Faith, Evangelism, and the Non-Believer

I hope you enjoy this heartfelt post by a dear friend about his view of the world from an atheist’s eyes. – The In-Place Missionary

Faith, Evangelism, and the Non-Believer by Eternally Grateful

A friend and I were talking one day about life prior to my recent conversion. For most of my adult life, I would have said I was an atheist. For people who have been raised in church, with God being part of their life ever since they could remember, it is probably difficult to understand the atheist’s perspective. After all, how could anyone reject something so important as God? My friend and I found ourselves agreeing it would be interesting to attempt to articulate the view of the non-believer from the perspective of someone who, until very recently, used to be one.

Atheists, Agnostics, and the Hard Numbers

It was difficult to decide how to approach writing this article due to the many misconceptions about atheism. So, I decided to start with the basics and take a look a couple of definitions. Most dictionaries or encyclopedias define “atheism” as a lack of belief in a deity of any kind. Whereas an “agnostic” is often defined as someone who “neither believes or disbelieves” or someone who believes there is just not enough information to determine whether there is a supreme being or not. Atheists and agnostics are a rather small, disjointed group according to a Pew research poll (Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life / U.S. Religious Landscape Survey) conducted in 2007). The poll asked Americans about their religious beliefs and reported 1.6% of Americans said they were atheist; while 2.4% were agnostic. Another 6.3% of Americans claim to be secular unaffiliated. If I were to sum up the numbers, about 10% of Americans do not believe in God. I can confirm the statistics are basically right because I lived it for almost 40 years.

Some people would have you believe the country is over-run with atheists and secular humanists. Obviously, there are a few small groups who make attempts to draw attention to themselves or injustices they see. Some groups are even attempting to ‘evangelize’ using methods normally attributed to an aggrandizing televangelist; however, the number of atheists and agnostics is relatively small by my standards.

What Does It Mean to be an Atheist?

In the end, the term “atheist” is just a label. Like all labels, it just makes it easier for us to categorize things; however, when one looks deeper, things are not as they appear nor do they always fit nicely inside a box. Just like Christians, the atheists I’ve met were a diverse group, and they came from all walks of life. Some had religion in their childhood, some did not. Some were liberal while some were conservative. Some were highly educated, some not. Some believed in spirits or other forces that come to play occasionally in the realms of man. Others did not.

For me personally, being atheist meant:

  • There is no all-knowing, all-powerful being who was creator of the universe.
  • I walk alone, and I was good with that.
  • I don’t care (apathy) regarding the human condition. It is what it is.
  • I don’t matter. In a universe that is billions of years old and populated with an uncountable number of galaxies where each is populated by an uncountable number of stars, my 50 plus years of existence on this rather smallish planet is really quite insignificant.

My Negative Perceptions about Christianity

As an atheist, I felt religion was not the basis of morality or justice, but was based on a social contract between individuals. I saw Christians lie, cheat, and steal just like everyone else, so what was so special about them? Experiences throughout my life furthered my negative perceptions about Christianity when it became apparent that at least some had hidden agendas. The Christians I encountered were often judgmental and hypocritical and tried to “convert” others to their specific brand of Christianity instead of genuinely loving people without any strings attached.

Public prayers during secular sporting events, public meetings, etc. were extremely uncomfortable for me. I always felt like it created an expectation to “go along” with it even if I didn’t agree. If I didn’t participate, I was “bad.” The “moment of silence” made me feel even worse because I viewed it as an attempt by Christians to get other religious groups to gang up on us non-believers. To this day, even as a born again Christian, I still cringe sometimes when there are secular events with public prayers because I don’t want unbelievers to feel excluded or forced like I did.

It would be easy to blame others for chasing me away from God; but, in the end, it was my decision. At the time, I just didn’t see or feel the way Christians said they did. I didn’t feel the Spirit, and I didn’t want to pretend about what I felt just to fit in.

Looking in the Mirror

I was speaking to a friend of mine recently who lives in the UK. In talking to him, I realized he and I had been going in opposite directions. While I had recently embraced the Message and become born again, he had been slowly drifting away from the Church. He said he was “living the lie” by the motions without truly believing. Although he is a secular humanist, he still takes his 86 year old father to church.

As we were chatting, it became obvious he was trying to steer me away from my new path. In effect, he was evangelizing me! My friend cited Christopher Hitchens as an influence and suggested I read his books or at least view his many Youtube videos with the idea that we would talk again on the issue. I was unfamiliar with the name; but after our conversation, as I had promised, I googled his name and watched some videos.

