“Compassion In Competition”

Mollie and I had not been to a little league baseball game in years and were therefore unfamiliar with the updated rules–such as the coach being the pitcher and the players throwing the ball to the pitcher to stop any player from running to the next base. 

Nonetheless, there were still the age-old standards that popped up at our Grandson’s game. Like one young man sitting in our stands that had the delusion that he was the coach for both teams and was yelling out orders to every kid. It didn’t matter what the base coaches said, this man in the stands thought he was in charge. Never mind what they decided on a close call, he verbalized his own opinion and did it loudly. It was disgusting. I wondered what his son must have thought about him. I thought to myself, things haven’t changed that much since I played!

The pitcher for our six-year-old Grandson’s team was a young man, but the pitcher for the opposing team was a lady name Michelle that worked at a local convenience store and gas-mart in our town. She was always cheerful and had a great personality, but I learned something deeper and richer about her that day at the ballpark. Her team was at bat and as the next batter stepped to the plate someone behind me whispered, This is the first time he’s ever played in a real baseball game and I think it’s the first time he’s ever been at bat–let’s see how he does. He was a little chubby and as awkward goes, that too, but he positioned himself in the batter’s box and waited. First throw, a swing and a miss–the second throw didn’t quite make it there, she was being fair but gentle. Third pitch and bang off the bat and straight to the shortstop. The chubby kid ran as best he could but he was thrown out at first, but remember; he had never played in a real game before so all he heard was Jenny yelling “Run Forrest Run,” so he kept running for first base. He made it to first base and just stood there with a big smile of achievement on his face. The make-believe coach in our stands was mouthing off and saying, “Is that kid stupid, he was out–he needs to get off the base so we can get on with the game.” His wife told him to shut-up and for his sake, I’m glad he did!

What was Michelle going to do? This was a real competition. This was a real catch-22. However, that day it was competition with compassion, as Michelle walked slowly over to him and put her arm around his shoulder, I overheard her say something like, “Wow, you got a hit your very first time at bat–that’s great, not many players can do that. Now we’ll need to go to the dugout and get some water and wait for your next time at bat. Man that was awesome, you really smacked that ball.” The kids in the dugout clapped for him. He was a happy camper and never knew anything was wrong. 

Had it not been for that simple act of compassion, that boy could have been humiliated, shamed and ended up a wounded, brokenhearted outsider. He could have been condemned or mentally scarred for life during a little league baseball game because he didn’t know the rules. Thank God for compassionate people like Michelle.

Then she modestly walked back to the pitcher’s mound and everyone was happy in Little League Heaven. She probably didn’t even realize that she had just saved that chubby little boy’s hopes and dreams. It may be, as a result of her compassion, he will probably grow up to be a godly father or maybe a guidance counselor helping chubby little kids change their Lives. Who knows, he may be a little league coach that puts his arm around your Grandchild and says, “Wow, did you see what you just did? That was great!”

I Peter 3: 8-9 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

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“Help Lord” Ps 12:1

The Texas morning was heavy with July heat, but I didn’t care. Hopping out of bed, I rushed through my chores of milking the cow and releasing the sheep from their pens. I was seven years old and excited. Today I was going fishing!

Gathering my cane pole, hooks, and stringer in one hand, and grabbing my glass jar of grasshoppers with the other, I dashed out the door.  I had visions of returning with a mess of perch to feed my family of five, with a few extra to treat Lassie—my constant companion and best friend. Considering the joy of my potential catch, the thought of cleaning the fish was of little concern.

I ran the quarter mile to the largest of our three tanks on the home place. A “tank” in Texas is a big man-made pond, and this one had the windmill on it. Hearing that familiar squeak of the plunger pipe moving up and down made my heart race with anticipation.
Reaching the water’s edge, I placed my gear on a large rock and baited my hook. Grasshoppers—ugh! It was too dry to find any worms, so these would have to do. I cast my line into the water. No sooner had it settled than the red and white cork disappeared beneath the surface.

With a rush of adrenaline, I yanked hard on my pole, retracting it quickly. My “catch” on the line’s end slammed into my body. To my horror, I had hooked a cottonmouth water moccasin! I slung my pole and franticly ran circles—with the snake in hot pursuit and gaining ground.

Fear gripping my heart, I cried out, “Help, Lord!” A child’s cry for help—the shortest of prayers, but the most powerful. It goes directly to the ears of our Heavenly Father, seated on His throne of grace.

