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BACK FROM THE BRINK: AL DOWNEY

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In April of 1989, I came precariously close to ending my life.

I was in the throes of a completely debilitating depression. Totally incapable of rational thought, very ill, and unable to help myself, I lived believing the tormenting devilish lies continuously being fed into my mind. They were condemnatory, malicious lies, without foundation, yet to me they seemed completely logical. They dominated every moment of conscious thought.


Rev. Al Downey is the Pastoral Care Co-ordinator for the Alberta and Northwest Territories District of the PAOC. In the last year he and his wife, Yvonne, have made over 3,000 contacts in caring for ministers.


Guilt And Pain

Yes, I was a believer.

Yes, I was a pastor. That only magnified the guilt and pain. It brought a deeper shame and more complete sense of failure. I believed that I had failed myself, my family, my church, my vocation, and most of all my God. Desperation drove me to the ‘brink.’ One step into heavy traffic and it would all be over.

In that one fragile, frightening moment, when life and death wrestled for domination over me, I am so glad that life won. I am here today only by the grace of God. I came 2 steps and 10 seconds away from being a suicide statistic. I would have missed so much.

Empathy and Comfort

In the light of the furor caused by the recent suicides of pastors and all the subsequent discussion it has spawned, I wanted to address this issue from my own past personal hell, and offer these few thoughts:

First, to those in ministry who feel in absolute hopelessness and desperation, I want to say:

You need not feel any sense of blame, shame or failure because of your present situation. Great men and women all through Scripture and Church history have faced and fought the “black dogs” of depression and mental illness. You are not alone in this. There is no need to suffer in silence. You have always been, you are, and always will be, valuable in the eyes of Father God. Wellness or illness cannot change that. You are His prized possession.

Reach Out

You can and should reach out for help. I firmly believed that no one could help. I was wrong. There was help available. There is a positive, constructive way out of your private pain. There are numbers of us who personally understand what you are facing and we desire nothing more than to walk with you through this time. Modern medical help is available as well. More is understood about mental illness than ever before.

Hope

This torment is only for a season. There is hope for the journey ahead. I know you will find that hard to believe. I didn’t believe it either. I had no hope, no expectation of recovery. Yet, here I am almost 30 years later, functioning well in life. I take medication to stimulate the production of serotonin in my brain. I feel no remorse or guilt for doing so. I only feel gratitude for the help it gives. It is a small price to pay. Long ago I chose to discount the opinion of those who would censure me for taking ‘tricyclic antidepressants.’

Do I believe in divine healing? Absolutely! However, when God chooses to heal me, I will rejoice. Until then, I will thank God for medicine. I encourage you not to hesitate to take medicine prescribed by a competent, caring physician. Stick with it. It will make a difference.

Grace And Mercy

Since my recovery, God has allowed me to minister to scores of people living, as I had, on the brink. That has brought me immeasurable joy.

Can we, with the same grace and mercy we have received from God, allow Him to judge according to His love? Then we will be free to be caregivers for those who are fighting mental illness and comforters for those left behind in the terrible wake of suicide.

Read the entire article here.

APPLICATION:

Join the conversation. Please leave a comment below. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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LOVE RESTORES SO GET PERKING

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When is coffee more than java? When its Kingdom Coffee.

Jesse and Steph Singleton are Calgarian entrepreneurs with a cause that goes beyond caffeine. Because of their generosity the robust aroma from a bag of their fresh ground Nicaraguan medium roast is teasing my senses.

The Singletons gave out free coffee at a pastors conference I attended. The story behind Kingdom Coffee coffee is richer than their roast.

Our Story

Four pastors went undercover and spent time with the homeless on the streets of Calgary. There they met a man named Jim. He was addicted to heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol. Jim was at the end of his rope, fighting addiction and contemplating suicide.

The four pastors listened to Jim and showed him love. They brought him to a recovery centre where Jesus found him and changed his life. He went from being a violet, angry addict to a gentle man who his grandchildren ran to as he walked through the door.

Jim passed away in December 2015 from a tragic workplace accident.

