Joining a New Church

It has been suggested that adults make upwards of 35,000 decisions each day. Some decisions are trivial while others can be life altering. One decision my wife and I made this year has already proved to be life changing: our decision to join Valley Forge Baptist (VFB).

When Krystal and I moved from Philadelphia to Collegeville, the plan didn’t include leaving our church home. At the time, we were working in Philadelphia and it was just the two of us. We were happily serving at our church, where we had formed close bonds and friendships. However, after four years, two children, and a series of job changes, the realities of our changing life structure became increasingly difficult to maintain. So, after much prayer, we realized some adjustments had to be made that would require us to make some tough decisions.

For months we mulled over the pros and cons of various scenarios, but there was no denying the difficulty of any of the propositions. Nevertheless, after much prayer, thoughtful consideration, and wise counsel, we decided to move closer to my job, which was out of state. In the interim, we would join a local church near our current home until we moved. However, just as Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps,” God had a different plan for us. The plan led us to stay in Collegeville and find our new place of worship there as well.

For a Christian, finding a new church home and becoming a member there can seem daunting and disconcerting. This is especially true when other significant life changes such as moving into a new home or neighborhood are thrown into the mix. During the process, questions arise: How will my (previous) church family and leadership feel about our leaving? Will we feel “at home,” “safe,” or “connected” in our new church? Will the kids like it? Will we find a good church where we can serve God? All these very valid questions can be overwhelming. But thank God, He hasn’t left us to make these decisions alone.

So how does a Christian effectively transition into a new church home? Well, every situation is different, and while the Bible hasn’t laid out a step-by-step process, there are some pragmatic steps we followed—through the leading of the Holy Spirit—that led us to our new home at VFB.

 

Consider your options

There are a lot of churches out there. Not all are created equal and not all are what they appear to be (in name, practice, or belief). For us it was important to identify a few churches within our community that: (1) aligned with sound, fundamental biblical beliefs; (2) provided a place for spiritual growth; and (3) could nurture our growing family so that we could be effective servants in the Kingdom of God. Using those fundamental principles, we visited (i.e., evaluated) several churches in the area.

Each church we visited was unique and delivered a variation of each of our core principles. However, VFB not only met our expectations, it exceeded them. VFB is a Bible-believing, preaching, and teaching church that challenged our thinking and daily living. Furthermore, we encountered a strong presence of families in every life stage that truly seemed to be vital and well nourished.
 

Commune with members

Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” The very first time we visited VFB, we were embraced by various members with such warmth and love; it was reminiscent of our previous church. This was critical.

Over a few months, we participated in several church activities outside of Sunday worship services. Those activities included adult Bible fellowship classes and a couples retreat, and our children attended school at the VFB academy. During this time of fellowship, we found the members at VFB to be a consistent and true demonstration of VFB’s moniker, “the caring church.”

 

Connect with leadership

John Maxwell, a prolific teacher on leadership, once said; “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.” Nowadays with social media, just about anybody can call himself or herself a leader simply because of having a few hundred followers on Twitter. For a modern-day preacher, that wouldn’t be abnormal. But what we noticed with the leadership at VFB (i.e., Pastor Scott Wendal and his associate pastoral staff) was an army of several hundred believers representing various cultures, nations, and life experiences actively following the leadership. And even with that reality, Pastor Wendal and the pastoral staff sought us out to connect with us directly.

Whether through a text or email message or through the Sunday message, each associate pastor, with Pastor Wendal leading the way, aligned his preaching with his leading. In other words, there was a true sense of “practice what you preach” going on here. That formed the basis for the connection we desired and have today.

 

Commit to membership

This last “checkbox” would seem like the most obvious to check, but I think it’s worth mentioning because some Christians just don’t do it. Because Krystal and I were leaving a church to join VFB, we felt compelled to speak with the pastor who had watched over us for so many years. We wanted to talk with him about our decision and seek his blessings. After we completed this critical step, we professed our desire to join VFB to Pastor Wendal and the entire VFB church body. Now we are happy and active members at VFB and so excited to see how God will use us here.

