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Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Life and Ministry of Josiah Emmanuel Holsing

  Josiah Emmanuel Holsing
August 27, 2014 10:00 AM - 11:35 AM

Josiah Emmanuel Holsing was born on August 28, 2014 and lived on earth 1 hour and 35 minutes. He spent that time in the arms of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members. We knew before he was born that his life on earth was expected to be short. God has a plan for every life regardless of how long or short it is. Not every life fulfills that plan but I have no doubt that Josiah Emmanuel Holsing did.

When a child moves to heaven either in utero or soon after birth, it can be confusing for those affected. Why did this happen? How can I love someone so much when I had so little time with them? Did I do something wrong? Am I overreacting? People who loved Josiah understandably had variations of those reactions.

With the best of intentions, the “world view” can discount such a short life by reminding parents that they will have other children, offering pep talks about God’s will, or encouraging the grief stricken not to give the God given season of grief its due.

Josiah's parents, Mark and Hannah understood that Josiah’s life had meaning and a purpose and as they walked through their grief and disappointment, they bravely played their role in ensuring their son fulfilled his purpose in life and ministry.

When they found out that their son had problems that would make life on earth difficult, their demonstration of such raw grief validated what every parent who has lost a child has felt. Their demonstrated faith reminded us to hold an eternal view of life.

Mark and Hannah are our friends. They attend church with us and were our Life Group leaders. They shared Josiah with us and allowed us to come to know and love him. We will be forever blessed because of him.

When Mark and Hannah found out that Josiah's life would be short, they asked the church to hold a baby dedication while he was still snugly inside Hannah's womb. This enabled Josiah to minister to all who had lost babies so early as well as those of us grieving the short time Josiah would be with us. Grieving together as a church family reinforced the purpose and ministry of every life. It made it impossible to think of Josiah as anything other than an eternal soul beloved by God and his family. 

Josiah’s life and ministry will most certainly make the point of the value of life and mean other children will be allowed to be born and live a life on earth. 

Like all parents, Josiah’s parents shared personal moments of his life with us – when he moved inside of Hannah, his birth, and pictures of his sweet face. It reminded all of us to allow joy, even in the darkest moments of our lives.

The life of Josiah allowed his parents to strengthen other marriages by demonstrating how Christian couples can lean on each other, God, and the church to survive and even thrive during the hardest moments on earth.

I personally have already used Josiah’s life and ministry to minister to other grieving parents. His life and ministry will continue to live on earth and in heaven – reminding me of the prayer – on earth as it is in heaven.

Thank you Mark and Hannah for being such good parents to Josiah. Well done good and faithful servants. He fulfilled his destiny on earth. Thank you God for Josiah Emmanuel Holsing. We love him but know you love him more.

Monday, October 6, 2014

An Unworthy Woman

by Cheryle M. Touchton

 Do you ever feel unworthy? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be like the “Worthy Woman” described in Proverbs 31. A commercial, popular years back sang, “We bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never never let him forget that he is a man!” I don’t remember their product but the mocking melody and words haunted me. Women watched that commercial with varied reactions of inspiration and indignation. Liberated women screamed, “We don’t have to cook!” Other voices quickly reminded us that we did not have work outside the home. In the meantime, I spent my days trying to balance children, marital romance, and a career while trying to find time for a waning spiritual life. I looked at the model woman in Proverbs 31 and often ended up feeling more like an Unworthy Woman.
Have you checked out the Proverbs 31 woman lately? She could have made that commercial I referenced above. Our role model sewed, planned, shopped, took care of her home, conducted profitable business transactions, managed a staff, dressed well, spoke with wisdom, and was adored by her husband and children. As if that wasn’t enough, this “Paragon of Virtue” had a sense of humor, taught, was in shape, was famous, and even made her bed. She was worth more than rubies. So why was it that when I missed work for the important children’s event, I wondered if I was worthy of my paycheck and if I missed the children’s event, I fretted that I deserved to mark my children with a stamp that said, “return to sender”? Over the years, I’ve come to terms with being a Worthy Woman and I thought you might be interested in the twists and turns of my trying to live up to the role model presented by God.

My Hero - The Worthy Woman

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. 14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. 16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. 18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. 19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. 20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all." 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:10-31 NIV

As a Christian woman, I knew to strive to be like this woman while wondering if it was possible. No wonder I was so tired! Surely this woman did not have to deal with doctors, day care, bosses, parking, e-mail, texts, and grocery lines. I sighed when I read that she began her day early and worked into the night. Self-esteem plummeted as I looked at my growing “to-do” lists. Guiltily, I would realize that I had skipped my Bible Study once again. Each day, I promised myself that tomorrow would be better before I collapsed into bed. 
I’d wake up the next morning and take heart. The scripture admitted (verse 10) that finding such a woman is rare. I rationalized that if there weren’t that many Worthy Women running around, maybe God didn’t really expect it of me. At that point, super-hero comic books came to mind. Possibly, this woman was the Biblical version of Wonder Woman. I fantasized that I could be like her. Maybe I really could be the one Worthy Woman on our block. This woman became my hero.
Maybe God knew I needed a hero. This scripture is a standard to which all women could aspire. It is hope for what our life could be like. My hero really was able to “do it all.” I wanted to be like her. I longed to know how. Fortunately, I found the answers in the scriptures. 

Get Help!

The hero didn’t succeed in all her endeavors alone. She chose well with her life mate. She had a successful, supportive, and respected husband. She had a staff to help her – even a housekeeper (verse 15). Maybe it really was OK to hire that housekeeper I had been dreaming of. I started planning the speech to my suspicious husband.

No Husband Bashing!

The housekeeper speech didn’t go so well at first. I thought to myself, if we had her husband, we could probably all be worthy. After all, the Worthy Woman had the perfect husband. God wouldn’t put up with that nonsense – I had a Godly husband. Besides, it wasn’t even about the type of husband she had. It was about a loving wife who always brought her husband good and not harm (verse 12). I realized with chagrin that it didn’t say that she brought him good only when he deserved it. Nonetheless, it didn’t take long for my husband to see the light about having a housekeeper.
This woman didn’t waste time blaming or complaining about her husband. While the popular modern day feminine sport of “husband bashing” might be fun and even possibly deserved, I had to stop it anyway. It wasn’t Biblical. I began trying to think only about doing my husband good.  

No Whining!

Whining is another popular way of life for many women. We even dress it up with positive words, like “venting,” “expressing our feelings,” or “standing up for ourselves.” I’d read entire books written just to justify my whining and encouraging me to stand up for myself. I’ve since realized that those books destroy happy homes and weren’t Biblical.
Instead, I studied my hero. Like me, she got up early and was never idle. She began her day taking care of her family. She went to her work and made a profit. She worked late into the night. Unlike me, she worked eagerly (verse 13). She kept her sense of humor as she laughed at her future (verse 25). My hero was too dignified to waste her life whining and complaining. I resigned from the whining department.

No Fear!

