GROVE, OK (ANS - March 19, 2017) -- "To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory" -- Isaiah 61:3 (TLB)
CARBONDALE, CO (ANS - March 18, 2017) -- He walked away from the faith of his childhood and became a drug addict and alcoholic amidst the rollicking party scene at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.
But years later, God's love drew him out of the darkness and he became a drug interventionist and counselor for Pete Carroll's Trojan and Seahawks football teams.
"I grew up with a very good, solid relationship with Christ," says Dirk Eldredge, now the CEO of Jaywalker Lodge, a treatment center in Carbondale, Colorado. "But when I went to college I walked away from God and walked into my disease of addiction."
POLAND (ANS - March 18, 2017) -- She was only a teenager when Hitler's Panzer divisions overran her beloved Poland, separating the young nursing student from her family, and launching her on a mission a Catholic girl with Aryan features might never have imagined -- rescuing Jews from certain death.
"God blessed my hands to save many lives," said Irene Gut Opdyke, shortly before her passing in 2003. Opdyke was honored by the Israeli Holocaust Commission in 1982 as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations," a title given to non-Jews who risked their lives by aiding and saving Jews during the Holocaust.
Saint Patrick is remembered as the man who drove the snakes from Ireland. Each March 17th, the color green is worn with pride and various forms of celebration erupt in western Europe and America.
However, the real story of St. Patrick is one of a man on mission. Not a mission to drive out snakes and party but to bring the power of the gospel to his Irish captors. In the fifth century, as the Roman Empire was collapsing, Patrick was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland from his native Britain. He was 16 and was entrapped in slavery. Six years later, he escaped and returned home. In all of this God was at work in his heart.
Cancer attacks healthy tissue and turns it toxic. Modern medicine attacks these toxic cells with surgery, poisonous medications and lethal radiation. The question becomes whether the human body can survive the treatment. Two years ago the decision was made to attack my cancer with a combination of toxic chemicals and targeted radiation. The plan was to eliminate the toxic cells.before they spread throughout my body.
I love principles. Perhaps this is one reason I spend so much time reading Proverbs. Principles aren't always "guaranteed", but they are often proven by time and experience.
Principles can help us learn from one another. We can benefit from another person's experience.
Here are a few principles of ministry I've experienced:
Just because you can do something better, doesn't mean you did anything wrong. We shouldn't be afraid of critical thinking or observations. Granted, some people are terrible at suggesting ideas. They always come across as being negative. Filter through personalities for nuggets of insight which can help you improve.
Every leader I know attempts to limit a certain amount of risk when making decisions or leading change. We should attempt to have good systems, adequate resources, and even contingency or emergency plans. We don't want to jeopardize the organization - ultimately the people - we are trying to lead.
The problem for some leaders, however, is they confuse limiting risk with attempting to eliminate risk. I'm not sure we can ever fail-proof anything completely, so it's a futile attempt at best. The bigger problem, however, is what we end up missing out on in the process of attempting to eliminate risk. There are hidden costs involved in a leader who is overly cautious.
For the last 30 years or so, I've attempted to listen to, obey and follow the voice of God. I have never heard it audibly but I have had it for only impressed upon my heart and mind. I have actually been a believer for over 40 years, but I got serious about my faith in my early 20's.
It's been a long road, and I'm still a pilgrim in the process, but I've learned a few things along the way. These are based totally on my personal experience.
Selfishness, lies, anger, self-pity, cruelty, come naturally to your children. On the surface these sins appear out-of-character for the infant in your arms who just wants to be warm, fed and held close. So, when the ugly indicators of a dark heart emerge, it is easy to be surprised and taken aback. Too often the response to dark hearts is to increase creature comforts, to focus on the external issues as if children were still infants needing to be warm with full tummies and a clean diaper. Thus a nasty reaction to a sibling is often attributed to being tired or hungry. While it is important to be sure physical needs are cared for, dark hearts have a much deeper cause.
ROCHESTER, NY (ANS - March 17, 2017) -- My story begins in "Surf City," Huntington Beach, Southern California, where I was living at the time.
On that fateful morning of June 28, 1992, my daughter and I were soundly sleeping, that was until at 4:57 AM, when apartment building where I was living, started to shake.
It grew stronger and stronger and for that minute, my daughter, Tiffany, and myself, had by now jumped out of our beds, and stood shaking between the bedroom door jam on the second floor, and we stood there until it had eventually stopped.
LA UNION, PUEBLA, MEXICO (ANS March 16, 2017) -- It was back in 1972 when Manuel Arenas, a Totonac Indian, born in a primitive hut in Zapotitlan, Mexico, and who turned out to be a brilliant young Indian man, began reaching out to his own people with what was then called the Totonac Bible Center, Inc.
Right from his early days, Manuel exhibited a fiery curiosity about life beyond the green canyons that hemmed his village, and the course of his life changed radically when he met an American Wycliffe Bible translator, Herman P. Aschmann, who introduced him to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and then used him as his principal translation helper for in his early Wycliffe translation efforts among the Highland Totonac people. (Mr. Aschmann died on February 18th, 2008 -- his 94th birthday -- at the Life Care Center in Longmont, Colorado, due to complications from pneumonia.)
CARROLLTON, GA (ANS - March 13, 2017) -- It was good to see an article in a recent issue of the Guardian Weekly (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/12/my-neighbour-murdered-my-family-now-we-are-friends-rwanda-genocide) which pointed to the pioneering work being done by Prison Fellowship Rwanda to bring reconciliation to that country which still suffers the psychological pain of a mass genocide 22 years ago.
What was refreshing, in addition to the delicate but successful work of the agency, was the recognition by the Guardian reporter that the efforts are being carried out at the hands of a Christian organization.
DONCASTER, UK (ANS - March 13, 2017) -- I never expected to have something in common with tough-guy movie star Sylvester Stallone. But it turns out that -- in more ways than one -- we have walked the same path!
Both of us have slept at a bus stop at a rough stage of our lives, and we are both now following Jesus as the Rock1 (foundation) of our lives.
In the case of the "Italian Stallion," the journey from a bus terminal to rediscovered faith took him many years; for me it took just seven days.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS - March 13, 2017) -- I've recently had the privilege of "meeting" Dr. Peter Zöller-Greer through email correspondence. As I was working on an idea concerning what I called Icon Numbers  -- a mathematical means to discuss God's sovereignty and man's freewill -- I asked myself if anyone was doing similar work. To help answer the question I turned to a couple of my former professors: Dr. Norman Geisler (Veritas Evangelical Seminary) and Dr. John Warwick Montgomery (formerly at Trinity Seminary, now at Concordia).
GROVE, OK (ANS - March 12, 2017) -- "A person's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?" -- Proverbs 20:24 (NIV).
To do list 2For nine months, I argued with God. I didn't want to move from the area where I'd lived for 35 years. I'd taught school there for 30 years. Planning my retirement, I wanted to write newspaper and magazine feature stories for local, state and national publications. I'd also planned to grow my professional photography business of 20 years. Substitute teaching was also on my to-do list.
A broken relationship a month before retirement left me questioning my future plans. When Go