Thursday, July 31, 2008

When You're in Love It Shows


On our recent Spring Ladies' Day, apparently the look on my face was not one of joy or happiness. I was walking over to the Activity Center, and Bill Welte was at the Front Door greeting people as they arrived. As I walked up to him, he opened the door for me, and in his inimitable way, said, "Smile!" I was startled, and said something offhand to him and went in. But the thought of that brief encounter kept coming back to me the entire day - and many times since then.

I remember dating a guy for a number of years and being very much in love with him. It didn't "work out," but on various levels I still love him. And when I think of past times together, or even think of him now (although he lives in Florida these days), I smile. Then, and now, because I loved John, the very thought of him made me smile.If, on the human plane, love makes me smile, how much more should my love for God not light up my face - have me grinning from ear to ear?

But, obviously my love for my Lord was not uppermost in my thoughts that day in May when Bill challenged me to smile. We, as a group of ladies, were about to be encouraged by our speaker to embrace all that God has to offer us - His wonderful salvation, His amazing plan for our lives, and His boundless love. Any one of which - and taken together - should have brought a smile to my face. "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." (Psalm 146:5) But, sad to say, that was not the case that morning.

Now, I don't think the actual word "smile" is found in Scripture, but the words "joy," "happy," "gladness," and "laughter," to name a few, are all there. And WHEN I am happy and glad, I generally have a smile on my face. So, ladies, I say to you and to myself, smile like you are head over heels in love with your Savior. Let your - and my love - for Him show on our faces to everyone we meet, because when you are in love, it makes you smile. Lynn Randall - is Director Human Resources at America's KESWICK

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Road Kill

Road Kill

One thing I do not enjoy about riding my bike is road kill. I have seen two flattened snakes, two small birds, one skunk and something that I think was a squirrel! These nasty corpses got me thinking. I really think I have killed off an attitude, a sin, or a habit but then it rears its ugly head once again. It really wasn't dead after all. It's just been hanging out to the side. Maybe it was injured and crept away but it wasn't dead.

Sometimes it's dead, all right, but I let it lay around and I keep looking at that disgusting thing lying there. I know that the "thing" is dead. For real dead, gone, paid for at the Cross of Calvary but I resurrect the "thing" and allow it to live in my mind and thoughts. Do you? Why? Why do we give life to what Christ says has died? Do we really believe our sin is forgiven, dead and gone?

In "The Gospel For Real Life," Jerry Bridges writes: "This is what God has done for us. He has blotted out our sins, removing them from His record. He has done more than wipe the slate clean. He has thrown away the slate!"

"For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:11, 12

"He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Micah 7:19

How much "road kill" are you resurrecting? If it's not really dead then kill the thing. If it's dead then don't look, don't linger, for goodness sake don't get a stick and start poking at it! Jesus paid a great price; let Him come remove it! -- Kathy Withers is on staff full-time at the Keswick Book and Gift Shop. She is married to her husband, Dave and has two adult children. Kathy is active in her local church. Her passion is the Word of God and encouraging women to dig deeper into the truths of the Bible.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Humility... And How I (Haven't) Achieved It!


About three weeks ago, a fellow staff member here at KESWICK, Lynne Jahns, spoke to a group at one of our monthly Breakfast Network meetings. Her topic...humility. I remember sitting there before she started, thinking to myself, "That's a really tough one." But she was wonderful, approaching it, not so much from humility as an attitude of servanthood, but as an acknowledgement that if God wasn't the central focus of what she did and why she did it, anything at all that she did (even to serving here at KESWICK) was done from the wrong motivation and perspective. I can only say she hit w-a-a-a-y to close to home.

Being at America's KESWICK has proved to be a challenge for me in a lot of areas in the two years or so that I have been here. And one of those areas has been in that of humility. When I came to KESWICK, it was from a position I had held for nearly 20 years. I came with all my credentials and had plaques all over my office walls letting everyone know I had "arrived." I came here thinking, "Boy, are they lucky to have ME!" Was I in for a surprise! Yes, I was appreciated but I wasn't the center of attention and soon discovered that life did not revolve around Lynn Randall. I

'm still learning that, which is, of course, part of what prompts me to write this. I am a "people person." I thrive on being around people and love to interact with them. And as I do, I find it so very easy to pick up their praise or compliments for what I am doing and attribute it to me and fail to acknowledge (at least to myself) that whatever I am able to "do" here has not so much to do with my abilities, but with how I choose to serve God with whatever abilities and skills He either has given me or allowed me to learn. Pride sneaks in so easily and I find myself being flattered by other's praise. But it isn't about me, or what I "bring" to KESWICK.

