…so that the world will know we are His

            Recently, I was listening to a talk Francis Chan gave at a Church Leaders Conference. I love listening to Francis Chan because he has such a gentle, yet powerful way of presenting truth, and he does it in a very simple way.

            It was the perfect talk to hear before going on our youth group mission trip to Tennessee because the message made a great point about reaching the world. Stepping out to serve in various campgrounds where we will be leading Backyard Bible Clubs and leading evangelistic outreach events for families, it is important to be reminded of how God wants us to work together as a team.

            After a few friendly opening lines, Chan got right to his point. “God wants oneness amongst us.”

            He put a picture of his family up on a screen and talked about how close they were. He said if he and his wife and children could just go to an island and live all by themselves, he would be perfectly happy. I understand that. Families can provide us with that safe place where we experience unconditional love—where everyone is on your team—where you’re working together for a common goal and know you’re loved and supported.

            To drive home the point about family oneness, Francis explained that if someone were to try to divide his family, break them apart and drive a wedge between them, he would be incredibly upset. He loves his family and their unity. He does not want that destroyed.

            And God wants that from His children as well—He wants that from us.    

            Jesus prayed for unity in the church at the end of His life. In John 17:20-21 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” In His powerful prayer, Jesus asked for believers of the future to be one. He also said something interesting that Chan pointed out. “so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Interesting. Chan explains that we often think that the way to help people believe is to prove it with apologetics—to explain away the unbeliever’s doubts. But while apologetics may be important, that’s not what Jesus prayed for. He prayed for oneness to help the world believe.

            It doesn’t take much to see how divided our world is right now. Turn on the television for just a few minutes and you get smacked in the face with it. Political tension, racial tension, and moral tensions are all over the place—obvious signs of disunity. But look around the church. Chan points out that within the church we judge one another and split up into little groups that divide us. While he agrees that there are the essentials of what defines a true believer—there are many minor things that the church divides over that destroy that oneness God so desperately wants us to have. Jesus tells us that it’s that oneness in the church that will help the world believe!

            Chan then points his listeners to Proverbs 6:16-19. There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (NASB). It is interesting to note that God singles out number seven—one who spreads strife among brothers. God hates disunity—He says it is an abomination to Him to spread strife among brothers. Chan went back to his earlier point about his family and how angry he would be if someone tried to cause strife in His family. God feels the same way.

            Scripture is filled with verses about unity, about working through problems, about forgiveness, about loving one another. You can’t get away from it—God does not want strife and disunity among His children.

            Then Chan quoted Titus 3:10 “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (ESV). Those are some strong words—but they are God’s Words and we can’t forget it. God hates division.

            Division is how the world lives. God wants us to be different. Work through our differences and love one another.

            Last year at our youth conference, the theme focused on the book of 1 John. Some of the youth have said 1 John has been our theme book this year in youth group as God has reminded us in so many ways to turn back to those verses.

            1 John 4:20-21 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (ESV).

            God takes unity among His children very seriously—and so should we. Those verses are serious, hard-hitting verses.

            If you have the opportunity to listen to Chan’s talk, you can find it on YouTube. It’s entitled, Francis Chan: Peace in the Church.

Masterpiece in the Making

Our home has resembled an art studio lately. A local dentist office has asked our daughters to prepare a substantial amount of artwork to be displayed on the walls and they’re busy creating.

I admire those who can paint. It’s a gift. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stared at a blank piece of canvas with paintbrush in hand and thought, surely the blank canvass is prettier than anything I can paint. I recently read a quote from the book, Art and Fear, that says, “Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about that gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did.”

I’ve never considered myself an artist in the visual art sense, although I can relate to the quote. Not necessarily with painting—but with writing. That’s my art. I’m not perfect. Nothing I do is perfect. Nothing I say is perfect. Nothing I write is perfect. No matter how many times I edit a piece of work, I will inevitably find more mistakes. The question is, do I take the risk to create, even though I know it will never be perfect?

Satan wants my imperfections to immobilize me. God wants to use them to draw me closer to Him.

An artist must have a level of vulnerability in order to create. Not only are we critics to our own work—but the world is full of critics. It’s difficult enough to draft something you hope to be beautiful, knowing there are flaws, but to make it public is even scarier. Why? Because it is scary to brave the disappointments of others.

 Lysa Terkeurst, in her book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, asks the question, “How many times have you let imperfections cause you to be too hard on yourself and too harsh with others?”

