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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Witnessing Miracles

by Cheryle M. Touchton

Cheryle Touchton

Miracle: An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.

An Introduction Before the Miracles  

Welcome to Witnessing Miracles, the new name of our e-newsletter. You may remember it as Monday Ministry Moment. This is more than just a name change.  We know you receive  many wonderful Bible Studies in your  inbox, written by Bible Scholars far more qualified than us. We want to give you something unique from this ministry, a glimpse into the miracles we witness as we bear witness to the Gospel across America. I will send this and post these stories on our blogs as they occur and the spirit leads so check your inbox to witness new surprise miracles. 

Read and stand in awe of the power and simplicity of the Gospel and the overwhelming love God has for us. Pray for the people you read about. Learn from our words, tools, and approaches. Join us in witnessing to the people in your paths and circles so you can witness miracles in person. Share your stories with us so we can share them with others.  Forward this newsletter to anyone who would enjoy witnessing miracles or wants to learn more about sharing the Gospel. Ask us for help if you need it. Equipping you to share the Gospel is the cry of our hearts. May these miracles thrill you the way they thrill us.  These stories are our gift to you.

Today's Topic:  
Miracles Multiply!
Dear (Contact First Name),
A strong muscular arm extended towards me. I looked up to see 4 large men wearing uniforms that identified them as New Orleans Grounds Keepers.  Our team of 4 were at Mardi Gras 2018 using handmade bracelets to share the Gospel.

Giving the Gospel

Miracle 1: The Gospel Attracts 
"Can we have one of your bracelets? We've been hearing you all day. We want one of our own."

We'd been standing in the same place most of the  day, shivering and giving the Gospel. I'd seen them cleaning earlier and had even thanked them and prayed for them. I had not offered them a bracelet because every time I saw them, they were busy working.

"Of course!" I said. All 4 grinned and pulled up their jacket sleeves to make room for their bracelets. Gospel Team members rushed to help tie bracelets on.

"I've watched you cleaning for us today. Thank you for coming over. Do I need to rush or do you have time for me to take my time explaining the meaning of the beads?" I asked.

"Take your time," one of them encouraged. All nodded.

Miracle 2: The Power of the Gospel 

: "The gold bead represents the amazing plans God has for you, plans to give you a hope and a future, plans to prosper you. Those plans include one day going to heaven. The bead is gold because the Bible says heaven is paved with streets of Gold. I'm not sure why we like to wear God's asphalt but we do." The men laughed.

Sin: "The dark bead represents the darkness that comes into this world. The Bible calls it sin. Have you seen the groups of people walking around with the signs about sin?"

"Yes! They love to shout at people in our city," one of the men answered while they all laughed. He continued philosophically, "I suppose there's plenty to shout at."
"I'm so sorry you have to hear that. They sound mean and nothing about the Gospel is mean. If they yell at you, tell them that this minister lady you met on the street told you that we've all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God, which probably includes them too."

"That's a good answer," one of them said as they all laughed.

Jesus: "The wages of sin is death, which is what those people like to scream about. Sin is the mistakes we make. It keeps us from everything good God wants for us, including heaven. The good news is that the gift of God is eternal life. The red bead represents the blood of Jesus that was shed for you and the heart represents that you are beloved by God. Jesus did not come into this world to condemn the world but that all the world would be saved."

The Way: "The white bead is my favorite. All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. The word saved means eternal life with God but it also means healed and restored here on earth. The bead is white because there is a verse in the Bible that promises that when we call on Jesus, He washes us white as snow. When we confess with our mouth and believe with our heart, we are forgiven of our sins. White snow is a metaphor for purity."

Growth: "The green bead represents growth. Salvation begins on earth. After you call on Jesus, we grow through prayer, meditation, Bible Study, and church. Do you men go to church?"

They looked at each other and began to squirm. I laughed. "The Bible does not say all who go to church will be saved. It says all who call on Jesus will be saved. Do you believe in Jesus?" All 4 nodded. "What about the next life? Do you know where you will go when you die?"

Eternity: There was that squirming again. One of them said, "I hope heaven." The others nodded their agreement.

"I hope you're going to heaven too. I'll get there before you. If God asks me, I'll put in a good word for you but I don't think He'll ask." The men laughed again. "If God were to ask why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?"

The brave man who had first asked for a bracelet answered first. "I'd tell Him I'd tried to be good."

"Is he good?" I asked the others.

They laughed, hesitated, and made hand motions that indicated it was marginal.

"Don't take them to vouch for you," I teased. They all laughed again. "What about the rest of you?" All were trying to be good enough but none were sure they were.

"I want you to be good," I said. "So does God but none of us are good enough to get into heaven. The reason you hesitated is that you were probably remembering sins you had committed."

They agreed completely and made a few self conscious jokes about sinning. Like most people I meet, they knew they were sinners and not worthy of heaven.