Jim’s Legacy

We believe that if a few men can love Jim, then we in turn can love other people who are struggling like he was. We share our coffee with people to hear their story and let them know someone is listening.

A portion of every bag sold goes to helping people in recovery and finding them a place to sleep at night. We thank these four men for taking the time to love Jim.

Jim was Jesse’s father and this is his story

APPLICATION

Go to KingdomCoffee.ca to read the rest of their story and order your own fresh roast. Please leave a comment below. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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SHEPHERDS BURNING OUT SHOULDERING BURDENS

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Andrew Stoecklein and family

Shepherds are an endangered species in North America. The women and men who accepted a call to shepherd congregations through their valleys of the shadow of death have broad shoulders. But even the best are falling prey to deadly burdens.

Burdens they often bear alone.

Jim Howard, lead pastor of the Valencia campus of the more than 6,000 member Real Life Church in California fatally shot himself in the head at home on January 23rd, 2019. His associates didn’t hear his pain.

This post is for Pastors.

And their families.

And the people they pastor and those who lead with them.

Shepherds’ Struggles

Pastor Ted Parker, 42, of Macon, Ga., died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the driveway of his home while his 800-member church and his family waited for him to show up to preach on Sunday morning.

Inland Hills Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein tried taking his own life at his megachurch in August 2018. He died three days later. The pastor left behind three young children, and his wife. Weeks earlier he tried to explain his struggles to his congregation.

Most pastors are not suicidal. But most pastors do struggle.

“Pastors shoulder a huge emotional burden, but they’re burning out…alone.” Ainsley Hawthorn a reporter for CBC noted on Jan 20, 2019.

Tragic Expectations

In 2017, Christ the Rock Community Church in Menasha, Wisconsin, announced that its founding pastor, Bill Lenz, took his own life—a tragic event that followed a months-long battle with depression.

There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. Three-fourths of them lead churches that are struggling by almost any measure or metric.

In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, but better young, and if a pastor doesn’t quite measure up to someone’s expectation, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Yep. Google ratings.

Inadequacies

The professional demands placed upon pastors are incredibly varied. Team leadership, budgeting, and project administration are often significant demands in a role that requires continual public speaking and individual counseling.

Combine that with being a scholar, an effective evangelist on the cutting edge of cultural relevance, and a leader in the righting of social injustices – even the prepared church leaders are usually left feeling inadequate.

4 Common Causes Of Ministry Pain

1. Emotional Pain: Doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, and social workers are just some of the professionals who are at risk of compassion fatigue, burnout, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of regularly witnessing the intense suffering of others.

These ailments are caused by what’s called secondary or vicarious trauma. When someone describes a painful life event, an empathetic listener will feel grief, fear or anxiety on a small scale, like an echo of the original pain.

2. High Expectations: Pastors often tolerate and unwittingly collaborate with expectations that they are capable of doing anything and should be perfect in all aspects of life and worship. The clergy profession has been labelled a “holy crosssfire” as the leader and his or her family attempt to juggle competing expectations of self, family, congregation, denomination and God.

3. Deficient Social Support: A pastor spends the bulk of their relational energy engaging intimately and intensely with others, but without reciprocal sharing and support. Deficient levels of social support resulting from these “half-intimacies” contribute to consequences such as marital maladjustment, depression, loneliness, role overload and inappropriate relationships with church members, in addition to burnout.

4. Financial Demands: Working long hours for comparatively low pay is stressful for clergy and their families. It is not just the financial realities themselves, but the guilt that Christian leaders may experience for being concerned about such “materialistic” matters resulting in doubling of the stressor.

Intervention: Managing Ministry Stress

My friends, Dr. Gerry and Sharon Michalski, pastors at Soul Sanctuary, Winnipeg, Manitoba shared the following with lead pastors of large churches at a pastors conference in January 2019.

Their advice is a blueprint for pastors, their families, and church leadership to work together to ensure well being and replenishment.

Pastor Gerry Michalski, 500 Plus Conference

1. Pastor – Stop. Breathe. Pray. Stop what you’re doing. Take a deep breath and gather yourself. Now ask Jesus for peace, wisdom and courage to be vulnerable. Repeat.

