Why Worry? (Friday Devotional)


Have you ever tried to make yourself grow taller?

Maybe as a child or teenager you wanted to be just one more inch taller to catch a friend or sibling. Perhaps you would stretch in front of the mirror by lifting your arms high and standing on your toes. Maybe you hung from a bar in the closet while willing yourself to grow. Silly thought isn’t it.

Jesus says worrying is as effective trying to make ourselves grow. In fact, he uses this as a comparison. He said, “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Mt. 6:27)

There are many things which we can worry about: finances, health, our children, our parents, jobs, war, economics, etc. Yes, there are many legitimate concerns in this life.

However, God is bigger than all these concerns. He loves us more than all His creation.

If He takes care of the birds and clothes the flowers, He will take care of us. Jesus said, “Are you not of more value than they?” The answer is emphatically, yes! We are of more value and God promises to take care of us.

Thought for the day – The problem looming before you is still beneath the feet of God.


What Makes You Sing – Psalm 32


“…You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

The ancient Hebrews sang when the Lord would deliver them from difficult events or enemies.  They sang a lavish song of praise and Miriam’s women danced in celebration when He rescued them from Pharaoh and brought them through the Red Sea (Ex. 15). 

David teaches us to praise God for something even greater than physical deliverance. He praises the Lord for deliverance from sin.  Of all the needs we have as humans, being forgiven of sin and becoming reconciled to God is our greatest.  The Psalm says that when God delivers us, we shall be surrounded by “songs of deliverance.” 

David doesn’t say who will be singing these songs which surround us; but in Revelation we see angelic creatures singing.  As they watch God redeem His creation, they sing songs of deliverance rejoicing that God is faithful, has reconciled us to Himself, and has rescued us from the penalty of sin and death. 

Now that is something to sing about.

Lord, Thank you for delivering me from the penalty of sin through your Son Jesus Christ.  Teach me how to celebrate my deliverance. Help me tell someone today that they too can be set free.  Amen.

2008 Christian Writer’s Conference – Kansas City

Whether you write devotionals, Christian articles, books, Bible studies, curriculum, or online material there was a workshop for you at this year’s Christian writer’s conference in Kansas City sponsored by HACWN (Heart of America Christian Writer’s Network).

Mark and Jeanette Littleton are the co-directors of HACWN and organize the conference along with a group of members from the network.  Once again they offered a conference packed with informative workshops, experienced speakers, publisher representatives, writing contests, and numerous professional critique services.

Some of the publishers represented included:

·         Thomas Nelson

·         Focus on the Family

·         AMG

·         Barefoot Press

·         Gospel Publishing House

·         Kregel Books

·         Broadman and Holman

·         Come to the Fire

·         Bible Advocate

·         Share the Fire

·         Word Action

·         MomSense

There were 45 different workshops offered.  They included almost any writing topic imaginable: children’s books, blogging, fiction, basic photography, interviewing technique, the writer as speaker, etc.  The conference bookstore offered books on all kinds of writing and books written by local Christian authors.

You could also do the following:

·         Get a professional photo taken for promoting your work.

·         Get a free 10 minute appointment with an editor.

·         Sign-up for a manuscript critique (cost extra).

·         Get a website critique

·         Enter any of 8 writing contests

To see the conference brochure click here: http://hacw.winsunliterary.com/2008HACWNConferenceBrochure.pdf

The conference boasted 99 participants and 27 staff members, a 15% increase over last year’s conference.

I highly recommend HACWN and their annual conference to any writer; especially to those near enough to take advantage of other network benefits including: regular critique groups, professional email leads, and monthly meetings with professional speakers.

To learn more about HACWN click here:  http://hacw.winsunliterary.com/

Here’s a few pics of the event – yes, I need to sign up for the basic photography class next year 🙂

* Mark and Jeanette Littleton – HACWN Co-Directors


* Panel for First Page Exercise


* Workshop on writing devotionals (Paul Smith – Gospel Publishing House)


* Conference Bookstore


* One of Carmen Leal’s workshops (specializes in Marketing your work)


* Workshop on what editors look for in submissions.


