Saturday, June 27, 2009

As the Bible Turns...Samson

AS THE BIBLE TURNS…Was our hero simply a Strong Man who belonged in the circus or did his muscles truly show the strength of his love for God? Read on and find out! Brought to you by Write4Him!

Children’s Reflection – By Jeremiah Hughes
The Birth of Samson -- Judges 13

Everybody knows about the amazing feats of Samson. With the Lord’s help, Samson did some pretty amazing things throughout his life, but very few people notice that Samson had something pretty amazing happen before he was even born! An angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s parents and told them that they would have a son and that he would be dedicated to God from his birth until his death. Samson was going to save the Lord’s people from the Philistines. Even before he was born, the Lord had a plan for Samson, and his life had a great purpose. Just like Samson, every child is dedicated to the Lord. Even if God doesn’t send an angel to explain things to our parents, He has a purpose and a plan for each and every one of us!

If you’re a child, talk with your mom and dad about what you think that plan might be (Hint: ask mom/dad what kinds of gifts and talents has God blessed you with). If you’re the parent, share with your child ways that God has shown you the purpose and plan for your life or talk about ways that you see God at work in your child’s life.

Adult’s Reflection – By Jeremiah Hughes
The Birth of Samson -- Judges 13

The Lord does some pretty spectacular things! The story of Samson’s birth is a great example of His love and a great example of how He takes care of those who love Him. This story actually has very little to do with Samson, and without thinking about it, this story would be very easy to just glance through quickly in order to get to the feats of strength and long luxurious hair. As a result, not many people know the story of Samson’s birth. Not many people know that Samson was born to infertile parents. And not many people know that Samson’s birth was revealed to his parents by an angel of the Lord. So what does this have to do with us today? What can we gain from this story?

At the heart of this passage, the Lord provides for Manoah and his wife. He promises a son to a family that would never have been able to conceive on their own. Think about your life. How has the Lord provided for you in a way that you never would have expected? What miracles has He provided for you, both big and small?

And let’s not forget about the messenger. An angel of the Lord appears to break the news and to guide Manoah and his wife. While we don’t always have an angel talking to us face to face, the Lord does speak to us through others we meet. Think about those “angels” in your life. Who has helped you and guided you as you travel on your life journey? Like this entire passage, it is very easy to just glance over and forget those little miracles and angels in our lives. Take a moment to reflect and thank God for everything and everyone He brings into your life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fill Your Heart with Gratitude

Fill Your Heart With Gratitude
By Ruthann Schmudde
A Write4Him Author

Can you even imagine being so poor you don’t have anything? To be without your education, money, a roof over your head, food, furniture, clothes, fresh water, or medical care? Many people live that way; half of the planet, or 3 billion people, live on less than $2 a day.
We are so blessed and we often take our blessings for granted. God wants us to feel gratitude for the things that enrich our lives, not entitlement. Our money, our stuff and our abilities are gifts from God. Think about all that you have in your life and feel thankful for each one, from a hot cup of coffee to raising and educating your children. God has blessed us richly and wants us to be a blessing to others. He wants us to willingly and generously use our blessings for good. He trusts us to further his business here on earth. By being generous and willing to help whoever needs it, whenever we can, we will make a big difference in other peoples’ lives. We will get many treasures in heaven if we follow God’s plan. Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted to much, much more will be asked.”

God will guide us as to how to use our resources. Ask him, and then listen.

Ruthann Schmudde

Thursday, April 16, 2009

God's Dream, God's Team

God’s Dream, God’s Team
By Ruthann Schmudde

Everybody has a dream, even God. His dream involves all of us staying connected, being responsive and willing to let him work through us. There is no limit to the amount of miracles that can be performed if we give ourselves over to God’s will; God always dreams big!

If you think of, or see some situation that you would like to help change, ask God what he wants you to do. You’ll get an answer. Don’t worry that it seems too big for you to handle; God will provide resources and connections so that everything flows for the outcome he has in mind. We are on God’s team If we’re willing, his dream will be fulfilled, and together we can change the world!