As Lynne Jahns pointed out so wisely, it is about my heart's right attitude before God. If I am flattered at all, let it be because God has given me gifts and abilities that I am able to use for His glory - not my own praise. Proverbs 6:16 and 17 says, "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination to Him: a PROUD look...." Galatians 6:14: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Dear God, today I pray that you will make me humble before you and break down my prideful heart. Whatever I am able to do is because of You and not because of myself.And keep this prayer in my heart every minute because it is SO EASY for me to forget. Lynn Randall is Director of Human Resources at America's KESWICK

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sex and the City

Sex & the City

Last night I found myself glued to the TV channel that was reporting on the red carpet premiere of the movie, in where else? NYC! So...what was I doing watching this? I wanted to see what everyone was wearing! That's right, the Prada, the Calvin Klein, it got me...I admit it! Then something else got me. The announcer said: "You should see NYC. The streets are crammed with people, the crowd is six blocks long!" All waiting to catch a glimpse of the stars, those in the film and those going to the premier.

This was almost as big as Oscar Night! I must confess this, too; I enjoy seeing people all dressed up and looking great. It's fun. But I also must confess I often wonder what's inside. What's inside their head? What's going on in their life? What are they thinking? Kimora-maybe you've heard of her? The woman has a gold toilet seat and the bowl itself is Italian marble! I say we melt that seat down and go feed some of the folks Homeless in the City! Don't misunderstand. I have no problem with her being a billionaire, but I got sucked into that show, too.

How else would I know about the toilet? Oh, sure at first it was just the commercial, then it was the first five minutes, then it was the whole show. I/we can be easily distracted and lured into discontent. So let me name it. It's called envy and covetousness. My point- finally! Before I/we get ready to throw the first stone, we'd do well to recall the rest of what Jesus said; "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Can I really say I'm past admiring the riches of this world? No.Lord give me the victory in that, not that I can't look or appreciate but keep me from crossing the fine line of envy, covetousness and discontent. And, Lord, when that temptation does come, help me to put on thankfulness, contentment and truth. For I am the daughter of a KING who owns the cattle on a thousand hills... You make the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. For what can the enemy lay before my eyes that is of more worth than the gift of eternal life You have freely given me and offer to all who would believe?

Something to think about: What have you set your eyes on that is better than what His hand has given?"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16 -- Dina Seaton serves on staff in marketing and also as a staff writer and speaker. She is the mother of one son, John, who is 13 years old. She is currently working on completing her first book, "Do It Again LORD...Do It Again!", a collection of interviews that will excite your faith.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cherish Grace

Cherish Grace

I am on my third reading of a book I highly recommend: "Living the Cross-Centered Life" by C.J. Mahaney. In fact, I am so enamored with the concept that the cross, the gospel, must remain primary, central and immediate in our thinking that we are using this book during our Monday night Higher Ground meeting this spring. The basic premise of the book is that we never move on, outgrow or mature beyond the cross. The centrality of the cross in the life of a believer fosters a deeper, richer understanding of grace. I want that! Do you?

Early one Saturday morning, I was reading Chapter Seven: "Your Face in the Crowd." Referencing Matthew 27:15-17, Mahaney makes this statement: "Pilate offers the gathered crowd a choice between Jesus and a 'notorious prisoner'-a terrorist named Barabbas." I stopped short at the word terrorist. A word used with some familiarity in the last decade. It occurred to me that I would have a clearer understanding if I put it in contemporary terms. So go with me, if you will, on a brief journey in our sanctified imaginations:

You and I have followed the growing crowd all day. There is murmuring, shouting and crying. Women weeping, men silent with fists clenched and eyes steeled. This man Jesus, whom we have heard preach, is gentle and kind. He speaks with such authority we are often amazed. Yet, last night He was arrested and now, we stand amidst the crowd as Pilate addresses the throng. "Whom do you want me to release to you? Osama Bin Ladin1 or Jesus who is called the Christ." The murmur grew with great intensity as we hear a ripple-effect throughout the crowd, "Osama! Osama! Osama!" You and I look at one another, and join our voices with those of the crowd. "Osama! Osama! Osama!" we chant. Pilate cries out: "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" (We) all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!"2

I hope I have not offended you with my illustration, for that was not at all my intention. Beloved, hear my heart. I want us to embrace grace in all its fullness. I believe in order to do that we must understand OUR part in the cross. We are not innocent bystanders; we were active participants in the events that day. We would have asked for Osama Bin Ladin to be released rather than Jesus Christ! "Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don't really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross."3

It is when we have an accurate view of our own sin that the beauty of grace is most precious. Like a diamond against a piece of black velvet. "Only those who are truly aware of their sin can truly cherish grace."4Cherish grace today. --Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries

1 I chose Osama Bin Ladin because, in American minds, he is probably the most notorious terrorist in the 21st century.2 Matthew 27:223 Mahaney, page 874 Mahaney, page 88

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Bird III

The Birds III

As unpleasant as what I wrote yesterday may be, applied spiritually, there is a degree of comfort we can find here. I can't help but think of God's location, person and ability.