She took this attitude with her into an art show where she was able to view the works of various artists. She determined to arrive at the show with a heart of compassion for others, recognizing that, “The way we show up for a painting is a direct reflection of the way we will show up for people.” She said, “Regardless of who they are and how they are, there is only one way to stand before paintings and people. With compassion. That doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or everything they do. But it does mean you value each of them as a person. A person who needs compassion.”

The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Compassion is such a beautiful word. The only way to truly come to grips with compassion is to recognize that all of us are imperfect. Rather than criticize, what if we approached one another with compassion? Comfort? Encouragement?

Ultimately, in order to respond this way, we need humility. In order to show compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience, I believe we have to be immersed in humility. Recognizing that there are no perfect painters, no perfect authors, no perfect workers, no perfect spouses, no perfect friends, no perfect people—including ourselves.

It takes guts to present your work to the world for its scrutiny. And that work can be anything; your art, your writing, your job, your ministry… you. Mostly because we all know how painful it is to be ripped apart for our imperfections.

Instead of holding on to the ways we are not good enough, what if we found delight in what was right? What if we saw others through that lens? “Anytime we feel not good enough we deny that powerful truth that we are a glorious work of God in progress. We are imperfect because we are unfinished” (Terkeurst, 2018). Others are imperfect because they too, are unfinished.

Terkurst said, “What gives power to all that I fear others are thinking and accusing and saying isn’t the people themselves. It isn’t even the enemy. I’m the one who decides if their statements have power over me or not.” Whether or not I allow the fear of disappointing others or the fear of their criticism immobilize me, is up to me. When I walk in the knowledge of the Truth—who I am in God’s eyes, I can walk boldly, wherever He has called me to walk.

I am God’s masterpiece. You are God’s masterpiece. We are all unique. Psalm 139:14 say, “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Rather than focusing on our imperfections or the imperfections of others, let’s focus on this. We are God’s masterpieces and He is still working on us. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t dismiss your ability to shine.  

God is writing something beautiful through our lives. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and display our art.

        

Creative Writing Through Literature: Adventures in Novel Writing

Adventures in Novel Writing Adventures in Novel Writing launches in April!

This comprehensive writing and literature course is a great fit for any aspiring writer. The 28 week curriculum covers writing techniques, grammar, literature analysis, elements of suspense and other forms of fiction writing. Students will write their own short story and learn how to take their work to print.

Over the course, students will read the novel, Witness Protection, and learn style and techniques. They will also read four more novels of their choice. The curriculum includes devotional reading and journaling.

Recommended to pair with the course: Books by authors, Amy C. Blake, and Colleen Scott. Spiritual Circle Journal, available from spiritualcirclejournal.com.

Witness Protection – Available on Amazon September 1st

Witness Protection

“There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed.”

Witness Protection – Available on Amazon September 2017

Ty Westgate is a man living under witness protection. Brooke Dunbar is a young nurse, struggling to find hope and healing from her past. After four years in hiding, Ty puts his faith in Christ and realizes his moral duty to tell his unsaved parents about Jesus.

While this step of faith holds eternal significance for Ty’s parents, it also puts Ty’s life in jeopardy. Together, in this fast paced novel, Ty and Brooke work to unravel the truth behind Ty’s adversaries. Will Ty’s decision to share his faith cost him his life? Will Brooke learn to trust the One Who can heal her past? The price of freedom may be too high.

Free Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional – For Kids and Teens

I’m excited about partnering with Liz Lassa, creator of the Spiritual Circle Journal, to write this Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional for kids and teens. It’s a 14-Day devotional designed to jump start your quiet time with God! While it doesn’t have to be used with the Spiritual Circle Journals, it makes a great companion to these wonderful quiet time tools! I love Lassa’s Spiritual Circle Journal. They’re great for adults and teens! We’ve given them to our junior high and high school youth group to help springboard their time with God.

“I have loved reading Carol’s Christian fiction books “Greater Love” and “Until Proven Innocent.” They were so filled with suspense it was hard to put them down! Carol included two FREE chapters of her 3rd book “Under the Shadow of the Steeple” with this kids devotional. Her books can be found on Amazon and she has Creative Writing homeschool curriculum that can go with a few of them. How nice to have a good book you can enjoy and discuss with your kids!”

– Liz Lassa

To order your own FREE copy of the Spiritual Circle Journal Companion Devotional for ages kids and teens, visit Liz’s website! http://www.spiritualcirclejournal.com/free-kids-devo You can also order a Spiritual Circle Journal of your own!

