The Girl Named Dirty

Kingdom tales Kickstarter: The Girl Named DirtyForever and always, the Caretaker of Great Park brought those who were hurt or frightened, sick or broken to his wife, Mercie, because she was wise, and whatever she touched was made better. . . .

Except Dirty. Dirty refused to become better. Caretaker had found her outside Stonegate Entrance, rooting around for food after a Burner had beaten her. The child was covered with welts and bruises.

When Caretaker approached the girl, she immediately stood to her feet and shouted, “I’m Dirty! I never wash! I never cry! I’ll fight anything that raises a fist to me!” Then she fainted from her wounds and hunger.

Caretaker brought her to Mercie. But all of the old woman’s efforts could not help the girl to enjoy life in Great Park. Dirty hated the cottage. She despised the people who lived there. She thought Caretaker with his tree hat and jingling pockets was stupid. She hated Hero’s ugly scar.

“I’m not going to live with those creeps,” she declared one day as she stomped off to the barnyard to make her home with the pigs.

From that day on, she tromped in the mud and slept in the sheds. She practiced pig grunts. She learned pig calls, “Hoi-soi-soi-soi-hoi!” She watched the sows give birth to litters, and made pets of the piglets. And because the pigs were gentle, she loved them.

But she refused to love people.

Another outcast was living in the cottage, a girl Dirty’s age who had a disease that made her crippled. Dirty hated the Crippled Girl because she was ugly.

“Sui! Sui!” she would say to her pigs. “How can they live with that ugly thing? Why don’t they just get rid of her?”

Dirty sat on a big sow and watched when Caretaker carried the Crippled Girl on a pallet into the warm sunshine. She heard Mercie, that crone of a housewife, sing songs. Dirty made pig grunts to drown out the sound.

At first Mercie tried to persuade her to come into the cottage for meals, but she would not. Then Mercie carried nourishing lunches to the dung heap where Dirty liked to sit, and she ate there with the girl. Finally, Dirty refused any food from Mercie’s hand.

“I’ll eat the pig slop,” she said. “If it’s good enough for pigs, it’s good enough for me.”

Finally, the wise woman and her husband decided to leave Dirty alone. The girl would have to learn that what was fine for pigs was not always right for children.

To read the rest of this story and many more beautiful stories like it, go here and back our Kickstarter campaign to revise, re-illustrate, and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy.  If you want to order the classic, original editions, go here.

Kickstarter Artist: Roni Nurak

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Artist: Roni NurakWe found that when we put together our contest in 99Designs that we were working with artists from all over the world.  One such artist, Roni Yulianus Nurak, is a big fan of the Website, not only because he has an opportunity to win assignments, but also because he enjoys immersing himself in the huge community of designers it provides, allowing him to test and improve his skills.

“Too,” Nurak, who was born in Indonesia but now lives in Bandung, West Java,  added, “I have the opportunity to learn lessons from not only the artists in Asia, but from artists all over the world.”

Like so many of the artists who competed in the 99Designs contest regarding the Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy, Nurak has been pursuing his skills and talent in art since he was in elementary school.  While he enjoys working with pencil and paper, he also enjoys computer design.  In fact, he is most interested in discovering what new things can be accomplished with graphic design, illustration and animation.

“The Tales of the Kingdom project,” he shared, “allowed me to develop a project in my own unique style.”

One of his favorite parts of the assignment was the fact that Tales of the Kingdom is not only an excellent read, but so effectively brings the Christian message in a non-overbearing way.  He knew that his efforts would help to provide inspiration for all those who read it.

His challenge, as he worked, was to create a quality illustration that would correspond to the core story.  He accomplished this by first presenting the character, and then developing the “atmosphere” the illustration presents!

You can view Roni Nurak’s online portfolio and see his incredible illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here: http://pin2art.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html.

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomtalestrilogy/the-kingdom-tales-3-illustrated-storybooks-that-ki

Love Working with Artists

by: Karen Mains

Author: Karen MainsI am enough of an artist that I love working with other artists.  I can remember the first time I was invited to attend a two-week laboratory where one of my books was being turned into a film project.  The screenwriter was a friend who had talked me into letting her submit this entry, and I rather reluctantly made my way to New Harmony, Indiana where I realized for the first time in my life I was with a whole group of people and we were all speaking the same language (artist-ese).

So some thirty years ago, when Jack Stockman, the artist who illustrated the first two books of the Kingdom Tales trilogy, began scheming and dreaming with me of collaborating on his first fully illustrated book project and my first venture into creative writing, it was pure joy to see how Jack’s mind interpreted my stories.  I loved his work and still love it.

Jack’s process, however, is not cost-effective for a tight publishing budget.  It takes Jack a week of work to paint one illustration.  His work is detailed, imaginative and leans back into the classic children’s illustrated books of another generation.  The artists who submitted illustrations for the contest we ran through the 99Designs Web site are using computer technology.  Consequently, the winning artist (from Bulgaria) Zhivko Zhelev, can turn out two to three illustrations per week.

However, David and I (and countless other readers) love the Stockman illustrations.  (The publishers hired another artist to do the third book, Tales of the Restoration—one of the headaches of being an author is being subject to the whims and fancies of the publishing industry.) If the Kickstarter Campaign exceeds expectations—and many do (many also don’t even reach their goals)—there will be enough money to pay Jack to complete the third book with his gorgeous artwork.  This then, will give us the “classic-illustrated set” in addition to the newly-illustrated set with more of a multi-ethnic representation in the art.

Check out this link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomtalestrilogy/the-kingdom-tales-3-illustrated-storybooks-that-ki to see how we are doing in reaching our goal.  Check out the Backer levels to see if there is anything you would like to pre-order for your own family or to give as gifts.  Pledge an amount if you are led to do so.  Then, would you tell your friends about this campaign?  We need lots of buzz, not only to reach the goal but to exceed it so that we can get Jack Stockman started on finishing a long-unfinished project.  Thanks so much.

