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Do you struggle sharing your faith with others? What if it were more about having a conversation and asking questions than memorizing a script.  Author and Missions Director Holly Melton, of Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ), reminds us that it's important to God for help, and trust that the Holy Spirit will equip us with the words to say. 

 

Click here for a link to the podcast of Jo Bender's show. Or, catch Jo live every Friday afternoon for Connecting Faith at 12 noon on AM 900 / 90.7 FM on Faith Radio Network/KTIS. For more podcasts of Connecting Faith, Live the Promise with Susie Larson, Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram, and more, go to myfaithradio.com

The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, it is hello, goodbye…until we meet again.

—Jimi Hendrix

 

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One of the advantages of advancing years are all the memories that are stowed away in the heart. Like treasures that have been carefully tucked away up in the attic, we brush the cobwebs aside, lift the trunk lid and memories come spilling out.

We recently returned from a trip out East. Since many of my favorite memories from childhood have their roots firmly planted in my hometown in Pennsylvania, the few days we spent there were a pure gift.

Staying with my uncle and aunt, I dragged them down to the banks of the Allegheny River where my grandparents had lived. Past the home where my little family had lived. Up to Jakes Rocks to hike. Downtown to eat Greek at The Plaza. And we even made a pitstop at Bon Ton to stock up on Pittsburgh Steeler gear.

Each memory tied to my past. Yet, they were brand new memories-in-the-making, as well.

As we pulled away to head back home, tears streamed down my cheeks. Standing in their driveways, my uncle, aunt and their neighbour, who just happens to be my second mom, Mary Blick, whom I had just spent a lovely morning with, waved goodbye… I was undone.

Soon after, it was time to say goodbye to our son in Cleveland. Wasn’t it only moments early that we had hugged hello?

We made a stop to see friends in Michigan. There were warm embraces with every family member upon arrival. Our time together—a blessing—as if no time had passed between visits. Then before we knew it, we were hugging once again. Goodbye.

Hello, goodbye.

Isn’t that life in a nutshell? A series of hello’s and goodbyes?

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Are you a good listener? This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talked about communication with relationship experts Mark and Susan Merrill. According to their research, one of the top mistakes that husbands and wives make is that they don’t always listen well to each other. This often leads to communication barriers and hurt feelings. 

 

You can listen to the podcast of Jo's show by clicking here, or catch Jo live every Friday at 12:00 p.m. CST on KTIS' Faith Radio Network AM 900 / 90.7 FM 

 

 

 

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:35

 

Kids can be mean.

 

I brought my toddler to his first arts-and-crafts camp of his entire lifetime, and everyone was pumped. It was just for an hour at a local park down our road, but still. I packed up baby too, and on the drive over, we were giggling over the idea of using scissors and the odds of handling a glue stick. What if we used popsicle sticks? Oh wait, can you imagine PAINT?! It was magical.

 

We pulled in, walked through the threshold of a newly-renovated cabin, and found a spot among the other toddlers and preschoolers chomping at the bit to throw glitter around like confetti. The director coughs, directing our attention her way, saying, “Welcome! Let’s get started with a game outside. Everyone grab hands with each other, and we’ll walk out in a chain.”

 

Cue the heartbreak.

 

Oscar, giddy and excited to run around in the open forest outside, runs to the first kid he sees, but instead of an equally welcoming reception from this child, the delinquent had the nerve to pull her hand away, hiding it behind her back so she didn’t have to hold his hand. What was her problem?

 

Oscar was somehow unphased. I guess he has a sister, so he knows girls can be girls. So he moves on, looks to his left, sees a boy his height, and runs over, bending over to try to grab his hand, and I see quickly we’ve got another hoodlum on our hands. This boy retreats and grabs the hand of someone else, shooting Oscar a death glare. What’s the deal, kid?

 

Oscar? Again, unphased. He must intrinsically believe the saying “third time’s the charm,” because he raced to what appeared to be a sweet girl at the end of the line. Sheep in wolf’s clothing is what I say. She puckers out her lip, and hides her hand under her armpit. Give me a BREAK, child.

