What Is Faith?

If someone asked you this morning, “What is faith?” How would you answer that question?

The root word of ‘faith’ is PISTIS. That word is a noun.

FAITH – PISTIS means faith, belief, firm persuasion, assurance, firm conviction, faithfulness.

The root word of ‘believe’ is PISTUEO. That word is a verb.

BELIEVE – PISTUEO – to trust in and rely upon, commit to the charge of, confide in, have a mental persuasion.

What a great thought that my faith is the act whereby I lay hold of God’s resources, and I become obedient to what He has prescribed for me. I put aside all my self interest and self-reliance, and trust Him completely. It is an absolute surrender of the whole of my being and a complete dependence upon Him. It is wholly trusting and relying upon Him for all things. It is not just a mental assent to the facts and realities of His Word, but it is a deep inner commitment to the convictions which have come to me through His Word. By faith,  I have a firm conviction that I can fully commit my life to God’s charge and be assured that He knows what is best for me.

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Failure Isn’t Final

Sometimes it is hard to build our days on pleasant thoughts when we feel like we are a failure. Satan is always trying to make us focus on our weaknesses and failures.  We must constantly remind ourselves that we are God’s creatures and thank Him for the way He has made us. We are valuable to Him, and He wants us to live abundant lives. At those times in our lives when we begin to have thoughts of being  failures, we must not allow our minds to dwell on our imperfections and begin to look at our failures as life’s way of teaching us.

No one is perfect! Once we begin to accept our failures and surrender them to the Lord, He will release us from our bondage of trying to be perfect in all things and will use those failures to draw us closer to Him.

I was sitting here tonight listening to the song on You Tube Failure Isn’t Final sung by LuLu Roman. I really didn’t know much about her life, but I just came across a bio written about her.

LuLu has enjoyed many successes in her life, but also more than her share of disappointments and hardships. Famous for her side-splitting humor and jovial disposition, a lesser-known story lies behind those clear, radiant eyes, which have often been filled with tears of both pain and joy.

People know LuLu as the most requested female cast member of the long running hit television series, “Hee Haw”. Many know her as the accomplished and celebrated songwriter; and as the singer who has been successfully making records for over 25 years.

Few know that Lulu was born with a thyroid dysfunction in a home for unwed mothers and was soon placed in an orphanage. It was there that her weight problem furthered her pain, preventing her adoption and making her the center of teasing by the other children. It was also during this time that LuLu learned to use her sense of humor as a defense.

That sense of humor later evolved into a highly successful career as an actress and comedienne with a lead role on “Hee Haw.” Success and wealth, however proved poisonous to the actress who began her career in her early twenties. Drug addiction led LuLu on a downward spiral that nearly destroyed her life and her career in 1971.

LuLu’s search for happiness and acceptance, which had almost led her to her personal destruction, instead led her to God. It was her new found faith in God that led her to begin using a talent that had been laying dormant for many years: her voice.

Listen to her sing the song that she wrote Failure Isn’t Final on You Tube.

2017 GIBM Letters

Thailand: Bryan and Angel Ries
February 2017

Hello Churches and Prayer Partners,

Prayer Push to 50%

This week, I’m launching what I’m calling a “Prayer Push” to get to 50% of our needed support by Easter. We would be ecstatic to arrive at the 50% mark of our support and deputation ministry. In order to meet that goal, 16 new churches will need to partner together with us in the next 8 weeks. Would you add this matter to your daily prayer list and begin praying with us? If we’ve been to your church and shared our burden for souls in Thailand, would you prayerfully consider being 1 of those 16 new churches?

This Past Month

Over that past month, we’ve been privileged to travel around 4,100 miles to present our burden for Thailand in churches in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. God has raised up new Great Commission partnerships with local churches which has raised our support level to 34%. We’re grateful for God’s churches and His provision!

In our family, we’ve had a lot to celebrate this past month. Angel and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary on January 5th, Alex had his 4th birthday on January 28th, I celebrated 20 years of salvation on February 2nd and Anna had her 6th birthday on February 11th. God has been so good to us! I posted a video on Facebook where I went to the place that I got saved and shared my testimony. You can watch it at https://goo.gl/FWXWkm.

