Category Archives: Pew Talk

Round: Don’t be a part of the blame game

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”—Galatians 6:2 (NIV).

Anger.  Disbelief.  Grief.  Finger pointing. All responses to the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at a Florida high school. Some reports say it’s the 18thfl-florida-school-shooting-peter-wang-obit-20180215 incident of gunfire at a school campus since the beginning of 2018. Regardless of the numbers, this week’s column is meant to convict our hearts, including mine.

At this writing, 17 were killed in the rampage and another 13 were injured. Questions abound. Responses reported in and by the media, both traditional and socially, call for more gun control, more assistance for the mentally disturbed, and higher levels of school security.

For 30 years, I was a public educator. Beginning my career in 1975, I was naïve enough to believe I could make a difference in all of my students’ lives. Years later, I had a reality check. I couldn’t save everyone; I couldn’t meet every need. Still, I knew I should and could do what I could.

A 19-year-old has confessed to the most recent shooting rampage. News reports paint a picture of a disturbed young man. One of his former teachers said he was a quiet student, a loner. The students familiar with Nikolas Cruz were not surprised by his actions. His attorney has called him a “broken human being.”

Christian author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot said, “We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”

In an article by Sam Harris, written after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, he says, “There’s a way to stop mass shootings, and you won’t like it. That’s right. You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to ‘do something.’”

Harris’ solution? “Notice those around you who seem isolated and engage them.”

He adds, “If every one of us did this we’d have a culture that was deeply committed to ensuring no one was left lonely. And make no mistake, as I’ve written before, loneliness is what causes these shooters to lash out. People with solid connections to other people don’t indiscriminately fire guns at strangers.”

But that requires effort on our part. Notice the strange kid sitting by himself at lunch. Invite him to eat with you. What about the awkward guy at work who doesn’t fit in? Ask him about his weekend.

As parents, we also have a responsibility to teach our children to do the same, to make sure no one feels isolated. As Harris says, “That’s the breeding ground. That’s where the seeds are planted.”

We can all plant seeds—seeds of kindness. We may take for granted our own circle of connections—family, healthy friendships—but we must not assume everyone has that connection.

Don’t be part of the blame game. Be a part of the solution.

Check out www.carolaround.com for more inspiration and information about Carol’s books and speaking ministry.

Photo: Peter Wang, one of 17 victims killed during the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Wang was seen holding door open for others during shooting. (Sun-Sentinel).

Commit to seek your reward in 2018

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By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

Weeks ago, I began my search for a new home. In the midst of the dreadful task came a message worthy of personal reflection.

I found a home on Zillow that fit my family’s needs – close to work, quiet neighborhood, and in a good school committ-in-2018-proverbsdistrict. I scheduled a tour with the real estate agent who is handling the rental process. After the tour was complete, the agent and I talked a bit more about the owner’s and my desired date for rental.

As we closed our conversation, she asked about my current career. I volunteered that although I currently work as a technical writer, my ultimate goal is to teach English composition at the college or university level. After all, I told her, this was the only reason why, in 2013, I began my pursuit toward a graduate degree in English (I graduated in May 2015).

The agent told me I was a smart woman, but I needed to stay dedicated to my original goal. I thought to myself, “Well, I have been dedicated. I’ve applied for several positions but have been passed up.” I assessed my situation: I diverged from my intended path, allowing setbacks to take control of my centeredness.

She said, “God rewards those who stay committed. “ Furthermore, she noted that the road may not be simple, but, in the end, He knows your heart and desires.

Since our meeting weeks ago, I have replayed her comment over and over again in my head: “God rewards those who stay committed to theirtonya-andris-whitaker-2017 desires.”

Instead of commitment, I had become a wayward soldier. I now shamefully admitted that I have become discouraged because I didn’t immediately secure a lectureship. And, although it is not the blessing God has for me, technical writing provides financial safety. Commitment with God’s assurance, not comfort, will drive away the doubt and mismanagement in my life. Goodness, the first sentence of my master’s thesis acknowledgments was a thank you to Him. How has it become that my reliance on Him during the writing process is no longer needed as I press forward?

