Designed to Pray: New Book by Kellly O’Dell Stanley

Written for the creative heart, Designed to Pray is an interactive, 8-week devotional on creative ways to engage with God.

Kelly Stanley’s casual and fascinating style opens her reader’s eyes to new ways of connecting with God through prayer.

This book would appeal to the right-brained, artsy reader, but would greatly benefit anyone desiring to pray more and pray more effectively.designed-to-pray-cover-666x999

Each week offers a situation that may arise as we begin to pray, whether it’s fear, or a desire for increased faith, or how to intercede for others. Then, each day of that week Kelly shares ways to overcome or prevail in the situation.

She uses unique ways of working through the prayers and the week’s situation. Some of those ways include filling in the blanks, creating key chain prayers, filling in the root system on a family tree and using a color palette as a reminder of certain prayers offered for certain people.

This is a great book to use in your family devotion and in your own personal prayer life. I highly recommend it to my family and friends.

Jesus Trumps Washington ~ A Guest Post by John Hambrick

I am pleased to feature a guest post by Christian author and speaker, John Hambrick. Thank you for sharing this timely message. To read more about John, be sure to check out his website.

Jesus Trumps Washington

by John Hambrick

There are a thousand different ways to move toward the mess because there are a thousand different ways that spiritual, moral, and physical chaos impact our lives. The mess that is currently on our country’s front burner is in our nation’s capitol. The inauguration of Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, has ushered in an era of polarization not seen for generations. Political commentators say they’ve never seen anything like it. Some of us are gleeful with the anticipation that a Washington outsider is finally going to “make America great again.” Others of us are horrified. How is it possible that a seemingly unprincipled reality TV star has been unleashed on the White House? The people who create political drama for television are hard-pressed to write something more intriguing than the plot unfolding before our eyes on Fox News and CNN.

As these political hopes and fears fly back and forth over the Internet, there’s both an amazing opportunity and a dangerous temptation facing us Christians. The temptation is simply this. It would be easy to allow our voice to melt into the roar either for or against Donald Trump. We could just add more volume to the angry and fearful rhetoric that’s coming from both sides of the political fence. To settle for this would be to miss an important chance to demonstrate the relevancy and credibility of our faith. It would be a failure to move toward our political mess in a redemptive way.

Then there’s the opportunity before us. It’s significant. It’s available to Christians who are for Donald Trump. It’s available to Christians who are appalled that he’s in office. And it doesn’t have much to do with our political platform. It has everything to do with the tone we bring to the discussion. It’s not so much about what we say. It’s about how we say it. We have a chance to move our country’s political discourse away from the harsh adversarial tone that is sapping our strength. We can model a more reasonable approach. This is no small thing. We’ve watched an ugly, angry political polarization pretty much paralyze Congress. We have a chance to demonstrate a better way to work together. Employing this collaborative tone constitutes a unique way to be the salt and light Jesus mentions in Matthew 5. Whether Trump is an unqualified success or an unmitigated disaster, it’s an opportunity to serve our country well.

There are 3 things that need to be in place for this distinctive tone to gain some traction among American Christians. First of all, we have to be clear that our hope is based on Jesus, not on the President. Of course we all hope that the decisions a President makes will impact our lives positively. But to expect those decisions to give us the life we’ve always hoped for is to ask more of the Presidency than it’s capable of delivering. The President just isn’t powerful enough to guarantee that kind of future. Fortunately, God is.

And the good news is that God is in charge. Someday He will make all things as they should be. When we’re clear on that, the desperation that fuels the angry political rhetoric begins to diminish. The pressure starts to ease up. The hope we have in God will not be eclipsed by a successful Trump presidency. Neither will it be lost should Trump’s presidency crash and burn. Simply put, Jesus trumps Washington, regardless of who’s in the White House. So we can take a deep breath and relax. Maybe the next 4 years will be wonderful. Maybe they’ll be awful. But the Kingdom of God is not in trouble. And so neither are we.

