Enjoying a Cup of Heavenly Coffee –

By: Judith Hargett

Two of my grandmas shared a home for many years. They kept a coffeepot on the stove most of the day. One of those non-electric, percolator types. I don’t know what time that coffeepot got put into service each morning, but it stood at the ready much of the day for that time when one of the grandmas, or an unsuspecting guest, was ready to sit a spell with a cup of some of the blackest coffee known to man. By the time the pot got put away in the evening you can be sure any remaining coffee would be strong enough to make a normally functioning person do a jig with plenty of high steppin’ moves and energy left over to keep them awake ‘til the roosters started crowing…though I never observed my grandmas performing any such activities. Their systems had apparently adjusted to the high doses of caffeine through the years. Or maybe the caffeine was absorbed by the hot peppers and turnip greens that were a big part of their diets. I concluded from my study of these two people that coffee could not be overly hazardous to your health as both grandmas lived past their 100th birthday. Some might say this conclusion has little scientific merit but it serves my purpose which is to continue enjoying my coffee without guilt each morning.

Now my grandma on the other side of the family tree drank her coffee from her saucer. I believe she poured the coffee out of her China cup into the saucer to cool it. As a child I didn’t question such behavior. I just accepted that’s how folks drank coffee in that house. This grandma also added lots of sugar and cream to her coffee which made it all the more appealing to the group of grandkids that lingered around her table after Sunday lunch like a litter of kittens hoping for a saucer of milk.

Still, I didn’t become a dedicated coffee drinker myself until I joined the Air Force. Coffee breaks were an important part of the workday schedule in my group. I soon realized it was much quicker to grab a cup of coffee than to brew a cup of tea. Important chitchat could be missed in the few extra seconds required to make the tea. A coffee pot has been one of the office “perks” in every job I’ve had since. I have shared many a cup with friends and family through the years.

Sadly, I just recently lost one of those friends I’d shared many cups of coffee with in years past. We had worked together for an oil company in Houston. He died early New Year’s morning when the car he was riding in was hit by someone who ran a red light…someone who’d had way too much alcohol to drink. My friend died at the scene, no doubt believing he had plenty of time left to visit his daughter who was on her way home from Japan, time to meet his son’s brand new baby daughter and time to spend with friends in the New Year. The e-mails he’d recently sent us sharing his latest jokes still sit in our in-box. Sometimes my coffee is seasoned with sorrow.

I believe the Scriptures make it clear that we will eat and drink real food in our resurrected bodies, just as Jesus did. I don’t know if coffee will be one of those beverages we will enjoy. Since God created us and He created food, He knows what will be pleasing to His family when we have our taste buds perfectly restored. But while we’re walking on this earth in our original bodies, we should remember this admonition from Paul to the Corinthians: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (I Cor 10:31).

Why not invite an unsaved friend to join you for a cup of their favorite inoffensive beverage and begin building a relationship with them so you might be able to share the Gospel with them. Then maybe one day you will be able to share a cup of heavenly coffee together.

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Moral Distress Scale

By: Stan Crader
I was thinking. Don’t act like that’s a surprise. It’s something I catch myself doing in between episodes of “Office” and “Outsourced.” The notion of a moral distress scale was pin balling around in my mind. A moral distress scale is when someone addresses the disequilibrium that results after avoiding an ethically appropriate behavior.
Healthcare professionals frequently deal with this conundrum. The question, is there a doctor in the house, is frequently met with those with the skills to help sinking low in their seats. Why?
Another example is when tempted to pick up a harmless looking hitchhiker but don’t do so. And then for the next few miles conjure up a long list of reasons for not offering assistance.
It didn’t used to be this way.
Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, “Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relationships, this creates an atmosphere of spiritual mediocrity that paralyzes man’s noblest impulses.” It seems we have reached a place where a person commits a spontaneous act of courage at his or her own risk.
Think about this, someone steals a gun, and during a subsequent criminal act uses the stolen weapon to shoot someone. The person from whom the gun was stolen could be held liable in civil court. Clear minds would hold that the shooter was responsible, but our legal system has made a sport of civil proceedings.
When I was growing up the playground equipment at the school was available all summer long. And if someone fell off the slide and needed stitches (me) they just ran home crying and their parents took them to the doctor. Now the swings are taken down and larger unmovable items are locked behind fences. What changed?
The moral distress scale concept is ludicrous. The fact that it exists is not a good sign. As individuals we can’t change the world, but we can be courageous and do the right thing.