This Coming Month

This month, we took off from our home base in Indiana for our first real road trip of the year. We are going to be in several meetings and conferences all over the place. We’ll be in GA, NC, FL, TX, KS, and NE! It will be a long trip with a lot of driving, so pray that God would bless it with safety and fruitful ministry!

We’re incredibly grateful for you!

By His Grace,
Bryan and Angel Ries
Andrew, Aaron, Abigail, Anna and Alexander
ThaiLight.org

Contact us:
1458 Scarlet Court
Franklin, IN 46131
812-764-0618
Send support to:
GIBM
602 Manco Road
Lewisville, TX 75067

Scotland: Russell & Janet Brinkley
January 2017

Dear Pastor & Praying Friends, Dec – Jan 2017

Christmas Outreach

We had 17 in our choir for “Carols on the High Street”. It was a chilly December day, but it remained dry so it allowed the choir to sing for two hours during the busy holiday weekend.

The children passed out candy canes with gospel tracts and we had opportunity to speak to many people. We also had a good turnout for the Christmas morning service and our family enjoyed an evening together in celebration of the birth of Christ and all He’s done for us personally. God has blessed us!

Good Start To 2017

We are happy to announce that we are one step closer to receiving British Citizenship! Our family has been granted “Indefinite Leave to Remain” (also called Permanent Residence) which means we have permission to live and work in the UK without Visa’s or restrictions. We are on the pathway to British Citizenship and will be eligible to apply in one year. We praise the Lord for helping us reach this milestone and we thank all of you who gave financially to make this possible for our family. We are just so very grateful!

Growing Youth Club

We’ve had an explosion of kids coming to our Thursday Night Bible Club. We average 16 each week and have made great connections with the parents too. Single missionary, Deana Hewston, runs the club with us. She does an outstanding job of teaching the Bible, directing the youth choir, teaching music theory, and sharing Christian biographies. The excitement of this growing ministry has proven to be contagious and we are having a new visitor in club nearly every week! God is at work!

 Serving together,

Russell, Janet, Taylor, Dylan & Danielle Brinkley

 

Philippines: Chris & Victoria Hunter
February 2017

Dearest Prayer Warriors,Greetings to you in the precious name of our LORD and Saviour JESUS CHRIST.

Our family is in the middle of preparing to go back to the US for furlough. Our flight is scheduled on January 30TH, 2017. Thank you for your help prayerfully and financially. We are excited and looking forward to give a full report of how God is growing HIS ministry here in the Philippines.

By the grace of GOD, our family will be in Texas during the months of March – April. If we need to stay longer we will. Please send me an email if you would like to have our family come and visit your church and the open dates when you are able to have us come. We are currently scheduled to be with Pastor Dale Webster, BBC Bridgeport TX, on March 22-26.  We are also scheduled to be with Pastor Harold Wells, Landmark Baptist Church Red Oak TX, on March 29TH, 2017. Our calendar is still wide open for scheduling. We are ready for hard work and more than willing to travel anywhere in the US.

Please pray for our safety as we begin our journey from the Philippines to the US. My youngest daughter Cherish will be traveling to the US for the very first time. Please help us pray for a family van to use while we are in the US for our furlough needs. We are in need of something that will not break down on us while we are travelling across the US. Also, if you have a place that our family can stay in while we travel in your state please let us know. Any assistance would be a HUGE help for our family of five. We praise GOD for your constant, consistent prayers and support for our family. We would not have been able to accomplish what have been able to accomplish without your love and help. We thank GOD for you. GOD BLESS YOU.

IN CHRIST JESUS,

The Hunter Family

Philippines: Lemuel & Taylor Javier
February 2017

Dear Pastor and Praying Friends,

I thank the Lord for the time that we get to spend time here. The Lord exactly knows what He is doing. Tuesday we are heading to Dallas to be dropped off by our Pastor and our family. Wednesday morning we are flying out to Manila. Our time here in the states has been fruitful and well spent. We are grateful for the time and memories that my family and I have experienced.