Mr. Hitchens is a rather well-spoken author known for negative views regarding religion. As I watched the first interview, I could see he was a thoughtful, well-educated man. I could also see a very sick man in the last stages of a battle with terminal cancer. Hitchens passed away in 2011. In all honesty, I would have to say I agreed with about 95% of what he said in the interview about man, human society, and religion. I’m willing to bet most believers would agree with a lot of his comments as well. I haven’t read his books or seen all of his public commentary, so it’s possible there are a few inflammatory statements associated with him; however, I’m sure there have been more than a few unkind words thrown in his direction by believers as well. All unkind words and inflammatory statements aside, I am reminded we are still all God’s children.

If someone says they are not a believer, do we really need to criticize them for being honest? They are just telling you what they feel. They have no connection to God. Why attack the messenger, especially when they are telling the truth? If someone tells us it is raining, should we be critical of them because we would rather hear it is sunny outside?

Today, as I write this, I thank God for the opportunity to hear Mr. Hitchen’s words spoken so honestly and eloquently, as they reinvigorate me to find a way to reach those who need Him most. I also pray for mercy for Mr. Hitchens, as I do for my parents and other family members who may not have known our Savior. In my heart, I know I can do no less.

Reaching Out to Others

So, how does one reach an atheist or like-minded person with the message of salvation? That’s not an easy question to answer. I’ll tell you first what doesn’t work. Preaching “fire and brimstone” or trying to force the message on a non-believer does not only fail, but would likely be counter-productive. The harm done by this is incalculable, in my opinion, for the audience will often reject the message as well as the messenger.

I think it’s better to engage each person in a positive manner. Throughout my life, I have found the tone of dialogue changes as one person gets to know another. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect his or her point of view. Try to look at things from the other person’s point of view. Everyone has to deal with the pain of living. Let us not cause someone to close his or her mind to the message and thus the door to salvation.

Also, what do non-believers know about you and your faith? Are you modeling Christ or a persona with perfect hair and flashy charisma? In my experience, people tend to avoid the high pressure salesman; but they will listen and even enlist input from people they trust like close friends. If they see the way you live and the peace you have, they may at some point say, “Hey, I think I’d like to know more about that.” And if the time is right, at some point they may decide they want that too.

Through New Eyes

Less than a year ago, I became born again. I was conquered by love, not fear. One of the things that became almost an obsession with me from the start was to address what I see as a major problem with the Church as a whole. Specifically, we Christians need to do a better job of reaching out to

My friend's baptism
My friend’s baptism

non-believers. We must live the gospel and reach out with love in our hearts. God loves all His children, and we must never forget that.

For those who have spent all or most of their life in the Church, let me say this: We must remember a nonbeliever does not know the joy we know through Him. We must also remember a non-believer may also bear scars from prior encounters from our fellow Christians. We must be inclusive and empathetic, open minded and thick-skinned, and most of all, we need to love on non-believers as we do believers. As I look at my lost brothers and sisters, I feel their pain and loneliness; however, because God loves ALL his children, I am forever grateful and hopeful.

Our time here on earth is all about relationships with other people, as well as, our relationship with God. It’s important to invest the lives of others and sincerely get to know them. We can say things as a friend we cannot say as a stranger. It is impossible to know someone’s needs until you get to know the person.  Listen to the still, small voice and remember to use a still small voice in your relationships with others. Colossians 4:5-6 NLT:

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

I realize as I write this post how much I need to work on forgiveness. How can I expect God’s forgiveness yet not forgive others who hurt me when I was a non-believer? I know I’ve got a long way to go; but with God’s help, I will get there.

Two final thoughts:

  • The first is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always; if necessary, use words.” I love that saying! One must absolutely live the gospel first.
  • The second thought is inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and came to me first through the gift of music (Proof of Your Love, by For King and Country):

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day,
and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I pray that I never be a rusty gate.

