Monday, August 19, 2013

Christ Central Ministries

Hey, friends.  Just wanting to share the story of the ministry many of you have already heard about from me.  It is my joy here in the south.  I hope you will enjoy the story and keep the ministry in prayer.  The name says it all:  Christ Central Ministries.  Keeping Christ the center of all its work, Christ Central Ministries (CCM) produces earthly and eternal profit in communities across the Carolinas.
God launched this work in Columbia, SC by offering work to a homeless man and a businessman; both accepted.  Jimmy Jones sat inside the four walls of Elmwood Church the day God had it pelted with rocks by a hungry drunk.  Those rocks captured the attention of the preacher, who sent Jimmy outside to resolve the issue.  Responding with common Christian charity, the businessman invited the homeless man inside and prepared a care package.  The food box was rejected.  “I don’t have a refrigerator, a stove or a can opener.  This is useless to me.”  
His blatant honesty opened the business man's eyes to the work of God offered him.  His willingness to step outside the church launched Christ Central Ministries; so began a work of Community Enrichment designed by God.  Earthly and eternal profits rest solely in the work of God, and CCM delights in the opportunity to demonstrate how focus on the call of God enriches individual lives and communities.   

By definition, Community Enrichment will not produce a drain on the communities it serves.   Primarily funded and operated by Christians with a desire to ‘be the Church’ instead of just being inside the church, CCM demonstrates the reality that Christ-centered living enriches all.  Less than two decades after its start, CCM is a business that contributes millions to the economy of South Carolina.  The City of Columbia saves thousands by having CCM manage its homeless services. CCM GED testing programs generate thousands for the state while moving individuals toward a good goal.  Free post-secondary education through the Institute trains missions-minded individuals in Community Enrichment ministries.  Career education, food, clothing, car repairs and more affect thousands of others across the CCM service area.  Clearly, individuals and communities experience tangible profit from Christ-centered Community Enrichment.

God employed a rock-throwing homeless man to initiate His business of community enrichment—and CCM continues to exemplify creativity.  That first encounter led Jimmy to prepare a meal for some homeless guys.  It eventually moved him far outside his comfort zone, into the homeless community and finally into a new career: Pastor!  The expansion continues as  CCM mission posts pop up across the Carolinas. 
CCM continues to emulate the original design:  meeting needs by embracing honest relationships, investing oneself and focusing on Christ.  A mission of enriching communities as God leads stimulates diverse endeavors.  CCM workers build boats, repair cars, tutor children and adults, offer career education, provide medical care, operate a farm, shelter the homeless, counsel the addicted and much more!  Community enrichment happens as God shares His burdens with receptive hearts who invest their lives in others!  Community enrichment as CCM sees it is a passion driven mission—and the source of that passion is the love of God, which enriches all. 

Still serving the Columbia area, CCM also extends itself to the support and operation of forty independent mission stations across the Carolinas.  CCM assets include over ninety buildings—and thousands of relationships centered on faith in Jesus Christ.  Volunteers carry out the work of God through CCM...from the Executive Director to the pantry worker; salaries never drive the work!  Christ Central relies on God to rise up servants and funding by placing burdens upon receptive hearts.  The ministry avoids any path that might inhibit relying upon the call and provision of God. Community-based, Christ-driven services rooted in prayer are the tools of community enrichment employed by CCM.  In less than twenty years, Christ-centered services have brought transformation and enrichment to thousands in the southeast of America.  To God be all glory!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

HOPE for when we feel we have failed...

Greetings!  This particular writing is part of course I am taking.  But discouragement is so common, I thought perhaps one of you might be blessed by this or have a friend you would like to share it with.  That 'silly' saying of 'If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it' conveys a not so silly truth; we disappoint ourselves but He always loves us perfectly!
Dear friend,

My heart aches with your pain and discouragement.  It does devastate us to feel we have disappointed the One we love so very much.  Can you see your heartache as the very sign that speaks to your love?  The Spirit searches the heart; He knows your sincere sorrow and repentance.  Are you remembering that Jesus died for us while we were yet actively rebelling—totally ignoring and rejecting Him?  That same love envelopes us even when we fail Him after salvation.  I know you know all the facts, walk with me, though, through their beauty and let His words be a balm to your soul.