In January we finally received Gilberts Philippine passport. We now have everything we need for Gilberts paperwork. His name has already been legalized for both countries and his passport for USA is here as well. Taylors visa has also finally been approved! It arrived two weeks ago. The third try was definitely the charm. It went so much smoother once we had everything in hand. We could not have accomplished all of these things without all your faithful prayers and financial supports. Thank you for your continued prayers for the visa’s and passports. They have all been answered

Now, we prepare to make the journey back home to Palawan. As you may expect we are excited to get back and be with the church family at Christ Baptist Church. It is exciting to go forward knowing that God has a plan. We don’t know what this year will hold but God does. This coming summer we have youth camps. Camp is always a very exciting time for me. I have such a burden for the young people there in the island. It is such a blessing and joy to be part of the camp week in counseling, teaching, and preaching to the teenagers who are always so eager for Gods word and work in their lives. I will be starting a discipleship program to help the church to grow in the Lord. The plan is to go through the ABC of Christian growth until its finished. I plan to have it every Friday night. Again, thank you so much for your faithfulness!! Looking forward to see what God in store for us when we get back to the field.

In Christ,

Taylor and Lemuel Javier

Soul Winning Seminars:
Bob & Joy Martin
February 2017

Dear Friends,

Praise the Lord for the folks that marched in Washington to support ending the murder of babies in the womb even though largely ignored by the liberal media. Ever since Cain, this world has sought to explain away, or rationalize, murder. But murder is still murder; whether it be the murder of a brother, or the murder of a defenseless baby by calling it “abortion”. Sin will always be rationalized away by changing the title of it, at least until the heart of the sinner is changed. That’s the work of the Child of God; presenting the Gospel, because “it is the power of God unto salvation” to give the Holy Spirit pportunity to change the heart. That’s the first work of every Child of God and every Baptist church. So, let’s be about the work to which God has called us.

February is Almost Empty!

We only have two dates filled on our calendar for February:
February 20-23 is the GIBF National Conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Temecula, CA
February 27-28 is the national BEAMS Conference at Faith Baptist Church in Gulfport, MS

We would love to visit your church. We have a Sunday School Seminar that takes 45 minutes and would give the pastor and the church a good understand- ing of the regular Seminar. Or, we could simply present the witnessing ministry (talk or video). We are fully supported, only seeking to be a help to the Lord’s pastors and people.

January was Good!

January 1st we visited Pocahontas Baptist Church in Pocahontas, Arkansas. Bro. Delbert McLaughlin is the pastor of this country church, just south of the town of Pocahontas, “smack dab” in the middle of the rice fields of Arkansas. He and his wife Darlene have been at the church several years, serving the Lord after returning from the mission field of Romania. This is a precious pastor and people. We spent the rest of the day with our family. Our son-in-law Sam is a Master Chief in the Navy and was home for a couple of days. We just did what family does when they get together at those special times; watching our grandson help our great grandson doing chin-ups.

January 8th we were supposed to be in Georgia in two churches, and attend the GA/ALA Independent Baptist Preachers Fellowship on Monday. On Tuesday we were scheduled to attend the Southeast Independent Baptist Spanish Pastors Fellowship in Atlanta, Georgia, but an ice/snow storm spread across the country & did not allow us to travel that weekend.

January 15th I preached at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Folsom, Louisiana for the AM service. Bro. Frank Palmisano is the pastor of Lighthouse Baptist church. Bro. Frank and I have known each other for over 30 years (since before he began pastoring). The Lord saved the lady in the right-hand picture during the invitation. For the PM Service we attended Fundamental Baptist Church in Livingston, Louisiana where Bro. Rusty Silvertooth is the pastor. This is one of the great witnessing Baptist churches in south Louisiana. The music program was phenomenal, and the youth and children’s choir sang that evening. We also had the privilege of meeting missionaries John and Sharon Sutton who have a ministry to trade shows and fairs, singing and giving away Bibles and toys where God lets them travel. They are another couple who retired and went to work for God, serving Him all over the United States.

