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Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

LOVE:

“What’s love got to do with it? It’s just a second hand emotion.”

Maybe “you’re looking for (love) in all the wrong places.”

Love is a topic of songs and themes to movies. Love is a powerful force that sends us to the mountaintop. It’s a passion that every heart was created to have filled; yet, love seems illusive. It seems easy to fall in love, but staying in love can seem impossible at times.

What do we tell people when life offers a different experience than what God’s Word proclaims?

Love casts out fear.  

 1 John 4:18 (NIV) tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” However, there are many people who struggle with fear.

Do you suffer from fear or insecurity? What about the fear of lack? Are you worried that God won’t come through for you?

I have been literally worried sick about so many things.

  • My past
  • My present
  • My future
  • My finances
  • What people think about me
  • I’ve worried about ONE single comment I said in a conversation, to the point that it kept me up at night.
  • My own mom once said, “I’m worried because there is nothing to worry about.”

How does a believer reconcile that love is supposed to cast out all fear, when most people seem to live in constant fear and worry?

Love never fails.

 1 Cor. 13:8 (NIV) tells us, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

 How can the above statement be true when we see love/marriages fail all the time? There can be a lot of confusion about love, with the church and believers being just as confused as the world. Recently, a seminary professor asked 120 of her students this question: “Do you believe that God loves you?” Out of 120 Christian students preparing for ministry, how many do you think answered “yes?” Two! The rest gave answers such as, “I know I’m supposed to say, ‘Yes’” . . . “I know the Bible says He loves me, but I don’t feel it,” or “I’m not sure I can really say I believe it.”

The message is simple: God isn’t mad at you … He loves you!

 If you take away only one truth from this blog, it’s this: “God’s not mad at you.” He forgives and restores, especially when we mess up. No matter how many times I tell people this truth, I’m amazed by the number of people that need to hear it.

As pastors we have to move people past the shame, guilt, and condemnation and bring them to a place to receive God’s love. We see this message in the conversation Jesus had with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11, NIV). “‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

There’s only one place to find what you are looking for.

To show that God’s Word is true, it’s important to define that the love that never fails can only come from God Himself. It’s the only love that will satisfy the soul.

What complicates the issue is we use the word “love” to describe everything from pizza to our children. Many think that it’s all the same love, just different levels of intensity. God’s love, agape love, cannot be found or created by the human spirit. It is only a fruit of God Himself experienced by us through the Holy Spirit. It is a love so deep, so devoted, and so unconditional that its ability to be shown and given to others can only come through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 (NIV) explains, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” and I John 4:8 (NIV) tells us,  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Freely Receive – The path to helping people

 Our Heavenly Father’s love can’t be studied. Ephesians 3:16–19 (NIV84) reminds us, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

It must be experienced. For me, I like to spend time in solitude, whether in a deer stand, out for a run or just sitting with a cup of coffee. Being “too busy” is the ploy of the enemy. God’s love is why we exist. It’s when we sit in His presence that we get to experience His small still voice. I’ve found I can’t give away (love) when I haven’t sat in solitude and received it first.

Choose Love – seek His strength

John 13:34-35 (NIV) informs us about “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35 (NIV) tells us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love is an action you choose to give with the power or ability to do so provided by the Holy Spirit. You want to impress that special someone? Just tell them “I verb you.”

What would society look like if starting on Valentine’s Day going forward, we chose through the power of the Holy Spirit, to love with the love that comes from the Father, the love that keeps no record of wrong, the love that is not jealous, the love that never fails? … HIS LOVE.

Pastor James Sunnock and his wife Aileen have been married for 30 years and have three sons / daughters-in-law. Pastor James graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree from Kings University. After running his own business for 10 years, Pastor James enjoyed a very successful sales career. In 1999, Pastor James left the corporate world and entered the pastoral internship program at Resurrection Life Church. In 2002, Pastor James became the Lead Pastor of Victory Life Church, in Battle Creek, MI. with 60 members. Today the church has grown to just over 1700 people and has been listed twice in Outreach magazine’s top 100 fastest growing churches. The ministry is committed to attracting people to the Gospel of Christ and inspiring them to grow in their faith.

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Welcome to 2019

Welcome to 2019

As I write this, we are a few days from breaking into 2019, and I am feeling a lot of excitement for what this new year will bring. To be honest, I am not the type of person that believes that every new year is going to be better than the last, life has taught me otherwise. But with that said, I am super pumped about 2019 because from my seat on the bus, LINC has once again  begun to stretch towards its potential like it did in its early days, and that can only mean that this next year will be more exciting, more challenging and, I believe, better than the last.   