The Invitation: "God does not have a point system that says you have 5 points and your buddy here  has 10 points so he gets in but you don't." They laughed. "The Bible says good works do not get us into heaven. God does have a book that has a list. It's called the Lamb's Book of Life. That book has the names of people who called on Jesus for salvation and accepted His free grace. I'd love to lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus. Would you let me?"

They enthusiastically nodded. I was surprised when they formed a circle and held hands. The man's hand next to me trembled. I prayed and they slowly repeated the words after me.

Miracle #3: They called on Jesus

Prayer: "Dear God, I believe that your son Jesus died on a cross for me and rose from the dead. Help me with any part of me that doesn't believe. I confess that I've made mistakes and ask for your forgiveness. I invite Jesus into my life to be my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you for my salvation. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Miracle #4: The Holy Spirit Glow
They looked up smiling broadly. There it was - what I call the Holy Spirit Glow. A couple even had tears in their eyes.

"All of heaven is throwing a party because of what you just did! An angel party is way better than a Mardi Gras Party. Let me ask my question again. Where will you go when you die?"

Miracle #5: They knew they were saved 

"Heaven," they all said enthusiastically. As promised in the Bible, the Holy Spirit testified to them about their salvation. I gave out materials for suggestions about what to do next and mentioned a local church. I thought we were done but we God had more miracles waiting for us to witness.

Miracle #6: They brought friends
A few minutes later, Gospel Team Member Doug Tubbs was walking when he saw the man who had first stuck his arm out for a bracelet motioning Doug to come over. Doug went to where this man was standing with a friend.
"Tell him about what you just told me!" the new Christian encouraged. "Give him a bracelet." Doug gave him a bracelet and within minutes, the 5th grounds keeper invited Jesus to be His Lord and Savior.

"Let me know if you have any other friends," Doug said.

"As a matter of fact we do." They pointed out another friend and everyone walked over to him. Can you guess what happened next? Yes, a 6th grounds keeper called on Jesus for salvation.

A few minutes later a big burly security guard who I'd seen with the rest of the men walked over. I worried for a moment he was going to tell me to take our sign down but he asked for a bracelet, and called on Jesus to be saved. Those 7 men greeted us with smiles every time with saw them later that day.

Think about the miracles we witnessed. These men heard us giving the Gospel and were drawn to it. Four large muscular men were willing for us to tie bracelets on them. They held hands as they prayed. A couple even had tears. They left that day with their eternity secure. They encouraged 3 more people to meet Jesus.

When does something so personal happen with men who had just moments before been boisterously teasing one another? I'll answer that for you. When they hear the Good News of the Gospel.

You know it's God when you can't keep up. For 4 days, we witnessed those kinds of miracles. People flocked to us, waited in line to talk with us, met Jesus, and brought friends and family back to hear the message.

Miracle #7: The harvest is ripe
172 people prayed to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior in just 4 days. Many more heard the Gospel but said no. Pray for those who said yes and no, but we aren't worried about those who said no.

Miracle #8: The word of God does not return void
The word of God continues to work on hearts long after we leave. The thumbs up for giving the Gospel is speaking the scriptures, which our team does. The people we speak with have free will so the response to the Gospel is up to them. Our only job is to find out if people know Jesus, speak the Gospel Scriptures, and invite them into a saving relationship with Jesus. The miracle is in how the Holy Spirit uses those Gospel scripture to convict hearts. The amazing thing about witnessing miracles is that we get to watch those miracles multiply before our eyes.




Seeing is believing. Watch our short Evangelize Mardi Gras 2018 video and pray for the people you see:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wal-Mart Shoppers Meet Jesus

The day we'd waited for finally arrived. The planning was done. We had our supplies. People prayed for us. Our team of 4 met in DC to fly together to New Orleans. Doug Tubb had the first Gospel Conversation when he noticed someone on the plane reading a Christian book. The man knew Jesus but loved hearing the Gospel through the colored beads.

Cathy Tubbs and I had the second conversation. She also knew Jesus. Her eyes lit up at our mission to preach the Gospel at Mardi Gras. Our server at dinner knew where he was going in the next life. Our first three conversations blessed us.

After dinner, we needed groceries and more supplies so we stopped by Wal-Mart before returning to collapse at our sleep space for the week, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

I first saw the young family in produce. She looked so tired. She was still wearing her mail carrier uniform. I thought about talking to them but they were busily managing the two adorable young boys in their cart. I saw them three more times.

Dad also looked exhausted but on a mission to get the shopping done with as little fuss as possible. I felt drawn to them and was disappointed not to talk to them. I asked God to open the door for conversation. We kept shopping and I didn't see them again.

"Cheryle," hubby Bob said. "Get in that line. It's shorter." Speaking of getting the shopping done with as little fuss as possible. Cathy and Doug had already paid for their groceries. My Gospel team was clearly ready to get back. I laughed and pulled the cart into the line as Bob directed.

I couldn't believe it. There right in front of me was the young family I'd followed through the store. In front of them was a woman with a lot of groceries.
"May I give your boys a gospel bracelet about Jesus?" I asked. The woman smiled for the first time that night and agreed. When I started speaking the scriptures that matched the colored beads, both the father and mother listened but about half way through it, Steven needed to check out so he stopped listening.
The children played with their bracelets and the mother and I talked. Taylor went to church some as a child but worked on Sunday. The youngest was their child. The older boy was Steven's nephew who they were raising. They clearly had their hands full.