The Year That Changed My Life

If someone were to ask, “What has been a life-changing experience for you?” what would you say? When I think of various experiences I’ve had in my life, one of the most life-changing for me was the opportunity to be a missionary teacher in Uganda, which was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

From August 2013 to December 2014, I lived and taught right in the heart of Africa in the beautiful country of Uganda, the “Pearl of Africa.” I taught in a Christian school for the local African children in the busy and growing suburbs of Kampala, the capital city. To summarize, here are three specific areas of my life that were greatly affected by my African adventure.

Friendships

One of the greatest blessings was developing lifelong friendships with the Ugandan people. My heart became knit with theirs. As a single American lady (and the only American teacher in the school), many times I needed assistance, and God always provided the right person to come alongside me, whether that was a companion for security, a car mechanic, a fellow teacher, or just a friend. I love the following quote by Miriam Adeney: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” I call Uganda my “African home” because it is, and it always will be. I still communicate with my friends and students, and since I left a few years ago, I’ve actually been able to go back and visit three times. What a joy it’s been to see my students grow and to continue investing in my friendships! To know that you have friends on the other side of the world loving and praying for you is a wonderful gift.

Faith

Living in a third-world country will automatically strengthen your faith, and there were several specific instances in which I needed to trust God more than I ever had before. I remember leaving my passport at immigration (to wait for them to approve my visa) and watching the secretary just put it haphazardly into the huge pile of other passports; I wondered if I would ever see it again. Driving on the “wrong” side of the road was an experience in itself, as was riding on a taxi-motorcycle weaving in and out of crazy, impossible-to-describe traffic. Being on constant alert because of thieves also was something I had to get used to, as well as living inside a compound with high walls and a locked gate.

My faith also grew as I saw God continually provide specific help for me. Countless stories of people just “showing up” when I really needed them will always humble me. One of the stories I love to tell was when Dr. Ian Clarke, an Irishman who was the mayor of Kampala and the founder of the International Hospital Kampala (IHK), just “happened” to be across the street from where I was involved in a car accident and had hit my head. He was able to attend to me right away and give me peace of mind while people swarmed around me. That, my friends, was just one of the stories I could tell you that helped grow my faith.

Focus

When we stop to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and see how they live, it changes our perspective. Our world needs hope. Whether people live in America, Europe, Asia, or Africa, they are all seeking hope. Lasting, eternal hope can only be found in Jesus Christ. Yes, I was there to teach my students math, English, and other subjects, but my most important reason for living in Uganda was to teach my students about Jesus, because He came to earth to die for the people of the whole world, including them. I wanted them to truly know how much Jesus loves them, and that He has an exciting plan for their lives. Living in Uganda challenged me to stay focused on serving Christ and to show His love to those around me, because that’s truly what matters most. Living in Uganda changed my focus on how I view the world. It’s a big world out there, but at the same time it’s also small. I encourage you to consider visiting different countries and experience different cultures. Believe me, you will never be the same.

The Power of Hope

On February 9, 2011, Dave Davis walked into the hospital for a “routine” diverticulitis surgery. Three surgeries later, he was taken to a hospital near Philadelphia. Infection began to seize his body. After Dave had spent 13 days in a coma, on a ventilator, and his kidneys were failing, the doctors gave his wife, Ellen, virtually no hope. But 80 days later, Dave walked out of the hospital!

The first miracle occurred when God raised Dave from his deathbed. As hard as his team of doctors had tried, humanly speaking, nothing short of a miracle was going to help. Family and friends from all over the world began to pray for Dave. A missionary friend informed Dave and Ellen that churches in China were praying for Dave’s recovery. Friends from Australia to Africa and beyond were praying, as were friends from all over the United States. Dave and Ellen’s church, Valley Forge Baptist, organized a 24-hour prayer vigil through which people signed up for 15-minute segments to pray. Around the world, 24 hours per day, people were praying to ask God to touch Dave’s life.