 

My Strong and Mighty Tower

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know my husband and I have seen our fair share of struggles over the past eight years; however, we’re probably not that different from you or someone you know. Let’s face it — sometimes life is hard. When we face difficult times, we have two choices. We can choose to give up and walk away from God, or choose to rely on Him for strength and believe the struggles do not define us, claim us, nor are they the end of the story.Lighthouse

As our family is facing another scary life situation, I am humbly reminded that I am not in control. Although anxiety no longer plagues me, I am still awake to visceral pain and anger I feel. I must acknowledge these feelings if I am honest with myself and others around me. It would be a lie to say I don’t battle myself and my humanity when facing problems; however, these emotions cannot be allowed to control me. The One who has control gives hope, and I’m called to remain hopeful and place all my cares upon Him.

Some people have suggested we should “give up and curse God” like Job’s wife once suggested to her husband because of all the struggles we’ve seen in our marriage, but why would I do that? God has always been faithful to deliver my husband and me from prior situations and has even positioned us mentally, physically, and circumstantially better than before the trouble started. Why would He change His promise now? The Bible promises His faithfulness is unwavering even though our lives shift like the sands with the tide, and my life can testify to this truth. He is my rock, my firm foundation, and my strong and mighty tower, shielding me from the storm. I am not promised a life without struggle, only that He will be there along the way to protect my heart, mind, and soul.

I have been asked before, “How can you believe in a God who is supposedly good who allows suffering, pain, and evil in this world?” My response is simple: He gives us free will, and the struggles we face are not the end of the story. As promised in Scripture, great suffering is equivalent to great blessings. Also, encouragement, love, and mercy are stronger than ever in the face of adversity. How many terrible events have you witnessed personally or seen in the news only to have stories of heroism, compassion, and love overshadow the negative outcome? Good will always prevail, and God is always for His people. Our personal testimonies of enduring and overcoming situations break the shackles that bind other people who are going through the same struggles. Our testimonies are hope and freedom.

Although the evil forces likely delight in causing or participating in the chaos that surrounds my husband and me, they cannot possibly fathom the depth of immeasurable goodness that has resulted with each trial. Our marriage is stronger than ever because God is at the center and binds us tightly together. Our personal fortitude endures because He sustains our strength. Our foundations cannot be shaken even as our lives shatter around us because He is steadfast and stable. If at the end of the day, all we have is the almighty God, we have all we could ever need.

If you find yourself in a rough situation in life, remember: rejoice in the testimony God will give you to bring hope to others around you! Your struggle is not the end of the story, and God will never let you see the battle withut first giving you the victory.

My Relationship with God

I have had a difficult time over the last two years articulating to other people why my encounter with the God of Love has radically changed me forever. The physical experience reinforced my faith that God is real, awesomely powerful, and able to divinely intervene on our behalf no matterJoy and freedom the circumstance or our beliefs about Him. However, it wasn’t the physical experience that change my life (read the blog post My Encounter with the God of Love to read about my encounter with God). Emotional and physical experiences are great, but memories fade. The emotions become less passionate, and the intensity of the physical experience dulls, but the revelation of who God is and how I interpret my relationship with Him remains.

I went to my first Passover dinner this year. It was a unifying experience to see brothers and sisters from different churches worshipping God together and celebrating the Passover story, the Passover feast, and how the elements of the meal contrast to Christ’s work on the cross. It also allowed me to make new friends with two older ladies who sat at our dinner table.

One of the ladies, whom I’ll call “Joy” for the purpose of this blog post to protect her privacy, explained to us that the work of Christ on the cross isn’t the only reason to love God. As an effort to help us understand what she meant, Joy bittersweetly interwove her testimony about the painful loss two years ago of her husband who had been terminally ill. On his final night, as his last moments drew near and his body was failing, she called for Hospice to take him with the hope his last hours would be as peaceful; but he never made it to the ambulance. Joy choked on her words, as did we, as she recalled crawling back into her bed and pulling the covers over her after her husband’s body was taken away. She stayed in the bed for several minutes, lying in the fetal position, sobbing, and asking God to take her.

My best friend was gone; but that’s when everything changed,” Joy explained. Jesus’s presence engulfed her. Her pain became His peace. Her emptiness became His fullness. She said she physically felt Jesus hold her tightly, heard Him reassure her everything would be okay, and the promise the void left by her husband’s passing would not leave her empty because He would be everything she needed.

“At that moment, I understood what it meant to truly love Jesus beyond being my salvation.” Joy informed us softly. “If He died on the cross and rose again for us and nothing more, that would be enough; but how great is our Savior that He is not satisfied with salvation being the only part of our story with Him? He is our friend, our brother, and the lover of our souls. I miss my husband, but I don’t feel empty or lonely because He fills me. Now, I truly understand what people mean when they say they have a relationship with God. I’m so in love with Him, and He is so much more loving than we can ever imagine. He desperately wants a relationship with us.”