Taylor hoped she'd been good enough to go to heaven but wasn't sure. She eagerly prayed to meet Jesus. When she smiled with her entire face and her face relaxed, I was surprised at how young she looked.

"Is he your husband?" I asked, pointing to Steven.

"No," she said, looking down. "He's my boyfriend. But we've been together 5 years."

I felt Bob behind me putting our groceries on the belt and hoped he was providing spiritual cover while he was paying for groceries.

"What you've just done is important and I hate it that he missed it. He's finished paying for groceries. Let's go talk to your boyfriend."

"I don't know what he'll say," she said hesitantly.

"Let's try," I encouraged.

Taylor immediately took the boys a few feet away. I stood in front of this young man with his long braided hair and body art covering his arms and felt the honor of his undivided attention and respectful interest. He prayed with me to call on Jesus distinctly and humbly. He finished, looked up, and the sweetness on his face rocked me. He thanked me and Taylor hugged and thanked me. I got their contact information and we all left.

"Bob," I said. "Thank you for just taking over the groceries. Were you also giving spiritual cover."

"I was," Bob said. "Steven never noticed but I even caught his bananas that were falling." What a team!

When we got back to our room, our Mardi Gras Gospel Team planned tomorrow and prayed for Taylor and Steven. What a great start. What a tender blessing. Thank you God for putting me in line behind Taylor and Steven!

As I sat writing this, I heard singing outside. I peeked out the blinds and looked over the barbed wire fence to the gas station next door. A group of men we call "The Baptists" were at the gas station next door singing praise songs and giving the Gospel. Jesus is at Mardi Gras!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Be Intentional About Your Legacy - Monday Ministry Moment

