Blindsided by Grace

Posted on Sep 25, 2014 in Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  I love surprises. In fact, one of the things I love about my husband is his enthusiasm for staging a good surprise. But lately I’ve been contemplating the idea that maybe there are some surprises that I should be “outgrowing.” How does the concept of surprise figure into growing spiritual maturity? Often I am astounded at the grace of God, mercifully protecting, teaching and blessing me beyond my wildest expectations. I could, in fact, say that His grace comes by complete surprise. But is that a biblical view? Should I find myself astounded when I see God mercifully providing, from divinely orchestrating the circumstances of my son’s birth to blessing us with the gift of an abundant supply of baby clothes to outfit his first year of life? My God does not work in ways that are predictable. I can’t expect that He will always act in the same way, or that He will always do things the way I want them done. But so often, I find myself being, I think, far too surprised by His provision. Hasn’t He said He will supply all our needs? (Phil 4:19) Isn’t He our shield and protector? (Ps. 18:2) Blindsided by Grace. The phrase came to me one day, not too long ago, as I contemplated the mercies of my God, thinking how often I am astonished to see how He works. As I mulled over the idea (it has such a holy ring to it, don’t you think?), I began to wonder if being able to be caught off guard by the mercies of God is really what He is calling us to. Does that fit with the words of the Psalmist, who says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.” (Ps. 130:5-6) If I am waiting on the Lord like a watchman, I will undoubtedly still be surprised at the ways in which the everlasting, unchanging, infinite God chooses to work. After all, He, to borrow from C.S. Lewis’ vivid illustration, is “not a tame” God, and as His child I look forward to an eternity of surprises. But If I am waiting on Him, expectantly watching for Him to work, I don’t think that I will be completely blindsided by the fact that He is working! So that is my challenge to myself, in a life fraught with uncertainty, and constant temptation to live in fear: Wait on the Lord. I desire now to be living on the edge of my seat, eagerly, expectantly, breathlessly waiting and watching – what will my God think of next? I have to think that this posture of watching will, by the working of His Spirit, help me to recognize when God’s grace takes shape in ways...

Read More

God of All Comfort

Posted on Sep 23, 2014 in Stepaneks from the Front | 0 comments

    I have recently been re-reading an old book entitled, “The God of All Comfort” by Hannah Whitall Smith an author of the late 1800’s. I am only a few chapters into the book, but it has been such a help and encouragement to me! It is not a deep theological study, but rather a practical guide for living a more abundant, joyful Christian life. The author had once had a conversation with an agnostic who declared, “The Christians I meet seem to me to be the very most uncomfortable people anywhere around.  They seem to carry their religion (faith and trust in The Lord Jesus Christ) as a man carries a headache .”  ( from page 7 and 8) Hannah Smith was very disappointed to hear that Christianity… whose fruits were declared in the Bible to be love, joy and peace… should so often work out practically in the opposite direction, and should develop the fruits of doubt, fear, unrest, conflict, and discomforts of every kind. We today are not that different, are we?  I had to ask myself which type of fruit I displayed to the watching world around me?  Do I usually display the love, joy and peace that is to characterize the Christian’s life, or do others see discontentment, conflict, worry and discouragement?  It is a convicting question!  We are Christ’s representatives to those who do not yet have a relationship with The Lord.  Does our behavior and outward countenance draw them to the Savior or repel them and make them glad that they are not so miserable as we? The answer lies, according to this author (and I agree wholeheartedly), in KNOWING God and actually BELIEVING what He has promised in His word!  As Christians, we probably would all say,  “Oh, yes, I know God and believe the Bible.”  But I would challenge that.  I know from personal experience that when severe trials and suffering come, sometimes it is not as easy to REALLY know God and believe His word.  It can be easy to “say” we do,  but it is much harder when our circumstances are out of our control to put this into practice in our daily lives.  Our thoughts and minds crowd out the Word of God, and instead of finding His comfort and peace, we allow ourselves the self-indulgence of following the easy path of fear, worry, discouragement, and discontentment.  We cannot do this, and expect the fruit of the Spirit to be displayed in our lives.  God’s peace, joy, love and comfort are continually and abundantly being offered, but we MUST, by faith, receive them, in order to know their blessing and benefit. In the book, “God of All Comfort,” there is a compelling thought that I would like to share with you.  Many of you are aware of my two major surgeries this past year and my struggles through the...