God immediately sent Lassie to my rescue. Barking and charging down the steep edge of the tank, she created enough commotion to scare off the water moccasin. Hugging Lassie close and thanking Jesus, a memory verse came to mind—“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you…” (Isaiah 41:10 NKJV).

Once my heart stopped racing, I decided it was safe to fish again. The day’s catch turned out larger than anticipated, so Lassie had an extra special treat that night.

  J.D. Quinn

“Salty Christians”

Jesus told parables or stories to illustrate important truths, and since I’ve always loved stories, here’s one I would like to share:

A baby camel asked his mother why he had two wide, funny-looking toes and she responded that they were given by God to help him walk through the desert sand without sinking. He then asked her why he had such long bushy eyebrows, and she told him God gave them to him to keep the desert wind from blowing the harsh sand into his eyes and blinding him.

“Well then, what are these funny-looking humps on our backs for?” he asked.

“Those are our food supply, so we can travel for days and miles across the barren desert without dying of hunger,” she replied.

“But Mom, may I ask you one more question?”

“Sure son, what is it?”

“What are we doing in the zoo?”

Believers Are Salt and Light

The Bible says, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13

When Jesus shared this illustration, it was obvious to His disciples what He was referring to by mentioning salt. They knew salt was a preservative and that without it, much of humanity would not have survived. As fishermen, several of His disciples had used salt to preserve their catch, keeping the fish from spoiling before they got them to market. They would take the salt, hand rub it onto the fish, then cover the entire catch with salt as much as possible.

However, Jesus goes on to say that if salt loses its preserving power, it is good for nothing, and will be thrown out and trampled under the foot of men. I believe it’s safe to say that Jesus was telling them, “It is you and all the true, future, salty Christians that will help preserve the earth. All of you will be rubbed into and poured upon this world as salt and light, and you will become known as those who are willing to take a stand against evil. Without you—the preserving salt of the earth—the world will become corrupt and decay.”

Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Mark 16:15.

The Zoo?

Sadly, salty Christians can lose their savor if they turn the public-social gospel into a self-centered gospel, and use the church like a zoo! They gather in holy huddles and ask the pastor to salt them down so they can make it through the week—inaccessible to the world. At that point, the gospel that should be shared with the world becomes isolated, the salt loses its savor, the light in them no longer shines, and the world will no longer be drawn to Jesus. The Great Commission becomes the great omission!

It’s okay to love the zoo, enjoy the zoo, attend the zoo, and fellowship in the huddle. However, Jesus didn’t call us to live there. And come to think of it, He never commissioned the world to go to the zoo, but commissioned the zoo to go to the world, instead!

So, can I ask a question? What are so many Christians doing huddling at the zoo?

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“The Ultimate Door To Door Salesman”

I was old enough to read but I didn’t know what the word “Solicitor” meant. It was a daring sign on a neighbor’s front door and it said, “No Solicitors.” I asked my mother what it stood for and she told me they didn’t want any door-to-door salesmen bothering them. So I stayed away from that house on several occasions during my youth when school, Scouts or paper route promotions called for a knock on their door. I didn’t want to be thought of as a solicitor and certainly not a door-to-door salesman.

I have to admit that it must have been that little sign that put a bad taste in my mouth for door-to-door salesmen and I was glad to see them go the way of the dinosaur. It had been years since one had actually knocked on my door and attempted to make a pitch for their product—that is until the early morning of November 8, 1976 at 6am when I heard one knocking. It was early for a salesman, but I had been waiting for this particular one for almost 20 years and this time I was ready to listen. So I asked, “What do you want sir?” I heard Him say through the door, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:18-20

He had knocked at my door once before at the tender age of eight, knocking patiently–calling my name and asking me to open the door. I had called out, “Come in,” but He just stood outside the door knocking and telling me what He had to offer. I grew tired of listening and turned away from Him refusing to open the door. It wasn’t until several years later that I saw Warner Sallman’s picture of Christ standing at the cottage door knocking, wanting to come in and even many more years before I realize there wasn’t a door handle on the outside of the door in that picture. The door could only be opened from the inside. My door could only be opened by me.

On that chilly November morning in 1976, I opened the door and the ultimate door-to-door salesman walked into my life and  began to clothe me with His glorious wares. He anointed me with gold representing the pure nature of the Father. He covered me with His white raiment of righteousness that my sins might be forever forgotten and he anointed my eyes with the Holy Spirit that I might see and understand that His Word is for both instruction and correction. I repented, He forgave; we supped.