The New Year is a good time to reflect on how you spend your time and it has me thinking about legacies. You will leave a legacy. The question is, what will it be? Will it be good or bad? Generational sin is real and when we sin, we run the risk of passing a legacy nightmare to 3-4 generations - that's in the Bible. It's been my experience that the "passing along" can include those both on and outside our family tree. Perhaps you're on generation 2 or 3 of a particular generational hurt or hang up and well into the assembly line of passing that legacy along. If so, push the "Stop Button" on that assembly line and be intentional about a new legacy.
We aren't stuck. The Bible says that if we break generational sin, we can bless 1,000 generations. Let's claim that lasting legacy! The legacy of Biblical stars like Moses, Abraham, Mary, David, and the writers of the books of the Bible continue to pass their legacy to new generations thousands of years after they walked on earth. If we want to leave a legacy that blesses future generations, we must be intentional about it.
I've been pondering "legacy," since meeting with my State College pastor, Dan Nold, in early December. I had what I call spaghetti brain about our 2017 ministry direction. I'd been praying for weeks and great words like evangelism, staff, journeys, growth, coaching, writing, donations, and salvations twisted their way through my head leaving tangled trails that resembled strands of spaghetti piled on a plate. All were good words but that spaghetti mess of "good" blocked my hearing the Holy Spirit's "best." Pastor Dan is gifted at seeing to the heart of a matter and speaking a simple truth that untangles what I like to call the "magic knot" that has tangled everything. He gave me 2 hours in a busy holiday season that also included a looming deadline of his doctoral dissertation. I hated to ask but I needed his wisdom. He listened and asked what I wanted my legacy to be. Chills went all over my body and the hair on my arm stood up. It was the key to untangling the "magic knot."
I knew immediately that my legacy calling wasn't building Pocket Full of Change Ministries, writing books and blogs, or branding my name, Cheryle Touchton. That knowledge explained something that had always confused me. I have a strong sales and marketing background from the business world and know the importance of branding. I used it effectively in business and have always felt a little guilty for not doing a better job at branding my name, our books, and the ministry name for the sake of our ministry work. Suddenly, I understood why.
While the name Billy Graham is the perfect legacy for an evangelist like Billy Graham and a book like The Screwtape Letters is an effective legacy for the author, C. S. Lewis, the ministry Pocket Full of Change and my name are mere useful tools for leaving the legacy I'm called to leave.
So what is it? It's the urgency of the Great Commandments and Great Commission and how they work together to further the kingdom of God. My call is to help people love God, love people, and share the Gospel. It's that simple. Everything else is a tool or distraction.
As an example, evangelism helps people begin the process of loving God, which leads to a natural love of people that drives them to share the Gospel. When they share the Gospel, the cycle begins again and perpetuates itself, which to me, is the definition of legacy. When we take Gospel teams to events, not only are we leading people to Jesus, we're training people who already love God and people enough to give their time to go to these events, to effectively share the Gospel. Studies show that when children see their parents giving the Gospel, they're more likely to stay in church as adults and take their own children to church. That means that when these newly trained Gospel-sharing people return home, not only are they leading people to Christ and helping others share the Gospel, when they share the Gospel around their children, they're passing on a legacy of church attendance to their grandchildren. See how that works? Can you see why this might excite me?
I write these hopefully inspirational Monday Ministry Moments specifically to Christians. I keep the focus on some aspect of loving God and people more because until Christians love God with their entire minds, hearts, souls, and strengths, they will never love people enough to effectively share the Gospel. When they do, nothing can keep them silent.
This ministry "Evangelizes America" because we understand that the first step to loving God is to meet Jesus and that loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel throughout America is the only true hope for America. That makes anyone who goes out with us, prays for us, or sends us out by donating to Evangelize America a part of passing on the legacy of living in a country we can be proud of. That wonder of how this all works together through our mutual legacy callings for our good overwhelms me.
Pocket Full of Change Ministries probably won't survive me moving to heaven and even if it did, based on what I've observed from watching much larger ministries, the focus of the ministry would most likely change based on the legacy calling of the new director. I'm OK with that.
The legacy I long to leave is what we as a ministry pour into the people we serve in the hopes that they too will pass along the joy and importance of loving God, loving people and sharing the Gospel. Our constant prayer and focus is for the people we lead to Jesus and minister to and with to love God and people so much that if they tried to be silent about sharing the Gospel, "the rocks would cry out," to quote a Biblical phrase. Everything this ministry does and every word we write should be intentional about helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
I left Pastor Dan's office energized. I knew what to do next - write another book. I've already written 3 books and 2 booklets that in some way address the topic of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel. It's "time" to capture the practical tales, tips, and techniques that we've collected from years of intentionally having Gospel Conversations with people in our paths and circles. Maybe my vision isn't large enough but I suspect this gospel conversation "how to" book probably won't make it to the New York Best Seller's List. However, I do expect it to stay on the bookshelves of people we've impacted. People who've experienced the bright light of loving God and people so much that they began sharing the Gospel have discovered an unimaginable joy in being a part of people accepting Jesus. They want to remember the experience and how to do it again. If this "how to" Gospel book is a reminder of that and is a treasured part of their bookshelves that they show others as they share the light of loving God, loving people, and sharing the Gospel, that "how to" book and our experiences will have served their purpose well.
I'm going to be intentional. Between now and our first evangelism event at Mardi Gras in late February, other than 1 speaking engagement next Sunday, I'll be in a private writing season that requires silence to hear the Holy Spirit, writing uninterrupted long enough to get into a productive "writer's zone," and focused time to be intentional about completing this book. I'm turning off my phone and will check messages and respond to urgent calls, texts, and emails at lunch and dinner breaks. I'll be on Social Media briefly in the morning and before bed. If you need me, leave a message. If its urgent, call Bob. He's in Virginia alone until I finish this writing season and will visit me a couple of weekends. I intend to honor Pastor Dan's precious time by being intentional with what I heard God say.
Mardi Gras begins our intentional season of evangelism journeys and events that typically runs through December. I'll continue this Monday Ministry Moment during this "writing season" in this abbreviated form to keep you updated and give you instructions for participating. I hope to stay in our Jacksonville home for this season but will move if I can't avoid the temptation of being with beloved family and friends. I am taking a Sabbath so if you live in North Florida and you'd like me to visit your church and/or share some of these tips, tales, and techniques with your congregation or small groups on a Sunday, just ask. 2017 ministry will be intentionally focused on helping people love God, love people, and share the Gospel.
What legacy are you called to leave? You know what it is. It's what you think about when you daydream. People hear it in your rants and impassioned speeches. It's how you vote and possibly how you pick your friends. Claim it and be intentional about leaving it. Don't expect everyone to have the same passion because they have their own legacy calling. Just focus on yours.
Take inventory about legacies you're unintentionally leaving, particularly those nasty generational sins that were foisted on you. Confess, made amends, and stomp your foot at anything the evil one is using to distract you from leaving the legacy you're called to leave. Be intentional about your legacy by loving God with your entire mind, heart, soul, and strength, loving people through the unique way your legacy call demands, and always sharing the Gospel through your legacy pursuits. Happy New Year!
Click to read the entire Monday Ministry Moment: Be Intentional About Your Legacy

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Follow Those Who Lead You to God

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

A Facebook meme grabbed my attention this week

I've thought about it all week. This is excellent advice to those dating but it goes way beyond that. How do I know a church is right for me? A friendship, mentor, or prayer partner? The answer is the same. Are they leading me to God?
I thought of all of the people God sent and still sends to lead me to Him. Family, church members, mentors, pastors, and friends. Those leading me to God are the only ones I want influencing my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. Certainly, there are many in our lives who don't lead us towards God and I am not suggesting we leave them behind. My mentor Pastor Ron Fuller often references people who are his by "blood, adoption, or assignment." What I am suggesting is to only adopt people as spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical influencers if they lead us towards God. Pop psychology might call them the people we let "inside our head." The voices we allow to encourage or correct. Those with whom we ride emotional roller coasters or work beside until we are bone weary. Those whose words send us to the word of God and our prayer closets. Those who will go to the word of God and their prayer closets on our behalf.

