Thursday, June 28, 2012

Our God is Always There for Us

Parental suicide. Sexual molestation. Cutting. Drug addiction. Attempted suicide. Childhood brain tumor. Mother murdered. Bullying. Near fatal car accidents. Family member died of cancer. Family member battled cancer. Depression. Pill addiction. Many other problems too numerous to list. One God who has the power to overcome it all.

These were the stories of teens and young adults who gathered at Faith Community Church in Barre, Vermont, last night. As they do every Wednesday, young people played games, ate lots of food, hung out with friends and heard a challenging lesson from a caring youth worker. In this case, the teacher was Leo Dutil, a 20 year old young man who grew up in the youth group and is now preparing to become a youth minister. After sharing from James 2 on why we should be joyful when difficulties come into our lives, he then invited those present to come to the front and share a testimony of a time in their lives when God was there for them in the midst of great difficulty. At first, it was awkwardly silent as the microphone laid on podium waiting for someone to share their story of God's transforming grace. Then, one young lady came. Her story was painful, but God had been with her. Then another came. And another. A steady stream came to the front to share their story of pain, hurt and heartache and give God the glory for walking with them in difficult times. Nearly an hour later, when the Spirit was finished doing a deep work in the hearts of the nearly 100 young people present, the closing prayer was finally said.

The stories were moving. The praise that God was given was nothing short of miraculous considering that most of the young people come from non-Christian homes. But it is evident that the Spirit is calling many to faith in Christ and He often speaks through pain and difficulty. One young lady, whose mother died when she was two, and then her father committed suicide the following year, said, "I've been angry at God and I've tried running from Him. But I cannot get away from Him. He is always there. I need to run to Him, not away from Him." Another young person, one of the few who did grow up in Christian home, said, "Outwardly I was living a happy Christian life, but inwardly I was lonely and miserable. I decided to kill myself and as I put the razor blade to my wrist my older brother knocked on my door. He asked me to watch a Christian video and it changed my life." One young man said, "I was in a really bad car accident a few weeks ago. The car rolled over many times and I should have died. But someone kept me alive, I think it was God. Though I have never been religious, I'm coming to church now because I think I'm going to become religious." One young lady, whose siblings have bounced from foster home to foster home and whose biological family lost nearly everything they owned in a flood last year, said, "When you have lived the life I've lived, it is hard to believe in God because it does not seem like He has done much for you. But I know I need to believe because God is the only one who is always there for me."

Though some churches may be struggling to reach young people, other churches are seeing waves of unchurched young adults come to faith in Jesus. God has not given up on this generation, and neither must we. God has a plan. As we join God in His plan of reaching young adults, God will call all those whom have been chosen to Himself. What a blessing to be the means through which the God of the universe chooses to work. The next generation is a mess. Jesus is the answer. Let's stop complaining about how few of them come to church and let's roll up our sleeves and get to work reaching them.

Find out how Faith Community Church learned to gather and reach so many young adults on a weekly basis in this exciting book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, which tells the story of the church's youth ministry and reveals the principles they used.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Swallowed and Spit Out

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Jonah 1-2.

Chapter 1 - Verse 1 - The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:
             Jonah lived approximately 800 years before the time of Christ.
             Very few actual facts are known about Jonah, though there are many extra-biblical stories and legends about the events that he records in this book.
             The phrase “word of the Lord” is from the Hebrew debar-Yahweh and means it was a message directly from God to Jonah.

Verse 2 - Get up! Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because their wickedness has confronted Me.
·       God told Jonah to go preach in Nineveh.
·       Nineveh was the largest city in the world at that time and was the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
·       The city was ruled by the enemies of the Jews.

Verse 3 - However, Jonah got up to flee to Tarshish from the Lord’s presence. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.
             Jonah refused to obey God and ran in the opposite direction instead.
             Jonah thought that by running away he would avoid the presence of God.
             When we do things we know we should not do, we often want to skip church and avoid our daily Bible reading and prayer.