As we prepare to enter 2018, what goals have you set for yourself? If it includes work and education goals, remember to keep in prayer, stay focused, and count it all joy. As God used this real estate agent to deliver His message, dedication and commitment are essential. Know that God has our best interests at heart; He promised this to us (Psalm 37:5, KJV). In the end, the victory will be ours, as solemnly presented in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV): “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Food for thought: Remember your words. Stand stronger behind His.

Photos: Main: “Proverbs 16:3” courtesy of Womanista Wellness, formerly known as Skinny Mom. Secondary: Tonya Whitaker

Tonya Whitaker is managing editor of Inside The Pew.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

 

Don’t buy the lie!

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By Marian Jordan Ellis
Inside The Pew

A few years back, I fell in love with a pair of jeans at a local department store. They were fabulous! The perfect cut, color, and length (and if you’re 5 foot, 11 inches like me, you know that is hard to do.) I adored everything about them … except one thing, the price tag.

Since I was on a budget, I would often go try them on and try to justify the price tag.  I told a friend about my dilemma, and she recommended I look online. Back then I hadn’t shopped much online (this was before my UPS guy knew me on a first-name basis) so I asked my friend where to search, and she recommended eBay.

A few hours of searching later, and I found them – the same exact jeans. Brand new! With tags! And get this, only a fraction of the price! Fast forward, a few days later, to when the little brown package arrived at my doorstep. I ripped open that package like a kid on Christmas morning.

Holding them up like Simba from The Lion King, I welcomed them to my little closet tribe. But as my hands wrapped around the denim, an alarm bell went off in my head.

“Something’s not right here?!”

The fabric was stiff… not soft and luxurious like the jeans at the store.

The color was off…and rubbed off on my hands.

“What in the world?”

The too-good-to-be-true deal was just that, too good to be true. I’d bought a lie. I was the sucker!

Don’t feel too badly for me, because this taught me a valuable lesson about how we can recognize the difference between a lie and the truth. The way I recognized that the jeans were fake was because I knew the real thing. I’d held in my hands the real deal. I knew what the true cut, color, and fabric was and when confronted with a fake, I could easily recognize it.

Jesus called our enemy the “Father of Lies.” His mode of operation from the very beginning has been deception, and he is still at work today – aiming sex-and-the-city-undercovered to deceive us about our identity, destinies, power and worthy. I pray this lesson brings freedom to many reading this today. So often we are duped by the enemy to buy lies about ourselves but we don’t know that we’ve been deceived.

When we buy into these lies, it affects everything about us, our self-worth, relationships, callings and experience of the Christian life. And since we behave how we believe, we end up in all kinds of messes, simply because at some point, we bought a lie.

I know this one from experience. I was once the girl who severely struggled with insecurity and feelings of rejection. I believed the lie that my value was based on people’s opinions or my own performance. If I was pretty enough, smart enough or successful enough, then I would earn love. This lie kept me in a prison of fear, people pleasing and self-hatred.  This pattern of thinking was so ingrained in me that I had no idea that I believed it. This was just my normal, relationship drama, roller coaster emotions, and disappointment.  I had no idea that everything I was feeling and experiencing was based on the lies I was believing.

Then, something powerful happened, I discovered the truth!

After living the “Sex and the City” life for most of my college years and young 20s, I was redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ. When I fell in love with Jesus, the next thing that happened was I fell in love with His word, the Bible. I would sit for hours and read the scripture. I discovered that these are not just words on a page, this is the living, breathing word of God. As I dove into God’s word, I found a surprising result – I began to change from the inside out. After all, it was Jesus who said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

As I immersed myself in God’s word, I began to experience real freedom. The reason? I finally knew the truth. And by knowing the truth, I could recognize the lies of the enemy when they landed on my doorstep.

As we renew our minds with the truth, we begin to see the world and ourselves differently. It is my prayer that you will dive deep into God’s word. Allow the truth to expose any deeply held lies you may believe about yourself with God’s truth and experience the freedom and abundance that is yours in Jesus.

Photos: Top, Marian Jordan Ellis. Bottom: Ellis’ Sex and the City Uncovered.