In the last paragraph, I used the word ‘stretch’ specifically because stretching is what it will take for us to go from where we presently are to where our potential demands we go. I don’t know about you, but I love to stretch… living status quo is just so dissatisfying. Read the following quotes out loud to yourself. 

 “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” 

Abraham Maslow  

 “If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?” 

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav 

Here are just some of the reasons that I believe LINC is postured and that “stretching even more in 2019” will catapult us to reaching our potential: 

  • We have a founding leader recharged and actively raising up the local church.
  • We have a director that is passionate, has a plan, and is engaged daily in executing the plan. 
  • We have a leadership team whose motive and purpose is to “build leaders to build churches.’’ 
  • We have some great model churches. 
  • We have experienced mentor pastors. 
  • We have financial buy-in from many which will enable us to do bigger and better things together. 
  • We are planting churches. 
  • We are helping established churches renew themselves. 
  • AND WE HAVE YOU!!! 

These are just a few things I see that lead me to know that the only thing standing between where we are and where we can be at year-end 2019 is our ability to ‘stretch’ ourselves like never before. 

Welcome to 2019!!
John 

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Playing for a Championship Team - Part Two

In Part I, we discussed that one volunteer who continually frustrates the leaders of the church because he will not fully align with one ministry, one leadership, one church. To minimize those types of individuals from decreasing the effectiveness of servanthood, leaders need to ask themselves the following three questions.

You, the leader, first need to decide if you want to be a pickup team or a championship team.

Before you declare ‘we are a championship team,’ as the leader…

  1. You need to recognize the cost
  2. You must be willing to have the difficult conversations with your servants that go along with that commitment.
  3. You cannot be so desperate for people and volunteers that you are willing to lower the bar and allow anyone to play.
  4. You must cast the vision and set the bar accordingly to create and obtain championship team status.

Jesus made it clear that following Him included a steep cost and He wasn’t going to lower the expectations to accommodate people.

In Mark 10:21–23 (NIV84): 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” He said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Jesus loved the man described above but…

 

  • He didn’t chase after him
  • He didn’t make an exception when the rich man made his choice

 

The bar was set, and He was committed to those who were committed.

Believe in your people, and they will aspire.

The best thing a leader can do is believe in his/her team. People want to be inspired and reach new heights. That’s what makes a championship team. Not everyone, when challenged, will want to do what it takes to put on the jersey. Like Jesus, it’s still our job to believe in our volunteers and inspire them “to take up his cross daily and follow (Jesus).” Luke 9:23 (ESV). Luke 12:48 (ESV) tells us “to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” Don’t cheapen the mission because of fear of losing or offending people. Believe you are building a championship team with your volunteers.

We know people are at different levels and so we offer many areas and levels where they can serve accordingly. However, each level has an uncompromising standard of:

  1. Honor and Respect
  2. Integrity
  3. Excellence

We expect all our servants to have the desire to grow in Christ. Serving is an honor, not an entitlement. Our leaders are expected to have:

  1. A teachable heart – built through relationships, not podcasts
  2. A faithful heart – able to work without micromanaging and to produce increase
  3. An honoring heart

If you only accommodate ‘pick-up players’ – you’ll lose the championship players.  

Gideon had his 300 and David had his mighty men.

  • Champions want to be challenged and a part of something great
  • They don’t function with little to no vision or low expectations
  • They will simply leave and find a leader who’s willing to challenge and believe in them

Pastor, I want to give you permission. I want to empower you. It’s ok to be a Gideon Leader, to send some back home to the task of the farm.

  • We need farmers
  • However, give opportunity where only the 300, the champion players, qualify

If you form a championship team then your church will transform your community.

James Sunnock, Lead Pastor, Victory Life Church, Battle Creek, MI

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Playing for a Championship Team Part One

Playing for a Championship Team - Part One

Have you experienced that one volunteer? That one in your ministry group who seems to always be out of alignment with the team? As the leader, you’ve tried everything to encourage cohesion between him and the rest of the members, but no tactic you try seems to solve the issue.

I remember a servant on our team who seemed to cause frustration in every ministry he chose. A nice guy, but ultimately frustrating to the leader. We’ll call him George.

George ‘felt he had a calling’ and was eager to participate. Every week, though, he became the topic of discussion among the pastors. I remember hearing from one member of our team…

  • I let him lead a group, but I won’t let him speak at an event. I found out last week he spoke at another church.
  • He helps me out on Sundays but spends his time volunteering at other churches during the week.
  • I don’t feel like I can depend on him because I never know where he’s at or where he’s going. Is it wrong to be frustrated he is serving at other churches?