If You Give a Christian a Muffin…

It’s so easy to get distracted. Most of us have heard the story, If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff. The very distractible Moose will ask for a muffin and then want jam on it, which will make him want more and more muffins until you run out of muffins. Then you’ll have to go to the store, which will remind him that he needs to borrow a sweater, the sweater needs repaired so he asks for thread, the thread makes him think about the puppets his grandmother used to make, so he’ll ask for socks to make puppets… the story goes on and on, the moose getting further and further from his mission until it ends up full circle. It’s a cute little story with a true message. It’s easy to get distracted.

Christians are a lot like that moose. We start out our Christian walk with one mission. We’ve found forgiveness of sins through Jesus, we’ve begun a relationship with Him, and from there our goal is to grow in Christ. Ask any new believer what they want to do now that they’re saved and they’ll tell you in one way or another that they want to get to know God better. It’s an awesome mission! It’s God’s desire for us to know Him more!

But like that silly moose… we get distracted. We take our eyes off the goal. We get busy going from one thing to the next and before we realize it we’re off making sock puppets and painting scenery for the puppet show. Each day something new pops up that reminds us of something else we want to do or need to see or accomplish… not that these things are bad in and of themselves. But sometimes those things take our eyes off the goal.

Philippians 3:14 says, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) We have an awesome call as believers. We have an opportunity to live our lives with a mission. That mission is to know God and to share that knowledge with others. But when we get our eyes off that goal we fall prey to distractions that can take us way off course.

The thing is, these distractions don’t just happen at once. Christians who have their eyes on Jesus don’t typically just turn around and start having affairs, getting involved in witchcraft, viewing pornography, cheating on their taxes, etc. Those distractions start with the small things. Small compromises that we allow into our lives can take us further and further from our goal the more distracted we become. Sometimes, we aren’t even aware that the thing that we are allowing into our lives is a compromise. It’s a slow fade. Distractions.

Years ago I read a short story about how television viewing adopted this form of compromise. First the television shows portrayed good, wholesome families who went to church and prayed together. The average American viewer was okay with this. Then they dropped church and prayer and just stayed good and wholesome. American viewers chose to let the absence of God and prayer in the show pass because it still depicted Biblical morality. Then television began to drop the good and wholesome by introducing sinful practices and making them look humorous. Americans figured it was okay to laugh at these sinful choices because the humor showed how foolish these sinful practices were. Eventually, those sinful practices were made to look fun. American viewers didn’t see the transition… it was slow. Now, it is not uncommon for a television show to depict a man and women meeting at a bar, going home together to have sex, and shrugging it off as if it is normal. Bit by bit the American viewer has compromised. If the first show on television had been one of the shows we have today, filled with sex, witchcraft, and swearing, American viewers would have been appalled.

We go to church on Sunday expecting good and wholesome from the pulpit. What if our pastor chose to take clips from the sexual encounters, sexual innuendos, witchcraft, sorcery, magic, or swearing, many Christians view on television or read in books, and show that on a Sunday morning? Most Christians would be appalled. “What kind of church is this? What in the world is the pastor showing us?” But how many Christians are watching those very things all through the week? How is it any different?

Christians have begun to compartmentalize their morality. It’s okay to read stories that glorify witchcraft, spells, sexual encounters and swear words if it’s a secular book. But at church, it has to be good and pure. Shouldn’t we hunger for good and pure every day? How is Sunday any different? Would you sit and watch a movie where the couple engages in pre-marital sex with Jesus sitting right beside you in physical form? If the hero of our favorite novel is a self-proclaimed sorcerer practicing witchcraft, it’s time to consider whether our interest in literature may have become a distraction from the goal. What we watch and read does affect our thoughts and our values.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (ESV)

We’ve gotten distracted and sin has entangled us. We can’t run the Christian life when we’re entangling ourselves in immorality. Jesus is our goal. We’ve gone full circle. It’s time to get back to the goal and escape the distractions.

Creative Writing Through Literature

Creative Writing Through Literature is a comprehensive high school and junior high homeschool curriculum. This course is intended to develop your student’s love for writing and reading by introducing good literature and challenging, but fun writing projects. Students will develop skills in grammar, punctuation, creative writing, essay writing, spelling, vocabulary, and journalism.

Available on Amazon in April

Creative Writing Through Literature homeschool curriculum
Creative Writing Through Literature homeschool curriculum

“I have been a fan of Carol Kinsey’s writing for quite some time. God has certainly given her a gift that she uses to inspire and encourage through her stories. We are excited about this new curriculum project. I am sure that you will find this curriculum helpful as a tool to help develop not only writing skills but a love for reading.”