Marian Jordan Ellis is the author of “Sex and the City Uncovered” and her new book, “Stand,” releases August 2017. She is the founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries. You can follow her on social media @marianjordan.

A Matter of Faith: Understanding the paradox of freedom

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By Carol Round
Special to Inside The Pew

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1 (NIV).

To most Americans, the word freedom connotes images of the American flag. We associate July 4 with the freedoms we’ve been granted by the U.S. american-flag-and-christConstitution. We celebrate our country’s independence with fireworks and parades.

According to dictionary.com, freedom means “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.”

Physical freedom is denied those locked behind prison walls. But those who have discovered a relationship with Jesus while in prison will tell you they are; indeed, now free, in spite of the iron bars they peer through each day.

Found throughout the Bible, the word, “freedom,” is familiar to those who’ve read God’s Holy Word. John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In an article by Roger Olson, he writes, “Unfortunately, two very different ideas of freedom get confused in many people’s minds. The biblical idea of freedom is different from, but easily confused with, the cultural value of the same name. And neither one is the same as “free will.” It can be confusing to the average Christian who wants to know what “real freedom” is. Is it having choices? Is it lack of coercion and constraint? Is it being able to do whatever you want? In what sense does Christ set us free, and how is that different from what Madison Avenue and Hollywood promise?

“At the very heart of the Christian gospel is the strange truth,” he continues, “that real freedom is found only in giving up everything secular culture touts as freedom. The gospel, it turns out, requires a distinction between the enjoyment of true freedom and the mere possession of ‘free will.’ Not that free will or independence from tyranny is a bad thing; they’re just not true freedom. True freedom, the gospel tells us, is trusting obedience, the obedience of faith. That’s not exactly the image one finds portrayed in popular culture.”

So, what does true freedom mean for those who choose to follow Christ? According to St. Augustine, true freedom is not choice or lack of constraint, but being what you are meant to be.

For too many years of my adult life, I was a slave—a slave to other’s opinions, a slave to the false image I portrayed as someone who had her life together, a slave to the identities I slipped into because of cultural demands. I wasn’t experiencing true freedom. I wasn’t completely free until I embraced the woman God has created me to be.

“Humans were created in the image of God. True freedom, then,” writes Olson, “is not found in moving away from that image but only in living it out. The closer we conform to the true image of God, Jesus Christ, the freer we become. The farther we drift from it, the more our freedom shrinks.”

Only Christ can set us free.

Photos courtesy of Carol Round and Anglican Pastor

Need a speaker or workshop leader? Carol Round is an author, a columnist, and a speaker. To learn more about Carol and her ministry, visit  her website or connect on Facebook or Twitter.

5 foundational leader traits grounded in religion

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By Major General Michael J. Diamond, US Army (retired)
Special to Inside The Pew

In order to be a complete leader, those in charge must possess certain character traits. Workers need leaders whom they can admire and respect. It should be no surprise that many of these foundational traits can be developed through religious teachings.

We will look at my five most important character traits; integrity, work ethic, discipline, courage, and decisiveness. Imichael-diamond-the-diamond-process have found in client organizations that subordinates crave a leader that has at a minimum these five elements. They are also very dismissive if their positional leader does not have and exhibit all these traits. Without them they tend to not be as supportive and go that extra mile when crunch time comes into play, e.g. putting in overtime, weekends, working late to meet a deadline. Character does matter to subordinates while their positional leaders tend to discount it because they are in fact the boss.

With each of these character traits, we will look at a biblical connection and how that carries over to today’s leaders.

  1. Integrity – “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3). “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” (Proverbs 12:22). “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
  2. Decisiveness – “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that,the-diamond-process purpose must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6– 8). “Part of decisiveness is a) praying for knowledge and wisdom (Ephesians 5: 15– 17), b) seeking counsel from others (Proverbs 15:22); and c) submitting to the Llord’s will (Proverbs 19:21).
  3. Work ethic – Colossians 3:23, “whatever you do, work at it with all of your heart.” Matthew 5:16 “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works”.
  4. Discipline –  Titus 1:7– 9 “For an overseer, as God’s steward must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine, and also rebuke those who contradict it.”
  5. Courage –  Joshua is a great example of leadership as Moses instructed him to courageously lead his people into the Promised Land.