January 22nd we traveled to Mineral Heights Baptist Church in Greenville, Texas for the AM service. The church is in the process of finding a new pastor while doing the work God has called them to. I had the opportunity to present our work and challenge them to continue to be witnesses for the Lord. Please pray for this church as they seek God’s will for a pastor.

I preached at 1st Baptist Church Haltom City in Fort Worth, Texas during the PM Service. Bro. C. M. Mosely is the pastor of this great church. We had visited 1st Baptist in December, and had the privilege of returning and preaching in January. The Holy Spirit dealt with hearts and filled the altar as many folks resolved to be better witnesses.

January 29th we were at our home church, Southside Baptist Church in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Lord has blessed us with the joy and privilege of the friendship of Bro. Jamie and Sis. Donna Hilley from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Bro. Jamie is an evangelist, working specifically with tent revivals. He stayed in our home and preached both services at church. Sis. Donna could not travel because of back problems. Our pastor and church are already considering a tent revival in the future.

Most Often Asked Questions:

  1. Do you charge for the Seminars? No we do not. All we ask is for a place to rest and a love offering. We provide all the Seminar materials (from 1 person to 500 people) and will provide our own place to rest if needed.
  2. Are you a Calvinist or Hyper Calvinist? A thousand times NO!
  3. Why do you and Sis Joy visit churches without doing a Seminar? Because many Pastors do not know us from Adam and Eve’s house cat. When pastoring, I would never let a preacher I did not know preach in my pulpit, why should any pastor allow us to do a Seminar or preach, until he has met us and knows us?
  4. Why are you an Independent Baptist preacher? Because I discern that we are the closest to the Bible in belief and practice.

Got a Question? Text me at 601/618-4191 or e-mail me at bobjoymartin@earthlink.net.

Korea: Benjamin & Jae Park
February 2017

Dear Pastors and Friends.

Bro. Yoon, A New Addition to Sejong BBC.Brother Sungkyu Yoon is a senior student at our Bible College in Seoul and joined Sejong BBC in Sep. of 2016. He is a good Christian young man brought up in a godly home. He will help Pastor Min in Sunday School and Youth work. I am praying that he would be trained well and equipped for the furtherance of the Gospel in Korea. Please pray for us so that we would be used for many young people trained for the future ministry of the Lord in this nation.

Baptism of Jingu Im. He is the husband of my cousin and it’s been a couple of years since he accepted the Lord, but his job situation did not allow him to be baptized sooner. He was baptized last month at Pastor Min’s apartment. It was a blessing to see him obey the believer’s scriptural baptism and grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

Sweet Blessings in the Chinese Church.

Mrs. Kim, who is a member of Sejong BBC and helping our Chinese work,  does not speak Chinese well but she has great zeal for winning Chinese people to the Lord. She has a booklet that guides the way of salvation in Chinese. She used it with her broken Chinese, and led Whang Gui Hong to the Lord. Mrs. Whang shed tears when she prayed and accepted the Lord in her heart. It was a happy time for us all.

It is also a blessing to see these young Chinese Christians begin to read the Bible. It has been a forbidden book in China for many years even though they can possess one nowadays. It is a wonderful blessing to see that some show their interest in the Bible and read it when others are resting. Please continue to pray for our Chinese work so that souls would be saved consistently and they would grow in the Word of God.

On the Road again.

I am leaving Korea for the States on the 17th of this month. We are finishing our 1st term as missionaries in Korea. I will attend the GIBF meeting in Temecula, CA this month. Jae will join me in CA on the 7th of March. She wants to stay 3 more weeks in Korea due to Mrs. Liu’s delivery of a baby girl. Mengmeng was born on the 30th of Jan., 2017 to Brother and Mrs. Liu’s home. Mrs. Liu needs some time to recover before she takes over what Jae has been doing in the Chinese Church.

