Monthly Archives: February 2016

Add a Side of Community with that Burger…Love for Friends (Part 4 of 4 in the Month of Love)

Doesn’t everyone love a good burger every now and then? Our family discovered Five Guys and Fries a few years ago.

Clearly novices, we all ordered cheeseburgers, not realizing that their regular burgers are double burgers. No one complained (!!!) and we were some sweet kind of happy. Peanuts in the shell to munch on, followed by juicy burgers, and a Titanic-sized side of fries….Oh my…

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Fellowship plus great food is the best combo’ you can order. While being with family can be super swell (We talked about family last week), this week I’d like to talk about the power of COMMUNITY in friendships.

I’m blessed to have a group of friends known as “The Yayas.” Kathy somehow assigned this moniker to us after finding a lovely gold plaque for each of us with this definition: “A group of three or more women whose hearts and souls are joined together by laughter and tears shared through this glorious journey of life.”

yaya plaque

One of the Yayas, fellow dog lover (!!!) named Susan, gave all of us an awesome book for Christmas, Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle. Friends, do not miss this book! You’ll laugh and cry and howl, shaking your head thinking, “I cannot believe she’s sharing this, but I’m so glad she did!!!”

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You don’t want to miss Melanie’s blog, either: www.thebigmamablog.com

She serves up “everything from soup to nuts” as my Mother used to say.

Melanie’s book takes us down Memory Lane to show different aspects of her twenty-five year friendship with Gulley. They do life together.

Melanie’s gift of writing draws you in so you feel like you’re in her family room watching it all transpire. (Sidebar: Melanie wrote an equally funny book on marriage.)

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One of a gazillion hilarious antics include Melanie conning Gulley into watching Frozen.  Wait til you read Chapter Four.  Does she love it like most of us???  Not tellin’….

This hugely tickled me as my friend Mary and I seemingly are the last two adults on the planet not to have seen Frozen.  Thanks to my cousin Bonnie, she lent us her copy.  One afternoon, we hunkered down in Mary’s basement and watched it.  We felt guilty…should we be watching a movie on a beautiful afternoon???  We got over that pretty quickly and became engulfed with Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Hans and Kristoff among others… We simply had to  “let it go.”

One funny discovery is Melanie and Gulley realized road trips are one of their ultimate favorite activities. Now they take their children on road trips, all together, and you don’t want to miss these adventures.

The Yayas took a brief road trip recently when Kathy’s daughter got engaged. The Engagement Party was in Columbus and we decided we must, simply must go. It’s not every day one drives two hundred and fifteen point three miles to Columbus, Ohio from Louisville, Kentucky for a party and back.

Lo and behold, we were blessed with one of our Yaya children to accompany us. Translation: Us old chicks snagged a chauffeur. (Poor Megan was pregnant too, God bless her.)

These six sweet-special-n-southern Yayas met when our oldest children, now nearly thirty years old, were in first grade at Dunn Elementary School. Those were the days.

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(Pictured left to right are Jayne Combs, Denise Seiz, Kathy Daniels, above her is Susan Bugh, then Bev Fleece and finally Yours Truly.)

Who knew we’d attend weddings and funerals together? Even the trials knit us that much closer together.

We’re a picture of Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

There’s beauty and comfort in Community.

The plot blissfully thickens as our Yaya children are having children. No one has discovered grand parenting like the Yayas. While only two of the six Yayas are grandparents so far, we are all the best adopted Great Aunts on the planet. Just sayin’…And, as Melanie and Gulley always tell each other, “Nobody’s cuter than you!”(thence the book’s title), the Yayas are always telling each other, “YOU are the BEST!”

Melanie tells us her book “is about all the friendships we as women develop over a lifetime and the influence they have over who we were, who we are, and who we will become.”

Gulley’s the main friend Melanie talks about, and you’ll love becoming acquainted with Jen and a couple other of her friends. Jen endured a prodigal season, but then shared with everyone how she found her way back to Christ. In doing so, she got Melanie to go with her to a Bible study.

