Tithing: A Testimony

Nightlight Series: God's faithfulness  

My parents raised me in a tithing household.  I remember my Dad putting checks into the golden tithe plates at Trinity Church in Montreal, Quebec.  As a young girl, I thought that these gold plates were brought to the God’s kitchen table in heaven once service ended- He would need his dishes for lunch, after all. I didn’t understand tithing, but I witnessed it from an early age.   

As a teenager, I began working as a babysitter for families in our church. My parents encouraged me to dedicate some of this money to the Lord by tithing to our local church.  My older sister also modeled giving behavior by suggesting that we sponsor a child through Compassion International (a FANTASTIC idea for teen siblings to do).  My sister and I continued sponsoring this child into our “poor, starving” college years (which was a great reminder that we were neither poor nor starving). By the time I was an adult, the culture of tithing was so second nature to me, that I barely registered when someone gave me advice on tithing that would change my life.   

It was the winter of 2012 and my fiance, Josh and I were planning a wedding, honeymoon, and massive move from New York to Florida. So many well-wishers were advising us that I barely acknowledged when my future mother-in-law gave this profound guidance: “Just make sure you tithe. I promise you will ALWAYS be provided for.” 

To the unbeliever, this may sound insane.  It sounds trite, like a fortune cookie, or a tea-towel proverb. To me, a Christian since childhood, it seemed like a no-brainer. Of COURSE, I would tithe. It was a part of my faith, my family, my whole culture. Why wouldn’t I tithe?  

Little did I know….  

Fast forward to July 2012: Josh and I had entrusted ALL our worldly possessions to a moving company so we could travel to Florida unencumbered and search for our first apartment. We found our apartment and sent the address to the moving company. On move-in day, we were shocked to see a massive refrigeration truck pull up in front of our new home. Inside the truck, squished between three or four other family’s belongings, were some of the things we had packed.  
Apparently, our moving company had sold our contract repeatedly to various moving companies for more profit. In the process, they had broken, stolen, or misplaced most of our furniture, many keepsakes, and several of our wedding gifts.  These damages, coupled with the fact that my job didn’t start until the school year did (two months later), meant that Josh and I had to do without several household items. 

Then Josh got pneumonia. Our health insurance was in limbo since neither of our jobs had started yet. We didn’t have any income (again-jobs) and we didn’t have a PCP yet.  We were rapidly burning through our savings and had no idea how we would afford an inevitable and costly trip to the emergency room. Soon after our first trip to the ER, we returned home to discover that we weren’t alone in our new home. We had several hundred unwelcome guests. Little, cockroach-sized guests. We were stuck in a bug-infested dwelling without even a couch to sit on or the means to call a competent exterminator. Then, to top everything else off, I soon received notice that my first payment toward my graduate school loans was due. Awesome.   

At least we had the church 

Throughout these trials, Josh and I were searching for our new church. As we visited church after church, the sermon themes remained the same: tithe. Tithe. TITHE.  
I remember feeling annoyed. Why were these churches so fixated on money? Our church “back home” didn’t talk about tithing. We just did it. Or at least I did. Here we were struggling in an unfamiliar place with the first real trials of our adult lives and the churches we visited seemed to only care about what was in our pockets.  These churches appeared cold, unwelcoming, and greedy. The last thing I wanted to do was given to them- not that we had anything to offer.  

Despite this awful attitude, I couldn’t get my mother-in-law’s words of wisdom out of my head:  

“Tithe, and you will always be provided for.”  

I knew I needed provision. I needed it in a way I had never needed it before. But how could I give? How much could I give? And who was I going to give it to?  

Growing up in the church, I had heard the adage that tithe should be 10% of your income dedicated to your local church (God’s house).  In selfishness, I began thinking to myself, “Fine. BUT since we don’t have an income or a church right now, we don’t have to tithe.”  My sinful nature kept me from wanting to tithe. My feeble excuses seemed like justifiable rationalizations for not tithing.  Yet, try as I might, I just couldn't seem to provide for myself with 100% of "my" money.

I see now, that the Lord was working. He was reminding me to tithe with my mother-in-law's advise. He was pointing me towards Himself with each trial and circumstance. However, while the Lord worked on my heart and continued to remind me to tithe, I started to hear another "voice"  countering Him and telling me lies. This voice said: “You’re in debt because of student loans. God doesn’t like debt. You need to get out of debt before you even think about tithing.”  

I had never thought this way before. It seemed so spiritual and yet twisted.  I knew that tactic. It was familiar to me from Bible stories I had read all my life. There was only one character in the Bible who consistently took God’s Word and distorted it to suit his own needs.  The author of lies, the deceiver, the enemy of God: Satan.  

Now, I am not a “the devil is in the doily” kind of person. I don’t believe Satan was speaking directly to me. But I do believe in both God and Satan. I know spiritual warfare is real.  I also know that the Holy Spirit was saying that I shouldn't give because I was a sinful debtor was a lie and not from the Father.   

So, what does one do when the enemy throws his darts of twisted Scripture interpretations at a believer in an effort to get her to sin?  The answer is obvious: Do what Jesus did (see Matthew 4).  

I went directly to the Bible to see what God had to say about tithing.   

what does god say about tithing?

One of the first passages I came to when I looked up “tithing” was the story of the widow’s offering in the temple (Mark 12: 41-44, ESV):  

The Widow's Offering
41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[f] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

WOW!  This story combated many false rationalizations I had about tithing. The widow gave when there was nothing to offer. She gave 100% of what she had. She completely trusted God with not only her finances but her very existence.  I had been looking at tithe all wrong. Tithing had nothing to do with money and everything to do with my relationship with God. 

I kept reading and discovered more truths from God’s Word: 
1)    God doesn’t need my money.   
 He is the God of the universe. He created everything in it and therefore is the wealthiest being in existence. Furthermore, the Bible itself speaks of the riches of God. In Psalm 50:10, God affirms this by stating that he owns “every beast of the forest” and “the cattle on a thousand hills.” 
He is not in need of my meager offerings. So why does he ask for it?   
The answer is obedience.  As I read further God kept bringing me back to the same verse: 

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice…”  -1 Samuel 15: 22 (NIV)  

This verse brought me to my second discovery:  

2)  God is less concerned with the amount I tithe and more concerned with my obedience to Him.   
God wasn’t impressed with the rich people’s lavish offerings at the temple. He wasn’t impressed with Saul’s offering in Samuel 15.  He was impressed with the penny that the widow gave.  She was obedient. Trusting in God entirely and doing what He asked of her even when it was hard. The hefty gifts of the rich and Saul’s impatient offering were for show, for the praise of man. Additionally, they didn’t give what God asked for; they didn’t obey Him or listen to His voice.  

God calls Christians to obedience in tithing.  While this may mean that God asks a person to give 10% of his or her income (the historical offering outlined in Deuteronomy), God may call a person to give a different amount. This concept was terrifying to me because I realized that God might call me to offer more than 10%. After all, the widow gave everything she had.  How would I live if I lived like that? 