Please pray for our trip to the States and traveling to visit our supporting churches to give ministry reports. I also need to raise more support for the Chinese ministry. If you want to have and use us for your missions project please call me to (253) 227-7114 or email me to bpbbct@yahoo.com and let me know.

Thank you again for your love, prayers and faithful supports for all these years. Without you, we would never have been here and seen what the Lord has done here in Korea. So, we thank and praise the Lord for each of you. May the Lord richly bless you for your love and sacrifice for the World Missions!

Gratefully in His Service,

Brother Benjamin Heewon Park

Important Communication Guidelines


  1. Be a good listener. Do not answer a person before he has stopped talking. Proverbs 18:13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
  2. Think before you speak. Proverbs 15:23 A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
  3. Do not use silence on a person to show your anger or frustration with him. Explain the reason that you are angry or frustrated. Colossians 4:6 Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
  4. Do not become involved in quarrels. Proverbs 20:3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
  5. Do not respond in uncontrolled anger. Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
  6. When you are wrong, admit your offence and ask forgiveness. Proverbs 20:6 Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
  7. When you do forgive someone, never bring the offence up to him again. Genuine forgiveness means: I won’t bring it up to the person again-I won’t bring it up to anyone else-I won’t let my mind brood on it. Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do
  8. If someone verbally attacks, criticizes, or blames you, do not respond same way. Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
  9. Try to understand the other person’s opinion. 1 Peter 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
  10. Do not blame or criticize the other person. Try to encourage and edify. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Recipes for Cheesecake, Banana Bread, and Lasagna

Someone asked me for one of the following recipes, and I noticed that these 3 recipes were in my first book, but I failed to put them in my second book.

Italian Cheesecake

1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 lb. cream cheese
1 ½  cups sugar
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 t. vanilla
1 t. lemon extract
3 T. flour
3 T. cornstarch
½ melted butter (cooled)
2 cups sour cream
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 T. chopped lemon peel

In large mixing bowl cream ricotta and cream cheese. Add sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon extract; Mix well. Add flour and cornstarch. Add melted butter. Fold in sour cream.

Grease 9″ spring form pan and sprinkle generously with graham cracker crumbs. Pour cheese mixture into pan. Bake in a preheated 325 oven for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and leave cake in oven for 2 hours. This is very important. Do not open the door for 3 hours after the cake is placed in the oven. After 3 hours, remove cheesecake from oven and cool completely.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Best Banana Bread (350º for 60 minutes)

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 bananas, finely crushed ( for a very moist bread, use 4 bananas)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and crushed bananas and blend well. Sift together flour, soda and salt, add to creamed mixture, and add vanilla. Keep well if refrigerated.

Santino’ Lasagna 

8 oz. olive oil
2 large diced onions
2 lbs. chopped carrots
3 lbs. ground beef.

Cook ground beef, onion, and carrots in olive oil until done. Add 5 cans of kitchen ready pastene tomatoes and 3/4 T. salt.

While this mixture is cooking in an open pan, make a roux with 2 sticks of butter, 4 T. flour, and 2 cups milk.

Have a pot of water boiling for noodles. Dip noodles in and out of boiling water. Layer noodles, spaghetti sauce, and milk sauce in pan.  Bake for 20 minutes and then add mozzarella cheese on top. Continue baking another 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

Teaching a Child to Handle His Conflicts

One of the best ways to help your child learn to handle his conflicts is to demonstrate how you handle your conflicts.  After you have gone through a difficult situation, which could have been a conflict, talk to your child about it. Explain to him, “If I had really said or did what I wanted, I would have created a severe conflict with that person. How I thought before I spoke, and I chose my words, I prevented a conflict.” If you didn’t react in a right way, be brave enough to share with your child what you did wrong, and ask his forgiveness.