He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God; all powerful and everywhere present, ALL THE TIME!! And He knows your name and the sound of your voice...and to the umpteenth degree, He, just like the above-mentioned birds, watches over you and seeks to keep you safe from harm. He is good and He is merciful.

"Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings." ~Psalm 36:5-7

Dear sister, whether you believe He is near or not, know that He Is!Just like the bird has possessed my tree to care for and protect its own, so, too, has its Creator, our God, put His mark on us and claimed us as His own. So whether it is a pesky squirrel, a big old ugly cat, or some other thing that threatens to do you harm, He has you. You are safe and secure under the shadow of His wing. His mark is on you and your enemy - His enemy, the devil knows it. Through faith, believe and BE SAVED!!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." ~~1 Peter 1:3-5

Stephanie Paul is Director of Addiction Recovery for Women

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Bird II

The Birds II

Another bird I've had the pleasure of observing, and that my husband has had an unfortunate interaction with, is some sort of long-tailed swallow that lives in my holly tree. Not only does it live there, it has claimed all rights to possess "my" tree to the complete exclusion of any person or any other bird or animal that makes the mistake of entering into its unmarked boundary in and around the tree. Different from the hummingbird, for the duration of its nesting season, I am fully aware of its presence. While I may not see or hear it, I can almost guarantee with accurate certainty when it will show up and how it will behave. All that has to happen is for some outside threat to get too near to its "area, occupied zone, etc."

"Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications." ~~Psalm 130:1-2

These birds are bold, possessive, aggressive, and fiercely protect what is theirs. In the past few weeks I have watched it or them (I think there may be 3 or 4) literally attack and chase a squirrel for a good five minutes because the squirrel had the nerve to enter the area of our holly tree. Just this morning, as I prepared to leave for work, I heard the birds making a huge fuss (once again) in my front yard. In addition to the commotion they were making was the hissing, fighting sound of a cat.

Sure enough, as I stepped outside, there in my driveway, under, over and around my daughter's car was this gang of birds, and crouched under the car was an ugly old cat trying to keep itself from being pecked to death. I could only surmise that it (the cat) had the unfortunate experience of going too near the tree, and was paying the price...

Knowing how stealthy and tricky cats are I'm sure he was caught completely off guard by the attack. He probably searched the land first and likely thought that climbing the tree, or shading himself under it, was a pretty cool and safe venture for him. NOT! Even when you don't see this bird it's there waiting and watching from some unknown place to protect his/her precious eggs or babies. Not even my husband is safe from these birds. Last summer, he too tangled with them because he dared to try to trim the tree...

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning- Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption. ~~ Psalm 130:3-7 Stephanie Paul is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Bird's I

The Birds I

Although I am not, by nature, a lover of all creatures great and small, I love to watch animals -the small ones- doing what they do (as long as they're doing it outiside, of course). Since moving to New Jersey in 1993, I've had plenty of exposure to squirrels, chipmunks and all sorts of birds.

From my window at work I've had the pleasure of seeing hummingbirds regularly throughout the summers, flitting from one bush or tree to another. Often I'm delighted by the sudden appearance of one right outside my office window, seemingly looking in and checking me out. Every time I see one looking in like that, I have the same thought. It's as if God is saying, "I see you. Do you see Me?"

In almost every instance I react as if I'm seeing it for the first time because they're so amazing to behold. This minimally-sized creation of God is there for a fleeting moment, and then off it goes to the next thing, quickly and quietly. I don't know where it comes from or where it's going, where its next perch will be or who it will peep in on. But I love that it does what it does as designed and ordained by God. I love that in the midst of regular life comes something which gives me pause to see and then say, "Yes, Lord, I see You, I love You, so much, and I will press on!"

Have you seen God today? Have you seen something in or out of the ordinary which caused you to pause, look up or out and see God seeing you, being aware of you, right where you are? He's there, you know. He, Creator God, is present, alive and active, in your life right now. Do you see HIM?No matter what your day is shaping up to be, please pause and consider Him, your Rock and Redeemer. See Him, seeing you! Rejoice in Him and be glad for the joy set before you.

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." ~~Hebrews 12:1-2
Stephanie Paul is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries for Women at America's KESWICK.

School's Out

School's out for the summer, but never stop being a student.

There has been a phrase stuck in the back of my mind lately and it is this: Become a student of the Word of God!

Student is defined by Webster as: 1. Scholar: one who attends a school 2. One who studies: an attentive and systematic observer

We've all been students and have attended school at one time or another. So we need to be one who studies. To study means (Webster):
1. a state of contemplation 2. application of the mental faculties (that means our minds!) to the acquisition of knowledge.