I found the answer to this question in my third discovery about tithing:  

3)  God has promised me provision if I tithe- He says I can test him in this.  
My mother-in-law was right (as she often is).  The Scriptures show that God promises provision to the one who tithes. In fact, God backs up his promise by stating that this is the one thing that we can test Him on:  

 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”    

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)  

WOW. Again. WOW!  What happens when we bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (aka God’s house)?  God promises to throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessings!

Ummm…. Yes, please!  

This verse blew me away. I had heard it countless times before, but it had never “sunk in” until I was faced with the choice to withhold my tithe. Here it was, in black and white, 9-point font: God’s promise to provide and take care of me if I trusted him and obeyed. Or in other words, “tithe, and you will always be provided for.” 
Finally, I understood:  

4)  God wants me to TRUST him. 
My search for God’s Word on tithing put an abrupt stop to the false assumption that I didn’t have anything to give- I did. It didn’t matter that money was tight or that I had debts to pay. God was calling me to tithe. I knew that God wanted me to trust him with 100% of my finances- not merely 10%. I knew that His call to tithe a portion of my income was not because He or some “greedy” church needed it. It was simply an act of faith and obedience. He asked me to do something, and that should be all the reason I needed to do it.   

God’s Provision

Josh and I prayed. We asked God what he would have us give, and then we gave it.  
Our lives changed dramatically.   

If you are expecting me to say we won the lottery or become millionaires on the stock market, I’m sorry to disappoint. That is not the point of tithing, and it is a twisting of God’s Word. Tithing doesn’t mean you will get rich; it means God will provide.  
And He did. In many unexpected ways.   

Josh and I survived the summer of 2012.  We gave to our church and never once went without paying a bill, buying groceries, or meeting an unplanned expense. Josh was blessed with a new job (with benefits) and later transferred to an even better job.  I worked throughout our marriage offering duel income support.  We began rapidly paying off our debt using the snowball method.* Finally, we paid off the last of my student loans, my car payment, and shredded all of our non-essential credit cards. Josh and I were debt free, and we had tithed the whole way through.

Now, six years later, I sit in my second apartment, back in New York. I am surrounded by bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, and miles of packing tape as we prepare to move into our first house. As I look around, I see God’s provision in so many ways. We are comfortable, clothed, and well fed. We have replaced every single belonging that we lost in our first big move.  We have a down payment for a house, and we are both happily employed.  God is good! 

Hindsight is 20/20

I believe God allowed financial, physical, and spiritual struggles early in my adult life to point me towards Him. God doesn’t make “bad things” happen, but He does allow trials in a Christian’s life to develop his or her character and hope.  I see this in one of my favorite Bible verses: 

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” 

Romans 5:3-5 English Standard Version (ESV)

This word has certainly been true in my life.  My reaction to hardship, trials, and financial pressure has been changed and shaped through the lesson of learning to tithe. I no longer try to hold on to my money, but see my tithes and offerings as the non-negotiable expenses in my life (we will eat PB &J and Top Ramen before we will stop tithing). Today, as I prepare to spend more money than I ever have on a new home, I laugh at the enemy’s feeble attempt to keep me from tithing.  

I hear the subtle whisper: “wouldn’t this be easier if…” 
And the Holy Spirit shuts it down: 
“No, it wouldn’t. God will provide.” 

These days, when the car needs a repair, when the bills are due, or when the bank calls to tell us about yet another hidden fee in the lengthy process of buying a home, Josh and I can laugh.  We don’t worry about the days to come. We know we will be provided for.    






*Snowball Method- i.e., pay off your smallest debt first while paying the minimum payment on remaining debts. Once the lowest debt is paid, add the amount you were paying on the low debt to the amount you are spending on the next smallest debt, etc.  I highly recommend resources like Dave Ramsey or Hey Howard to anyone interested in getting out of debt. 

Nightlight: Blessing of Peace

A Personal Testimony by Barbara Clausen Abare

She looked nervous when she came into the room; not like the others with their concerned looks and their pasted-on façades of calm.

“You don’t know me,” she said, wringing her hands and stepping closer, “I am not authorized to come in here and I could get into trouble coming to talk to you. I’ve been fighting it, but ever since I saw you, I knew it was you I’m supposed to see.”

I stood up, expectant and confused. I was on the verge of panic as the initial numbness of the shock was beginning to wear off. My two co-workers in the room with me had been trying to get me to understand what was happening; trying to gauge if I could handle it. They looked on as I stepped toward the young woman.

It was sinking in what being in the Family Room of the hospital meant; the room in which they put you when a loved one is dying. I had received the call at around 3:30 that Sunday afternoon at our house in Florida. I was packing. My husband, Will, and I were supposed to drive to New York that very day, but Will had insisted on doing one last job that would delay us by a week. I couldn’t wait to get back to New York where all of our family was. The call came from Will’s phone. I heard a commotion and then I was cut off. My phone immediately rang again with a strange number showing in the window. It was a neighbor of the house where Will was working that day cutting tree limbs. She was a nurse.

“There’s been an accident,” she said. “They’re taking Will to the hospital in the ambulance right now. He fell off the ladder.”

“He’s okay, right?” I questioned, holding my breath.

“They are taking really good care of him. He’s on his way. You have to get to the hospital.”

I did not know how serious this was, but I dropped everything, got into the car and drove. I was thinking that he must have broken some bones or ribs or something. I knew we should have left for New York that day. I was going to chastise him big time! I would let him heal and then hogtie him if I had to and throw him into the truck to take him to New York. I already had it planned.

I began to suspect something worse than broken bones as the neighbor kept calling me on my cell phone to make sure I was okay and could drive. She said she was meeting me at the hospital with another neighbor who was also a nurse. Her tone was making me very afraid, but I didn’t dare ask details about his condition until I got there.

My panic level was rising when I finally found the Emergency Department at the hospital. I asked the nurse at the desk if he was okay. Her face was unreadable. She said he had just come in and was undergoing tests and evaluations. She told me to wait in the waiting room.

I obeyed. I waited and paced for what seemed a long time. Finally, the hospital clergy came to me with some generic religion I didn’t know. I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. I told him that Jesus was my help. I think I confused him or offended him, but he went to see what was happening for me. When he came back, his face was calm and kind, but his voice was saying things like, “Very serious… In trauma… Doing everything they can... Lost a lot of blood… Doctor will be out soon to talk to you.” He may as well have been speaking a foreign language. I heard the words but they did not translate to my understanding.

“Do you want me to stay with you?” He asked.

“No. Please don’t.” I didn’t like his words.

A policeman came. He was very sympathetic, but why the police? Accident, he said. Must do a report. Verify information. If there is anything you need ma’am let us know. Why would I need anything? My anxiety kicked up a notch.

I ask at the desk for information. Nothing. I have been here so very long. I am still alone and I realize that I am becoming very, very afraid. I get down on my knees by my chair. I am aware people are looking at me, maybe thinking I am strange but I don’t care. I pray, but I can’t think. No words come. Will and I heard a song together just a few days before. “Breath of Heaven, hold me together. Be forever near me, Breath of Heaven”. This is the only part of the song I remember. It replays over and over in my mind and becomes my prayer. I stand and my mind goes to game mode to maintain sanity. I pray the ABC’s. My mind won’t function without some order. A – Always be with him. B-Be by his side now, Lord. C – Comfort him now. And so on. On and on I pray. Lord, if I ever needed an angel it is now. I need You to help me. I am just so very, very afraid.