Melanie says, “by watching these people live their lives, I learned what it means to seek God’s will….ultimately they pointed me closer to not only Jesus but also to my dear husband.”

After reading Max Lucado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Melanie says her favorite part is from Max’ recounting of the Prodigal Son:

Whatever you have done,

Whatever you have become,

It doesn’t matter.

Please come home.”

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Melanie adds, “So I came home. And God, in return, lavished me with a scandalous amount of grace as He filled my life not only with wonderful new friends who encouraged me and loved me, but also brought Gulley right along with me as she began to develop a real relationship with God too.”

Melanie says her five years at Texas A & M were what she needed and clearly what God knew she needed. She said, “God knit my heart together with the people He knew would hold my hands as I walked the path of the Prodigal Son.”

Friends, this is a beautiful visual of Community!

On that note, we’ll close for this week as we have a different aspect of Community to talk about next week plus another book. (Imagine that.)

Meanwhile, cherish your friends and thank the Lord for giving them to you. I always maintain, “Friends are cheaper than therapy.”

 ‘Til next time!

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Love for Family With Help from Rob Morgan (Part 3 of 4 in the Month of Love)

Question: Would you agree or disagree with someone if they told you having children is the single-most difficult endeavor you’ll ever, ever experience?

Then in the next breath, that same person will say, “But, having children is the single-most rewarding endeavor you’ll ever experience.”

Parents And Baby. Family Mother, Father And Newborn Kid Over Whi

To add to these lovely pearls of “wisdom”, God has taught me parenting requires a keen sense of humor. Otherwise, we’d all bail.

The teensy fact He blessed Hubster and me with three boys is hysterical. Case in point:  Beloved Hubster’s the baby in a family of four. Nothing bothers him. I’m a very sheltered lonely-only and everything bothers me.

Enter three sons where chaos, comedy and confusion collide. Oh, but how we love, love, l-o-v-e them. Oh, but the stories we can tell.
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(Infer what you wish from the frame. See that sense of humor???)

One story comes from a time when we were adding on to our home. The upstairs of our house was an unfinished attic full of potential. (Where were Joanna and Chip when we needed them??? www.hgtv.com , www.magnoliamarket.com )

Gaines-Web1If you could’ve seen the look on my Mother’s face when we told her we were buying a two bedroom house–she thought we’d lost our marbles….We assured her we’d be adding on soon.

Finally the day came for the addition to begin. Our construction guys, in order not to keep traipsing thru’ the first floor, considerately built an outside staircase for them to come and go, in addition to delivering a precious portalet smack dab out front by the driveway. We’re talkin’ TWO terribly charming enhancement’s to the exterior of one’s home.

Porta Potty

Anyone care to guess which of these was the most fascinating object to our boys? Yep. Literally, every day after school, the boys would bust out of my mini-van, and line-up to use the “outdoor facility”. (Checkout the above moniker pictured: “honey bucket.”)

The story sweetens a couple weeks later, thanks to an embarrassing phone call from Woody’s teacher. Seems his class had gone on a field trip where honey buckets happened to be lined up. Woody proudly and loudly announced to his fellow classmates, “We have one of these in our front yard and I use it every day.”

Naturally his teacher thought he was fibbin’ and felt she should address this problem with his parents. “No, ma’am.” I said, my face turning twelve shades of crimson. “He’s telling the truth.” Then I had to explain about the construction, blah, blah, blah. (S’pose we’d better add that children can humble you faster than you can say, “Well I’ll be…”)

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Psalm 127:3 reminds us, that at the end of the day,

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Yes, they are a blessing to us parents and to so many others.

Most of the time…

But…what about the tough times? My friend Olivia taught me a never-truer-than-this-statement: “You’re only as happy as your unhappiest child.”

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This week, I highly recommend two resources if you have a prodigal in your family or in a friendship. One’s a book and the other’s a Bible study.

The book is Prayers and Promises for Worried Parents: Hope for Your Prodigal. Help for You by Robert J. Morgan.

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Many of you have read other books by Rob. This one is another one not to miss.