 

I’m stressed at this point. Palms a little bit sweaty. I mean, how dare these kids. Oscar is the sweetest, funnest, coolest kid on the block. Every single one of them would be lucky to be his friend. Also, re: Who are their mothers, what kinds of things are they teaching them, and where are they anyways?

 

As I’m scanning the room for a face that looks remotely nice, Oscar must have decided it wasn’t worth wasting another second looking for a hand to hold, because I then saw him sprint past the curtains, run into the open space of the field, and while waiting for the other kids to catch him, he threw his head back and giggled. So happy to be there, just so joyful, and ready to play the game.

 

Although the rest of the hour raced by fantastically with no other altercations, I came home a little hung up by that slight exchange in the cabin. Not in an over-reacting kind of way, but more of a realization that this was just a taste of what he (and I) are sure to experience in the years ahead.

 

Kids can be mean. They won’t all want to be his friend. And as much as I wish it weren’t true, not everyone will offer a hand to Oscar even when he’s looking and asking for it. And no matter how often I chaperone field trips, volunteer in the classrooms, or invite his friends over to our house, I most certainly won’t always be there watching, cheering him on, rebuffing a hard situation, exchanging a smile over the heads of other kids, and reassuring him that they’re not worth it anyways. He will be alone in that sometimes. And that really makes me sad.

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Sometimes the trials of life steal our energy to the point of total exhaustion. But in the midst of carrying heavy burdens, we can still cling to the promises of God.

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talked about pain and suffering with authors Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, who each suffer with chronic pain and disease. Their shared experience with pain also has a shared hope in the goodness of God. 

You can listen to the podcast of Jo's show by clicking here,or catch Jo live every Friday at Noon on KTIS' Faith Radio Network AM 900 / 90.7 FM 

Today Jo is interviewing Hans Finzel about the Top Ten Ways to be a Great Leader. Listen in at 12 Noon CST.

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As my kids have been counting down the days to summer vacation, I have been counting them down too. As a teacher, I too look forward to the end of the year—a break from lesson plans, grading, and lectures. I look forward to three months of rest, rejuvenation, and refueling. Everyone has their favorite time of the year. Summer is definitely mine.

 

But wait… I have kids of my own…and they require my attention. Perhaps rest and relaxation will need to be redefined.

 

When my kids were young, I remember wondering how in the world I was going to keep the little cherubs busy for 15 hours a day, 12 weeks in a row. I set up an elaborate calendar of playdates, swim lessons, and activities to keep their minds and bodies active. I tried to make every day a fun adventure. I compiled a list each summer of places we’d visit on sunny days, and places we’d go on rainy days. I took trips to my parents’ cabin, trips to McDonalds, and trips to Daddy’s office—just to let him know how much fun we were having. My kids loved summer, and wanted it to last forever. And part of me loved it too. But by the beginning of August, I was praying for deliverance from my scheduled craziness and together time. The start of the school year felt like a vacation from my summer vacation. 

 

My kids are older now, a teen and a pre-teen. Summer feels different now, and I feel different too. As I look forward to the end of the school year and the start to the greatest 12 weeks of the year, I’ve been doing some planning. But this year’s planning does not involve a lot of the things it used to. This time I’ve made a list of what I’m not going to do. I tried to keep it to a top 5, but I somehow made it to a top 6. Feel free to add your own to the list.

 

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Do you struggle to find lasting friendships? In a world where we can unfriend each other with the swipe of a finger, how do we find friendships that we can trust to last?

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talked with author Lisa-Jo Baker on the secret to finding and keeping lasting friendships.  

You can listen to the podcast of Jo's show here, or catch Jo live every Friday at Noon on KTIS' Faith Radio Network AM 900 / 90.7 FM

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Have you ever prayed to love someone you don't really want to forgive?  