The definition goes on and on with some very intriguing words like: careful examination, intent, and something attracting close attention.

Now, I don't know about you but if I were reading this, the word that would pop into my head would be TIME! Who has the TIME?! My heart has been convicted about whether or not I truly KNOW the Word of God. Not just for the sake of being able to quote Scripture but to get to KNOW my Father in heaven and what it is that He desires for me. To spend time with THE One who loves me more than anyone on this earth. I would like to encourage each of you, in your "busyness" to take the time to first say a prayer, a short one, asking God to speak to your heart as you read just one verse. Ask Him to make a word jump out at you. And take a day to think about the verse or just the one word, mull it over. Allow it to sink in. The next day, read the same verse, again praying before anything is read. Don't feel like you have to rush onto another verse. Go on to the next verse when you are ready.

If you feel you have more TIME, then use it! And I would encourage those of you who DO have that time to reach out to others that you know that DON'T have that TIME and speak the words of TRUTH that have encouraged your heart to them.

If you don't know where to begin, here are a few verses as suggestions:
2 Corinthians 4:7-10 (I know that is more than one verse but you can spend a few weeks with these!)
Ephesians 5:1
Philippians 2:3
Colossians 3:2
Colossians 3:17
Psalm 68:19
Psalm 55:22

Sue Mercer is a wife, mother of 5 and women's ministry leader at her church. Sue has a heart for women to experience deep, Biblical fellowship with Jesus Christ and each other. She and her husband, Matt, graduated from the Colony of Mercy and Women of Character programs at America's Keswick in 2002.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Little Bit of Heaven

A little bit of heaven

After 3 grueling days of hell, thinking about and meditating on the reality of hell, I thought it would be appropriate to close out the week with some thoughts about heaven.

There are times in counseling when a person gets so weighed down by their suffering that they lose sight of their destination, heaven. I make the simple statement, "Someday Heaven." If we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, then we are destined for Heaven!Someday Heaven: "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.1

Someday heaven: "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."2

Someday Heaven: "...a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne...Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal...

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."3

Someday Heaven: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."4"

Quicken my hunger and thirst after the realm above. Here I can have the world, there I shall have thee in Christ; Here is a life of longing and prayer, there is assurance without suspicion, asking without refusal; Here are gross comforts, more burden than benefit, there is joy without sorrow, comfort without suffering, love without inconstancy, rest without weariness..."5

The bottom line is that Heaven will be wonderful because Jesus will be there!!! And we will reside in His presence forever.

Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries of America's KESWICK

1 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV2 John 14:23 Excerpts from Revelation 44 Revelation 21:45 Bennett, Arthur, "The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Reality of Hell -- Part 2

The reality of hell, just how real is it? Part 2

Yesterday, I shared about my realization that though I know there is a real, literal place called hell, I don't believe it if my actions are any indication, and I believe they are. What we really believe is borne out in our actions rather than spoken from our mouths.

After my startling realization that Sunday morning, I shared this new revelation with my family. My son-in-law shared with me he is most passionate to share the gospel with people when he spends time meditating on hell. The more we talked about what hell was like (based on what we read in the Scriptures) the more I could feel my heart start to beat faster, especially when I imagine my unsaved loved ones suffering there, for eternity.


How can I value my personal comfort more that the eternal destination of family and friends? Why am I not willing to speak the truth of the gospel to those that desperately need to hear? I'm afraid. I'm afraid of rejection, of feeling foolish, and of conflict. I allow my fear of man to weigh more heavily upon me than the reality of hell awaiting that person if they don't repent and believe.

I know hell is real, but I live as if I don't believe it. I have not allowed the truth of a literal hell to penetrate my heart to the extent that I am compelled to share with others in the hope of rescuing some.

Lord, change me. Develop in me, not just the knowledge of hell, but a belief that dramatically changes my heart for the lost and an eager pursuit to share the gospel that will translate them from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, forever. -- Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Reality of Hell -- Just How Real Is It?

The reality of hell - Just how real is it?

Sitting in church one Sunday morning, taking notes as the pastor preached, it hit me. I don't believe in hell! I've told this story a couple of times since that Sunday morning and I always have gotten the same reaction - raised eyebrows, so I'm not surprised if you are having the same reaction. In fact, I had the same reaction! I was STARTLED to realize I don't BELIEVE in hell.

Oh, I KNOW hell is a real, literal place, a place of eternal torment. I have never questioned its existence. I KNOW the reality of hell; I just don't BELIEVE IT.

You may wonder what brought me to such a startling conclusion. It was the message that morning about reaching people with the gospel of truth. That Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, was crucified, died and buried making payment for our sins. He rose on the third day to give new, eternal life to those who believe. But those who refuse the gospel, failing to believe in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, will not have eternal life but will live eternally in a literal place called hell.