Read More

“Being a Dad Who Leads” Book Review

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 in Books and movies we like, Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  I am now officially a father of a sweet little boy and my wife and I are loving it. He is so precious to us. We have been so blessed by the generosity of others. Normally at baby showers, you get great stuff for the baby or for the mommy, but a couple of friends gave me, the daddy, a thoughtful gift. They gave me a book entitled, “Being a Dad Who Leads” by John MacArthur. I was somewhat familiar with the author and pastor and so I was excited to dig into it, even though our baby was not even born yet. What I love about John MacArthur, remembering from one of his other books, is that he uses so much scripture in his writing and preaching… and he did not disappoint with this book. In this book, MacArthur touched on a number of key passages and themes dealing with being a father. As men, we are to “love our wives, just as Christ also loved the church.” (Ephesians 5:25) We are called to be Godly examples and leading our wives and children in a way they will notice and hopefully even the outside world will notice. The family is the primary priority – above our work.  Being a Godly father is likened to Christ’s relationship to the church, and also as similar in role to a church leader, so it is important. MacArthur also exposits the passage in Proverbs 7 about being wise and avoiding the seductress. From that passage, there is a lot of insight, advice, and guidelines for fathers to help train their children. MacArthur also describes the attributes and characteristics of the father in the prodigal son account (Luke 15:11-32) and how that represents God and is an example of how we are to be as fathers. MacArthur encourages parents to continually share the gospel clearly. Over and over again, he refers back to Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” From this verse and MacArthur’s emphasis, I was encouraged to make every moment and every instance a learning experience to relate and teach God’s Word to myself, my wife, and my children. Every circumstance can be used to teach us and point us to God and His Word. I was very blessed to already have received this book and to have had the opportunity to read it, since I am just starting out. I legitimately think that raising up men to be Godly leaders of their home can change our deteriorating culture. In fact, I may buy this book in large quantities to start giving away and I may even do a book study with the fathers around me. I am even considering including the young, single men around me that will someday be fathers. This is great teaching from God’s Word and it is crucial that we focus on His Word to make a difference in our families...

Read More

Horn Creek Creation Adventure Report

Posted on Aug 5, 2014 in Nuttings from the Front | 0 comments

  Mary Jo & I recently enjoyed conducting a family camp at Horn Creek Camp near Westcliffe, Colorado. It was our first year doing a Creation Adventure at this camp and everything went great. Families enjoyed the facilities including their lodge rooms, excellent meals, and the meeting room for our presentations. The activities were as intense or as laid back as each family desired. From the comments we received, everyone benefitted from, and enjoyed, the Creation sessions. We had adult teaching sessions and a special kid’s programs as well.  Teens, as well as the younger ages, enjoyed hanging out with each other and playing some popular games during the evenings and after the sessions.  I would like to think they were discussing creation as they were hanging out, but I’m not betting on it. For the action minded, there was a giant swing that got the adrenaline flowing for anyone. Also, white water rafting was enjoyed by all who participated. The river we rafted is one of the most popular, as there is one rapid after another. Others went horseback riding or climbed a fabulous climbing wall. Families also enjoyed the group dynamic activities that made everyone work together. The long water slide into the pool was a real attraction for younger children, teens, and even the adults.  Some also tried their hand at bowling, basketball, or carpet pool, but most ran out of time to do all the activities that were available during that week. It was a great success and we look forward to doing it again at Horn Creek next year. Our tentative dates for you to put on the calendar are June 28 – July 3, 2015. Hope to see you there.   Dave Nutting If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like to help the work of Alpha Omega Institute, please visit our website events page or our donate page. Keep up to date with what AOI is doing.  Thanks for your...

Read More

Our New Baby!