Note: This blog was originally posted September 11, 2013 on Stan’s blog which can be found at http://www.stancrader.com.

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Window Cleaning and other non-New Year’s Resolutions-

By Judith Hargett

Greetings dear people. It has been a while since I’ve visited with you. After sending out dozens and then some more dozens of various forms of greeting cards in December, I had flatly used up my allotment of words for the year. My mental ink had run dry.

Today is January 6 and I have yet to break a New Year’s resolution. Admittedly, like the majority of the populace, I did not make any resolutions. I gave up resolution making many years back. If a resolution is not inspired by the Holy Spirit, or the IRS, it’s probably not likely to be kept. Since there’s no way to keep a secret from the Holy Spirit, or the IRS, I bear in mind this admonition given us in James 5:12: “Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘No,’ no, or you will be condemned.”

I sure don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. But if I were going to make a bold proclamation regarding this New Year, it might be something like: “I will not let dirty windows steal my joy.”

I am a great admirer of clean windows. Country living doesn’t seem to be overly compatible with this condition. Or, perhaps I’m just not a good window washer. Even when I think I’ve cleaned these glass aggravants, the sun soon proves me wrong. Still, the scene out our windows right now is very pleasant despite the inadequacy of my cleaning. Oh, and it would probably help if I’d clean my glasses while I’m at it. There are enough fingerprints on them to keep the FBI busy for a week. But back to our current outdoor scene. There is a thin white blanket of snow covering the ground with occasional sparkling flurries blowing around as if we’re in a snow globe. In fact when my inner ear gets out of whack I very much feel like I’m getting a good shake once in a while. The cardinals are adding a bright touch of red to the picture. Husband made sure the birds had plenty to eat in these frigid temperatures.

It is a great source of comfort knowing God looks at Believers through the eyes of His Son. Our many imperfections are covered like this pure white blanket of snow when we confess our sins and ask forgiveness. Read what The Lord tells the people of Judah in Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;…”

Wow. How wonderful the same thing applies to us today when we believe in Jesus! When the light shines on our lives, we should be reflecting Christ, not the worldly dirt that covers the windows of the unbeliever’s soul.

Well. It’s been nice visiting with you. Time to cook lunch. Husband requests healthy food for the next few weeks. His stomach rejoices at the idea. Mine panics and starts hoarding sugar. Fortunately, I have a supply of peanut patties made by my mother that will help ease me through this healthy-cooking time period. Oh, and by the way, you don’t need to share that last bit of information with my husband.

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Are you an Anthropomorphist?

By: Stan Crader

I sat down at my desk with the intention of adding a few words to my next novel, Approach The Bench. And then I saw a note to myself that I need to finish the family Christmas letter. While in the process of closing the file to my book and looking through my documents folder for the unfinished Christmas letter my eyes locked onto a book lying next to the keyboard. A.W. Tozer’s words were calling.

“What comes to mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us,” author A.W. Tozer once wrote. “The most portentous fact about any man is not what he, at a given time, may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

As you might guess, A.W. Tozer was a deep thinker whose writings seem to pose more questions than they answer, and those particular comments set me to thinking. You see, Tozer uses the infinitive omni words to describe God’s attributes – omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent – and to describe God using any other words is to anthropomorphize Him.

What’s anthromorphize? some of you may ask. I’ll be happy to tell you. Athropomorphism is the act of attributing human characteristics to something, especially a deity, like God. We humans tend to define things by relative comparison, but the problem with describing God is that His attributes simply have no comparison. His attributes are so infinite that our minds can’t comprehend them – but that doesn’t stop the anthropomorphist from anthropomorphizing.

And that brings me to another conundrum.

I think we are also defined by what comes into our minds when we think about Christmas. We’ve all heard the aphorism “It is better to give than to receive,” and while most of us try to embrace that concept, there’s always some Yahoo that will say receiving is plenty good and he’s just fine with letting others have the pleasure of giving. Poor deluded schmuck.

Or is he? Ponder this for a moment.

Is Christmas about giving or receiving?

“It’s about giving,” you say, and you’d be right. Christmas is the time of year that we catch up on our charitable gifts and give thought to what our loved ones and friends would appreciate receiving.  Most mature minds are focused on giving.  Only children (and the Yahoos) are focused on receiving. Right?