2. Do something about it. There can be a tendency for pastors to think, “This problem is just too big. I’m helpless. There is nothing I can do.” One key is to create a sense of personal urgency to do something. Lead yourself well.

3. Talk to a supervisor, physician, counselor, mentor or trusted friend. Seek their support so that together you can generate changes to alter the feeling of helplessness. Vulnerability in a safe space is courageous. Boards – insure help on all levels is provided and promoted – prayer, medication, support, counsel.

4. Be interdependent with God. Target and acting directly on the source of the stress in collaboration with God. Make use of the Sabbath principle. Take off a day a week, a week a year, 3 months sabbatical every seven years – not as holidays – but as rest for your soul.

5. Trade abstract expectations for concrete expectations. Pastor – do you have a job description? Agreed upon work arrangement and hours?

6. Take regular breaks. Walk. Run. Ride. Take a day off every week. Use your vacation days. All of them.

Kerith Retreats is a wonderful resource for pastors and their spouses. Surrounded by the calm of nature, Kerith Retreat centres offer the space to truly find stillness and the retreat schedule enables leaders to experience profound renewal.

APPLICATION

Everything in a pastor’s life isn’t stressful. There is lot’s of joy. And we have amazing experiences, engaging in situations few see in a lifetime. Are you in church leadership? Talk with your pastor about this. Please pass this on to a pastor you know. Be an MVP for your pastor. Leaving a comment or a prayer below would be great. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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THE BELICHICK WAY

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Its hard to argue with success but when it comes to Bill Belichick there are a foolish few who have been known to take on the task.

Over his 44 year career, Belichick has the most playoff wins among all active professional football coaches. Additionally, he has a record five Super Bowl wins (and rings). He is the only NFL coach to win three of four Super Bowls in four years. He is widely considered as one of, if not the greatest coach in NFL history. #GOAT

His insights can help any coach, leader or achiever think straight and position themselves for consistent success.

The Power Of Leadership

#1. Good players can’t overcome bad coaching.

Team performance is leadership’s responsibility. No excuses allowed.

Leaders who take 100% responsibility for the team:

  • Deal with under-performers quickly.
  • Expect team members to support each other.
  • Bring tough issues into the light.
  • Measure what matters and display it publicly.
  • Find roles where team members leverage their strengths for success.
  • Own failure and honor success.
  • Listen deeply.

Face The Future

#2. To live in the past is to die in the present.

Control

#3. We can only control what we can control in the short-term.

#4. We don’t talk about last year. We don’t talk about next week. We talk about today, and we talk about the next game. That’s all we can really control. The rest of it will take care of itself.

Character Or Talent

#5. Talent sets the floor, character sets the ceiling.

#6. Success is not all about talent. It’s about dependability, consistency, and being able to improve.

#7. The one thing I’ve definitely learned is you’ve got to count on your most dependable people… It might not be your most talented people. But you count on your most dependable people…

#8. I’m going down with that person. (Referring to the dependable person.)

Serving The Team

#9. Mental Toughness is doing the right thing for the team when it’s not the best thing for you.

#10. Whatever success I’ve had it is because I’ve tried to understand the situation of the player. I think the coach’s duty is to avoid complicating matters.

Content via Dan Rockwell at Leadership Freak.

And since you’ve gotten this far, you’ll know my appreciation for Belichick is through the roof because he hired Jack Easterby to care for the soul and spirit of the Patriots. If you don’t know jack about Jack take a minute to click the link and meet the most popular man on the team and why.

APPLICATION

Love him or hate him, please leave a comment about Belichick or the Pats before he becomes a part of the greatest NFL dynasty of all time. Thank you. Go #Pats.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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GOLIATH MUST FALL

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David and Goliath are seen as the classic underdog story. The message take away from the account is that if we try hard enough we can overcome. Anything. Of any size.

But that’s the wrong message.

Giants That Make You Miserable

Just as in David’s day, giant-sized threats will come against you to torment you and make you miserable.

Giants like:

Fear.

Rejection.

Anger.

Addiction.

Comfort.

I get stuck on comfort. How could comfort be a giant?

(Spoiler alert: Answer to follow.)