As I sat listening to Joy’s story, I was instantly taken back to the day when God radically changed my life and understood why that day was so important. It was a day of revelation. My soul was awakened to my desperate need to know God at a deeper level than simply the one who saved my soul. He confirmed how much he deeply loves me as my Father, my Protector, the One Who Cries with Me, the One Who Lifts Me Up, and the Prince of Peace. I was overwhelmed by the crushing weight of His love. All of the anger, bitterness, and anxiety could not withstand His tremendous force.

Although several months have passed since that day, I am reminded of His love. I had a vision several weeks ago of a painful morning I spent crying in my SUV, unable to join my husband for Sunday worship because I was so angry with God. I saw myself from a third person view, huddled with my knees to my face, and bitterly crying out to God to save me from my circumstances. Just as I was remembering the tremendous pain and wondering why I was reliving the moment, I saw Jesus holding me, crying with me. The image of His presence wrecks me even now. I don’t honestly know whether I was imagining the moment, or if it was truly God giving me a glimpse into a time when I felt alone but wasn’t. I suppose it doesn’t really matter because it reminds me of the loving characteristics of God.

My challenge to you — if you don’t feel the need to ask God who He truly is, you will likely never realize you are missing anything. After all, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it, right? But if you want to know His heart and love for you, I would encourage you to ask God to reveal Himself to you. He never disappoints when we honestly seek His heart. Although He doesn’t need a relationship with man, He still wants one with you. In the same way we cherish our families, our children, and our friends at the deepest levels of love we can possibly imagine, He cherishes you; and He desperately wants you to know how much He loves you.

Confessions of a (Mostly) Reformed Control Freak

Okay, I admit it. I’m hopelessly addicted to trying to control my own situations and the outcomes — or at least I was. Now, I’m jumping into the abyss with both feet, and I’m learning how to not be afraid to fall.

Take a dive

People who don’t know me well may perceive my new found disregard for over-planning and over-strategizing to be reckless or naïve, but I assure you this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth. After years of trying to do things my own way, I’m finally learning to let go of my controlling death grip one finger at a time and just trust God. He is constantly faithful even when I fail to trust His plans and timing (Psalms 136:1-7).

My over-planning antics aren’t working so well. I have spent the majority of my life meticulously planning, strategizing, and implementing all sorts of scenarios, attempting to anticipate the outcomes. I feared the “what ifs?” of life, and anxiety was usually the root cause of the need to feel in control. Although I no longer battle the same level of unhealthy anxiety I once did (see blog post “My Encounter with the God of Love“), I’m hardheaded enough to still demand to do things my own way; and, as a result, I cause needless turmoil for myself along the way. I want to live a life without surprises and without heartache; but God continues to lovingly remind me that I’m never really in control no matter how hard I try (James 4:14-15).

Sometimes, painful experiences amplify spiritual immaturity or weaknesses. The biggest revelation regarding my control freak issues occurred within the past couple of years. I was confronted in my spirit that my struggle for control over the little things in life have caused me to be less willing to relinquish control over big things. In essence, I was indirectly demanding for God to take a backseat while I handled whatever the issue of the day was on my own. In my blog post “He is Worthy to be Trusted, Part 1: My story of hope during financial crisis”, I described the terrifying situation when my husband’s job and the family business was simultaneously lost shortly after he and I married. This was one of many circumstances God used to show me just how out of control I am and how sovereign and trust worthy He is. Glory be to the God who hears our cries and lifts us from the miry clay of our circumstances. As difficult as some situations can be, I don’t regret the out of control moments. The most spiritually growing times of my life have occurred in the midst of trial or pain.

God is a loving father. Do I believe God caused the job loss or the turmoil surrounding the situation? No, I have never believed He would do harm to His children, but I do know that He will use a bad situation to strengthen us, to teach us how to trust, and to grow closer to Him. Also, I believe the submissive act of relinquishing control allows God to use us. If you are willing to trust, He’ll never fail you, and you’ll never be too afraid to jump (Romans 8:28).