Kickstarter Artist: Zoltan Tobias

Kingdom Tales Kickstarter Zoltan TobiasThe artist in us all can be sidetracked, but it can never be eliminated.  That’s a fact that Zoltan Tobias, of Szeged, Hungary will readily attest to.  Though currently a university student who is about to become a medical doctor, Tobias still pursues his love for art.

“When I was ten years old,’ Tobias explained, “I saw an extremely inspirational movie about a young child who was drawing comics.  And,” he added with a big smile in his voice, “I discovered that I could do the same thing.”

Like so many artists around the world, Tobias is self-taught.  He prefers digital art, but when dealing with more traditional mediums, he is attracted to markers and ink.  While searching online for digital paint jobs, he came across 99 Designs.  He followed through with signing up because he realized it presented him with a number of promising projects, opportunities to improve himself, and good financial offers.

“I think I was probably attracted to the Tales of the Kingdom project because I have been fascinated by dragons since I was a child, making this an obvious choice for me.”

This particular project did prove to be a challenge for Tobias, especially creating Amanda.  While most of his projects are completed in four to five hours, this one took closer to eight, due to the fact that he made several changes to the piece as he received feedback about the art he was producing.

You can view Zoltan Tobias’ online portfolio and see his incredible illustration of Amanda and the Dragon, created for the 2015 Princess Amanda and the Dragon Wall Calendar, by going here:

When you Back Our KICKSTARTER Project you’ll RECEIVE 3 Award-winning CHILDREN’S BOOKS to READ & ENJOY WITH YOUR KIDS (or GRANDKIDS) — each story teaches character lessons for life, and comes fully Revised, Re-published in print and all eBook formats, and Re-illustrated with Captivating, Original Art!

If you would like to get the Wall Calendar and/or back our Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and re-publish the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, go here:

First Backer

Kingdom Tales KickstarterWe have the first two Backers for the Kickstarter Campaign to revise, re-illustrate and republish the Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy, which David and I began writing some thirty years ago! These Backers have come in at the $157 and $300 levels, which insures (if we meet our goal of raising $22,500) that they will receive the exclusive, limited edition Kickstarter hardcover Trilogy—all three books—with their names printed in the books, and personalized autographs to the recipients of your choice.

These particular editions will only be available for a limited time in a limited quantity through this Kickstarter Campaign. Our goal is to mail them to your door in time for Christmas giving. For those of you who have loved these books through the years, this is a wonderful legacy project to give to family and friends. Thank you first donors! You have kicked off the campaign! For more details, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kingdomtalestrilogy/the-kingdom-tales-3-illustrated-storybooks-that-ki

Go for the Goal – David Wise

Go for the Goal – David WiseThe 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia are almost over, but, on March 7th, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 additional days. What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series. As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we have been offering a special series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

David and Alexandra Wise are the youth leaders at Valley View Christian Fellowship in Reno, Nevada. As of Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, David is also an Olympic Champion. While the city of Reno was asleep, David won the gold medal in Halfpipe Skiing at Sochi.

David is perfectly willing to confirm what the word pretty much already knows about the party atmosphere of freestyle skiing and snowboarding competition, but he is also quick to point out that he does not live the X-Games lifestyle. As he says, “I’m going to do the best I can to be a big part of this sport, but who I am is who I am.” He says that “Faith plays a huge role, because it enables me to be confident. I can trust God, and He’s going to see me through.”

You might be led to believe that David’s skiing success is due in large part to living at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and within a short distance from some of the best skiing facilities in the U.S. That it is a part of his success is undeniable. It is difficult to ski in a wheat field. But he looks at the big picture for his overall, personal success.

“If I’m not spiritually in tune, then the rest of me is not going to be in tune either.” He says that he always tries to begin his day with some quiet time, during which his purpose it to “really feel connected to God and what He’s trying to say or speak into my life.”

Like the “wise” man who built his house upon the rock, David Wise has chosen to be more than a hearer of the Word and to be pleasing to the Lord by living his life in conformity to it. Or, as he says, “I’d rather be known for my actions rather than my words.”

In a sad postscript to this story, a commentator for NBC apparently referred to David’s faith as an “alternative lifestyle.” We need to understand that it is becoming increasingly more important for believers in Christ to let our light shine in this ever-darkening world.

Headlines everywhere should have proclaimed, “Wise Man Earns Olympic Gold.”

Source material for this story included the Christian Post, The Washington Times and Slate.

Go for the Goal – Gigi Marvin

Go for the Goal – Gigi MarvinThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Giselle “Gigi” Marvin is a member of the US Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Her list of accomplishments are impressive. For instance – and this is just a short list – she won gold in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013  as a member of the US National Team in the IHF World Women’s Championships. She added silver medals in 2007 and 2012, along with the Olympic silver at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Now she is headed to Sochi.

We have just scratched the surface of her athletic accomplishments. But what is more impressive than her collection of gold and silver is what I see when I go her blog or visit her Twitter account. Let me explain.

  • The second tweet on her account as of today is “Want success? Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3.”

  • Just a few tweets down the page is one that says “If God be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31.”

  • On January 16th, she tweeted “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:14”

  • On January 17th, it was “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1”

Now, that is impressive!

But wait! There’s more! A recent blog on her BlogSpot is titled, “The Power of Words,” and it begins with “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint,” Proverbs 17:27, and in it she explains the power of words, beginning with God saying, “Let there be light.” Her next blog on the page talks about the “Gold Medal Standard of Life,” an essay based on Hebrews 12:22, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Other titles on her blog include “Church on a Hockey Bus,” “Being Rebuilt,” based on Jeremiah 31:4, “Playbook for Life,” based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and “Crushing Satan Step by Step.” She wrote that last blog based on Romans 16:10, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

What impresses me, and what ought to impress you, is that this girl lives by the faith she claims to believe. God bless her for her bold and unashamed witness of the Gospel of Christ.

You may follow Gigi on her BlogSpot and on Twitter.