That’s when it dawned on me. George is a ‘pick-up ballplayer’ wanting to play on a ‘championship team.’ Pick-up ball is a term used for community basketball games.

  • Anyone who likes to play for sport shows up at the neighborhood court with their basketball and waits for enough players to form two teams.
  • The games last until one team reaches 21 and when everyone has had enough, they all go home, satisfied with getting in a good workout.
  • Pick-up games are meant to play with whomever, whenever.

The commitment is to the game, not the team.

However, the formation of a championship team is approached quite differently. To play for the NBA, a major commitment is mandatory before one even steps on the court.

  • Hours of practice have been logged consistently before ever putting on a team jersey.
  • Players who earn a spot on a championship team have a heart and vision for the team.
  • It’s a commitment to a specific group of people all playing for a common goal of achieving victory together.

Most people want to be part of a championship team, but few know how or what that entails. To lead that type of ministry experience, the leader has to answer three important questions.

  1.     Do you want your team to play pick-up ball or strive for the championship?
  2.     Do you believe the members of your team have what it takes for the championship?
  3.     Are you accommodating pick-up players at the risk of losing championship teammates?

In Part II of this blog, we’ll look at the answers to these important questions.

James Sunnock, Lead Pastor, Victory Life Church, Battle Creek, MI

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Pastoring in a Small Town

Pastoring in a Small Town

Pastoring in a small town is greatly impacted by how we create a healthy culture, not only in our church but also in our city.

One of the ways that we have done this is through our men’s ministry.

  • Men up front modeling worship
  • Men serving in the ministry
  • Men as examples of Christ in their homes
  • Men who are leading in the workplace

Several years ago we decided if we could build strong men it would affect the whole family. Little did we know the difference it would make in our entire church. Today someone from the community said, “I can tell that you are making disciples at your church because they are living it out in our community.” Wow! That is about the highest compliment a pastor can receive.

The secret sauce is consistency. Anything you do over and over can seem boring, but growing up is a lot about consistency.

  1. The first thing we did, and are still doing, is what is called Men’s Fraternity. It is a video teaching series that goes in three-year cycles and teaches men what true manhood is all about. I like one of the phrases used in our group, “If you cannot define manhood, you may not be one yet.” It is amazing the answers you will get when you ask a man to define manhood. We define manhood in Men’s Fraternity.
  2. We have found that the combination of Men’s Fraternity and an event called The Return was like pouring gas on a fire. The Return is based on the story of the prodigal son. He came home and was restored to his position in the family as a son. There are four steps that we take the men through to connect them to a father/son relationship with heavenly Father. The four basic steps to accomplish this are; examination, tear down, rebuild, and celebrate. We have found that these men come home free from condemnation and connected to the Father. It is amazing to see the freedom, and it has been a lasting freedom for most of the men!

My team and I can help you set up these ministries in your church if you desire. However, I believe there are a number of things you can do to get great results. The men’s ministry is just one way we have impacted our church and community.

Paul Ruzinsky, Lead Pastor, Resonate Church, Newaygo, MI

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Listening To The Voice Of Excellence

Listening To The Voice Of Excellence

There is a great story in the Bible that illustrates for us the importance of listening to the voice of God for our life and ministry. It is found in Exodus 18:1-12. In this story Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came to Moses while he was camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  

The Scriptures say that Jethro brought to Moses his wife and his two sons. What?  

  • Why weren’t his wife and two sons with him?  
  • Why did Jethro have to bring Moses’ family to him?  
  • Let’s find out.

I think the answer can be found in Exodus 4:24-26; “And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. 25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses’ feet, and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 So He let him go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”—because of the circumcision.”  

What a strange story! God shows up to Moses as he is journeying to Egypt to deliver Israel and says, “I’m going to kill you Moses.” What? Why?

  • God gave Moses a ministry. It was to lead the children of Israel.  
  • God gave Moses a mission. It was to deliver Israel from Egypt.  
  • God gave Moses a message. It was “Let my people go.”  
  • God also gave Moses a marriage.  

It was Moses’ marriage and family that wasn’t right. Moses had not circumcised his two sons. God was angry with Moses. Moses couldn’t fulfill his ministry or mission if his family wasn’t right before God. I believe Moses sent his wife (Zipporah) and his two sons (Gershom and Eliezer) back to Midian after this incident.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Zipporah, Gershom, and Eliezer missed the mighty miracles in Egypt, the miraculous Red Sea crossing, the bitter waters made sweet, the supernatural provision of manna and water, and the amazing defeat of the Amalekites.  