Biblically, we have obligations to many people but obligations are different than following someone. For example, we are linked to our spouses for life, even when they aren't leading us towards God but even in marriage, God has exceptions for broken covenants. Our family is our family and as such are ours but we all know family situations that become so toxic that boundaries had to be set and relationships put on hold. God sends assignments on a regular basis and since "lost people act like lost people," often those assignments include dealing with bad behavior. However, we get to choose whom we adopt and give permission to influence our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives. Those privileged spots belong only to those who lead us towards God. Knowing that means we can fulfill family obligation and accept God's assignments without having expectations and being hurt when family and those God assigns let us down.

I haven't always understood that or the difference in those relationships - blood, adoption, and assignment and as such, was hurt because I gave the wrong people permission to impact my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. Not everyone in my life has the goal of leading me to God. If I allow those with other motives a high level of influence, I'm hurting them and me by allowing them to lead me in the wrong direction. This can include both big life changing issues and something as small as an hour or even minutes of my time. I've lost count of the things I tried to do to "please" people, only to end up feeling sorry for myself because they demanded more without seeming to appreciate what I'd already given up to please them. That feeling of self righteous self pity was often my first clue that I'd given the wrong people permission to influence my spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical life. I've come to understand that when people I trust tell me I need to learn to say "no," they are really telling me that I need to get better at knowing to whom I need to say "no."

It isn't hard to know who God has assigned to us. We want to help. We make sacrifices joyfully and peacefully without expectations that they will give back to us. We also know those who are ours metaphorically by "blood" - our family. Family responsibilities like taking care of aging parents or caring for our children are instinctive and we can joyfully accept them, even when they are hard. I think that is what Daddy meant when he said he never resented anything he chose to do for people, which was a lot. Daddy also didn't let people push him into doing things he didn't want to do. We instinctively know who is leading us astray by that knot in our gut. What Daddy was a master at took me years to learn and sometimes only moments to forget. The combination of people demanding my time out of a sense of entitlement and me feeling "stuck" but doing it anyway was me choosing to follow people doing their best to lead me towards their desires instead of God's desires. I had to learn that the only "Well done!" I needed was God's.

If you've wondered why this ministry is called Pocket Full of Change, it is because we are called to help people make some kind of change, large or small, that leads them in the direction of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Having a pocket full of change is a metaphor for being prepared. We like to say that we help people prepare for life and eternity. The quarters we give out represent God's free gift and being prepared. On our travels, we often have just a moment with people and we want to make the most of that moment. Yes, if they aren't in a saving relationship with Jesus, we start there. Many we minister to have already met Jesus but for whatever reason, they have chosen to tiptoe, walk, or run in the opposite direction. Helping people "change" directions is the real call of this ministry. It is why we evangelize, blog, write books, use Social Media, coach, speak, train evangelists, and write this Moment. We think in terms of helping people make the wobbly baby steps towards the direction of God and see God as the beaming loving Father waiting with arms outstretched to catch the stumbling infant as he or she pitches forward into His arms. This line from the Moriah Peters song, "Well Done," is our constant prayer: "If they're following me, they're going to follow you."
Who steadies and guides you as you make those wobbly baby steps towards the loving arms of God? Who puts leading you towards God ahead of anything personally they might need or want from you? Put those people on your "adopt" list and celebrate them. If you can't name anyone, don't worry. Ask God to send you some. I know from experience that he'll say yes. When they arrive, test what they say against the word of God and if they pass the test, adopt them.

Check your relationships. Are they yours by blood, adoption, or assignment? Some will be on all 3 lists and a few might not be on any. Make sure you understand what list they belong on and adjust as the Holy Spirit leads. Choose who you adopt and make that group the only people you allow to lead you to Him. Again, to quote "Well Done," follow only those people who lead you straight into His arms. The only "Well Done" any of us need to hear is from God.

The Adoption Test 

  • Does the peace of God rule in your heart when you are with them?
  • Are you thankful for them?
  • Does the message of Christ dwell richly between you
  • Do you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit?
  • Do you sing to God about them with gratitude in your heart?
  • Is everything they ask of you in the name of the Lord Jesus?
If the answer is yes, adopt and give thanks.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

We Can Be Washed White As Snow

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18

It's snowing here. Fluffy white flakes are falling past my window on the 22nd floor. When I went to bed last night, the streets and rooftops were black. This morning, they were bright white. There is nothing like fresh snow to make everything feel like new.

I've thought about "white as snow" all week as Cathy Tubbs and I picked our way around the foul smelling litter left from late night Mardi Gras partying. White is one of the colors on the bracelets Cathy Tubbs and I used to share the good news of Jesus with Mardi Gras crowds drinking, puffing, partying, and trying to recover from such things. I thought about "white as snow" again when I used the same bracelets to share the Gospel with my innocent 5 and 7 year old cousins on Saturday afternoon . My tiny cousins already loved Jesus but the fresh snow on the ground brought the story to life as I pointed to the white bead and compared it to the newly fallen sparkling white snow these little people were so mesmerized by. I've learned that the wonder of being made as pure as newly fallen snow is the same for an innocent 5-year-old and an adult hardened by years of decadence.