Go for the Goal – Curt Tomasevicz

Go for the Goal – Curt TomaseviczThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Curt Tomasevicz has already tasted Olympic gold as part of the “Night Train” four-man U.S. Bobsled Team at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. Now, four years later, he is on his way to Sochi to compete as a pusher for the sled that has now been officially designated as USA-1. But Curt is not “just another Olympic pusher,” he is considered one of the most powerful pushers in the world.

“It’s a great thrill to know that you have given everything you could to try to win and at the same time, done it with honor and integrity. I discovered this at a young age and it has proven to be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned.”

Curt grew up in a Christian home, accepted Christ at a young age, and has managed to keep his eyes on the prize for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus more than on earthly rewards that will eventually pass away. But that does not mean, and never has meant, that he cannot be an athlete. What it does mean is that Curt’s passion to serve the Lord is where he gets the strength to perform well and to Go for the Goal.

Curt graduated from the University of Nebraska in 2003. He took up the sport of bobsledding the following year, teaming up with drivers Steve Holcomb and Mike Kohn. He has served as either a push athlete or a brakeman for both drivers in four-man and two-man events. His first gold medal came in the World Cup two-man competition in Cesana Pariol in February 2007. That was a breakthrough event, as he is now among the truly elite, winning bronze, silver and gold on the World Cup circuit on a consistent and regular basis. He has been the recipient of eight World Cup and World Championship gold medals and six silver since the 2010 Olympics.

In a few days, Curt will go for the gold in Sochi. When you watch him and his team, keep in mind His description of how he lives his life for Christ first. Then, let us all do the same.

“As I live my life today as a full-time athlete, I’ve found that I’m in a fantastic position to influence many people in a number of different ways. I have the opportunity to be viewed as a role model for millions of children. When I compete for the USA, I feel an enormous amount of pride knowing that my job is to represent the entire country on an international level. The way that I conduct myself could be seen around the world. In the heat of competitions, emotions run high. It can be easy to lose tempers, get mad, or argue with officials or opponents. But the person that keeps Christ as a priority throughout the competition seems to be the winner no matter what the score is in the end. A great Christian can remain calm in pressure situations, upbeat in the face of defeat, and even content with not winning. It’s important to be consistently reminded that winning and losing are not the most important things in life. The bigger picture is serving God the right way. I pray that I will always compete as a man with a strong apparent faith.”

Source material included Athletes in Action and the official U.S. Olympic Team websites.

Go for the Goal – Jilleanne Rookard

Go for the Goal – Jilleanne RookardThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Sometimes we forget that world-class athletes are human. We watch them on TV and wonder why they don’t always perform up to our personal expectations. We forget that they, too, have injuries, sickness, sorrow, and other burdens to bear – ones that we do not see on television. Jilleanne Rookard is a perfect example.

After winning the World Cup 3000 meter speed skating event in 2009, she went on to participate in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. She failed to medal, placing 12th in the 3000m, 24th in the 1500m and 4th in Ladies Team Pursuit. Disappointing? Sure. But not nearly as disappointing as losing her mother to cancer in December 2009. That devastating loss was like having an elephant strapped on her back every time she strapped on her skates.

Jilleanne walked away from the sport, a broken woman, just before the 2013 world championships eleven months ago. She had been so highly focused on her skating success that she had been unable during the intervening years to adequately deal with her mother’s death. She described herself as a mental mess. She cried when she practiced, as she continued to fall apart emotionally. Her performance declined. So she took some time off to “decompress.”

Having accepted Christ in 2006, she looked to Him for the strength to make it through. She says, “It was strange, because God didn’t solve my problems, but it seemed as though He was giving me the strength to handle more. I thank God every day for the lessons He has taught me along this journey. I’ve learned that success is not defined by the outcome, but by the courage it takes to chase God-sized dreams.”

Oh, just in case you were wondering, Jilleanne has returned to the sport and she has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team with a winning time in the 3000m of just 0.4 seconds under the five minute mark. Jilleanne Rookard left her heavy burden at the cross and is pressing on to the glory of God. When you watch her race in Sochi, think about this story and pray for her.

Preach Go for the Goal

Preach for the GoalWhat Are You Preaching That Relates to the Upcoming Winter Olympic Games?

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will soon be front-page news in America. The games will be held February 7-23 in Sochi, Russia and will feature world-class competitors who are vying to become recognized athletic champions.

Pastors, you can turn all that news and attention into spiritual lessons taught at your church! Preach through the sermon series Go for the Goal: Becoming a Spiritual Champion.

To view the series, go here:

Go for the Goal – Noelle Pikus-Pace

Go for the Goal – Noelle Pikus-PaceThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

American Olympic hopeful, Noelle Pikus-Pace appears to be on track to win a medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games. This is not Noelle’s first Olympics. She finished fourth in the skeleton competition in Vancouver in 2010. She left the sport after Vancouver to give birth to and begin raising her second child. She has returned and is blazing a trail of glory down the slopes on the World Cup tour as she prepares for Sochi.

During the first race of 2014 Noelle was tied for the lead at the end of her first run. But, in hopes of gaining speed, she made a strategic adjustment that ended up costing her less than six-tenths of a second, putting her on the podium, but in second-place. This race at Winterberg, Germany, is the fourth time in a row that she has finished second on the World Cup circuit this winter. Her finish also propelled her from fourth place to second in the overall standings. Given the margin that would be needed to gain first place at this point in the overall standings, it is not likely that she should be expected to win the World Cup this year. However, she did win the 2005 World Cup, becoming the first U.S. female skeleton athlete to ever achieve that goal.

In the 2006-2007 World Cup she finished second overall and, in January 2007, she gained another American first by becoming the first U.S. woman to win the World Championships in St. Moritz. Not only did she win the gold, but she won by the largest margin in the history of the sport.

Pikus-Pace has a long list of impressive medals indicative of her hard work to “Go for the Goal.” But, from an eternal perspective, she presses on to the higher calling of God in Christ Jesus. “The only thing that keeps me going is striving to do my heavenly Father’s will. That lightens my burden, so it’s not all about me. It’s about trying to be a good example to those around me and showing an example that Christ would have shown.”

