Stories that Change the World


I recently met with a young man who stated, “I just want to change the world.” Indeed, in about a month, thousands of college freshmen will storm the campuses of colleges and universities with this desire firmly beating in their chests, namely, “I just want to change the world.” Such ambition! Perhaps tainted with a touch of idealism, but a noble ambition nonetheless. “I just want to change the world.” Is this your ambition? Is this your dream?

Well, how do you change the world? Seriously. How is something as lofty as changing the course of humanity accomplished? Here’s the answer: Write a story. Yeah, I believe the best way to change the world is to write a story, starting with your own.

Think about it. Some of the greatest stories ever written were written by men and women of faith, integrity, and passion: C.S. Lewis. Jane Austen. J.R.R. Tolkien. These individuals wrote of life, love, and theology and changed the world through their words and through their lives. Yes, they wrote stories that changed the world. So, do you want to change the world? Yes? Then write a story, starting with your own. Below are some considerations as you navigate the complex waters of writing your life story:

  1. Theme – Every good story has a theme or main point. What will be the theme of your life story? Popular themes of many people today include: money, sex, achievement, and comfort. Choose your theme wisely. Indeed, remember the words of Jesus: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world [i.e. money, sex, achievement, comfort, etc.] and forfeit his soul?” A penetrating question from Mark 8:36, but a question worth pondering as you craft your life story.
  2. Plot – Every good story has a plot (i.e. conflict) in which the main character either has victory or succumbs to defeat. The old adage still stands true today: choose your battles (i.e. your plot or conflict) wisely. In other words, what will you stand for in this life? What will you passionately preach for or protest against? Will it be for (or against) the unborn, gun control, immigration, or racial reconciliation? Whatever you choose, remember Jesus’ words: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matt. 6:33).
  3. Structure – Perhaps not as exciting to think about in comparison to your theme or plot, but your life story’s structure deserves some thought. In other words, what will you do first, second, and third in your life story? Will you immediately jump into the action or take things slow? Remember the board game called “Life”? One of the very first decisions you have to make in this board game concerns either starting work or going to college first. Each decision has it pros and cons. So, what will you do in regards to how you structure your life story? Such decisions are not always a matter of right and wrong, but all of these decisions are a matter of wisdom. Need wisdom for your life story’s structure? James 1:5 gives hope, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
  4. Characters – As you contemplate your life story consider the characters in your story. What’s your goal in this life? Lots and lots of friends to party with or just a few close friends to do life with? Will you establish relationships in order to strategize and advance your story or will you build relationships in order to propel their story? Quite simply, will you use people to build your kingdom or serve people in order to build God’s Kingdom (cf. Mark 10:45)? The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

Perhaps there are other elements to consider as you craft your life story, but ponder the four thoughts above. Do you wanna change the world? Then write a story, starting with your own.

From the Intern’s Desk: The Runaway Camper and the God who Chased him.


“I promise you… I’m not going with you!” These words echoed through my mind as I stood beside my cabin. It was my first full summer counseling at a camp, and my first real day of being full-time staff. This small junior camper looked me dead in the eyes and defiantly promised me that he was not going anywhere. He had already run away a couple times today, and we had not even had dinner. I angrily stood there starving, sweating buckets, and anxiously awaiting this child to come to dinner.

“You cannot make me go!” He shouted! I stared at him feeling puzzled. “Why would you not want to eat dinner,” I asked. He would give me no answer. It soon became clear that, while I had no idea what I had done, this small junior camper refused to trust me. He once again stated, “I will not go with you.” I kneeled beside this small boy (a task that was easier said than done), looked him dead in the eyes and said, “whether you think you will or not… you will come with me.” I will never forget the smug look he gave me as he plopped down on a rock. I felt a cold chilling sensation as I realized, that while he would eventually come with me, we may be here all night. This seemed just fine with him.