The two nurse neighbors come. They sit with me. They use medical terms. Fixed and dilated. Shouldn’t I know what that means? She explains but my mind refuses to understand.

“Was he conscious?” I ask.

“No, but the ambulance came quickly.” I tell myself, the ambulance coming quickly means okay, right?

“You need to insist they tell you something,” she says. It is very important to her that I see him as soon as possible. The desk … maybe they know something by now. I go up there.

“Please tell me, where is he? Can I see him?” Tell me what is wrong. I don’t understand why nobody is giving me answers.

The doctor comes. He smiles a little and it is reassuring. I feel better. Brain damage, he says. If he makes it, he says. Coded once, he says. Do you want us to resuscitate? It came across to me like he was taking my dinner order. What? Yes. Yes. Just make him okay.  Should I call the family? They are in New York. The doctor is evasive. Yes, call the family. Do I tell them to come? Maybe. I call the family and tell them what the doctor said. The nurse neighbors are nice but I don’t know them well. So, I call my friend and co-worker, Mitchelie. I tell her she does not need to come, but she does. Somehow she knows that I need her. The nurse neighbors leave. They know what is going on and I don’t want to.  I am glad they leave.

The nurse brings me and Mitchelie in to the Trauma Unit. I can finally see him. I have never seen such bright lights. Everything is so vivid. Back left corner. I see him. They are working on him. Eyes fixed and dilated. So that’s what that means. I touch his hand. He is ice cold. The head nurse is explaining. Explaining much more than the doctor had.  Internal bleeding. Bled out. Replaced entire amount of blood in body. Don’t know why yet. Severe brain damage. Very little brain activity.

But there is a lot of activity around him. We are ushered out. I am right outside the trauma room and cry uncontrollably. I call his son in New York and his sister in Tennessee and tell them to come. They let me see him again and then they bring us to the Family Room. My other co-worker, Sheylla, has come as well. The truth is beginning to sink in and I feel the panic about to engulf me.

That’s where we were when my nervous messenger angel came into the room.

“You don’t know me,” she said wringing her hands and stepping closer, “I am not authorized to come in here and I could get into trouble coming to talk to you. I’ve been fighting it, but ever since I saw you, I knew it was you I’m supposed to see.”

I stood up and took a step toward her and said, “It’s okay. What is it? Are you a nurse?”

“No,” she said, “I’m a clerk at the desk, but I was at a church service today before I started my shift and I received a blessing, a gift of peace from God for someone. I know I am supposed to give it to you. I didn’t want to approach you; I fought it, but I had to.”

I looked at her questioningly.

“Can I pray for you?” she asked.

I nodded and she put her arms around my shoulders and she prayed, no longer nervous but with great emotion. She prayed for about a minute. I have no recollection of what she said, but she bestowed the blessing on me. I told her thank you and she left. I didn’t see her again.

That very minute, my panic lifted, my mind cleared and I regained my composure. I knew Will was dying, but I was no longer afraid. My angel had given me a blessing of peace from our Lord, Jesus.

Soon after, a nurse came to tell us that they were moving Will to ICU because there was nothing more they could do for him in the Trauma Unit. They said I could stay with him. Mitchelie was going to stay with me, but I truly did not need her to at that point. She must have sensed my new calm demeanor, because she left once I promised I would call if I wanted her to come back.

I sat with my husband all that night in ICU. I asked the attending nurse calmly if he was going to make it. She shook her head and I calmly asked how it would play out and she told me. I watched as they cared for him. At one point the nurse said I must have a strong constitution to watch a procedure she did. I was surprised because I get light headed over a skinned knee. I realized it was my blessing of peace protecting me.

All that night, I sat with Will. I prayed and I talked to him and held his hand. I asked God why this had happened and I believe he provided the answer to me. Around 9:30 in the morning, minutes after I asked for a Bible and began reading Psalm 51, Will’s favorite, out loud, they coded him again but couldn’t do anything for him. I was with him as his heart stopped and he left this world to be with Jesus. I cried but my blessing of peace kept me from falling apart.

I kept vigil in the waiting room going in to see Will from time to time until his family got there. I made phone calls. I made arrangements, my blessing of peace still with me. Will’s son, daughter-in-law and sister arrived at 2 p.m. that day. We all went in to see him and then it was time for me to say good-bye until Jesus orchestrates our reunion.

I know my blessing of peace was a specific gift for me for a specific time because as we walked out to the parking garage, it lifted and I began to fall apart. I couldn’t find the car, I couldn’t drive or make a simple decision, I didn’t know my way home and I was in total panic and hysterical mode. My family was there to take care of me now. It was God’s way of showing me just how much He had cared for me through my ordeal when I was alone.

It has been almost 10 years since Will died. God is still building me and has given me blessings of joy in the form of grandchildren. Thank you, my messenger angel who obeyed the Lord and delivered His gift. I think I would have needed sedation if you had kept it to yourself.

We are in a world broken by the fall, but it will be restored. In the meantime, the Lord did not leave us to face it alone. The worse the circumstances around us are, the more He makes His presence known and the more He works through His people.

Let the foolish man say in his heart that there is no God, but as for me, I will serve the Lord and accept His blessing of peace.