Although it did not make the top 5, there is one overarching theme to all these and that is the concept of humility. Humility supplants all and enables people to lead others much more effectively. It is this potential to build longer, lasting relationships that causes subordinates to want to follow others who are humble yet very gifted leaders of people. These 5 traits have served me well in my leadership experiences as well as the many that I have served with and mentored throughout my career. It will pay huge dividends for all of us in this day and time if we learn and continue to strive to live up to these to our subordinates.

Photos: Top, Major General Michael J. Diamond; middle, book cover, “The Diamond Process: How to Fix  Your Organization and Lead People More Effectively.”

Major General Michael J. Diamond, US Army (retired) is author of The Diamond Process: How to Fix Your Organization and Lead People More Effectively. Diamond served a combined 35 years on active duty and in the Reserves. He brings this wealth of experience in military, manufacturing, retail, consulting, IT and many other sectors to help improve performance in organizations. His new book is co–authored by his son, Capt. Christopher R. Harding, presents the Diamond Process Model referenced above. The book is available on DiamondStrategyGroup.comAmazon and other fine booksellers.

Trump draws ‘deeper path for friendship with Israel’

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

President Donald Trump’s trip to Israel is a promise that goes beyond words. Trump, the only sitting U.Strump-visits-western-wall. president to visit to holy sites in Jerusalem, said the visit to the Western Wall was a “great honor,” one that could build “a deeper path to friendship with Israel.”

Trump’s visit to Israel was historic and welcoming. Billboards and signs proclaiming, “Trump Is A Friend of Zion” and “Trump Make Israel Great” have lined the streets of Jerusalem in a very public welcome to the president. The initiative, launched by Michael Evans, founder and chair of the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and a member of the Founding Trump Faith Board.

“Donald Trump won the election because of a historic evangelical voter turnout – the largest in American history. Evangelicals tend not to be monolithic except on two issues – the Supreme Court and Israel.

Evans, among others, point to Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. By moving the embassy, Trump would signify that the United States recognizes Jerusalem at the capital of Israel.

“President Trump promised us he would recognize Jerusalem and move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.  We wholeheartedly believe that this promise is non-negotiable and will happen while he is president.”

Don Horwitz, executive director of Christians Care International, told Inside The Pew the bond between the U.S. and Israel is based on the shared Judeo-Christian values of our two nations. He said both nations cherish personal liberty, religious freedom, and human dignity.

“When the President of the United States visits Israel, he sends the world a powerful message that this bond will Don Horowitznever be broken and that our two nations will forever be united in friendship and mutual support.

Horwitz added that Trump’s visit also puts Israel and the Jewish people into the world’s focus, and reminds us that many thousands of Jews remain subject to virulent anti-Semitism and persecution.

“Christians have also become increasingly subject to persecution and religious violence – Jews and Christians must stand together in the face of this violence.

“As the Bible tells us, Israel is a light unto the nations. It is time for the world to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital.”

Trump’s next stop in this tour is a meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis on May 24.

Photos (top to bottom):

President Donald Trump prays before the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (AP)

A banner hangs on a building in Jerusalem. (Yossi Zamir)

Don Horwitz, executive director of Christians Care International (http://www.christianscare.org/)

Tonya Whitaker contributed to this story.

© 2017 Inside The Pew

Missing your mom on Mother’s Day

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By Alexis Marie Chute
Special to Inside The Pew

Many moms relish Mother’s Day as a chance to have breakfast made for them – for a change. Or to have an uninterrupted bubble bath, minus the toys. Or to simply be thanked. Mother’s Day is advertised well, with cards, flowers, and gifts of any imaginable product, all geared towards the hard-working, over-tired, and much deserving mom.

But what about the mother of a mom?

When women have children of their own, they enter this wonderful club of motherhood. Still, the bond with one’sauthor-alexis-marie-chute own mother remains, like an invisible umbilicord, connecting heart to heart. It is without doubt that mothers and daughters share a sacred bond. It is this bond that makes Mother’s Day all the more heartbreaking when your own mother is unwell or has died.

