The New “Normal”

In the span of a few weeks, the world has been turned upside down. We find ourselves in situations that are completely out of our control. The things we’ve taken for granted like going to work, school, dining out, attending church or popping by the store for milk and toilet paper suddenly aren’t so easy. We’ve been stripped of life’s simple pleasures.

With little to no warning, we are living with a brand new normal that involves a great deal of uncertainty and a heaping helping of fear.

This is not the plot for a science fiction movie with an alternate universe. Our lives now revolve around alarming statistics and imposed directives to practice social distancing and remain at home. The craziness currently gripping our nation is stirring up a lot of unprecedented worries.

Feeling fear is something we all do – even Christians. The Bible doesn’t tell us we shouldn’t feel fear – but rather it directs us on how to respond when we are plagued by fear.  God knows the world is filled with evil and can be a scary place. That’s why His Word contains at least 356 “DO NOT FEAR” references - one for every day of the year.

As Christ followers, we have been presented with a unique opportunity because of COVID-19. We have more opportunities than ever to witness to our unsaved loved ones and neighbors who may be consumed with panic. Are we that beacon of light drawing the lost in and sharing our faith in Christ or are we cowering at home consumed with worry like much of the world?

We know this pandemic will end and that Jesus is still Lord. This pandemic is no surprise to God and certainly not too big for Him to handle. As we practice social-distancing and adapt to quarantine mandates, we can still be used by God in BIG ways. Social media and our smart phones are all great mediums for messaging, texting, calling and encouraging others during these difficult days.

Let us not forget the importance of prayer either. Many of us have more time on our hands than ever, so it’s important to pray for each other. We need to lift up the sick, the caregivers, first responders and our government officials who are tasked with making difficult decisions and risking their own health to treat the sick and beat this virus.

When all is said and done, brothers and sisters … I pray we can be the hope!

The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.

Nahum 1:7 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

Archives

Influencers

One of my sons suggested my husband and I watch the Netflix feature about the Fyre Festival. Oh. My. Goodness.

The entire documentary was like watching a train wreck that you know is going to happen but you keep hoping it doesn’t. Sheesh. Anxiety started building up about four minutes in. I still am shaking my head thinking about it.

The Fyre Festival was touted as a celebrity-filled music festival set on a beautiful Bahamian island.   I’m not going to say any more about the movie and I’m not suggesting you watch it.  What I do want to talk about are the people in the movie who were labeled as the “influencers”.  People who, just because of their social or celebrity status, have the power to influence the masses.  Merely by posting on social media they can influence lives and finances. A beautiful model posted about the Fyre Festival and soon hundreds of people started to sign up - paying out huge dollar amounts to attend a unique music festival. That is influence, my friends. Attaching a celebrity’s face or name to an event has incredible influence on others to purchase, buy in, take part and the reverse can be true.

We may not be celebrities but we are influencers.
You are. I am.
Who are we influencing?
What are we influencing others to buy in to?

These are valid questions for all of us to ponder.

I want to influence others to live godly lives, full of mercy and grace, extending forgiveness and offering hope so they may know the joy I have in my heart - all because of Jesus.

May God help each of us influence others in the right direction for the right reasons.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Kathy Troyer
Author

Archives

Glitches

Faithfulness shines at its brightest in the middle of troubles.

 

 

 

God already knows what’s going on.

He knows you are hurting and afraid.

 

 

Thank Him.

As hard as it is to do, thank Him for the problem.

Then sit quietly.

And wait.

 

 

Some of us have been waiting for days.

Some of us have been waiting for years.

 

 

Thank Him and give the troubles to Him.

And wait because the wait gives hope.

 

 

You’ll be stronger.

You’ll be more confident.

You’ll be quieter.

 

 

Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for he always tenderly cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7

 

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG Ministries

Archives

Do It Afraid

Having facilitated vision boards for over 70 people in January 2020 alone, one theme keeps emerging as a focus for the new year: moving past fear.