Not so fast there buckaroo, we’re not talking about Red Rider BB guns.

Christmas is the celebration of God’s gift of His son, Jesus, to the world.  So, for God, Christmas is about Giving.  For the rest of us, it’s about Receiving.

So, the next time you’re asked if Christmas is about giving or receiving, you can answer that it’s about receiving.  But unless you want to be called a Yahoo, you’ll probably have to explain.

Or if you find yourself at Christmas dinner, sitting at a table where no one is talking…ask the question yourself. It will most likely provoke many to think in way they haven’t been taught and the conversation will surely turn anthropomorphic. If, along the way, someone accuses you of being an anthromorphist, just smile and tell them it’s better than being a Yahoo.

Speaking of a Red Rider BB gun – this year marks the 30th anniversary of ‘A Christmas Story’.  It’s a great story on receiving, but not the right kind of receiving.  Ralphie does in fact nearly shoot out his eye.  And then there’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, it’s a story that depicts the right kind of receiving.  George gives and gives but in the end enjoys the biggest blessing when he receives.

I hope that your heart is filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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Some very practical discipleship questions

A resource from James Green (that was ripped off from someone who borrowed it from another guy!)

Paul Borthwick is a gifted speaker who has blessed the body here at Cape Bible Chapel a couple times in the past by sharing at our annual missions conferences.  In his book, Leading the Way, he shares twenty six “sample” questions that he borrowed from Gordon MacDonald (the former editor of Leadership Journal) and uses to facilitate discipling relationships.  I have used some or all of these questions as a jumping off point for almost every discipleship opportunity I have encountered since I became a Christ follower.

As we continue to be challenged to engage in making disciples who make disciples – take a look at this resource and see if a list like this would benefit you as you begin a new discipling relationship.  I would add that in my experience -I have sometimes added a 27th question; asking my disciplee, “Did you just lie to me as you answered any of these questions?!”

1. How is your relationship with God right now?
2. What have you read in the Bible in the past week?
3. What has God said to you in this reading?
4. Where do you find yourself resisting Him these days?
5. What specific things are you praying for in regard to yourself?
7. What are the specific tasks facing you right now that you consider incomplete?
8. What habits intimidate you?
9. What have you read in the secular press this week?
10. What general reading are you doing?
11. What have you done to play?
12. How are you doing with your spouse? Kids?
13. If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, state of spirit, state of energy level, what would the response be?
14. Are you sensing spiritual attacks from the enemy right now?
15. If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a person or as a servant of the Lord, how might he do it?
16. What is the state of your sexual perspective? Tempted? Dealing with fantasies? Entertainment?
17. Where are you financially right now? (things under control? under anxiety? in great debt?)
18. Are there any unresolved conflicts in your circle of relationships right now?
19. When was the last time you spent time with a good friend of your own gender?
20. What kind of time have you spent with anyone who is a non-Christian this month?
21. What challenges do you think you’re going to face in the coming week? Month?
22. What would you say are your fears at this present time?
23. Are you sleeping well?
24. What three things are you most thankful for?
25. Do you like yourself at this point in your pilgrimage?
26. What are your greatest confusions about your relationship with God?

 

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Think or Know?

By: Stan Crader

I like to fiddle with words. Fiddling helps me learn how best to use words, or use them most appropriately. Too often people use the wrong word and that’s the root of miscommunication. Lying is not the biggest problem, unintended obfuscation is. “What’s that?” you ask. Thanks for asking. I love it when people ask a question—answering a question instead of volunteering unsolicited information is always the best bet. Again, thanks for asking.

Someone once said that less is more, that someone probably wasn’t a banker or an IRS agent. Most people when asking a yes or no question don’t ask a yes or no question. For example – “Are you going to the game tonight? We are because my cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend’s first cousin knows the guy who works in the concession stand.” The asker simply wanted to know if the other person was going to the game, but they went on to qualify the reason for their going to the game and odds are the question never got answered and was followed up with – “Oh, when I was in high school I used to work in the concession stand.” And then the person who originally asked the question would respond. “Me too. I used to put too much salt in the popcorn and increase soda sales.” And the conversation would continue until their high school years were sufficiently embellished and relived. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer would have saved everyone a good deal of time and avoided exponential bloviating. That’s an example of less being more.

