"______ the Great!"

"______ the Great!"

By Ben Baumann

Raise your hand if you have a Facebook account. Just about everyone does. Peter Rollins, giving an illustration on the topic of identity, said once that a Facebook profile is a tool that can allow us to create a false identity that we can present to others. They see pictures of us, but only the best ones; they see our favorite movies and books but only the ones we know they won’t get offended by. But eventually we begin to fool ourselves into thinking that we’re the false identity we create. It’s a load to unpack to be sure but the idea is that we can lose ourselves in a false identity. Juxtapose this with an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous where one has to give up the false identity that says “I can quit whenever I want” in order to find who they really are meant to be. I think God wants us to be who we are, a beloved child of God, so that we are free to love and serve others.

Calm in the Storm

Calm in the Storm

By Mike Kasdorf

I've always had a love for stories of people who are able to stay calm, cool, and collected while facing immense trials or opposition. I'd venture a guess that many of us do. Examples of fortitude and perseverance can instill in us inspiration, power, and sometimes, even a bit of a swagger or rebellious edge. Just read about Stephen in Acts 6 – 7. Here's a guy who, as a newly-appointed apostle, doesn't seem to waste any time standing up to the powers of his day. And he's really good at it! So good, in fact, that when his opponents can't beat him in an argument, they drag him to court and trump up a bunch of false charges against him.

When my “Best” was Something Less

When my “Best” was Something Less

By Christina Crumbliss

I have long struggled with the passage with Ananias and Sapphira. In the midst of a miraculous movement during which believers are selling everything they have to give to the poor and share as anyone has need, Ananias and Sapphira enter and act in a way that is not pleasing to the Lord. Like those around them, they sell their property and bring the proceeds to the apostles. However, they hold back part of the money for themselves while acting as if they are actually giving everything they have. Dismayed, Peter asks, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? … You have not lied just to human beings but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). And with that Ananias just dies on the spot.  Sapphira enters shortly after with an identical outcome.

It takes a village. So where's the village?

It takes a village. So where's the village?

By Maureen Kasdorf

Twenty years ago Hilary Clinton popularized the proverb, It takes a village to raise a child.  If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the tasks in your life or the need for community, then you probably want a village. And if you've ever wanted a village and none have appeared then you are not alone. I have often wished for a village, usually when my plate is too full.

Praying Through

Praying Through

By Steve Akin

Let’s say you’ve been arrested and threatened for sharing the Truth.  Admittedly, it’s a weak threat.  It’s the Pharisaical version of “You better knock it off!”  But it is a threat that you need to take seriously and you have a choice as to how to respond.  This is where we find Peter and John in Acts 4:23-31.  They had the option to resort to groveling, hiding, or retiring, but instead, these men chose to fight back in an effective, yet unconventional way. They found their fellow believers and prayed to God with one voice, in one mind, and in accord with God’s will.

No Other Name

No Other Name

By Jen Akin

It was a bitterly cold day in January.  The kind where breathing hurts and fingers turn blue the instant they are exposed. My husband and I were “just friends” at the time and he was living with a group of guys in an apartment on the east side of Milwaukee.  One of his roommates needed to get to work and was out in the alley trying to start his Pontiac Grand Am with no success. Having exhausted all options, fingers numb, the car's owner drew on his deep Pentecostal roots. He suggested to his roommates that they all lay hands on the engine and pray.   Five twenty-something guys huddled around, each with one hand on the engine and the other in the air, calling on the name of Jesus.   The car started.   You might surmise some engine part thawed enough from the heat of their hands, or something clicked at just the right time.  But every last one of these guys will tell you it was Jesus.  This experience left them all elated and significantly humbled.

Mat Carriers Needed

Mat Carriers Needed

By Andrea Harris

Not long ago one of my piano students arrived at her lesson and clearly needed to tell me about her experience at her great-grandmother’s funeral the day before.  She related stories about her mother’s grandmother that she hadn’t heard before.  Commented on who cried at the service, how she was in quite a few of the pictures in the slide show, and how the family was comforted that grandma was now free of pain after living a long, full life.  At a time like that, the C major scale can wait!  I was thankful for the opportunity to listen and encourage her and that this student felt comfortable enough to share what was on her heart.  She wasn’t hiding it at all.

Now You Are Speaking My Language

Now You Are Speaking My Language

By Jen Akin

When our son Sam was two years old I took him to the pediatrician for his annual check-up.  He had a series of emergencies over the prior year due to significant asthma and allergies; so I entered the office anxious.  Beginning with a very routine question, the doctor asked him, “Where is Sam?”  He stared blankly at her.  She asked again and still, he didn’t respond.  Then she inquired, “Can you say Sam?”  His dimples in full bloom, he grinned, but I knew immediately he had no idea what she was asking.  Shocked, my heart sank as I realized that Sam was facing another hurdle.  Sam had a speech disorder.  One that impacted what he could communicate and what he could understand.

The Worst in Others Can Bring Out the Best in Us

The Worst in Others Can Bring Out the Best in Us

John Certalic-  www.caringforothers.org

In reading the first chapter of the Book of Acts, I find myself drawn to the Apostle Peter and two relational challenges he faced. It starts with Jesus abruptly returning to his home in heaven forty days after his resurrection. Imagine the sense of loss Peter and the others must have felt knowing their relationship with Jesus would never be the same. Most of us have experienced the painful loss of a relationship where an important person in our life leaves us for one reason or another. I can feel Peter’s hurt. Can you?

Life is short

Life is short

By Carol Becwar

I recently attended a 50th anniversary celebration. And I was in the wedding party in 1967! At age 13, life seemed long, and sometimes slow. But as the decades passed and life got more complex, my perspective changed drastically. Now when I look at old pictures, or observe my children as adults who are accustomed to the rat race of life, I know beyond any doubt that life is short and crazy fast.

Alone with God

Alone with God

By Bob Wolniak, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship

My first retreat experience came as somewhat of a surprise. I was a college student attending my first day of camp with hundreds of others my age, eagerly looking forward to spending time in worship, Bible study, making new friends, and deepening existing ones. Then we were told that for the next three hours there would be total silence in camp, and we were to spend that time alone with God. As an extrovert seemingly incapable of thinking without speaking, I nearly panicked! In spite of other instructions, I ended up wandering along trails in the forest in a daze. Eventually I sat down, took out a few pieces of paper, brushed some ants off, and began writing a prayer to God. To this day I still vividly recall this experience and its effect on the rest of my week—being more aware of God. In fact, it led me from that day forward to eagerly look for times of quiet to unplug and journal. Something I now cherish more than ever in a busy ministry role and increasingly full and frazzled schedule.

Limitations Are My Friends

Limitations Are My Friends

By Lee Heyward, brooklink.org

Several weeks ago I suffered a hamstring injury to my right leg. It’s nothing serious, just aggravating. My injury is a daily reminder that I’m over 60 now, not under 30. My doctor prescribed three things—restrict your activity level, rest your leg, and rehab. He smiled as I left, handed me a script and said, “This kind of injury usually takes 4-6 months to heal. Enjoy your summer!” How do you enjoy summer when you’ve just been directed to limit your summer?