He offers an acronym for CALM: “Choosing to Abide in the Lord’s Mercies.” He candidly shares the prodigal he and his wife prayed for is one of their daughters.

He said,

Don’t give up on your kids,

never stop praying, and  

don’t give in to discouragement,

for ALL discouragement comes from the Devil.” 

Man In Prayer

He added, “During our own period of anxious waiting, one primary source of encouragement enabled us to press on: God’s reliable Word.”

Every chapter is full of helpful Scripture verses, many of which are promises to claim. Lamentations 2:19 is a favorite: “Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord for the lives of your children.”

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Rob adds, “During my child’s prodigal period, I also had to deal with my wife Katrina’s debilitating illness, the financial drain we took on with sending our kids to college, and the demands of a growing ministry. One day I searched out verses about strength. That’s when I realized I didn’t have to bear it all. The Lord bears our burdens and imparts His strength.”

“Oh Lord, You are my strength and my shield…

My strength and my song…

My strength and my fortress…

My strength and my power…

You are the strength of my life…”

(Psalm 28:7, 118:14, 18:2; 2 Samuel 22:33, and Psalm 27:1)

Rob includes one hundred and eight chapters, each only a page or two long, short, and succinct. They come under these helpful headings:

Praying,

Trusting,

Weeping,

Waiting,

Leaning,

Learning,

Healing,

Resting,

Hoping,

Striving, and

Singing.

(I’ve highlighted and dog-eared almost every page! You cannot imagine what a helpful resource this book is.)

The other recommendation is a Bible study I can’t quit talking about, written by Kristen Sauder, God rest her sweet soul. Praying for Your Prodigal: A Journey Through Luke 15. It’s a workbook rich in lesson, application, and encouragement I’ve studied thru’ numerous times over the years for numerous prodigals. (www.furtherstillfamilies.org )

Praying for your prodigal

While I’m still praying for some prodigals, many have come to know the Lord. We’re seeing spiritual fruit in their lives. Praises and more praises. God is so very good-n-gracious.

Let’s close with this amazing quote from J.I. Packer:

Patience does not just grin and bear things, stoic-like, but accepts them cheerfully as therapeutic workouts planned by a heavenly trainer who is resolved to get you up to full fitness.”

Fit people working out in fitness class at the gym

Lace up those spiritual shoes of yours and pray!

Press on, dear friends…

‘Til next time!

 

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Part 2 of 4 in the Month of Love: Love for Spouse (With Help from Lauren Chandler)

“Think I should wear my sandals in the snow???” I asked Hubster. It was 4:30 in the morning. We were loading up the car to go to the airport. Snow was pummeling our town, roads and suitcases…

Winter Road

“Sure.” Hubster answered assuredly. “We’ll be in Naples by eleven o’clock this morning. Forecast: Warm and toasty.”

Beautiful tropical beach with palm treesConfidence received, off I trotted, sportin’ my sandals, thru’ the snow, plopping down in the car. Thankful we left early, traversing the unplowed roads to the airport which were scary sketchy.

Arriving safely, we got our bags checked and whizzed thru’ security. Amazingly, all departing flights read “on time”. Starbucks in hand, John and I waited to board our 7:00 o’clock flight.

Knowing several folks on the plane, we enjoyed hearing about their destinations: Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, and we were heading to our beloved Naples as the snow poured forth from the sky. Calgon take me away….

Airplane take off

Fast forward five hours, two Starbucks, deplaning, re-boarding and two de-icings later, 100% of our plane’s passengers missed their connections.

Stress ahead road sign

Safe to say my sandaled feet possessed some frozen toes. Maybe I’ll think twice before I show off in the snow again.

How do you handle a change in your schedule? Some of our fellow passengers were none too happy. Being married almost thirty-two years has helped us in times like these.

Your love for your spouse can make or break adversity. We just made the best of it and were glad to have arrived when we did.