But that’s not my point. Try this experiment. Instead of asking someone, “What do you think about something?” Ask them, “What do you know about any given topic?” You’ll notice that the simple substitution of ‘know’ instead of ‘think’ will drastically change the tenor of the response. Why is that? Glad you asked.

 Thinking is essentially the act of forming thoughts based on knowledge. But you’ll notice how people will go on adnauseam about things which they know little about when asked what they think. But ask them what they know and you’ll turn a gadfly into a mute.  For example ask someone what they think about America’s founding fathers, the authors of the constitution. And the response will be much different than asking what they know. For example, ask how many of the constitution authors claimed to be Christian. (39 of 40) And ask who among the 40 suggested the deliberations begin each day with prayer. The answer is Benjamin Franklin, who by the way was likely a Deist.

 Another example is the separation of church and state. Ask people what they think about the separation of church and state and a lively discussion will follow. Ask what they know about the issue, if it’s actually in the constitution, and when it became such a hotly contested issue. Well, few will realize the issue didn’t get any significant media attention until halfway through the twentieth century and had more to do with kids riding a public bus to a private school than preachers telling a congregation how to vote.

 I’m reminded of a quote I read in the book Hoskilonians – “After all is said and done, more is usually said than done.” Say what you mean, and know what you mean, don’t obfuscate; that’s for the politicians.

 

 

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Brandon Beck’s testimony

A testimony from one of our Nehemiah Project interns this fall, Brandon Beck.

Every believer has a testimony – a story to tell of how God changed their life and brought Himself into their story. Some stories leave us weeping, some laughing, and some inspired. The same can be said about testimonies. Each one is unique in that there is no one like you and only you can tell your story. Testimonies although each unique, each share some things in common – the Gospel, which is God, our sin, His holiness, His Son, His grace, the Cross, the resurrection, His love, and His salvation. Notice the only thing that is our own and that we bring to the table is our sin. This is grace. That we have nothing to offer and nothing that is our own except our sin. All testimonies of Disciples of Christ share this. My testimony is no different. It consists of my sin and His grace.

            I am Brandon Beck, born in the depths of Butler County, and when I was 13 my family moved to Jackson. Up to this point in life my family hadn’t really attended church except for maybe a time or two a year. My mom grew up in the Church of Christ but had since abandoned her faith and my step dad, well he beat to his own drum. Moving to Jackson we lived right up the road from a small Baptist church and it wasn’t long before my mother, who was hungering for something more in life, started taking us to church. This was fine for me. Church was kind of boring, but there were guys my age that liked sports as much as I did. So we went, I heard the messages being preached and what I got from it was that God is good, Jesus died and rose again, and I can go to heaven if I believe in him. Seemed like a great deal for me. I go to heaven if  I repeated a prayer or said I believed in Jesus., where everything I loved was; including football, baseball, friends, and being surrounded by clouds.. I’m in! So I was baptized when I was 14, along with my mother. She knew and understood the concept of “her sin and His grace”. This was still foreign to me, though I believed myself to be a follower.

            Not knowing about my sin and His grace had its impact on my life growing up. I cared for few things, girls and trying to hook up with them, friends and drinking with them, and football. I sought pleasure in sin and things I desired most. I had dreams and aspirations of playing college ball and hopefully the NFL. I prayed every night for it. After high school I had a few small offers and decided to sign with a small school out of St. Charles. It wasn’t the Michigan’s or Mizzou’s that I had dreamed of, but I told myself it was a start. Then around July 4th of 2006, I was watching Fox news and they were talking to a group of young people and asking how many of them were going to enlist in the military. When only one or two raised their hands, something inside me said, Why not me? So two weeks later there I was being shipped off to infantry basic training. Basic changed me, both physically and mentally. It has those effects on people, and for me I learned a little about being a man. I learned about respect for authority, about pushing myself when I had nothing left, and about my responsibilities not only for myself but to others. These things I had never learned growing up. My stepfather was not much of a father and my biological father lived an hour away and had his own struggles in life to deal with. After that it was on to Germany to be in a mechanized infantry unit there. Going to Germany was great for a 19 year old who loved drinking, especially when the requirements of drinking in Germany were as simple as being able to see over the bar. So I spent the next year in Germany training and drinking with my new brothers before our unit was set to ship out to Iraq. I was excited to be doing something and finally to be using my training.  But God had other things in mind, and Iraq marked the beginning of a turn of events that God would use to bring me to Himself.