 God loved—and loves—us too much to leave us on our own; He did not entrust our deliverance to personal effort.  He knows we’re made of dust and we fail in our flesh.  He loves us anyway.  When you trusted Christ for salvation, you accepted God’s preferred destination for you: eternally, irrevocably positioned in Jesus Christ.  He has never seen you anywhere else but IN Christ…covered by the blood with sins forgiven. 

No one is without hope because God is the God of Hope—not before salvation, nor after.  He has promised never to leave or forsake us, even when we fall into sin.  He does not despise a wounded heart.  Your sin has pierced your own heart and now that sin is your opportunity to humbly let it remind you of His unbelievable grace and mercy.  The same grace & mercy that saved you will sustain you.

Remember Romans.  Paul gave us wonderful, deep instruction on this on-going battle in EVERY Christian.  None of us is immune— in this life— from the possibility of falling.  The very fact that you are distressed is evidence of His work within you.  And His Work is the only Hope of Glory for any.  We are justified by faith in His Work and we must live in faith of His Work.  Your heartbreak is real and though saddened the Father, He knew all about it before Christ went to the Cross.  Now you must allow that love to fill you to overflowing and take that message to others.  Do not allow the gift to be in vain.  Live the truth, honey, so others will know they can too.  THAT is the hope we all need.

One of my favorite verses is found deep in the Old Testament where God promises Israel He will restore the years of blight.  When we understand the depths of His goodness and power, we begin to walk with greater confidence and faith.  Deny the enemy the victory in this sin.  Allow God to love you—and then tell everyone you see how great is our God! 

Loving and praying (with the Spirit and Jesus) for His Light to heal and guide,

Your sister IN Christ, Billie Jo

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Changing patterns!

Battling weight issues has taught me much over the years.  It has helped me learn to focus on the purposes of God, dig through emotional responses and lately, identify hidden processes that affect my health.  The truth is, though, I find the spiritual analogies far more interesting than the physical world realities.  Recently I discovered some hidden processes that relate to diabetes and the job of insulin.  It fascinated me to consider the ways my body responds to habitual behaviors—and I began to explore the concept.  If you happen to be diabetic and want those tidbits, just email me.  But for the greater truths I found inside the struggle, come along!

Discovering the hidden processes excites me because that is the first step to understanding them.  Understanding paves the way to individual growth.  We are not at the mercy of our habits, our family inheritances or our culture.  As Christians privileged to have the very Spirit of God dwelling in the center of our being, we can exercise dominion over all that!  Our spirits are meant to reign—not our physical bodies, lusts, habits or even generational curses.

 Heartaches, anger, and earthly battles seek to direct our thoughts, emotions and even actions.  Those feelings and actions become habits that can dig trenches of pain into our souls.  Just as repeated times of elevated insulin convince our bodies this is the ‘new normal,’ poor habitual responses to trouble eat at our souls.  Efforts to escape the pain without treating underlying issues bring more destruction.  A change of diet and activity reverses negative trends but long-standing patterns often necessitate a multi-faceted approach.  

The Spirit, aided by tools such as the Word, other Christians, and circumstances, shines the Light of God into our troubles to show the way through them.  As we walk in the ways of the Word (in faith of His goodness), we become reflectors of His light instead of reactors to the world.  We enjoy the peace of His presence and the victory of faith.  His Light begins a healing process in our dark places.  It may not change the actual circumstances but the pain eases as Christ enters the suffering with us.  The love we absorb from Him then flows into our world bringing healing to others. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fun for you. Hope for others.

Summer schedules open up wide for possibilities of fun.  From simple days at the park or pool to extravagant luxury on exotic beaches, the hope of relaxation and enjoyment permeates summer plans. 