Many young children believe their parents know all the answers and have this “life-thing” figured out. When you grow up, you realize that your parents are mere mortals, just fellow people figuring things out as they go. This is a startling realization in and of itself. Then, when your parents get sick, you realize they will not live forever. When your mother or father dies, the ache can be felt with each heartbeat, leaving you with a sense of loneliness, as if your foundational protection has been lifted.

Coping through Mother’s Day when you are caring for your ailing mother, or missing her larger-than-life presence, is challenging. Sometimes there are no words of comfort that make even a dent on the sadness you feel. Here are a few ways to redeem Mother’s Day for you:

Shut off the social and be present.

We spend much of our lives distracted by things that do not matter. Social media is a perfect example of this. Instead of updating your Facebook status or Instagram-ming the card your kids made for you – be with your kids! If you mom is still alive and within driving distance: Visit her. And lock your phone in your car if it’s too much of a temptation.

You know social media will be abuzz with Mother’s Day posts anyway and these in-your-face messages prompt the agony you feel for your mom and her pain. Shut them all off. Avoid the social media comparison game. Avoid seeing the pictures of your peers with their healthy mothers. When you logout, and wake-up to the present moment, you will see it for the gift that it is. You will feel alive and free, appreciating every minute of the life you have the privilege of living as a daughter to your mother and as a mom yourself.

Create and re-live memories.

If your mom has passed, take intentional time to be still and think about her. Get in a meditative state where you breathe deeply and do not wiggle around. Close your eyes and picture your mother. Remember her smell. Remember the way she said things to you: was she firm or tender? A jokster or a straight-shooter? Think back to trips you may have taken together or your weekly lunch dates or family holidays. Think about the lessons she taught you and the physical features of your body that came from her. Remember and celebrate your mother in spirit, her warts and all.

If your mother is alive, it is not too late to create new memories. The weekly lunch dates can take place at her home or hospital room. Surprise her with flowers and her favorite book, which you can read to her; or her favorite board game if she is still able to play. Give her a massage, the gift of touch. Take her for a walk in her wheelchair and start up a round of eye spy. Tell each other stories about your lives. And whatever you do, take as many photos and video as you can. These will become cherished keepsakes later on.

Let the feelings come.

Don’t get stuck in fretting about the “right things” to do or say for your mother if she’s ailing. Just do your best. Similarly, there is no one right way to grieve, and no singular perfect way to remember your mom’s life. Be graceful and kind with yourself. Everyone knows you are doing the best you can – and what other people think doesn’t matter anyway. What you think and feel is what counts. If you are feeling blue, let your tears flow. If anger is bubbling up in your chest at the fact that your mother passed from a tragic illness: Be mad! Give yourself permission. Go for a run till you’re winded, beat-up your duvet, scream till your throat throbs. Get out the feelings, whatever they are. The sense of release will be tangible afterwards.

“Life is not fair.” Those are the words likely every child everywhere has said to his or her parent at one point or another growing up. We can feel this injustice just the same as adults. There is never enough time with the ones we love, true. While Mother’s Day may feel like a kick-in-the-pants right when you are praying hard for a miracle, choose to see it as an opportunity. A chance to celebrate your mother, at whatever state of health she may be in, or to celebrate her in spirit as you remember her amazing life. If you have children of your own, tell them about their grandmother. We keep memories alive through the stories we share.

Alexis Marie Chute is the author of the award-winning memoir Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing and Pregnancy After Loss, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Alexis Marie is a writer, artist, filmmaker, public speaker, and bereavement expert. Learn more about her book and documentary, Expecting Sunshine: The Truth About Pregnancy After Loss, at www.ExpectingSunshine.com. She is a healthy-grief advocate educating others on how to heal in creative and authentic ways.

Connect with Alexis Marie Chute on FacebookLinkedIn TwitterInstagramPinterestTumblrYouTube, and at www.AlexisMarieChute.comwww.ExpectingSunshine.comwww.WantedChosenPlanned.comwww.AlexisMarieArt.com, and www.AlexisMarieWrites.com.