" go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-where ' Their worm does not dieAnd the fire is not quenched.' Mark 9:43-44

One thing I have learned in 25 years of saving faith is that our attitudes and actions are the indicator of what we really believe in our hearts, much more that what we say we believe with our lips. "We live out what we believe not upon what we know."1

There can be a vast difference between what we know and what we believe. I KNOW there is a literal hell, but my actions or rather inaction belies the fact that I do not BELIEVE it. If I had more than just an intellectual ascent to the reality of hell, I don't think ANYTHING could stop me from sharing the gospel, pleading for the souls of people, family and friends alike.

How about you? Can you identify with what God showed me that Sunday morning? Do you not only KNOW there is a very real hell awaiting those that refuse the gospel, do you BELIEVE it? Are you living as if you believe it? I'm not yet but I am praying and trusting God that will change.
Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK
1 Vicki Arudda quoted in "Praying God's Word" by Beth Moore

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nothing New Under the Sun

Nothing New Under the Sun

If you listen to the news on the radio, watch it on the television or read it in a newspaper you can get very depressed. There is so much happening in the world at the present time: earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tornados, school shootings, serial killers, the war in Iraq rages on, and the death toll climbs higher and higher. To add to all that, we have our nation falling further and further away from its Christian roots, a nation of no morals, a nation of all "truth" being equal, a nation that supports the murder of millions of unborn children, and now we begin to see the governmental sanction of same sex marriage. Recently I had become so overwhelmed by it all that it seemed too much to bear. What kind of a world will my grandchildren be brought up in? Is there any hope?

Then I read Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes. He was the wisest man that ever lived...yet so much of this book is bleak and seemingly hopeless. Solomon writes in chapter 3 verse 15: "whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account." All that we are experiencing has happened before; there really is "nothing new under the sun." Natural disasters, wars, murders, governments falling away from God, sexual immorality, have always been with us...nothing has changed.

But my hope isn't in what president will be elected, what new law will be passed, in religion, or in the hundreds of organizations who rush to help in times of disaster; my hope is and has to be in Jesus alone. It has to be; He alone has the cure, the answer to all the ills of this world and it is salvation and eternal life through His shed blood.

I can't change what happens in the world but I can change me. It begins with my faith in Jesus, my stand for truth, my witness to every one I meet (not just my Christian friends)...this I pray will have an impact for change in my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren...if the Lord should tarry.

After all his searching and all his questions, Solomon concluded in Ecclesiasties 12:13-14: "Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." It is all about God.

Psalm 18:2 "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Mary Ann Kiernan serves at America's KESWICK in our Addiction Recovery Ministries

Friday, July 11, 2008

Different ... and Okay With God

Different...and Okay with God

I love, absolutely love, how God has made us all so different! More and more each day I am learning to appreciate those different talents, abilites, gifts, character traits and personalities in other people, and in myself. I'm often amazed and humbled (ok, and sometimes envious) by the gifts in others, the things they are able to do with seemingly little effort.

Take my friend/sista/boss for example: she's a person with vision and a passion for living to the glory of God. To watch her stand before a room full to the brim of people (or even a small group) is to observe this passion in motion. It's not just what she may be saying, it's also how. There is poise and confidence that, at present, I can only hope for. There is a freedom to be herself, to the glory of God, and do what she is called to do that is not often hindered by the fear of man. People will, and do, think...whatever, and she keeps on going, accepting herself the way God has made her, knowing she is okay with Him, fully persuaded that it is well with her soul!

When I first came here, I tried to be like her until I realized, I didn't have to be. Warts and all, I was okay. I am not her - I am different, and God is cool with it. The work He is doing in my life is the same as in hers but it does, and will, look different.In fact, the work He is doing in all of our lives is the same. He is working in us "to will and to do His good pleasure." It does not, and will not, look like anything other than who He is molding and shaping us to be, in accordance with His divine nature AND in spite of who we would naturally be in our sinful flesh. He takes all the treasure He deposited in us in our mother's womb and does something good. He makes something precious and beautiful.It's a wonderful thought to know and believe that God has made us all in His own image and likeness and He is fully aware that we are not all the same. WE ARE DIFFERENT! - Different shapes, tones and shades of color; all assortments of styles and variations of interest existing within our own particular earthsuit. And it's okay! Sistas, there is a huge freedom to be found in Christ and in accepting the "different" that you are in Him as He IS in you. As you and I walk the walk, may we deliberately and willingly embrace the investment He has deposited in us and be all that we can be for His glory!! Allow your own unigue differences - your talents, abilities and gifts -- to accomplish His great work!!

Think: "Each of us is an important specially crafted tool that God wants to use to accomplish a specific work of His good pleasure. Be sure you know your gifts and then be looking for His use for you!"1Remember: "...for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure...holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain." ~~Philippians 2:13, 16 Stephanie Paul is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries for Women at America's KESWICK

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Me? A Complainer?