God had to intervene. Miraculously, He did! Ellen waited by Dave’s bedside while many extremely stressful days passed. Then on March 22, Dave awoke from his coma! By mid-April, Dave was sent to Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital to learn how to walk, eat, and take care of himself.

Shortly thereafter, Dave’s kidney doctor told him to prepare for a life with permanent kidney dialysis. Once again, friends began to pray. On May 2, the second miracle occurred. Dave went for more dialysis, and before his appointment, he underwent some tests to check his kidney levels. As Dave waited for the dialysis session to begin, a nurse came out to the waiting room. In tears, the nurse hugged Dave and said; “It’s a miracle. You don’t need dialysis anymore. You can go home!” Dave was completely off kidney dialysis!

Hope is wonderful! We hope for lots of things. Kids hope for a new toy. Teens hope to be liked or accepted. College students hope to pass the next exam. Young professionals hope to get the next great job that pays well, allows flexibility, and gives opportunity to make a difference in the world. Parents-to-be hope for a healthy child. Grandparents hope for good health and care for their later years. Hope is both personal and shared.

If you “google” the word “hope,” you will find 154,000,000 results.

Merriam Webster defines ”hope” as: trust, reliance

Desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment, as in came in hopes of seeing you; also: expectation of fulfillment or success, as in no hope of a cure, when they were young and full of hope; b: someone or something on which hopes are centered, as in our only hope for victory; c: something desired or hoped for.

Expect, hope, look mean to await some occurrence or outcome. expect implies a high degree of certainty and usually involves the idea of preparing or envisioning (expects to be finished by Tuesday). hope implies little certainty but suggests confidence or assurance in the possibility that what one desires or longs for will happen.

What do you hope for? What expectations do you have? Dave was hopeful for healing, and God gave a miracle.

The most powerful story of hope and miracle ever recorded is given in Matthew 28:1–10.

1In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

“The central event of that climax, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is also the central event of God’s redemptive history. The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and everything that we are and have and hope to be is predicated on its reality. There would be no Christianity if there were no resurrection. The message of Scripture has always been a message of resurrection hope, a message that death is not the end for those who belong to God.” —John MacArthur.

The words from the angel in verses 6 and 7 especially stand out. “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead…” Come, see! Go and tell!

Come and see! Hope for you. This is personal; this is for you and me. Hope has become reality! Jesus Christ has overcome death; therefore, all who believe in Him also overcome death and live with Him forever in Heaven.

Go and tell! This is the gospel message that Christians take to the world! Jesus lives, and because He lives all who believe in Him for salvation live also! Truly, this is “Joy to the World!” Believers have the privilege and responsibility to share this joy and tell the good news about Jesus’ resurrection.

Two Greek words are given for hope in the New Testament. Elpis is an expectation or confidence, and its verb form, elpizo, is the act of expecting or trusting. The biblical definition of hope has nothing to do with a personal wish or vague desire. Rather, our hope is an absolute assurance. We are to have unwavering confidence in Jesus, who is our hope, as we patiently wait for His return.

Dave and Ellen had hope and patiently expected God to answer their prayers and the prayers of others on their behalf. They are very grateful for all of the prayers of co-workers, friends, and family. They are forever thankful for the care they received from the great team at Bryn Mawr Hospital and Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital. God worked through human hands to spare Dave’s life. You, too, can experience God’s miracle in your life by placing your faith and trust in His Son, Jesus.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” Romans 10:13.

Hope is powerful! What a message to receive and to tell! Join us Easter Sunday—come, see, and hear as Dave leads our choir and orchestra in presenting beautiful songs of the resurrection, and witness even more miracles of changed lives at Valley Forge Baptist.

Beyond Repair

I grew up in a home where both of my parents professed their belief that Jesus Christ is their personal savior. From the time I was a young child, I attended an Episcopal church with my parents every Sunday. I was always told that I was a “good kid.” I didn’t get into the kind of trouble that others around me did. I continued attending church each week through my teenage years and up until the time of college. I looked the part of a Christian and talked the part of a Christian. I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, but I would spend little time during the week outside of church thinking about God.