Today Christ still stands at the door of men’s hearts and knocks. It must break His heart to know He has accomplished all in His power to provide love, mercy and eternal life for every individual behind every door and yet He has no power to open that door on His own. It will take you, body, soul and spirit totally surrendered to Him to turn that handle. I urge you to take down your “No Solicitors” sign and open your heart’s door to Christ and invite the Ultimate Savior in to sup with you.

  Pastor Hal Steenson

“A Time–Share God”

Mollie and I were in Branson, Missouri on a weekend getaway. We had taken this little excursion on the condition that we would tour a time-share condo–while the condo was beautiful, the price was not. We would be able to use the condo two weeks out of the year, but with our schedule, God only knew exactly when those two weeks would be. To me, it seemed like buying a new car, making the payments on it, and paying for yearly maintenance—only to have someone else drive it for 50 weeks out of the year!

While we were there, we met up with some old friends from Florida and started catching up. They were excited about the big revival they had just attended in Brownsville, Florida. All they could talk about was what God was doing there. The services were lasting until after midnight, and people were staying and praying around the clock. People were coming from all over the world and being impacted by the Holy Spirit in a mighty way. Miracles and healings were everyday occurrences and it was glorious!

However, I couldn’t help but ask them, “What about Toronto? The last time we saw you, the big revival was going on in Toronto, Canada, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” they said, “but it fizzled out.”

“God fizzled out?” I asked.

Their answer was that it was time for God to move on. The time for revival there was over, and now it was Florida’s turn for God’s presence and the moving of the Holy Spirit.

Their Turn

It almost took my breath as I sat there, puzzled in my heart. Wow, is God like this time-share condo—one part of the country gets Him for a while and then another part gets their turn? Down through ages, history records the accounts of the mighty outpourings of God—of countries, cities, and hamlets that shut everything down for the cause of Christ. However, there’s not one mention of God ever fizzling out! The bit in the mouth of every revival came from the bridle of man.

The world needs God, but we need a full-time God! God will stop being a time-share God when His people awaken to their need for continuous revival and stop expecting a twice-a-year touch from Him.

I Noticed It

After returning to work, I was updating my new 2012 desk calendar and adding carry over appointments from 2011–this was when I noticed it. There were two weeks blocked out, one in May and one in September with the words, Campmeeting! Although I didn’t buy into the time-share condo, I had unwittingly settled for a time-share God in 2011. What I had considered appalling was staring blatantly up at me from my desk calendar. I wondered which other people, churches and other ministries were enjoying the presence of my precious Lord the other 50 weeks when my time-share was over.

A New Commitment  

This was where I made a new commitment to myself and to my Lord–I will set up a permanent residence with Him just as He has done with me. I must stop settling for a time-share God a couple of weeks out of the year and start hungering for the time when His presence is overflowing and everlasting. I will pray as never before for a worldwide revival and believe that because Christ died for the sins of the world, He can have a worldwide revival for the repentance of those sins. I will pray that no matter how many miles may separate communities or countries, whether it’s in Australia or America, our God can be in both places changing lives. Isaiah 2:2 says, “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”

At the bottom of my 2012 desk calendar I drew a line blocking out the entire year and penned, Lord help me not to Fizzle Out! Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” You may want to check your 2012 calendar to see if you have your two weeks scheduled for your share of God.

   Pastor Hal Steenson

“The Pain Of A Rose”

It started out as any other spring, Sabbath morning. The birds chirping outside our window, the warm breeze lifting the curtains, the sky a rosy glow as the night gave way to the glories of a new day. A perfect day. The Sabbath.

We had started on our breakfast when it hit me, and froze me in place. Today was the day before Mother’s Day. Today they would honor the mothers at church. I took a deep breath, and my husband, Greg, looked at me quizzically across the table. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

I sighed again as I tried to answer. He reached over and gently took my hand. “Is it because today is the Mother’s Day program at church?” I nodded, not sure how to express how I felt. But he already knew. We’d been traveling on this journey for several years. This dream of a baby to hold and love, a little one of laughter and light, a son or a daughter to treasure and teach. We’d faced Mother’s Day’s before, but always with the hope, the dream, of maybe this time next year. . . But this particular Mother’s Day was different.

Greg and I held hands on our short drive to church, as if, somehow, we could gather strength from each other to make it through the day. We greeted our church family with smiles and handshakes and warm hugs, trying to focus on others instead of ourselves. The morning passed quickly and all too soon came the time I had dreaded. The time set aside to honor all the mothers in our church.