May we remember to cheer Noelle on as she Goes for the Goal in Sochi and, even more so, as she strives to live for Christ and to be a light in the darkness, regardless of how she finishes in the Olympics.

(Sources for this story included NBC Sports, the official website of the U.S. Olympic team and the Christian Science Monitor.)

UPDATE: Noelle Pikus-Pace WINS SILVER at #Sochi2014
Salt Lake Tribune | Facebook | NBC Olympics | NBC  Olympics | NCAA | Her Website | Medal Stand | TV Interview

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Go for the Goal – Ken DeLong

Go for the Goal – Ken DeLongThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Ken DeLong’s story may be the most unusual in our series, but it may also be the most representative of Going for the Goal.  Ken grew up in Roanoke, Virginia with aspirations of being an Olympic athlete.  He never made it to the Olympics.  But he is about to.

After high school, Ken went to Milligan College, a highly-rated Christian liberal arts school in Tennessee where he earned his bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.  He obtained his graduate degree while working as a strength and conditioning coach at Texas A&M.  Subsequently, he ended up accepting a strength and conditioning internship at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY.  While there, he became the fourth man for one of the U.S. bobsled teams.  He recalls that “It was a fantastic experience – a little scary, but really exciting.”  Unfortunately for the 26-year old Ken, his team placed seventh in the Olympic trials and that appeared to be the end of the story.

But this is a story about how God blesses faithfulness, so the story does not end.

Ken decided to make his home in upstate New York, and he has lived there for 30 years.  For the first five years he held the job of Recreation Specialist at the Raybrook Federal Penitentiary near Lake Placid.  Over the past 25 years, he has worked with Northeast Parent and Child, a residential facility for troubled teenagers.  One of the things that Ken brought to NPC was the idea of bobsledding as a way of teaching the teens how to make a commitment to something greater than themselves.  For 30 long years, Ken worked with criminals and at-risk teenagers, helping them to see a better way.  No fame.  No fortune.  No Olympics.  But during this span he also took and passed the exams for officiating at skeleton and bobsled races in 2002 and 2003, respectively.  He has been officiating ever since.

On February 5th, 2014, Ken DeLong will board a flight to Russia, where, at long last, he will participate in the Olympic Games at Sochi as an official at the skeleton races.  He received his invitation from the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing.  All of his expenses are paid by the Russian Olympic Committee.  While in Sochi he will be part of the team responsible for maintaining the safety of the track as well as ensuring athletes’ credentials and that the races are run according to the rules.

The chairman of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation put the fulfillment of Ken DeLong’s childhood Olympic dreams into perspective, describing the assignment as being the same as being a referee at the Super Bowl.  He called Ken “One of the most widely-respected jury officials in the United States.”

On February 7th, 2014, when the Sochi Olympic Games open, Ken DeLong will have reached his goal.

Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-Peltz

Go for the Goal – Nancy Swider-PeltzThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

It can become very confusing when you talk about Nancy Swider-Peltz because there are two of them.  To avoid confusion, we are going to talk about the Olympian, Nancy Swider-Peltz.  Unfortunately, that still does not reduce the confusion, because there are still two of them.  Let’s narrow it down a bit more.  Let’s talk about the Olympic speed skater, Nancy Swider-Peltz. As it happens, that doesn’t help either, because there are still two of them.  The only way we can do this is to talk about mother, Nancy Swider-Peltz Sr., and daughter, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr.  As Nancy Jr. describes the two of them, they share the “Same name – same sport – same faith.”

 As this story is being written, the younger Nancy is training for the U.S. Olympic trials that begin on December 27th, under the tutelage of her coach, and four-time Olympian, Nancy Sr.  One of the struggles that Nancy Jr. faces is the innate self-centeredness that it takes for athletes to focus on being prepared.  She believes that her faith is made stronger by seeking to glorify God in all things, not just in winning or on the podium, but in her training as well.  Her preparation is steeped in focusing on bringing glory to Christ and not unto herself.

Nancy Jr. has said that, “I have to thank my mom, my dad, and the rest of my family for their godly examples and for teaching me from their experiences how to mature in my faith in Jesus Christ. Along with Christ, they have been there for me through every trial and victory and have taught me so many life lessons I use every day. I have been blessed beyond comprehension. From parents who have raised me on strong Bible-believing values from birth, to providing me with opportunities for me to achieve my goals in life, God has been there for me every step of the way and has never failed me. I give all the glory to God!”

People often ask if mother and daughter have ever actually competed against each other.  Yes, in fact, they have.  Not only did they compete in the 2002 Olympic trials (Nancy Sr. at age 45 and Nancy Jr. at age 14), but they raced against each other, an historic event even if they had not been related, because they became the oldest and youngest competitors ever to compete against each other in the trials.

Nancy Sr.’s hopes to have another Swider-Peltz become an Olympic speed skater and a pillar of faith.  The odds are in her favor, because, in yet another twist to this story, there is also another Swider-Peltz hoping to make the U.S. team.  Thankfully, his name is not Nancy.  It is Jeffrey.  After competing in the 2006 Olympic trials while still in high school, he left competitive skating while attending Wheaton College.  Eventually, he was drawn back by his love of the sport.  His faith in Christ is just as evident as his sister’s.  Jeffrey believes that “Skating is great, but it’s not everything, and it can’t be where I find value within myself. It’s hard to spend so much time focusing on becoming the best skater you can possibly be and keeping a proper perspective on life – it’s such an obsessive culture. I only know that I must seek approval solely from God and not rely on being justified by any personal achievements or the opinions of others.”

The Swider-Peltz family understands that the glitter of Olympic gold can never compare to the crowns they will receive in Heaven and lay at Jesus’ feet.  May they be an example and an encouragement to us all.