Lunch on the first day


Mission Trips – More Than a Religous Vacation

“Wouldn’t it be better to give all that money to a missionary instead of taking a mission trip?”

This quote, in a nutshell, sums up a lot of the logic regarding arguments against mission trips.  To be honest it’s hard to argue with.  After all, wouldn’t a missionary be better off getting the $20, $30, or even up to $50 thousand that some mission trips cost?  Wouldn’t it be better to send them the money so they could use it as they see fit?

Some of the other criticisms of mission trips include:

·         Motive – This concerns the motives of the participants.  Are they really going to help the missionary or are they looking for a vacation – albeit one with a holy purpose.

·         Effectiveness – Do mission trips really help with spreading the gospel?  Couldn’t the missionary be more effective by having the money and directing to one of his or her strategic programs?

·         Length – Does a 10-day excursion to a foreign mission do much to help anybody? The missionary, the participant, or even the people being served? Wouldn’t it be better to send people on a 2 to 5 year stint?

·         Sightseeing – Should any part of the mission trip be used in a tourism sense?

·         Education – If part of a trip’s purpose is to educate the participants about missions wouldn’t it be more effective to do this education in the local church setting instead of going overseas?

A recent Wall Street article covers these criticisms plus more (see it at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122359398873721053.html.

So what about it?  Are these trips really as ineffective and wasteful as claimed?  Should churches nix them from their mission program and divert the money to more effective forms of great commission work?  At first glance, it’s hard to argue with this logic.

I think the criticisms come from genuine concerns (for the most part) and from people who would like to see mission work done as effectively as possible. However, I think some very important intangibles are missed by the critics and some of their logic is faulty.  And, I hate to say it, some of the arguments are just plain prudish.   Similar to the person who walked into a church 60 years ago and first saw padded pews and said, “why did we waste money on that, couldn’t we sit on 2 x 10 wooden benches.”  Okay, that example is a little dated, but you get the point.  Some of this criticism is valid and some of it isn’t.

I think mission trips are much more than a holy holiday and in fact, can be a solid component of the mission program at any church. 

Here’s why:

Economics: I don’t think economics can be completely used to judge the value of a mission trip. The article mentions that a home could be built cheaper with local labor. Yes, but then the trip participants wouldn’t get the experience of “seeing” and “helping” a missionary. How do you place a value on this experience?  It’s impossible.

Education:  There is a value to a person standing next to a missionary helping him serve.  While it is expensive, there is value to it.  This is why in the secular world we have study abroad programs and foreign exchange students.  Under the same logic, it could be argued that these programs are a waste of money.  Why not educate via a DVD presentation and taking a foreign language class? Because there is something about “being there.”   
Vision: I believe there is great value in a person being on the field and seeing the possibilities.  How could God use them? What does He want for their life? How can they serve missionaries better stateside?  What more should their church be doing? It’s hard to put a dollar figure on the vision building aspect of a mission trip.  
New Missionaries: Many current missionaries were originally challenged about being one partly through taking a trip.  I can think of at least 5 from our church alone.  Obviously God can direct people to missionary service without a trip.  But it appears trips are at least a part of how many current missionaries became challenged to serve.  How can a value be placed on a person’s decision to follow the Lord into career missionary work?  Imagine if every trip produced a new career missionary? 

·         A person who would spend the next 35 years spreading the gospel in a foreign land (or close to home for that matter.)

·         A person who would win dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of souls to Christ.

·         A person who would plant dozens of churches.

·         A person who would start Bible colleges for training new indigenous Christian workers.

How much is that worth? As one recent commercial would say, I think it’s “priceless.”

Effectiveness: The argument is that a missionary could make better use of the dollars.  Yes, if the only purpose is to get the “work” done.  However, that is only one of the goals of a trip.  The other goal is to challenge people and churches about missions, to connect with their missionary, to encourage their missionary, and also to get some work done.  There’s no arguing that some work does get done.  This argument is just about the cost of it.

It should also be noted that many missionaries ask us to send mission teams. If trips weren’t productive and helpful to a missionary, I doubt they would be asking churches to send teams. Even at our conference this past week, we had a missionary from Hungary ask us to send a team over. I think there are some tangible benefits to the missionary by hosting a team including:

·         Closer connection to a supporting church.