The Alabaster Jar

An imagining of what the Luke 7 woman may have been like

 -From Luke 7:36-50-

By Barbara Clausen

I covered my ears against the sound of the trumpet. Twice more the hazzan blew the usual two notes to usher in the Sabbath. I cautiously peeked out of my window, not wanting to be seen. Almost as one, the homes of the Jewish people began to glow as the traditional lamps were lit. I was a Jew as well but there would be no lamp lit in my room on this Sabbath or on any other. You see, my room was in a brothel. That’s where I practiced my trade. I could hear the low murmur of prayers being lifted up to God. Startled by a cold tear splashing on my cheek, I jerked myself away from the scene spread out before me. It was pure foolishness anyway, I thought, as I impatiently wiped away my tears. What a waste of time. Even the Romans laughed and said that the Jews lost the seventh part of their lives to the Sabbath. True, I did not work on the Sabbath either, but a woman has to have a day of rest, too. Besides, I observed that one custom in memory of my father, not God. I gave up on God a long time ago when He took my father and allowed evil times to come upon my mother and me. I wanted noting to do with Him and I am sure He wanted nothing to do with a harlot like me. Still, as I sat in my dark room, I could picture that glow of unity in the town and a feeling of loneliness swept over me. I couldn’t help remembering the Sabbaths of my girlhood when Papa, Mama and I were all together. My Papa loved the Sabbath and the time it provided to pray and worship God. As the lamps were lit, he would often say, “The Sabbath has begun to shine.” And I knew by the tone of his voice that it was his heart that would shine most of all. I loved to hear his prayers. But, the Sabbath no longer shone for me and I was able to shut my heart to this Sabbath as well as to the hundreds before it. A shopkeeper, my father dealt in a variety of merchandise brought in by the traveling merchants and peddlers. When I was twelve, a merchant came to my father with an alabaster jar of spikenard, which was a rare and very expensive perfume from India, used only for special occasions or to anoint the dead. Usually frugal, my father was impressed by the beauty of the long necked flask and splurged on it as a special present for me. He said he wanted to give me something beautiful because I was turning into a beautiful woman. He was a good and sensitive man who I dearly loved. Two weeks later, my father was robbed and killed while he was travelling to the next town on business. I swore right then that I would never break open that alabaster jar. It represented everything good in my father. Without the support of my father, we were forced to move in with my mother’s brother and his family. It didn’t take me long to realize that not all men were kind and gentle. My uncle was downright cruel and his sons followed in his steps. I was thirteen when I ran away to the town of Nain. With only two things of value, my alabaster jar of spikenard and my own determination, I tried to find work, but there just weren’t any jobs available. When I was half starved and desperate, this man came to me and told me the only way a girl alone could survive in the city. So turning my back on my family and everything I had known, I moved into the brothel and began my career as a prostitute. I found other ways of making a living, too. I learned to cheat and swindle with the best of them. The seeds of hate had started growing in me when my father had been murdered and I really did not care who I hurt. After awhile, I even had young girls working for me. I was a friend to no one and an enemy to all. I would not be left at the mercy of anyone else ever again. I knew what they said about me in the town. I saw the way they laughed and the way pious people would cross the street as I passed by. It only fueled my bitterness and caused me to become even more aggressive and mean. Until the next morning … One of my girls came barging into my room with some news. “Miss, you’ve got to come see. There’s a commotion in the city. Everybody’s talking about it!” She was flushed and excited. I snapped at her as I continued brushing my hair, “What am I, a soldier? I don’t have time for foolishness. If there’s trouble, the authorities will handle it. As long as it stays away from me, I could care less.” She was persistent and said, “You don’t understand. There’s no trouble, at least not yet. It’s this man. This man called Jesus. When He was coming into the town, a dead man was being carried out. The only son of a widow. He told the woman not to weep any more. Then, He touched the funeral couch and the pallbearers stood still. He told the dead man to rise and he did! He sat right up!” (Taken from Luke 7:11-17) “I should slap you for telling tales,” I spat. “What a liar you are. Or maybe just a fool. You believe anything anyone tells you.” She was too excited to be quiet, so she continued, “Not only that! He’s telling the people about the Kingdom of God and about how He is the One that was to come to save the people.” I looked at her wryly. “All I need is another Pharisee telling me how sinful I am, like I don’t know it. Well, I don’t care either. Most of them are bigger sinners than I am, only they don’t want to talk about that, the hypocrites!” She wouldn’t give up. “But this Man is different. I think He really is a Messenger of God. He …” I cut her off. “Don’t you think I’ve heard it all before? God doesn’t send messages for the likes of me, nor of you either. That’s reserved for the priests and the good people, which you and I are not, sister. Don’t you get it? Now go on. Get out of here. I have to go into town on business and I need to finish getting ready.” “Yes, Miss,” she said resignedly and backed out of the room. What a ninny, I thought. She sure had some growing up to do. I was making my way across town through the narrow streets and saw the crowds blocking the way. “Oh great,” I muttered to myself, “Now I’ll never get through and back home at a decent hour.” I inched closer to see what was going on. There was a man speaking to the crowd. It must be that man, Jesus, my girl told me about. All of a sudden, I was curious to know what could enthrall the crowd this way. They took no notice of me as I squeezed my way through them until I could hear what was being said. “… He who has ears to hear, let him be listening, and consider and perceive and comprehend by hearing. But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like little children sitting in the market places …” (Matthew 11:15,16 Amp.) As Jesus went on, I found myself transfixed, totally forgetting the purpose of my trip. He talked about how the unrepentant and hypocritical would be judged. He talked about many things. Some of the things He said I could not understand, but most of it made so much sense. More sense that I had ever heard before. I stood there for a long time with the others as He taught us many things. Then, He earnestly began to pray to God, thanking Him that His truth was revealed to the unlearned and unskilled, rather that to the wise. It was then that I began to see clearly what I was. Oh, the horrible things I had done over the years! They paraded before my eyes. My hardened heart had never recognized it as willful sin before. I had just been trying to survive. But, with the light of this Man, I could now plainly see that I had been so, so wrong. I was horrified and woefully ashamed. What if Jesus, Who I was convinced was the Son of God, should find out the horrible things I had done? Surely, He would strike me down as an example and proclaim me as the sinner I was. I began to panic and started to turn to make my way back through the crowd for fear He would notice me. Sure enough that was when He looked towards me. Stopped in my tracks, I stared at Him. This was surely my doom, I thought, and deservedly so. His eyes held mine and I knew He could see everything from the very beginning of my life to whatever the end would be. Nothing was hidden from Him. Then an amazing thing happened. He did not point His finger at me and cry, “Sinner!” or “Unclean!” Instead, I saw love in His eyes and compassion. I knew instantly that not only was He willing, but He was the only One Who could free me from my sin. He went on speaking, leaning forward and stretching out His hands in His appeal to us. I could not tear my eyes away from Him. I was faintly aware that the tears had begun to flow. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and over burdened, and I will cause you to rest - I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest – relief, ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet – for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome, useful, good – not harsh, hard, sharp or pressing, but comfortable, gracious and pleasant and My burden is light and easy to be borne.” (Matthew 11:28-30, Amp.) Could it be true? The amazing burden I had carried for so long, could I finally release it? What had He said? “Come to Me …” “Yes, yes,” my heart cried, “I will come to You, most Holy Jesus. Forgive this horrible sin which has been my whole life. I now give my life to You.” My hands reached out toward Him, but soon I was swallowed up in the crowd and could not get near Him. When the crowd parted, He was gone. When I got home, I saw the girl who had first told me about Him. I called to her and said, “I have seen this Jesus Who you told me about and you were right. He is different. I wanted to hear more, but He disappeared before I could see where He went.” She looked surprised to hear that I had been there, but told me that she also had been in the crowd of people. She had heard Simon, the Pharisee, ask Him to dine with him at his house that day. I went up to her and gave her a grateful hug and kiss. “Oh thank you for telling me.” The girl looked at me as if I had gone mad. And surely if this was madness, it was a glorious thing. I was seeing the same things, but from a different viewpoint – like when you get really up close to something. Practically walking on air, I went to my cabinet and pulled out my alabaster jar of perfume and said, “I must go to Simon’s house and see Jesus.” “You have gone mad. You can’t go to a Pharisee’s house,” she said, and then looking frightened to go on but saying it anyway in a lowered voice, “You are a prostitute.” I took a deep breath and calmly told her, “I was a prostitute. Now I am a follower of Jesus. This alabaster jar of perfume is the most valuable thing I own. Not only because it is costly, but because my father gave it to me. You were in the crowd. You heard Him. Try to understand what happened today. He saw right through me, saw everything about me and you know what? He still loved me and had compassion on me. That is why I love Him and want to give Him the best that I have.” “Then go and be careful,” she said softly and left the room. That is how I came to be walking anxiously down a narrow street with an alabaster jar hidden under my cloak. I had to see Jesus, my Savior! As I approached the Pharisee’s house, the crowd thickened. Many must have heard that Jesus was going to be there. It seemed right to me that the Pharisee should seek counsel with Jesus. He would learn some valuable lessons from Him. I thought about waiting outside for Him, but was afraid that I would lose Him in the crowd. I knew I could get into serious trouble, but I slipped inside the house anyway. I moved slowly along the wall, keeping behind the many people already inside as much as possible. It was not unusual for so many to be present at a special dinner even though they were not invited. The doors were kept open for these events and it was common to have beggars and onlookers in attendance. However, a harlot might not be as welcome; especially in the house of a Pharisee. But, my determination drove me on. My plan was to simply hear more of Jesus’ teachings, give Him the alabaster jar when He had finished dining and seek His direction for my life. I found a spot against the far wall where there were enough people milling about so that I was partially hidden from view, yet still able to see the table in the center of the room. I tried to control my breathing. My heart was racing furiously. I hadn’t realized how nervous I had become sneaking into the house. I saw Jesus and my heart was uplifted and filled with joy. He was reclining with His back toward me. The servants were busying themselves laying out the table for the meal. It was a low, oblong affair where the diners could recline while they ate. Some of the Pharisee’s invited guests were still arriving. The servants, as was customary, took their sandals and washed their feet at the door. The Pharisee gave each one a friendly kiss. Then they were shown to their place at the table. I strained to hear what was being said. How I wanted to hear more of His counsel. Love for Jesus washed over me. But still, something wasn’t quite right. Wait a minute. The servants had not washed Jesus’ feet. I could see that they were still dirty from His trip. It must be an oversight and boy oh boy, would those servants be in trouble. Surely the Pharisee wouldn’t stand for his guest to be insulted like that, especially not Jesus. I’d sure hate to be one of those servants when Simon took notice of this oversight! I looked at the Pharisee and saw the sneer on his face and the knowing glances he gave to his friends. Suddenly, everything became clear. It was on purpose! Simon had no intention of honoring Jesus. The whole dinner was intended to be a mockery and a trap. I was outraged! I wanted to wipe the smirk off that Pharisee’s face with a good backhand to his mouth. Who did he think he was anyway? How dare he treat the Son of God this way? I tried to remain still but could stand it no longer. I moved to the front of the crowd. Two guards moved toward me, but Simon, giving me a condescending look, waved at them to be still. I looked upon the Lord and was filled with a love that I had never before known. Tears of gratitude began to fall. I knelt down at Jesus’ feet which were stretched out before me and broke the neck of the alabaster jar. I reached up and took the clip from my hair and shook it loose. In the back of my mind, I knew I could be stoned for doing such a thing, but I had a singleness of purpose and I did not care what became of me. Jesus must be shown due respect. I would not allow His feet to remain unwashed. Not after what He had done for me. I poured the perfume out on His feet. It mixed with the tears that were now flowing freely; tears that had been pent up for far too long. The exquisite aroma of the perfume enveloped me. I used my hair to wipe the dust of the road off His feet and kissed them tenderly. I was overwhelmed with love for Him and only wanted to serve Him forever. I glanced up once and saw the arrogant look on the Pharisee’s face as if I had no right to do what I was doing. As I continued to kiss and wash His feet with the perfume and my tears, Jesus began to speak to the Pharisee. “Simon, I have something to say to you.” The Pharisee, waving his hand flippantly said, “Teacher, say it.” Jesus went on. “A certain lender of money at interest had two debtors; one owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. When they had no means of paying, he freely forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I take it, for whom he forgave and canceled more.” Jesus said to him, “You have decided correctly.” Then, Jesus turned toward me with such a tender look, I thought surely my heart would melt. He said to the Pharisee, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss, but she from the moment I came in has not ceased to kiss My feet tenderly and caressingly. You did not anoint My head with cheap ordinary oil, but she has anointed My feet with costly, rare perfume. Therefore I tell you, her sins, many as they are, are forgiven her, because she has loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Then He said directly to me, “Your sins are forgiven!” Never had I heard such sweet words. But the people at the table began to murmur among themselves, “Who is this, Who even forgives sins?” Jesus continued to speak to me. He said, “Your faith has saved you; go, enter into peace – in freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin.” (Conversation taken from Luke 7:40-50, Amp.) And you know what? I did!!!

