Seeing From A Sycamore

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Seeing From A Sycamore
by Malinda Fugate

 

The crowd was gathering and excitement was bubbling over. They’d heard all the stories, but now had the chance to see the miracle-worker with their own eyes. He was passing through their town today! No one wanted to miss him, so they filled the street as soon as they could, eagerly keeping an eye down the road to spy the first glimpse of this man and his companions. 

Zacchaeus, though just as anxious to see the visitor, had a problem. He had tolerated his short stature his entire life, and now it prevented him from getting any view of the street. Attempts at slipping between his taller neighbors failed as the crowd grew thicker. “Excuse me,” he requested- at first meekly and then with increasing frustration at being obviously ignored. And could he blame them? These were the people who avoided him every day, dreading their turn for tax collection. When the time came, it was Zacchaeus who had the power to take great sums from them, devastating their ability to feed their families. He might have been short-changed by height, but he made up for it in the ability to gain wealth and exert some amount of power over the townspeople. They saw his life of luxury while they struggled to meet basic needs and they despised him for it. But now, in this small way, the tables had turned. There was no law that said they must acknowledge him here. If he missed seeing the miracle-worker, the teacher who some said was the Son of God, well, that was what Zacchaeus deserved.

But Zacchaeus didn’t achieve his career goals by passively waiting for life to hand him wealth and success. He was a quick-thinker, a go-getter. Inspired, he ran up the street to the waiting shade of a sycamore. The sturdy branches were in reach, allowing Zacchaeus to practice a skill he hadn’t used since childhood. The scramble into the tree rewarded him with a much better view than anyone could find on the ground. And just in time! Over the heads of his loudly chattering neighbors, Zacchaeus saw the small group of men walking his way! So this was the miracle-worker at last! His name, Jesus, was on the lips of many crying out greetings and requests for help or signs from God.

As Jesus walked closer to the tree perch, he abruptly stopped. The crowd hushed, hoping to see something amazing. Zacchaeus nearly fell from his branch when Jesus looked up, straight at him! How was he visible among the leaves? How foolish must he look, sitting like a bird in a nest! Then Jesus spoke kindly, “Zacchaeus, come down from there. I must stay at your house today.”

And so began a transformation in Zacchaeus’ life. His encounter with Jesus changed everything and did not end with that moment on the street or the afternoon at home. No amount of wealth or power mattered compared to the kingdom of God, and Zacchaeus whole-heartedly wanted to right the wrongs he committed against his fellow man. And no amount of sin could keep Him from God’s love. The Son of God did not treat Zacchaeus with the scorn, contempt, or revenge he often received from the townspeople. Instead, Jesus honored Zacchaeus by sharing a meal, and then showed him acceptance and love.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:8-10 NIV)

When we draw near to the Lord, He will not ignore or reject us. He does not require a checklist of qualifications before we can approach Him. His love is not conditional, nor do our shortcomings, failures, flaws, or sins disqualify us from His salvation. He will welcome us into His kingdom with the same compassion He welcomed Zacchaeus. Though we might feel like we don’t fit in with our community, there is a place for us at God’s table. 

Dear friend, do not allow self-doubt to keep you from closeness with your Savior. Seek Him, take one more step towards His open arms, and find His unconditional love and He draws you closer to His heart.

 

Learn more about Malinda and her inspirational book, The Other 3:16s, a challenging study of faith in the Christian’s quest to understand the God of the Bible. 

Written Interview with J.D. Rempel

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For those of you following along, Ambassador International has started interviewing its authors. Most of the interviews can be found on our YouTube channel here

However, today we are honored to have an author of Melanie on the Move here in written form!

J.D, please introduce yourself to our listeners.

Hi, and thank you for this opportunity to share about my book, Melanie on the Move. I’m J.D. Rempel and I write contemporary and speculative fiction for all ages.
My husband, Matt, and I have been married for 28 years. We have a turtle named Applesauce who loves to play peekaboo. I’m an Anglophile (a person who loves British culture). When I’m not writing or spending time with my family and friends, I watch British TV – mostly mysteries, play games, and read.