Women are afraid to write their story, afraid to open up their home, afraid to teach a class, afraid to pursue a new relationship.

You've heard the adage "be careful asking God to make you more patient because He will give you plenty of chances to practice patience" but it applies to other areas of life as well. If we ask God to make us fearless, why do we think He is going to make us magically more courageous? It's like we assume He's going to outfit us with an invisible hero cape. "I'm going to wake up tomorrow without fear!" No! He is going to give us opportunities to push through our fear.

I'm going to wake up tomorrow with a dead battery and have to push through my fear to talk to a new neighbor about giving my battery a jump.

I'm going to face a diagnosis, a confrontation I'd rather avoid, a financial setback and give my faith muscles a workout.

I've learned over the years that people I admire aren't fearless, they're just doing scary things afraid.

I joke that nothing scares me anymore and it's nearly true. I've faced many of the things I use to be scared of, whether heading up a committee, attending an event alone, taking a speaking gig, publishing a controversial blog post or singing in front of 300 people. Every experience taught me something and helped me face the next challenge with greater confidence.

I still walk into meetings and appointments with a low grade nervousness at best and full blown fight or flight reaction at worst. When I sang in front of 300 people I literally fought the instinct to leave through the back, thinking, "They would just go on without me" and forced myself to stay in my seat until it was time to go on stage. Once I had the mic in my mind, my nerves dissipated and when the song was over, I felt like I could have soared out of there with relief!

The truth is, God promises to be with us wherever we go. We never have to face anything alone. We are commanded to be strong and courageous.

Joshua 1:9 says, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Plus the Holy Spirit offers us supernatural strength.

Ephesians 3:16 states, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being."

We can do hard things with God on our side.

To date, no one has literally died from stage fright so chances are, you'll survive whatever scary thing you're facing and you'll be stronger for it.

What would you do if you fear weren't an obstacle? Maybe God is calling you to do just that...together with Him.

Tabitha Dumas
Author

Archives

Frozen What?!?

In his defense Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working." John 5:17

It's just not about whether your glass is half full or half empty it’s that in Jesus your glass is refillable! His precious promises are faithfully available to refill our glass and re-frame our perspective at all times... like for me this morning.

Over my warm cup of coffee from my kitchen table I happened to be gazing out onto my snow covered backyard which is actually more like a frozen solid tundra. Embedded into this frozen white landscape in stark contrast is black rabbit and dog excrement! Yes, and as you know, rabbits never travel alone and my dog could very well be mistaken for Ferdinand the bull. I'll let your imagination paint the picture now of just what exactly my backyard looks like and it is no Thomas Kinkade.

This could be seen as an eye sore (glass half or totally empty situation) but the more I pondered it the stronger His promise poured into my heart. My God is a God who has a time for everything under the sun (Ecclesiastes 3). He changes the seasons and that always reminds me He is always moving (John 5:17).

My backyard will eventually thaw and when it does it will be the most fertilized yard in the neighborhood AND it won't even cost me a dime.

What excrement (so to speak) seems to be frozen in your backyard? What seems impossible, unmovable and unchangeable in your life?

Jesus is a God that makes possible the impossible (Matt. 19:26). He is always on the move and those that wait on the Lord and His perfect timing will be blessed (Isaiah 30:18). Like my backyard, what seems awful now, in time will be the biggest blessing.

Dear One, Jesus loves you, He sees, He's moving, trust His process and His faithful promise will refill your cup.

Independent Read: Jeremiah 17:7

Janette Kieffer
Author

Archives

Pity Party

We all have them from time to time: pity party days. It seems like nothing is going right and everything is going wrong. Appliances stop working, cars break down, kids quarrel, coworkers are grumpy, the coffee canister is empty, a family member is ill - the list goes on and on.  It’s part of life.

I’ve found a way to counteract my pity party days. It’s simple and effective.

Serve.  Serve others.

If I’m having a tough day, I try to encourage a friend or family member. It’s amazing what happens when I serve someone else.