Goliath Must Fall

Louis Giglio in his book, Goliath Must Fall, identifies six giants and encourages you not to allow giants to have power in your life.

And he points out that you are not David in the story.

Giglio uncovers a new found twist in the story of David and Goliath. He shows how living free from your giants is not better slingshot accuracy. He found that out the hard way.

A Giant Called Mental Illness

Eleven years ago Giglio, the pastor of a thriving mega-church, woke up at 2am in a terrifying panic. He describes it as a nervous breakdown, a slippery slide into a pit of anxiety, fear, worry and depression. For days he couldn’t leave the house. The next four months would be spent in a tunnel with no light at the end.

He thought he was going insane.

That’s not good news for a pastor – man of God – mover of mountains.

His mental illness has improved through the use of medication, counselling, prayer and praise. But it is his “thorn” with the risk of reappearing.

Anxiety

Here’s where his life experience is helpful. “Anxiety isn’t a thing. It’s the symptom of a thing and so we have to go a little deeper and ask a question, ‘What is making me anxious?’ I gave too much credit just to anxiety. So I try to help and encourage people to go one step further, to go beneath the surface to ask, ‘What is it that I’m afraid of? Who is it that I’m afraid of? What was said that I wish I could now mange the way it was said?’ I was trying to manage every outcome and I was trying to watch over my shoulder all the time.”

So how can you see Goliath fall?  By keeping your eyes on the only giant-slayer: Jesus. Put your hope in Him, and watch Goliath fall.

If a giant has a stronghold on your life, God is not glorified. That’s why Goliath must fall. David was motivated not only by his own personal freedom but by the glory God would receive if Goliath fell in defeat.

Comfortable

So what about the subject of comfort as a giant?

Faith thrives in discomfort. How big is your comfort zone?

Could comfort be limiting you as a spectator rather than a gladiator in the arena of faith?

You’re looking to make your life count – to make a difference in the world. You’re looking to serve and help people.

Here’s the deal – no one who’s ever done that has had a comfortable life. 

Goliath must fall.

APPLICATION

Step out of your comfort zone and join a group at North Pointe that will go through Louis Giglio’s book, Goliath Must Fall. Groups begin the week of February 10th. Sign up here… Women’s Groups. Men’s Groups. Home Groups.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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EVERYBODY ALWAYS: LOVE ACCORDING TO BOB

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I’ve spent my life trying to make faith easy. The truth is, it’s not. What I am trying to do now is make my faith simple.

Women and men with simple faith are rivers, not reservoirs.

They receive love and give it away. All. Of. It. Nothing held in reserve for a dry day.

Bob Goff, a recovering lawyer and philanthropist boiled simple faith down to two words: everybody, always.

I had lunch with Bob a few years ago, learned about his first book, Love Does and read it through. Changed my life. He gave me a vision for what can happen in a person’s life when they say “yes” to God and become devoted to giving love away.


I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.


Bob took all the money from the sales of his book and put love to work. He opened schools, safe houses, homes for abandoned infants and orphanages in Somalia, Iraq, Uganda, Nepal and countries where regional conflicts endangered the lives of the children living there. He told stories of what he learned about the immense power that love has in the world today.

Jesus talked with his friends about how his followers should identify themselves. He said it wouldn’t be what we said we believed or the good things we hoped to do someday. Jesus said we would identify ourselves by how we have loved people.

His second book, Everybody Always is devastatingly delightful. You simply cannot live the same after applying it.

13 Insights About Love According To Bob

1. We can be correct and not right.

2. We can have the right words and the wrong heart.

3. Whenever I make my opinions more important than the people God made, I turn the wine back into water.

4. Don’t take the bait of trading kindness for rightness.

5. Take the most controversial social issues of the day. You will find passionate voices on both sides. That sad fact is many of us have lost our way trying to find people find theirs.