  • They missed the visitation of God.  
  • Moses, in trying to protect them from the dangers of Egypt, ended up shielding them from the amazing work of God.

I remember reading a book called “Halftime.” The author of the book talked about reassessing your ministry at the halfway point of your life. I was 45 years old when I read the book. I felt God was speaking to me to add short term mission trips to my ministry. I still remember the conversation I had with my wife. I asked her, “Would you come with me?”  Her response was resolute. She said, “I don’t want to miss out on anything. I want to serve the Lord with you. I don’t want to hear about your trip. I want to experience God with you.” My wife was the opposite of Zipporah. My wife is my spouse, my friend, and my accountability partner.  We do life and ministry together.

Let’s jump ahead approximately three months in our story. Here comes Jethro, bringing Moses’ family to him as they camped at Mt. Sinai.  

  • Jethro means excellence in Hebrew.  
  • Jethro was the voice of excellence to Moses.  
  • Jethro represents the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  
  • Jethro wanted to reconnect Moses with his family.  
  • Jethro knew that for Moses to be successful in his ministry and mission he had to journey with his family.  

 

We need to learn this truth.  

  • No amount of success in the ministry can compensate for failure at home.  
  • All ministry begins in the home.

How’s your marriage? How are your children? Are you leading them well? Let’s reconnect with our family. Let’s make sure they are loved and valued.

 

Tim Forsthoff

Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Church, Highland Michigan

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I’m Alive

I'm Alive

Jesus said in John 14:19, “Because I live, you will live also.”  

  • Resurrection life is one of the anthems we celebrate and teach
  • Resurrection life is the theme

 

The Holy Spirit has repeated this revelation in my spirit since the very beginning of my salvation experience. I have served God for 42 years, and been in full time ministry for 33 years.  “Because He lives, I shall live also” has been an anchor and hidden strength in the face of the enemy. It has been this revelation that has kept me through every season.

  • You cannot kill God.
  • You cannot kill a God ordained heaven sent calling.
  • You cannot kill the Holy Spirit inside of me.
  • He is invincible. He is brilliant. He is in me! I am alive.

This revelation could be shouted from the rooftops. Yet so often the Holy Spirit simply whispers it in the secret place of my spirit and says, “You’re alive aren’t you?”  

  • He whispers this to me when I’ve endured the deep waters of trials.
  • When I’ve faced the fierce attacks of the enemy.  

 

It’s sometimes similar to the commentary about Joseph in Genesis 45:26 “Joseph is still alive.”

  • Yes! Joseph was still alive!
  • Yes! I am still alive!
  • Yes! You are still alive!

Because He lives, you shall also!

Rhonda Forsthoff, Cornerstone Church, Highland, MI

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Expectation

Expectation

David said in Psalm 62:5, “For my expectation is from Him.”

  • Expectation is a healthy, life giving emotion, and mental attitude
  • It brings a spark to our soul and joy to our journey
  • It is dynamic in our relationship with God

At times we can find ourselves saying, “This is amazing! I didn’t expect this! This is more than I hoped for!” I think Ruth must have experienced this when God ordered her steps in Boaz’s field. She was brought into a life she never expected.

Sometimes we come into distressing circumstances. We hear ourselves say, “I didn’t expect this.” Our hope is crushed and our future looks dark. Yet, like the Philippian jailor in Acts 16:27-28, we can get an “unexpected expectation.” I mean the kind of “unexpected expectation” that rises up in our spirit because of the Holy Spirit Who lives in us. Whereby we surprise ourselves as we hear ourselves say, “Where is this expectation coming from?!” Light breaks through the darkness in our spirit.

May the hand of God and the quickening power of the Holy Spirit break into your life and bring you an “unexpected expectation.” Truly our expectation comes from Him (Psalm 62:5)!

Rhonda Forsthoff, Cornerstone Church, Highland, MI

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The Evangelist

The Evangelist

“And He has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.”

Ephesians 4:11-12 (TPT)

The role of the Evangelist is the same as the rest of the five fold ministry gifts; to build up the body of Christ. Regardless of which office you stand in and are called to, we all have the responsibility of training and equipping people so that they can DO the work of ministry.

When I answered the call and stepped into the office of the Evangelist a little over 15 years ago, I thought my role was to preach the Gospel and get people to ask Jesus into their hearts. Although that is at the surface of what an Evangelist’s work entails, it goes deeper than that.