About 12 years ago, a friend called my husband & I asking if we could meet at her apartment to discuss her financial needs. She didn’t know that we were at a crisis point financially ourselves. My first instinct was to tell her no, absolutely no way. But we went to her apartment armed with a few bags of groceries knowing full well we were unable to help her financially.

After she shared her heart, we shared our situation and we prayed together for God to help all of us. Just by being together - crying, laughing and praying - we were all encouraged. Our finances weren’t changed. Our situation wasn’t changed. But our attitudes were.

Serving our friend with a few bags of groceries was a simple act of service but it was life-changing for us.

So, my dear friends, look for simple ways to serve and I think your pity parties can turn into praise parties.

You, my brothers and sisters were called to be free. Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  Galatians 5:13

“and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:27-28

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

Kathy Troyer
Author

Archives

Heaven Is Here

Heaven comes to earth when forgiveness is extended without merit of it being earned.

Heaven comes to earth when grace outweighs the stench of condemnation.

Heaven comes to earth when Truth confronts the lie in the boldness of love.

Heaven comes to earth when humility breaks the chains of your pride that bind you.

Heaven comes to earth when obedience to God requires you to stand alone.

Heaven comes to earth when your prayers are sent to its gates.

Heaven comes to earth when you choose to be a peace maker in times of war.

Heaven comes to earth at every chance to love others despite themselves.

Heaven comes to earth when relationships are restored.

Heaven comes to earth when we declare our allegiance to the One True King, and lay down our sword.

All of this possible, because Heaven came to earth. His name, is Jesus.

Stefanie Calens
loveSTRONG Ministries

Archives

Tied Up In “Nots”

When my kids were younger, they were huge fans of the movie, Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey. In this movie, Bruce grapples with an existential crisis that has him doubting the existence of God. God summons Bruce (played by Morgan Freeman) and challenges him to see if he, Bruce, could do a better job at being God. God transfers all of his powers to Bruce for a period of time.

Initially, Bruce is overwhelmed with such power and uses his authority for purely selfish reasons. It doesn’t take Bruce long though, to discover that the job of supreme ruler over mankind comes with hefty responsibilities.

The writers of this movie most likely wanted to offer a comedic interpretation of God while peppering the story line with a few serious undertones.  My greatest takeaway message wasn’t so much about who God is and what He can do – but rather, what God IS NOT.

Throughout his stint as God, Bruce’s pursuit of selfish fulfillment is frequently interrupted by prayers from people all over the world. Millions of voices in his head praying constantly all at the same time. This at least, is not fictional as we know from Scripture God is omnipotent and hears all of our prayers.

The Lord is watching everywhere,
keeping his eye on both the evil and the good.

Proverbs 15:3

Bruce’s solution to receiving millions of prayers at one time, was to simply reply “Yes” to every request. His simple “Yes” destroyed a lot of people’s lives, as so many of the prayers were for completely selfish reasons.  Like composing a group email, God (Bruce) said “Yes” to millions of people who prayed to win the lottery. Every prayer was answered, but because so many people prayed for a lottery win, the giant Powerball was split between millions of people, totaling winnings of a little over $12.00 per recipient.

In the “real world” innumerable people pray for lottery winnings or get rich quick schemes. We know, however, God is NOT some sort of Genie who quickly grants our wishes for wealth and material things.

God is NOT going to get even with an ex-friend or spouse because you’ve prayed for revenge.

God is NOT going to supernaturally erase your obesity overnight because you are ashamed and miserable with yourself.

God is NOT going to give you everything you want when you want it.

God is NOT to be mocked (Galations 6:7) and Hollywood-ized for the purpose of selling tickets or turning a profit.

Kathy Kurlin
Author

Archives

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know?

“Jesus loves me, this I know …”  

This song in its simplicity provides us with a basic foundational Christian principle. It’s a song we learn as children, yet how many Christians do you know that have difficulty grasping this simple concept?  I know I’ve certainly struggled in this area on more than one occasion.