I was fearful without realizing it. I had dressed my fears up with words like caution, planning, being prudent, and learning from the past. The Bible says fear is not from God. What that meant shocked me as I realized where my fear came from. My hero did not allow fear to control her life (verse 21). She was fearless in her home and business world. This chapter is one of the many scriptures where God tells us that successful business people must be willing to take risks. My hero was willing to make decisions and act before she could guarantee outcomes. She could afford to do this because of wisdom – which does come from God. She considered a field and bought it. Out of her earnings, she planted a vineyard.
As tempting as spending or saving her money might have been, she started a second business. In this business, she made linen garments and sold them. She supplied the merchants with sashes. My hero was a profitable entrepreneur (verse 18). Because of her profits, she was able to be fearless in her home. As a result, her family stayed clothed and fed. Note that she also dressed well. This woman was no “self-sacrificing co-dependent victim,” to use modern day jargon. I began to let go of fear in business and at home and wonder of wonders, my income increased, and my family was better able to stay clothed and fed. It was fun when I realized I could afford to dress better.

Know The Secret!

My hero knew the secret to life. The scripture ends by telling us that she relied on God (verse 30). She had a healthy fear of God – the respectful kind of fear that does come from God. The only thing any of us need to be afraid of is ignoring God’s wisdom and missing the blessings He has planned. As a reward, my hero exhibited what the New Testament called the “Fruits of the Spirit.” I noticed for the first time that these were the fruits of the “Spirit” and not fruits of “works.” All of my “trying harder” had been fruitless and resulted in me feeling like the “Unworthy Woman.” I began letting the sweet fruits of the “Spirit” bloom in my life. Like my hero, when I began living by the fruits of the “Spirit” and not by “works,” those very fruits of the Spirit produced a happy home and successful career.  

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

I began relaxing. Could it really be this easy? No wonder I fell so short. I was working way too hard. Most of what I was doing was necessary and even good. The problem was my motives – I was desperately trying to be worthy instead of surrendering to the joy of being obedient and trusting that I was already worthy because I was saved by grace. I was trying to do this alone. I was using Proverbs 31 as a “law” to judge me and falling woefully short. I had forgotten grace and was unsuccessfully trying to live by works. I was trying to do it all and had forgotten that I could only do “all things” if I did them in Christ. 

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NIV)

Keep In Step!

I went to my knees as I realized there was no law against the Fruits of the Spirit. They were a gift from the Spirit. I was a Christian who could live by the Spirit. I confessed my need to “keep in step” with the Spirit.

Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:23-25 (NIV)

To “keep in step,” I turned to meditation, prayer, and my Bible. I praised God as I realized that I was already perfect through Christ and was even now being made Holy. 

Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.  Hebrews 10:14  (NIV)

I looked at the model of Jesus’ life and saw that He began His days with His Father. I began waking up with a song in my heart as I began my days with my Father. I disciplined myself to have a regular quiet time each morning. That meant my husband had to help with the children in the mornings, which actually allowed him to become a better dad. He was dubious at first but will now tell anyone that it was the best thing that could have happened to our family.

In that quiet time, I became still and knew He was God. I meditated, prayed, and studied my Bible. I asked God for knowledge of His will for me and trusted that He would speak. I asked Him for the power to carry out His will each day. My insecurities begin to disappear. I asked for wisdom and knew He would give it. 
I did my best to go through my days being obedient to what I heard from God. I began to trust my instincts. God was faithful and answered my prayer as I began making better personal and business decisions. I became willing to take risks that didn’t conflict with the Bible.
As I struggled to hear God clearly, I made mistakes but that is where blessed grace works best. Before retiring at night, I began reviewing my day with God. I confessed doubts and failures. I gratefully accepted forgiveness and made any necessary amends the next day. I woke the next morning and began again.

Continue One Day At a Time!

My journey towards becoming a Worthy Woman began in 1980 and continues today, one day at a time. I rejoice that I am a child of grace. When I began keeping “in step with the Spirit,” I began feeling like that Worthy Woman, one day at a time. As promised, my adult children now call me blessed and my sweet husband praises me (verse 28). It turned out that my Biblical hero helped both of our careers as we began to understand the meaning of having our “works praised at the city gates” (verse 23 & 31). Today I stand tall. Yes, I am a Worthy Woman and enjoying my rewards (verse 31). If you are feeling unworthy, let’s talk. Everything that happened to me can happen to you. The Bible promises it. I’ve experienced it. I believe it!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Don't Argue - Ask

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Is the person who has slept beside you 10, 20, or even 50 years saved - in relationship with Jesus and on their way to heaven? You might be surprised at the answer. I meet people every day who aren’t 100% sure their spouse is saved but think they probably are. Sometimes I meet people who argue theology with their spouse when their spouse expresses doubts about salvation. Never argue or preach. Believe what people tell you. Find out for sure if they are saved – you don’t want to be standing at a coffin one day wondering. If they aren’t saved, lead them to Jesus.

Last night was wonderful. Nancy’s sister and brother-in-law Sandra and Rick Mowery visited her in Atlanta, Georgia. When she found out they were headed to Branson, Missouri, she mentioned I was headed there as well. Rick contacted me. I was supposed to leave the morning they arrived but extended my trip so we could visit. Imagine – them living in North Carolina, me in Pennsylvania, and us coming together in Missouri for an evening of fellowship and evangelism. Don’t you love how God works things out?

Dinner was wonderful. We were in a busy tourist area and I confess to being disappointed that God didn’t open any evangelistic doors. We decided to return to my campground, sit on the dock, and talk.

Well – we talked all right – to other people. We led 2 people to Jesus. This story is about Karen. We were almost to the dock when we met her. She was from Joplin and active in church. When I asked where she was going in the next life, her answer was, “I hope heaven.”

“It sure beats any other alternative,” I quipped. “I hope you go as well. When you get there and God asks why He should let you in, what will you say?”

“I’d tell him that I hope I’ve been good enough to get in.”

“Karen!” her husband interrupted. “You know that’s not what our pastor says.” Karen stared at the ground. They’d had this argument before.

“What does your pastor say?” I asked.

“He says we get there because of Jesus – his grace,” he answered.

“You’re pastor’s right. Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior?”

“I have,” he said. “Karen and I have talked about this before. She knows the answer.” Again, Karen looked at the ground without bothering to answer.

“Karen,” I said. “I want you to know you are going to heaven. Do you believe in Jesus?” She nodded.

“Do you know you are a sinner in need of forgiveness?” I asked. Again, she nodded, looking at the ground.

“Karen, you may not have ever done the easiest part – inviting Jesus into your life. When you do that, the Holy Spirit enters your life and you’ll have the assurance of your salvation. May I lead you in that prayer?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. We prayed and affirmed her faith in Jesus and need of forgiveness. Then, she invited Jesus into her life. We all saw it – the look of light and hope come on  her face. She’d found the missing piece of the puzzle.

“She’s done things like this before,” her husband grumbled.

“She’s probably done parts of it but that last part, inviting Jesus in, makes all the difference.” I looked at Karen. “I’m guessing you haven’t done that part before.” Karen nodded her affirmation and smiled.

“Now your wife will be in heaven with you one day,” Rick said. “All of heaven is throwing a party.”

We’d began the conversation with discussing Hot Air Balloon Festivals so I said, “An angel party is better than a Hot Air Balloon Festival.” Everyone laughed.

This sweet couple had been married and going to church for 50 years. Somewhere along the line, hubby met Jesus and assumed his wife had as well. When she doubted her salvation, he argued, preached theology, and reassured her. What he didn’t do was believe her and lead her to Jesus.