Friday on Connecting Faith, Jo spoke with Deidre Riggs, who specializes in bringing unity to our fractured relationships and polarized communities.  

 

How do we forgive those who may have wronged us, and how can we foster understanding between groups or individuals who believe something different than we do?  

 

A challenging conversation about self-preservation vs. opening ourselves up for deep conversations and deep rewards. 

 

You can catch Jo Bender each Friday at 12 noon CST on Faith Radio Network (the AM arm of KTIS). Click here to listen to Jo's interview with Deidre Riggs, or catch the podcast of Connecting Faith and many other programs like Live the Promise with Susie Larson, Just Thinking with Ravi Zacharias, or Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram at myfaithradio.com

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by McKayla Adams

 

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ. 

—Romans 13:14a

 

Anyone who lives in Minnesota understands with sincere familiarity the concept of dressing up in layers.

 

The brutal and lengthy stretches of the bitter cold season make the bulky jackets, tightly wrapped scarves, and thick hats an adapted attire.

 

As a resident to a state with seemingly endless winters, I’ve become more than accustomed to piling on layer over layer.

 

I’m familiar with dressing myself in other forms of layers as well, but these layers do more harm than good, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.

 

I think we often dress ourselves in layers to hide our insecurities, our doubts; to cover up anxiety, depression, and pain.

 

Maybe these layers—coverings of sorts—have even turned into bitterness, hostility or pride as a defense mechanism to protect our fragile hearts from the hurt. An outer garment of smiles and laughter to cover up the hole of emptiness we don’t want gaping through, exposing the truth.

 

We layer our outside world as well: the outer surroundings of social events, gatherings, and parties to mask the loneliness that is a constant shadow lurking behind.

 

So many coverings, layers, and masks dress our external existence—to convince the crowds that we’re content. But even more so, these layers that we dress up in everyday are to convince ourselves. Maybe if we have it together on the outside, then we can have it together on the inside too. Maybe we can convince ourselves that the brokenness, pain, and emptiness aren’t really there.

 

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

 —Eccleaiastes 3:1

 

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Once I found her sitting in the bathroom sink. She was fully clothed, and the sink was overflowing as the faucet water continued to cascade down the sink like Niagara Falls as she brushed her teeth with my toothbrush. She was enjoying her self-created mini-pool immensely.

 

Then, I found her in the backyard, “clothed” only in mud from head to toe, running and jumping around like a puppy who had drunk a full can of Red Bull.

 

At my husband’s out-of-town championship softball tournament, she again found a puddle. No surprise, she was covered head to toe in mud with no change of clothes in tow. (Yes, she and mud had a strong affinity from the start.)

 

One time when we were shopping, I turned to grab something off the shelf; when I went to put it in the cart, I was horrified to find it empty. I panicked and started racing around, looking like a crazy woman I’m sure, searching for my little escape artist. I found her a couple aisles away chatting with a stranger, having the time of her life.

 

Then there was the time I was working with my daughter playing by my side, but, the next thing I knew I heard a concerto of sorts on a piano down the hall. I quickly turned to see that she had indeed disappeared. I ran to find my daughter stomping up and down the piano keys, precariously hanging onto the ledge; she was just learning to walk!

 

The times are just too many count. Like when I found her completely emptying my kitchen cupboards. Or sliding down a slide head-first.

 

My daughter kept me hopping. And then some... Can anyone relate?

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Tagged in: joy motherhood peace

Moms have a special influence in the lives of their sons. So how can we help raise our boys to be men of character? Author Rick Johnson joined Jo Bender today on Connecting Faith to talk about the role moms play in developing qualities in our sons like honesty, respect, humility, and more. 

 

Listen to the podcast here

or catch Jo live every Friday at Noon on KTIS' Faith Radio Network AM 900 / 90.7 FM.

I’ve reached the age where my train of thought often leaves the station without me.