When I wasn’t around people in my church, I would have a more worldly approach to how I interacted with people. My friends at high school probably didn’t really know I was a Christian. I would go to parties where there was alcohol, I used foul language on a daily basis, and I started hanging out in places that weren’t the best. I had become very adept at changing my outward appearance to suit the particular situation.

While attending the University of Pittsburgh, I met my future wife, Jill. She and I continued dating throughout college until we graduated. At school I was partying, drinking, and participating in a lot of worldly endeavors. The partying continued even as I moved back to the Philadelphia area and began my career.

Jill and I had become very serious throughout the years and had plans of getting married after we graduated. Finally, three years after graduation from college, we were married. We had lived a very worldly life. Our thoughts were filled with trying to gain material wealth in order to provide a good living for a family that we planned on having in the future. However, we were hanging out with the wrong crowd, going to clubs on the weekend and drinking more heavily. We even had times where we would go out separately for a guys’ or girls’ night out. This was a recipe for disaster in our marriage.

At this point we had our first child, Devon. Jill and I were going through a very tough time in our marriage due to wrong choices we had made. I realized that I had strayed far from the Lord and found that past sins were now coming back to haunt me with a vengeance. The trust that we had in our marriage was almost broken beyond repair. We were separated for a short time and headed for divorce. The funny thing is that before everything came to a head, Jill and I knew that something was very wrong in our marriage. We both felt the need to begin looking for and attending a church on a regular basis.

God was leading us during these tough times. The Lord finally led us to Valley Forge Baptist. It was during a sermon that Pastor Wendal was preaching when he presented salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ that I raised my hand at the invitation. I knew I didn’t want to continue down the road I was on, and I remember feeling so broken and unworthy, almost to the point of despair. Pastor Wendal spoke of knowing where a person would spend eternity and that by trusting in Jesus Christ and asking Him to be your personal savior, you could go to heaven. I knew the path I was on before I accepted Christ that day was surely leading to eternal separation from God.

But as always, God had a plan. Jill accepted Christ shortly after I did. We then began counseling at the church with Pastor Eifert. He took the time to show us, from the Bible, how a marriage truly is supposed to function, how a man and wife and children are to function with God as the center and focus of their lives. Looking back on our lives thus far, I believe that even with all of the sins we committed, God never turned His back on us and led us to want to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You see, only God can make so much of the good things of life from all of the pain I created from my sins.

I cannot begin to express how much of a difference Jesus has made in our lives. There was a point where we weren’t even sure if our marriage would make it another month. Now we have, with God’s help, put our marriage back together…stronger than it was before. Is it perfect? I will be the first to tell you, “No it is not.” However, we have seen God do amazing things in not only our lives but the lives of our children. Yes, after all of that pain God has even blessed us with another child, Rylan. How remarkable is God that He put back together something we thought was completely broken beyond repair. To God be the glory!

 

By Ryan Fitzpatrick
Church Member | Valley Forge Baptist

The Family Juggle

Marlon and Desiree Grant have been able to make life simple by adhering to certain big, important priorities. Desiree says, “If the big, important things are a constant, when the peripheral things careen out of control, we don’t crumble as a family.” What are their “big, important things”?

Desiree’s husband, Marlon, a Jamaican immigrant, grew up in Philadelphia. At age 40 his priorities are clear: God, family, church—in that order. He has fond memories of when his grandmother took him and his cousins to church—every service, every church activity. His parents divorced when he was 14, so for Marlon, making “family” a priority is not negotiable. This highly motivated Temple University graduate worked a trail of odd jobs to achieve a bachelor’s degree in psychology. During that time he returned to the church of his youth to renew his commitment to God.

Outgoing, bubbly Desiree, born and raised in Philadelphia as well, is four years Marlon’s junior. She scolded Marlon after his first Sunday service back at the church for not seeking her out to say hello. That conversation sparked this couple’s “ever after” story. Their four-year dating journey taught them the strength and value of maintaining relationships selflessly. Desiree renewed her commitment to God following her stormy teen years. Their shared desire? Love God and have a loving family.

