Fusion’s One Year Anniversary Recap

May 28, 2014 By

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Operation Christmas Child

December 12, 2013 By

On December 5, 2013 twenty-five Fusion members enjoyed the privilege of volunteering for Operation Christmas Child at the Charlotte Processing Center. What an incredible experience! Over the four hours we were there (6-10 pm), new members met existing members, tall members hassled short members, and we all learned some new mass production skills. Between dodging rubber band wars, tape dispenser frenzy, and sampling some “illegal” chocolate, we had a blast! Not only was it fun and entertaining, it was a valuable service that expands and encourages God’s Kingdom. As I recall, 140,000 boxes were prepared on our night. Only eternity will reveal the impact that our boxes will have in the lives of the children receiving them. Please continue praying for this critical ministry and for the lives of the OCC children worldwide.
Heartfelt kudos to Honora for coordinating yet another exceptional Fusion event! And a rousing “Thank You!” to each Fusion member who participated. Hopefully you can join us next year!

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Spirit & Mind – Riding a Fish to Work by Nate Stevens

October 10, 2013 By

Spirit & Mind – Riding a Fish to Work

“Now the LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh.” (Jonah 1:17; 2:1, 10; 3:3 / NIV)

I was stuck in rush-hour traffic. I was irritated and impatient even though I knew full well the traffic was outside my control. While burning up minutes of my life at a standstill on what was usually an interstate highway, I began thinking of alternate routes to work – even different transportation methods. Crazily enough, the story of Jonah came to mind. His work commute took an uncontrollable twist on that fateful day when he decided to disobey God.

We all know the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, but Jonah refused and hoped onboard a ship sailing in the opposite direction. Subsequently, God sent a storm so fierce the sailors feared for their lives. Upon discovering Jonah as the reason for the storm, they tossed him overboard. At that precise moment, God arranged His alternate transportation to bring Jonah to where He needed him.

God has a specific purpose for everyone (Jeremiah 29:11). Yet, when He whispers His will to our hearts, instead of embracing it, we sometimes disbelieve, get discouraged, and even disobey. This is when God, in His loving compassion and discipline, providentially brings us to the place where He needs us. When we run from Him, He uses “fish” of a different nature to alter our course and return us to Himself.

Sometimes, He uses the fish of Disappointment – this comes along when the path we’ve chosen doesn’t turn out as expected. We have such high expectations doing our own thing, but when it doesn’t materialize, we’re disillusioned with the result.

Other times He uses the fish of Dissatisfaction – this swims into our world when we’ve gone our own way and achieved our personal dreams and aspirations. Yet it doesn’t bring the internal fulfillment we seek.

Then there is the fish of Loneliness – this fish swarms us even when we’re surrounded by many people. When we are not where we are supposed to be, not doing what we are supposed to be doing, no one can fill the absence of God’s assuring presence in our lives.

Sadly, sometimes God is left with no alternative than the fish of Tragedy – this comes along with drastic consequences as a result of our poor choices. Unfortunately, when we run from God, most often we run headlong into trouble.

Instead of riding the Fish Express, chart a new course. Listen to God’s leading and willingly fulfill your part in His miraculous plan.

AUTHOR BIO
As a “missionary kid” who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a 30-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. He also writes online devotionals for his home church (Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC) and articles for several other publications. Information about his book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life is available at www.natestevens.net. God is opening doors for speaking engagements at conferences, seminars, and Bible study groups for singles, young adults, young marrieds, and youth. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, and is an active dad with his two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.

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Spirit & Mind – Orange Prayers and Italian Ice by Nate Stevens

October 10, 2013 By

Spirit & Mind – Orange Prayers and Italian Ice

“’Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’” (I Corinthians 2:9 / NKJV).

We were out of Italian ice.

For those who are unfamiliar with this delicious frozen treat, it is similar to a Popsicle, yet without the stick and added sugar. Due to my family’s recent commitment to a healthier diet and lifestyle, my kids and I started replacing the usual “salty snacks” with more fruit and vegetables – and an occasional Italian ice instead of ice cream.

After my weekly trip to the store, I was putting the groceries in the refrigerator and pantry when my daughter hollered from the living room, “Dad, would you please bring me an orange?” Now, I love her dearly and know she would much rather have an Italian ice instead of an orange. So, I delayed my response to her request.

As I continued putting the groceries away, she bombarded me with her unrelenting requests – the volume of each demand rising to match her growing impatience. I finally asked her, “Are you sure you want an orange?” When she confirmed her definite choice, I grabbed an orange for her and an Italian ice for me and walked into the living room. Upon seeing what was in my hands, she immediately reversed her choice and, grinning from ear to ear, said she would rather have an Italian ice. To which I replied, “Well maybe you should let your loving dad surprise you with something better than your initial request.”

At that moment, God spoke to my heart. “Isn’t that just the way it is with you when you have your prayer time with Me? You are so adamant about what, when, and how you want your prayers answered. Have you ever considered I just might have something much better that I would love to give you? Maybe, instead of impatiently and repeatedly asking for what you think you want, a better alternative is to make your general request known to Me – then allow Me to lovingly and sovereignly surprise you by exceeding your expectations.”

As her father, it was pure joy to surprise my daughter with what I knew she would rather have instead of her initial request. As our Heavenly Father, God delights in exceeding the needs of His children – but we must patiently wait for Him (Psalm 37:7) and leave the ultimate choice in His hands. After all, He does know what’s best.