I struggled counseling this child throughout the week. His refusal to submit to my leadership, and to trust my guidance left me infuriated. I spent much of my devotional time questioning God. I had ran out of answers for this problem. I knew he would run away again, and I knew I had to go find him. I could not give up on him, even though everything within me is screaming, “Let him go!” We were destined to play this sick game all week. Dozens of questions surfaced to the top of my mind, “Am I a bad counselor? Why does this kid not like me? Does God even care? If God sovereign, then why do I feel out of control? If God is wise, then why has he not shown me a way to deal with this. If God is loving, then why is this happening?”

I continued my dreadful first week. Around the middle of the week, I was finally able to relax during my counselor break. I was reading my bible, which did not seem to be helping. I finally broke down and prayed, “Lord why would you let this happen. I have done nothing, but try to serve you. You have put this impossible child in my care.” I can remember sitting there, internally criticizing this small child, and mentally doubting God. I then immediately stopped, and I realized the unfortunate truth. I was not trusting God.

At Prairie Flower Baptist Church, we recently finished a sermon series called, “We Trust”. I find that I often tremendously benefit from the personal study of God’s Word for a sermon. There is so much more that you understand, when you have carefully studied a text, for the purpose of presenting it to others. When I think about my experience at camp, I  am quick to realize that I did not practically believe three important truths about God.

  1. God is Sovereign.
  • This attribute of God is almost overstated in conversation, but is drastically understated in application. We will shout God’s sovereignty from the roof tops to defend a theological position, but we often fail to trust it in the depths of our lives. No matter your stance on theology, you cannot miss the fact that God is sovereign over His creation.
  • His response to Job is priceless in Job 38. Job has been tested beyond imagination, through the loss of his health, his wealth, and his family. Job questions God throughout most of the book. God responds to Job by returning the favor. He asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” God is basically saying, “Start questioning me, when you have created anything.” God reminds Job that He made everything, and He is therefore sovereign over everything. The rest of the book of Job is God reminding Job of the simple fact that God is sovereign, and Job is not.
  • When facing this runaway camper, I eventually had to admit that this had all worked according to God’s perfect plan. If I truly believe God is all-sovereign, then I have to believe He is sovereign over the frequent disappearances of this troubled junior camper. The reality of God’s sovereignty, however, still left me questioning Him. The difficulty in trusting God’s sovereignty is not found in His ability to be sovereign, but it is found in the actions of His sovereignty. God can have control over everything, but if we do not believe Him to be wise, then we should tremble at His sovereignty.

2. God is Wise

  • My trust in God’s sovereignty would not have any basis unless He was infinitely wise. Jerry Bridges describes God’s sovereignty as, “Good judgement or the ability to develop the best course of action, or the best response to a given situation.” This was my given topic to preach at PFBC. God’s wisdom is what directs His sovereignty. Not only does God have control over all, but the choices He makes with that control are always the best.
  • When studying God’s wisdom, I was reminded of Mordecai in Esther. Haman wickedly plots against the Jews. In fact, he hangs gallows that were meant for Mordecai. Mordecai had every human right to question God’s wisdom, because he could literally see the instrument of his own death. Haman failed to realize that God is infinitely wise. The Lord intervenes, using a Jewish girl named Esther, and the result leaves Haman hanging on his mortal enemy’s gallows. Who could possibly orchestrate this? The answer is Mordecai’s infinitely wise God.
  • I doubted God’s wisdom at camp because I could not see how God was using this child for my good, and I failed to understand that He did not have to use it for my good. This situation certainly did not have to work out for my good, but by God’s grace it definitely did. We cannot observe the full wisdom of God in this life because we do not see what He sees. We, like an ignorant child, constantly nag Him, and question His authority. We fail to understand the full depth of His mighty plan, not only in our life, but also in others. His infinite wisdom is displayed throughout all of creation, as it says in Romans (Rom. 8:28). God’s wisdom does not refrain us from questioning His judgement, however, it will make us look pretty silly on the Last Day, when He reminds us that He had control the entire time.