Verse 4 - Then the Lord hurled a violent wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose on the sea that the ship threatened to break apart.
             Jonah thought he could run from God, but quickly learned that God is everywhere.
             God sent such a storm against that ship that it nearly broke into pieces.
             Though God is a loving and merciful God, He knows how to get our attention when He needs to.

Verse 7 - Come on! the sailors said to each other, Let’s cast lots. Then we’ll know who is to blame for this trouble we’re in. So they cast lots, and the lot singled out Jonah.
             Though the sailors were not followers of God (see verse 5), they recognized the hand of God when they saw it.
             Casting lots was an old fashioned way of deciding something when there was no other way to find an answer. Sort of like flipping a coin in our modern society.
             People who cast lots believed that God, or fate, or some other power, would chose correctly.
             Often a bunch of flat stones were placed in a bag. One stone would be marked in some way. Whoever pulled out the marked stone was the “winner.”
             In this case, God directed the lot to fall on Jonah, who was indeed the guilty one.
             Numbers 32:23 - Be sure our sin will find us out.

Verse 12 - He answered them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea so it may quiet down for you, for I know that I’m to blame for this violent storm that is against you.”
             Jonah immediately knew that it was his disobedience to God that had caused the storm.
             Deep inside, we know when we have done wrong and deserve to be punished.
             His disobedience had endangered the lives of the entire crew.
             Anytime we sin, those around us may become caught up in the consequences of our sin. We have a duty to live rightly before God for the sake of others.
             Jonah was so focused on his own sinfulness that he misunderstood the purpose of the storm.
             God was not trying to kill Jonah.
             God was trying to get Jonah to repent of his sin and return to a place of obedience.
             Jonah told the men to throw him overboard, thinking that his death would satisfy the wrath of God and the storm would end.
             There is only ONE MAN’S death that could satisfy the wrath of God, and that man is Jesus! We should stop making everything about us and accept God’s mercy. 

Verse 17 - Then the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah . . .
             “appointed” is the Hebrew word manah, which literally means “prepared.”
             God had prepared this fish to do this particular job at this particular time in Jonah’s life.
             Though we often run the wrong direction and do the wrong thing, God is always prepared to turn our mess into something wonderful.
             This may have been a unique fish that God prepared solely for this purpose.
             God often does “once in a lifetime” things for us, for which we should be grateful.
             This may have been a regular fish that God used in a special way.
             God often uses the regular things in life to make His will known to us.
             Whether it was a special fish or a regular fish, God was going to use it to teach Jonah an important life lesson.
             Whether God uses unique experiences or everyday occurrences, He will guide us if we will learn to listen.
             Some skeptics have argued that the entire Jonah story was too fantastic to believe.

Could a great fish really swallow a man?

             There are two types of known fish that are large enough to swallow a man.
             One is the Balaenoptera Musculus – sulphur-bottom whale.
             The other is the Rhinodon Typicus, often called the whale shark. It is the biggest fish in the world.
             Both feed by opening their enormous mouths and scooping up large quantities of water and whatever else is in it. They strain out the water and swallow the rest.
             Neither have teeth, so they do not chew up their catch, they just swallow it whole.
             These fish have 4-6 compartments in their stomachs, any one of which is large enough for a person to fit in.
             In the head of the whale is an air storage chamber that measures 7 feet high, 7 feet wide and 14 feet long.
             If the whale swallows something that gets in its nasal sinus chamber where all the air is stored, it gives the whale a head ache and it goes to shore and spits it out.
             Though God may have used some special fish that He created just for the single purpose of swallowing Jonah, God could have also used either one of the types of regular fish. Either way, God was the one making all this happen.

