Archive for: September, 2012

Helma

Sep 24 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

by Carolyn Hittenberger 

God looked like Helma, or maybe Helma looked like God.  I’m not sure which it was, but I saw God in Helma’s smile.  I felt God in Helma’s hugs.  I found God in Helma’s shiny face.  She was the most beautiful lady I knew.

She showed me God’s love through the heart shaped stick figures she drew to illustrate the Beginner Sunday School lessons.  For me, God’s stories lived in the colorfully garbed clothespin people in Helma’s sandbox.  She sowed Truth into my spirit. Through Helma Anderson God imprinted indelible impressions of Himself on my childhood. Today those images remain warm and real, foundation stones that last a lifetime. 

Every child entering Helma’s class felt loved.  She didn’t seem to notice dresses that were too small or too big, or hair that was not as carefully kept as it might be, or faces that still wore breakfast.  She just loved everyone and generously welcomed us with hugs and her God-given ability to make each one feel like someone special! 

I was Baby #8 of a low-income family.  Our home and everything in it had burned, leaving us with very little of this world’s stuff.  Sometimes we were mocked for our poverty.  Kids called us names.  Dad worked hard, but his income didn’t always stretch enough for Easter dresses and Christmas shoes.  Mom made a home from next to nothing, and never turned away friend or stranger from her table.  Still, we were clearly on the low end of the social ladder.  I was very aware of thoughtless remarks and/or condescending looks, even from Christians. 

But Helma….  Never did I hear her speak anything but words of love and acceptance.  Every week after Sunday School, there was a race to the second row on the left side, Helma’s place for the “big service.”  We all wanted to be close to Helma.  Black stove-pipe hat, thick glasses, perpetual smile, and joy that seemed to glow through her skin, Helma sat there, scrunched to the end of the pew by as many little bodies as could squeeze into the row beside her.

I don’t know how long I was in Helma’s class, probably no more than two years.  I do know she impacted my life and at that very early age, helped me understand God’s unconditional love.  Helma died of cancer when I was fourteen.  Only then did I realize that the beauty that had so captivated me was not physical beauty at all.  Her beauty was the Image of Christ. There was no façade, no cloudy doubts or shadowed attitudes to cover Him up.  The SON shone through her like light through a freshly scrubbed window.  I learned wonderful Bible stories and motion songs in her class.  More important than the lessons, her life taught me God…who He is and how He loves.

Yes, Helma and God looked a lot alike! 

 Carolyn Hittenberger is Assistant for the Caribbean Regional Office at Global University and also works with University Communications. For more information about Global University, visit http://think.globaluniversity.edu.

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Jonah: Spare Me Me Me… Destroy Them!

Sep 17 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

 by Janet S. Wolff

Yom Kippur (this year celebrated on September 25–26) is considered one of the most holy, solemn holidays of the Jewish year, where fasting and repentance are the focus. During the services of Yom Kippur, the book of Jonah is read.

In this familiar story, Jonah ran from God, repented, and carried out his mission, albeit with a clenched jaw. He is the perfect example of how we have a tendency to run from what God has required of us. (“But, God, You don’t understand! You can’t honestly expect me to love them after what they did to me!”) Yet when we are overwhelmed by desperation because of our sins, we cry out for immediate forgiveness and grace.

The question is, do we extend that same grace and compassion—which we were so desperate to receive—to others?

After being cast overboard, Jonah was tossed around in the waves, with seaweed wrapped around his head, and ultimately descended into the depths (Jonah 2). As Jonah’s life was in the balance, he was swallowed by a great fish. It is from within this fish that Jonah rejoiced:

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:7–9)

Jonah cried out to God in prayer and thanksgiving for sparing his life and for hearing his cry for help. He remembered the mission God had planned for him and promised to go. At that moment, God commanded the great fish to vomit Jonah back onto the shore.(Consider this vivid word picture and how Jonah must have looked – and smelled! No wonder the king wanted everyone to listen!)

 Jonah kept his promise to God and went into Nineveh, proclaiming God’s impending punishment to them for their wickedness. And even though Jonah did not offer a redemptive option, the king and all the residents of Nineveh sought forgiveness anyway. Only recently, Jonah had been in this same position of impending destruction and had cried out to God for His mercy. Yet Jonah was angry with God for forgiving the people. Jonah wanted to see destruction, not compassion.

How many of us have been there? A moment of desperation is all it takes for us to be  full of promises, deal making, and bargaining. And then we walk away and forget God’s mercy and the promises we made when God was faithful to us.

Are we so base as to think we deserve God’s grace but others do not? We cry out to God and actually expect mercy and grace from a sovereign God. But many of us are like Jonah when it comes to forgiveness for others. Whether we see others repent and receive God’s mercy and blessings or see them reject Christ (as did James and John in Luke 9:54), it is important to remember that God’s mercy, love, compassion, and blessings are for all. We are expected to seek God’s mercy for all, not just for ourselves.

This is a season for all of us to reflect, not only for ourselves, but for those around us. Consider those who have betrayed us or caused pain to us or to someone we love. Do we really consider them to be worthy of the same forgiveness we hope to receive ourselves?