The work of an Evangelist is to help people discover who they are and why they were created – to know the purpose of their existence. We do that by introducing people to the One Who created them! It’s about creating an environment where people can do more than hear the Gospel, but also have an encounter with the Author of the Gospel. On the Conquerors we call this Presence Evangelism and we take our cue from the Greatest Evangelist that ever walked this planet….Jesus Christ!

Jesus used the gifts given Him by the Holy Spirit to prove who He was and is. When John the Baptist asked if Jesus was the One He answered like this, “The blind see again, the crippled walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised back to life, and the poor and broken now hear the hope of Salvation.” Matthew 11:5 (TPT)

He also validated His Kingdom message: “But He said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’” Luke 4:43 (NIV)

And Jesus displaced the kingdom of darkness: “Yet if I am casting out demons by God’s mighty power, God’s kingdom realm is now released upon you—but you still reject it!” Luke 11:20 (TPT)

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom and demonstrated its power. And that is how we help and assist in building the church and advancing the Kingdom. We use proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom in tandem with a demonstration of the Kingdom’s power!

“For the Kingdom-realm of God comes with Power, not simply impressive words.” 1 Corinthians 5:20 (TPT).

This is not a Pentecostal method or a Charismatic method, but the Kingdom method demonstrated by the King!

As we continue to build on the foundation laid with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone, we also have the same Spirit within each of us to confirm who we are in Christ. And the same power to validate the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “The message I preached and how I preached it was not an attempt to sway you with persuasive arguments but to prove to you the almighty power of God’s Holy Spirit. For God intended that your faith not be established on man’s wisdom but by trusting in his almighty power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (TPT)

I tend to look at the Five Fold ministry through a military perspective:

The Evangelist – The Kingdom’s special forces inserted into enemy territory to conquer and gain territories.

The Pastor – The Kingdom’s occupational force and ruler of occupied territory.

The Apostle – The Kingdom’s general who oversees several occupied territories and strategizes the overthrow of several more territories.

The Prophet – The Kingdom’s communications officer who conveys both encouragement and orders from the Commander In Chief.

The Teacher – The Kingdom’s trainer and overseer of implementing the culture of the Kingdom.

These grace ministries will function until we all attain oneness in the faith. Until we all experience the fullness of what it means to know the Son of God, and finally we become one into a perfect man with the full dimensions of spiritual maturity, and fully developed into the abundance of Christ. Ephesians 4:13 (TPT)

 

Mike Benson, CEO, The Conquerors, Grandville, MI

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Christmas Generosity

Christmas Generosity

Christmas is upon us! Some already have their trees up. A few may even have most of their shopping completed. Kids are counting the days until they can open gifts. It’s the one time of year where all are involved in some sort of giving and receiving. All of this is activity started because of the birthday of Jesus. Christmas is the result of God the Father’s generosity when He so loved the world that He gave His only Son.

Generosity is an impulse that invokes deep and vital healing in the human family. When we share our gifts with each other, whether they be gifts of love, time, attention, skills, or money there is a powerful release of positive change in both the giver and receiver.

Scripture is full of references that speak to a generous lifestyle:

  • Go the second mile
  • Give your coat also
  • Make me a cake first
  • The widow’s mite
  • The churches in Macedonia that gave more than they could afford

Generosity is always about the heart. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, (Mark 6:21). We invest ourselves into the things and people who move our heart. So why is it so hard to have a generous heart at times? Some of our challenges might sound something like this:

  • “If I give, I won’t have!”
  • “They don’t deserve it.”
  • “Someone else will take care of it.”
  • “Not my calling!”

Generosity has more to do with the size of a person’s heart than the size of their bank account! Take for example what a young man, Jim Elliott, wrote in his senior yearbook: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim later was martyred as a missionary in Ecuador, ministering to the Huaorani people. Ultimately, the gospel came to these people as a result of his sacrifice.

Psalm 112:9 NLT

“They give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will never be forgotten. They will have influence and honor.”

Proverbs 11:25 NIV

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Hebrews 13:16 NLT

“Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to God.”

Generosity always has a recipient. The early pioneers were on the other side of the Native Americans generosity. The Huaorani people were recipients of the sacrifice Elliott made. Who could be waiting on our generosity? Maybe, this year our thanksgiving for all God has done for us should be expressed by giving freely without expectation of anything in return. Maybe, we could go the second mile to aid someone in need. Maybe, we could live by the concept that “open hearts will open hearts”! Maybe, we could be The Good Samaritan! Just a thought.

Bobby Bogard

LINC Director of Operations

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