Like us, many were in New Orleans sharing about Jesus during Mardi Gras. Hundreds were there to share the hope of being made as pure as snow. A few were there to shout threats and insults in a misguided attempt to scare people into turning away from sin. Because our messages were so different, I began thinking of the two groups as "Good News Christians" and "Bad News Christians." The "Good News Christians" far outnumbered the "Bad News Christians" but unfortunately, it was the "Bad News Christians" that many in the crowd associated Christianity with. The message of both groups brought to mind the scripture that says whatever we do to the least of His brothers and sisters, we do to Jesus. The "Good News Christians" reminded me of the man who carried Jesus' cross and the "Bad News Christians" reminded me of those shouting taunts at Jesus and crying for his crucifixion. As indignant as I wanted to be with the "Bad News Christians," I had to remember that Jesus died for the very people who cried for His crucifixion. You can probably make a guess about which approach helped those there to party hearty become pure as new snow.

Cathy and I had 72 people choose to be made as pure as new snow. Mardi Gras attendees love getting beads and they loved getting our "Mardi Gras Love Bead Bracelets." As we tied them on, we started with the gold bead and the hope of heaven. We used the dark bead to demonstrate that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that the wages of sin is death. The red bed shared the good news that God loved the world so much that He sent his only son Jesus so that all who believed could be saved. When we got to the white bead and gave the good news that the gift of God was eternal life and that all who called on the name of Jesus would be saved and washed white as snow, we often saw the light of hope enter the eyes of the listener. If they chose to invite Jesus into their lives as Lord and Savior, those same eyes lit with what we call the Holy Spirit Glow - where hope became reality. When we pointed to the green bead and explained how to grow closer to the one who had washed them white as snow, they listened.

We were not the only Good News Christians experiencing the joy of being with someone at the moment they were washed white as snow. Many were reporting salvations. I observed 2 college students lead a man to Jesus, hug him, and when the new Christian left, hug each other and jump up and down with glee.

I was particularly touched by Mardi Gras attendee Morgan's beautifully painted Mardi Gras face and haunted eyes. When we met her, she was suffering because the "Bad News Christians" had used their bull horns to mock her, call her nasty names, and tell her she was going to hell. We offered her one of our Mardi Gras love bead bracelets. She took it but when we told her we were Christians, she almost bolted in fear.

"Wait," I begged. "We're the good news Christians. I'm so sorry that just happened to you."

Morgan froze and listened warily as we explained the beads. When I got to the dark bead about sin, she took a step backwards and said, "I've made so many mistakes. I'm trying to make up for them but maybe I can't. It bothers me all the time."

"Please keep listening," I begged. "We've all sinned. Those people who just shouted at you have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all have." She stayed.

When we reached the hope of the white bead, a perfectly formed teardrop appeared in the corner of one eye. I reached up and gently used my thumb to catch her tear. As I looked at that wet teardrop still fully formed but now on my thumb, I was reminded of Jesus' anguished prayers as his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. Jesus faced that anguish so people like Morgan and you and me no longer had to carry the burden of sin. Yes, Morgan met Jesus and was washed white as snow. She hugged us and thanked us for telling her the good news of Jesus.

Today, do you know what can wash away your sin? Like the old hymn says, nothing but the blood of Jesus. Do you truly believe that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? When you see sin, do you believe that enough to identify with the sinner? Instead of feeling superior, do you have hope for the sinner through the white washing blood of Jesus? The wages of sin is death and that is a back breaking burden for the sinner. Do you believe that enough to have compassion for the sinner without trying to add to that burden by judgment, anger, or taunts? Do you believe that the word of God is alive and sharper than a double edged sword? Do you believe that enough to offer the good news of the Gospel scriptures and trust that the word of God will convict hearts? Do you believe that the power of Jesus can wash anyone as white as snow no matter how crimson the stain? Do you believe it enough to sing: What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. (From What Can Wash Away My Sin by Robert Lowry)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The End

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
The End

Written In Jacksonville, Florida
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

It was time for the 2015 Pocket Full of Quarters Journey to come to an end. I knew it because I felt the "Uncalling." I also knew it because our bank account and credit card balances matched - which meant that as soon as we paid the bill for the last month of travel, we'd be out of money. Besides, I had a grandson turning 4 and I wanted to be at his birthday party in Jacksonville on Sunday. I can always tell when God has released me from a focused journey call because I begin feeling called back to my family.

I left the Fullers in Manchester, Tennessee on Friday. The plan was to drive to Atlanta, have dinner with my best friend, Nancy Edwards, and pick hubby Bob up at the Atlanta airport at 10:00 PM. We had a reservation in an Atlanta campground and planned to drive home on Saturday.