God is sovereign. He owes us nothing. Yet God chooses to offer us forgiveness if we only seek Him and ask. He also offers that same forgiveness to others. God’s heart is for mercy. Our challenge, then, is to use this time of Yom Kippur wisely: to pray and fast for our own forgiveness, and then to pray for those around us—for grace and compassion, not for destruction (despite what we may feel).

Janet S. Wolff is a Berean School of the Bible student from Lakewood, Washington. For more information about Berean School of the Bible, visit www.globaluniversity.edu/berean

 

 

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Partnership with God.

Sep 10 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

 by Michael Goldsmith

 

1 Corinthians 1:9, New Living Translation, “God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited us into partnership with His Son,  Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 There are many dimensions to our relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is Savior, healer, provider, deliverer, miracle-worker, comforter and so on. One of my favorite dimensions of relationship is partnership.  “He has invited us into partnership…” What an amazing concept to consider.  Some versions translate it fellowship; however, the Greek word carries the connotation of partnership, participation, and social engagement…in other words a relationship of joint venture. In a partnership, everyone has responsibility. Husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, government/citizen, even friend/friend…for these relationships to work well there is an implicit suggestion of responsibility especially in regard to living a blessed life. I’d like to make a few observations about our partnership with Christ.

First, everything God asks of us in this partnership is doable.  The Lord never demands something from us which is beyond us particularly in regarding to living a blessed life. 

Deut 28:2, “And all these blessings shall come upon you and over take you, if you will obey the Lord your God.”

There it is – obey.  God asks us to obey, trust, follow, apply, do, live….all of which are in the realm of our ability.  He doesn’t say the blessed life is reserved for the extraordinarily talented, the highly educated, the absurdly wealthy, the well connected or anything beyond us.  Everything is doable – it’s attainable, bottom shelf, within our reach and capacity.

 Second, our part typically comes first. Nearly every act of faith resulting in a miracle began with an action on our part first (outside of creation for which we had not been created). The children of Israel marched around the walls of Jericho, the widow collected pots for the oil, the four friends lowered their lame friend through the roof to Jesus, the lady with the issue of blood crawled through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Each time there was a human participation preceding the work of God.  I wonder if we miss out on some of God’s best for our lives simply because we’ve failed to do our part.  I wonder if at times while we are pleading for answered prayer whether God might be tempted to shout, “Work with me, people!”

 Third, God will not do your part. If we want to enjoy the fruit of human free will and the ability to choose as we please, then we must also accept responsibility for human free will which involves cooperating with God.  I am a major proponent of taking personal responsibility. Our walk with God is not a passive, disengaged, blasé affair. It’s a walk, not a ride on a moving sidewalk. Effort is required.

Finally, God gives us the easy part and He takes the hard part. Wow!  How incredible is that.  He does the heavy lifting.  The children of Israel walked around the walls of Jericho (easy); God caused them to fall flat (hard).  The widow gathered pots (easy); God multiplied the oil (hard).  The four friends lowered their crippled companion (challenging but still easy), God miraculous healed him (hard). The suffering lady crawled through the crowd to touch Jesus (easy); He healed her sickness (hard).

We need a theology of partnership!  The Message paraphrase puts it this way,

“God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”

 Michael Goldsmith has pastored congregations in North Little Rock, Conway, Pine Bluff and Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.   He now serves with Global University as Director of Advancement for a project in a sensitive country.  You can reach him at mgoldsmith@globaluniversity.edu

 

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Will you believe in this generation?

Sep 04 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

By Sarah Careins

Developing the National Youth Ministries of South Africa.

The history of South Africa is filled with hatred and prejudice with the Apartheid in the 1990’s. Today’s youth did not experience the Apartheid. This is a new generation that is willing to forgive and see a chance in their nation. I believe this generation will bring the outpouring of the Spirit of God.

“FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS…”God has opened the doors wide to begin youth ministry in South Africa. The leadership of the national church has requested that I not just reach one province, but every province in South Africa. As a single young woman in the culture of South Africa, this is truly the favor of God.

THE HARVEST IS READY!  The laborers are few! My heart is to make disciples. As we travel to every province, we are training leaders in youth ministry. Because youth are age 15-35, many of the leaders are “youth” themselves. This age group is more than capable of reaching others for Christ. (I’m in that age group too!) A missionary’s job is to raise up the nationals to carry on the work.

In America, many youth ministries have all the latest entertainment- games, media, and electronics. The one thing that is truly needed is the PRESENCE OF GOD! In South Africa, we don’t have to try to “entertain.” All we need is an encounter with God. We seek to know the Lord through prayer, worship and the Word of God. We also make our God known through servant-hood and evangelism.

With the crisis of HIV/AIDS, our passion is PURITY. Over, 1,000 people die every day in South Africa. Many of the youth have lost their parents to AIDS. The answer to this crisis is purity. When I speak about purity, it is often the first time these young people have ever heard, “…wait until your wedding day and then remain faithful to your spouse.”

I Timothy 4:12 says

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.

The youth can set an example to their nation. Disciples will make more disciples. These youth are the next pastors of South Africa. Someone needs to believe in them now so they can change their tomorrow.

Sarah Careins is an appointed Assemblies of God missionary to South Africa and an alumna from Global University’s Berean School of the Bible. Learn her story at globaluniversity.edu.  

 

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