Go for the Goal – Mark Johnson

Go for the Goal – Mark JohnsonThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we continue our series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Mark Johnson was a Devil when he came to Christ.  Some astute readers might be thinking, “You shouldn’t capitalize ‘devil,’” but the fact is that Mark was a capital ‘D’ Devil.  He was a New Jersey Devil professional hockey player.  It was while he was playing for the Devils he traded his personal accolades for the glory of God, trusting Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Before turning professional and becoming a Devil, Mark had actually been part of a miracle when he was an Olympic athlete.  It was during the 1980 Winter Olympics.  Mark was part of what has been widely acclaimed as “The Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team stunned the world by winning the gold.  It was a singular moment in Olympic history that could best be described by the first half of ABC’s Wide World of Sports slogan at the time – “The thrill of victory!”  In 2002 Sports Illustrated called “The Miracle on Ice,” “The Greatest Sports Moment of the Century.”  But, as Mark Johnson would tell you today, even though he led that team with 11 goals, “The truth is the happiness of victories fades.”

The thrill of “The Miracle on Ice” continues to be a fading memory, revived every four years on U.S. television retrospective commentaries.  The life that Mark and his wife Leslie found in Jesus Christ, however, will never fade.  It is eternal and it is abundant.  And their relationship with Christ keeps getting deeper and stronger.  The miracle in Mark’s life happened as a result of watching his New Jersey teammate, Chico Resch, live out the Christian life boldly and unashamedly, and through the teaching ministry of Dave Bratton, the team chaplain from Athletes in Action.

Today, Mark is the head coach of the University of Wisconsin Womens’ Hockey Team.  His 307-58-28 record makes him the winningest coach in the Badger’s Women’s Hockey Team history.  Under Johnson, the Lady Badgers have won four NCAA titles.  In 2010, Johnson returned to the Olympic arena, coaching the U.S. women’s team to the silver medal.  His personal accomplishments include being an inductee of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame as a player and coach, as well as being separately inducted as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.  He is also a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame.

Ultimately, however, Mark will tell you that “I know that my value doesn’t lie in winning championships, but who I am in Christ. God’s love for me, and Jesus’ death and resurrection are the real miracles.”

Information sources include the Athletes in Action and the University of Wisconsin websites.

Go for the Goal – Elana Meyers

Go for the Goal – Elana MeyersThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we begin a series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.

Her Twitter profile reads “Christ follower, Olympic & World Champ medalist in women’s bobsled, MBA student.”  Her name is Elana Meyers, and she has her priorities in order.  But it wasn’t always like that.  There was a time when bobsledding was not her sport and Jesus Christ was not her passion.  In fact, her biography on the Beyond the Ultimate website, explains that sports in general was her all-consuming passion; especially softball, which she played in both high school and college.

Elana, who hails from Douglasville, Georgia, where this writer once lived, had become so consumed with softball in her freshman year in college that she spiraled out of control by trying to be in control of her performance, her team’s success, and her life.  In her efforts to control her playing weight, she began a cycle of starvation, bingeing and purging.  As it usually does, this preoccupation with weight and controlling it (for whatever purpose it is intended to serve), drew Elana into the bondage of what she called “a vicious addiction.”

When, after desperately seeking help, she realized that psychological programs provided only a different approach to trying to personally control things, she began to search for something entirely different and effective.  She began to read a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life” that a friend had bought for her.  During a two-hour workout on an elliptical device, she realized that she needed to yield control of her life to Christ.  She recalls that “Just as easily as I was caught up in the addiction that is an eating disorder, God removed my addiction and set me free.  It wasn’t until I found Jesus that I realized I didn’t need control and would never have it.”

In 2007 Elana took up bobsledding.  In the 2010 Olympic Winter Games she help to bring home the bronze for Team USA as the pusher on the two-woman team.  She is now preparing for the 2014 Sochi Games as the driver.  After already winning a slew of medals in the last half of the 2012-2013 season, on Friday, December 6, 2013, she and her current teammate, Aja Evens won the gold medal at the Women’s World Cup in Park City, Utah.  It was the first U.S. women’s victory since January 2011.

It looks like Elana Meyers is prepared to “Go for the Goal” in Sochi in February.  The difference now, as she says, is “I do not have to have all the answers.  I just have to trust Him.  Being an Olympian is one of the greatest achievements one can achieve in this life. Although God has allowed me to achieve much, I know it’s all to glorify His holy name, and that I am working toward a much greater accomplishment in the next life.”

To read more about Elana Meyers, go to http://beyondtheultimate.org/athlete/Elana-Meyers, or follow her on Twitter at @eamslider24.

Go for the Goal – Janet Lynn

Go for the Goal – Janet LynnThe 2014 Olympic winter Games open in Sochi, Russia on February 7, 2014.  Exactly one month later, following the 17 days of initial competition, the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games open for 10 days.  What better time to use Mainstay’s Go for the Goal sermon series.  As support material for our Go for the Goal series, we begin a series of stories that spotlight Winter Olympians whose Goal is to honor Jesus Christ.  We begin with American figure skater, Janet Lynn.

Janet Lynn is now 60 years old.  She never won Olympic gold, but she caused the sport to change dramatically simply by her outstanding freestyle performance ability.  If she were to skate under today’s rules – the very rules that were changed because of her – she would likely have an entire collection of gold medals.  When Janet competed in the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, she was 19 years old and America’s hope for gold.  Why she did not win the gold depends upon whether you see the cup as half-full or half-empty.  It was either the fact that she was weak in the compulsory part of the program or that her strength, freestyle, which she clearly won, was not allotted a large enough portion of the total score at that time.  The question might be raised, “How much is a large enough portion?”  The simple answer is that, as of the early 1990’s, there is no longer a compulsory portion of the competition.  It was Janet’s exquisite freestyle performance, despite a disastrous fall on the ice, that was instrumental in changing the perspective of figure skating officials’ opinions of how to best score the events.

Janet Lynn is a five-time U.S. National Figure Skating Champion, a two-time World Figure Skating medalist, and the 1972 Winter Olympic bronze medal winner.  She was one of the first women to land a triple jump in competition.  She turned professional in 1973, becoming the highest paid female athlete at that time, and, one year later, became the World Professional Champion.  Many experts believe that she is one of the greatest freestyle figure skaters of all time.  Her shining example for figure skating, however, pales in the light of how she has shined for Christ amidst the darkness of this world.