Tips to help teach your child how to handle conflicts:

  • Help your child learn to think about his words before he speaks them to others. Make up a childhood situation which could ultimately lead to a conflict. Then ask your child to explain to you how those words would make him feel. By allowing your child to imagine harsh words spoken to him, and how those words might make him feel, could help him learn to think before he speaks.
  • Help your child learn to make a better choice of his words. We all struggle at times when we don’t know what to say during disagreements. Explain to your child that it is much better to keep quiet than to say the wrong things. Share with him that people never forget bad things that are spoken to them.
  • Rehearse with your child these two things.  Will my words build up or tear down? Will my words be helpful or hurt-filled?
  • Help your child learn that his actions will speak louder than his words. Explain to him what he chooses to do will have a greater impact on someone than the words he says to him. If he says a kind word or does a kind act for his friend, it will show his friend that he cares more about him than what his words say to him.
  • Help your child learn from the mistakes of others. When you see other children having conflicts, use those situations as teaching moments. Ask your child, “How to you think that little girl felt when her friend said that to her?” Instead of complaining about your child’s conduct, watch how other children communicate, and use those examples, good or bad,  as teaching toola to handle his personal conflicts.

When God’s Gifts Aren’t Wrapped How You Hoped

Written by Paul Chappell  December 23, 2016

Life has a way of handing us unexpected and unwanted packages.

A pink slip from your employer.

A bad report from the doctor.

An eviction notice from the bank.

A harsh email from a strained relationship.

Too often, the package delivered with your name on it isn’t a present you want.

The first Christmas was wrapped in an unusual set of circumstances: Joseph and Mary having to make a difficult journey in the last trimester of her pregnancy…and then to have to give birth in a stable.

But the way Jesus chose to come reveals that the “surprises” in our lives that look so foreboding to us truly are unusual packages of God’s grace.

So what do we learn from the first Christmas about what to do when life hands us unwanted packages?

Trust God’s Providence

Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was no accident. It was the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning where Jesus would be born.

Seven hundred years before Mary and Joseph began the difficultly-timed journey to Bethlehem, God had instructed the prophet Micah to record, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).

Life is full of unavoidable circumstances. We can expend our energy in futile efforts to change them. We can spend our time stewing in bitter resentment over them. Or we can trust God’s providence in the midst of them.

Although we may not see God’s hand of providence for years to come, we can trust that anything out of our control is filtered by the hand of our loving Father. He will not allow into our lives anything through which He cannot fulfill his promise in Romans 8:28.

Showcase God’s Grace

The presentation of Christ to this world was not the way we would have planned it. And I think we can safely say it is not the way Mary would have planned it either. (What mother wants to lay her newborn in a used feeding trough?)

But, with the enabling grace of God, Mary’s response to the unusual package of the manger magnified God’s grace, rather than opening it up for question.

Mary could have complained. She could have become angry toward God. “God, first You make me travel ninety miles when I’m great with child, and now this?! Couldn’t I at least have a comfortable room and clean surroundings in which to give birth? Why would You do this to me?”

Because Mary and Joseph received the incredible gift of Jesus—with no expectations of how He should be delivered or presented to the world—they deflected the attention from themselves to the manger.

And the manger became a showcase of grace where shepherds knelt in worship of God.

Wholly Surrender to God’s Will

Why did God choose Mary? The complete answer to that question is known only by God. But it is significant that Mary was willing—truly submitted—to receive this unusual, and in some ways heavy, gift.

Sure, there was great cost involved for Mary. But she yielded to the Lord, bore the cost, and cherished the gift.

God isn’t looking for the strong or searching for the famous. He gives His most precious gifts to those who will simply yield their wills to Him.

Our problem is that we see what looks to us like distasteful wrapping, and in our selfishness, we plead with God to take back His gifts.

Not so with Mary. She simply said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

What To Do with Your Gift

What about you? Are you staggering under the load of an unusual package—one that you never would have chosen, but have no way to release?

Are you struggling to understand the unavoidable circumstances that have come into your life?

Are you disappointed in the harsh realities of failed expectations?

Tiptoe to the Bethlehem stable. Gaze on a weary young mother, required to travel far in her last month of pregnancy—only to find a barn in which to give birth. See a crude manger. But don’t look solely at these wrappings. Peer beyond, into the manger, and see the face of God!

Yes, Christmas is a gift. And sometimes God sends His greatest gifts in the most unusual packages.