Cancelled or delayed flights aren’t really that big of a deal. Discovering a malignant tumor in your brain is. (More on that frightening discovery for the Chandlers in a minute…)

Allow me to introduce you to a darling young wife and Mom named Lauren Chandler. Just so happens her husband is Matt Chandler, the pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. (www.thevillagechurch.net )

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Before we get to Lauren’s book, you must know John and I discovered Matt’s preaching thanks to Campus Outreach on the University of Kentucky’s campus. (www.colex.org ) It was Campus Outreach who ministered to our two younger boys while they were at UK, inviting them to their New Year’s Conference in Nashville one year and Chattanooga another year, where Matt was one of their speakers.

Matt was all they could talk about. Soon after that, John and I were blessed to hear Matt preach at the Together for the Gospel event in Louisville at the Yum Center. (www.t4g.org) Powerfully-gifted-by-God defines Matt’s preaching.

I learned of Lauren’s book thanks to Ann Voskamp’s blog, www.aholyexperience.com. Ann wrote the forward of Lauren’s book, Steadfast Love.

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I quickly nabbed the book, knowing we readers would learn of the trial Lauren and her family endured after discovering the tumor in Matt’s brain. Much to my surprise, while Lauren shares some of their cancer journey, her writing is largely more about her steadfast love for the Lord.

This book would be great for small groups, Bible study groups, etc. as each chapter is akin to a mini-Bible study in and of itself. Lauren not only walks us thru’ Psalm 107, she includes many various Scriptures and stories from the Bible pointing us to character traits to either avoid or emulate. Other storms she’s encountered, besides Matt’s cancer, are also included, offering hope to inspire us all to press on.

You’ll never read the phrase steadfast love the same again. Your love for the Lord will grow as will your trust in Him and His Sovereignty.

When Lauren does address Matt’s brain surgery and treatments, she candidly shares they felt like the church would go on and she would be able to go on, even with their three young children, should God not heal Matt. Her stalwart faith especially at such a young age is inspiring. Her resolve reminds me of my dear friend Gwen Paten and her family’s cancer journey.

A few years ago, several of us were at a Beth Moore conference. Docs had just told Gwen her husband Mike’s cancer had spread throughout his body and he may live another two weeks at the most, but there she was praising the Lord on the front row. Those of us observing this melted into a puddle of tears.

Gwen and Lauren each are examples of Job when he said in Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (NIV)

Job 1 21

The Lord did indeed heal Matt, altho’ Lauren says they were told brain tumors are never truly cured. She closes with, “We put our trust not in Matt’s health, but in the Lord of steadfast love.”

If you’d like to hear Lauren tell more of her story, catch her interview on the Eric Metaxas Show. (www.metaxastalk.com) It aired January 28th and you can listen to the podcast of it.) She was a mere seventeen years old when she first met Matt!

Fun fact: Lauren and Matt are about to host a conference on marriage, based on Matt’s book The Mingling of Souls. (www.minglingofsouls.com) Lifeway recently did a story on the 10 Marital Nevers well worth your time.  You’ll get to see how Lauren’s love for Matt and their marriage is a beautiful, Godly example.

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Please join me in lifting up the Chandler family in prayer, for their ministry, their church, and their health. What they’re doing to advance the Gospel is far reaching.

“WHOEVER IS WISE, LET HIM ATTEND TO THESE THINGS; LET THEM CONSIDER THE STEADFAST LOVE OF THE LORD.” PSALM 107:42-43

A beautiful quote to close comes from Chapter Nine:

“Who is wise and understanding?  May we be counted among them. May a holy fear of the Lord lead us to lives that are free, open, and generous.  May we anchor our souls in the One whom the Scriptures reveal–in His steadfast love, not in our earthly wisdom–so that we may be immovable in the midst of the storm.”

‘Til next time!

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Four Fabulous Kinds of Love in February Part 1 of 4: Love for God with Help from Stuart, Jill, and Pete Briscoe…

Ahhh, February. The month of love. Any of you guys out there reading this better have “buy chocolate for ____________” on your calendar…

Gift boxes of gourmet chocolates for Valentine's Day

We gals really appreciate it even if we say, “Oh no, please do not buy me any this year.” Just know we do NOT. MEAN. A. WORD. OF. IT. (!!!)