 

 

Bayou City renewal: First Presbyterian Church of Houston announces ‘Project Flourish’

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

First Presbyterian Church of Houston has unveiled Project Flourish, a creative invitation to the community to helpproject flourish first presbyterian church of houston bring fresh ideas to the issues that face a major metropolitan city like Houston.

According to the church’s May 2 announcement, it has set aside $250,000 for a social-entrepreneurship contest that seeks to grow new creative ideas from the community and mobilize Houstonians to seek city-wide renewal and transformational change.

“Every neighborhood in Houston is home to people who care deeply about our city—and we believe God has a heart to see Houston continually renewed and flourishing,” said Jim Birchfield, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church. “We want to see our city thrive—by offering $250,000 in seed money for creative proposals to that end, we truly want to work with individuals and teams who are seeking the good of the city.”

Individuals and teams who reside within 50 miles of downtown Houston are encouraged to apply through the Project Flourish website.

Applications are open to both for-profit and non-profit ideas, and will continue to be accepted through September 10th. Applications will be reviewed and semi-finalists will be invited into a six-week “acceleration” process designed to refine their proposal and receive consulting support, mentorship, and expertise from FPC congregants. At the conclusion of the six-week acceleration process, semi-finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, supporters and prospective investors who will have the job of awarding funding from the $250,000 pool.

“We are looking for fresh solutions with truly innovative approaches to go after some of the greatest problems we face as a city,” said Austin Hermann, FPC’s Director of Ministry Empowerment. “We are looking for individuals and teams who have ideas in their earlier conceptual stages of development but have some clear traction and proven attempts at implementation. Judges will want to see evidence of market testing, research, and problem understanding.”

Established in 1839, First Presbyterian Church of Houston was the first church to organize and build in Houston. Today its congregation continues to worship and serve from its location in the heart of the city’s museum district. Committed to providing opportunities to Gather, Grow and Go, the FPC Houston community continues to impact Houston and beyond through multiple worship styles, biblical teaching and strategic opportunities to serve through both local and global mission ministry opportunities. Compelled by the love of Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, FPC Houston is committed to carry the gospel to Houston and to the world.

To apply with your idea, or to learn more visit http://projectflourish.org/.

Project Flourish is a direct result of Vision 2020, the plan by which FPC Houston has committed to fulfill its mission: “Compelled by the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we carry the gospel to Houston and the world.”   

© 2017 Inside The Pew

 

Why we need reminders of God’s faithfulness

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By Carol Round
Special to ASSIST News Service

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” 1 Samuel 7:12 (NKJV).

GROVE, Okla. – In a recent column, I made a mistake. I’d forgotten the importance of double checking facts, but a reader, who pointed out my error, reminded me I had been careless. In a hurry to finish, I’d accepted what someone else had written – and I had quoted – as correct.

After I thanked him for emailing me, I had to smile. Why? Because the pointing out of my mistake was perfect timing for the topic God had already laid on my heart.

Several months ago, I received a thank you note from a group of women who had heard me speak at a conference in May 2016. While I’d forgotten the event in the midst of life-changing circumstances, the arrival of the card was perfect timing. I needed a reminder of what God had done in my life and what He was doing through me to encourage other women in their walk with the Lord.

God’s timing is always “on time.” However, we often forget His faithfulness in the midst of our struggles. So did the Israelites. In scripture, we see examples of reminders. In Joshua 4, after the Israelites had crossed the Jordan River through God’s supernatural provision, He commanded them to set up 12 stones as “a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

In 1 Samuel 7:12, the prophet Samuel set up a commemorative stone and named it Ebenezer to serve as a reminder that “thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The particular site of Ebenezer as mentioned in 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and 5:1 is about four miles south of Gilgal, where the Israelites were twice defeated by the Philistines and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen. However, the site wasn’t named Ebenezer until after the Israelites had finally defeated the Philistines and taken back the Ark.