Occasionally, I meet people who doubt their salvation even though they are saved. Maybe someone scared them when they were children or sin has blocked the voice and feeling of the Holy Spirit. Those people know the answer about what gets them into heaven because they remember inviting Jesus in. For those, it is important to walk them back to the event that caused the doubt and help them with either repentance or forgiveness.

That was not the case here. This woman was a good woman trying to work her way into heaven and falling woefully short. She needed to meet Jesus personally instead of being taught “about” Him.

Tonight, when you climb into bed, turn to your spouse, and ask, “Where are you going in the next life?” Listen and don’t argue. If they say heaven or hope they are going to heaven, follow up with, “When you get to heaven and God asks why He should let you in, how will you answer?” Listen without argument. If they say anything other than I’m going to heaven because of the blood of Jesus or because I’ve called on the name of Jesus as my Savior, simply quote scripture.

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved.”

Ask them if you can lead them in a prayer so you will one day be in heaven together. Let them know you’ll tell them exactly what to pray. Chances are they’ll say yes. It they don’t, let it go. God will use the scripture to convict their heart.

If they say yes, pray, “Dear God, I believe in you. I believe in your son Jesus – that He died on a cross and rose from the dead for me. I confess that I am a sinner. Please forgive me. Come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. Thank you for my salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Go to sleep knowing for sure that your spouse will one day be in heaven with you. Don’t ruin their amazing moment with more intellectual teaching. Just be quiet, hold them, and let them enjoy their Holy Spirit Moment. Trust that they now have the Holy Spirit working for them and be patient with their growth.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

I Christian

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I was hot and sticky. Evangelizing in an outdoor mall in 100-degree temperatures is brutal. Evangelistically speaking, it had been a disappointing day. People were too hot to talk. It was my birthday so I splurged by ending it at a nail salon. I plopped down in the pedicure chair, put my feet in the water, and promptly fell asleep.

“Why you in Branson?” I vaguely realized someone was working on my feet and talking so I shook off sleep.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the nail tec said. “You sleeping. I won’t talk.”

“No,” I said. “I want to talk to you. I do ministry. I travel America and help people meet Jesus. I am staying at the campground next door.”

Her English name was Phoebe. Her Vietnamese name was Une. She was twenty and had been in America almost 3 years. She loved talking but struggled with English. We both just kept repeating things and saying things in different ways until we understood each other. 

“You Christian?” she asked.

“I am. In Viet Nam, was your family Catholic or Buddhist?”

Her face lit up. “We Catholic. In Vietnam, we from south. South more like America and North follow Russia and China. North mostly Buddhist. In Viet Nam, we have 2 ways - God or Buddha. My family follow God. In America, I hear Christian. My friend’s family Christian. I not know difference.”

“Christian means people follow Jesus. Jesus is God’s son. You were taught about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” I made the sign of the cross.

“Yes,” she said, saying the words back awkwardly. “But we follow God. No talk much about other.”

“Christian means you believe in Jesus, have asked for forgiveness of sin and asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. Christian includes many religions. In America, we have Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, and others but all are Christian if Jesus is their Savior. Do you know word sin?”

She shook her head and looked confused at the word.

“Sin is the mistakes we make. Things we do wrong.”

“Yes,” she nodded. “My grandmother said demons will make me do wrong and if I do wrong, I go to hell. Buddhists can come back for another life but Catholics go to be with God or to hell.”

“Yes,” I laughed. “Demons will try to make you do wrong but I want to talk more about hell. When you ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, he forgives you for your sin and saves you from hell. The word Lord means he is your boss – he is in charge of you. Like the person you work for here. Do you understand?” She nodded.

“Savior means he died on the cross to save you from hell. Jesus doesn’t want you to go to hell.”

“I understand,” she said, her face lighting up. “Woman came to Landing. She had picture. God on one side and me on other. Cross was bridge. I had to walk across. Picture made me understand what you say.”

“I am happy she showed you that picture. I have seen that picture. It very good. Did she pray with you?”

“No, but I think about it. She Christian. She say ‘God bless you.’ She nice. Christians like to say ‘God bless you.'”

“Phoebe, Bible says we all sin. The cost of our sin is death and that means hell. Yes, demons want you to go to hell but heaven is God’s gift to us. All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved from hell – they will be Christian. Would you like to pray and become Christian?”

“My English no good enough.”

“I help you. I tell you what to say and make you understand.” Notice, that I used her simplistic broken English. That was on purpose. I’ve found it helps those struggling with English understand better if I copy their phraseology.

“Yes please!” she said. “Thank you. I want to be Christian.”

We prayed slowly and simply. I stopped to explain words she stumbled over. Occasionally, she would repeat a phrase when she understood it better. As soon as she finished praying, she begin bouncing up and down and giggling.

“You are feeling the Holy Spirit. He came into your life when you asked Jesus to be Savior and Lord.”

“Yes,” she giggled. “I feel Him. I understand Christian.”

“You are Christian,” I encouraged.

“I Christian!” she said, giggling again.

“The Bible calls that getting born again. You have been reborn as Christian. ”

“Wait,” she said. “I get paper. You write word down. Born again. I put in my phone.” She got paper and I wrote ‘born again’ down along with the meaning.

“If the woman who showed you the picture comes to the mall again, tell her what you did,” I encouraged. “God was sending you people to help you be Christian.”

“I will. She come Tuesday. I Christian! I tell her. I say God bless you.” 

“I want picture of you. You are smiling and I want  a picture,” I said.

“Yes, take picture.” She posed. We swapped information so we could be facebook friends.

Phoebe hugged me as I left. She whispered in my ear, “I Christian. God Bless you.”

I felt God sing, “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Cheryle, Happy Birthday to you.” Was that my mama I heard harmonizing with Him?

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

I'm Not Easy But Jesus Is

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. Rom 5:20

I have a knack for it – saying that thing that sets others up for a joke. I don’t do it on purpose, it just happens – sometimes very publicly.

“I’m going to the campground.” I announced, stepping onto the Casino shuttle bus in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I’d spent the evening evangelizing at the Casino. I’d had many meaningful conversations but was a little disappointed that I hadn’t led anyone to Jesus. I’d also had an excellent seafood buffet. I did not gamble but have to confess that those quarters I give away were burning a hole in my pocket. On my first journey in 2002, God made it very clear that on these journeys, quarters were to be used for Him.

“What campsite are you in?” the driver asked.

“The very first site you come to - 1.”

“I can sure find that,” he said, laughing.

“Yep, I’m easy.” Talk about awkward silence. The driver and the two men on the bus were all thinking the same thing. I stood there a moment deciding between leaving it alone or quipping my way into an evangelism opening. You guessed it – I had everyone’s attention so I went for it.

“Well, I’m not easy. My husband probably wouldn’t like to hear I’m on a Casino bus announcing I’m easy.”

“Where is your husband?” one man asked. “Did you leave him there gambling?”

“Nope, he’s home praying for me.” Everyone laughed.

“Did his prayers work? How much did you win,” the same man asked.

“We’ll see after this bus ride. Actually, he was praying that I was winning but not what you might think. My job is to win souls for Jesus. I was at the Casino sharing the good news of Jesus.”

The man scowled. “I’m a Christian but I don’t think you should be sharing about this here. Seems like you’d have more luck at the homeless shelter where people are down on their luck.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I saw some people here tonight down on their luck.  What about you? Did you win?”