The drive from Manchester to Atlanta was slow and dangerous. What should have taken three hours, took six. Impatient drivers cut across multiple lanes of traffic. I passed several serious accidents and was almost involved in 2. I called Nancy several times to change meetings times. Finally, at 8:30 PM when we realized that traffic wasn't going to allow me to get to our meeting place, Nancy changed meeting locations. My cell phone wasn't charging and my phone wasn't receiving all calls and texts and I felt very alone. I arrived after 9 at the new meeting place, hungry and exhausted. Nancy knew what I liked and had ordered for me so my food was waiting.

I wanted to fall into my best friend's loving arms and allow her to comfort me but she'd brought a friend along who needed the combined ministering attention of the two of us. We do this occasionally and I wasn't surprised. Without any prepping, I assessed the situation, prayed, went into "Encounter Mode," and we ministered together as we have done so many times throughout our lives.

I knew I was going to be late picking Bob up and knew he'd understand. There was more traffic getting to the airport and it was after midnight when I gratefully released the driving and prepping the camper for the night over to him. I collapsed into bed and slept straight through the night.

We've had 198 salvations! I thought as soon as I woke the next morning. We need two more so it will be an even 200. God, it would delight me if you send us 2 more salvations.

I briefed Bob and even though we were both anxious to get to our home in Jacksonville, we began slowly making our way to Jacksonville, stopping where we saw people. We sowed seeds and had great encounters...but no salvations. It was getting late and we just wanted to be home.

"I need coffee to stay awake," Bob said.

"I see a shopping center. Pull off there. Maybe there will be people and we can evangelize one last time."

We pulled in to an empty parking lot. The shopping center had seen more prosperous days. The stores were closed or empty. There was 1 bakery/antique shop that looked open all the way at the end of the parking lot.

"Maybe they have coffee," I suggested. There were no other customers.

"Is your coffee fresh?" Bob asked.

"I'll make more," a cheerful Alexis said. While the coffee was brewing, we found out that her husband and his family were born again Christians. She believed in Jesus but admitted that there was something missing. There certainly was. No one had told her how to invite Jesus into her life. Within minutes, Alexis knew Jesus. That made 199 salvations.

"I have to find a restroom," I told Bob after he got his coffee. He waited and I made my way through the antiques and found myself in a kitchen in the back. There a sad eyed, thin, stringy haired girl was cleaning up after a day of baking.

"Where is the restroom?" I asked. She pointed the way.

"May I give you a gift?" Her name was Michelle. She smiled as I gave her a Gospel Bracelet and told her what it meant.

"You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today," Michelle said. About that time, a man walked in and glared at us.

"Do we need to talk later?" I asked. "I'll wait." I assumed this was her manager and didn't want to get her in trouble.

"No!" she said, glaring back at him. "I need to finish this. We don't have any customers and I'm almost done here." With her manager standing there glaring, she wept as she invited Jesus to be her Savior.

"Thank you God," I prayed. "200!"

Alexis joined us in the kitchen, still smiling. I suggested that the two of them find a church and grow together in their walk with Jesus. I turned to the still glaring manager and offered a bracelet but he wasn't interested. As I left, both woman rolled their eyes at the manager and as he walked toward them, they stepped warily out of his path. I knew there was a story there.

I found the restroom and made my way back to the front of the store. Bob was talking to a vender, managing one of the antique booths. He was the only other person in this huge store and he was sitting down in a chair attached to an oxygen tank. I hadn't even noticed him before.

"John has COPD and the doctors can't do anything else to do for him," Bob reported.

"I'm so sorry," I said to John. "My Daddy had that and I know how hard it is."

"We'd just started talking," Bob said. "John doesn't know where he is going in the next life." That was my cue.

I walked around behind the counter and tied a bracelet on his wrist. I gave the Gospel and after John prayed to invite Jesus into his life, I asked, "Now where are you going in the next life?"

"I reckon I'm going straight to heaven," he said, giving me a big Georgia-boy grin. Yes, he was!

"Wow," I said as we got in the car. "Good job Bob! I also had a salvation in the back of the store."

"I wondered what took so long," Bob said.

"That makes 201," I answered. Should we try for 205?"

"Cheryle!" Bob said, smiling. "You know that when we set a goal, God always blesses us with a bonus. Remember that leap year when we were at 364 salvations? You wanted to have 1 salvation for every day of the year so we needed 2 more. We stopped at Walmart at 11:30 PM on New Year's Eve. Not only did God send 2 more salvations, he gave a bonus of 1 more so we had 367. Can we please go home now?"

We did. We pulled into the driveway late Saturday night October 17, 2015. So far, I'd visited 35 states in 2015. Since leaving home exactly 2 months before, God had allowed us to have 201 salvations. He sent countless more Divine Encounters and many opportunities to train people to give the Gospel. It was the best Pocket Full of Quarters Journey ever. The harvest is the ripest I've ever experienced and we're getting close to 1,000 salvations for the year. Maybe God will send 1001.