—Maxine

 

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I’m aging. And it’s getting more and more apparent: from the crow’s feet around my eyes to my ever-growing wattle neck. Yep. Inherited that lovely item from my grandma o. There were so many wonderful traits I would have loved to have inherited from grams, but, this is the one I got. 

 

Then there’s the problem of those little gray cells in my noggin. It seems this old brain of mine just doesn’t function like it used to. In fact, these days it seems to malfunction more often than it functions. 

 

Pretty sure roughly a third of my life has been spent standing in the middle of the room

wondering what I came in here for.

—Unknown

 

It’s like the Hallmark card I found years back. On the front cover was a cartoon figure of a large headed guy with little brain cells jumping out of his ears. When you opened it, it read, “Eugene didn’t mind that he was losing brain cells every day. He just wished they would be less dramatic about it.”

 

Recently, over the course of one day, I set out with our dog for a morning walk, but upon arriving home, realized I’d forgotten to grab the keys and had locked myself out of the house. When I finally did get back in, I decided to run to the local grocer. Filling my cart with all the necessary items, I reached the cashier only to discover I had forgotten my purse. Then to top it all off, at supper time, I turned on the wrong burner to boil some eggs, when I returned at the beeping of my timer, I was horrified to see my Le Creuset Dutch oven burnt to a crisp. A costly mistake that left me in tears.

 

My son keeps telling me, “Mom, you’ve got to focus.” He follows that by launching into the sermon I used to give him when he was young, ‘Before you walk out the door… before you start supper… ask yourself, “Where am I going? What am I doing? Stop and concentrate on the task at hand.”

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We officially have a one-year-old on our hands, and I have to admit, this stage is F-U-N.

 

Sure, there’s still nap struggles and defiance in the face of vegetables and blowouts. It’s a “nose goes” game anytime we hear the rumble. But at this age, there’s an unquenchable curiosity, a little mimicking, that’s just downright amusing.

 

We clap, she claps. We scream, she screams. We laugh, she fake laughs back. I moo like a cow; Mabel moos like a cow back. Every day, we play this game of back-and-forth.

 

She’s just our little imitator. Our baby copycat. Our sweet mimic. And because of this, never before has Ephesians 5:1 made so much sense: “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.”

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Do you have a hard time surrendering control of your life to God? If so, you are not alone. On today's Connecting Faith, Jo talks with author Shannon Popkin about what it means to have control issues and how to remember that our story is really God's story. 

Check out the podcast of Jo's show here:

http://myfaithradio.com/2017/surrendering-control-life/

 

You can listen to Jo on Connecting Faith live every Friday at noon on Faith Radio/KTIS AM900 or 90.7 FM

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I was always a little nervous about praying out loud in a group. Even praying a dinner blessing would sometimes cause a bit of stress. I would worry that I was somehow doing it wrong. The words always sounded fine in my head but when they left my mouth they were somehow less than lovely. I wanted to take them back, to edit, and then put forth my prayer in perfect grammar and proper theology.

 

I have tried acronyms in order to craft the perfect prayer: P.R.A.I.S.E., ACTS, PRAY, P.R.A.Y.E.R. They are all wonderful tools and have brought great clarity to my prayer time. But for me, I find myself holding back. I find myself more concerned with the format than I do with the subject.

 

At least I know I’m not alone. Maybe you’ve struggled too? Jesus taught his disciples to pray. They wondered how to communicate with the God who loved them, so Jesus encouraged them to come to him whenever they felt a need. He wanted them to know that the door was always open.

 

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

 

There have been other times in my life when I can’t seem to stop the words from spilling out. These prayers may not have any continuity. There is no structure. But these prayers are real as well.

 

Many of the psalms are laments that come out of times of great distress and trouble. They are unashamed cries for help, for salvation, and for rescue. David used prayer to cry out to God. I’m so grateful that he did. It gives me license to cry out too.