“No but I don’t think people want to here about Jesus while they’re gambling. Beside, you can’t talk to people about Jesus who are drinking. ”

“We need all the prayers we can get,” the bus driver chimed in. Comforting that the driver was joking about being a drinker.

“Actually you can talk to a drunk. The Gospel scriptures are powerful and will sober up a drunk. I’ve seen it happen many times. You’ll be surprised but I lead people to Jesus in these environments all the time.”

I turned to the man who had been silent the entire time. “Did you win?”

“No,” he said, shaking his head sadly. “I try to be a Christian but don’t know how good I am at it.” I suspected his gambling losses had been bigger than he expected.

“Do you go to church?”

“Not as much as I could.”

“Do you believe in Jesus?” He nodded firmly but looked down.

“Do you know where you are going in the next life?”

“I hope heaven but I’m not sure I’m going to make it.”

“I might not be easy but Jesus is,” I encouraged. “You don’t have to try so hard or worry about making it. The Bible says we’ve all sinned and fallen short. Yes, the wages of sin are death and you look like you believe that right now.” He nodded sadly.

“The Bible goes on to say the gift of God is eternal life and all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Calling on Jesus gets us to heaven – not being good enough and trying.”

 “Here you are,” announced the bus driver. “We are at your campsite.” I knew he’d been listening to every word.

“I know we are at my campsite,” I continued. “But this is important and the kind driver will wait right here until we finish this. Would you like me to lead you in a prayer calling on Jesus as your Savior?”

“Yes, please,” he whispered.

I led him in a prayer. He said it firmly, especially the part asking for forgiveness and asking Jesus to be his savior. When we finished, I encouraged him to keep being good but explained that now he had the Holy Spirit helping. I resisted the urge to rush the end even though I was probably messing up the shuttle schedule. I told him that the Bible says all of heaven celebrates one person meeting Jesus and that an angel party was better than a Casino party. Everyone on the bus laughed one last time.

“Thank you for waiting,” I told the driver, quickly stepping off. I felt bad that I hadn’t confirmed his faith.

“No! Thank you!” he said firmly. “And I’m waiting here until you get locked inside.” I don’t know if he was thanking me because he was a Christian appreciating what had happened or if he had prayed along with the man sitting on the bus. I could tell by the warmth in his voice that he was saved.

As I stepped off the bus, I also resisted the urge to tell the proclaimed Christian, “I told you so.”

PS – I know my best friend Nancy Edwards is going to scold me for letting 3 men know I was staying alone in this campground but God is just going to have to protect me because this was meant to be.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

I'm Late - I'm Late - For a Very Important Date

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]. Ephesians 2: 10

Swimming in the Florida Sun
People always ask where I’m going to go next. Sometimes I answer, “I don’t know. Are you about to tell me?” These journeys mimic my life – I plan one thing and God plans another and God’s plans are often revealed through circumstances and other people. If I know something is God’s plan, I usually do pretty well with obedience but the trick is to know something is God’s will.

For example, I left Jacksonville and meandered west on US-90. I was feeling the pressure of being able to click another state on the website map so when I got to Tallahassee, I headed north into Alabama. I had what I labeled as a flash of longing to head to Pensacola but chalked it up to my longing for Florida sunshine and beaches and disciplined myself to “stay focused.” Why is it that I forget that God also works through the delights of my heart?

Then I found out that my nephew Jim Milligan’s Grandfather-in-law had moved to heaven and that the services were going to be in Pensacola. I had only met his wife’s grandfather once but I was only 3 hours away and wanted Jim to have family representation at the funeral. Besides, I’ve found funerals to be great places to talk about Jesus because people are thinking about eternity. I then realized that the “flash of longing” was actually the “still small voice” letting me know where I was to go next. What a testimony I’d have had if I’d just trusted the voice when I heard it and was already in Pennsacola when my “sight” told me I needed to be here. But alas – it is hind sight that is 20/20. So after getting this important lesson, you’d think I’d automatically trust that voice the next time a test comes along but I almost talked myself out of listening again.

The funeral was actually this morning at ten. Ten is early for getting somewhere from a campground so I carefully planned the morning. I’d planned on leaving Pensacola right from the campground but I got invited to another party the night after the funeral. My rule on these journeys is to go where I’m invited so I had to tell the campground that I was staying an extra night. The office didn’t open until 9. It was a 30-minute drive and I needed gas so the timing worked if I had everything ready to go after I went to the camp office.

Everything was on schedule until the office was late opening up. While I impatiently waited, I visions of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland saying, “I’m late. I’m late – for a very important date.” A man joined me on the porch. I felt that gentle tug to talk with him but also felt time pressure about what I knew was going to be a very formal funeral. I heard stirring inside the office indicating they were about to open and almost gave into the pressure of “being late for my very important date.”

With a mental sigh, I asked the man, “Where are you from?”

“Alabama. I needed to get away. My daughter and I moved here after my wife died.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you. I wanted to give up but my daughter’s just 10 and she needs me.” He was working in the campground. He’d grown up in church but because he liked rock music and tattoos, after one too many accusations of being a devil worshipper, he gave up on church. He’d never met Jesus personally but in his desperation to find solace in his grief, he’d visited what he called an “amazing church” two weeks ago.

It was so sweet. The Holy Spirit had prepared Him. He wanted Jesus to be real and longed for hope. I forgot the tick tock of that important date. Instead, I heard the song, Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling playing in my head and knew I needed to go softly and tenderly. I used the sweet words of the Gospel and he literally leaned into my words. He believed in a Father God but not Jesus so I shared what he was missing by limiting his belief to Father God. Father God is our Daddy – our Creator. Jesus is our Savior – offers grace for our mistakes and teaches us how to live abundantly. The Holy Spirit is the comforter that Jason so desperately craved but could not find until he met Jesus. When I invited him to pray, there was no hesitation. Afterward, he whispered, “I felt something.” I suspected that he had been blocking feelings because of grief. Imagine what a relief it must have been to feel again and have that feeling be the Holy Spirit.

I got into my camper oblivious to time. I gassed up and drove into the church parking lot two short minutes before my important date. I sat on the pew just as the music and funeral processional began.

All I can say is wow about my time in Pensacola. I’ve given the Gospel many times. Three people have met Jesus. I’ve had a full dose of Florida sunshine, sand, swimming, dolphins, birds, and yes, unfortunately, flies and mosquitoes. My plan is to leave Pensacola tomorrow. We’ll see what God has planned.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Sitcom - I Love Camping

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Moses arguing with God: But Moses said to the LORD, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" Exodus 6:12

I screamed and sunk to my knees in pain. Shiloh barked and leapt off the bed to join me on the floor. The camper cabinets work on gravity so they shut hard. This time, it had slammed on the tip of my ring finger. I had no ice so I opened the freezer and laid my finger against the side. I felt light headed as the pain throbbed. My finger was swelling so I slipped off my rings.

I called Bob for comfort and he his response was, “How did that happen?”

“I stuck my finger in the cabinet and slammed it!” Poor Bob. He is always trying to help me get better at living in a tiny camper.