– Buddy Davis Speaker, Singer, Songwriter, Adventurer, Paleo-Artist for Answers in Genesis

Greater Love now available

FullSizeRender(1)Greater Love is Now Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Greater Love: Trey Netherland is undercover. Rainey Meadows has been deceived. She wants answers. He wants the bad guy. Together, Rainey and Trey find themselves in the heart of Columbia both searching for different things. As Rainey struggles to learn who she is, Trey is torn between the lies he’s told and the Truth that is fighting to reach his heart. Tangled in a dangerous plot, can Rainey trust the man whose lies put her heart in turmoil? Will Trey finally cry out to the only One who can truly set him free? There is only one Truth and it’s in Him they find Greater Love.

I love writing fiction that not only captivates my readers, but also draws them into a deeper love for Jesus Christ. An author friend of mine once told me my writing was “unapologetically Christian.” That was the greatest compliment I’ve ever been given in my writing. I want to tackle real issues with real answers—and not neglect my Real Savior.

With the debut of Greater Love, I’m praying God will use it to touch lives and bless my readers. Greater Love is now available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Please check out my reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

Water Walking in a World Full of Distractions

IMG_1395Do you ever feel distracted? Like there are so many things going on around you that you lose your real focus? Work. Worry. Busyness. It’s not hard to do in a world with so many distractions.

In Matthew 14:22-33 we read about Jesus walking on the water. In verse 28, Peter says to Him…  “Lord, if it’s you – tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies to Peter saying, “Come.”  “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

I can relate to Peter. He wanted to get out there and walk on the water with Jesus… do something great! Walk boldly with Jesus! But he got distracted.            Colossians 3:2 tells us to, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Romans 8:5 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

In a world full of busyness and distractions, how do we make sure our minds are on the things of the Spirit? How do we maintain our focus? How do we make sure our eyes are on Jesus and we don’t sink?

I’m reminded of the old hymn, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus… look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

When our eyes are on Him we maintain our focus! That’s what Peter did when he first got out there on the water and started to walk! Can you imagine how exciting that would have been?

But what about all those distractions? Even Peter got distracted.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

It’s not always easy in a world of negative people, bad language, and worldliness – but when we let our minds dwell on those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellence, and praiseworthy, instead of being distracted by things of the world, we get our focus back.

Remember, even Peter lost his focus for a time. Thankfully, when Peter realized he was sinking, he had enough sense to cry out to Jesus. That’s what we need to do. Cry out to Him. Talk to Him. Spend time with Him. Every day.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

 

 

The Value of Family Mealtime

IMG_7052We all live busy lives. Most American families are on the go so much that it’s difficult to get everyone around the dinner table once a day to share a family meal. But family meals are important. Family meals are a powerful tradition that influences the whole family. Family meals give us an opportunity to connect, communicate, and come before God.

Think about all the memories you have built around meals. Most of us can recall the relationship building that has gone on over meals at Christmas, Thanksgiving and other holidays. When I look back at my childhood, I have a vivid image of the big round table in my parent’s kitchen and the bright orange swivel chairs where we sat. The valuable relationship building that went on there is forever burned into my mind. Sharing a family meal touches our sense of sight, touch, taste, smell and provides us with opportunities for laughter and conversation.

Family meals provide us with an opportunity to create a shared experience with our children, which provides them with a sense of belonging. It brings us together and unites us. Sharing a regular family meal give us an opportunity to pass on our values, offers us an opportunity for conversation, and an opportunity to slow down and spend quality time together.

Family meals allow parents an opportunity to learn about their child. Parents can monitor children’s moods, behavior and learn about their friends. Taking that time to share a meal also gives structure to a child’s day. Structure provides a sense of security and well-being. Not surprising, sharing a family meal can also make a positive impact on your child’s communication skills.

Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of the family meal, which is at the heart of all the other benefits, is that it gives us an opportunity to talk with our children about the Lord. As we sit down and ask the Lord’s blessing on our meal, we are welcoming Him to be a part of our table conversation. In Deuteronomy 11:18-19, God commands us to pass His Word on to our children. “You shall therefore lay up these words of Mine into your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Family mealtime provides us with a perfect setting to teach our children about Jesus. Either before or after the meal, while you are still gathered together, is an awesome opportunity to pull out your Bible and share a family devotion.

As busy as we can be, it is important that we not let that time of sharing a family meal slip from our schedule.