            I spent 14 months in Iraq and saw things that changed my outlook on life, and forced me to grow as a man. The city we were in was Sadr City, and at one time was labeled the most dangerous place on Earth. I saw death up close and personal for the first time, I was separated from the ones I cared for most, and I was in the middle of a war were people wanted me dead. And yet I never questioned my faith, always believed I was saved, but never really knew God. I could have easily died there in that city, without God’s grace ever coming to my life, and eternity would have been spent separated from him.

            After 14 months in Iraq, I was ready to go home, ready to leave that hot, dry and miserable place. With one month left on my tour, a fellow soldier mentioned some “muscles” I had in my neck. After having a doctor check it out, I found out that these were, in fact, not muscles.  They were lymph nodes. The doctor sent me immediately to fly out to Baghdad and from there I was sent back to Germany. There at the hospital after undergoing a biopsy I found out that I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer. I didn’t know what to think, I was then sent to Walter Reed Medical Center in D.C. for a month of preliminary treatment and then shipped home to begin my chemotherapy treatment. At first I was a little worried but the doctors assured me this was very treatable. They told me I would be spending the next 6 months or so at home, so I was happy – happy to be back home and catch up on all the time with family and friends that I had missed.  

After the chemotherapy started to get worse and I lost my hair and some weight, I started dating a girl. I found my identity in this girl because she made me feel good about myself. I felt ashamed of the way I looked and being sick and I had always prided myself in being in great shape and trying to look “good”. This relationship was unhealthy and sinful because I set this girl to be the God of my life from whom I derived my hope, my joy, and my sorrow when things weren’t going well. This was the sin that God would use to shower His grace on me. After finishing chemotherapy and getting orders to go to Fort Bliss, TX, I wanted her to go with me. So I asked her to marry me. I had to hold onto her and the identity I found in our relationship. We married and moved to Texas. After being there a short time, she realized that this wasn’t the life she wanted. Heading back to Missouri for a check-up she told me she was not returning to Texas with me. I was broken, but I tried as much as I could to hold on to our relationship. I said whatever it took for us to stay together, we agreed that I would finish out my last year in the Army and she would stay in Missouri. After a month of being apart, she told me she wanted a divorce.

            Being in Texas when she told me this, I was broken. Here was the person that I had made the God of my life and she no longer wanted to be in it. I was depressed, I hit the lowest point in my life and was alone, I thought. Through this God placed a couple people in my path who told me about the grace of God and how he had changed their stories. I started reading my bible, beginning in Matthew I began to get a picture of this Jesus that I had claimed all my life to be a follower of. It was in Matthew chapter 7 verse 21 that I finally realized that I didn’t know this Jesus who I claimed to follow. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” This was the first time that I realized my sin, how my whole life was controlled by this sin, and how there was nothing I could do to rid myself of it. My whole life I tried be a better person or do the right thing, but sin continued to rule my life. Furthering my reading in Matthew, I came across the grace of God for the first time. I saw this God who gave up his one and only son to die on the cross for my sin, to make it his own and bear the punishment that I was due. But he didn’t stop there, He rose him from death to give us hope for a future with Him. From this point on God worked in me, and I repented of my sin, and my life was changed forever. Jesus was now a part of my story. God changed my desires and my will. I was no longer unaware of his grace-I was now baptized in it.

            I soon found out that I was entering a new battle, not one with bullets and bombs, but a spiritual one. I would love to tell you that since my conversion everything in my life has been great, but as fellow Christians you know it doesn’t work like that. I still sin and God has rebuked me and restored me time and again. God has blessed me abundantly since then, I was fortunate enough for the last two years to play college football at SEMO, I will attending UMSL in the spring for the accelerated nursing school program, and I am a part of a committed body of believers at CBC where I am now a part of the Nehemiah project.