Could a Person Survive Being Swallowed By Such a Creature?
             The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper quoted an article written by Dr. Ransome Harvey who said a dog was lost overboard from a ship. It was found in the head of a whale six days later.
             The dog was both alive and barking!
Page 18 of “Jonah” Dead or Alive? By J. Vernon McGee

             Frank Bullen wrote a book called “The Cruise of the Cathalot” which tells the true story of a 15 foot shark which was swallowed alive by a whale and was spit out just before a whaling ship killed the whale.
Page 18 of “Jonah” Dead or Alive? By J. Vernon McGee

             M. de Parville, a famous French scientist, records the story of James Bartley, who lived in the Falkland Islands of South America, who was reported to have drowned at sea.
             Two days after Mr. Bartley’s disappearance, some sailors killed a whale.
             When they cut the whale up, to their surprise, they found Mr. Bartley inside, unconscious but alive.
             He recovered and lived a long and normal life.
Page 19 of “Jonah” Dead or Alive? By J. Vernon McGee

             Dr. Harry Rimmer, president of the Research Science Bureau of Los Angeles, writes about an English sailor who was swallowed by a gigantic Rhinodon in the English Channel.
             He fell overboard trying to harpoon the beast and it turned around and swallowed him.
             48 hours later that same fish was finally slain and the sailor was inside alive.
             He recovered in only a matter of hours.
Page 19 of “Jonah” Dead or Alive? By J. Vernon McGee

             We may choose to believe by faith that this was a special fish God made just for this purpose and feel no need for a scientific explanation.
             We may choose to accept science’s examples of past “Jonah – like” occurrences.
             Either way, faith and science agree that a person can be swallowed by a big fish and live to tell about it. 

Verse 17 - . . . and Jonah was in the fish three days and three nights. 
             “three days and three nights” was how long Jonah spent in the fish.
             This was most likely how long it took to get Jonah from where he was NOT supposed to be to where he WAS supposed to be.
             Though God can turn our messes into something good, we may have to spend a period of time in the darkest messes of our lives. We should not expect “instant” fixes from God, He seldom works that way.

Chapter 2, Verse 1 - Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.
             Jonah had made a bad decision and was now in a mess because of it
             However, Jonah realized that God still loved him and could help.
             Jonah did the only thing he could do, PRAY!
             When we make a bad decision, we should never be too embarrassed to talk to God about it. He is just waiting for us to come to Him for help.

Verse 2 - I called to the LORD in my distress, and He answered me. I cried out for help in the belly of Sheol; You heard my voice.
             “Distress” – Though Jonah was a prophet of God, he still did not really learn to rely on the Lord until he was in distress.
             Too many of us do not really learn to depend on God until something really bad happens in our lives.
             When God does help us in our distress, we need to make sure we do not abandon God as soon as the crisis is over.
              “Sheol” – this is the word most often translated as “hell” in the Bible. It carries the idea of being completely cut off from both God and others.
             Imagine Jonah sitting in the absolute darkness. Think of how cramped and smelly it must have been.
             Most likely other fish and small sea creatures had also been swallowed. Imagine feeling one of them crawling across our bodies in the dark!
             Jonah must have felt like he was in a living hell.
             Little did he know that God was waiting to hear from him and deliver him.
             Sometimes things get so bad it seems like we are living in a hell on earth.
             Sometimes we feel cut off from God and everyone and everything that is important to us. But God is waiting to hear from us!

Verse 4 - . . . yet I will look once more toward Your holy temple.
             Jonah felt separated from God but decided to give the Lord one more try.
             Jonah looked back to the Lord and that was the beginning of his salvation from the living hell he was experiencing.
             No matter what our past is like and what baggage we may carry, we can always turn back to the Lord and be saved both from a living hell and from an eternal hell.

Verse 6 - . . . the earth with its prison bars closed behind me forever!
             Jonah felt trapped in a prison of his own making.
             It seemed to Jonah that this prison would last forever.
             But we know that his journey in the fish was only going to last three days.
             Remember: pain and sorrow will not last forever.
             Be careful not to make permanent decisions in an effort to solve temporary problems. 

Verse 9 - … I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.
             Watch Jonah’s quick spiritual growth.
             He goes from despair to prayer once he focuses his attention back on Jesus.
             Jonah goes from an attitude of hell to one of hope.
             Jonah had been running from God, now he is ready to sacrifice anything for God and thank the Lord for the chance to do it!
             We often turn to the Lord in a time of trouble and difficulty in our lives.
             Though some are only looking for a quick fix from God and will then turn back to their sinful ways, others realize this is a chance for a whole new life.
             Those that really find the Lord will begin to sacrifice for God and be thankful to do it.

