First Fruits in Prestonwood Baptist Church Bookstore

 

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Sharing God’s Word just got a little better! This photo of the PBC Bookstore First Fruits display was a distant dream until this morning. Kelly Graham Flores, Bookstore Manager, notified me on Friday that I am the featured “Author of the Month” for August 2016. This is a new program instituted only a few months ago, and of which I was unaware.

On any given weekend, the average attendance for Saturday and Sunday services is about 20,000 members and visitors. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the prominent theme in all services, whether in English or En Espanol. There are two bookstores to encourage members to expand their study of God’s Word through different Bible translations, Bible study workbooks and Christian literature and devotionals such as First Fruits.

Humbled and honored, there is now greater opportunity for more seekers to take a look at First Fruits, and determine if it meets their needs for personal use or to give as a gift. It is available at most online bookstores and through Barnes and Noble, but I count First Fruits availability in my own PBC Bookstore as the high prize!

First Fruits was written to encourage readers to develop their relationship with Jesus Christ. Being led to write in the first person of God, my prayer was to “get me out of the way” so that God could speak directly to the seeker. Because I am also sharing the weekly precepts from First Fruits on my blog, it is evident from many comments that God is doing just that.

My prayer is that God would put First Fruits in the hands of those He wants to have it. For a variety of reasons, seekers who may not pick up a Bible to read will pick up a book like First Fruits. My desire is that God will transform our faith from passive to passionate, and our love from self-centered to God-centered. If you should need a new devotional for personal use or for gifts, I hope you will look for First Fruits in the Prestonwood Bookstore.

Looking Upward for THE WAY Forward,
Susan Butler

Sowing and Reaping

 

red sunset over golden harvest
                         Sowing and Reaping

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (NIV)

I attended a memorial service recently which put me on my knees before God. It was not for a family member or a child. It was for a friend, a minister who, like David, was “a man after God’s own heart.” For many years, we sat by each other in choir practice, so I got to know his audacious sense of humor and his extreme love for the Lord. Mike Fechner was a successful businessman and faithful Bible teacher who was called to full-time ministry at our church.

In 1995, Mike was led to begin H.I.S. BridgeBuilders in South Dallas. Their goal: “to bring about city transformation by building bridges of hope between the rich and the poor, the corporate CEO and the unemployed father, the private school student and the high school dropout, the doctor and the single mother—but most importantly between Jesus Christ and the unbeliever.”[1]

During his memorial service, numerous leaders spoke of Mike’s unwavering goal to reach “the least and the lost.” His desire ran deep and was infectious. Sowing seeds of kindness and inspiring people to reach for greater heights through following and serving the Lord—that was his spiritual gift. It was as if he stepped out of the confining jumpsuit of self-absorption and slipped on the soaring wings of freedom found in Christ. Mike sowed his seeds of love deep and wide, never considering the cost, and certainly not stopping to tally his reward. That reward came too soon for the thousands that loved him, but how we celebrate his Godly example.

You are probably familiar with Galatians 6:7–10 (NASB): “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap…” The Message says it this way: “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”

God is ready to do amazing work through all of us. It begins with prayer. Ask Him to give you an assignment for sowing eternal seeds. Get excited, because His purpose is beyond your wildest dreams!

[1] H.I.S. BridgeBuilders, mikefechner.com; www.hisbridgebuilders.org

Vive La France!

France national flag waving in the wind

LONG LIVE FRANCE …

When I saw the devastation of the Bastille Day celebration in Nice last Thursday evening, I began to softly sing France’s battle cry  … La Marseillaise, the French song of its warriors, written by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. This “song of the soldiers” which I learned in high school French class had been lying dormant in my mind until viewing this horrific scene on the beautiful Promenade des Anglais.

The massacre was a large-scale reminder of what happened in my own hometown of Dallas only a few days before … humanity running and screaming, and then some falling and bleeding – and then there were those not moving or seeing, as they took their last breath. This all, as a depraved individual mowed down the innocents with reckless abandon.

Evil massacres such as these leave us stunned, as we attempt to reconcile the age-old question “why.” The story which unfolds happens on different streets in different cities, has different terrorists and different victims; but it contains tragic sameness, and it is told all too often. What evil causes hatred to become so strong and powerful that even self-harm and death won’t quell the urge to kill? There is only one …

1 Peter 5:8-9 warns us “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brothers who are in the world.” To be clear, the devil is real – notice “evil” is inscribed in his name! Look at the verse again – the devil is always on the prowl for vulnerable people to do his bidding – those who are angry, tormented and afraid.

But there is a solution to this vulnerability. Read further to see that you can resist the devil by being firm in your faith. Ephesians 6:10-12 instructs “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, stand firm.”

“Take up the Full Armor of God” – Believe:

  1. God’s Word is Truth
  2. Salvation is Yours – His Son Jesus Christ died for You
  3. You are Righteous because of Christ
  4. His Gospel is Peace
  5. Act on your Faith
  6. Use God’s Word as your Sword – an instrument of LIFE (not death!)

Until we believe these instructions enough to share them with a world gone wrong with hatred and pride, we are all in danger. Let us all, like the song says, “Marchons, Marchons” – in LOVE (not battle).

“Now abide faith-hope-love, these 3, but the greatest of these is love.”

Mercy

Eraser changing the word Unforgivable for Forgivable   We need forgiveness ….

Depositphotos_54771087_s-2015    We need compassion …

God combines them to give us …

The word MERCY written in vintage letterpress type

When was the last time you cried  out for mercy? Was it for something you did or said—or possibly an attitude that had infected your disposition? Inherent in the plea for mercy is the need for forgiveness, and compassion the characteristic through which mercy is given. This concept is relatively easy for a parent to understand due to the limitless number of times mercy has to be administered during the rearing of a child. It is our best view of what God does when we miss the mark.

King David is a vivid example of God’s mercy in the Old Testament. He allowed pride, coveting, lust and murder to invade his mind, and then came the actions that left him pleading for mercy. David did what we all do to greater or lesser extents—he allowed his strengths to become his weaknesses. He had the ultimate power of his kingdom and all the respect, riches and pleasures that came with the title. Yet those entitlements became the very tools Satan used to bring David down. God had raised him up to be king, knowing all the time that David would fall short … because we all do.

Personalize this familiar passage from Psalm 51:1–17 in the New Living Translation:

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of Your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

David received God’s mercy, but God’s ultimate act of mercy came when He allowed His only Son to take the punishment for our sin and shame. Jesus’ blood became the mercy sacrifice that was necessary for our forgiveness and eternal salvation. Let us remember this sacrifice each time we need forgiveness and mercy.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14–16 (NIV)