 I have always tried to enjoy the sitcom that is my life. I do better when my sense of humor is intact. I love sitcoms. My first and still favorite was I Love Lucy – possibly, because I identify with Lucy. She loved her family and friends. She wasn’t afraid to try new things or things she might not be good at. She had creative ideas that often got her in trouble and yet, she kept on being Lucy. I love Lucy. My current sitcom is called I Love Camping. Yes – I love it. I love the wandering, birds and dolphins, new scene every day, knowing the nimbleness of it allows me to meet new people, and knowing I am worshiping the same God under the same heavens no matter where I am. Some people call it wanderlust but I suspect that if it is wanderlust, God had to pour it into me for me to be willing to accept this unique call on my life.

So why is it a sitcom? Like Lucy, I have a tendency to get in over my head – not over God’s head –over mine. I’m not naturally good at much of what camping requires so my life offers much of the slapstick and puzzles that make sitcoms so much fun. When God first called me to camp my way across America, I literally laughed. I was used to 5 Star hotels and my children were placing bets on how many days I would actually camp. No one expected this to be easy for me.

Take the finger for example. I had too much stuff in the tiny cabinet. Just as the door started to slam, the cinnamon started to fall out. Naturally, I reached up to catch it. Bam!

Currently, I am sporting a grapefruit sized bruise on my hip. I have weak ankles and had to wear corrective shoes as a child. That
means, I’m more likely to stumble than most. Setting a camper up is hard. I know to wear sturdy athletic shoes – that doesn’t mean I like to stop and put them on. When I set up last Sunday night, I was still wearing the decorative sandals from church. It was dusk and after I finished hooking up, I stepped backward and lost my footing on the water hose. I fell sideways onto the metal black water receptacle sticking up out of the ground. I groaned not only from the pain but because I also knew what was on the ground around that receptacle.

Camper keys continue to be a problem. We’re down to one complete set – which has Bob and me both nervous. Yes, we’ve made extra ignition keys but if I lose the last alarm fob and have to use an extra key to open the door, it will set off the alarm and make starting the engine impossible. I’ve always had difficulty with keys and have developed systems. The camper key “system” is that as soon as I park, I connect the camper keys to a lanyard that stays around my neck. Shiloh and I had been sitting outside evangelizing for hours. In between encounters, I worked on the computer. I realized Shiloh and I had been in the sun too long when the keyboard began blistering my fingers. I was wilted and all I could think of was cooling us off. I took the computer, Shiloh, my books, and the phone and dumped it all on the seat as we climbed in the camper. The lanyard was hot and scratchy so I took it off and laid it on top. I collapsed inside only to realize that I'd left Shiloh’s water bowl outside. I opened the door, making sure Shiloh didn’t escape, shut the door, got the water bowl that was literally 5 steps away, and when I came back to the camper, the doors were locked. I didn’t hear any beeps or clicks but the only thing that could have possibly happened was that Shiloh jumped on the alarm fob. My last dog Belle locked me out of the camper years ago in the middle of the night – which was much more complicated. This time, two hours later, a nice man from AAA rescued me with only one dry comment, “You haven’t taught your dog to unlock the door?”

About a week ago, I went to the back of the camper to get water bottles. I tossed them on the bed and walked around. Shiloh took advantage of the fun and by the time I got inside, she had chewed through a water bottle. My king sized bed was soaked everywhere. She must have shook it as she chewed. I sat on the bed for the next two hours with my handy dandy blow dryer.

Two nights ago, I made my usual tall cup of hot milk before bed. I sat it down on the wobbly camper table and sat down. I stood up to get something, tripped on the computer cord, and knocked the entire cup of hot milk over. How it managed to scald my leg, soak the cloth passenger seat, the floor, and the carpet between the two front seats is beyond my ability to understand. Shiloh was thrilled to help, which means she jumped in the middle to lick…with all 4 paws squarely in the milk. I sat there for second stunned until I realized the milk was burning and finally pulled my pajama bottoms away from my leg. I wondered if I had any milk left. Then, I remembered I was out of paper towels. I used Bob’s towel and wash cloth to begin cleaning. It was impossible to keep Shiloh out of it so I stopped trying and just let her lick and wallow. I’d clean her next. That escapade took about an hour and I’m still finding milk in cracks and crevices.

I could write about the time I put something on the driver’s side floor board that laid against the brake pedal and woke up to a dead battery. I have written about the camper stove flame getting stuck on, the many mad dashes my dogs have made through campground, getting lost, breaking down, two minor accidents that resulted in weeks of being stranded, having black water (yes – sewage) pour all over me, toilets overflowing, leaks, spider bites, mountain lions stalking us, and waking up surrounded by alligators and coyotes (but not at the same time). I have often said that if they made a sitcom out of my true life on the road, people would think it was caricature of reality because no one could have that much happen and continue to do it. 

Yet, I Love Camping. No – I’m not naturally mechanically inclined and I was born with little ability to navigate from point A to point B but I love it anyway. It facilitates me doing what God has called me to do. It forces me to depend on God. It allows me to understand the truth that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It keeps me close to God’s creations. It is good for the prayer life of those who love me. It is a testimony of God’s power to those who know me. I confess that I often want to bolt for home but here is the truth. God’s norm is to call us to something that is beyond our natural abilities. Look at Moses with a stutter – called to lead a nation. To say we “can’t” or to not do it because we’re uncomfortable condemns us to an unsatisfying mediocre life. Following God is never boring. Are you bored, too comfortable, or restless? Was there something God called you to that you thought impossible?

PS – My finger is not broken and hurts very little. I might lose the nail and still can’t get my rings on but all in all, I’m good.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Casual Encounters Walking Through A Campground

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Religion is Cultural

“Where are you from?”


“Welcome. Thank you for visiting us. How long in the US?”

“We stay here one year. My husband worked in Houston. We go back now - today. We came to this campground for holiday. We go home today.”
“Did someone invite you to church while you were here?”

“No.” She looked puzzled.

“I’m so sorry. That was rude. When people visit us, we should invite them to our churches.”

“It is….good,” she soothed, searching for the right word. “People were nice.”

“Did someone at least talk to you about Jesus?”


“Now I really apologize. There are many Christians in Houston. Do you go to church in France?”

“No. In France church is…how do you say…cultural.”

“Do you believe in Jesus or God?”


“Did you ever believe?”

“I went to Catholic church some but I never believed.”

“Would you want to know if Jesus were real? Would you want to know if He were the truth, the way, and the life and wanted you to spend eternity with him?”

“Of course!”

I told her the story of Jesus and gave the Gospel scriptures. I ended with the Jesus Challenge – ask the Jesus you don’t believe in – the true Son of God and the Savior of the World – to reveal Himself to you in a manner that is beyond your ability to not believe.

“I would love to lead you in a prayer right now asking Jesus to be your Savior.”

“No. I don’t think I believe in him yet. Thank you so much. This meeting – maybe it was meant to be. I will do Jesus Challenge.”

Houston, we have a problem – what happened here? I know how many of you love Jesus. I suspect that with a couple of more encounters, she would have left America loving Jesus.

What Kind of Gospel Are You Sharing?

Shiloh locked me out of the camper. I laid my keys on the seat and stepped outside to bring in her water bowl and yes – she jumped on the automatic door lock. If this is triggering something in your memory banks, you would be correct. Belle did the same thing about 8 years ago.

“You haven’t taught your dog how to unlock the door?” the AAA technician chided.

“I didn’t know I’d taught her to lock it. I hate to admit it but I’ve had a dog do this before.”