This month we’re going to have some fun with four different kinds of love:

Love for God,

Love for Spouse,

Love for Family, and

Love for Friends.

We’ll be exploring ideas from God’s Word and from excellent authors who can teach us a thing or two or ten.

Just when I thought our beloved Naples, Florida couldn’t get any better, Hubster and I were blessed with an unbelievable opportunity to enjoy it even more. On Sunday, January 24th, we attended Covenant Church of Naples (www.covenantnaples.com).

Pastor Trent Casto delivered a sermon on ‘The Lion of Hell” which caused each of us to walk out of there with both eyes open, hearts beating more rapidly, and much more on the alert for the prowling lion/thief/father of lies who’s looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Translation: Major wake-up call!

In addition to being blessed by an applicable sermon, we noticed in Covenant’s bulletin we could return on Wednesday to have “Breakfast with the Briscoes”. As in Jill, Stuart, and Pete Briscoe! For real???

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Guessing many of you have either heard of the Briscoes or have read one of their many, many excellent books. Their books cover every topic you can imagine such as Bible studies, women’s ministries, prayer, marriage, family, aging, renewal, children’s books, etc.

Two of my personal favorites are Time Bandits: Putting First Things First (LifeChange Books) by Stuart

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And A Little Pot of Oil: A Life Overflowing (LifeChange Books) by Jill

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Stuart and Jill hail from England, married in 1958, and praises to our Lord landed in the United States, ministering at Elmbrook Church (www.elmrook.org) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for thirty plus years. They’re “retired”, altho’ still travel and speak everywhere while being in their 80’s! They are still goin’ strong. Stuart said when asked when they were going to quit speaking, “As long as we’re able, we’ll go!”

Their youngest son, Pete, pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Dallas (www.benttree.org). He, too, has written several books. He is very articulate, clearly loves the Lord, and is fun to watch interact with his parents.

The three of them have an amazing ministry, in addition to all they do via www.tellingthetruth.org. It offers messages that are broadcast all over the world via six hundred radio stations in eight different countries! Their website is a wonderful resource with invaluable teaching. (Podcasts, etc. are available PLUS they have a FREE APP you can download on your phone!)

Let’s get to the questions Pastor Trent posed to the three Briscoes. Each and every one of us can benefit from these.  Consider your love for God in each of these scenarios:

QUESTION #1 – How do you find joy and purpose in your everyday life?

Stuart said we must keep everything in perspective, especially from our human vantage point. He quoted Theologian Dr. Vernon Grounds who said, “aging means diminishing”. We must embrace slowing down, finding joy in each and every stage.

He told us he loves enjoying different generations. He and Jill are blessed with three children and thirteen grandchildren. Each month, he asks his grandchildren for a few sentences’ worth of an update—for their “beings and doings in the last month”. Then he publishes them in “Pappa’s Monthly Round-Up” so they can keep up with one another. Grandparents, take note!

Stuart told us he used to be a runner. One day he was out jogging and became really tired. He slowed to a walk and suddenly realized what he’d been missing: trees in bloom, green, green grass, blue skies, he heard birds singing, etc. He added, “It’s amazing what you see when you take the time to slow down.”

He quipped that in England there’s a trajectory to your life: you start out playing rugby, then soccer, then you just run, then you walk and play golf, and finally you become a bird watcher. We all laughed at this, and yet while Stuart said he and Jill are now birdwatchers, they still were quite spry moving around on the stage, up and down the steps, etc. He may have been fooling all of us!

Bird Watchers

Pete said one lesson he’s learned was that he does not find joy and purpose in success. He pointed us to Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

He said, “Joy is a gift from the Holy Spirit. We must be available to the Spirit and receive joy and purpose from Him.”

Jill said when you can’t praise Him for what He’s allowed, praise Him for what He has done. She cited cancer as an example. She doesn’t believe we should praise Him for the cancer, but praise Him for our caregivers, medicine working, family surrounding us, etc.