Posted on Jul 31, 2014 in Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  We have been anxiously awaiting the birth of our first baby. We did everything we thought that we could do to prepare for him or her (we didn’t know), as well as trying desperately to think through every decision so we could make the best and most God-glorifying decision. And we were doing good…we thought, but even with the best intentions, there is a fuzzy-line between trusting God and wanting it to go our way. We even developed our “birth plan” to be as natural, comfortable, and God-honoring. We wanted to have our baby at the birth center in town and try to avoid the pressures of drugs and wires and protocol at the hospital. We thought that being in the birth center would be more comfortable, more convenient and possibly an opportunity to even witness. That was our desire. 40 weeks came and went and the days continued ticking by during the 41st week; we were concerned that we would not be able to have our baby as we wanted. We did almost everything to help our baby come along, but it liked its dark, warm, cozy little place within Mommy. We were now 42 weeks along and were finally forced to resign our desires and transfer to the hospital and have an induction with drugs… which we were desperately trying to avoid. Without going into gory details, we are now proud to announce that our baby boy, Caden David, was born late that night. He had a little trouble breathing at first and was in risk of infection. He had to spend that night in the NICU, but recovered very well.  We were able to rest that night as well and he was allowed to stay with us the next night. The hospital took great care of us and we were just sooo blessed by the lovely nurses that cared for us. We don’t know how God used us there at the hospital to minister to them, but we felt very loved, cared for, and ministered to. God knew much better than we did that we needed to be in the hospital! God yet again protected and provided abundantly for us in that crazy process! We are now home, resting and praising God for our beautiful, healthy baby boy. God knows everything, His will is better than ours, and he wants to bless us that we might glorify Him! Not to say that the road won’t be difficult, but well worth it!   26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?…31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first His kingdom and...

Read More

Control and Provision

Posted on Jun 27, 2014 in Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  Just recently, we were blessed by a wonderful gift of money from a family member. We were excited as it added a buffer, some breathing room, as we look towards added expenses with our baby on the way. The next day, we had to go to the DMV to register our cars in Colorado for the first time since moving here. The DMV, for many, is known for long wait times and over-complicated “simple” transactions. We got there, took our number and waited. We only had to wait for a little bit, and eventually our number was called. We had both of our cars to register at the same time. The young lady was very helpful and walked us through signing the paperwork. Now, I knew car registration was not cheap, but I figured it wouldn’t be too terrible and that is when the young lady told us about the late fees! Ouch! What a bummer – we thought we were being wise by re-registering last year in our previous states, due to the fact that we were moving half-way across the country and had not settled or established ourselves in Colorado yet. The late fees really added to the total, but thank God one of our cars wasn’t as late because we didn’t retrieve it until later in the year. As we were waiting at the desk, I realized that I didn’t have any checks with me – I usually have one or two in my wallet.  I also noticed that there was an extra charge for using a credit card. Then I remembered, that envelope of cash from my family member! It covered the entire cost for that day, plus a little more as well. This may just seem like a coincidence to some, or not sound like that big of an issue, but to my wife and I, it was the powerful hand of God providing for us. We had a professor at Bible College who taught about God’s character and power. I don’t feel like I learned, or remembered, much academically from him during that class, but I do remember him telling story after story of God’s provision for him and his family. That impacted me. I thought, what a better way to live life than to have these challenging experiences and to see God provide and to glorify Him by sharing that with others! It stills surprises and scares my wife and I that we are missionaries, but let me ask this question: would you rather trust a man, an organization, the government or God for a paycheck? We thought we were being wise and were trusting God by not registering our cars earlier, and it didn’t seem to work the way we wanted. We worried about it. Why do we worry? Who is in control??? God is in control! God has a better purpose and a better plan than we do,...

Read More

Learn Through Experience

Posted on Jun 25, 2014 in Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  There is something spectacular about getting to live what you are learning. I didn’t think much about that until the years I spent working at a Christian Living History Camp in California. Each day as my fellow guides and I stepped into costume and into character, we experienced both history and ministry from a firsthand perspective. And that experience wasn’t limited to ourselves – we were privileged to provide countless 4th grade campers and their parents with that same unique opportunity. We were blessed to watch as campers, who had been learning about the California Gold Rush for months, were able to practically live history with us. We got to watch their excitement at finding gold in the river, and their disappointment when they realized that it truly wasn’t an easy task. We encouraged them to think outside of their normal lives and consider what the lives of California miners were like. And best of all, we got to do all this away from their “comfort zone,” which for many of them consisted mostly of indoor activities, cement, video games, and comfort drawn from the fact that they knew the nearest Starbucks was less than five minutes away (yes, we definitely drew the parents out of their comfort zones as well as the kids!). In fact, the crux of our ministry at Rock-N-Water was, and is, founded on the basis of getting kids (and parents) out into creation….experiencing God through adventures in His creation, that through witnessing firsthand what He has made, they might see Him more clearly. My experience at Rock-N-Water Christian camp has laid the foundation for me to be very excited about the camping ministry we have and are continuing to develop here at AOI. Our summer camps and tours offer the opportunity for youth, families, kids, and everyone in between to get out and experience Gods creation while being strengthened in their faith through amazing, and even life-changing creation science teaching. We are excited to be able to provide the chance to get out and see what God has made, as well as to provide the background pieces of scientific information that will allow people to see the beauty of creation with new eyes. While this information is powerful and impactful in any setting, I personally feel strongly that there is a unique power and impact when it’s coupled with the chance to observe the evidence of the beauty and majesty of God’s creation. As guests of AOI’s summer adventures “discover creation,” my prayer (along with all of us at AOI) is that they will be spurred on to “worship the Creator” who has divinely orchestrated a world scarred by catastrophe brought on by sin to still exhibit a breathtaking display of beauty. It’s not too late to register for AOI’s summer Creation Adventures. Take a look and give us a call. We pray that you and your...