Prayer: Dear God, please help us to remember to ask what your will is. It’s not the same as our own. Please let us open ourselves up so you can work through us in whatever way you see fit. Amen

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Go with God

Go With God
By Ruthann Schmudde
A New Life Church Write4Him Author

The 60/60 is an exercise to remind us to think of God, talk to God, and be with God. God holds us safely in the hollow of his hand, nurturing and protecting us, forgiving and loving us. He thinks of us each and every second. We know that he has us, so other than this exercise, we don’t have to force ourselves to connect every hour on the hour.

But we need to learn to truly go with God. According to Soul Revolution, page 145, God needs our willingness to cause growth in us. That means we need to talk, pray and give thanks to him often and commit ourselves to a life that pleases him. We have to ask God to help us to give up thoughts and actions that don’t honor him and replace them with thoughts and actions that do. We have to love and accept ourselves and others, too. He will guide us if we ask him; we can pray for change to take place within us.

Becoming the person he wants us to be may a long, hard journey; none of us will do it all in one day. But he is there with us every step of the way.

PRAYER: Dear God, Please help me to always choose to be connected and committed to you. Reform me into the spiritual being that you intended, and help me to be open and willing to do what you ask.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tapping the Line

Tapping the Line
By Jeremiah Hughes
A New Life Church Write4Him Author

The 60/60 experiment is far from an ordinary movement. It is an absolutely revolutionary idea that has enhanced my spiritual relationship with God and opened my eyes to His presence in everyday life. My communication with the Lord is at an all time high; I am speaking more freely and hearing more clearly. 60/60 has provided the framework for the Lord to construct a type of cell phone tower in my heart, or “prayer phone” tower, and my provider rings clearer than ever before! No dropped calls, no interference, unlimited minutes, free nights and weekends … the whole nine yards! Well, maybe eight and a half yards … I don’t exactly have text messaging. ;)

But, I digress. In order to help keep on track with 60/60, I have set my iPhone alarm to go off every hour, and the ringtone I selected is an old-fashioned doorbell. *DING DONG* … God’s at the door … *DING DONG* … God is calling … *DING DONG* … Time to talk to God. It is a great illustration for the 60/60 experiment. God is always at the door, always on the other line, always ready and waiting to talk with us. So I must admit, I have been feeling pretty proud of myself, what with my own personal “prayer phone” tower and all. How could this get any better?

Then, something amazing happened! Somebody tapped into my private line. Somebody else started using my “prayer phone” tower to talk with God. My own father started borrowing my phone line to communicate with God. Now, please don’t think that my father was previously a non-believer and that 60/60 has brought him to God. He is a religious man, baptized Christian, and prays before meals. He is an amazing father and loving husband. But he doesn’t have the greatest attendance record and only occasionally finds his way to church on Sunday. However, throughout this experiment, I would hear that familiar *DING DONG*, and my dad would say, “God is at the door. Tell him I said hi.” I thought nothing of it at first and played it off as him making a small joke. But as the little comments continued, I noticed that my father had started actively thinking about our Father, just as I was, on an hourly basis. How incredible is that?!

It really hit home when I was sitting at work, and a call was transferred in. I answered the phone like I always do, but this time my dad was on the other end. It was nothing out of the ordinary at first; we exchanged words about how our days had started and what we were doing. But after a few moments passed he said, “The reason I called was to let you know that I am going into an important meeting in a couple of hours. Next time God rings the doorbell, please ask him to be with me. It could be a really big sale.”


At that precise moment I realized that my focus on the 60/60 experiment had started impacting those around me. Even though the foundation of my “prayer phone” tower was secured firmly in my heart, the signal was resonating in the hearts of those around me. Just like AT&T, or Verizon, or any other cellular phone provider, one tower has the ability to connect thousands of people together. Why can’t we be like that? Why can’t our signal reach out to everyone around us, connecting them to God and connecting them to other people?