In a speech given at the dedication of the Janet Lynn Ice Arena in her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, in July 2000, Janet boldly proclaimed that, “Through the joys and difficulties, Jesus Christ has been my stability. He has a plan for my life and it certainly included skating. The faith that my family introduced me to through regular church attendance ultimately enabled me to focus on the good and persevere through the unpleasant things. My faith in Christ, knowing that the loving God can take even broken dreams and make something beautiful in His time, has been the hope of my life. This faith was a foundation of my skating.”

She spoke to the heartbreak she experienced after completing the compulsories in 1972.  She had realized that her entire life, “as well as my personal dreams and ambitions for self, country, and God, were wrapped up in this competition.” She told how she had spent the day weeping and arguing with God in the Olympic Village.  But she also shared that “a thought came into my mind:  If I could not win, then all I could do was to finish the competition and decide to dedicate my free skating to show God’s love to all who watched. A medal no longer mattered. Somehow, God heard my cries and answered a girl’s prayers in ways I could not have imagined.”

After the 1972 Olympics, Janet returned to Japan and responded consistently that it was her faith in Christ and her desire to live for Him that kept here smiling after her infamous fall on the ice.  Fifteen years later, on a subsequent trip to Japan, a woman handed her a note in which she explained that she had been depressed and ready to take her own life, until she had heard Janet speak of her faith and hope in Jesus Christ.  She decided to place her hope in Christ as a result.  Janet may not have won the gold, but that Japanese woman won eternal life.

On a broader scale, Janet says, “It disturbs me greatly to see instances in our nation where people try to exclude God or create fear of talking about God in public. He has blessed this nation so richly; why would anyone want to shut Him out?”

Quotes are from Janet Lynn’s speech, “Family Faith, and Freedom.”

Embrace Righteousness and Renounce Evil

Seeing the Unseen Christ: Embrace Righteousness and Renounce EvilHave you noticed how “dark” movies and TV shows have become?  Not necessarily in content, though that is becoming more and more the case as well, but rather they are actually dark, making it difficult to see what is going on.  The reason, of course, is rather obvious – - the people are engaged in things that they don’t want others to know about and therefore they are shrouded in a blanket of darkness.  And, when it comes to our need to Embrace Righteousness and Renounce Evil, “Darkness” and “Light” have a lot to do with it!

I John 1:5 – 2:6 spends a good deal of time dealing with this very issue.  The verses there tell us that “walking in darkness” is contrary to having Fellowship with Jesus.  Rather, we are advised to walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  For, in this passage, “darkness” and “sin” are synonymous.

Another issue that this scripture deals with is the fact that we need to make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves into believing we have no sin.  In fact, in I John 1:10 it says, “If we say we have no sin we call God a liar.”  Further, in 2:3 we are told, “We know we know Him if we keep His commandments.”  This, obviously is an important aspect of how we can, and should, Embrace Righteousness and Renounce Evil.

In our society today a lot of our socializing takes place in darkness.  Clubs and even restaurants are shrouded in darkness.  In fact, often between the darkness and the loudness it is hard to discern what is happening – - and, in many cases, it is even hard to discern what we ourselves are doing!

That is why we must walk in the Light – - for Jesus tells us we are the light of the World.  We do need to recognize, however, that we are not without sin, but we do need to confess and repent of our sin so that we can be forgiven.  Those are the keys as to how we are to Embrace Righteousness and Renounce Evil - to walk in the Light and to confess and repent of our sins!

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Courageously Complete Assigned Missions

Celebrate Jesus! - Courageously Complete Assigned MissionsWe seem to live in a time when courage is still respected but more and more is seldom displayed.  Instead, it appears that most people are willing to follow along with the crowd, deciding that rather than making a stand for what is right they will either go along with, or at least ignore, that which is wrong.  Yet, as Christians, we know that is not the way we should act.  Rather, we know that we should act courageously regardless of the Mission God asks us to perform.  The willingness to do so allows us to demonstrate our faith.

There are two prime examples of this taking place in the eleventh chapter of Mark.  In the first eleven verses we are told of the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  The story begins with Jesus sending two disciples to go find a colt, untie it, and bring it to Him.  He advises them that if they are “challenged” by anyone, they should reply, “The Lord has need of it.” They are, of course, challenged and when they reply as they had been directed no one interfered with what they were doing!  It took courage for the disciples to complete this Mission – - and a lot of faith!  Yet, that is exactly what they did – - complete their Mission with courage!

The day after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem,  Jesus goes to the Temple and clears out the money changers.  This, of course, was part of His Mission and, like the disciples, He completed it courageously – - even though we are told that, as a result of His actions, the scribes and chief priests sought to destroy Him.

And, therein lies the key to completing a Mission courageously – - it might create a situation where people will seek to destroy us!  What we need to remember is, “If God be for us, who can be against us!”  With that as our battle cry, we can proceed courageously on every Mission for the Kingdom, knowing that we have nothing to fear but fear itself!

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The context of that quote is a situation where Jesus was being derided and scoffed at by some people who claimed to be religious. His response was, in effect, “I am God. My sheep listen to me when I speak. I know who my sheep are, and it is obvious to everyone who they are, because they follow me.”

The Cliff Notes version might have been, “You are not my sheep. You don’t listen to me. You don’t follow me. And I don’t know you.”

I wonder. Do you hear God when He speaks?

For years I somehow sloughed off that verse as completely parabolic and with the theological understanding that Jesus was acting as a prophet in the passage, signifying that the Gospel would come to the Gentile nations as well the Jews. But it also always bothered me. There was always this nagging question . . . “Do I hear His voice?” I would hear people say that God told them to do something. I was always skeptical, because that is a line that charlatans often use. Eventually began to dismiss the charlatans, because, whether they said it or not, it was God Himself who stated the fact that His sheep hear His voice. So I had to be sure. Here is what I have learned:

You’ve got to get within hearing distance if you want to hear His voice.