He Delivers

The book of Psalms is an incredible place to look at scripture no matter what mood we're in. Whether we feel discouraged, hopeful, excited or even lost, there always seems to be a psalm in the Bible that will help us through the day. Psalm 91 can be excellent scripture to look at for just about any situation.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High

    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,

    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you

    from the fowler’s snare

    and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,

    and under his wings you will find refuge;

    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,

    nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,

    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,

    ten thousand at your right hand,

    but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes

    and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”

    and you make the Most High your dwelling,

10 no harm will overtake you,

    no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you

    to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;

    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;

    I will be with him in trouble,

    I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life I will satisfy him

    and show him my salvation.”


Discouraged? David reminds us that God is always going to deliver us from whatever trial we face. Hopeful? We should be! God is on our side 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, no matter what the situation. Excited? We can generate that emotion into praise and honor for the God who delivers us from all evil and protects us with His loving arms and angel armies. Lost? We don't have to continue down the same path. Our father is never going to let us fall away from Him or the road He wants us to follow. We are always children of the Most High.


When I think about Psalm 91, the part that strikes me the most is just how blessed we are to have a constant protector from all evil. Think about it. God — the one who created heaven, the earth and the stars — wants to have an intimate relationship with us. Sometimes I think to myself, "Wow. The God who created billions of people and billions of stars and billions of animals cares so deeply about me that He wants me to know Him as my father." To me, that is an overwhelming concept to have love that strong living inside me. And even though I sin every single day and separate myself from Him through those sins, He stills smiles at me and loves me through it. God still wants to deliver me from whatever trouble I may face.


The beginning of this psalm talks about how God is our refuge. David describes it in a way that tells us of God's promise to never leave us and always give us His protection. And we know that God always keeps His promises to His people. How amazing is it that we are protected by the one who defeated death? How amazing is it that we are protected by the one who designed every single detail about each and every one of us? How amazing is it that we are protected by the one who knows every last detail of our life better than we know it ourselves? We just have to remember to accept it and give Him thanks.


God loves His children and will NEVER let them get away. He always rescues us from whatever it is that we think we can't handle. God is bigger than any of us, and we need to know that He's ready to show us how big He is when He brings us out of suffering to make us better children and better Christians.


I know I struggle sometimes with giving God my worries and my stress. Even when I do, I sometimes take it back from Him because His timeline and my timeline for how situations should be don't match up. This is when I have to consciously step back and remember that Jesus died for my sins and knows exactly what my life is going to look like before I can even dream of it happening. I remind myself that this life is too much for me to bear, and I have a God ready to take that burden for me. He already did it all on that cross 2,000 years ago.


