, she was in her eighties. She spoke first. She shared her heart for us younger women. She shared from the Word. She spoke of women to whom she had ministered in countries where believers are being persecuted. Her voice broke as she spoke of her sisters in Christ, living under the constant threat of imprisonment and death. You could see the love she carried for them. She spoke of Christ and the gospel. Her knowledge of the Word was so evident, and her talk was so full of scripture that she just seemed to breathe it out. I left her session with a…

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This week’s blog post was written by my friend, Diane Virginia who is a wonderful story-teller. Her blog address and information will follow her post. Please take the time to visit her blog. 

Recently, while I was eating at a local burger restaurant, I felt an inner nudge to visit a clothing store after I was done eating. I did so. As I arrived there, I saw a homeless man I recognized named Mike.

I got caught up between two car mirrors. That sure did catch Mike’s attention. He laughed, and we struck up a conversation and he asked for money.

“I can’t give you money, but I’ll be glad to buy you a meal. Do you like hamburgers?” I pointed toward the restaurant.

“Can I get a hot dog? Or two?”

“Sure. Let’s go get you two hot dogs. And we’ll get you fries, a drink, and ice cream.”

“I don’t want no ice cream. It’s too cold fer that.”

“I understand,” I said, but then I wondered if I really understood the bone-chilling cold this gentle soul faced every winter.

We started walking.

As I stepped inside the burger joint, Mike hovered at the door.

“It’s okay. Please… come inside.”

“Okay, but I’s gonna eat outside.”

As is often the case, a homeless person is so used to being shamed he/she often will not enter a building.

Mike entered and cautiously looked around. He was probably wondering if he would get kicked out.

The server looked at me, puzzled, “Back so soon? Did you decide to get ice cream?”

“My friend is hungry. Mike, tell the lady what you want.”

“I wants a hot dog.”

“Make that two please…”

Mike was modest with his order. To drink, he asked for a cup of water without ice. He didn’t order fries because he had chips in his backpack that were “not too old to eat.” The entire order cost less than five dollars.

While we were waiting, Mike talked. I knew for sure this was God’s heavenly assignment so I listened to the still small voice within, knowing my Lord would guide our conversation. Mike shared his former employment as a painter. But that had been fifteen years prior. He had been unable to get disability even though he’d applied several times.

“Mike,” I said, “perhaps you haven’t been able to get disability because you can do something.”

“That’s what they says, too.”

“And?”

“I can’t climb ladders no more.”

“So, what’s stopping you from trying something new?”

“I drinks.”

“I care about you so tell it to me straight. Do you want help to overcome that?”

By this time, Mike’s hot dogs had arrived. He could have fled, but instead, he bowed his head like he was determining whether I was a safe sounding board. Mike rested his hands open on to the bar top. I gently touched his wrist. Mike grasped my hand, and with sincerity that melted my heart, and bore his soul.

“Alls I got is my drinking. Some days it’s lonely, an’ a good drink takes the edge off. Lotsa days, it’s cold ‘specially when the winds a knockin’ at ye collar like it was last night. If I takes to the bottle, I don’t feel it as bad. So, I don’t want to give up my booze. We’s friends, that bottle an’ I. We’s old friends.”

“Would you believe me if I said you can have a new beginning?”

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature;

old things are passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

II Corinthians 5:17 KJV

“Is ye talkin’ bout Him? I likes Him, see?” Mike rolled up his sleeve and revealed a cross tattoo.

“Yes. Jesus has a good plan for you. And He is just the man to help you get unstuck. When was the last time you visited Him at church?”

“I walk past a church from where I sleep in the woods. I wants to go in. I think ‘bouts that a lot! Purty much always… But I don’t think they wants the likes of me.” Mike glanced at his attire and frowned.

I could sense Mike’s quandary. He could go to the house of God in worn clothes while he watched church members show up in their Sunday best. He knew he’d be the oddball.

“Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes!”

Psalm 119:12 RSV

There it was again rearing its ugly head—a creature named, “Shame” had browbeaten this gentleman once too often. I was ready to act.

I knew exactly why I was there. The same Spirit who had nudged me to drop by the store Mike was sitting at was also prompting Mike to attend a certain church, and my guess was there was a preacher who was being prompted to deliver a sermon that would be just what Mike needed to hear. I was pretty certain congregants would be sensing urges to welcome this gentle soul into their fold.