I began to understand that if I draw closer to Him, not only will He do as He has promised (to draw closer to me), but I will be where I need to be to hear Him when He speaks to me. When I’m so far away that He has to shout above the crowd or the jukebox, the TV, or the band, I’m not going to be able to hear His voice. When I go into someplace (in space or even cyberspace) where I don’t belong, it’s going to be hard to hear Him. But His voice is already clear “Come out from among them!” “Don’t go in there.” Run!” If I don’t listen to His clear directions, then how can I hear His the sweet things that He wants to whisper in my ear?

I learned to recognize His voice by reading and studying His Word. He has said “I love you” so many times and in so many ways in the Bible, that I am able to recognize that it is also He who is telling me “Don’t be afraid”, “Don’t be anxious”, and “Peace. Be still.” Any other voice to the contrary is not His.

It just makes sense that, if He really loves us, and if He really wants us to know Him better every day, and if He means for us to hear His voice, then He must have some very special things to say to us beyond “Yo! This is God.” So, there came a point in my life where I began to say, “Lord, I long to hear your voice. Please speak to me. Please make your Word and your words clear in my ears. I sought Him relentlessly in His Word and I prayed continually that He would let me hear His voice.

And He began to speak.

He said, “Son, this is what I’ve always wanted. For you to be close to me. I love you.” I asked Him to teach me to be more attuned to His voice and His quiet promptings. You see, even though we can hear His voice, we can also ignore it. So I want to be sensitive to when He speaks and to be ready to do what He says to do. It breaks my heart to think that one day I would see His lovely face and have to say, “I’m sorry, Lord. I wasn’t paying attention.”

Listen. Listen with your spirit ears. You can hear Him speak as clearly as if He were standing beside you, if you get close enough.

Trusting in Times of Tribulation

Trusting in Times of TribulationI was thinking the other day about how Paul may have understood his imprisonment in Rome, beyond what is revealed by Scripture. I was trying to put myself in his place . . . to understand his frame of reference. In what may have been his last 50 recorded words or so, he said, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen” (II Timothy 4:18).

From my perspective, altogether too many professing believers in this day tend to cling to that verse as a proof text that the Lord will deliver us from the tribulations of life. Not so. It says that Paul was confident (trusting) that the Lord would deliver Him from every annoyance, peril, pain or trouble, whether seen, unseen or unforeseen (faith).

It struck me that Paul had been in this position before. While chained in the darkness of night at the jail in Philippi, he and Silas prayed and sang praises to God (Acts 16:25). It is likely that they sang from Psalms 113 through 118, the Hallel Psalms. (Psalm 119 has too many verses.) I also imagine them singing something like, “Blessed Be the Tie that Binds.” Well, probably not. But think about it: they were singing songs of thanksgiving, so I doubt that their prayers were bemoaning their current condition and begging the Lord to deliver them from it. What they did, instead, was what any thoroughly contented and trusting follower of Christ would do. They remained calm and steadfast. And they completely, 100%, simply trusted the Lord for each approaching minute. After all, He either is, or He is not, Faithful and True. Their actions showed that they believed that He is.

So, neither should we expect Paul to be groveling in Rome, for he had learned to be content in whatever place or circumstance the Lord had put him (Philippians 4:11). In the following verses he revealed that the “secret” he had learned was that he was enabled by the strength of Christ to endure whatever might befall him. Just in case you were wondering, Philippians 4:13 is not about athletic or career success, it is about making it through the distress of difficult times.

Paul had a pretty good idea that he would soon be resting his neck on an executioner’s block. But he was relying on the Lord to direct his path and trusting that He would deliver him, by life or by death. After all, the chains fell off in Philippi. Why not in Rome? Or, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar, “We do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Undoubtedly, that’s how Paul saw it also.

None of us want to endure trouble, tragedy, or tribulation, but the fact is that “in this world (we) shall have trouble.” The glory in it is that we can know that He will bring us through. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Cast a Vision of a Better Kingdom

Celebrate Jesus!: Cast a Vision of a Better KingdomOne of the more ingrained New Year’s traditions is to develop “New Year’s Resolutions,” with which we hope to better our lives in the upcoming year.  These allow us to “cast a vision,” if you would, of how we believe things can be better.  The question is, when we do these are we solely concentrating on only the physical, or do we make our resolutions ethereal in nature as well?  If we don’t already, we should make sure that we enter every New Year by casting a vision of a better kingdom, both now and in the future.

Jesus did this in what we commonly refer to as The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).  If you read this passage with a discerning eye you will note that the “better Kingdom” Christ referred to comes not as a result of a change in our situation, but rather a change in our perception!  He tells the long suffering that they are blessed in a number of ways!

Convincing someone that the “better kingdom” comes about as a result of suffering is not an easy bill of goods to sell.  However, Matthew 5: 13 and Matthew 5:14 advises us that we are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.”  You see, the promise of a “better kingdom” for mankind is made through our lives – - through our knowing that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and through our recognizing, and rejoicing about, the blessings we receive because of our suffering!

When you cast your vision of a better kingdom, be “Christ like” and teach people not to expect a change in their situation, but that they should strive diligently for a change in their perception!

For more information on this preaching theme, go here:

The Right Answer to All the Wrong Questions

The Right Answer to All the Wrong QuestionsHow many times have you been confronted with a question that begins with, “Is it alright for a Christian to . . . ?”  I’m guessing that it has been more than once.  Probably a lot more than once.

When I was a young teenager, the answer was typically a gracious “Sure” or a steadfast “No.”  The latter, as I recall was usually preceded by an emphatic “Heavens,” which only made me more curious about the “why” of the “not.”  Sometimes the negative answer was accompanied by the respondent pointing to someone who appeared to be down-and-out and the addition of the phrase, “Do you want to grow up to be like him?”  Well, no, not really, but that’s not what I asked.  At least I got black and white answers.

When I was a young adult, the answer went something like this:  “Do what you think is right.”  That sounded appealing, but it never meshed too well for me with the scripture that says “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is the way of death.”  As appealing as it sounded, I wasn’t that sure that I was discerning enough to determine what was right.  Unfortunately, when push came to shove, I made a lot of bad choices.  Which is why I am so burdened about how we help others deal with this matter.