Trust His providence.

Showcase His grace.

And wholly surrender to His will.

In time, you will learn that God gives the best surprises.

(This post is adapted from chapter 3 of Christmas Is a Giftavailable also on kindle.)

Satan Wants to Defeat You and Your Church Today

Have you ever thought about this? “Satan is very organized with his team of demon. He has assigned certain demons to you, your church, and your people to try to defeat your church and everything you do.”

As we begin this New Year, we must be aware of Satan’s tactics as He tries to defeat us.  He will try to deceive us by targeting our minds and the people we serve. He will use his weapons of lies.  His whole purpose is to make us doubt God and be ignorant of His will for our lives. His goal is for us to believe his lies instead of God’s truth.

You might be thinking, “You just don’t understand…there are times in my life when I feel so helpless and weak that I don’t even have enough energy to read my Bible.”

Paul must have known that his fellow Christians had those same feelings when he wrote 1 Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you want to defeat Satan…YOU MUST STAY IN GOD’s WORD! The only defense you have against Satan is God’s Word.  How do you do it?

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

  1. Present your body. The first thing to do when you wake up and set your feet on the ground is to tell the Lord, “I surrender my body to You, and I am preparing for today’s battle.
  2. Present your mind. The next thing to do is do reach for your Bible. Present your mind to God for spiritual renewal. It is only through God’s Word that we can renew our minds and transform them.

Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t read long chapters. As you are reading…, stop…when you get to a passage that speaks to you. Meditate on that passage. Memorize a verse that will help you in your battle for the day. I came across a wonderful app for memorizing Scripture. (Scripture Typer)

  1. Present your will. You do this by prayer. The Word of God and prayer always go together. Acts 6:4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. Whatever you pray, always pray according to God’s will…not your own will.

Now it’s time to put on God’s armor. My husband and I got matching T-shirts for our Christmas pajamas that said, “Put on the armor of God…in smaller print below that it said…put on the whole armor”

Sometimes we go out of the house with partial armor on, and Satan attacks us in an area where we are not protected.

  • Girdle of truth: Since Satan is a liar, we must oppose him with God’s truth.
  • Breastplate of righteousness: Since Satan is our accuser and reminds of us our past sins, we must remind ourselves that we are justified through Christ’s righteousness. The breastplate covers our heart. Often Satan uses people—including Christians—to slander and accuse us, and we are tempted to fight back. But we must not allow these fiery darts to penetrate our armor.
  • Shoes of peace: Our shoes help us keep our footing…helps us from falling down. Psalms 119:165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
  • Shield of faith: We have the promises of God to quench those fiery darts. That is why it’s so important to memorize Scriptures. When Satan hurls those darts…hold that shield up reciting a promise!
  • Helmet of Salvation: 1 Thessalonians 5:8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. Depression and discouragement comes to all of us but…Praise the Lord…we are saved and we have the hope that soon Jesus will return and take us home.
  • Sword of the Spirit: The Word of God is our defensive weapon. A material sword must be handled with physical power, but the Spirit of God enables us to use the Word of God effectively to defeat Satan. Our Lord always said, “It is written!”

 I came across a prayer in Warren Wiersbe’s book The Strategy of Satan that is a great prayer for us to pray every day:

Father, thank You for the provision You have made for victory over Satan. Now, by faith, I put on the girdle of truth. May my life today be motivated by truth. Help me maintain integrity. By faith, I put on the breastplate of righteousness. May my heart love that which is righteous and refuse what is sinful. Thank You for the imputed righteousness of Christ. By faith, I put on the shoes of peace. Help me to stand in Christ’s victory today. Help me to be a peacemaker and not a troublemaker. By faith, I take the shield of faith. May I trust You and Your Word today and not add fuel to any of Satan’s darts. Thank You that I can go into this day without fear. By faith, I put on the helmet of salvation. May I remember today that Jesus is coming again. Help me live in future tense. Protect my mind from discouragement and despair. By faith, I take the sword of the Spirit. Help me remember Your Word and use it today. Father, by faith I have put on the armor. May this be a day of victory.