 

In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help… (Psalm 18:6)

 

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck… I am worn out calling for help… My eyes fall, looking for my God. (Psalm 69:1-3)

 

In 1 Samuel, we hear of Hannah’s prayer. She is praying with a mixture of praise, wonder, pain, and pleas. She is so desperate to hear from the Lord that she goes right to the temple. But there were certain behavior expectations for a woman at that time and she doesn’t want to violate any of the social norms. So she prays without making a sound. She motions, she moves her lips, she shows great expression and emotion…so much so that the priest takes her for being drunk. She laid it all out, without even voicing a word.

 

I heard one friend say that sometimes she gets in her car and just has to “barf it out before God.” She just lets it go without thinking about who might be watching.

 

Is it okay to use the word God and barf in the same sentence? It sounds strange to me. It can’t possibly fit the format.

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'Cause Jesus paid it all
All to him I owe
My sin had left this crimson stain, he washed it white as snow

It's washed away, all my sin
And all my shame

Jesus Paid It All, Elvina M. Hall

  

 

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One of my favorite people to visit when I was a young girl was my great-grandma, Anna Johnson. With her loud flower dresses, large-beaded necklaces, fancy hats, and solid build, she could have been quite intimidating. But with her frequent giggle and her busy hands sewing yet one more outfit for my dolls, she was anything but. And you knew every visit, you’d be greeted with encouragement to open the bottom doors of her homemade wood pantry to dig out a homemade cookie from one of her many large glass jars. (Even if she knew your parents wouldn’t necessarily approve because it was right before dinner.)

 

By the time I knew my great-grandma, she had settled into retirement in a small, second-story flat above our Main Street stores. A handy place to visit almost any time.

 

There was one time each year the street below my grandmother's place became quite loud: Crazy 8 Days. Held each summer, I loved Crazy 8 Days! The stores on Main Street would set their merchandise outside at a steep discount. It was a good time for my mom to stock up--with my help of course--and it was one of the few times our streets were buzzing alive with activity.

 

But, my first experience alone at this event was a little embarrassing, I have to say.

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Tagged in: Freedom salvation

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”

Mandy Hale

 

“I tell you the truth, anything you do for the least of my people here, you also do for me.”

Matthew 25:40

 

I have taken hundreds of photos of flowers over the years, perhaps thousands. But, there’s a photo I took last summer, on a hike in Montana, of tiny pink bell-shaped flowers cascading down from somewhere high overhead, that still comes to mind every now and then.  

 

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I think the reason they cross my mind so often is their humble appearance.

 

Even if no one else stopped to notice them that day, those Twinflowers willingly bent low to bless anyone on the lookout for little love gifts such as these. They certainly blessed me.

 

But, for all their sweetness, few people would have noticed them, because looming large nearby, tall stalks of bright fuchsia-colored Fireweed and fiery red Indian Paintbrush eclipsed them. Tiny pale flowers clinging to rock’s edge are easily overlooked.  

As is often the case, it’s the bright showy blossoms that catch folk’s eyes.

 

That seems true of people too. We are often enamored by the bright, the beautiful, and the talented.

 

Perhaps that’s why the upstaged Twinflowers touched me so. And touch me still. Their humble presence reminds me so much of my Grandpa Simey…and of the Savior.

 

My gramps walked gently upon this earth of ours. He was unassuming. A man of few words. Whose love of God was lived out in humility. Caring. Generosity.  

 

His father died when he was six. At the age of ten he was sent to live in a boarding house where he worked for his keep. Skilled, but, not schooled, he became a machinist by trade. With carpentry skills to boot, he also built a few houses in his day. But, it wasn't these abilities that made him memorable.

 

It was what my grandpa did behind the scenes that is his true legacy. Growing up in poverty, he never forgot what it felt like to have nothing. Once, after reading a story about a family living in their car in his small-town newspaper, he went in search of them. When he discovered their whereabouts, he brought groceries, clothing and money to help tide them over.