Me? A complainer?

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2:14-15

One sunny afternoon, my son, my husband and I were walking across campus during his college orientation. We were talking about complaining when my son said, "You are both complainers." His statement pierced me to the core. I could barely catch my breath. What was he saying? I don't see myself as a complainer. But before I could question him, or defend myself, the seemingly "lighthearted" conversation took off in another direction.

The statement my son made stayed with me all day and a few days to follow. How could he possibly see me as a complainer? What do I complain about? I thought hard about it. Then the light started to dawn. It began as I realized for one, I complain about our 2 dogs and the inconvenience and mess they make. Oh, yes. I complain about the dogs, quite a bit. I do not like their infringement on my life. BUT does that make me a complainer? Then I realized, YES it does. Since that afternoon, I have become even more aware of my tendency to complain by the numerous times I have had to bite my tongue!

If I am prone to complain about the dogs, chances are complaining is not relegated to just one area of my life. I was only deceiving myself. Leave it to my son to make me aware of that. If we complain in one area, we are probably complainers in other areas. If we gossip about one person, we are probably gossips about others. If we are dishonest with one, we are probably dishonest with others. If we are undisciplined in one area of our life, we are probably undisciplined in other areas of our life.

How are you kidding yourself today? What area of your life does God want to put His finger on to reveal the problem is much more prevalent than you realize? Is it your conversation? Is it your anger/frustration/irritation? Is it your harsh tongue? Is it your critical spirit? Is it your undisciplined eating? Is it your procrastination? Is it your haughty spirit?

Praise God that we are not trapped by any of these things, because every one of them has been dealt with at the cross. We are free to say "no" to ungodliness and "yes" to righteousness. We are able to change, by His power and grace for His glory. "... put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Diane Hunt is Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Fruit of Patience

The Fruit Of Patience Part 3

The final work of patience is a concept we find in 2 Corinthians 4:10-12. ".. Always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you." NKJV

Let's remember the prodigal from Luke 15 again. We know that the Father was having a work done in him. Patience in the circumstance, patience for the son. Patience should have it's way as the Father should have been dying to his dreams, dying to what he thought was best for his child, dying to demanding his own way. I think the Father did a lot of dying to himself. I know I have had to. That one you need patience with has probably made you say, "They are killing me!"* They are supposed to! Death is working in us. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:10-12 again. We need to die to ourselves so that the life of Jesus is manifested in us. God just may be using the area where we need patience the most to work death in us. "So then death is working in us..."

Now think about the prodigal (or person or circumstance) that calls you to be patient. What was going on in the prodigal? Vs 12-19 tell us what kind of living he was choosing. He traveled far from home, he wasted his possessions, he began to be in want so he fed the swine, and he was hungry. These are hard things for parents to know. We know the wasteful living of our children and we grow impatient for them to come to themselves as the prodigal finally did. But what process is the prodigal going through? "...But life in you." (Vs 12) Aren't you thankful that Jesus is patient with us? Aren't you glad that His priority is people not circumstances? He is working and His desire is to bring them life and life abundant! We may not see it but He is working in them to bring them to the end of their foolishness and give them life! He does not desire that any should perish so we wait patiently on Jesus as He waits patiently for our prodigals! He is working death in me but life in them. The desired result for me, you and the prodigal is that the old would be crucified and the new would be lived out.*

I am just a beggar telling other beggars where to find bread. These are points I learned recently. Few original thoughts have been written here. I hope you will allow patience to do its work in you. As you do, may you find hope in your circumstances and mercy for people even if your situation doesn't seem to change. *Paraphrased form Beth Moore "Living Beyond Yourself" Session 6

Kathy Withers is a full-time staff member at America's KESWICK, serving in the KESWICK Book and Gift Shop

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Fruit of Patience

The Fruit of Patience

Last Fall I attended staff chapel and had the sweetest experience. It was Thanksgiving and we were encouraged to share what we had been thankful for. Some had given thanks for their children and that they walked with the Lord. This was tugging on my heart because I want to see my children walking closely with the Lord. I want to see that day come so badly! Then I heard a voice say what was on my heart.

My co-worker stood and expressed her gratitude for the kids that were walking with Jesus but shared her grief over her children and her hope that one day God will bring her kids back. I just cried because someone had the courage to voice what I was thinking and reminded me to continue to hope and be patient.