I remember when we were living in Rhode Island, I planned some pretty intense Christmas plays. The nice thing about it, we had a Christian school, and we could practice every afternoon for several months. It took much  planning, hard work, and commitment for me and the children. Most smaller churches don’t have the resources or time to this.

Don’t feel that you must have months to plan and rehearse a children’s program to be a blessing to your church. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan a simple children’s program.

  • Keep it simple.
  • Don’t be too intense with the children…have fun with them.
  • For very young children, use a few inexpensive musical instruments like bells, drums, etc.
  • Begin your program by letting the children enter the auditorium carrying battery operated candles and singing a Christmas Carol.
  • Have an adult or teen narrate the Christmas story by reading it from Matthew or Luke.
  • Use power point slides as the children sing.
  • Download some of the Christmas Carols from a Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. Use the picture on the sound tract as a slide and play the music as the people are entering the auditorium.

Ways to Strengthen Your Church This Christmas

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Church This Christmas
Written by  Cary Schmidt  December 10, 2016

Do you love your church? Jesus does! Jesus loved the church enough to die. Do we love Him and His church enough to live? To give? To really make His bride a high priority in our lives?

Here are ten simple ways that you could greatly strengthen your church this season and in the new year.

  1. REALLY PRAY

Really pray for your pastor, your church, your own role in the body. Really pray for God’s provision and power. Really pray that God will take your church forward this Christmas and in the New Year!

  1. REALLY PARTICIPATE

Many people will casually “attend” church this season—but far fewer will truly participate with passion. In what ways are you engaged with your church to spread the gospel? With what energy will you really engage in worship, fellowship, and service? Be faithful to services, and bring an expectant heart and a ready spirit.

  1. BRING A GUEST

People all around you are looking for an opportunity to be in church this Christmas. Your kind invitation could be what brings them within the sound of a clear gospel message at your church. God could use you to bring them to Jesus—just because you invited them to Christmas services.

  1. BE EXTRAVAGANTLY GENEROUS

Remember who’s birthday we really celebrate—Jesus! In the midst of all of your giving, decide to put Jesus and His church at the top of the list. Will you “tip” God with a little extra change, or will you truly and deeply consider all that He’s done for you and bestowed upon you? Give Him your whole heart, and your generosity will follow!

  1. SERVE AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS

Begin with Jesus, then move to your family and friends, your church family, your neighbor—just look for opportunities to give yourself away and think of others before self. Write a kind note, bake something, tell someone how much you love them. Be a joyful voice of blessing!

  1. REMEMBER SOMEONE’S PAIN

Within your reach, there are broken hearts having a very difficult Christmas. For them, this season is merely magnifying loss, hardship, or sorrow. A kind note, a personal touch, a gift, or a thoughtful ministry gesture will go a long way towards encouraging people who are having a “painful Christmas.”

  1. RANDOMLY LOVE

Pick a stranger, pay for their coffee or give a small gift—do something randomly kind—and attach to it an invitation to your church. The unconditional and unexpected love of Jesus is delightful and life-changing!

  1. FORGIVE AND FORBEAR

Churches are made of people, and people have issues. People hurt people. Decide to strengthen your church by personally deciding not to hold a grudge or an offense. Let it go and decide to grow.

  1. WALK WITH JESUS

Your private walk with Jesus will overflow into your place in your local body. Your church is as strong as you! Be real. Be done with casual Christianity. Choose to more fully love, embrace, and engage in the call of Jesus Christ and His work.

  1. PURPOSE IN YOUR HEART

Christmas quickly turns into a New Year, which provides us with an opportunity to set direction, set goals, turn the page on last year’s successes and failures—and chart the course for spiritual health and depth. Decide to grow deeper and stronger in the new year! Decide to be a better church member and a more faithful Christian through 2017!

As we close 2016, somewhere in the vicinity of 4,000 churches closed their doors last year. More than ever, America and the world needs healthy local churches. Healthy churches only happen if Christians are healthy—growing stronger in grace and commitment to Christ and His body.

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