God was converging forces, in an attempt to rescue a soul who had wandered for over fifteen years.

“Listen to me, okay? You go to that church and you hold your head high. God loves you just as much as He loves the preacher at the pulpit and the people who attend. You are welcome there. They are most likely waiting for you to visit. So, this Sunday, go up to the church steps and go inside. Even if you’ve been drinking, go in anyway, okay? When you go inside, listen to the message, because I’m sure the pastor has written it just for you.”

“Is ye sure?”

“Yes. Do you believe me?”

“I hope so….”

“Hold onto that hope.”

I knew Mike would answer my next question as candidly as he answered the others.

“Mike, will you go to that church this Sunday?”

Mike put his hand to his chin.

“Yes. Imna go…”

“Can I pray with you? Because I’m pretty sure your new beginning will start when you walk through those church doors.”

“And ye shall seek me, and ye shall find me,

when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the LORD.”

Isaiah 29:13 KJV

Mike removed his cap and grasped my hands before I asked him to. I felt the cold of his skin and the slenderness of his fingers clinging to my hands as if holding mine tightly would make his world straighten. I prayed and thanked Mike for allowing me to share part of his day. I hoped that because he relied on the generosity of others to provide meals, this also afforded him numerous opportunities to hear about how deep and wide the love of God truly is… I knew Mike’s new beginning would start when he chose to hold tightly to his Savior’s nail-scarred hands.

Father God, help me to hear Your inner voice. Fill me with love for those You send my way. Help me to help those who have lost their way, to discover the good plan You have for them. Help me to not be too busy to respond to Your Spirit-nudges, and to accept Your heavenly assignments.

Diane Virginia Cunio is the author of The Kiss of Peace: An Intimate Exploration into Song of Solomon (awaiting publication). She is passionate about sharing Beloved Jesus’ divine love for you, His bride, as allegorically portrayed in the vignette, Song of Solomon.

She has developed the model for motion-activated musical prayer-stations for use in the garden retreat, themed to the places you as Beloved’s bride travel to in Song of Solomon.

Diane is a regular contributor for Christian Broadcasting Network. She has written for Faith Beyond Fear, Pentecostal Publishing House, The Secret Place, and other ministries.

To schedule Diane as a speaker, please contact her via her website: Stories and Devotions Inspired by the Vine. You may find her on Facebook or contact her via email at email@vinewords.net.

Agape…and God’s Love

Are you a dog or a cat lover? Maybe you love all animals; most of them anyway.

I love animals. People who have been to my house and met my two dogs, six ducks, chickens, and three goats, know this about me.

My family especially loves German shepherd dogs. They are so easy to train and are loyal, protective and lovable.

Many years ago after the death of my beloved Nadia, a white German shepherd, my husband and I went looking for the perfect family dog. Our kids were only 6 (twins) and 4, so we knew we wanted a puppy. We found a German shepherd we fell in love with. She was about twenty-three pounds when we brought her home but my kids wouldn’t go near her at first.

We named her Agape. You may know it’s a Greek word which means unconditional love. Little did we know how she would fulfill her name.

After two days, they lost their fear of her and did not let her out of their sight.

Nor did she let them out of hers. She loved her pack (children).

My son, Matthew has cerebral palsy. Once Agape got a little older, she recognized something different in Matthew. She became protective of him. Not in an aggressive sense, but she stayed with him everywhere he went.  If he fell, she let him grab ahold of her to get back on his feet. If he was sitting down in the grass, Agape lay down next to him until he moved, then she moved with Matthew.

We have four and a half fenced-in acres of land with a long winding driveway. She followed my children all over it. One time, all three kids and Agape were at the end of our property down our driveway. I called to Agape to feed her. She looked at me but refused to come.

Now, Agape was a well-trained dog. She knew to listen and obey. But she was not leaving her kids. Once I called the kids, she followed them to me.

Every day during the school year, she trailed the kids down the driveway where they waited for the bus. She stayed just inside our gate watching them get on the bus and continued to stay there until the bus was out of sight. Then, she made the trek back to the house.