Praise Him that we find joy in Jesus, within us. There’s joy in serving Him. Look for the invisible qualities of God that are visible in His Creation. She cited Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy…”

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QUESTION #2 – Each of you are leaders in different capacities. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?

Stuart replied that “leaders are intended to lead with followers following—a followship if you will.” He offered three suggestions:

A – Lead them where they are, not where you think they should be.

B – Lead in the direction they’re willing to go, not where you’re determined they should go.

C – Move at their speed, not yours.

IF you’re able to accomplish all three of these, two things will happen:

1 –Rapport is built.

2 –Momentum is generated. As a leader, you need momentum because nobody can steer a stationary vehicle!

Stationary bike

Pete said he loves the opening line of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you….” He said, “As a leader, you must remember that!”

Two levels to consider are “is this working?” and “is this not working?”, all the while remembering it’s not about you! Piece of cake, right???

Pete quoted Bill Hybels’ book Courageous Leadership illustrating the difference between “Capitol L” leaders and “Little ‘l’” leaders. He talked about leaders who are visionary, entrepreneurial, motivational, directional, strategic and managerial. Many audience members nodded recognizing some of their own particular styles.

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He admitted, “It’s tough to not get hung up on performance. At the end of the day, people still want to know how well you know Jesus, not how well you perform.” John and I talked about this later and he said, “This reminds me of that saying, ‘People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care.’” Amen.

Jill confessed she’s quite the instigator, full of ideas. While this is a gift of hers, putting the ideas all together, coming up with a plan, and implementing it is not. Therefore, she learned to invite help.

When she and Stuart first arrived at Elmbrook, she realized she was the “minister’s wife”, therefore she must surely have a job to do. She gathered the women of the church and asked them to write out what their expectations of her were. (Can you imagine?)

Not surprisingly, their lists, upon lists, upon lists of expectations not only overwhelmed Jill, but she almost instantaneously realized she could do nothing on those lists!

After her cup of tea in a time of crisis (great suggestion!!!), she realized, thanks to the Lord, she’d just chip away a la Ecclesiastes 9:10 and “do unto the Lord”. Even if her efforts were bad, she was trying with all her might and praying harder than ever.

QUESTION #3 – In your own walk in Christ, what is the single greatest discipline a Christian should develop?

Jill suggested three things: prayer, solitude, and silence. No performance. She said, “Jesus will mentor you when you pray to Him.”

Young woman praying in the church

Jill recalls a visit to Viet Nam thirty years ago. They were led to a secret church. After hearing Jill pray, one young gal who’d also risked her life to be there said, “I love how well you know Jesus. I want to know Him like you do.” Jill realized that how we pray suggests how deep our relationship is to the Lord. Now that will make you think!

Stuart believes there’s more than one discipline. He said, “Both dependence and obedience are required.” These produce trust. Let that soak in a minute…

He pointed us to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 where He tells His disciples to “go and make disciples of all the nations, teaching them to obey all the commands I’ve given you…”

Pete believes the discipline of knowing who you really are is of paramount importance. He threw us a curve ball. He asked, “How many of you are sinners in need of a savior?” To which we all raised our hands.

He corrected us by saying, “We shouldn’t identify ourselves as sinners, we are saints now, saved by grace. Perhaps we’re saints who sometimes sin, but we cannot mistake our identities…

There’s so much Christ has purchased for us. Knowing Him more today than yesterday should be our goal.”  How great is your love for God?

After the Q & A we had the opportunity to receive two books:

Improving with Age: God’s Plan for Getting Older and Better by Jill and Stuart Briscoe

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Experiencing Life Today: 365 Day Devotional by Pete Briscoe

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Sadly the morning flew by and it was time to leave. Pete, Stuart and Jill all gave John and me lots to discuss and ponder. We got to meet and speak with each of them and they were positively lovely, engaging and sincere.  Their love for God is contagious.

Take the time to explore their website: www.tellingthetruth.org.   You will be blessed!

‘Til next time!

 

 

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