If we give our problems to God, we can be absolutely positive that our plans will succeed when they begin to intertwine with His plans for us. We just have to let go and give it to Him. That's not to say that we don't have to work at our struggles and give up trying because God's going to do all the work. We still have to put in the effort to overcome those obstacles we face, but scripture reminds us that we are never alone while doing it. We have the Alpha and Omega on our side. Our life will never be perfect, but we can at least find comfort in the arms of our great father.


So, as we go through our day or our week, let's not forget to give thanks to our Father who has never let us fall and will ALWAYS give us comfort in his arms. We are children of the greatest God anyone could ever ask for, and we're so incredibly blessed that He wants each and every one of us to have an intimate relationship with Him.


God bless you all. Have an awesome week!

Give Me Your Eyes


Just think for a moment how interesting it would be to swap eyes with someone. I’m speaking in more of a figurative way, of course. Instead of “stepping into someone else’s shoes” for a day, how much more could we gain from looking at the world through his or her eyes? It would certainly open our minds to new perspectives.

This thought started running through my mind as I listened to the song “give me your eyes” by Brandon Heath. It’s a Christian song referring to the eyes of God, and the lyrics really struck my understanding of loving your neighbor as yourself – something we are called to do.

Looked down from a broken sky
Traced out by the city of lights
My world from a mile high
Best seat in the house tonight
Touch down on the cold black-top
Hold on for the sudden stop
Breathe in the familiar shock of confusion and chaos
All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

Right in the first verse and the chorus, I immediately stopped what I was doing and tried to be honest with myself about how I was loving my neighbor. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I have to consciously step back and assess how I judge others because I find myself doing that more than I would like. That’s why it was a New Year’s resolution for me this year that I wrote down and taped to my mirror. But this song had me thinking about how much I don’t know what goes on in someone’s life. There are aspects of my life that someone looking at me would probably never assume are there. It’s just part of what makes us all different.

The thing I took away most from these lyrics was that God loves us unconditionally in a way that we cannot physically comprehend as humans. He shares a love so deep that he sent his one and only son for us only to be tortured in the most painful and stressful way possible, so painful in fact that we had to create a new word to attempt to describe the torturous nature of crucifixion: excruciating.

Every time I sin, that is a separation from the God who created me. It crushes him. But he still pours out his love for me despite my going against his will. And he does that for every single person on this planet, whether they believe in him or not. Jesus didn’t die just for me, he died for that person I’m struggling to connect with because they don’t share my values or ideology. He loves them just as much as me, so I’m called to do the same.

I’ve heard many people in the community, on campus, online and in the media talk about how divided this country is because of politics and values. With those statements, I’ve heard people follow up with solutions such as hosting forums to discuss issues, posting positive stories on social media or truly listening to someone from the other side to gain a new perspective. And while I think these are all good ideas, imagine how much better our society would be if we showed our love rather than wrote our idea of love.

Let’s look at the song again. We pass people every day who are hurting, who are struggling, who are needing love. And while we all think and say that we should love them, we don’t – myself included. So I asked myself how I could start doing a better job of actively loving my neighbor, and I began with prayer. I didn’t agree with many of President Obama’s policies, but I prayed for him. I don’t think President Trump is nice guy, but I pray for him. I don’t enjoy seeing a bunch of extremely intoxicated college students outside of my apartment, but I pray for them. I pray for all of these people because it’s the first step in doing what I would want them to do for me. If someone prayed for me to find peace, comfort and joy, that would be an amazing gesture. The next step is communicating with them personally.

We can say all we want on social media, but saying that to someone’s face is a whole different situation. Someone could say, “not everyone agrees on Trump’s immigration policy, but we should all listen and be open minded to different thinking,” but that winds up being the end of it. Actually sit down and ask someone why they believe what they believe, where it stems from and give them the time of day to listen. We still might not agree, but at least there is a dialogue, and we can begin to love them as God does.

Being a journalist has helped me understand both sides of an argument because it’s my responsibility to cover the whole truth, not just the one I believe to be true. I encourage more people to do that and put themselves in uncomfortable situations to see the bigger picture and be open minded. God loves our enemies as much as he loves us, and he wants us to love each other regardless of the separation that clashing values creates. And there is no shame in asking him to help us with that. I pray about it almost every day. There’s humility in asking for help loving others. We shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for his eyes or his love to share with others. We all deserve to experience that.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Let me know if I can pray for you in any way!:) God bless.

The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31 


For more blogs by Jessica, check out her personal blog "So Blondell."   

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Night Light: Listening to God's Voice


There are people who know when the Lord speaks to them; they recognize His voice and know in their hearts His will for them. I was never one of those people until it happened to me.


My husband, Bruce, and I live in Plattsburgh, New York and every now and then we enjoy taking the ferry over to Vermont to go shopping in Burlington. This past summer we made the trek over on a sunny Saturday afternoon and as we pulled into the parking lot at our destination, I noticed a woman sitting cross legged on the ground in the corner of two buildings and I was immediately struck with an overwhelming sense of despair. Her head and shoulders were slumped forward so I couldn’t see her face but it didn’t matter what she looked like; I knew without a doubt that she needed help. Bruce was driving and was trying to find a parking spot when I said to him “that woman is in trouble - she needs help. I don’t know what’s wrong but I know that she needs help”.


We parked the car and walked as quickly as we could across the parking lot over to her. As we got closer to her, I could see that she was a younger woman with blond wavy hair. I knelt down on one knee and it was then that I noticed that her arms were dirty, her clothing was tattered, and her bare feet were caked in blackened dirt. I touched her arm and I said “excuse me Miss, are you OK?”. She raised her head slowly and looked at me with sad, beautiful green eyes and said “no, I’m not OK. I’m homeless and I’m pregnant.”


Her name escapes me but I will never forget her story. This young woman told us that she had been sleeping on the streets and also that she qualified for assisted housing but she didn’t have the money for the required deposit. I asked her how much she had collected that day to which she replied “nothing; nobody will help me”. I asked her how much she needed and she said $90 so we turned our pockets inside out and between the two of us, we had a total of $87, which she accepted gratefully.


After we gave her all of our money, I then asked her if we could pray for her and she agreed without hesitation. She got up off the ground and stood in front of us with her arms by her side. Bruce and I then laid our hands on her and we began to pray over her out loud right there in the middle of the sidewalk. People were walking past us and we were oblivious to everyone except for her. I had my left hand on her head and my right hand on her shoulder and as we prayed, there was an energy tingling through me from the top of my head down to my feet. I recall asking God to protect her and her unborn child but other than that, I remember giving it over to the Lord to guide us to say what she needed to hear. We ended the prayer with a hug and I told her to go and take care of herself and her unborn child to which she replied “I’m trying”.


Bruce and I have given money to many people over the years but never have we been guided to do so by the Holy Spirit in such a profound way. There was nothing subtle about what happened and I give thanks to our faith family at North Country Alliance Church for teaching us not only how to pray over others, but also how to be bold in our faith. The Lord commanded us to help this young woman and we did so with the gladdest of hearts. We never did end up buying anything at all that day but then again, it turns out that wasn’t really the purpose of the trip after all. 

Linda and Bruce Fligg, Summer 2016.