Verse 10 - Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
             Notice that the Lord was in command of the fish the entire time.
             We must never forget that no matter how bad things get in our lives, God is still in control.
             God has the power to issue commands to anyone or anything in the universe and God often uses that power to impact our lives in powerful ways.
             The fish vomited Jonah back up.
             Vomit of any kind is pretty disgusting, but imagine how much vomit a giant fish has!
             Jonah must have looked pretty rough as he walked into the city and began to preach. It was probably not the impression he wanted to make as he began his preaching crusade!
             God does help us get back to where we need to be, but we should not expect all the consequences of our mistakes to disappear.
             There are often certain aspects of our past mistakes that remain in our lives. We should be thankful for how they remind us of how bad it was when we were walking in disobedience to God. 

             When God clearly tells us what to do, we should obey!
             If we disobey, we are going to get ourselves in a big mess.
             No matter how big a mess we make, God has prepared a way to deal with it.
             To fix our mess, we must stop running from God and call out to Him.
             God gives second chances, but must be ready to live with some of the consequences of our mistakes.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Author Interview with Lynn Dove

Most of my blog readers know that I have written five books. As an author, I get to interact with a lot of other writers and am blessed by my interactions with them. Some time ago I became acquainted with Lynn Dove, a Canadian writer, and have been impressed with her passion for helping kids who have been bullied. Since she has a new book that has just come out on this subject, I wanted to interview her and share her story with my readers.
Lynn Dove is a graduate of the University of Calgary, where she earned her Bachelor of Education degree in 1981, she has spent the last thirty years teaching children in the private and public school settings.  In 2007, she earned a Masters of Religious Education degree from the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.   

Lynn’s blogs Journey Thoughtsand Word Salt have well over 10K in followers and readers.  Journey Thoughts won a 2011 Canadian Christian Writing Award (the equivalent of winning a Christy Award in Canada).  Lynn’s writing has also been showcased in a few compilation books the latest being in Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith featuring essays from Robin Jones Gunn, Tricia Goyer and Suzanne Woods Fisher just to name a few.  Lynn’s article “Cool Grandma” can be found on p. 56. 

How do you describe yourself, Lynn?

I am a Christ-follower, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, a teacher and a writer (in that order).  I wear so many different “hats” that I find prioritizing them tends to focus me better.  I have been married to my best friend, Charles for over 33 years and we have three wonderful children: daughter, Laurelle (husband, Matt) grandbaby, Jaxon, and we have two live-at-home teenagers, Brett and Carmen.   I have been a teacher most of my adult life, and I still substitute from time to time at the private Christian school my youngest daughter attends.  I love volunteering and working closely with the youth in our church.  I love to blog, camp and read.

Tell us a little bit about your “Wounded Trilogy”?
Shoot the Wounded, the first book of the Wounded Trilogy, is written for youth and young adults. It addresses how lies and gossip destroy a person's spirit and speaks to the heart of relevant themes such as bullying, teen pregnancy and family violence.  The story points the characters, and ultimately the reader, to hope in Jesus Christ.  STW was a finalist in the 2010 Readers Favorite Book Awards.

Heal the Wounded, is the sequel to STW and the second book of the Wounded Trilogy.  HTW won a Bronze Medal in the 2011 Readers Favorite Book Awards in the Young Adult- Coming of Age category.  HTW delves even deeper into the real world of teenagers trying to live out their faith in the midst of upset and struggle.   Heal the Wounded, continues to follow the characters, Jake, Leigh, Mike (Jake's best friend), and Tim (Ronnie's brother) each of them dealing with the aftermath of their friend’s death in the first book. Jake is especially dealing with a variety of disappointments (“Job” experiences I call them) that cause him to question why God allows bad things to happen to good people. A new character is introduced into the story, Cassidy, a young cancer patient whose unquenchable spirit and faith impacts Jake, Leigh, Mike and Tim in a way that allows them all to experience God's grace and the power of His healing in each one of their lives.