The second thing required to be political salt and light is a refusal to allow our political differences to divide us. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no division among you . . . “ (NIV)

Paul is asking us to avoid divisions. But how is that possible? We don’t agree about who’s fit to be the President. We have different ideas about our country’s foreign policy. And we’re not on the same page about global warming. So what on earth can we agree about?  Well, for the past two thousand years Christians have agreed that Jesus is Lord. And that is exactly where Paul wants us to land. Jesus is the basis for Paul’s appeal regarding unity.

If we are united at the core of our faith, we can escape being divided by all those things, like politics, that are on the periphery of our faith. This doesn’t mean we have to agree politically. It means we have to allow our faith in Christ to hold us together when we bump into these troublesome political differences. If the body of Christ can model a respectful unity in the midst of political diversity, that could make a big difference. And by the way, this is not some sort of unicorns and rainbows appeal to hold hands and sing campfire songs together.  This is a gritty, tactical necessity.

Here’s the thing. Benjamin Franklin said, “If we don’t hang together we will surely hang separately.” He was talking about a defense against one of the most effective political and military strategies ever devised. It consists of a brutally simple agenda, “Divide and conquer.” So, while we haggle with each other and turn each other into enemies, our real enemies are quietly making progress. When we are consumed by fighting with each other, we have little energy left to creatively and effectively counter those forces in the world (both spiritual and political) that seek our destruction. It turns out that unity is a necessity if we are going to survive.

Washington hasn’t done a great job lately with this idea of unity. It’s not that they’re fiddling while Rome burns. It’s worse than that. They can’t even agree on what kind of violin to use. Our country needs to pull together, regardless of who’s President. Christians can lead the way. It’s kind of a big deal.

Finally, our opportunity to be political salt and light requires us to stay in the game. This is particularly hard because this last political campaign was so nasty. At times it sounded like fifth graders shouting crude insults at each other on the playground. Understandably, many Christians are on the verge of saying, “I’m done with politics.” If you’re one of those, please don’t go. We need you. Our country needs you.

The point is this; we can’t be political salt and light if we’re not involved politically. If we take the hope we have in Jesus Christ and withdraw into some sort of holy huddle we will have very little impact on the world. Jesus anticipated our temptation to check out. That’s why He insisted that we not put our light under a bowl but rather let it shine so everybody can see it. (Matthew 5:14-15) The world can’t see your light if it only shines on the inside of a Christian community. To follow Jesus requires getting involved in a very messy world. But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He moved toward the mess. And there is no mess like a political mess.

So get out there! Read. Listen. Discuss. Vote. Allow God to give you some passion about the issues facing our country. But remember where our hope lies. And remember that unity is a treasure we can’t afford to lose. These next four years might be wonderful or they might be a nightmare. But either way, wouldn’t it be amazing if our fellow citizens said, “We don’t agree with you on everything, but we’re sure glad you Christians are involved. You’re helping make this a better country.” That’s the opportunity that lies before us. It’s worth our best effort.

john-hambrickJohn Hambrick is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church (the urban campus of North Point Community Church). His experience in Pakistan, London, South Africa, and inner-city Los Angeles has given him a unique perspective on what God is doing in the world. He is author of Move Toward the Mess. John and his wife, Patty, have two children and reside in Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s time for a GIVE AWAY!!!  For everyone who posts a comment beginning today, 1/26/17 at 9:00 a.m. EST, thru 1/28/17 at 6:00 p.m. EST, your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a FREE COPY of John’s new book, Move Toward the Mess!!!!  The WINNER will be announced on 1/29/2017 at 2:00 p.m. EST right here on Created to Climb. YES, you read that right, A FREE COPY OF JOHN’S NEW BOOK. If youmove-toward-the-mess want to know more about the book, click here to read my review.

 

Move Toward the Mess: A Review by Carla Pollard

Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Sometimes we must take an inward look to change our outward perspective. The Bible instructs us to examine ourselves through the lens of God’s word and in unity with his Spirit. It’s easy to do what we’ve always done. But doing what we’ve always done can become routine. And, let’s face it, routine is boring.