80/20: A Call for Action and A Plea for Sanity

Another year is coming and with it, the promise of new opportunities. For many, the New Year is a time for personal resolutions: "This year, I will get fit."  "This year, I will save money." “This year, I will eat well."    
These resolutions, while well-intended, often fizzle out around January 2nd. However, we in the church are called to more than watery promises or half-hearted goals.  

                        WE ARE CALLED TO SERVE  

Jesus set this example in his ministry. Both Jesus's words, like those in the sermon on the mount, and his deeds (like the washing of the disciple's feet), demonstrated that Christianity is not a call to personal greatness, but to great service. We are called to bring the gospel to the world around us, not merely in our words, but in our deeds as well. 
And yet, as I look around the church of America today I am sad to say that we seem to be better at warming pews than touching lives.  The modern church goer appears to prefer isolation to community, self-improvement to biblical discipleship, and being fed to serving others.  

Now, don't get me wrong. It is important to be fed spiritually. You SHOULD go to Bible studies, pay attention to the Pastor's sermon,  attend Worship services, study the Word, etc... but not at the exclusion of serving others.  

 YE OLD 80/20

Most Christians are familiar with the adage of 80/20 within the church. This phrase is so common that it might as well be a hymnal or stained glass windows. We have come to EXPECT that 20% of the congregation will do 80% of the work in a church.  If you don't believe that this is true, then ask yourself: how many ministries have there been in the past three years in my church? Ok, now who ran them? If the same names keep overlapping departments and ministries year after year, then your church has 20% (or fewer!) of the congregation at the wheel.  These are the "20%" who are driving the vision of your church and (trust me) if they aren't burnt out now, they soon will be. 
Christians are not meant to work in a vacuum. We are made to be a fellowship of believers who love each other and work together for the common goal of advancing God's Kingdom.  Paul even goes as far as to point out that we are ONE BODY in Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and further notes that if one part suffers, every part suffers (verse 26).

Thus, to expect a lively, growing church with an 80/20 structure is like expecting a body to keep living vibrantly once 80% of it is dead.  


                                    Dead Bodies=Dead Faith   

There is a real and present danger in calling oneself a Christian while acting like a rock.  
In one of the more convicting passages of the Bible, James very clearly calls out the Christian who spectates rather than serves: 

"14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. "
                                                                                              James 2:14-17 (NIV)  

OUCH. Now, let’s be clear. James is not saying your works are what save you. ONLY the blood of Jesus Christ can do that. What he is saying is we can’t give lip service to this Christian life. That is why it is called the Christian Walk--or more appropriately RUN--not the Christian.sit.in.the.pew. Action is required. It is not enough just to talk about serving. You have to do it. 

Or as James again eloquently puts it: 
Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  James 1: 22.   

                                    Best Intentions- the 20%  

Now, this does not mean that the "20%" who serve are somehow better or more devoted Christians.  Only the Lord knows the heart. Both sides of this proverbial can dampen ministries in churches. Just like the "80%" who don't serve can hinder church development and ministry growth by inaction, the well-intended, but misguided "20%er" may inhibit the spirit's work in their own life and ministry by overextending their talents, time, and gifts.   In fact: 

The 20% who carry the torch to the detriment of themselves, their family, their professional work, and the church body are equally to blame for the stunted ministries and lack of spiritual growth in the modern church as the 80% who do nothing.   

The Bible is very clear that EACH part of the body has a unique role and no one person is meant to carry the whole load. Not even the Pastor.

Thus, you Mr. or Mrs. I-AM-IN-OR-I-AM-LEADING-EVERY-MINISTRY-IN-THE-CHURCH, are not doing anyone a service by being everyone’s everything.  In fact, your great service for 2017 might even be: to SIT this one out. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 wisely reminds Christians that there is a season for everything.  Just like we wouldn’t expect a farmer to plant or harvest in the dead of winter,  a church should not expect it's leaders and workers to continue working season after season without periods of refreshment.  

Even the Lord rested (Genesis 1). Why would we be expected to do anything less? If other areas of your life, including your spiritual life, are suffering because of your hyper-service, then I encourage you to pray and reflect on what God would have you do or not do in 2017. 

Ministry Leaders  

Finally, a plea to our ministry leaders: please don’t overwork the 20% or neglect the 80%.    

Too often I have, or I have seen ministry leaders pile tasks increasingly upon the servant-hearted Christians in church ministries. This over-tasking only increases the risk of burn out and does nothing to encourage active participation.  At the same time, church leaders are often afraid of offending church-goers or driving people away by pointing out the very real fact that they should be exercising their faith and serving within the church.   

Let's stop the cycle of burnt out ministry workers becoming barnacle pew sitters after a few years of service. Let's restore sanity and compassion to church ministries by  asking our former ministry workers and leaders to return to service if they have had periods of refreshment,  while presenting our congregation members with the very real expectation of duty and stewardship--not merely attendance.  In doing so, we can make a way for new Christians to learn and be discipled, rather than expecting the 20% to fill the gaps. Additionally, we can sow into leaders who are in a season of rest to encourage their spiritual growth and to respect their steadfast commitment to the Lord.    

                              The Outcome and Conclusion

Ultimately, by restoring compassion and sanity to church ministries, we will not have to worry about  the archaic 80/20 rule.  Instead, we can demonstrate unconditional love the will attract volunteers to our ministries and result in spiritual growth for the entire church.   Again, it is not enough to hear the Word; we must follow it. 

Jesus said: 
 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35   

So let's do it! Let's love each other this year!   Let's welcome in new volunteers and encourage those who have served faithfully in the past. The 80/20 structure cannot continue in the face of Christians loving one another because the 80/20 rule is built on selfishness (on both sides of the percentage). But love is not selfish. It crowds out selfish ambitions by caring for others more than your care about yourself.  Imagine what the church of today would look like if we followed the "golden rule" as religiously as the 80/20 rule.  Let's serve others they way we wish to be served in 2017. 

Musings on The Ten Commandments

People often think of the Ten Commandments as dusty old rules that have no place in our modern "enlightened, and empowered" society. However, the ten commandments don't have an expiration date. So, since we have progressed, allegedly, in both intellect and morality, these "ancient rules" should be not only easy to understand but also follow. So what are they? 

Contributed by Donna Ruggeri

10 Commandments

These are not ten suggestions - as so many Americans would like it to be.They are commandments.However, as Carl Henderson pointed out today in church, they are commandments and they have everything to do with our Holy Identity. 

10 Commandments 

1. No other Gods - You belong to Me.

2. No other gods or idols .- many things in our lives can become idolsif we are not careful - social media, cell phones, Pinterest, Twitter, fitness, money etc. We are to be true to God - and knock down those idols - as we see them develop in our lives.Don't be idolatrous.

3. No Taking the Lord's name in vain.Don't use God's name as a recreational swear word.SHOW RESPECT - AND BE RESPECTFUL.

4. Remember the Sabbath Day and be Holy.We should pursue holiness on this day . This includes worship and really BE THERE in mind, and spirit -besides just body! For me - writing after the sermon - is one of the ways I pursue holiness.I understand God (and myself) more when I read His word, listen in the silence and write.
I think this is saying - here's your chance to stop and rest - and to go deep with Me. 

