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READY TO HANG MYSELF, BIBLE APPEARS IN MY CELL

(July 22, 2021) Scott Bailey (prison I.D. left) shares his testimony…

‘I’m not going to survive this. There’s nothing left to live for. I give up!’

Through tears I fashioned a noose from the bed sheet, eyeing the light fixture at the top of my cell. It should hold me I thought. What was there left to live for? I had failed in every area of my life, withdrawal from drug addictions would probably kill me anyway. I prepared to end my life. I had become a prisoner of my own making.

Cancer death sentence
Years earlier, I had received a blow that changed my life forever… My doctor told me, ‘Scott, you have a rare cancer called Mucadermal Carcinoma. Due to the rapid growth of the tumour in your lymph nodes, you have one to three years maximum to live.’

He had removed a large tumour located near my brain, nerves had been nicked and the right side of my face was paralysed. All I could hear echoing in my ears was the death sentence. Reeling from shock, I recounted the beginning of my drug addiction 15 years earlier.

What was once a ‘party addiction’ of heroin, cocaine and pills now became a way of life, massive amounts. It didn’t matter; I was going to die anyway. I pushed away those who loved me. I became so strung-out that I kept a syringe of heroin in the drawer waiting for me so that when I woke up in cold sweats in the middle of the night.

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LORD, WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?

(July 20, 2021) Carol Round challenges us to ask God’s will for our lives…

Most of us are familiar with the story of Saul, the persecutor of the early Christians, how he was struck down struck down on the road to Damascus.

Acts 9:3-6 NKJV records that ‘Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord? …What do you want me to do?’

After being struck down on the road to Damascus, he was used by God and eventually became the apostle, Paul.
 
Paul discovered God’s gospel truth and God’s will for his life. He then spent the rest of his days spreading the message of the good news and planting churches throughout the Mediterranean world.  
 
The apostle determined God’s will for his life with one important question: ‘What do You want me to do, Lord?’

It’s the question every one of Christ’s followers should be asking.

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ABIDING IN THE VINE

(July 19, 2021) Geraldine Brandt shares from her heart graciously on a vital issue…

Jesus made it clear in John 15: 1-2,4-5 that the Father wants his children to be fruitful… ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful… Remain in me, and I will remain in you.  Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine and you are the branches.  The one who remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.’

We tend to skip over ‘while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes …’! But three things are outstandingly clear –

  • If we remain (abide, an action verb!) in him, we will bear fruit.
  • Although bearing fruit, the Father will prune us so we’ll be even more fruitful. 
  • A twice-mentioned warningremain in him otherwise we cannot bear fruit, do nothing!

More abundant than before
Have you ever seen a pruned grape vine? It is quite brutally cut back to the main trunk so that it would appear there are no branches at all remaining, just the main trunk.  You would be forgiven for thinking the pruning was too much, the vine dresser had gone too far and there would be no fruit for the coming hasrvest season.

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GOD’S PRESENCE MELTED HUSTLER’S HEART

(June 11, 2021) Ryan Zepeda, studying at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles, CA, brings an encouraging testimony about actor Mark Wahlberg’s brother…

Jim Wahlberg was the consummate hustler. In prison for hustling, he hustled the prison system –  leading a 12-step program under the pretense of being reformed – just to earn an early release for good behaviour.

‘I was always a hustler, was always manipulative, just to get what I wanted, and I did whatever I had to get it,’ Jim observes on a CBN video.

The older brother of Mark Wahlberg (see Mark’s testimony) actually had no intention of changing his substance-abusing, robbery-financed lifestyle once he was out.

Fear of not being good enough
The fifth of nine kids born to a delivery driver dad and a bank clerk mom, Jim was shaped by the mean streets of Boston’s Irish working-class neighborhood of Dorchester. When he realised that middle class kids had more things than he did, he began stealing to even the score.

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‘WHAT ABOUT THE 144,000?’

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(June 4, 2021) Brian Bell recalls an incident from long ago that led (and still leads) to a reminder that we must continue to serve Christ in whatever we’re called to…

When I was in my late teen years, I spent some weeks in the UK summer months serving with a beach mission team. I remember one year on the Isle of Wight. The outreach program for each day concluded with an evening event, very often an open-air witness on the promenade. Some team members would sing, some testify, and the team leader would usually bring a gospel message.

As the event was taking place, team members would form a rough semi-circle around the platform, not obstructing the passage of passers-by and we would look for folk who may stop and seem interested in the message so that we may approach them on conclusion.

On a particular evening I saw a couple stop to listen and at the conclusion of the message which had included a reference to heaven, I approached them to ask what they thought about what they’d heard… but I was not prepared for the gentleman’s response when he said to me, ‘What about the 144,000?’

Young and inexperienced as I was, I knew this was a reference to the book of Revelation and surmised these folks were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Reflection leads to Revelation
I use that memory to take you to the apostle John’s book of Revelation.

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LEARN TO REST IN JESUS!

(June 4, 2021) Carol Round encourages us to draw closer to God…

Confession time!

I’m a recovering perfectionist addict. Rest doesn’t always come easy for me.
 
Recently in a national advice column, a woman wrote in about her ‘drive to be productive, to take action, to keep things organised, and stay perfectly on top of everything.’  In other words, she was battling perfectionism. Oh, how I could relate. At least to the ‘old’ me.
 