In Summary. I’m not trying to suggest with this blog post that planning and strategizing are bad efforts. They are good practices for aiding us with achieving the optimal goal. After all, you will rarely go anywhere without first planning to eventually end up somewhere. However, it’s important to remember that sometimes we don’t have all the answers and we need help. Sometimes, life is difficult and a situations get out of control. The good news is that God knows every situation and its outcome; He is always in control. The only way to know for sure if what God says about being worthy of trust is true is to hold you nose and take the plunge.

When He calls you to walk upon the water with Him, will you trust Him to guide you atop the violent waves of this life? The most liberating decision I ever made was just to trust God at His word and let the rest go.

 

 

 

Stop Lying to Yourself: find freedom from mental bondage

We all struggle with things we’ve told ourselves we can’t escape. In some ways, what we’ve told ourselves is true because we give a self-fulfilling prophecy: “I have an issue (doubt, anger, hopelessness, a sense of worthlessness, etc.). It’s just the way it is, and I can’t escape it.” And guess what? You won’t escape because you’ve fulfilled what you’ve declared to be a truth in your life, but the whole truth is you do have power over your struggle.Staring out the window
 
Identify the lies and choose not to believe them. The Devil, our enemy, will lie and twist truths to convince you that you’re a slave. You may feel you’re not worthy, it’s something you can’t change, or you’re a victim. Those thoughts are lies.  Don’t listen to them.  In addition, we are good at lying to ourselves by making self-defeating statements like, “That’s just the way it is”, “But I’ve always struggled with that”, “That’s just something I can’t change”, or “I’m working on getting over that issue, but I guess it’s just going to take a while.” The enemy knows if you allow yourself to be enslaved, you will be distracted, paralyzed by your circumstances, and useless to the call the Father has put on your life. You have a choice to let enemy control you. You also have a choice to evict the thoughts, feelings, or negative emotions before they take root and darken your mind.
 
Confess the sin to the Father. Ask the Father to forgive you for the mental thing to which you’ve allowed yourself to be bound. For example, if you’ve struggled with bitterness over a situation that happened to you and you’ve used that as an excuse to become a hopeless or angry, confess those things to the Father and ask Him to forgive you. If you’re not sure where to look for inspiration about how to confess and talk with the Father for the issue you’re battling, here’s a great blog post from a fellow Christian blogger that may help: http://revivedlife.com/blog/prayer-to-release-anger/. There’s no magic formula or prayer template, but if you are sincere in confession and forgiveness, the Father is always faithful to forgive.
 
Make declarations over the situation. Know that you have power over the enemy because Jesus has given you that authority. Just as Jesus spoke directly to demons and disease to cast them out and bring healing, you can do the same thing. You can make declarations by stating something like the following: “In Jesus name, anger (or whatever it is you’re battling), be gone! You have no power over me. I chose to set my eyes on things that are good and righteous because they please the Lord. I cast out feelings and emotions that are not of God. I have been purchased by the blood of the Savior, and He is worthy to purchase my freedom.”
 
Troubles may come and go. Life happens, but you choose whether or not to allow your circumstances to open doorways to negative feelings, thoughts, and emotions. As soon as a new negative thought tries to enter your mind, immediately offer it up to God and choose not to allow it to take root. As a trusted friend once told me (and he was right) when I was swimming in self-pity and doubt, “You are a strong soldier of God. Now start acting like one!”
 
Believe and trust that God has freed you and move on. The keys to your chains have already been purchased. Live free. 🙂

My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants you to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the surprise giggles started — and I could stop, but I didn’t want it to end. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.

There’s No Going Back

The blog post below was written by my husband.  Enjoy!

– The In-Place Missionary

Lights leading to Cross Bible

I grew up always going to church. My parents were both Christians and were always heavily involved in the churches we attended. We were members of three different churches throughout my childhood and my late twenties. The churches were of different denominations, but I would consider all of them traditional and conservative. The Sunday morning services were structured and usually similar – sing a few hymns or praise songs and listen to a sermon. There were also different things going on at times other than on Sunday mornings, such as a Wednesday night supper, small group meetings, student ministry activities, etc.

In all my years growing up in the church, it always seemed the sermons were always basically about how I should act and live my life – I should tithe 10% of my income, I shouldn’t curse, I should do this list of things to be a better parent, etc. I don’t say this to imply that there is anything wrong with that. Those things are true. There is nothing wrong with getting instruction on how to “be a better Christian.” The problem was that I didn’t realize there was so much more to God than what I had experienced up to that point in my life.