Another time, all five of us were walking around our property. Agape always took the lead. As we walked, Agape saw a hole where a drain had been. After putting her nose in it, she looked up at Mike and me, then put her nose back in the hole and looked up again. She stood over that hole until we had all passed her and then took the lead again.

Agape’s attention to detail and sensitivity amazed me. I wondered how far she would go to protect my kids.

My husband returned from work one warm, sunny day. This time Agape was not next to the kids. As he pulled up the hill to our house, Agape ran from the garage out in front of his car. He almost hit her. Our children were on that hill but she didn’t know Mike had seen them. She put herself between his car and our children.

He was a little shaken, but it made us realize how special this dog was to our kids and us. She would have given her life for them.

We serve a God and Savior Jesus Christ who also loves us with agape love. He does not base His love on what we do or have done. If it was, it would not be unconditional. He does not just love those who love Him, but even those who do not. That’s unconditional love. You can do nothing to earn it.

He is also a friend who will never leave us nor forsake us. He goes with us throughout our life even in the mundane comings and goings.

Agape spent her thirteen and a half years outside within our fenced in property protecting us and our animals from predators. It didn’t make her less loved because she was outside. She was family. She was a protector.

But she loved it when we came out first thing in the morning. It was as if she waited all night for us.

While we sleep, Jesus is the ultimate protector. He guards our hearts and minds. He protects us physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Have you ever considered that Jesus cannot wait for you to wake in the morning?  He looks forward to time alone with you.

Jesus gave His life for us. His agape love allowed Him to die a lonely and excruciatingly painful death for us. He did what He did to keep us from spiritual death and an eternity without us.

I thank God for animals, pets, and dogs like Agape.

But I can’t express how thankful I am that He loves me unconditionally. There is no condemnation. We cannot surprise or disappoint Him. He is all-knowing. He sees your past, present, and future and He still adores you.

Isn’t He worth knowing? Do you want a friend who is closer than a brother or a dog?

His name is Jesus.

And the Winner is…

I had the drawing for the verse study book Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

The winner is Kim Wurtz! Yay!! Congratulations Kim.

Thanks to everyone who entered. Although you didn’t win you will be able to purchase Feed Your Soul with the Word of God at Amazon.com starting June 20th.

I now have an author page on Amazon featuring Feed your Soul and The Few, the Humble, the Church, my book on Ephesians and Spiritual warfare. You can find it here.

Go to this link to buy Feed Your Soul. Thank you! I pray God uses this little book to get you into His Word.

 

A Feast of Words and a Free book

How do you feed your soul?

I just returned from a Christian writers conference in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It was an exhausting, yet exhilarating five days. This conference was a time for making new friends and catching up with old ones.

But, it also fed me.

This conference fed me spiritually, and it fueled my creativity. It inspired and challenged my writing.

I also realized How. Much. I. Don’t. Know.

Last year at this conference, I met a family whom I now deeply appreciate. They are the Kauffmans. Rick, Beebe, and their daughter Katy have inspired many people besides me. They are the founders of Refresh, an online Bible study magazine, and Lighthouse Bible Studies.

Beebe and Katy taught me a lot about writing devotionals for Refresh. Since meeting them, they published two of my devotionals in Refresh and gave me the courage to write for CBN.com and the Charisma online magazine.

I recently contributed to their book Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

This book is a feast of thirty short Bible studies written by twenty-six contributors; most of whom I know. You will love their stories and insights into Scripture.

Each short Bible study has a story, application, 4 to 5 questions, and a prayer. Easy peasy. You can get one in before work.

I have two short Bible studies in this book. The first one is How to Withstand the Predator and is about my dog and the deer she chased from my yard. Using this story and Scripture, I give you steps to withstand Satan’s schemes and understand Spiritual warfare.

My other short Bible study in this compilation is Psalm 18 — Retold. Psalm 18 is my favorite Psalm and I hope it will be yours after reading my version.

There are many other topics and scriptures used by great writers of this book to keep you engaged.

It is available on June 20th from Amazon.

But!

You can get your copy early by commenting on this post and sharing it. I will choose one random person to win a copy of Feed Your Soul with the Word of God.

We want everyone to hear about this study, so sharing it will improve the chance of reaching more people with the Good News Bible study give us.

Remember, to win a copy,  first comment on this blog, then share it with your friends and family.

Thank you! I will contact the winner to get your address.