Love the Wounded is the final and dramatic conclusion to the Wounded Trilogy series that has followed the lives of teenagers Jake, Leigh, Mike, Dylan and Tim as they come to terms with a series of tragedies and events that have made each of them question why God allows “bad things to happen to good people”.  Released May 30, 2012, the book has already received a five star review from Readers Favorite.     

My books deal with a variety of social issues: family violence, bullying, teen pregnancy, gossip and are listed as resources on the largest anti-bullying website in the world:
Lynn’s books are available on,, on Lynn’s website.

Readers may also connect with Lynn on Twitter, Facebook,  on her blogs: “Journey Thoughts”, “Word Salt” and on her website:

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We Gotta Get Our Feet Wet

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Joshua 3.


        Forty years earlier Moses had led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
        For forty years they had wandered in the wilderness because of their lack of faith that God could take them all the way into the Promised Land.
        Many of us have spent many years wandering in a spiritual wilderness.
        Somewhere along the way we became Christians but we have yet to experience the promises of God.

Verse 1 - Joshua started early the next morning and left Acacia Grove with all the Israelites. They went as far as the Jordan and stayed there before crossing.
        Joshua started out early in the morning.
        God often interacted with His people early in the morning.
        It was early in the morning that Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to test his faith.
        It was early in the morning that Moses stood before Pharaoh and told him to let the people go.
        It was early in the morning that David battled Goliath.
        It was early in the morning when the women went to the tomb and found Jesus already resurrected.
        Therefore, it makes sense that it was early in the morning when God told Joshua to take the people into the promised land.
        Though we can spend time with God at any point in the day, if we fail to do it early in the morning, most of us get so busy that we never get around to it the rest of the day.
        They journeyed for several miles before making camp.
        Though this may seem like a short distance, remember that Joshua was leading a very large group of people.
        When we try to lead a larger group, everyone has an opinion or an idea and they all want to go in different directions.
        We need effective leaders but being a leader is not easy.
        In fact, leadership is in great demand and short supply.
        God has also asked men to be leaders in their families.
        Sadly, many men have failed to do that and families are struggling as a result. Pray for men to step up and lead their families.
        Every company or organization needs capable leadership.
        When good leadership is present, people can go far.
        When bad leadership is present, people become paralyzed and unable to move.
        We should all endeavor to be good leaders in whatever circles of influence we are in. 

Verses 2-3 - After three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people: When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God carried by the Levitical priests, you must break camp and follow it.
        When we see God at work, we must be willing to break camp and follow.
        We tend to get comfortable with the way things are and do not like it when God tells us to break camp.
        God does not always do things the way we think He should and He seldom leaves us in our comfort zone for very long.
        But whatever God does is always the best way things should be done so we should learn to follow Him where ever He leads.

Verse 4 - But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards between yourselves and the ark. Don't go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven't traveled this way before.
        As Joshua led the people, he told them to keep a certain distance from the Ark.
        Joshua was not suggesting that they needed to keep a distance between themselves and God. Verse 9 tells us they needed to get as close to God as possible.
        Joshua simply wanted the people to be able to see the Ark at all times so they would not lose perspective on what God was doing.
        Too many of us have lost sight of God in our journey through life and we need to regain our perspective.
        Sometimes we get so busy that we lose sight of God in our lives and taking a step back helps us regain our perspective.
        If we are too busy to think, we need to step back and eliminate something.
        If we are too busy to pray, we need to step back and eliminate something.
        If we are too busy to worship, we need to step back and eliminate something.
        We must make sure we do not eliminate the very thing we need most, time with God!
        Joshua reminded the people that though they had not traveled this way before, God would guide them if they stayed focused.
        Life is full of surprises and we often do not know what lies ahead.
        This can be scary, but God will guide us.