 

When my grandpa died, over 700 people came to pay their respects. Story-after-story was shared by those who attended, telling of his generosity and gentle, unpretentious life of self-giving. Each one touched by God in some way by my Twinflower grandpa who, too, bent low to bless.

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Growing up, I remember my dad hiding Easter eggs in the best of spots.

 

Inside the cabinet of our piano, on top of the ceiling fan blades, nestled in the strings of our basketball hoop, and scattered across our backyard in the mesh of leaves, dirt, and lawn furniture. And my brother, sister, and I would play like sleuths, elbowing each other for the biggest eggs, and each secretly hoping for another quarter to add to our piggy bank.

 

Now since my own toddler has come of age to participate in an Easter egg hunt, you can bet your bottom dollar it is on. My husband jokingly (but not so jokingly) left a stack of eggs on our kitchen table with these instructions: “So Oscar can practice. Try to get him to find the gold ones first—they have the biggest prizes.” Welcome to the inside of #andersonpartyof4.

 

Sometimes there are moments (like that) when it’s very easy to forget that Easter is more than just Cadbury eggs, bunnies, and brunch. As much as those marshmallow Peeps and straw bonnet hats have become holiday staples, those things have absolutely nothing to do with the origination of the first Easter 2000+ years ago.

 

But how can anyone keep the focus when all we’re hearing is the megaphone of the Parks Director before the big hunt or the blaring sales of Target’s Sunday ad to ring in the holiday? How do we expect to celebrate any differently if we eat our ham in silence and shove some toddler aside so our kid can be victor of all eggs? (Because, if we’re being real, those bloodbaths that are local egg hunts just are trouble.)

 

If we keep attending family gatherings without saying a word of prayer, pumping up egg hunts like it’s more important than the cross, and really, making it out to be anything other than Jesus, we are missing the mark. Missing the point.

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I was determined to learn a new language, even if I was well past the age of a typical college student. But I found that I struggled retaining many pieces of information—from simple vocabulary to complex verb conjugations. My professor noticed my difficulty and gave me a simple suggestion, “Study right before bed,” he said. “Your brain functions well while you’re sleeping.”

 

After years of pulling all-nighters as a graduate student, I found this concept difficult to believe. But a recent sleep study published by Notre Dame found that studying before sleep had some significant memory benefits. The study tested college students who were divided into two groups—those who were given information to memorize at 9 am, followed by 10 hours of wakefulness; and those who were given information to memorize at 9 pm, followed by 10 hours of sleep. Those who studied the information and went right to sleep could recall that information 10 hours later and were even able to process complex information and processes while they slept. Those who studied that information during the daytime were less able to recall even simple formulas and vocabulary.

 

Could it be true? Could it be possible…that I just needed to study and then sleep? I could hear mothers across the country rejoicing…college students celebrating.  I thought I owed it to my professor to try it.

 

I started going through my language materials for about 30 minutes before bedtime. The plan was working! I began waking with the vocabulary still intact. I even conjugated a couple of verbs over breakfast.

 

If this could work for my vocabulary, what would happen if I applied this same technique to memorizing and understanding Scripture? If I filled my heart and mind with the truth of God’s Word—even just a snippet—could my mind process that information overnight so that I woke with a clearer understanding of who I was in Christ?

 

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According to a recent Pew Research estimate, there are about 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States. This provides a great opportunity for the body of Christ to reach out to our Muslim neighbors, friends and co-workers. 

 

This week on Connecting Faith, Jo Bender talks with Samya Johnson of Call of Love Ministries, who says we can’t forget to point people towards the heart of the gospel message and savior of the world.

 

Listen to a podcast of Jo's program by visiting http://myfaithradio.com/2017/ministering-muslims/ or by clicking here. 

 

Connecting Faith is aired every Friday afternoon at Noon on Faith Radio Network/KTIS Radio. You can listen at AM 900 / 90.7 FM here in the Twin Cities or online at MyFaithRadio.com

 

We will be posting Jo's weekly podcast here on Heart Matters Publishing. Enjoy the show!