6. Arguments won’t change people.

7. Simply giving away kindness won’t either.

8. Only Jesus has the power to change people.

9. It is harder for people to see Jesus if their view of Him is blocked by our big opinions.

10. While me might be known for our opinions we will be remembered for our love.

11. Burning down others’ opinions does not make us right. It makes us arsonists.

12. We will become in our lives what we do with God’s love.

13. Those who are becoming love don’t throw people off roofs, they lower people through them instead.

APPLICATION

Which one is your favourite? Please leave a comment below. Love Does. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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PAINFUL MOMENTS AND MIRACLES: DANIELLE’S STORY

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There’s going to be very painful moments in your life that will change your entire world in a matter of minutes. These moments will change you.

Cry. Scream if you have to.

But let them make you stronger, smarter and kinder. And lean into faith for a miracle.

Answered Prayer

Danielle Martin understands how a moment can change a life. She was diagnosed with PCOD (polycycstic ovary disease) and was told it would be next to impossible to get pregnant without medical intervention. Her and her partner Chad Dopson’s first miracle was named Caitlyn. After holding on to hope, trying for 14 years to get pregnant a second time, and suffering a miscarriage, Danielle and Chad had their prayers answered.

In November 2017 they received an early Christmas gift – a positive pregnancy test. They were over-the-moon happy. For six weeks. Then Danielle began spotting.

An ultrasound showed she was losing the baby.

Loss and Anger

Despite praying for mercy and using every ounce of faith they possessed, Danielle miscarried. Again. She wanted that little soul so much.

Not only did she lose the baby, she lost her self. Inconsolable. And angry. Angry at the unfairness. Disappointed with God.

Her faith did a 180 and she turned her face from God.

No prayers.

No hope.

No church.

A Miracle Baby

Fast forward one year later, almost to the day. Danielle and Chad found themselves at church again. They were in attendance for a very special occasion. The dedication of a baby named Grace. Their daughter.

Grace is a miracle baby.  This is her story.

After missing church for a month, Danielle dragged herself to North Pointe on the last Sunday of January 2018. She cried the whole service. When an invitation was given to be prayed for, she responded.

Her response was the beginning of a miracle.

Wounded Healers

When she came to the place of prayer, Danielle was directed to a husband and wife – one of fourteen couples available for prayer. They had never met before. Something about the couple put Danielle at ease. The couple – Dan and Elaine Klemke – were no strangers to painful moments. Years previous, both had been widowed by tragic circumstances. Both became involved in Grief Share – a program at North Pointe that supports people through their losses. Elaine was the program facilitator – a wounded healer. Dan attended as a participant. They experienced their miracle a few months later when attraction blossomed to love and they married.

The Klemkes were the perfect balm for Danielle’s grief. They heard her story and wept with her. They prayed over her, asking God to give her the strength to trust Him. And they asked God to bless her and Chad with another child. 

In reflecting on that moment, Dan and Elaine felt nothing miraculous about their prayer. They didn’t connect with Danielle again for almost a year.

Grace

Danielle went home from church feeling much lighter than she had for weeks.

She recalls, “From their lips to God’s ears because it was about a month later that we conceived, around my birthday in February.”

On November 20, 2018 Grace Caelia Dopson Martin was born. January 20th, 2019 was chosen for her dedication. And Danielle let the Klemkes know the good news.

Dan and Elaine Klemke with Grace
Dan and Elaine Klemke with Grace on January 20, 2019.

On the Sunday of Grace’s dedication Dan Klemke shared with the Martins that it was no coincidence she was born on November 20th. Turns out the 20th of November was his late wife’s birthday.

Grace’s story was shared with the congregation at the dedication. Afterwards, a woman thanked Danielle. The woman’s daughter was devastated by unsuccessful invitros. The entire family was heartbroken. Hearing that after 14 years the Martins were blessed with Grace shone a light on their very dark situation.

Miracles

God works through others for our benefit. God blessed others through Elaine’s leadership in Grief Share. He blessed Elaine and Dan with second chances at love. He blessed Danielle through the prayer of the Klemkes. God blessed the Klemkes with the knowledge that a miracle happened because of their prayer.

For Grace’s dedication, I personalized Psalm 91:15,16 –

“Grace will call on me and I will answer her. I will be with her in trouble.

I will deliver her and honor her.

With long life will I satisfy Grace and show her my salvation.”