In the amazing events that took place in my life, I think it shows the depths that God had to go to get me to stop trusting in myself and trust in him. Iraq, cancer, chemo, and a failed marriage is what it took. My testimony looks different than a lot of peoples, but I believe in a lot of ways it’s the same as everyone else’s. I faced death in Iraq, but don’t we all face death in this life? I had cancer, but don’t we all have struggles and hardships in life that we can’t control? I had a failed marriage, but don’t we all sin and fall short of the glory of God? But by God’s grace he has defeated death and we have an eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can cast all our cares on him for he cares for us, and he will throw our sin as far as the east is from the west. God’s grace has an answer and is the answer for every person’s story. So I would encourage you as a believer in Christ and a fellow partaker of this same grace that was extended to me, to use your story to shine God’s grace on those who have never heard of it. No matter how small or insignificant you believe your testimony to be, God’s grace is the part that matters.    

 

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The G5 Event

From the Nehemiah Project

For those of you who do not know, on November 2nd, the Nehemiah guys and Cape Bible Chapel teamed up with the Salvation Army to throw the G5 Event!  The G5 Event was birthed out of anguish for the great needs of the South Cape community.  As a church we wanted to contribute to helping fulfill those needs and begin to build a greater relationship with the people that live there.  Through this event, we were able to serve a big Dexter BBQ lunch, have games and inflatables for kids, and live music performances for the community to listen to.  The event could not have gone better!  There were somewhere between 300-400 people that attended that day, which we believe is a huge win.  The community had fun, felt loved, and even got to hear the Gospel.  Our church body got to have a lot of intentional talks with folks and was able to start building good relationships with the community.  There were many people from South Cape that were very appreciative for the event and said that they felt loved by our service.  The Nehemiah guys would like to just give a huge thanks to all that helped out at the G5 Event.  Whether you donated your money, time, or prayers, we would like to say that we are very appreciative!  It was encouraging to see our church body gather and serve God’s children together.  The G5 Event was only the beginning of the impact our church wants to make on the Cape Girardeau community.  Thank you church for all of your support.  We are definitely planning on doing the G5 Event again in the future and would love for you to be a part of that as well. 

As a church we have to remember that this is just one event.  There were so many great things that God did at the G5 Event, but we believe He is calling us to do so much more.  We want to challenge us as a church to not forget about the South Cape community.  We must continue to pray, to love, and serve our city.  Why?  Because God loves them more than we good ever fathom.  God loves South Cape and wants His bride, the church, to help demonstrate His perfect love to them.  Cape Bible Chapel, let us be a church that stands up for the broken and the poor.  Let us not be a church that just throws an occasional event, but one that has giant heart for the community and loves them like Christ does. 

Thanks and much love,

The Nehemiah Guys (Joey, Jimmie, Pete, Austin, Brandon, and Corey)

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Austin Evan’s testimony

Austin’s Testimony

By Austin Evans, a Nehemiah Project Intern

I came to college at Southeast in 2009 not knowing the Lord. I’d been enrolled at the University of Missouri S&T for months, and the week before Southeast closed enrollment for the year I transferred because I liked the focus of the environmental science program here more than S&T. The decision impacted the rest of my life, and I wonder if I’d be saved had I stayed at S&T. But it’s easy to see now that God never intended for me to go there, and good thing because I’d have never met the people God put in my life here in Cape to be His messengers.

I was a normal person before knowing the Lord. You wouldn’t have been surprised in any way. Morals guided my life. Dreams drove it, and I was a slave to them. I had dreams of a good science career, good money, and a good family and I figured that was enough. I didn’t know there was anything different. Most of us know that life as the American Dream, and that’s a boring life. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is where things got interesting because since then He’s guided me to places I’d have never gone, for reasons I’d have never imagined, to meet people I wouldn’t want to live without. God’s fruit in my life in the past two years looks like one summer in Tampa, Florida with Campus Outreach and the next in Khon Kaen, Thailand with people I met in Tampa of course. His fruit includes a lot of dawn breaking and night owl discipleship groups, and raising $6,000 of support through His church to send me to Thailand. He’s blessed me with friendships in the Church that are priceless, such as the Senior Adult Sunday school class, and also with those my own age who are more than I deserve.

It’s also been a few years of experiencing God’s fatherhood, and that means a lot too because it’s not a full life without some spiritual spankings, pain, heartbreak, and frustration. In my last year of college I still wanted to go right to graduate school and get a nice job out west after that, and in my heart I was unwilling to be too far from my family in Ava, Missouri. (Near Branson, and no I don’t act, dance or sing.) He lovingly, slowly, and painfully, changed my heart about those things, and others. I blew my chance at graduate school for that year because of late applications and poor studying for the standardized test (I’m glad now). Through His words of “Follow Me” when calling Levi to Himself, I realized that following Jesus was worth even abandoning my family. And I never wanted to be an overseas missionary, even for a short term, but that’s what He wanted, and my desires soon followed. He put people in my life who I never thought I could love, and showed me how to love them. He put a person in my life who I thought I could love for the rest of my life and He closed the door. He’s let me taste some of the bitter consequences of my sin, and through it showed me my foolishness and renewed an urgency to abide in His greatness.