I became a believer as an adult, so I didn’t have that early childhood reassurance to remind me of Jesus’s love. I grew up “semi-religious” in a church that portrayed God as an unreachable deity that was more fire and brimstone than love and all the good-feels. Consequently, I feared God, anticipating lightning bolts every time I messed up. If I’d been taught the love of Jesus as a child, I wonder if I would still struggle with doubts regarding my relationship with Christ.

Having children and grandchildren is kind of a “do-over” for me in this department. Through a great Bible-believing church, kid’s programs and being able to model the love of Jesus, my kids grew up knowing Jesus on an intimate level. Now as adults, whenever they have a challenge or trial, their first inclination is to call and ask for prayer. With confidence and certainty, they know Jesus is the ultimate “go-to” for any and all situations.

I provide daycare for my baby granddaughter. I’m a grandmother/nanny or “Granny,” which allows me to pour Jesus into her young life. I pray over her, I speak blessings for a bright future over her and I sing Christian songs to her at nap time. Most days whenever I sing “Jesus Loves Me” to her, I’m barely able complete one stanza before her little eyes start to flutter and close. Literally within minutes, she’s fast asleep. Every time!

I like to think that the love of Jesus is some sort of miracle sleep potion. It’s uncanny. I promise, it’s not because I have an amazing singing voice, either. My grandmotherly reasoning believes this little babe feels so secure in my arms as I speak blessings over her and sing about Christ’s love for her, she is able to fully relax. She sleeps restfully swathed in my love and the love of Jesus, as well.

This song is more than a lullaby. It soothes even someone like me whenever I feel stressed or doubtful of my place in God’s kingdom. 

Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 136:26 (NLT)

What a great “go-to” reminder for us all. Jesus loves ME, this I know!  Do you KNOW this to be true in your life? It’s simple … but it’s true!

Kathy Kurlin
Author

Archives

Yo! I’m Right Here.

READ Luke 24:13-35

This scripture takes place right after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the telling of two men, heading home from Jerusalem, going to Emmaus.  They are walking and talking about all the events that had occurred in the last week. This would have been the time of the celebration of Passover, but with the recent events (crucifixion and death of Jesus) these men are downcast as they walk home.

Then, a third man comes up alongside them, and walks with them on their journey home.  This man is Jesus, but as it states in verse 17 “…They stood still, their faces downcast.”  They didn’t look up.  They continued on their walk rehashing all the events of the last week, explaining TO Jesus what happened, TO Jesus.  Can you imagine?  Jesus walking up along side these two men, who are clueless that they are informing this “stranger” of the actual events that JESUS  (who is walking along side them) LIVED THROUGH.

Jesus had to have been like “Yo, I am right here…if you would only look up.”

So these two men continue to walk and talk for the next 7 miles.  (verses 19-24)  Finally in verse 27, Jesus gets a word in edge wise.  “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.”

When they reached Emmaus, Jesus proceeded as if he were going on farther, but these two men asked him to stay.  He was invited into their home where Jesus, in verse 30, “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.”  Then what happens next is the very magic of this whole story.  In verse 31 it says, “THEIR EYES WERE OPENED.”  Yes, they finally, after all this time, an entire afternoon of being in the actual presence of Jesus Christ did they finally realize and see who was before them.

How many times in our lives does this happen to us?  I know it happens to me, a lot. I get so set in my ways, looking down and looking back that I forget to look up and see Jesus is walking on this path right along side me.  And most of the time, I do all the talking! I love to tell Jesus all the things, all the details, all the drama and rehash everything He already knows.

What Jesus really wants us all to do is invite Him in.  It is when we invite Him into our homes, and our hearts, and those secret places that we bury all the “stuff.”  Yeah, that stuff that Jesus already knows about. He just wants to be invited in, and he will STAY.

Cammi Thurlby
loveSTRONG Ministries

Archives

Contact Us