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Live Gracefully

Pocket Full of Quarters Journey 2015
Live Gracefully

Written In
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake Romans 1:5

Do you live by grace? I pray you are saved by grace but I'm talking about living beyond being saved for eternity. I'm talking about living gracefully - understanding grace in light of everything that happens in your life. For me, living gracefully has been a process with ups and downs, stops and starts, and like peeling away layers of an onion to get to the flavorful part in the middle. This week peeled away another layer of the living gracefully onion.

I spent a couple of days at the home of my ministry mentors, Pastor Ron and Amanda Fuller. Yes, some of the time was spent evangelizing and 4 people met Jesus while I was there but most of the time was spent in their home chapel with Pastor Fuller literally standing at his black board and me taking notes on scripture and process applications for fulfilling God's call to Pocket Full of Change Ministries. Part of Pastor Fuller's call to ministry is equipping others to do the work of equipping the body of Christ for ministry. I am just one of many that he and his wife pour scriptural knowledge, experience with running ministries, and their unique spiritual gifts into. I always leave better prepared to fulfill my call from God.

This time my lesson was about living more gracefully. Technically, I knew that every good and perfect gift came from God. After all, I'm a Bible student. Having said that, I've always had trouble accepting ministry gifts from others. For example, when people take me into their home, I worry about their inconvenience, particularly because part of the nature of what I do means I can't always know ahead when I'm going to arrive. I joke that God doesn't seem to understand scheduling when I open myself to traveling America and going where He leads. Last minute critical assignments and/or encounters delay me for hours or even days. My hosts have to understand that but even when I've clearly heard and obeyed God and the fruits of the surprise encounters are obvious to all, I was still bothered by the scheduling inconveniences to others.

The same has been true when people donate. I worried about their ability to afford it, worried that their love for me put pressure on them, and felt constant pressure to be worthy of their faith in me. You are probably beginning see the problem.
Add to that how blessed I am by the number of people who follow me and reach out via email, text, phone or social media. No matter how many hours I work, I go to bed nightly without something done that has a person waiting. It has been frustrating that even on the most amazing days where I had many salvations, I could still go to bed feeling badly about something I hadn't done.
Now let's talk about my family and friends. I know how blessed I am. No matter how much a part of their lives I was or how hard I tried, I often felt as if I hadn't done enough or had let someone down.

I realized this week just how much all of this tortured me and hampered my effectiveness. Everything I've just mentioned are gifts from God because of His grace. By feeling unworthy or trying to be more worthy, I've been living as if these gifts were either things I earned, things humans gifted to me, or gifts I had to work for. What I'd thought of as humility, gratefulness, and care for others was actually audacity that I was the one Christian to whom God's plan for graceful living didn't apply. Trying to work to be worthy of this many blessings was exhausting because of the impossibility of it. It worked me to death and stole my joy of the blessings. Thinking I could ever be worthy of so many blessings is not scripturally sound and my feelings of unworthiness and gyrations to try to be worthy actually chases away new gifts God wants to give me.

So what do I do? Well, I start by not being surprised or feeling more unworthy. I'm human and we've all fallen short of the glory of God. I offer grace to myself and accept God's sweet graceful response that He will help me do better in the future. I rebuke the lies from the enemy and trust what the scripture says about the source of gifts. I confess my fears of losing precious gifts, dishonesty in recognizing the source of all gifts, selfishness in trying to hold onto gifts, and the self seeking involved in trying to be worthy of gifts that came to me via grace. I ask for forgiveness, make any necessary amends, and relax and enjoy even more graceful living.

This was a big week for me. I feel like a huge burden was lifted. Gone was the guilt that Pastor Ron and Amanda Fuller stopped all of their other important work and focused just on me. It was replaced with the wonder of the blessing. Imagine how blessed I feel to recognize that those comfortable homes I'd stayed in and all of the people who partnered with me through donations to take Jesus to America were gifts straight from the Creator of the Universe. I went to a birthday party for a grandchild yesterday and was overwhelmed with joy that the God who hung the stars in the sky took the time to craft this family just for me. I turned on my computer for the first time in days this morning and saw the blessings of all the emails without the stabbing pain that people were waiting for a reply. Anything I do for them isn't from me, it is a blessing from God sent when God chooses to send it. Can you imagine the relief of that knowledge? Instead of a voice whispering that I haven't done enough, my voice has shouted to God, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Here is my commitment to you. If you choose to bless this ministry through your homes, time, spiritual gifts, prayers, or donations, I am going to praise God and stand in awe of His gift. We are partners in the joy of taking Jesus to America and participating together in this blessing from God. When you offer to be a conduit for God's gift, I won't insult you by asking if you are sure, worrying about your convenience, or trying to be worthy of your generosity. I'll just enjoy and put to use the blessing from God. When I do something for you, I ask you to do the same. Let's all just enjoy the blessings of God together. That is the gift of graceful living.

Are you worrying about what others think of you? Do you have trouble letting people help you? Does your best not seem good enough? Do you feel unworthy of good things coming your way? Perhaps, it is time to find relief in peeling away another layer on graceful living.

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