Hope--an expected outcome of good as Wikipedia says--sweetens even the most blessed  life.  Can you pause with me for a moment, though, and consider the the impact when hope shines into a life bleak with despair?  We all know those lives abound; sometimes we choose to turn away in our own despair of making any difference.  Will you spare a few minutes to consider putting a party with purpose into your summer plans?

BUT...did you know our accessories can provide for others' necessities?

Trades of Hope is a missional-business providing a market for hand-made items from around the world.  The Trades of Hope organization connects with mission partners in such countries as Guatemala, Bangladesh, Uganda and America to identify tangible ways to offer hope in lives darkened with despair.  The situations are all different.  In Cambodia, the life may have been devastated by an acid attack.  In Bangladesh, sexual slavery may have eclipsed hope.  AIDS, prostitution, disabilities, intense poverty...crippling challenges that we can impact simply by caring action!

Organized in a manner most American women are familiar with, Trades of Hope uses home parties to bring these hand-made items into your world.  Offering an income source to desperate individuals, hope beams into their world.  Basic necessities, health care and education for their children suddenly become possibilities simply because individuals in America have a party.  That opportunity to give hope is a blessing not to be missed!  The team of 'Compassion Entrepreneurs' who bring these parties to homes are passionate about their work. 

In fact, it is that passion that prompted this blog entry.  My friend, Tina Crandall, is offering chances to win a beautiful hand-made silk scarf as a prize to those who will simply take the time to learn more about this incredible opportunity.  Check out these details below--and know that this scarf is far more lovely than the picture shows!

Contest ends July 15th--so don't delay!!

For one chance to win, simply visit her website (
Share her website on your facebook, twitter, and/or blog for another entry.
Purchase from her website for another two chances to win!
Host a catalog party for two more entries (book before July 15).
Join her team for FIVE extra chances and bring the joy of hope to lives as your business!
Post a note back here about how you will act to bring hope...let's spur one another on for good works!

Contests are fun.  Parties are fun.  Giving hope is what we are called to do!


Friday, June 7, 2013


All week long God seems to have been showing me pieces relating to relationships and unity.  There is not reason in particular that I am aware of, but it has been fascinating.  My prayer is this will bless someone.  This is a rather broad treatment of a very complex topic.  It is not an exhaustive treatment of the concept or the passages referenced (primarily Matthew 18).  I encourage comments, thoughts or direct emails.  Let's delve into it deeper and learn together!  presented with love, Billie Jo
Conflicts are common to life.  That Christ left us with a ministry of reconciliation testifies to a competing truth:  Our God is all about relationships.  Christians seeking to understand how to respond when in conflict often find themselves contemplating the process outlined in Matthew.  Make a personal contact, progress to witnesses including the church, if necessary and finally, if restoration of the relationship still eludes you, treat the offending brother as a heathen.  While that process is powerful, it is not the primary focus of this piece.  Our focus will be how the passages surrounding the reconciliation instructions fit with it and provide us a beautiful picture of God’s design for relationships.  Our triune God exhibits diversity in unity--and He wants us to do the same.

Prior to the reconciliation passage, we find Christ delivering the parable of the lost sheep.  Emphasizing God’s passion for every single lost soul, Christ follows up with the process for restoring relationships.  He then moves into teaching how relationships bring the heavenly economy to bear on earth with the power of unity.  Very appropriately following those teachings are Peter’s questions on forgiveness and the parable of the unmerciful servant.  Relationships are challenging, but unity is inherent to God.  He wants us to value it as well.  In this context, the concept of Christ’s passion for lost souls expands into the deeper purpose of unity in our relationships.

In the reconciliation process,“treat as a heathen” is not a hands-off, you live your life, I’ll live mine approach.  It is a living, breathing testimony of heaven’s economy!  Throughout the Old Testament, the chosen people of God bore the responsibility of being a witness for God; we still bear that responsibility.  It flows into verses seldom brought into the context.  While 'wherever two or more are gathered in my name' is typically used as a 'success formula in prayer,' it is more appropriately considered to be teaching on the powerful testimony of unity.  Agreement on God's will is powerfully unifying.  ‘Binding and loosing on heaven/earth’ relates to bringing God's determinations on what is to be bound and loosed to bear in our lives.  It is living out the will of God on earth as it is in heaven—just as Christ taught His disciples to pray.  In the context of this passage of reconciliation, living as God designed is revealed as the key to wholeness in relationship!