“God, please grant all my orange prayers with Your Italian ice answers!”

AUTHOR BIO
As a “missionary kid” who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a 30-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. Recently, God made it clear he should use his writing talents for God’s kingdom. He writes online devotionals for his home church (Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC) and articles for several other publications. Information about his book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life is available at www.natestevens.net. God is opening doors for speaking engagements at conferences, seminars, and Bible study groups for singles, young adults, young marrieds, and youth. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, and is an active dad with his two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.

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Spirit & Soul – My Great Cloud of Witnesses By Nate Stevens

October 10, 2013 By

Spirit & Soul – My Great Cloud of Witnesses

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2 / NIV).

I just heard that another dear friend passed into eternity.

As most people do when they hear this news, I spent some time thinking about my friend – and about death in general. Not in morbid fascination; rather, in quiet reflection about those who have gone on and about my own mortality.

I pulled out my “Great Cloud of Witnesses” folder. It contains the funeral notices and obituaries of family, friends, and acquaintances who, over the years, have escaped the boundaries of mortal clay and have “put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). As I reminisced over each person, nostalgic sadness and remorse came over me. Sadness for those who I knew were believers; remorse for those who were not. Even though I miss them sorely, my sadness is tempered somewhat since I know when a believer is “absent from the body,” he or she is in the Lord’s presence (II Corinthians 5:6-8). But my remorse lingers since I know I could have, and should have, been a better witness to those who did not have a personal relationship with Christ.

As more and more people I know arrive in Heaven, they become part of the “great cloud of witnesses.” The angels escort them to their seats in the heavenly grandstands overlooking the race of life. This is what Paul refers to when he encourages us to live our lives as if running a race in front of these heavenly spectators.

With each new witness in my section of the grandstand, I ask myself, “How am I running my race? What are my heavenly fans thinking as they watch me live my life? Are they happily cheering me on or frantically urging me to run a better race? Better yet, what is Jesus Christ thinking?” These sobering questions help me gain a heavenly perspective as I run my earthly race.

My hope and prayer is that we all throw off everything that holds us back from running a strong race. That we put aside the “pet sin” that so easily knocks us off course. And that we live our lives each day with focused determination – as every great runner – with our eyes firmly locked on the finish line where Jesus stands to welcome us home. Let’s focus on running our race and finishing strong.

No pressure, my fellow runners; but we have a huge home crowd cheering us on!

AUTHOR BIO
As a “missionary kid” who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a 30-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. Recently, God made it clear he should use his writing talents for God’s kingdom. He writes online devotionals for his home church (Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC) and articles for several other publications. Information about his book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life is available at www.natestevens.net. God is opening doors for speaking engagements at conferences, seminars, and Bible study groups for singles, young adults, young marrieds, and youth. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, and is an active dad with his two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.

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Faith & Finances – Taxable Integrity by Nate Stevens

October 10, 2013 By

Faith & Finances – Taxable Integrity

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’” (Mark 12:17 / NIV).

“What the IRS doesn’t know won’t hurt them.”

Those words came from my college professor while justifying his reasons for intentionally misrepresenting his tax returns. In view of the recent scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service and their intrusions into people’s privacy, it would be tempting to agree with his philosophy. It is easy to rationalize our actions when there is corporate misconduct – even easier when it benefits us financially.

The justification goes something like this: As a Christian who gives to the local church and missions, I sponsor and support many homeless, underprivileged, widowed, and orphaned people, and the government doesn’t seem to be doing an adequate job addressing this need; therefore, it’s okay for me to “creatively doctor” my tax returns since I’m already doing my fair share for the nation’s good. Another rationalization is: since the government continues to sponsor organizations and fund activities that oppose Scriptural morals, it’s okay to fudge on my tax returns to reduce the amount of taxes I owe. Unfortunately, this perspective doesn’t align with what Jesus taught.

The Pharisees brought a similar “situational ethics” question to Jesus. “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” (Mark 12:14). Although they were trying to catch Jesus in a no-win situation, I love His wise response. By telling them to pay Caesar his dues and to pay God His dues, Jesus changed the entire paradigm. Instead of a question of financial obligation, He made it one of financial integrity.

As a resident of the country, I am obligated to pay my fair share of taxes. When Jesus said to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew10:16), I believe it includes being knowledgeable about the tax code and using as many legal allowances available to reduce my overall financial exposure. However, I am also accountable to a higher moral code.

One day, I will stand before God to give an account for all my actions (Romans 14:12). This includes explaining my taxable gains, losses, and write-offs. Since God’s audit process is much more thorough than the IRS, my financial integrity must incorporate prudent practices that stand up under God’s scrutiny. All our financial resources are blessings from God. He will hold us all accountable for honest stewardship – including the money we’ve hidden from the IRS.

Now if we could just hold the IRS accountable to that same standard…..

AUTHOR BIO
As a “missionary kid” who grew up in a Christian home and church, Nate Stevens has enjoyed a 30-year banking career in a variety of leadership roles. Recently, God made it clear he should use his writing talents for God’s kingdom. He writes online devotionals for his home church (Calvary Church in Charlotte, NC) and articles for several other publications. Information about his book, Matched 4 Marriage – Meant 4 Life is available at www.natestevens.net. God is opening doors for speaking engagements at conferences, seminars, and Bible study groups for singles, young adults, young marrieds, and youth. Nate currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, and is an active dad with his two awesome kids, Melissa and Mitchell.

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