Please describe your book, its message, and tell us why you wrote it.   My book, Melanie on the Move, a contemporary middle-grade fiction piece is for girls ages 8-13. My tagline for the book is a modern-day Little House on the Prairie. Melanie on the Move is based on the verse Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” It’s the first in my series, The NorCal Girls. In Melanie on the Move, Melanie’s life seems perfect. She’s the star on her swim team, she has great friends, and she’s turning thirteen in just a few weeks. But when her family is forced to move to Northern California, her world starts to unravel. Isolated in a new town, Melanie misses her father, her friends, her pool, and even her bossy older sister. While visiting a church, she hears the message that God loves and cares about her. But it’s hard to believe when more and more troubles fall on her family.

 

I wrote Melanie to show readers we can trust God when He allows bad things to happen and that God can bring something good even from the difficulties in our lives. Another reason is that I wanted to give middle-grade girls a story similar to the ones I grew up on but for today’s readers. When I was that age, I spent most of my time in my room reading The Elizabeth Gail Series by Hilda Stahl and the In Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson.

What inspired you to write Melanie on the Move?

Growing up, my family went to Family Camp at Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds almost every summer. Melanie on the Move is set in that area. Our family had such wonderful times at ARCG. Every time I visit there, I feel my relationship with God deepening. ARCG means so much to me and I want others to have a similar experience. Part of the proceeds from all of my books is donated to Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds for camp scholarships and maintenance. I hope readers will fall in love with the book and want to visit Alliance Redwoods too.

Did you name any characters after people you know?

Yes, I did. Quite a few in fact. Cindy, who is Melanie’s friend is named after my younger sister. In the book, Cindy has brothers named Trevor and Tyler but those are actually my nephews. Bonnie and Rachel are based on good friends of mine. Also, Mr. Carlisle is named after an English professor who really encouraged me in my writing so I wanted to honor him.

Are there any characters in the book who are similar to you?

Yes. Some of the characters have different aspects of me, but Katie is the most like me. Also, much of the story itself encompasses my beliefs, ideas, and experiences.

The character Melanie is interested in birds, did you have birds as pets?

Yes, we did. We had a few parakeets. When I was first married, I had a pet bird named Duke (after John Wayne since I love westerns) who was trained. I could take him anywhere and he would always fly back to me whenever I called his name. When I’d watch TV, he would sit on my shoulders and around my neck and preen me just like Paco does to Melanie.

What is the hardest part of the writing process?

Since I write in multiple genres and for different age groups, the hardest part of writing is choosing which project to work on. I’m constantly distracted by new ideas. Writing is a passion for me and even at a young age, I was always making up stories. It’s hardest to find the one God wants me to write and then finishing it.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on the second book in the NorCal girls series. It’s tentatively called Melanie at Camp Redwoods. I’ve also been doing the narration for the Melanie on the Move audiobook. Recently, I finished my audiobook for another one of my books, Marigold and the Snoring King which I hope to release soon.

Has there been any exciting news in your life?

Yes, my other book Marigold and the Snoring King, a children’s picture book won Honorable Mention in the 2020 Writer’s Digest Self Published Awards.

How can we connect with you or purchase your books?

Melanie on the Move which was released with Ambassador International on April 23, 2020, is available from most major retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and christianbook.com. My website is jdrempel.com where you can find out more about me and my work, as well as purchase signed copies of my books. I host on my website a Give-A-Book contest where I draw names to give out a free book to a school or library of an entrant’s choice.
You can connect with me through Facebook at jdrempel. I am also on Instagram at j.d.rempel and Parler @jdrempel.

If you have a chance to read one of my books, I hope that the lessons Melanie learns about God find their way into your heart too!

Like what you read? Be sure to follow Ambassador International on Facebook and YouTube!

What’s in A Name – A Devotional

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What’s in a Name?

By Ellie Gustafson

Of the people I’ve known, one of my favorite names is Signhild Hannah Victoria Gustafson. Hyphenated and the ‘N’ repositioned, Sig-nhild morphs to “Sing-hild.” And yes, the name does sing.  Signhild was an eccentric—one of my husband’s aunts—a maiden lady whose fiancé was killed in World War I. The Gustafsons were of strong, Swedish stock—educated and expected to BE someone. Aunt Sing taught languages at Classical High School in Springfield, MA—fluent in five languages and conversant in three others. She traveled to Sweden multiple times—by ship. An interesting lady, though my mother-in-law got quite testy when Sing came for a visit. She was a talker and rambled from one thought to another with nary a breath in between. I enjoyed her, and when she died, I inherited her banded ring with its four diamonds.