5. Honor Your Father & Mother - BE Honorable - it starts here - with your parents.I am not really sure what it means when it says -" so that your days may be long..."?

6. No Murders - YOU shall not be a murderer. NO

7.No Adultery - You shall not be an adulterer - no excuses!

8. No Stealing - You shall not be a thief.No Excuses!

9. No False Witness - DON'T LIE.YOU ARE NOT TO BE A LIER.

10. NO COVETING - Don't waste your time or your character being jealous of what / who someone has. Be happy with what you have!
And believe that God will provide!

These are some of my musings on interpreting the 10 Commandments as keys to our Holy Identity!I never thought of the 10 commandments as anything other than rules – rules for holy and righteous living – but rules, nonetheless. They are so much more than that. 

Awaken: A Call to Revival

Several months ago, my mother and I sat, as we often do on Sunday afternoons, in her living room sipping coffee. Over café mochas, we like to “solve the world’s problems” which means we discuss ideas, theories, and experiences that have shaped our opinions, values, and beliefs. That particular Sunday, however, we were discussing what God was doing in our lives. While I couldn’t point to one specific change, I distinctly remember turning to my mother and saying: “I don’t know what I am supposed to do, I just feel like God is telling me to WAKE UP!”

I had this constant feeling like I was asleep, disconnected, and that God was telling me that it was time to awaken.

Since then, this phrase has been repeated more and more by those around me. It started with Pastor Carl telling the NCAC governing board that he wanted to host a series of Revival services in the community. To my surprise, he said the service was titled “Awaken” because he felt that God was calling the people of Plattsburgh to wake up. At first, I brushed this off as mere coincidence. Then people outside of our town started echoing the same sentiment! Pastors visiting our area began saying that they wished they lived in Plattsburgh, NY because SOMETHING WAS HAPPENING!   Something was different... like a change in the very air around us. 

It was hard to describe the feeling, but the energy in our town began (and continues) to shift. In our church, people began to pray for revival. 

Soon I noticed these sentiments of change and stirring expressed in non-church settings. For instance, when Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered the news that Plattsburgh won a $10 million grant to develop downtown Plattsburgh, he also observed: "a sense of vibrancy and energy that is in the air,  that you can feel."   

What I once foolishly attributed to coincidence, I can now see is actually God calling His people to Him. He is telling us it is time to get up! To stop sleeping and to be awake!

As our Pastor began meeting and speaking with other church leaders and members in the area, I was once again amazed by how the Lord is working in our city. Soon we realized that several of the other churches in the surrounding area are praying for the same change. Our Christian brothers and sisters were even using the same exact word




Without speaking to each other, the Christians throughout this community are calling out to God for the same thing: revival. Clearly, this is not a coincidence. It is not merely a sentiment. It is God's spirit moving: here and now.  

So what will you do? What will I do when God is calling me?  

I do not want to treat the God of heaven and earth like an alarm clock. I cannot hit the snooze button on this call to WAKE UP.  He is calling His church, and we must ARISE. If we don't, what will we miss? What will we sleep through if we do not awaken?

God is moving, it is time to get up.  





If you are interested in attending the Revival services I mentioned in this article, here are the details:  

Awaken: Revival Services

August 1st-3rd at 7:00PM

North Country Alliance Church

7 Northern Avenue, Plattsburgh, NY.  

All churches, Christians, and non-Christians alike are welcomed to this community-wide event.  Call 518-324-5430 if you need directions or any other details. 



Light Shines BRIGHTEST in the Dark

A reaction to perpetual violence in America 

By Pastor Carl Henderson   


When does it end?


The truth is I don’t even know how to begin to write this article. A surge of emotions are washing over me like flood waters; I feel like I’m drowning. Why? Because once again there has been an act of injustice and American soil runs red. All of what we would consider to be “normative” is fighting against me as I sit here in the church office writing this letter.


“Put on a happy face, act like nothing is wrong, smile and wave to the people walking in and out, don’t cry, don’t get angry, push it all down and pretend you’re ok, be blind.” These are the voices running through my head –and I don’t say this lightly—they are demonic. I just saw on Facebook what happened to Alton Sterling. It would be so easy to give in to those voices and do what all of us do far too often: go on about our day as if nothing ever happened.



It did happen! Alton Sterling was a human being, a man created in the image and likeness of God! He held within himself an intrinsic value that was priceless because it was given to him by no-one else but the One who fashioned him. I’m not talking about his parents, the people who had been the greatest influence on his life, and I’m not even talking about his own personality. I’m speaking to the part of him that is eternal; the part of him that was a dream in the mind of a loving God before that same God took the earth and molded it with his bare hands.


Two days ago we the people celebrated July 4th. We celebrated our independence from tyranny and oppression. We had barbecues and watched fireworks to celebrate the freedom that we stand in because men fought for it. Men who would not sit idly by in the face of injustice. Instead they stood up for justice and gave their lives for something so much bigger than themselves. Where are those men now when we need them most?


Where are the men standing up to injustice rather than slipping the plastic mask over their faces and pretending that nothing is wrong? Something is broken! WE are broken! Because we have been desensitized to the point that we can sit back and watch a man be gunned down and have no more emotional response than we would to watching the same thing happen on “Law and Order.”


Guess what? This isn’t a TV show, where the character can die and then that actor can simply get up and continue on with his life. A LIFE was taken, and Alton Sterling is not coming back; and there was only one of him.


Now I’m not going to pretend to know the whole story and I am sure that there are going to be more voices coming out in the near future that will say things like, “It happened because Mr. Sterling did….such and such,” or “The officer in question felt…in such a such a way,” or “Mr. Sterling fit….such and such a description and was resisting arrest.” Regardless of the circumstances, however, we should not be able to watch a man, criminal intent or not, be shot repeatedly on YouTube or Facebook and then continue throughout our day like nothing has happened.


Or maybe violence and bloodshed is ok in your book.


Did you feel that; the pang in your gut as you read the above sentence? Why is it that what I just wrote will elicit more of a defensive response, or more outrage than what most of American’s will feel about Alton Sterling dying in front of them?


We need a revolution. And it needs to come in the form of a revival. A revival of repentance. A revival of compassion and empathy for our neighbors. A revival of prayer. A revival of Awakening; to open our eyes rather than blinding them to the injustices we see on social media. It should NOT be ok that we feel nothing when human life is taken. We need a Revival, and his name is Jesus Christ. He—and He only—has the power to fix what is broken.


And what is broken, is us.


So Lord, come and change our hearts! We need it! I need it! We have fallen so far. We are lost in the dark. Only You Jesus have the power to turn the lights back on and open our eyes. We need your light to illuminate for us a way back. Forgive us for the plastic faces. Forgive us for not responding to these acts of brutality the way you do; with the emotional heartbreak of a Father for a child. And remind us. Remind us Lord of just how big you are. Remind that you are just. Remind us that although things can get really bad, that light shines brightest in the dark.


We pray for the Sterling family. We pray even for the ones who pulled the trigger. We pray for true revival in this nation. We pray for our own hearts; to be more like yours.


And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” - Genesis 4:10