Are you facing a painful moment? There is hope. Danielle will tell you to hold on to hope. Pray. Expect a miracle, called Grace.

Application

Please leave a comment for Danielle below. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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11 LIFELONG BENEFITS OF GENEROSITY

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Everything you have in your life is a gift from God. If God was not generous you would have nothing. Your heart would stop beating. Right now.

God is a generous God. He gives you air, sunshine, a mind to think and everything else in your life. All are sheer gifts from God. Even the ability to earn is a gift from God.

And God wants you to learn to be like Him.

Key Words

Do a study of the key words of the Bible. The word “believe” – we all know that’s important – is used 272 times in the Bible.

Pray. That’s an important word.  “Pray” is used in the Bible 371 times.

The word “love” is obviously an important word, is used 714 times.

But the word “give” is used 2,152 times.

11 Golden Benefits Of Generosity

1.  GENEROSITY HONORS GOD

“You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts.” 2 Corinthians 9:11

2.  GENEROSITY DRAWS ME CLOSER TO GOD.

When I invest in God and His work it not only honors God it draws me closer to Him because wherever my money and time go is what attracts me.

“Your heart will be wherever your treasure is.” Matthew 6:21

3.  GENEROSITY IS THE CURE FOR MATERIALISM.

Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

4.  GENEROSITY DEMONSTRATES MY FAITH.

“Your giving proves the reality of your faith…” 2 Corinthians 9:13

5.  GENEROSITY REVEALS MY CHARACTER.

“If you are untrustworthy with worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”  Luke 16:11

6. GENEROSITY BRINGS GOD’S BLESSING.

 “God loves the one who gives gladly.  And God will make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.” 2 Corinthians 9:7-8

7. GENEROSITY INCREASES MY HAPPINESS.

“Jesus said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’”  Hebrews 9:

8. GENEROSITY EXPANDS MY INFLUENCE.

 “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy will get smaller and smaller.”  Proverb 11:24

Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash

9. GENEROSITY MULTIPLIES MY MONEY.

“A generous man will prosper; He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

10.  GENEROSITY BRINGS GOD’S PROTECTION.

 “All goes well for the generous man who conducts his business fairly. Such a man will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. Psalm 112:5-6  

11.  GENEROSITY WILL BE REWARDED IN ETERNITY.

“Use your money to do good…always being ready to share with others whatever God has given you. By doing this you will be storing up real treasure…in heaven – it is the only safe investment for eternity! And they will be living a fruitful Christian life down here as well.” 1 Timothy 6:18-19 (TLB)

APPLICATION

Please be generous with a comment below. Thank you.


Hope grows here. I write to share stories that inspire people, build faith in Jesus, and offer lasting purpose. If this material is helpful to you, please follow me.

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BIBLE READING PEACE PLAN JANUARY 2019

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This is the Bible reading plan for January 2019. Peace from putting God first.

The daily passages address a perspective on putting God first in your life and trusting his provision for your life.

The passages encourage generosity and humility.

1 Chronicles 29:11,12 – “…everything in heaven and on earth is yours…wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.”

2 Corinthians 9:6 – “…whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

Proverbs 3:9 – “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits…”

Proverbs 11:24,25 – “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds it unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; who ever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”

Philippians 4:6,7 – “Do not be anxious for anything…The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

TWO TEARS ON THE WINDOW

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Reading Kevin and Julia Garratt’s experiences in Chinese captivity left me feeling nauseous. The story of their arrest, captivity, grueling interrogations, and intense suffering over 775 days is chronicled in such a way as to create a vicarious experience.

This is one book you will need to read in 2019. Whatever your circumstance, the Garratt’s vulnerability, honesty, faith, and humor will resonate with your spirit.


“Tears formed. Not from exhaustion, loneliness or plaguing physical pain. These were good tears. Tears of release. I’d waited 775 days for these wonderful tears!” (p. 266)


Kevin and Julia worked in China for 30 years and raised their family there. They loved the Chinese. Assisting with education, humanitarian work, Christian social enterprises and a popular coffee house was their heart passion.

Then They Disappeared

After dinner at a local Chinese restaurant they were forcibly separated and taken to a secret Chinese compound. They woke up as prisoners, charged with espionage – a crime punishable by execution.