The turning point for me began when I went to a conference at a local church that was actually very close to my house. My wife had a friend at work who told her about the conference, and she agreed to go. The conference was Friday night and Saturday morning. I missed the Friday night service because of work. My wife got a friend to go with her on Friday; I joined them Saturday morning. When I first walked into the building, I noticed you could feel God’s presence overwhelmingly in the church. The service started with worship music, but it was not the kind I grew up experiencing. I wasn’t familiar with the songs, but it wasn’t the songs or the musicians or singers that struck me. It was the way the people in the congregation were worshipping. I could tell they were really singing the songs to God and pouring their heart and soul into worshipping Him. They were crying out to God and sometimes shouting and dancing, but I sensed it was not for show. During worship services I had previously experienced in other churches, people stood around and sang, a small number of people might close their eyes, or a couple of people may lift a hand while singing. It was completely different from what I was familiar with.

This is the part where I should say I am an introvert. I am usually pretty quiet and reserved. I must admit I was a little bit uncomfortable attending this church at first. Yet something about it drew me in, and I felt called to regularly attend there. I tried to resist and told God it was uncomfortable, but God instructed me to step outside of my comfort zone in order to really grow. The fact that it was uncomfortable for me was the point.

I have been going to this church every Sunday now for about nine months. It has really changed everything I thought I knew about being a Christian. I have seen and heard many testimonies of the sick being healed, even the dead being brought to life. I have seen people, including my wife, receive visions from God. I have seen people give prophetic words over others. I never experienced any of this in the first 30 years of my life growing up in the church. It seems a lot of churches worship God and talk a lot about Jesus, but they put the Holy Spirit in a box and don’t allow His power to work.

Jesus says in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father” (NLT). Jesus performed all kinds of miracles, from healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, and casting out demons all the way to bringing people back from the dead. Yet He says if we believe in Him, we can do all those same things AND EVEN GREATER WORKS! Not growing up being taught these truths, it blew my mind to think I could lay hands and heal people in Jesus’s name. The way I grew up, prayer was a passive act, meaning you only asked God to do things like heal people. You didn’t actively go to the person, lay hands on them, and say “in Jesus’s name, be healed!”

I am still learning a lot about the power of the Holy Spirit, so much so that I almost feel like a new Christian. I am diving in though because I want God to work through me to impact the lives of others through healing, prophetic words, or even just encouraging others. I have seen Him work through others at my church through healings, prophetic words, and speaking in tongues. I long for Him to use me like that. Once you have tasted and seen the awesome power of God, there is no going back to worshipping God passively and distantly.

I think two sentences from a book titled The Essential Guide to Healing by Bill Johnson and Randy Clark sum up my feelings: “Just as Jeremiah criticized the Israelites for creating with their hands gods who were helpless, modern man has created a “god” who is helpless to act in this world. A god this writer refuses to worship.”

Written by Clay White

A Free Gift

Another great post written by a friend of mine:

One evening, my wife and I watched a video we borrowed from a friend called Finger of God.Finger of God is part of a trilogy of short films put out by Darren Wilson. The trilogy is a documentary where Mr. Wilson and company travel to meet people around the world in attempt to ask a simple question: who is God?

I was touched by one scene in Finger of God in particular. A group of Christian missionaries were visiting Turkey. One of the missionaries named Heidi Baker began talking to a Muslim woman through a local Christian pastor who was interpreting for her. The woman suffered from blindness in one eye which Heidi asked permission from the woman to pray for.  As the missionary and local pastor prayed, the woman was healed from her affliction. Afterwards, the woman praised Allah. In response, the local pastor tried to correct the woman by saying it was Jesus who had healed her, and he seemed quite annoyed the woman kept praising Allah. Finally, the missionary pulled him aside and asked him not to continue to correct her.  The point was the woman was healed.

As I watched the scene unfold, I thought, “Yes, the missionary is absolutely right.” The fact God loves all His children and He just healed one from her afflictions without any conditions attached was the point. The healing was a gift, no strings attached.  The local pastor was so focused on getting the old woman to acknowledge the healing was done through Jesus, he missed the most important part of it all. It is so obvious to me it’s like the 300lb gorilla in the room; yet he missed the point. With great sadness, I feel I can’t say it enough.

Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the details of something that impassions us that we lose focus on the big picture and what we were trying to accomplish; therefore, I will ask an important question.  Do we know what we want to accomplish? Maybe more importantly, what is it that God really wants us to do?