Read More

What I learned on Father’s Day!

Posted on Jun 18, 2014 in Marianis from the Front | 0 comments

  So Father’s Day has now come and gone and we haven’t had our baby yet (due in about a week and a half). At church, as well as from friends and family, I received comments saying “happy father’s day…almost” or “happy almost father’s day” and then some not even acknowledging me as a father. I have to admit, I think I may have said that to people in the past who were at that time just expecting. Now it is natural to think that since we don’t have a baby yet, that we aren’t parents. I think this understanding also comes from our cultural context too. That is the point, things in our culture influence us often in very small ways – more often and in more ways than we realize. For example, even if I am experiencing some pain, I don’t like taking medicine or even going to the doctor. I tend to grit my teeth and say, “people throughout history didn’t use medicine, they just dealt with it…and so can I.” And granted we do need sometimes to be wary about the chemicals or side-effects of medicines, but they can be helpful and necessary as well. I finally realized that my preconceived notions of ancient man were influenced by evolutionary thinking. I was actually picturing cave men never going to the doctor or the dentist. But cave men were humans possibly moving from one city to another (many maybe dispersing from Babel – which was a huge engineering project). Adam was created intelligent and able to walk with God. Humans have always been intelligent, possibly knowing a great deal about natural remedies and medicines. Back to my point, we consider a 3-month old as being 3 months old, but he/she is actually closer to 12 months old. A baby in the womb is alive no matter how long they have been there, but parts of our culture claim this not to be the case. God knows us as a person before we even are a physical person! (see verse 16 below) Sometimes making a change in our culture requires a shift in our own thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs. Let’s not forget to stop and ask…”what does God (the Bible) say about ———- ?“   13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.                                                 Psalm 139:13-16   My wife and I are already parents. Leadership (parenting) takes personal preparation. Parenting is going to take on a...

Read More

Planet Earth: A Great Place to Be

Posted on May 13, 2014 in Nuttings from the Front | 0 comments

  If you think a full moon rising over the horizon is beautiful, just imagine being on the moon and seeing your planet overhead in the sky! Now for you couples, that would be romantic! NASA recently came out with a remarkable “Earth Day” satellite photo of our planet. Besides being breath-taking, one of the things it shows is the circulation in the atmosphere as noticed in the partial cloud cover. That is so important for us to have a home where we can breathe and thrive. Do you also realize that if we were a bit further out in the solar system, we would be frozen ice cubes? Or perhaps if we were a bit closer to our sun, we would be scorched corpses? Then again, we could have an atmosphere where we would be gassed to death with noxious fumes.  If we were closer to our moon, we may be drowned because of huge ocean tides. Yep, I think God positioned us and outfitted our planet just right and exactly where it should be in our solar system! As beautiful as it would be, I am also glad to be on Earth admiring the moon rather than on the moon admiring our planet.  After all, it is hard to hold hands or kiss your bride with those big old spacesuits!   Dave Nutting If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like to help the work of Alpha Omega Institute, please visit our website events page or our donate page. Keep up to date with what AOI is doing.  Thanks for your...

Read More

Work …a Blessing or Curse?