All that adds an entirely new dimension to relationship struggles for me, and I hope for you as well.  With reconciliations as a tool for pointing others to the glory of God, the cost pales in contrast to the value.  The amazing love of Christ that took Him to the Cross, while I was still actively opposed to Him, provides me with powerful purpose in every relationship.  Reconciling with others is an obedience that brings eternity into view for all.  . 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Reason for the Dark

I enjoy using different translations of the scriptures for reading.  The alternate phrasings help me pay attention to the ‘old’ stories; sometimes differing words prod me to dig a bit deeper.  My mind has been drawn to the purpose of suffering lately, and a thought from my Spurgeon devotion took me to the Creation story.
Genesis 1:2 The earth was barren, with no form of life; it was under a roaring ocean covered with darkness. But the Spirit of God was moving over the water.

Verses four and five go on saying, “God separated between the light and darkness.  And God called the light, Day. And He called the darkness, Night.” God chose to include night in this world.  He could have banished the darkness but here we see He allowed it to remain. 
God entered the dark, roaring emptiness and spoke light into it.  He did not eliminate the dark; He illuminated the dark and called it day.  He enjoys doing that same creative work in our lives every day—if we let Him! 
One day there will be no darkness remaining, but for now, it is part of the earthly experience.  We can rejoice because we know He does all things perfectly.  Our human sight helps us glimpse some beauty in darkness.  Shadows create depth in scenery; dark lines bring things into clearer focus.  Truly, darkness delineates God’s grandeur in a way nothing else could.  For another exciting perspective on darkness, consider these ‘bizarre’ words from Paul:
Philippians 3:10 and 11:   All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life.

Paul was not seeking suffering.  He simply was saying that the encounter with suffering and death allows us to enter into the power and life Christ exhibited. 

We don’t need to seek out problems; this life simply includes them.  When we do hit the dark spots, the valley of the shadow of death, there need be no fear.  That valley pops up in more ways than physical concerns.  Sometimes the death we fear is the death of our hopes and dreams.  We reach the limits of those things in which we have trusted and suddenly realize there is no life in them.  And that is the purpose of darkness--to move us toward seeking the light.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  In Him there is no shadow or darkness, He is Light. 

If you are in a valley today or facing a dark time, it really is okay.  It does not mean you are failing in your Christian walk.  It does not mean God is not with you, loving you.  In fact, it means there is a new dimension of Christ ready for you to explore.  One of my favorite verses is in the book of Nahum, and it says “clouds are the dust of His feet.”  In the dark, Jesus is incredibly near!  Accept the dark as the entry point of God’s creative work in your life—and watch with awe!

The fellowship of suffering is a path to know Him more. Be honest in your pain, but take your grief to Him.  Let Him show you how He truly meets every need.  He will give you the Light you need to take the next step.  As you walk in that Light, you can know that God is surrounding you with His power and life.  With Him working in your life, you will bring life to others on the pathway and never even realize it.  There is a reason for the dark.  Trust Him and let Him use it for your good, for the good of those around you and for His glory!

Friday, May 17, 2013

I love pictures that capture beautiful moments in time.  The cozy warmth of lights pouring forth from a home surrounded by snow draws my heart inside it.  The sweetness of babies sleeping whispers reminders of trust and contentment.  Elderly couples portrayed in quiet communion, rocking on the porch or helping one another walk slowly along, declares commitment.  Lovely as they are, those pictures are not the whole reality.  They transport us in spirit to a place that fills the longing of our hearts.   Partial realities in pictures bring some joy; partial realities in daily life are deceptions that destroy hope.  Considering the deeper truths of pictures helps inspire us to live with whole-ness that will not disappoint ourselves--or others.  If you have ever been discouraged by life's deceptions, come, walk with me.