I have been studying the fruit of the Spirit, specifically, patience. There are two words used for patience. As we would think of Job the word used for his type of patience is "hupomone." It describes the patience Job had in his circumstances and is inspired by hope. Job had two hopes. He had hope that God was at work (Job 19:25-27) and Job trusted that what was happening in his circumstances would transform him (Job 23:10). The second word for patience is "makrothumia." This is patience with people and it is inspired by mercy as we read in Galatians 5:22, 23 about the fruit of the Spirit.*

I need both of these, don't you? I need patience in my circumstances- to have a hope. I need patience with people- to be merciful to those I would really like to shake! What or whom just came to your mind? My kids come to my mind. I have been told they are too old to put up for adoption, so what is a mother to do with her prodigals? Be patient. BUT, patience does not mean idle. Look at Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal son. In vs. 11 the Father is mentioned but then not again until vs. 20. What do you think he had been doing in the meantime?* I would guess he was learning patience (inspired by hope) in his circumstances. I would further guess he was learning patience (inspired by mercy) with his son! I know he would have been praying "Bring him home!" Maybe there is not a prodigal in your life. Perhaps you need patience (inspired by mercy or hope) with another family member, a neighbor, a co-worker, an ill parent or that lady at Bible study that just rubs at you. Maybe it is your job, finances, marriage or singleness. Being patient is hard work! Patience wants to do a work in us but you will have to wait until tomorrow to know what that work is!

*Paraphrased from Beth Moore "Living Beyond Yourself" Session 6

Kathy Withers is on staff full-time at the Keswick Book and Gift Shop. She is married to her husband, Dave and has two adult children. Kathy is active in her local church and has previously served as a Teaching Director for Community Bible Study. Her passion is the Word of God and encouraging women to dig deeper into the truths of the Bible.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Living My Faith

Living my Faith

Recently John and I vacationed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This was our first trip there and I just fell in love with the people. We went out to dinner the first night and at the end of our meal our waitress said goodbye with a "Lord bless you." Wow, I never heard that in New Jersey and I liked it! It seemed like every shop we went in, every attraction we visited, people just shared their faith with their words and the products they sold. They didn't seem concerned at all about "political correctness." This was such a warm and friendly place, a place you wouldn't be afraid to share your faith or bring your family. We visited Dollywood and inside the park was a chapel that held Sunday service every week!

Here in the Northeast we don't see of that kind of display of faith much...Oh, it happens, but much less frequently. I wonder why? Why don't we - I - openly infuse all my speech with my faith? Am I afraid? Am I ashamed?

I've had the privilege to have lunch with a dear 90-year-old saint...Margie. She likes to ask the waitress how we can pray for her and then always leaves some kind of a tract with the tip. What a lovely way to share the love of the Lord. This was always the habit of Margie and her husband when they would go out for dinner and she continues to do so now that he has gone home to be with the Lord. Who knows how many lives have been impacted by this one simple act of faith?

Romans 1:16 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."

1 Peter 4:16 "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."

Luke 9:26 "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels."

I don't need to be afraid and I shouldn't be ashamed. God will give me power through faith, even if I meet with opposition. Jesus Himself tells me I shouldn't be ashamed because there are consequences if I am. I don't need a soap box and I don't have to preach. All I need is a love for Jesus and for others...and maybe a few "Lord bless you's" or whatever way I might choose to share my faith with those I don't know.

Mary Ann Kiernan and John have been married for 35 years, have 2 grown/married sons and are the proud grandparents of two grandsons. She serves at America's Keswick as a Biblical Counselor and also as Intake Coordinator for the Colony of Mercy. Her life verse is Romans 8:28.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Thoughts From My Bike

Thoughts from My Bike

The weather is cooperating and I need to get back to exercising! Gas prices and my desire to get in exercise time have motivated me to ride my bike to work. Let me share some of the things I have pondered on my rides to work.

1. It is better to keep my eyes a few feet in front of me then to stare at the upcoming hill. Looking at the hill only builds anticipation of what is to come and may cause me not to see the very thing that could cause a fall.Are you fretting over the future and what may be coming rather then seeing what God has for you today? Are you refusing to see what is right in front of you? Will your next choice, your next move, cause you to stumble?

2. When I go uphill I find myself saying something like "I can make it" or "I'm almost there." I tend to concentrate much more going up hill; I check what gear I am in to get up that hill with "ease"and I notice that I use many more muscles when going uphill. Are you learning to stretch your spiritual muscles? Can you hear the Lord right beside you telling you that you will make it? Do you need to adjust the gear you are moving in either to slow down or get going?

3. When I go downhill I coast and enjoy the breeze. But when I need to start pedaling again I find I am usually in the wrong gear and my legs can't keep up with the pedals and they briefly lose control. Are you coasting in your walk with Him? Are you in step with Jesus or are things spinning out of control?

4. I watch for landmarks. Often, I check where I am and try to gauge how far I have to go. My usual markers are Route 530, the JCPL site, Robert Miller Airpark, the Getty station, Pine Ridge, Congasia Road and then, finally, I reach Shamrock Gardens. Then I know I am almost there! Are you watching for Jesus? Do you look for Him as you go about your day? Do you anticipate the day we can say "I made it home!"?