My children all went to Wheaton College in Illinois, a long drive from Massachusetts. On one trip with a car full of multiple students, we broke down near Buffalo. The only repair place could not do the job that night; morning would have to suffice. Where to stay? With no spare cash, we opted to knock on the parsonage door of a nearby church. “Please, sir, could we bed down in your church?” He sized us up, and on hearing the name Gustafson, said he’d had a language teacher named Gustafson, back in Springfield, Massachusetts. Aunt Sing got us free space in the church, that night!

I have gone by assorted names: Eleanor Kathleen Emmans, Eeekie (EKE), El, and finally, Ellie Gustafson. These names express different but much-valued aspects of my life. They speak of who I was, who I am, but not who I will be. That will depend on an entirely different venue.

Revelation 2 talks about this: “Let everyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches: Everyone who is victorious shall eat of the hidden manna, the secret nourishment from heaven; and I will give to each a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one else knows except the one receiving it.” I love stones and have a few white ones that I cherish, but I can’t wait to see the one Jesus will choose—with MY NAME written on it. It will express the concept He implanted when He first knit me together. That name will be even grander than Signhild Hannah Victoria Gustafson and more comfortable than Eeekie, for sure. I want it to declare my love of and passion for praising and worshiping my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,   that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,   and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

 

Discover more about Eleanor Gustafson and her sixth novel, An Unpresentable Glory today!

 

More Than Great Books!

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Want more of Ambassador International books and a sneak peek into the people writing these great books? We have something for you! Follow Ambassador International on Facebook or YouTube for interviews with our authors by our very own publicity director, Susanna Maurer.

In episode one, learn what caused a children’s Sunday school teacher to deeply research her faith and discover the spirit and heart behind The Other Three Sixteens. In episode two, learn what homeschool curriculum shaped and molded a young girl into the brilliant author of The Journey and The Village.

Give us a like or a share to spread our authors’ stories and our message around the world!

In thirty-minute increments, these author interviews are the perfect podcast-sized entertainment for an evening at home. You may even discover a new book or two to add to your list. Leave us a comment in the comment section to let us know what you loved about that episode, questions you might have for that author, or authors you’d like to see featured. We appreciate your feedback!

Ambassador International publishes a wide array of genres and authors, allowing everyone to find the perfect book. But we hope you won’t just stop at one!

Illumination Awards Bronze Medalists

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Ambassador International is thrilled to announce that Chris Paxon and Rose Spiller won a bronze medal in Theology at the Illumination Awards for their book, No Half-Truths Allowed: Understanding The Complete Gospel Message.

Well done, ladies. We are so excited by this prestigious accomplishment, and more importantly, grateful for the kingdom-work you are doing through your ministry.

If you haven’t already read No Half-Truths Allowed, now is the time to pick up this elucidating, engaging discussion of the Gospel. 

For fans of the book, this comes as no surprise. With its clear theology and the authors’ understanding of the global implications of the Gospel message, No Half-Truths Allowed gives its readers the gift of going back to Sunday School – this time as adults. Gone are the weak, palatable clippings of Scripture, and present is the solid, true meat of the Word. In a time where truth is subjective and words lose their meaning, this book directs people back to the Gospel and the Bible, teaching them to understand and truly know of the Word of God.

For those who want to dig in more, No Half-Truths Allowed also has a study guide, allowing readers to read and study the Bible with this book as a guide. Buy them in a pair here!

As always, Ambassador International thanks our authors and readers for their support. But today, a round of applause for these hard-working authors!

 

The Best is Yet to Come . . .