Written by Leslie Hardin

The Artist

The blog post below was written by a godly man and a good friend of mine.  It was inspired by a dream and provides perspective of how to understand the world through someone else’s eyes.  Enjoy!

– The In-Place Missionary

Perspectives

Once, I had a dream. There were two brothers. Both liked to paint. Both men were well regarded for their craft by their neighbors. One loved to create magnificent landscapes on large sheets of canvas. Using vivid colors, he always managed to capture the very essence of nature. The other brother preferred to do portraits of people and particularly enjoyed painting portraits of his friends and family. The images he created almost seemed alive and full of emotion.

Which brother is an artist?

The two brothers have an uncle. He has made a living painting buildings for others. He gets up early to gather and prepare the materials he needs. He then labors during the day as long as the sun is up and he can see. His customers are very happy with the quality of his work. The paint he uses is of the finest quality and provides the perfect balance between bright color and being long lasting. He never tarries or wastes time while on the job. He always completes his tasks within the timeframe he promised. His customers appreciate that fact that he minimizes disrupting their shops and households while he works.

Is he an artist?

The two brothers have a younger sister. She is a child and loves to finger paint. She dips her tiny hands in small jars of paint provided by her brothers. She giggles happily while she applies it to whatever her mother will allow. Sometimes the shapes are unrecognizable; but she would tell you it is a bird or sunflower. Watching her warms the hearts of all who see her.

Is she an artist?

The brothers have a friend. He struggles every day with addictions; and, as a result, he is unable to hold down a regular job. This friend occasionally draws on whatever paper he can find at a nearby dump. The pictures consist of dark creatures that are frightening and nightmarish.

Is he an artist?

What if I tell you that his renderings help him cope with his addictions? Through his work, he is able to recognize the demons that haunt him and it helps fend off their attempts to lead him down to the abyss.

While skills and focus of the work varies, isn’t each person an artist in his or her own way?

Today there are over six billion souls on this world, and each person views the world around him with different eyes. The lenses he uses to see through are colored by life experiences. What he has been taught, sees, and hears helps to make him who he is today and tailors his understanding of the world around him. If each person was to paint a picture of life and his world as he sees it; each picture would be different; and if each person present his understanding of eternity, heaven, or God in some form of artistic rendering, each would be different.

You can’t explain the unexplainable, and you can’t describe the indescribable because no one can see the whole picture. No one can comprehend the nature of the question, much less the magnitude of the answer. Just understand you can find joy in what you DO see. And revel in it!

Written by Leslie Hardin

Praise You in the Storm

I write this blog post, feeling strongly someone may need a word of encouragement while walking through the desert today…

The saying is true that life can be a series of mountain peaks and valleys.  In fact, many times, I find myself in some sort of valley instead of sitting upon the mountain top; and I’ve heard people ask, “How can you believe in God when your life turns upside down?  If He’s real, why would He let these things happen?” After all, my husband and I have had a lot happen to us in recent years: deaths of parents, witnessing one deteriorate mentally; financial crisis, almost the point of ruin; emotional distress and oppression, straining our marriage; and physical sickness — just to name a few. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

One simple truth is my bedrock in moments of trial, pain, and sadness.  He never promises life won’t be hard, but He is always sovereign.  How can I turn against the One who knows my steps before I take them and knows the stars by name?  My pain is His pain.  Yes, I truly believe He cries with us when we are stricken with grief and sorrow; but at the same time, the mantle I’ve been given leads to victory.  “Then Jesus wept.” – John 11:35 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:28

In my life, He has proved Himself worthy to be trusted over and over again, no matter how small my faith is in the moment of weakness and pain.  I’ve learned without question the most desperate moments which cause me to fall to my knees, knowing I can’t walk another step, is exactly when He miraculously and undeniably shows up.  He never fails to arrive just in time.  Like a knight on a white horse, he scoops me from the ground and carries me to safety.  How can I reject my faithful Lord who has never failed me?  In His mercy, He protects me.  If I trust Him to take the burden, His peace surrounds me.  As a wise man once said, “God will never let you see the battle without first giving you the victory.”  Besides, what is there in this life to be afraid of?  Even if I die, He has conquered death. “O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” – 1 Corinthians 15:55

Struggles of this life ebb and flow like the tides, but His love and grace is constant.

“Oceans (Where feet may fail)” YouTube video by Hillsong United