As I reflect on the past three weeks, I remember others who may have tapped the line of my “prayer phone” tower. I remember those people who asked why my phone made the doorbell sound every hour, and those individuals to whom I have explained the experiment…coworkers, family members, friends. I remember those who I am attempting to help connect on an hourly basis, my 60/60 running partners. My only hope is that my tower’s signal has been strong enough in those moments, strong enough for all of them to connect with God on their own level and in their own way.

So, how strong is your signal? I am willing to bet it is a lot stronger than you might realize. You may not even recognize it, but one simple little explanation of what you are doing on an hourly basis could very easily have a world of impact on that one individual. Your diligence and commitment to 60/60 could be the inspiration one person needs to continue their own growth. Keep up the good work! Continue building your very own “prayer phone” tower with the Lord. Strengthen that signal in prayer with God. You never know who might be tapping in!

“Pray continually; Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19).

-Jeremiah Hughes
Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.

Speak with Love

Speak With Love
By Ruthann Schmudde, a New Life Church Write4Him author

Just as sometimes we have trouble communicating with God, we also have trouble communicating with humans. Our words give a message, but so does our tone of voice and our facial expression.

Like John Burke says in Soul Revolution, we need to respond relationally (p. 116). So we can choose soft words and a gentle tone of voice instead of harsh ones. If we let people be who they are without trying to control them, if we don’t have to “win” an argument, if we let God’s words be our words, communicating gets much easier and our relationships become joyful.

Prayer: Dear God, Please help us to communicate love and respect in all of our relationships, to you, God, and every person we meet. Give us the right words in each situation, and let us hear the message in return. Help us write these words on our hearts, “We love because Jesus first loved us.” (I John 4:19) and live them out in real life.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

LG2: The Quantity of LG Squared

ByJeremiah Hughes
A New Life Church Write4Him Author

In math, this equation can be broken down into many variations due to the associative property of mathematics. This property allows us to write one equation several different ways. Using my example equation above, the associative property lets three totally different translations mean the exact same thing. (LG)2 = L2 x G2 = (L x G) x (L x G). I am even going to take it a step further by removing the multiplication signs. (LG)2 = L2G2 = (LG)(LG). You might be thinking, “Wow, what a nerd!” or “What does this have to do with 60/60?” The first is an accurate statement and the latter, a great question. Hang tight and I will explain.

The second week of 60/60 for me was rather difficult. Not difficult in the sense that I forgot a couple of hours, and not difficult in the fact that I was lost for words or didn’t know what to say to God. It was difficult for me because this week was the first week of my life that I have ever been labeled as … unemployed. I, like so many other people in this great nation, was unemployed. Working in the lumber industry isn’t the most comfortable of places right now as the housing market is tanking worse than Britney Spears’ career during the “hair cut” era. But this is where I started working right out of college, and thus far, it has been a profitable and prosperous marriage.

However, for my company, as well as numerous other companies around the world, steps are being taken to stave off complete bankruptcy and the closing of doors. In my case, this manifested itself in “rolling lay-offs.” Hours cut, income slashed, bank account leaking, and yet the bills remain constant. And I started thinking to myself, “Why is this happening to me,” and, “what am I going to do?” I was angry, and while I know that there are thousands upon thousands of others just like me, I started to feel alone and lost.

I will be honest. I am not terribly proud of my first few prayers this week. I was angry, not necessarily angry at God, but we always seem to take out our aggression on the ones we love. So I fought with everything that was going on, and I guess I fought with God a little bit too. But after two days of internal struggle and misery, it occurred to me. What I was doing was trying to blame others for my plight. I was blaming the economy, blaming my company, and I was looking at the whole situation from the perspective of “poor me.” Not only was this not healthy mentally, but it was not healthy spiritually.

Now, here is where the math lesson comes in …
(LG)2 means something more to me than just a math equation with a couple of letters and a fancy little 2. (LG)2 … or (LG)(LG) … in my life, stands for “Let go. Let God.” I realized that I had internalized all of my struggles and refused to do anything more than complain. I had refused to “let go” of my problems, refused to “let God” take over. So I opened my heart and mind, allowed the Lord in, allowed him to break down the walls of anger and self-pity, and allowed him to take the reins of my heart and lead me where HE wanted. To “let go” is not to try to change or blame others, it is “letting God” make the most out of me and my situation.