Tears flow freely as Desiree shares that when she when floundering, Marlon asked her about her dreams for the future. Her dream was to become a nurse, but she thought “only smart people became nurses,” and that would not be a reality for her. What she lacked in confidence, Marlon made up for in encouragement. He drove her right over to register for classes. He said she just needed to get started with one class. With each college course she completed, Desiree gained confidence and saw her dream gradually become a reality. She’s now a pediatric nurse at a nearby hospital. Desiree recently cut her hours to part time when the youngest child entered K4; Desiree wanted to be home for the children when they returned after school. She is mother to “little mommy” Kaela, 12; Kenneth, 11, who is introverted and athletic; the love bug, Keith, 7; Kynnedy, 6, extrovert extraordinaire; and little Kingston, 5, who is his daddy all over.

TEAMWORK best describes the Grants’ approach to, well, everything. If their life were represented by a wheel, God/Family/Church would be the hub. Marlon leads the routine, rising at 5 a.m. to meet with God first to order his day, then gets the children up and fed. Desiree, who “sleeps in” until 6 a.m. each day, finishes getting the children ready and off to school. Family is a “big, important thing” in the Grant home. Marlon opted for an alternating split shift so that he could spend more time with the family. He works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., comes home to spend time with the family, then returns to work from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Desiree starts dinner as all the kids gather around the table for homework time after school.

If you were to drop in for the Grants’ bedtime routine, you’d find Marlon leading the family in time around the Scriptures. Their family practice, now that the kids are older, is for each child to journal this special time. Desiree prefers the quietness of the evening for time with God after the children are asleep.

Because Sunday worship is one of the “big, important things,” this family of seven rises at 6:15 a.m. to get ready for worship. Marlon insists on making a big breakfast for the family every Sunday morning. He says that one of his odd jobs during college paid off big time when he learned to cook; Desiree puts the finishing touches on the feast. Why go to all that trouble? Because worship and church are “big, important things.”

To fan the flame of their 16-year marriage, Marlon and Desiree invest creatively—another “big, important thing”—by loving “along the way.” It’s so simple…so powerful. They have a little dry-erase board in the master bath that reads, “I love you because ____________.” They take turns filling in the blank, writing love messages back and forth. Desiree’s favorite “date” is to order takeout after they put the children to bed. No babysitter needed!

Marlon recently finished an 18-month nursing program, which meant he had to spend two nights a week and every other weekend in furthering his education. Desiree tracked the countdown to his graduation with fervency as she temporarily carried the heavier load in the family. Only God gets you through those times when the entire family pulls together for the success of one of its members, Desiree states matter-of-factly. She wanted to encourage Marlon the same way he’d supported her years earlier. Marlon is now a case manager at a nearby hospital.

One dream Marlon and Desiree shared early on was to adopt children. They opted to become foster parents while Desiree was in college. Tilting her head back and breathing out a sigh, Desiree recounts five crazy years of social worker home inspections and checkups with placement of six foster children. It was a constant stream of occupational, speech, and physical therapy sessions, doctor appointments, caseworker visits, and evaluation dates. Desiree was not to be seen without her “mommy” bag of fun and snacks for the remaining four small children in tow. It was all worth it to them, as two of the Grants’ five children are adopted, a dream come true.

Each child makes an equally precious contribution to the Grant home. Chores are assigned just as equally, as everyone shares in the load. Again, the family uses a team approach. How do Marlon and Desiree find quality time for all five children? They love their children “along the way” as well. Whichever parent runs an errand, he or she always has a child along for some much-desired one-on-one time, even if it’s just a quick run to the store for milk. The Grants keep a tight rein on peripheral activities to ensure that the “big, important things” are being supported. The boys are in the same community sport, so the family is not pulled in two different directions. If practices or games interfere with worship on Sunday or Wednesday, guess which activity gets the priority? Yes, church. Why? It’s simple—because worship is one of the “big, important things.”

Your family may be much smaller than the Grants’, perhaps your children are grown, or you may even be single. Even so, the Grant family’s philosophy of a well-balanced life can translate to every household the same: simply love God and family—first.