·         Funds provided to the missionary by the team.

·         Labor provided by the team (obviously not efficient economically, but work does get done).

·         Increased evangelism above what the missionary could do on his or her own.

·         Special skills provided by the team that the missionary cannot hire (an evangelistic baseball camp.)

·         The encouragement the missionary receives from the team and its sending church.

Finally, what about the arguments that mission trips are merely religious vacations. 

Is that really so bad? Keep in mind that most of the money for a mission trip comes from the participants and their fund raising efforts. If they want to give and raise the money, is it a bad thing for them to be excited about seeing another country? Not to be sarcastic, but is it better to go lay on a Florida beach for 10 days or spend those 10 days in Kenya doing a soccer camp for kids and sharing Jesus with them?  And while doing it taking in a little safari.  I’ll let you answer that one.

From a personal perspective, I and my son took a mission trip to Peru several years ago.  Each person had some money set aside to see Machu Picchu.  Wow!  What an opportunity.  In the end, after praying about it, everyone gave this portion of their trip money to the missionary instead of seeing this tourist attraction.  It amounted to about $2500.

All this being said, I’m sure there are many mission trips taken that are not effective. To me this doesn’t mean don’t take the trip, but instead do a better job of planning and knowing your objective. 

It also means the question doesn’t have to be an “either/or” question: either take a mission trip or send more money to missionaries.  I say it should be a “both/and” question.  Let’s do both: 

A.    Take mission trips

B.    AND make them the best they can be

C.    AND send more finances to missionaries.

D.    AND educate our churches better about missions work.

So what do you think?      (to respond click on the word, ‘comments’ below)


Flowers, Flesh, and the Word of God (friday devotional)

Stunning is the word which comes to mind as I drive by my neighbor’s flowerbed every day.  He’s been working hard all summer pulling weeds, hoeing, and watering to nurture it.  The flowers and plants in it are currently at their peak of beauty and lushness.  I’m really enjoying seeing them each day.  In fact, I’ve walked across the street a few times to admire them.  I’m glad he’s worked so hard to keep it up because I get to enjoy the results without any work!

They truly are beautiful, but the cold nights and hard frosts are coming.  I won’t be able to enjoy them much longer.

While looking at his flowers this verse came to mind…

1 Peter 1:24-25   24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,  25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (nkjv)

The seasons remind me that life starts and ends.  We see it in grass, flowers, trees, and in the animal world.  Seeds germinate.  Water, warmth and sun make plants grow.  They bloom, bear seed, and show their glory then a hard freeze brings them down.

As the verse also says, “all flesh is as grass.” Our lives are no different except for the length of time it normally takes.  Eventually this physical body fades and is brought down.

However, the Word of God is not subject to these cycles.  It is firm, established and guaranteed by God to endure.  Through it we learn about God and his ways.  We also learn about the new birth in Christ (v 23).

Thank you God for your creation which teaches us about the brevity of life.  Thank you more for Your word that teaches us how to have life eternally.

Devotional “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”

Psalm 17:15 As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.

The Stones have made a mint with this song and caused the phrase, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” to forever be associated with their melody when it comes to our minds.  However, the concept is far from original.

Ancient writers have long conveyed their lack of ability to find satisfaction; including the Biblical writer of Psalm 17.  For some reason, this life rarely brings the complete satisfaction we long for.

Oh, there are times of great satisfaction; including the birth of a child, the achievement of a goal, being in a great relationship, or the quiet and peace found over a morning cup of coffee on your deck.  Continue reading

In Whose Ear Does God Whisper?

Ps 25:14    “The secret of the Lord belongs to those who fear Him.”

“Shhhh, want to hear a secret?”

Those words quickly get our attention.  We like to hear secrets.

You probably had secrets as a kid.  Maybe it was a secret hideout, a special code, a first crush, or your favorite fishing hole.  There was NO way you would share these secrets with anyone but your best buddies or girlfriends.  Secrets and close friends go together.

To know a secret you must hold a privileged position with a person or group. Continue reading