The Spirit-filled (led) life is far from boring. Look at Jesus. He was driven into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted of the Devil. That’s not boring. As he walked from town to town, Jesus was interrupted by Pharisees wanting to question him, by the sick desiring healing, by the demon-possessed needing deliverance, and by the hungry needing food, needing more of God. Not boring.

Jesus got his hands and feet dirty. Jesus didn’t insulate himself from the messiness of this world. He didn’t mind dealing with messy people. That’s what his ministry was all about. Our Great Physician said, “It’s the sick who need the doctor.”

If you sense your Christian experience is becoming a little routine, a little mundane, take an inward look and ask God to help you break out of the ordinary and begin to live an extraordinary life for Him.

In Move Toward the Mess, a new book by John Hambrick who serves in leadershipmove-toward-the-mess at the Buckhead Campus of North Point Community Church, challenges his readers to catch a fresh vision for God. He leads his reader to examine every aspect of their Christianity. He demonstrates the necessity to look closely at how we do church, what motivates us, where we see Jesus working and where we don’t see Jesus working.

Move Toward the Mess, a phrase coined by John Hambrick, opens the curtain that veils our eyes from seeing Jesus moving amidst messy lives. It is our judgmental views and prejudices that block us from becoming tools of grace in God’s hands.

“It took me a long time to realize that grace was more important than my observations about someone else’s life” (John Hambrick, Page 44).

John Hambrick reminds us God so loved the world, he moved toward the mess by sending his son to live among us and die for us. He didn’t draw back in judgement, but moved toward us in grace.

Move Toward the Mess gives us examples of modern-day disciples making a difference for Jesus, by not getting bogged down in routine church-ianity, but by moving in faith. Some minister in Africa; some leave corporate jobs to house the homeless; some start pulling prostitutes off the street. The point is, we shouldn’t be afraid of what God may ask. When we listen to his call, no matter how messy the circumstances, he meets us there. Living a Spirit-led life will never be boring and, through the mess, we find purpose and fulfillment.

“Moving toward the mess is not about leaving your job or staying at your job. It’s about being able to articulate how your life is connected to what God is doing in the world” (John Hambrick, page 166).

Move Toward the Mess is about following Jesus out into the fields of this world and building his kingdom one messy soul at a time.

This book is challenging to the comfortable. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the mess I was in when some gracious soul helped me and pointed me to Jesus. I don’t agree with every word of Move Toward the Mess, but I do agree with the heart of its message which I shared in this review.

This book is a great book for those who are bored with their Christianity and are seeking ways to better impact this world for Jesus.

***I’m pleased to announce that Created to Climb Ministries will be hosting a guest post by John Hambrick. We will also be giving away one free copy of Move Toward the Mess. Be sure and watch for the announcements. ***

Where is My Beloved? ~Carla Pollard

“All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves” SOS 3:1-2 (NIV).

Two and half years ago, I stepped on a plane headed for Fortaleza, Brazil. The inner-city is held hostage by drugs, crime and poverty. The trip reached far outside my comfort zone. But I went with a purpose. That purpose was to make a difference for Jesus.img_1074img_1108

My heart has been burdened for quite a while with the idea that time is short. Jesus is coming soon and I need to “be about my father’s business.” I shared this burden with a dear friend. She understood and was also burdened to reach out in some practical ways to help others in the name of Jesus. Together, we’ve collected, packed and delivered school supplies for under-privileged children. Over the holidays, her daughter felt this burden and approached her church about helping the homeless. So together we purchased, packed and delivered hot soup, gloves, socks and Bibles for the homeless. Although our efforts would be considered small in light of the great needs around us, I believeministry-program-collage Jesus sees our hearts and actions and is pleased with our willingness to follow him.

The Song of Songs is one book of the Bible that has always intrigued me. I’ve read it over and over. It is the ultimate love story. The passages switch between the voice of the bridegroom, the bride and the bridal party (friends). They speak of each other as my beloved and my lover.