Verse 5 - Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, because the LORD will do wonders among you tomorrow."
        If we want God’s guidance, we must consecrate ourselves.
        Consecrate comes from the Hebrew word kaw-dash and it means to prepare, dedicate, make holy, or be separate.
        How often have we really prepared ourselves to hear from the Lord?
        How dedicated to God are we?
        What aspects of our lives have we made holy?
        Have we done anything to set ourselves apart for the Lord?
        These are challenging questions for each of us.
        Too many of us are so busy trying to fit into this broken messed up world that we have failed to grasp what God is trying to do.
        If we want to see God do wonders, we should stop trying to imitate a messed up world and start acting more like Christ.
        We will not see the wonders of God unless we set ourselves apart for God.
        If we are living unholy lives, do we really think God will bless us?
        We must be willing to live right before a holy God if we expect Him to do wonders in our lives.

Verse 6 - Then he said to the priests, "Take the ark of the covenant and go on ahead of the people." So they carried the ark of the covenant and went ahead . . .
        Joshua told the priests to carry the Ark out in front so everyone could see it.
        The ark itself was not spiritual.
        The ark was just a physical symbol of God’s Presence.
        We often need such symbols to help us visualize the Presence of God in our lives.
        That is why we wear crosses, or display them in our homes.
        That is why we observe communion.
        That is why we light candles.
        That is why we publicly baptize people.
        That is why we anoint people with oil.
        That is why most churches prefer to have a specific building in which to worship.
        None of these things are spiritual in themselves, they are powerful symbols that help us focus more clearly on the Lord.
        God was about to show the Israelites another powerful symbol that would seal in their minds His power and provision.

Verse 8 - Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the waters, stand in the Jordan.
        To understand this verse, we must remember biblical history from Exodus.
        When the Israelites left Egypt, God parted the Red Sea so they could go across.
        Forty years later the Jordan River stood in the way of the people finally being able to enter the Promised Land and God was going to part it so they could cross over.
        God was trying to show a new generation that He was still in charge and had the same power that He had in previous generations.
        Parting the Jordan became a symbol of God’s power that they would remember for generations.
        What stands in our way keeping us from experiencing God’s blessings and promises?
        Did we get hurt by someone? Time to let it go!
        Have we refused to obey God regarding baptism or church involvement? Time to jump in with both feet!
        Have we willfully ignored something God clearly told us to do? Time to start obeying!
        Whatever we have let come between us and experiencing all that God wants for us, we need to let it go so we can cross over the Jordan and enter the Promised Land!

Verse 15 - Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season.
        The river God asked them to cross was at flood stage!
        It took a lot of faith for them to trust God and step out into the water.
        It seemed like what God was asking them to do was crazy, but they could not enter the Promised Land without moving forward.
        We all experience our floods from time to time.
        But when the river is overflowing its banks the most is exactly when God is calling us to experience His power the greatest!

Verses 15-16 - . . . But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge and the water flowing downstream stood still.
        As soon as the priests took that first step into the water, God did His part.
        But nothing was going to happen until they first stepped out into the water and got their feet wet.
        This must have been a hard thing to trust God for and even harder to actually do.
        But it was the way God worked then and it is the way God still works today.
        We must be willing to get our feet wet if we want to see the power of God displayed in our lives.
        We must be willing to step out into the water and do our part while trusting God to do His.
        Too often we want God to do everything for us and while He clearly has the power to do everything, most often He waits for us to do our part.
        Our God is a miracle working God but we have to get our feet wet and step out in faith and trust the Lord if we want to see those miracles.

Verse 17 - The priests carrying the ark of the LORD's covenant stood firmly on dry ground . . .
        The leaders of God’s people, carrying the symbol of God’s Presence among them, stood firmly in the midst of the flood believing God would make a way for them to cross into the Promised Land.
        Too many of us do not stand firmly in our faith.
        We start, and then stop, our spiritual journey.
        We move one step forward and two steps backward.
        It is time to stand firm in our faith and watch God do His work in our lives.
        The Israelites had seen God provide for them in the desert, so they knew God had great power. But they needed this “experience” in the Jordan to help burn into their minds the need to stand firm for God.
        We often need an experience of some type in order to seal some decision we are trying to make for God. God often gives us some type of experience to let us know He is there and we should be grateful when He does.

We may not know exactly what God will do in our lives or how He will help us overcome whatever challenge we are facing, but it is time to get our feet wet and step out and trust Him.