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When I agreed to write a 2020 December devotional around this time last year, I assumed I’d be writing about the Incarnation, the holy God of the universe condescending to His creation, putting all His might and majesty in the frail form of an infant child. Sitting down to write this, I still considered talking about that, but when I looked back at the past year and just how difficult it has been for so many people, I felt compelled to offer some words of comfort and encouragement instead.
Solitary ManIt’s easy to look at a globally decimating pandemic and wonder just where God is in the middle of it all. Millions around the world have died, many millions more have lost jobs and/or businesses, hospitals and food banks are overrun, and our politicians have proven themselves to be mostly useless idiots grabbing for power in any way they can. Why would God allow or ordain such a potent cocktail of tragedy, devastation, and incompetence?
Unfortunately, I do not have complete and utter insight into the mind of God, so I don’t have specific answers to that question. However, God has revealed enough about Himself in Scripture to help us understand that nothing happens without purpose. And what is that ultimate purpose? It’s that God will be glorified.
Everything God does is for His own glory. Creation happened so God could display His glory (Psalm 19:1). Humanity was created for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Isaiah 43:25 shows us that a redemptive plan was offered to show His glory (notice the phrase for my own sake). Jesus went willingly to the cross not only to save us, but to glorify His father (John 17:1). And at the end of all things, God’s glory will shine so brightly, we will have no need of the sun or the moon (Revelation 21:23).
To understand just how passionate God feels about His glory, I give you Isaiah 48:9-11: “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
If your first inclination is to think that God’s words are narcissistic, then shame on you for conflating the holy and perfect Creator with sinful, depraved humanity. Why does God get all the glory? Because He deserves it. He deserves it because of who He is. Who is He? He is the God who temporarily withholds His just wrath over sin, opting to offer compassion, mercy, and grace to rebels who come into this world hating Him. As Isaiah noted, sometimes He tries His children in “the furnace of affliction,” but His love for us never wavers as He puts us through that purifying process of sanctification. This is why Christians have hope, even in the middle of tragedy and chaos beyond our control: because absolutely nothing is beyond God’s control. Even the difficult times are Eric Landfriedengineered by Him to reveal His glory to us. He has His hand on the wheel, guiding us expertly through this storm, and regardless of what happens He is ultimately all we need. The apostle Paul said it perfectly in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Hmm, I wonder what glory he’s talking about? Hang in there, Christians. The best is yet to come.

Discover more about Eric and his exciting fiction book Solitary Man.

 

Meet Susanna Maurer

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Susanna “Susie” Maurer is Ambassador International’s newest team member, as Publicity Director. Susie has a BA in English & Creative Writing and a penchant for adventure. When she is not toting her children around Europe, she is trying to find her keys. Susie believes in the power of forming strong relationships in her work, and that has carried and propelled her through a variety of customer service, communication, and management roles. The most important relationships in Susie’s life are her relationship with Jesus, her relationship with her husband and children, and her relationship with coffee.

Of these items below, let us know which five you think are true about Susie and which one is not true!

…Met her husband when they were both seven years old.

…Likes to make at least one new friend in every new country.

…Loves cooking, especially French cuisine.

…Cannot drive stick shift, despite living in the UK for three years.

…Loves peppermint ice cream, Americanos, and quality pillows.

…Has a fear of parking in public, but loves speaking in public.

 

For all inquiries, Susie can be reached at media@emeraldhouse.com

Preparing Our Hearts and Homes to Celebrate Thanksgiving

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This is the first in a three-part series on preparing our hearts and homes for Thanksgiving. Dee Travis is the author of  Celebrate Life: Living to Serve God and Encourage Others as We Celebrate Life Together.

November is here and it makes me start to think about the holidays. I always feel bad because Thanksgiving it such a great holiday and it gets here so fast and then after one day….it’s over and Christmas bells are ringing. Just one day of thankfulness doesn’t do it for me. There is so much to see and do as we think about Thanksgiving approaching. How about taking the whole month of November to celebrate Thanksgiving with me?

Thanksgiving-PinterestStep into November by getting outside and looking for God’s goodness and bounty! His glory in creation can be seen everywhere in the fall! The trees are changing into a beautiful display of God’s canvas of red, orange and yellow! How about visiting a pumpkin patch or a farm during harvest of the crops. Take your kids or grandkids to an apple orchard and pick some crisp juicy apples. We live on a farm in rural Iowa so we get to see harvesting of corn and soybeans first hand. We also grow a ton of pumpkins for the grandkids to pick. God is so good to us! We have a few apple trees so one of our favorite traditions is picking apples and making fresh apple cider! Those times all makes me reflect on how good and faithful God has been to us throughout another year. Harvest time with the bounty He gives us through crops and food and nature’s beauty will help us prepare our hearts to thank and praise an Almighty God!