Twice Liberated

Growing up in Poland in the 1970s and ’80s meant that my family and I lived under the oppression of the Soviet Union and its communist rule. It meant facing arrest and interrogation when expressing one’s negative opinion of the government. It also meant long lines for food, which was becoming scarce as the Soviet military surrounded and controlled access to each Polish city.

Polish citizens lived under martial law, which meant no one was allowed to leave his or her town without the government’s permission. Fear reigned as officials made unannounced home checks, taking away those who posed a threat to the regime. Neighbor spied on neighbor, and people everywhere looked over their shoulders, fearful of what might happen to them.

As a child, I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. I saw them fill out endless permission forms just to visit family who lived in another town. I heard them talk of neighbors who were taken away by the government, never to be heard from again.

I grew up among a people whose personal freedoms of happiness, free speech, and a prosperous future were taken away. As a result, many escaped to other countries in the hope of leading a free life. My parents and I count ourselves fortunate to be among those people. We escaped to West Germany and after a time were accepted as political refugees to the United States.

It wasn’t until living here in America that I experienced true physical freedom. I finally could go where I wanted, say what I pleased, go to a store and have a myriad of choices in the things I purchased. Why, then, was I such a sad and unhappy person? Why, down deep inside, was I still so insecure and scared? Wasn’t I finally set free?

One of my friends in high school shared with me about his faith in Jesus. I never had heard anyone talk about Jesus as his or her friend. When I was growing up, church and God were more sources of oppression. I knew of no one, aside from my friend, who had a deep and personal relationship with Christ. Through my friend’s consistent efforts in sharing his faith and even his showing me a movie depicting how Christ was made fun of in secular music, God began to chisel away at my hardened, distrustful heart.

Exposure to God’s goodness made me more aware of my sin. It is tempting to stay with what we know, though; I could have said, yes, I am a sinner, so what? But I am glad I didn’t. I made the decision to give my life, my heart, my trust to a merciful, loving (and very patient) God. I found myself kneeling on the floor, crying, asking God to forgive my sins! In July 1991, I asked Jesus Christ to become my Lord and Savior.

While I embrace the freedoms of my adopted country, the knowledge that I belong to God, that He holds me in His hand and nothing can snatch me away from Him, gives me a liberty far above what any worldly government or institution could ever provide.


God loves you
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Everyone is a sinner
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

Sin has a price that must be paid
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Jesus Christ died to pay your price
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Pray and ask Jesus to be your Saviour
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:13

From Fear to Faith

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36

I was raised in a dysfunctional family with a father who was addicted to alcohol. I lived in fear of him and eventually everything and everyone else. In school, I became a target for bullies. My family attended a Catholic church, but the idea that anyone was more powerful than my dad was lost on me.

By the time I was an adult I had given up on God. I traveled down many roads (and made some bad decisions) to try to find happiness and spent 10 years in counseling in an effort to come to terms with my troubled childhood.

Every road led to more emptiness.

In the summer of 2012, I was an unemployed single mother with no direction when I was invited to attend the Reformers Unanimous program one Friday night at Valley Forge Baptist. It was there that I heard about God in a different way than I had before. As I listened, I heard the words forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. I heard about the saving grace of Jesus Christ. I heard that I could be free from addiction and from the guilt and shame of my past.

At first, this seemed too good to be true… but was it? Was this the answer to my lifelong search for contentment? I had nothing left to lose, so I answered the knocking I sensed within me and opened the door of my heart to the Lord. I experienced an instant peace and my soul found rest.

What I had been trying to satisfy was a spiritual void that wasn’t being filled by anything the world offered.

After that first night, when I accepted Christ’s forgiveness and received salvation, my life would never be the same. Within just one year God gave me a new job and then the love of my life, whom I married in October 2013 in a beautiful ceremony. Some people might call this a lifestyle change, but I call it a miracle.

Nineteenth-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.”