“I spect you should keep your keys with you. What is Pocket Full of Quarters?” he asked looking at my van sign.

“I am an evangelist. I travel the country sharing the Gospel with people. “

“What kind of Gospel are you sharing?”

“The good kind – you know - God loved us so much that He sent His only son that whosoever believed might have eternal life. The kind that says all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life and all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. Do you know where you will spend eternity?”

“Yes ma’am I do and it ain’t because of anything I done. I reckon that is sure enough good Gospel.”

What kind of Gospel are you sharing? Is it Good Gospel?

Mama’s Praying

“Shiloh! Stop barking. Hush. No one is going to talk to us if you don’t stop barking. I’m sorry,” I said looking up. “She is barking at your golf cart. Where are you from?”

“I live here in the camp ground. It helps pay the bills. I’m disabled so I can’t really work but I help out here.”

“Are you involved in church?”

“Not yet. My wife keeps looking for one but we haven’t gotten around to it.”

“Did you ever go to church?”

“I went to a Pentecostal Church as a kid. I haven’t been back much.”

“Do you know where you are going in the next life?”

“I sure hope heaven but I don’t think my works are good enough yet. It is all about the works.”

“Really?” I asked puzzled. “Because the Bible says we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If it is about works, I’m not sure any of us are going.”

“That’s true enough,” he agreed.

“The Bible does say that the wages of sin is death but it goes on to say that the gift of God is eternal life. My favorite line in the whole Bible is the one that says all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Works don’t get us in – it is all about grace. The thief on the cross next to Jesus sure didn’t have time to do any good works before he went to heaven.”

“That’s true enough – I hadn’t thought about it that way.”

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Do you understand you’re a sinner?”

“That’s the whole problem. I try to be good but I don’t know if I’m good enough.”

“Let me help you with this – you aren’t good enough. You never will be. I’m going to heaven but it sure isn’t because I’m good enough – It’s because I’m forgiven. Who’s praying for you? I can tell someone is praying for you. My job is to help people meet Jesus and I knew I was supposed to talk to you the minute I saw you. Who’s praying for you?”

“My mama. She wants me back in church.”

“Let’s make your mama happy. Can I lead you in a prayer calling on the name of Jesus?”

“Please.” We prayed.

 “Now, promise me you’ll go home and call your Mama to tell her your good news. We mama’s like that kind of thing.” He grinned.

A reminder to all of you mamas out there - keep praying.

I’m Not Sure

“Oh you don’t have to worry about me. I got saved a few years back and I know I’m going to heaven because Jesus died for me.” She looked hot. She had ridden up in a golf cart full of cleaning supplies. She and her husband were living and working in the campground.

“Great. It’s too hot to stand here and give you the Gospel. But I would have if you’d needed to hear it. What about your husband? Is he saved?”

“I suppose so. He’s Lutheran.”

“I’m glad he goes to church but is he as sure about the next life as you are?”

“I assume so but I’ve never thought to ask.”

“How long have you been married?”

“Twenty years. I probably should know the answer to that question.”

“Probably. Are you sure he believes in Jesus?”


“Has he asked Jesus to be his Lord and Savior?”

“I don’t know,”  she sighed.  "Now I’m going to have to ask.”

“Yep. Ask him why God should let him into heaven. If he says anything other than because Jesus died on the cross for me, pray this prayer with him.” I handed her a tract and pointed out the prayer.

“He’s going to think I’ve been out in the sun too long.”

“Well, we have been standing here a while. Are you going to ask him?”

“I suppose I have to now.”

Do you know where everyone in your family is going in the next life? If not, ask today. I once stood with a mother next to a coffin containing her teenage daughter. She was having nightmares because while her daughter grew up in church, went to youth group and had certificates from the faith based church programs, she had never thought to ask if her daughter knew Jesus personally. I couldn't reassure her because while I'd taught her daughter piano, I hadn't asked either. I don't ever want to feel that way again. Don't assume anything where the answer really matters.

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What A Gift

By Cheryle M. Touchton

The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I had such a gift on Sunday. I love Facebook. I let friends know I was in Ozark, Alabama and Suzanne Sudduth Taylor let me know she was right up the road. Suzanne is the sister of my son’s best friend and was a neighbor for many years. I helped with her wedding reception and accompanied my son singing in her wedding. The last time I saw her was when I met baby Travis and gave Suzanne a baby gift. Imagine my excitement to get to see her – especially on Sunday because it meant we could go to church together. Then, imagine my shock when I saw tall handsome 15-year-old Travis – I still pictured him a child. How had 15 years flown by?

Suzanne’s youngest son was sick so her husband had to stay home with him but I loved worshipping with Suzanne and Travis. The service was uplifting. My favorite part was at the end when the pastor gave a pure and simple positive Gospel message and invited people to Jesus. He said, “We want to know if you just met Jesus. We won’t know unless you tell us. Please tell us by walking to the front during the music.” Wonder of wonders, a husband and wife came to join the church and the husband tearfully made a profession of faith. After the service, I took a moment to go speak to someone I had noticed under conviction during the service and then stopped by the ladies room. There was a woman in there crying and joyful – it turned out it was her brother that accepted Christ that morning and she had been praying for him for years. I didn’t think my day could get any better than it already was, but I was wrong.

Suzanne invited me to lunch and I jumped at the opportunity. She was just as I remembered – fun and funny. She looked the same and as I studied Travis, I decided he was a blend of both parents. Travis loves technology and I enjoyed talking to him about that. He didn’t seem to mind a bit being at lunch with someone who loved him but he had no memory of. I told him stories about his mother’s wedding and he seemed to enjoy them.

New Christian
Our waiter walked up and we ordered. “We’re Christians and we’re going to say a blessing,” I said. “Do you have any prayer requests?”

The question surprised him. He thought for a second and finally said no.

“It’s Sunday. We just came back from church,” I said. “You probably didn’t get to go because of work. I’m sorry.” He shook his head but didn’t quite meet my eyes.

“I don’t think he’s saved,” I told Suzanne and Travis. “We’ll talk to him when he gets back.”

I was right - he wasn’t saved. Avoiding eye contact was guilt over not going to church. He grew up in Mexico and was Catholic. He said he wasn’t going to church because of his job but I suspected he hadn’t been in a while. He believed in Jesus and hoped he was good enough to get into heaven. He looked relieved and hopeful when I quoted the Bible verses that explained he didn’t have to be good enough, just forgiven. I didn’t have to ask him twice about praying to meet Jesus. We talked about his wife and his two teenage children. He thought they believed in Jesus but didn’t know if they had a personal relationship with Him. I gave him information and a lesson on how to lead his family to Jesus. We talked about his responsibility of being the spiritual head of his home. I gave him a copy of the prayer I prayed with him. I feel certain that he went right home and led his family to Jesus.

“Have you ever been with anyone when they got saved?” I asked Suzanne after he left.

“Not like that,” she answered.

“It’s not always that easy,” I assured her. I gave Suzanne and Travis what I call the “evangelism cheat sheet” and went on to explain to both Suzanne and Travis that what made this particular encounter so easy was that our waiter’s parents and church taught him to believe in Jesus. While he had never developed a personal relationship with Jesus, nothing had happened to him to make him not want to believe. The hard parts of becoming a Christian are to believe in the resurrection of Jesus and admitting you are a sinner. He had already done both and knew something was missing. All he had to do was invite Jesus into his life. It was a huge relief to him to know what was missing and we could tell by the look on his face that he experienced the Holy Spirit.