What does Ebenezer mean? According to “Strong’s Concordance,” the word originates from the Hebrew word for “help” put together with the Hebrew word for “stone” to create the word, Ebenezer. Thus defined by the etymological roots of the word, an Ebenezer is literally a “Stone of Help.” For the Israelites who finally defeated the Philistines, it was a reminder of God’s divine aid.

As a Christian writer and speaker, I love sharing my testimony with others, encouraging my readers and the audience with the wonderful, sometimes supernatural things God has done in and through my 63 years of life. Each time, I am also reminded of His faithfulness. When I receive a thank you card, an email or a verbal reply to the words I write or speak, I am encouraged. Those things become my Ebenezer, my “stone of help,” especially when I need them the most.

Encouraged by friends to put my stories of God’s faithfulness into a book, I have begun writing them down. Lest any of us forget, take time to create a list, an “Ebenezer” of sorts, as a reminder.

Photo cutline: Carol Round

Round is available to speak at women’s events or to lead prayer journaling workshops. Email carolaround@yahoo.com

 

How to honor God with your money and achieve financial freedom in ’17

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By Jeff Rogers
Special to Inside The Pew

Saving more money and getting out of debt always rank as some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But resolutions are easy to break, especially if not backed by a strong sense of purpose. This New Year, consider what God is really wanting you to do with your finances. How did you do last year in this area? And what do you want to improve on this year, to better honor Him?

This fresh start of 2017 is a perfect time to evaluate your finances in light of God’s Word, and work towards managing them better, in the way He has called us to in scripture.

So, here are some tips to honor God with your money and achieve financial freedom in 2017. 2017 can be your best money year yet if you follow these simple, God-honoring principles.

Research what the Bible really says about debt.

One of the biggest chokeholds that Satan has on many Christians is excessive debt. Debt brings bondage, not freedom. If you have a strong understanding of how God really feels about debt, you will be more prone to avoiding it. Research scripture and spend time praying about how and why God wants you to avoid debt. As Proverbs 22:7 says “…the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Set long-term goals.

As a financial advisor for over 33 years, I’m sometimes amazed at how many individuals or couples have never setjeff-rogers-stewardship-legacy-coaching long-term financial goals. As the old saying goes “If you aim at nothing…you are sure to hit it!” God’s Word speaks wisdom in this area in Ephesians 5:15-17 (AMP) “Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.”

Build liquid reserves & savings to respond to emergencies and unexpected expenses.

Many otherwise good financial plans are ruined or suffer a setback because they don’t have the liquid reserves and flexibility to respond to emergencies or unexpected expenses. We recommend setting a goal of building 3-6 months worth of your household budget in liquid reserves/savings. It will take some time, but paying off debts can free up money that can build your liquid reserves as can using things like tax refunds, bonuses, overtime pay, etc.

Spend less than you earn

As the old saying goes, “If your outgo exceeds your Income, your upkeep will be your downfall!” Nobody (the government, corporations or you and I) can spend more than what we bring in for an extended period of time without running out of money. Develop a spending plan and budget, and stick to it. You may find it is easier than you think!

Rejoice in generosity

Have you ever noticed that some of the most unhappy, bitter people are those who are stingy and who hold tightly to every dollar? Have you also noticed that many of the most joyful people in this world are generous (toward God and towards others)? In fact, I’ve heard one Christian leader say “I have never seen an unhappy…generous person!” And you know what, neither have I! As the late Larry Burkett said, “Nothing breaks the chains of materialism like generosity.” I learned a lot from Larry’s teaching and that was one of the most valuable lessons and has transformed my life. Have you allowed generosity to transform your life, your marriage, your family? If you want to break the bondage of materialism and selfishness in your children or grandchildren, read the Kingdom Assignment and do a generosity project with them; or take them to your local Rescue Mission or a third world country where they can experience real poverty and hardship. They will likely come back changed…and so will you!

Spend some time this New Year praying through what God wants for you and your family financially. By following these tips, lots of prayer and a little bit of self-discipline, 2017 can be one of your best money years yet. For more tips visit http://stewardshiplegacy.com/blog/

Photo cutline: Jeff Rogers

Jeff Rogers is founder and chairman of Stewardship Advisory Group and Stewardship Legacy Coaching.