Kathy Withers is on staff full-time at the Keswick Book and Gift Shop. She is married to her husband, Dave and has two adult children. Kathy is active in her local church. Her passion is the Word of God and encouraging women to dig deeper into the truths of the Bible.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Early, Late or Right on Time

Early, Late or Right on Time

Last week I wrote some Victory Calls looking at the lighter side of being on time or being late. After reading over the last one on the morning of June 26th I felt there was something lacking. The question that came to my mind was, "What's the bottom line?"

The answer is quite simple. Being on time is always better that being late. There are no "ifs, ands or buts" about it. There is, however, a fly in this proverbial soup. Being on time ceases to be better the second you as the "on timer" or I as the "late arriver" begin to criticize or judge one another. The moment an attitude of, "I'm on time so I'm better than you" shows up, your "better" becomes an opportunity to glimpse an attitude of the heart that needs some serious spiritual insight and guidance. In the same way, the moment I poke fun at the "always-on-time" person or try to diminish them somehow, I am also in need of some spiritual medicine."The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure." ~~Psalm 101:5b.

As gently as I can say it, I am saying, God can't stand arrogance. Be on time for the glory of God and forsake any way in which the flesh would glory in itself at the expense of others. Selah. Lest there be a shred of pride present in the person who thinks being less than on time is a-okay, let me ever so gently admonish you according to 1 Samuel 15:23a "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as inquity and idoloatry."

How does this relate to being late? By being late I am consciously or subconsciously guilty of iniquity and idolatry. It's me, on the throne of my heart, saying that what I want, when I want it and how I want it, is more important than...well, being on time. So, where does that bring us today? It brings us ALL to the level ground at the foot of Calvary's cross. From this position of humility we bow and give thanks for the Spirit's work in our hearts and ask for His help. From there, we pursue change for the Glory of God.

So if you're on time, ask God to reveal the pride in your heart, and ask Him to show you the subtle or not so subtle ways you may sin by looking down at, judging or criticizing the perpetual late comer. If you're the late arriver, ask God to reveal the pride in your heart and perhaps the rebellion as well, showing you the ways being late may be a sin against others.And let's all of us, whether late or early, morning or evening, remember to remember to keep the main thing the main thing. -- Stephanie Paul serves as Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries for Women

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Spiritual Birthday

Today is my 25th spiritual birthday. July 1st, 1983, depressed and desperate, I asked Jesus to save me. I knew I needed Him in my life. I wanted Him to help me get through the day. I didn't realize how very much I needed Him beyond that. I had no idea, that hot summer day, that I had become "born-again". I understood I was now saved and heaven secure but I didn't know I was born-again.

It was about 3 months later, when my fiancé, John, and I were at a Christian conference in Ocean City that we dined with a group of other attendees. The conversation, of course, focused on God and the born-again relationship. After dinner, as John and I were gathering our things from our rooms, I quietly said to him, "John, those people are born-again; I don't want to eat any more meals with them." He laughed, "And just what do you think you are? You're born-again, too!" Oh my gosh! Horror of horrors, it can't be! Although I believed my dead spirit was regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit that day back in July, I had no idea it was called something~ No less, born-again! You may be chuckling but growing up in a denomination that saw born-again people as weirdoes, fanatics, cultic, and certainly not bound for heaven, I had to overcome my misconceptions and fear associated with that term.

The first time I went to an evangelical church for a cantata, the very nice church members told me to meet them in the narthex. They had a lingo very unfamiliar to me. I was apprehensive about what they might say or do, so I sat as close to the door as I could in case I had to make a run for it. On the contrary, I was delighted by the participation of the attendees. When there was singing, the sanctuary was filled with heart-felt praise and worship, something I had never experienced. The people were friendly and kind, eager to help me and get to know me. Wow! It was the beginning of an amazing time in my life in which I fell head-over-heels in love with God and His people, and never looked back.

God saved me out of a life of anxiety and depression in which I tried various things, sinful things, to abate. None helped forlong. I turned my back on religious things literally, because even seeing a Bible triggered an anxiety attack. I avoided church and poured myself into my studies and other things to distract me. For much of my life, I had been driven by fear.

I remember vividly one morning, months after I was saved, sitting at my kitchen table with my Bible in hand. Before I opened it I prayed, "Lord, be gentle with me." And He has been. Twenty-five years later, I have grown in many, many ways because of God's gracious care, loving prompting and characteristic long-suffering. It has not been without pain or trials, trials that God has brought into my life to move me away from fear (trusting in self) to faith (trusting in God). It has been an unforgettable journey.

Thank You Lord for the cross, for the gospel, and for saving me. I love You more now that when we first began. -- Diane Hunt is the Director of Addiction Recovery Ministries at America's KESWICK