Posted on Apr 11, 2014 in Stepaneks from the Front | 0 comments

  WORK.  What thoughts come to mind when you hear this word?  Are they in a positive or a negative light? Do you like to work? I have been thinking about work and its value for the past few weeks. Since my cancer surgery four months ago, I basically had the “privilege” of being served by others. This was primarily my dear husband and my family, who provided almost everything I needed. They brought me many meals in bed, washed many dishes, and served me in whatever way they could. I was unable to do almost any of the usual household duties I had been accustom to doing for the past 35 years. I had always enjoyed serving, so it was very difficult for me to now be the one to be served. This life went on for over three months. Then by God’s grace and some new medication, I started to feel somewhat better. I began to be able to do some simple cooking and cleaning. One of these first days as I was ironing one of my husband’s shirts, a task I had not been able to do for over three months, I just began to cry and praise The Lord for His goodness in allowing me the privilege to do this again! It felt so GOOD to work! At the end of the day, I could look back and see what God had allowed me to accomplish. Now by many standards it really wasn’t much, but it was so much more than I had been able to do before! It brought such a sense of fulfillment. Part of my joy was related to the fact that I wasn’t sure if my health would ever improve, but part was also just the joy derived from doing something of purpose, meaning, and service to my family. After several months of serving me, my husband and family were more than happy to have me resume my role and responsibilities, even with a few limitations! The subject of work also reminds us of Genesis and creation. Work was part of God’s original plan. He gave both Adam and Eve specific duties and expected them to fulfill them. God knew that work was good and would provide joy and fulfillment. Work was NOT part of the curse after Adam’s sin. The curse made his work more difficult, because of the weeds and thorns, but the work itself was not a curse. So the next time you are feeling discouraged or dismayed by the work that is before you, I would  encourage you to stop a moment and think. Thank God first for the ability to work, also His provision of work, and maybe ask for a change of heart that you would sense the joy that God intended to be derived from your work.   Sue Stepanek If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like...

Read More

75 Years of Commitment

Posted on Apr 2, 2014 in Nuttings from the Front | 0 comments

  My parents, Irwin and Barbara Nutting, just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. First of all, that is hardly heard of because of the age attainments necessary. Secondly, many people are amazed at 75 years because of the fact that people these days seem to drift in and out of relationships with little commitment to each other long-term. I realize that circumstances can make a marriage seem unbearable, but so many trials that cause many people to split apart, can be overcome. Many “unbearable” situations can actually be overturned to bring victory in a marriage and lead to 75 years. But it takes effort and it takes commitment. Enough preaching. I really appreciate my parent’s commitment to each other and working through the difficulties of raising 4 boys together to achieve this amazing milestone of 75 years. That is a great encouragement and example for Mary Jo and I. Good job, Mom & Dad.   Dave Nutting If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like to help the work of Alpha Omega Institute, please visit our website events page or our donate page. Keep up to date with what AOI is doing.  Thanks for your partnership....

Read More

How Ungrateful We Can Be

Posted on Mar 5, 2014 in Stepaneks from the Front | 1 comment

  As most of you know, I had a Whipple surgery on November 25th, because of cancer in the duodenum.  As the months after my surgery pass, and as I try to adjust to my “new” (but certainly not improved!) redesigned digestive system, I have found myself having some troubling thoughts.  I have often looked with envy at other people who can eat anything they want, anytime they want, and feel good afterwards.  No pills, no pain, no restrictions, and I think, “this just isn’t fair.”  These people do not think twice about what a blessing it is to have a digestive system that works well.  It doesn’t even cross their mind!  How ungrateful these people are! Then God brought conviction to my heart.  I thought about people who are blind.  Do I really thank God daily for my sight?  I honestly had to answer, “No.”  What about people who are wheelchair bound for life?  Do I thank God daily for the ability to move and walk?  Another “no” answer.  Or how about those who are bedridden, or have lost limbs, terminally ill children, stroke victims, and the list could go on and on.  You get the picture.  I was just like the people I had called ungrateful.  I was no different. I was suddenly overcome with my own self-centeredness.  And I cried out to God for forgiveness.  I could see my own area of suffering so clearly and yet there are so many areas of my life in which God had blessed me tremendously, but I often take those blessings for granted.  We all are keenly aware of our own “area of suffering,” whatever it may be.  But how often we fail to have TRUE compassion for those who are suffering in other ways.  My prayer is that I would truly have a grateful heart daily to see the blessings from The Lord and to have a heart of loving compassion for others.   Sue Stepanek If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like to help the work of Alpha Omega Institute, please visit our website events page or our donate page. Keep up to date with what AOI is doing.  Thanks for your...

Read More