Suzanne drove me back to Hallelujah. They took a tour and Shiloh put on her Jesus show. I’m still smiling about our day together. What a gift – to visit with an old friend and lead someone to Jesus together.

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Power Full Connections

By Cheryle M. Touchton

The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Prayer is a huge part of these journeys. I pray everywhere as I go. I think of my travels as a prayer walk across America and when I post pictures, I pray people will prayer walk with me. My favorite result of prayer is what I like to call Power Full Connections. When I start praying for someone, God starts connecting the dots between Himself, the person I’m praying for, others – some I know and some I don’t, and me to answer the prayer. A powerful circuit forms that travels and eventually completes back to me in some way. Often the person I start out praying for, years later ministers to me in some powerful way. When I think about the “power” of prayer, I literally think about the connections much like electricity but literally Power Full. 

Recently, God gave me the idea to use Facebook as a way to remember to pray for people. The idea was to use the reading and writing of posts and comments as well as likes as a way to take a brief second to pray for the person. I posted this idea on Facebook and many agreed to join me.

So what has happened in just a couple of weeks? Power Full Connections! I’ve renewed bonds with people I love but had lost touch with. I’ve met in person people I’d only talked to on Facebook. Ministry doors that I’ve been trying to break down for years have literally opened before me like electric doors. People on Facebook have noticed where I am and invited me to their home or church. I’ve met Facebook friends in person and led people to Jesus with them. People have sent encouraging God inspired messages to me at exactly the right moment. Spiritual bonds have deepened with people I only know through Facebook. People I’ve reached out to have reached back. All I can say is wow.

When I pray for someone, I fall in love with them. That means these Facebook prayers have people on my mind more so now, I’m finding myself praying for them while I’m driving or kneeling in front of a lake during quiet time. I feel their pain and celebrate their victories more than I did before – in short – I’m more connected with my Facebook friends.

You might be thinking that all of this takes too much time. First, since God sent the idea, how much time it takes isn’t relevant if I want to keep hearing and feeling the Holy Spirit. Besides, I’m supposed to be praying without ceasing and this is just another process for how to efficiently direct those prayers. Finally, I’ve noticed that when I’m doing something through the power of prayer, my time is like Jesus feeding the 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and fish – it is unlimited. I can’t explain it by logic but there is enough to go around.

I invite you to join me in this Facebook Prayer Challenge. When you post a comment or hit like, pray for the person. When someone posts a comment or hits like on your post, pray for them. I’m not talking about a long prayer – maybe just 2-3 words – but invite the Holy Spirit into the relationship by praying for them. For example, as I "like" something you have posted, I will pray for you. Then, when you see my “like” of your post appear, just say, “Help Cheryle” or “Bless Cheryle.” You get the idea. You’ll stand amazed in the presence of God as He forms Power Full Connections in a way only He can.

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Give an Invitation

By Cheryle M. Touchton

The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

And he said unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19

Just this week, I walked into the campground bathroom and found two teenagers curled up on a long bench clicking away on their phones.

“I’m guessing you don’t have Wi-Fi at your campsite,” I said. They shook their heads without looking up. I knew they were hoping I’d stop talking but they had no idea how good my news was going to be.

“Where are you from?” I asked. They were polite and finally put their cell phones down. Hunter and Alexis were half-sisters on a camping trip with their mutual father. They lived with their mothers in different cities. None of their parents knew Jesus but Alexis went to church with her friends and Taylor went with her cousins. They were actively involved in youth groups, believed in Jesus, and understood they were sinners in need of forgiveness. Neither girl had a personal relationship with Jesus. They had not asked for forgiveness of sin, confessed belief in Jesus, or asked Jesus to be their Savior. I gave the Gospel scriptures just in case their education had been lacking, which it had not.

“Can I lead you in a prayer asking Jesus to be your Savior?”

 “Sure!” they said enthusiastically after looking at each other for a second.

They were excited about praying and their words were clear. They grinned when they finished and agreed to tell their youth pastor what they had done. They couldn’t wait to get baptized.

 “I’m curious.” I said. “You’d obviously knew about Jesus. Why hadn’t you already asked Him to be your Savior?”

“I guess no one asked us to,” Taylor said. Alexis agreed.

I see this all the time. What if I walked up to you and said, “I’m having a fabulous party. The most amazing people will be there. The best bands in the world will be playing and there will be dancing like nothing you have experienced before. The hall will have banquet tables filled with mouthwatering delicacies.Everything is free.”

You’d probably be expecting me to invite you to the party. After all, why would I get you excited if I didn’t invite you? You’d also expect the directions for how to get there. How would you feel if I just walked away?

You’d certainly have the right to chase me down and ask, “What’s the deal? Why did you tell me about the fabulous party and not invite me?”

What if I answered, “Oh, I didn’t want to be pushy. I figured if you wanted to go, you’d ask. Other people can tell you how to get there. Do your own research and make your own decision.”

It sounds silly yet I hear about Christians doing that every day. When I tell people what I do they often say, “I’ve been witnessing to (fill in the blank) for years. They just aren’t interested in Jesus.”

I always ask what they mean by “witnessing to.” They usually report that they have been telling people about Jesus, selling the merits of Christianity or the Christian lifestyle, inviting people to church, and even dangling heaven as a carrot or using hell as a stick. What most people don’t do is invite people to the amazing eternal Jesus party and give directions for how to get there. The result – their prey doesn’t get saved and invariably runs the next time they see them coming. I have to confess that I used to do the same thing.

I am begging you to give an invitation and directions. When I was a child, our church had what we called “The Invitation.” Many churches still do this. At the end of the service, the pastor gave the Gospel and asked people to walk the aisle to give their life to Jesus – a simple process that, if done right, works. Regardless of your opinion of that process, you have to admit that in those churches, no one leaves without an invitation to the Jesus party or directions for how to get there. Frankly, I don’t care what process a church uses as long as they invite people to Jesus and tell them how to meet Him.

Instead of talking people to death or giving an annoying Jesus sales pitch, ask people where they are going in the next life and why God should let them into heaven. Give the Gospel scriptures and invite them to meet Jesus.

Not everyone will say yes to your invitation but at least you’ve done your part. Just today, a man said he and his fiancé had been talking about Jesus, going to church, and trying to figure it out. After listening to the powerful Gospel scriptures, he agreed that he wanted to become a Christian but said he thought he and his fiancé should do it together. No problem – I gave him a tract with the directions and told him how to explain it to his fiancé. I trust prayer, the scriptures, and the Holy Spirit so I’m sure they are both now on their way to heaven. Give an invitation.

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Following Jesus Has Taken the Fun Out of Sinning

By Shiloh The Shepherd’s Sheep Dog
Mommy - Cheryle M. Touchton

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:14

I had a slip today. I didn’t mean to do it but it happened so fast. I saw the opening and I just took it. A few weeks ago, I finally understood my job. Mommy follows Jesus and I follow Jesus by following Mommy. We tell people about Jesus. When I started listening and obeying, life became good. Mommy is happier and gives me more freedom. I’m also getting a lot more treats.