……………………

Article by Emily Myers

 

Seasons of Life

Did you find yourself this winter standing inside your house by the window, gazing out at the endless white and wishing for the vivid hues of yellow, orange, blue, green, etc. to envelop your senses? For those of you who may struggle with seasonal allergies, you may resoundingly say “NO!” For the rest of us, we’re shouting “Bring it on!”

I’m not sure about you, but during this winter our household experienced the highs and lows of the season. On the first significant snow day, my children were ecstatic to be able to stay home from school and rush out to play in the beautiful winter wonderland.

Snow is truly amazing. Did any of you experience the blue hue after shoveling that wet snow? I did, and I thought for sure my eyes were playing tricks on me, until I saw the report on the news and heard the explanation. I couldn’t help but think that God is an awesome Creator. My kids especially loved building snow forts, sledding, and sipping hot chocolate after a fun day of playing in the white stuff.

Fast forward a few snowstorms and repeated days off from school when I helped the kids in and out of snow paraphernalia, and soon the beauty started to fade for me as well as the kids. Happiness turned to complaining. We had to deliberately choose to focus on the good things in order to squelch our discontented attitudes.

It’s never easy to choose to change your negative thinking. However, I’m glad I have the Lord to help me focus on what’s real and to be thankful for it. In our home, we’ve had things to be thankful for such as daylight saving time, spring break that’s filled with fun activities, SPRING, and also Easter! My son keeps asking, “When is spring coming?” I have to smile, because isn’t it just like our human nature to want to rush along the seasons so that we can quickly get to the next one?

Have you ever felt that way as a mom? Do you wish your kids would just grow up? I think if we were all honest with ourselves, we all might be guilty of thinking that thought a time or two (or twenty). However, when I catch myself thinking that way, I’m reminded of some dear, wise older ladies at church who remind me to cherish these moments. How right they are with their sage advice. I need to enjoy these “Seasons in Life” as a mom and realize that it’s all right to look forward to the next season as long as it doesn’t get me griping over where I am in life.

So for now, we’re enjoying the winter season but are eagerly looking forward to the spring season and the new life that will blossom before our very eyes. We’re also looking forward to celebrating Easter and the resurrection of our Lord, for He alone is the giver of seasons and also new life in Him!

 

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Article by Tara Titus

Changed


MitchArmed
C.H. Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Many people have read or know about my testimony tract, “Armed and Dangerous.”  I have printed 72,000 of them, and a number of people also have printed them.  In 2006, The Fellowship Tract League, in Ohio distributed the story to 30 different countries around the world.

To multiply and distribute the testimony of our daily lives is exactly what Jesus Christ wants us to do when we turn our hearts in faith to Him for salvation (John 3:7). Then He receives glory through our lives as we live in obedience to His written Word. The picture is in John 6:1-13, when Jesus feeds 5,000.  When the lad gave his lunch to Jesus, He took the loaves and fishes, gave thanks, broke them, and told His disciples to distribute the food among many, many, many people, and they were all satisfied.  Jesus will do the same with us when we place our lives in His hands.

Besides living a life of crime, violence, drugs and alcohol, and going to prison eight times as well as overdosing on illegal drugs eight times, I had some real opportunities in life.  In high school, I was a pitcher on the baseball team.  I even turned down a meeting with a scout.  I then went on to play tennis in high school, as well as in college.  I dropped out of college to tour the USTA-Penn professional tennis satellite circuit in 1978.  Within a couple of years, I began racing motorcycles, and within 13 weeks, I turned expert/pro in the 500cc Open Pro Motocross.  Several years later, I started a business as a certified chimney sweep and quickly moved up in the world of success. I was highlighted in Entrepreneur Magazine and Consumer’s Digest, in an article titled “How to Make $200.00 a Day, $1000.00 a Week in Your Spare Time” (1988).

I share these things to explain that I have worked, lived, played, and toured with some big events and famous people, some of whom are those that are only read about or seen on TV.  But the truth is, nothing I did lasted, and I was always empty.

Today I am clean, sober, saved, and happy.  Emptiness has been replaced with fulfillment.  I have peace, satisfaction, and contentment inside that is beyond understanding and description.  I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

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Article by Mitch Zajac