My relationship with Him has given me greater joy, sadness, peace, uncertainty, and surprises than the American Dream would ever have, and that’s in only a few years. That’s living fully. His works through things like the Nehemiah Project only continue to amaze me how He could bless me with such a wonderful opportunity to know Him and His people, and I can’t do anything but praise His goodness for that. But my life looks nothing like what I thought it would’ve if you had asked me a few years ago, and I like that. I know many of you can say the same, and it reminds me of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 7:14 – “In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider – God has made the one as well as the other so that man will not discover anything that will be after him.” God promises a full and adventurous life. He hasn’t let me down so far.

In love,

Austin

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You Can’t Disciple a Cat –

By: Judith Hargett

I opened the front door just as the perpetrator was leaving the scene of the crime.  Or, more likely the feline perp was leaving because I opened the door.  She wore a mangy brindle coat and sported an attitude that reeked of irritation at the interruption of her plan.  My guess is that a tasty breakfast was the intended outcome of the chase that had led to the destruction that was now spread out before me.   A large wooden birdhouse, built to look like a church, lay atop a plant that had not fared well from this escapade.  Pieces of broken coleus were scattered about the crime scene confirming my suspicion that plants find a way to perish under my care with our without my assistance.

I suspect the birdhouse, which sits by our front door, is a sanctuary for the occasional mouse that happens by with a desire for respite from the elements.  In fact, it would be a great spot for an entire mouse family to spend the winter; though eviction would be fast and possibly fatal should such presence be detected.   I’m not afraid of mice, but the front door is a little too close for comfort; so if not for the broken plant, I would have praised the predacious cat.

Just a few days later yet another feline was making a racket outside our front door.  It was snarling and hissing and generally making a terrible fuss.  I cautiously opened the door expecting to find a couple of grown tomcats about to engage in mortal combat.  Instead, I found one tiny calico kitten sitting on the step as if waiting to come in the house.  Apparently she (calicos are usually female) was hungry and very upset that mom wasn’t around to provide breakfast.  I went in search of a pan for milk, wondering how husband would react to my provision of organic milk for a stray cat.  He thinks cats are put on earth for the primary purpose of keeping the rodent population in check, not for being pets.  I knew, however, that he had a soft spot for calico cats and this one had a feisty spirit.

But when I returned with the pan of milk, the kitten was gone.  I could hear her in the neighbor’s yard howling for her mother.  I threw a sweater over my pajamas and tiptoed out into the morning darkness, a row of curlers scattered across my head like a rooster’s comb, and hoped all our neighbors were in their home sound asleep.  I couldn’t find the kitten then, but she came back that night and the next morning again crying loudly.  Husband followed the cries to her temporary hiding place under the grill cover on the patio, but she flew past him when discovered…obviously not weak from hunger.   Husband had agreed that if we could catch calico kitten, he would be willing to take her to the vet for all the necessary care.  I began imagining how comforting it would be to stroke the little creature as she purred contentedly in my lap on a cold, rainy day; but the kitten has not returned.  If she survives, she will be wild…never realizing what a pleasant life she might have had under our care.

Husband points out that people who have never been told about Christ and the plan of salvation are much like this cat.  They go through life in survival mode never realizing the blessings they are missing.  They don’t realize the opportunity they have for eternal salvation and the comfort of knowing they are under God’s protection as is written in Proverbs 1:33: “But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” And in 1Peter 3:13, “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?”

I am convicted, having shown more concern for the welfare of this kitten than for some of the unsaved around me.  Would I be willing to face the possible embarrassment of chasing a lost soul through the neighborhood so I could offer that person the only food that truly satisfies…the living Word of God?  So, it would be good for me to remember: cats can’t be discipled but humans can.  Oh, and please don’t drop off stray kittens at our house.  Husband claims this was a one-time offer, applying only to this little calico kitty.

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