I was in my usual spot at the piano. Several ladies were at the podium with beautiful long stem roses. They were calling out the mothers in the congregation. The oldest? The youngest? The one with the most children? I shut my eyes and tried not to listen, only to have the words of the doctor replay in my mind like a broken record. Over and over, over and over. It had been only two months since we had found out. Two months since the last of several doctor visits that had dashed our hopes and dreams. Two months since those words – infertile, rare – and the most confusing one – We just don’t know why. The voice from the lady at the podium broke into my thoughts. “And now, we would like the children from our congregation to come up and give these roses to our mothers.”

I began to play as the mothers stood and kids came up from all over the church to pick up a rose for their mom. As I played, my mind wandered. Unless you work a miracle, God, I will never be a mother. Never have the joy of having a child, of raising one for You. Tears welled up in my eyes as I struggled to keep them in check. I looked out over the congregation and caught the eyes of Greg. Pain was etched in his face. I knew how deeply he hurt, too. I lost the battle with my emotions as the tears spilled over and ran down my face. Carefully turning my head, I shook my hair over my face so nobody would notice. Obediently, my hands still traveled over the keys, still hit the right notes, while my heart cried inside. Oh, Father, why does it hurt so much?

Suddenly, I heard a noise to my right. A single pink rose was being placed on the piano. I heard a soft voice say, “My mom said to give you this rose.” The girl turned and left the platform. “Thanks,” I whispered after her retreating figure. How like my friend, I thought. She didn’t know I was hurting today, but she wanted me to know that she cared for me on this day, of all days, and she sent her daughter up to the piano to give me the rose. Instantly, I felt God speak to my mind. Not an audible voice, but a whisper, like a soft caress. Jill, I may not have given you a child, but I’ve given you a wonderful friend. I love you, and I want to give you only the best gifts. 

I knew what those gifts were for me. The gift of a godly, caring husband, of friends and family; the gift of a God who loved me and understood what I was going through; the gift of a friend who followed the prompting of His Spirit and reached out to show me Jesus’ love through the simple gift of a red rose.

Do Greg and I have children yet? No. Do we ever ask why? Sometimes. But we can rest content in His arms, knowing that He knows the very best path for us to travel; that someday, at last, the pain of a rose will give way to the untold glories of eternity. Dear friend, I don’t know what painful and thorn-filled path you’re traveling on today. But know this, our precious Savior does. He’s traveled it before us. And someday, all the thorns and thistles here below will be forever plucked off, and all we will have left is the scent of the rose.

  Jill Morikone 3ABN Presenter

“Go See What Is Available”

Mark 6: 34-38 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.

Jesus already knew what He had to work with—five little barley loaves and two small fish. However, what he was verifying was the “Who” He had to work with. His disciples were concerned about the people and their hunger, while Jesus was more interested in proving the disciples’ willingness to present what was available to their Lord. It turned out that Phillip did not even consider the little lunch they found available to be worthwhile, but Andrew anticipated the thought of Jesus doing a lot with just a little.

The boy was from a poor family because the loaves were made of paltry barley and the fish were probably the size and variety of smoked sardines. Nonetheless, Andrew approached him about his meager lunch, the small amount that would feed over five thousand people. Andrew didn’t search through the multitude to find the biggest bounty; Jesus had said, “Go see what is Available,” and what he found was that scanty amount.

The Scripture is silent on how Andrew may have asked for the meal, but I do not believe the boy hesitated when he was approached. I believe he was overjoyed with the prospect of Jesus needing his food. I believe that not only did the child make his lunch available; he also made his life available. He may have said, “Yes sir, the Master may have my food, in fact, the Master may have all of me to use any way He desires.” Jesus saw fit to take, pray and break that humble offering and feed the entire mass of men, women and children.

Wouldn’t it be great to think that the twelve baskets of leftovers gathered by the disciples actually became a processional that followed the child though the streets of his village? What if they stopped in front of his house with the baskets filled with fish and bread and watched him as he invited everyone in his neighborhood to come and dine on the “All you can eat Free Buffet,” compliments of Jesus.

Jesus is still telling His disciples to “Go and see what is Available.” So, if you’re approached and asked to give what you have for the cause of Christ, you may just be the next little child of God that witnesses yet another miracle for the multitudes because you made what you had available.

  Pastor Hal Steenson