The occupants of snow-covered havens braved the brutal elements before resting inside.  The parents of the sweetly sleeping babies sacrificed their own sleep to meet the infants’ needs.  The ravages of aging powered the necessity of rest and assisting one another.  Sweet moments in time develop from investing ourselves.  Our comfortable, 21st century culture tempts us to think that all of life should be the ‘good stuff.’ We mistakenly believe that the mountain top beauties of life are where we are to live.  Casual Christianity is one of the deadliest imitations.  Social, situational Christianity intent on seeking the blessings of Christ without the reality of Christ is hypocrisy.   It does not deliver what it promises; it disillusions those who practice it and those who observe it.  Surface Christianity kills.

That is not the example Jesus set.  The sweet moments are to be treasured but they are not to be our vision.  Christ alone effectively powers lives of purpose and beauty.  The One who left the glories of heaven to love rebellious, murderous sinners must be the vision we pursue.  There is no disillusionment when looking to Him, and His glory is the light this world so desperately needs.   Unlike photos that depict only one dimension of life, Christ reveals deeper and deeper depths of beauty.  Allowing His light to penetrate into the depths of our being gives us an integrity that captivates those around us. 

The Light of Christ pierces dark realities.  He chose to leave the glories of heaven.  He chose to endure rejection and suffering ‘for the joy set before Him.’  Because of His choice, we can choose to live lives that bring eternal joy to others.  Just as Christ came to serve this world, we are in the world to serve others--not ourselves, not temporary delights that satisfy ourselves.  Gazing at Christ teaches us to choose wise goals for our lives--to endure difficulties with confidence in the One we follow.  Truly, what we do with the gift of life in this world becomes the gift we return to the Father.  My prayer is for hearts that rejoice in the ‘picture-perfect’ moments because they are gifts of our good and glorious God…and allow the harsher realities to sweetly strengthen their love for the One who braved the path of darkness for us.



Saturday, March 30, 2013

Love Pours Out

Hello, friends.  It has been some time since a post.  I am having a wonderful time writing but for others and do not have the option of posting those pieces--or the time to write more.  I will be considering what to do with my blogs but wanted to share this with Easter Greetings.  May you have a wonderful time rejoicing in the Victory of Easter.  with love, Billie Jo

The human body sometimes reacts to great stress with a defensive redirecting of the blood that is known as vasospasm.  In these times, blood vessels in the extremities shut down stopping the flow of blood to those areas.  Blood-less, life-less cold spreads quickly into the areas affected. 

Spiritually we sometimes see a similar phenomenon.  Hurts in life cause us to withdraw from the pain.  We turn inward and restrict the flow of the Spirit from the outward stresses.  Both are human reactions.  Both withdraw life.  Christ shows us another way.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ faced horrendous distress.  He understood the darkness of sin and separation from the Father that was soon to weigh upon Him.  Yet in that garden—before any physically struck Him, Christ’s blood flowed out to a dying world.  God’s Word tells us great drops of blood dripped as He prayed.  Christ sacrificially lived before He died as the Sacrificial Lamb.  He looked outward and upward, not inward.  His life followed His gaze.

We, as Christians, live because He loved enough to refuse self-focused living.  Forsaken by his closest friends, sold-out by a close associate, hated by His Father’s chosen people, Christ had every reason to ‘self-protect.’  Yet He pursued the Father’s purpose and brought life to all who would believe.  We can choose to let that same life flow in us and by-pass ‘human reactions.’  Although Christ became human, He did not allow humanity to dictate His life.  We must not either.

When a vasospasm incident passes, blood flows back into the afflicted regions with stinging pain.  That pain brings life.  In our spiritual lives, the pain of conviction brings healing through repentance.  Restored to Life, we become vessels of life for others.  Let us follow the example of our Savior who, though God, learned obedience through suffering.  Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly—let us embrace His purposes!