So what happened today? It all started with going into Camping World. Mommy turned on the generator and then surprised me by pulling out the leash. Camper World is Dog Friendly and that meant I was Camping World Friendly.

They didn’t have the light bulb Mommy needed so we went back to Hallelujah. The generator was off. 

“I thought I left that on,” Mommy said as she pushed the button. It didn’t work.

“On no! I can’t leave you in the camper with no generator. I need help.” We rushed back inside.

“It’s OK,” a nice man wearing a Camping World shirt said soothingly. “It’s broken at just the right place. Come on back and we’ll check you in right now.”

It was easy. Mommy was already in their computer. They took Mommy’s keys and we sat down. For the first two hours, I had fun doing my tricks and helping Mommy tell people about Jesus. Then, I got tired of being on a leash.

I barked. Mommy ignored me. Then I howled. She shushed me. I twisted to get out of the collar and she scolded me. She started reading her book and I tried to chew my way out of the leash.

“Stop it Shiloh!” Mommy commanded. “Leave it.”

Finally, the nice man sat by Mommy. “We have your generator running. It’s perfect for now. Your fuel pump had gone dry and we had to prime it. We think it overheated and shut off. It probably means the fuel pump is going bad but we can’t be sure. It may work fine for 6 months or may break tomorrow. It’s expensive to replace because we have to take out the generator. What do you want us to do?”

“I leave my dog in there. I can’t take chances. I can’t do my work if I can’t leave her in the camper.”

“I understand,” the man said sadly. “A bad air conditioner cost me the best dog I ever had.”

“In a camper?”

“No, it was a garage shed,” he said with tears in his eyes. “It was too hot outside so I put my dog in an air conditioned garage shed. I was trying to keep her safe but the air conditioner broke." Best sales pitch ever (just kidding - he was nice and sincere) but Mommy had already decided to replace the fuel pump.

“It’s too late to put it in today. You can stay behind our building. We have hook ups and everything. I’ll drive your camper around back.”

“Stop it Shiloh!” Mommy said as we walked to the camper. Didn’t she understand that I wanted that leash off?

“Walk with me!” I quit pulling but wasn’t happy.

Mommy opened the door and I jumped in. She took off the leash while she was stepping in. We both spotted the open refrigerator door at the same time.

“How did that door get open?” Mommy wailed trying to beat me to the food scattered all over the floor. In her haste to keep me from eating everything, Mommy forgot to close the camper door.

This was when I lost it. Freedom was within reach. Mommy grabbed food and never even saw me leave.

 “Shiloh, Shiloh, where are you? Here, here!” I turned and looked but ran.

She ran and called louder and I could tell she was scared. She pulled the treats out of her pocket. “Treat, Shiloh. Treat!”

Really? I’d passed up the chicken salad and bacon for freedom. Did she think I was going to give up freedom for mere treats? The campers were bigger than Hallelujah and I ran under and around them. A man tried to catch me. Mommy kept running and yelling. People were staring. A big truck drove by pulling a camper and Mommy screamed. I looked but ran again.

Here’s the problem. Running away used to be fun. I’m fast and I forget about Mommy. Everything was different now. I still ran but it wasn’t as fun. Mommy says that following Jesus might not stop you from sinning but it will ruin it for you. I found that out. I kept looking back at Mommy and pinned my ears back. I made sure I could always see her.

All of a sudden, Mommy ran in the opposite direction. “Bye Shiloh. I bet you can’t catch me.” I chased after her. She slowed and tried to catch me and I jumped back just in time. She started running away again. She stopped and I backed up. She showed me the treat and I ran away again but she ran away from me again. This time I got too close. She lunged and right there on the cement, she fell on top, picked me up, and carried me back to the camper.

Here’s the real truth. I was glad to be in that camper with Mommy. It was hot outside. I ran to the water bowl and drank. Chasing Mommy was just what I needed to get her to carry me home.

Mommy and I meet people all the time who are running from God. They are doing things that the Bible says in sin. Mommy says sin is missing God’s mark. These people try to act like they are having fun but I’m a dog. We sense things. They aren’t happy. Sin is like that. It sucks you in by promising fun and then traps you by whispering that you can’t get out.

If you are running from God, try chasing someone running in the opposite direction. Jesus will joyfully fall on you, put His arms around you, pick you up, and carry you back to safety.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sometimes We Have to Be the Delivery Person

by Cheryle M. Touchton

I confess that what I call "Service Evangelism" is harder for me. It takes more time and sometimes years to see the fruit - if ever. However, sometimes our only job is to be the delivery person. Recently,God told me to take a meal and money to someone. It seemed random. I am not usually the person to cook or take food anywhere - that just isn't my calling. I love and support several ministries and my church and in order to be a good steward, I'm careful with what and who else I give money to. While I deeply love the woman God laid on my heart and have shared my faith with her, she wasn't someone I spend much time with. I knew money was probably tight for her and that she was having a medical issue but my responding to that wasn't something she would have expected. With regards to spiritual issues, I know she doesn't have the joy of being alive in Christ but also know to respect clear boundaries and not be pushy.

When God first put the idea into my head, I argued. I felt self-conscious about showing up with food and money – was it presumptuous? I had a busy schedule and a short window of time when it was even possible. Scheduling complications made it even more inconvenient. God’s leading was urgent – even forceful. I knew to listen.

I went shopping and began the 30 minute drive across town. When I was almost at her house, a  friend called to say that the woman I headed towards was distraught over a sudden severe financial crisis and too upset to even answer the door. I finally understood why God was sending me to her and why the food and money were so urgent. I also understood not wanting to see someone while distraught so I worked it out that I would knock and leave the gifts on the porch. I confess that I hoped to have a larger role than just being the "delivery person." My fantasy was that she would open the door, I'd put my arms around her, she'd cry on my shoulder, and finally surrender to the sweet comforting love of Jesus. That didn't happen. As planned, I knocked, put the bags on the porch, and left.

A few minutes later I received a sweet text thanking me and insisting I didn’t “have to do it.” I texted back confessing that I didn’t get the credit and that God had urged me to do it days before I knew how urgent her situation was. It was all God’s idea and I did indeed “have to do it” because God insisted. She thanked me again via text. She also thanked me for my prayers.

I prefer using the cookbook formula for evangelism. It's quicker and I'm more comfortable with it.

Cookbook Evangelism

1. Pray for and respond to the the assignments God sends.
2. Ask questions about where people will spend eternity.
3. Listen.
4. Give good news Gospel scriptures.
5. Invite people to meet Jesus.
6. Pray with them if they wish but don't push.

With many and possibly most people, cookbook evangelism is the best approach but not with everyone. Service evangelism requires us to hear the creative voice of the Holy Spirit, trust that we've heard it, and do the required work without having the reassurance of ever seeing the results.

Service Evangelism Is Only Evangelism If:

1. God sends the assignment.
2. The people know the Gospel (if they don't, we have to make sure they hear it).
3. We make it clear that we are doing it in the name of Jesus and not because we are "good people."
4. We follow up with prayer.

As with all evangelism, it must be driven by love and a pure desire to share the Good News of Jesus. This week, my job was to deliver food and money in the name of Jesus. I didn’t give the Gospel – she already knew it. I didn't even see her. I heard God, acted, and made sure she knew it was God's idea. As always, I continue to pray for her.

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