Subsequently, we went through a period where the response was “What would Jesus do?”  That was complete with all kinds of iconic WWJD jewelry and trinkets to serve as reminders to us to use that as the guide for making wise decisions.  But, I submit to you that is still not an adequate response.

Pastor, you have to know that when someone is asking the “Is it alright?” question, it is a revelation of some spiritual weakness in the one who is asking.  That being the case, a yes or no response is not only inadequate; it is spiritually irresponsible.  The question begs to be answered with another question, such as, “Why do you ask?”  And that question should be asked with sincere concern for someone who has yet to understand the basic principle that Christ Himself taught us what should be the overarching rule for living:  “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart and all your mind and all your strength.”

That verse contains the key to living the Christian life.  It not only answers the “Is it alright” question; it precludes it.  The key is not what we want, nor is it what we imagine that Jesus would do, any more than it is a legalistic or licentiously-driven response.  The problem is that the questioner has failed to come to the point of being passionately in love with our Savior, which is the necessary precedent to living an obedient life that does not question how far one can go, but rather, how close one can get to the Father’ side.  Love drives us closer to Him.  Lust for worldly things causes us to ask, “Is it alright.”

We need to be wise, understanding that there is a great, unmet spiritual need when the question is asked, so that we can offer nourishment for the soul that transforms our minds and stirs in our hearts a love for Jesus that will compel us to draw closer to Him.

Have you ever heard anyone ask the question, “Is it alright for me to get closer to Christ?”  I seriously doubt it.

Worship Jesus with Genuine Enthusiasm

Seeing the Unseen Christ: Worship Jesus with Genuine EnthusiasmI sometimes wonder if I had walked with Jesus if I would have been part of the “inner circle.”  When you think of Jesus’ closest friends, you can probably narrow it down to Peter and the brothers James and John.  This is not mere speculation, for in Matthew 17:1-13 we find that He chose them to go with Him for a most unique experience:  His transfiguration and meeting with Moses and Elijah!  Why those three – because they would always Worship Jesus with Genuine Enthusiasm!

Now, you undoubtedly think that it is most presumptuous to contemplate whether or not you would “rank up there” with “the big three,” but understand that I don’t have these thoughts as a way of building myself up.  Rather, it helps me to concentrate and make sure that I always Worship Jesus with Genuine Enthusiasm!  As I evaluate my worship, I have come to the conclusion that the songs I sing actually have little to do with it.  While “worship” can be defined as “expression of reverence and adoration for a deity,” I find through my Bible reading that Peter, James, and John worshiped Him best when they showed their Love for Him, and their Faith in Him!  In as much as God is the same yesterday, today and forever, that is probably the key to our being able to Worship Jesus with Genuine Enthusiasm!

The next natural “step” is for us to determine how we can show our Love for, and Faith in, our Lord and Savior.  While it will undoubtedly be different for each of us, the best way to proceed may be by treating Him like we treat all of our friends we trust.  This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Spending time with them
  • Talking with them
  • Sharing dreams and goals with them
  • Sharing problems with them
  • Learning as much about them as possible

While this may seem somewhat simplistic, it may be that we over-complicate our relationship with Him.  After all, maybe the best way to Worship Jesus with Genuine Enthusiasm is to simply worship Him with warmth and truth!

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How Curiosity Is Killing Christians

The Remarkable Revelation: How Curiosity Is Killing ChristiansI am often amazed at how absolutely certain many people are about what is yet to come in God’s plan for this world and that, at the same time, there are so many others with divergent opinions who claim to be just as certain. There are things that are clearly spoken of in Scripture that will happen. The real confusion comes with trying to understand when and how events will unfold. The result is that many Christians are uncertain about the future and God’s remarkable revelation to us.

People are curious by nature, so some spend their time focusing on studying prophecy, as if knowing how things will unfold will satisfy that innate curiosity.  The reality is that it will never satisfy.  Rather, it will always draw our attention away from the basic and most essential truths that God has for us.

Everybody knows that the last book of the Bible is Revelation, but very few read the remarkable revelation in the context of its very first words, “The revelation of Jesus, the Messiah” (Revelation 1:1 MSG). From this first phrase, we need to understand that the book of Revelation is the same as every other book in the Bible, in that it reveals or exposes more about who Jesus is. That is the purpose of Scripture, from beginning to end.

In the first three chapters of this remarkable revelation we not only learn more about who Jesus is, but we also learn about how He wants us to live. Only after that, does He reveal some things that He wants us to know about events to come.  We need to understand that, when God reveals something to us, He reveals all that we need to know. The fact that He has revealed Himself to us through Scripture and through His Son should probably be sufficient. But, in His Grace, he has shown us some of what lies ahead so that there is no doubt about who He is.

He never meant for us to parse every part of this remarkable revelation. He meant to reveal His ultimate victory unfolding and how we should then live. The focus of Scripture is always on Jesus, whether it is Genesis 1:1 or Revelation 1:1, Genesis 3:15, or John 3:16.

We will not have all the facts about tomorrow until tomorrow has come and gone. God’s intention with His remarkable revelation is not to arouse our curiosity, it is to strengthen our faith. The Word does not teach that the just shall live by knowing what is ahead, but that “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). Now, it is also impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). And, faith is “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

So let’s put this all together. The purpose of God’s remarkable revelation is to share enough information with us that we will trust Him, believing that He is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do. The purpose is not for us to figure it all out.  It is to trust Him.  He wants our faith to be real and practical.  He wants us to teach our families to live by scripturally-defined faith – regardless of what today or tomorrow brings.  This, also, is what He wants preached from the pulpits of Christian churches everywhere.

The world teaches that knowledge is power.  The world is wrong.  Faith is power.  God has given us His remarkable revelation to remind us that the life we live in the flesh, we should live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us (Galatians 2:20).  Don’t let curiosity kill you.  Let faith strengthen you.