 

 

 

Does Anyone Read the Bible anymore?

I admit at times I am too passionate about Bible study. The last thing I want to do is turn people off towards opening their Bibles. But, I see a trend in churches, (especially those that are not Southern Baptist; I am not Southern Baptist but they are known for their deep love of Bible study.) there seem to be more book clubs than Bible studies. Meaning, they get together and read a lot of books Christians write on what the Bible says instead of reading the Bible together.

 

I love to read and read many of these same books on my own time. I feel when we get together in the church, we should be reading the Bible more than any other book.
Almost twenty- years ago, the Lord called me to be a Bible teacher. I devoured every Bible study I could get my hands on to understand God’s Word better. One year for my birthday, my husband bought me Bible software to make my research easier. I loved it. It is my third program (Logos 7) which I use all the time. God made me for research. He made me to study and learn and to teach anyone who listens for more than a minute.
I love to teach, really I do.

 

My husband is often my unwilling student. Everything I learn, he learns… If he doesn’t have time, then my kids have to listen. And I will gladly follow them around so they don’t have to sit and hear me out.
But, back to the Bible. I think the church really wants to make it easy for everyone. But, sometimes, by putting scripture on a power point it can cause some people to become lazy. Hebrews 5:11-14  warns us about becoming lazy or dull of hearing. We don’t need to take our Bibles to a Sunday morning service anymore. If we don’t open our Bibles at church, why should we open them at home?

 
I have been teaching a study on the Parables of Jesus. The only book we use is the Bible. Yet, there are those who do not bring their Bibles to a Bible study. I know churches where you could never take your Bible and it would not matter. We are becoming Bible illiterate and it saddens me.

 
Our lack of biblical knowledge, both in our heads and hearts is clear by the state of our country, church, and of most families. We need the Holy Spirit to teach us God’s Word, but we have to open the Book, first.
I love God’s Word.

 

I didn’t necessarily set out to become a Bible teacher. One of my pet peeves is when people take scripture out of context to fit their worldview. It’s not even about memorization; it’s about living and breathing God’s letter to you.
I love getting the mail to see what’s there for me. I am seriously like a child when I get a package. If someone else in my family gets a package, I want to know what’s in it. Whenever I get a real card or letter in the mail—not an email or e-card, but the real paper kind—I love to read and re-read it. Someone took the time to sit down and write these words for me. I leave it on my table and pick it up a couple of times a day for about a week just to read it again.

 

That’s how I see the Scriptures. God spent many years through many of His obedient followers to write me eternal Words. Words to comfort me, teach me, love me, and save me. There are Words that show me what I cannot see with my eyes—His Son.
Many people have died to print these Words, take them to other countries, and teach them. We have it so good.
How many Bibles do you have in your house? How many do you read?

 
God doesn’t love us any less for not being in His Word. But, He wrote it for you. Ask Him to reveal Himself through the pages of His Word. He will do it!

 
Go to Bible studies; get the Book, not an electronic version. Take notes, write in the margins, and highlight the verses you love.

 

Wear. Your. Bible. OUT! That’s why He gave it to us.

Pray, too. A lot.
This is not condemnation. I hope this encourages you and sparks a new interest in God’s Word. If you have questions ask me. I will do my best to give you an answer. If I don’t know it, I will find someone who does.
Thanks for listening! I promise I will not follow you around. 🙂

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete and equipped for every good work. 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

 

A Small League of Unrecognized Radicals (repost)

A great story by fellow blogger Carole Sparks about Jesus’ death. Please take the time to read it. Thanks!

Not About Me

I’m not good with the crucifixion. I read and write all around it, but I struggle with the actual event. I’ve never even seen The Passion of the Christ. Last summer, however, God gave me this perspective, and I managed to get the words down. So for Good Friday this year, I offer this repost of a biblical fiction piece based on John 19:38-42 (and the other gospels).

“Get me an audience with Pilate. Now.” Joseph’s servant nodded and stepped away, soon lost in the dispersing crowd, but Joseph couldn’t move. He tried not to think about the twelve-year-old who had amazed him in the temple more than two decades earlier. He tried not to list the many who had been healed in the last three years. He forced himself to breathe again and steadied his hands.

Now for his eyes. They hadn’t left Jesus since a centurion thrust that…

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