The writer, a young woman, recognised her problem. She was so overwhelmed by her drive to do everything perfectly, she had trouble sleeping. Her question for the advice columnist at the end of her letter read: ‘How do I learn to become okay with being still and to rest better?’
 
Learning to become okay
As I read the advice columnist’s reply to this young woman, it was as if she were speaking to the younger me. The younger me could have written this letter, seeking help for the desire to please others by striving for perfection. However, I hadn’t recognised at my younger age what the advice columnist explained to the letter writer.
 
Perfectionism is often inherited. I was in my late 40s when I realised my mother was a perfectionist. And so was I. But it wasn’t until I experienced new life through a relationship with Jesus that I was able to begin my journey of letting go.

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THE ESSENCE OF EXISTENCE

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(May 16, 2021) Bonnie Spencer shares a meditation on our existence…

I rarely ponder philosophical questions.

They take me back to the merry-go-round of my childhood playground. We’d get the wheel spinning so fast that I’d hold on with a death grip to keep from flying off and bouncing across the hardpacked dirt!

Ride to nowhere
In college I took the required Philosophy 101. It was one of my top five least favourite classes. I couldn’t wrap my brain around questions such as…

  • What are thoughts?
  • Where do they come from?
  • Do numbers really exist?
  • Are they something man has created?
  • Why do women open their mouths when they put on mascara?

Occasionally, though, I do end up on that ride that goes nowhere. That was the case recently when my mind encountered the idea of existence. What if I had not been born? What would it be like if I had never lived?

The alternative, of course, would be that I never existed… ever. I wouldn’t know anything. But that would be okay, I thought, because… well, I wouldn’t even know I didn’t know anything. By now, the wheel was spinning furiously while my neurons were off swinging on the monkey bars instead of communicating with their neighbours!

Reality
The reality is that I do exist, and it can’t be undone. So here I am. I didn’t ask to be here, and no one asked me if I wanted to be here.

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DAVID’S ARSENAL

(May 10, 2021) Brian Bell shares a follow-up meditation…

Last month I shared a meditation about David (See David-and-his-Giants). In it I referred to David’s encounter with Goliath and suggested several ‘Spirit-filled’ characteristics which I believe David displayed but I did not elaborate on them in that article.

For several weeks now I found myself meditating on the Holy Spirit and I was drawn back to David’s encounter with Goliath and an emphasis on how the Holy Spirit enabled David. I will try to relate it to how the Holy Spirit enables us as believers in the ‘battleground’ of prayer.

The encounter is found in 1 Samuel 17: 38-47 and in verse 45 we find –

1. David came in the right name (v45: ‘…in the name of the Lord Almighty’)
I am sure some of you will be familiar with a Power of Attorney. It’s a legal document giving a person the authority to act on behalf of a nominated person – very often an elderly relative – but only in their best interests. This reminds me of the words of the Lord Jesus ‘whatever you ask in my name.’

This term ‘whatever’ is not an opportunity for me to come with a personal wish list of selfish requests (while I can bring personal needs in prayer), it is an opportunity to seek those things which are in the best interests of the Lord’s divine will and purpose and those persons or issues the Holy Spirit may lead me to pray for.

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TRUE WORSHIPPERS ARE SEEKERS

(May 10, 2021) Norman and Margaret Moss share this encouraging meditation…

We were meditating on John 4:23: ‘True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.’

We felt the Lord was saying: This is whom I seek… those who will –

  • Worship me in spirit and in truth
  • Sit at my feet to learn of me as Mary did (Luke 10:39)
  • Wash my feet with their tears (John 11:2)
  • Come before me as Daniel did (Daniel 10:12)
  • Cry to me in their distress as David did from his youth (I Samuel 16:7, 17:42-54)  
  • Be like Hannah pleading before me for a child and receiving much more (1 Samuel 1:10-15)
  • Like Abraham look to me for direction and follow my instructions (Genesis 15:2)
  • Like Joseph be so devoted to me that I raised him from deep distress to the highest place in the land (Genesis 41:40).

Such people are my joy and delight.

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CHANGES, CHOICES, CHALLENGES… CLINGING TO JESUS!

(May 09, 2021) Carol Round reminds us of…

If we need a reminder of the changes that have occurred in our world, we only need to study history. One can also read newspaper headlines or listen to the daily news. Nothing stays the same. If it did, there would be no news to report.

Change
A post on Facebook reminded me of how times have changed since I was born… and maybe since your birth.

The list was long, but here are a few of the mind-boggling changes mentioned:

  • Did you ever think in 1998 that three years later, you would never take pictures on film again? With today’s smart phones, who even has a camera these days? While I still do, I take more photos with my iPhone than with a camera.
  • In 2018 the first self-driving cars appeared on the road. Talk about changes.
  • Technology has invaded our world creating unimaginable changes in every area of our lives. If you’re old enough, you can recall a world before colour television, computers, microwave ovens, and computerised medicine.
  • I had my second knee replacement recently (Thanks to all who’ve been praying for me! I’m continuing in my recuperation and appreciate your prayers). Four years ago, I had the first one done. During the time span, technology has brought improvements to the procedure, and my latest surgery involved the use of a robotic device.
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