And you know what happened? My week started looking up. I was able to see all of the positives in my life much clearer than before. It may not have been an ideal situation, being laid off and all, but I had a roof over my head, meals on the table, and an amazing wife and daughter with whom I was able to spend an entire week. Plus, I know that God will take care of me and lead me where I am needed most. It is not his plot to leave me wandering about without purpose. He will provide for me and ensure that I take everything in life and make the most out of it. To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to “let God” guide each day as it comes.

Now, let’s not forget about the Associative Property of Mathematics! As I illustrated, this property lets three totally different translations mean the exact same thing. I propose that we take and create an Associative Property of Prayer. No matter how you choose to say it, no matter what combination of words you string together to express your thoughts and prayers, each “translation” means the same thing to God. Don’t be afraid to open up and let the Lord in. Don’t be afraid that you might not know exactly what to say, or how to say it. If it is on your heart, and you take the time to reflect with the Lord, he will understand what you are trying to say. Don’t be afraid. Give it a shot. Open up to the Lord.

Do yourself a favor and (LG)2!!
-Jeremiah Hughes
Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts, comments or questions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Soul Food

I borrowed today's title from my family devotional book proposal I just finished this morning. It's on my brain, but it fits today's post well, I think.

Yesterday was food pantry day at church. After serving a steadily increasing number of families last fall (in the 60's), we actually dipped during the holidays only to shoot up to 70+ in January. 84 families received groceries this week. We expect that our numbers will continue to climb.

But what's more amazing to me than the statistics are the transformations that take place at food pantry. No doubt about it...the gym is filled with tired faces, anxious faces, faces tight with pain or worry. But our volunteer interviewers greet each client by name with a smile and a touch of the hand, and that seems to make a difference. Yesterday Yolanda's prayers for her recipients made several cry, not out of frustration but because of the love that was being shown for them. Not just our New Life Church love, but God's love. That moves me to tears.

And I watched as volunteer Cindy pulled guest Patricia out of line to help her translate because our Spanish-speaking clientele is growing faster than we can find bilingual volunteers. Patricia, whose eyes crinkle up when she smiles (and she always shares her smiles) and who has been a regular recipient since we opened, took a seat next to Cindy, sat her toddler on her lap, and became part of a team. As I continued to seat guests at their table, I watched her grow in confidence. She's been a recipient. She knows how it feels to be on the other side of the interview, and she knows our process. She seemed genuinely pleased (not bothered) that Cindy had asked her to help and stayed long past the time she would have normally left with the promise to help next time, too.

And I experienced God's goodness when I approached Katrina, a newer pantry recipient whose English I knew was excellent. I had just seen a woman come through the registration line wrapped only in a blanket (on a miserable, cold, rainy day). Her face looked like the rain had drenched her spirit, too. I knew we had coats set aside, and I desperately wanted to get that woman a coat before the supply ran out. However, my Spanish is marginal at best, so I pulled Katrina aside and asked her to translate my request.

She quickly agreed, responding, "Do you know who I talk to about volunteering here? You guys seem like you need help, and I'd like to help." I put her to work right away, getting my blanket guest a coat, as well as a little grandma who'd just arrived from Mexico with no Chicago-winter gear at all. Katrina will also be joining our ministry team. Who knew? God knew...
"Ask and it will be given to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you...How much more will your Father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7, 11b)

To me, this is all soul food...God's Word feeds his faithful. His faithful live out those words and are equipped and encouraged to serve up a little soul food to the world. It's a good thing, a God thing.

And the blanket lady's face, when she took her spot at the interview table wearing her new coat and carrying a new purse filled with goodies (thanks to the Women's Ministry outreach), was absolutely radiant, an ear to ear grin that said, "I know I am loved." Who knew? God knew!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Love the One You're With Women's Retreat

For more information on the Love the One You're With Women's Retreat led by New Life's Christine Bierma and Rachel Gilmore Feb. 13-14, please visit