Through the often-poetic pros I began to see a picture emerge of Jesus and his church, especially his church today. The Song of Songs reads of a bride awaiting the arrival of her bridegroom, lying on her bed of comforts. He tries the door of her bed chamber only to find it latched. He’s sweaty and out of breath and he calls for her to open the door. The bride says, “I’m cleaned and ready for bed. I’ve washed my feet and hands and anointed my head. Should I rise up and open the door only to get all dirty again?” The bridegroom reaches his hand through the small crack in the door and pulls at the latch. Unable to open it, he calls for his lover.

When the bride sees his hand and hears his cry, she rises and rushes to unlatch the door. As she touches it, she realizes it’s dripping with the myrrh. Did this represent the sweet presence of her lover? Was this an anointing for her to follow him? Could it have represented his impending death? Or, did it represent her death to comforts? I don’t know, but she swings open the door to find her lover has gone.

The bride begins her search. Rushing out into the streets and through squares. “Have you seen my beloved?” “Do you know where he has gone?” Finally, she finds him there.

Some believers today have gotten too comfortable in their Christianity. They are washed and don’t want to get their hands and feet dirty. They are nestled, snug within the four walls of their sanctuary neglecting the cries of the lost in the streets and squares.

If we could visit churches throughout America this morning, I believe we would find a comfortable bride going about her weekly duties, much without her bridegroom.

If we could walk the streets throughout America this morning, I believe we would find a bridegroom pleading with his bride to open the door, to rush out and follow him.

With so much preaching about how God wants to bless us and give us the desires of our hearts. I’m afraid we’ve grown too religiously comfortable and have missed our Jesus in the streets, with his hands and feet in the grime, lifting destitute souls to his side.

That’s his calling for us. That’s his purpose for us. To spread the Good News far and wide. To take up our cross and follow him.

I know I’m not the only one God has disturbed with the undisturbed church. I’m not the only one God is rousing out of her comfort zone. I see a restlessness beginning in the hearts of his people. A restlessness for more of Jesus. A restlessness to follow hard after to him. To search for his presence. To call out, “Have you seen my beloved?” “Do you know where he has gone?”

This morning, a dear friend stepped away from his family and business. He’s headed to the other side of the world. Not for pleasure, but for Jesus. He wants to carry God’s message of love and forgiveness to those less fortunate in hopes of making a difference in God’s kingdom.

I’m thankful for those whose hearts are moved to reach beyond the borders of the United States. I’m thankful for my time in Fortaleza, Brazil. I was deeply affected by that journey. It was eye-opening to see how people live in other countries. We are extremely blessed in this country. So much so I believe we take it for granted.

But we don’t have to fly to another part of the world to find our mission field.

It’s right here.

We find it in our subdivisions, apartment complexes, farming communities.

It’s right here.

We find it on our jobs, in the marketplace, on our Facebook pages.

There are souls that need help. There are souls that need Jesus.

Unlatch the door to your heart. Lay aside your comforts. Rush out into your streets and squares.

Help others to know Jesus is here. Jesus is alive. Jesus saves.

Touch others today with open-hands, ministering to the physical, as well as the spiritual, needs of the homeless, the powerless, the broken.

Jesus called us to love our neighbors. Please don’t sidestep his call like the Pharisees. “Who is our neighbor?” They are our neighbors.

Love (action word) them, In Jesus’ Name.

Pay Attention to Who Matters When ~ Carla Pollard

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,” Philippians 2:3 (NIV).

Sitting in our favorite breakfast café, our conversation hit a lull so I seized the opportunity and reached for my Smartphone. While my husband momentarily focused on his pancakes I focused on my social media. I was anxious to scroll through the posts of each new participant in my Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study small Facebook group. The group was firing up for a new study and I was anxious to get to know every one of them.smartphone

Engrossed in the posts I barely heard my husband sigh as he looked up from his meal. My eyes glanced his way and I caught the brief but penetrating look of discouragement on his face.

I did it again. Continue reading “Pay Attention to Who Matters When ~ Carla Pollard”