Try reading a Psalm every day during November! Every day is a gift from God so celebrate His goodness every day. Start with Psalm 100 and go through Psalm 136. Some are short so you will be able to combine a couple of chapters on certain days. I kind of think that the Psalms and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and pumpkin pie! Each day after you are done reading write down three different things you are thankful for so that you can look at them during the month and then read them all on Thanksgiving Day! Always be ready to give thanks to God for what He had done for us! God is always good and you are always loved.

One of the things I love to do every year in November is attend my grandchildren’s Thanksgiving program at school. It really makes me think about our 9781620205310country and how the first Thanksgiving Day was started. The Pilgrims came to America to be able to worship God freely. They set aside this special time at harvest to thank God for all He had done for them. (And it was probably more than just one day!) It is such a good example for us to follow! The pilgrims not only shared their food with the Indians but they also shared their faith in a mighty God. Our forefathers sacrificed a lot for the freedoms we enjoy today and for that I am truly thankful!

Well are you in? I hope you will start to prepare your heart all month long and this Thanksgiving may be the most blessed ever!

Preparing for Thanksgiving: Five Verses to Ready Your Heart

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This is the third in a three-part series on preparing our hearts and homes for Thanksgiving. Dee Travis is the author of Celebrate Life: Living to Serve God and Encourage Others as We Celebrate Life Together.

 

Psalm 100 is one of my favorite scripture to meditate on as we approach the Thanksgiving season. When I think about that first Thanksgiving I imagine the Pilgrims and Indians in 1621 gathering to thank God for a bountiful harvest.

Thanksgiving-PinterestBut long before that another group of people had set aside a time to celebrate God’s goodness. It was the children of Israel during the Feast of Booths. In the fall after crops were harvested, the people had a time of worshiping and thanking God for all He had done for them. They brought their offerings of Thanksgiving to the Lord. (Leviticus 23: 39-44)

Psalm 100 is a song of thanksgiving and praise to God that we can reflect on during this Thanksgiving.

Day 1   “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.” Psalm 100:1

Have you ever felt so thankful you just couldn’t keep quiet? Sometimes I just stand in awe of God’s handiwork in the things I see around me in His creation. Sometimes I just want to proclaim what an awesome God we serve! Everyone on the earth is admonished to praise His name because everyone benefits from God’s goodness! In Psalm 19:1-3 and Psalm 98:7-8 it says that all nature joins in to declare the glory of God and sing praises to His name. It is neat to imagine the rivers clapping and hills singing together for joy in praise to God.

Day 2 “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.” Psalm 100:2

There is joy in serving Jesus! We can all serve Him whether we are young or old. Offer to teach a Sunday school class or volunteer to take a meal to someone or go visit someone who is in need of a friend. And sometimes the hardest thing is to do it with a happy heart. Many times we do something because we know we need to…. but our heart isn’t really in it. Having a joyful attitude comes from loving God and reading His word and spending time in prayer. With happy hearts we can use the talents God has given each one of us for serving Him not just during the holiday season but each and every day!

Day 3 “Know that the Lord Himself is God; It is He who made us and not we ourselves; we are His people the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3

God is the very one who created us. He knows us better than anyone. He know when we all overwhelmed or discouraged with so many things pulling at us in a hundred different directions during the holidays. That’s when we go to Him as His sheep and lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23:2) Find that quiet spot and sit beside the still waters talk to God. He loves us and will restore our weary soul! He cares for us like a good shepherd and for that I am truly thankful.

Day 4 “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His name.” Psalm 100:4

We are so blessed in this country to be able to go to church and worship God freely. Being thankful for God’s love will show in our actions as we enter into worship and praise with others who love Him too. I love to gather together with my church family during Thanksgiving and hear testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness and mercy. Bless His name for all he has done for us!

Day 5 “For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness is to all generations.” Psalm 100:5

One of my favorite sayings is “God is always good and you are always loved”. What a great truth to know that the God of this universe loves us so much He was willing to send His Son to die and take the punishment for our sins. We simply have to believe and He gives everlasting life! (John 3:16) God’s lovingkindness is everlasting! He will love us forever!! And His faithfulness is to ALL generations! God daily loads us with so many benefits. God knows our needs and watches over us and never leaves us to fend for ourselves. He cares about us and will always do what is best for us. God is so good!

 

Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and a time to turn our thoughts to God and His word and realize how very blessed we are of Him. Every day is a gift that we have been given…so every day (not just at Thanksgiving) thank Him and praise His name!