Freedom and privacy were gone.

They would need to survive every day and every night with watching eyes and no escape from the lights.

Surviving Takes Every Breath

Kevin and Julia alternate their storytelling throughout the book. They pace the book with entire pages describing a few hours of their agony and then month-long experiences described in a paragraph.

Their freedom gone, they shared with Chinese guards how they could find freedom through faith in Jesus.

Julia – My inner strength puzzled them. Although fear and threats affected me, friendliness and baffling inner peace made intimidation difficult.  (p. 116)

Our work as Christians is to give an answer to everyone who asks for the hope we have.  Our life manual is the stories of other people who’ve lived with God as a supernatural partner. The Bible is God’s resume.” (p. 117)

Kevin – I stretched out my hands with nothing to offer God but suffering. He didn’t remove it but peace came. I felt him close. The more I offered him the more he filled my nightmare with himself. He entered my fear, despair and loneliness. In his presence, the size of my suffering was incomparable to the size of his love. (p. 120)

Two Tears On The Window

Julia – Something moved on the wall beside me. The sun had cast a shadow of two raindrops trickling down one after the other. I turned to find their origin. Outside my plastic-covered window two drops of water followed a slow and steady pathway down the glass pane.

Why only two? How can this be, it’s a sunny day?  Then I heard a whisper. Julia. I’m sorry. My eyes followed until the drops reached the ledge out of my sight. My miracle wasn’t release. It was seeing God’s sorrow.

Two tears on the window. I took my pencil and scribbled the image in the back of my Bible. Day 182. I saw God cry. (p. 145)

Will Anyone Save Me?

Kevin – At times the Bible seemed to say everything. Now. Wait. Persevere. Trust. Sometimes my longing for the miraculous deliverance created deep disappointment and I wondered if prison was my final earthly destination.

I cried to God many times a day, often many times a minute. Every time peace came. Words, phrases or timely passages connected me to aspects of God’s character and his larger story, helping me trust and manage the debilitating pain. Sometimes pain gripped so tight my whole body radiated pain in an all-encompassing ache as if my body would one day have enough and collapse. One evening, deep despair set in. Overcome with constant waves of pain and unable to sleep, I hummed an old hymn and stopped after the first phrase. Take my life and let it be… I wanted heaven to rescue me.

Hard To See Goodness

For days my eyes couldn’t focus. The varicose veins on my legs protruded and I avoided looking at them, afraid they would burst and I’d watch myself bleed to death. My hands lacked strength and after pacing, hung limp and numb at my side. If I held a book, they tingled until they lost all feeling. Will anyone save me? Does Canada care? My head throbbed and pain pierced my chest. My irregular heart rate spiked high and low. The prison doctor kept trying new medicines but nothing helped. The pain intensified until I couldn’t walk or stand. It was hard to see goodness in the waiting. (p. 118)

Where Are You God?

Kevin – I couldn’t call anyone in prison a friend at first.  In this community of criminals, I felt dirty, embarrassed and ashamed. It terrified me that everyone looked so normal. After staring at the ceiling for an hour, I put my face in the pillow and cried hoping no one would see me. (p. 167)

At times I did not feel God for days. Has He abandoned me? I know he answers prayers. Why not mine? I begged and pleaded. Not prison. But he was silent.  I knew he was there but wanted more. I wanted the wind and the earthquake and the fire. I wanted the kind of God who would write things on the wall and miraculously open prison doors to set his captive free. I read the Bible stopping at every miraculous deed. I underlined all the amazing things in Psalms. I didn’t want to read or see things like “why have you forsaken me?”  because I felt it. Has God left me? Where are his whispers? (p. 185)

The doctors, nurses, guards and warden watched my deterioration but prison rules were hard to bend without bribes or power. My 400-day wait lacked focus. Disappointments stacked up and each minute was a battle. (p. 219)

APPLICATION

Hear Kevin and Julia Garratt at North Pointe on Sunday January 27, 2019 9:30am / 11:00am / 12:30pm. Purchase a copy of their book in the Next Steps bookstore.


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