3. God is Loving

  • God is all-sovereign, and infinitely wise. He has control over all things, and the decisions he makes are always the best, but if He were not loving, then we should cower at the sight of His sovereignty. We should tremble at the thought of His wisdom. When Pastor Dave preached on God’s love, he gave three thoughts on a God who is sovereign and wise, but not loving. 1. God would be Powerful, but scary. 2. God would be knowledgable, but Helpless. 3. God would be Divine, but Distant. We have no hope, in this life, if the God we serve is not a loving God.
  • The best example of God’s love towards man, was the cross. 1 John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love was so incredible, that he was willing to send His only son to die for our sins. If God loves us enough to make His son endure the cross, why would He not love us enough to protect us from this situation? Our difficulty is that we do not see what God sees. We sometimes do not understand that  the most loving thing God can do for us is to put us through this trial.
  • God’s love for me, in dealing with the runaway camper, was deeper than I could have ever known. He did not stop loving me, as I sat on the metal chair questioning His sovereignty. His love did not waver, as I continued using my own wisdom in the counseling of this camper, instead of kneeling before my Savior begging for His wisdom. It did not cross God’s mind to stop loving me, while I laid in bed questioning how a loving God could allow all of these events to take place. He continued to love me in spite of my doubt, and His love made all the difference.

The biggest challenge in counseling this child was coping with the fact that he did not trust me. His disobedience in refusing to follow the group reminded me over and over again that he had absolutely no confidence in my abilities to take care of him. I could spend all day lobbying for his trust, but until he made the personal decision to trust me, I could not help him. In the same way, God was waiting on me to finally give in and trust Him.

My experience with the runaway camper is small in comparison to some of the real tragedies that people face. When I was in the moment, my trial seemed earth shattering. I now look back and realize it was relatively small. God has also given me grace to be able to look back and see the benefit of dealing with this trial. The growth that took place in my ability to counsel, because of this situation was far greater than any of the pain I endured during this situation.

The best encouragement I received was from a fellow full-time staff member. The boy ran away again during a camp game. I immediately began to chase after him, when this staffer stopped me and said, “I’ll chase him this time. You go find your guys.” At the end of the day I did not need someone to tell me what I was doing wrong. I needed someone who was going to “bear the burden” of this camper with me. I am thankful this staffer and several others were willing to stand up and chase this camper with me.

God does not promise us in this life that everything will work out for our good. He does promise us that He will walk beside us through our trials. What escaped my mind was the fact that, while I was chasing this boy, God was running too. He was following me as I desperately searched the camp ground. While I was chasing this camper, God was chasing me. He was begging me to trust him. I failed to understand that I was running from God, and he was petitioning for my trust. I am grateful that I have an all-sovereign, infinitely wise, and loving God, who chases me when I fail to trust him. Alistair Begg offers this hope to the parent of a runaway child, “Here is a word of encouragement to every parent of a runaway child. God is greater than even their rebellion. You are not alone in dealing with a runaway. Your gloriously sovereign, infinitely wise, and ultimately loving God is right beside you. He will chase your runaway child.

From the Intern’s Desk: The Difficult Hike up the Mountain of Suffering


I recently accompanied the Prairie Flower Baptist Church teen boys on a camping trip to Colorado. Surprisingly, this was my first experience camping in a tent. There were many experiences that were difficult (i.e. traveling to Colorado), there were many experiences that were uncomfortable (i.e. sleeping in a tent), however, the thing that made the trip totally worth it was the view breathtaking of the mountains. The only negative aspect of hiking a mountain, is the process of hiking a mountain!

On Monday, our crew of teenage boys set out with Pastor Jon, Will Luers, and myself to hike our designated trail. I initially faced difficulty hiking our first incline, because I was not used to the elevation, and I was not physically prepared for the draining effect of the hike. The most difficult aspect of the hike was the lack of water, because hiking in high altitudes causes you to lost a lot of water very fast. The hike up the mountain, was difficult, but the rewards of reaching our destination, was worth it. If I had never hiked that mountain, then I would have never seen the beautiful rapids that we encountered along the way, and I would have never seen the view from the edge of the mountain, that overlooked the rest of Rocky Mountain National Park. I ultimately would have never had the satisfaction of knowing that I had come to the end of my journey and the difficult hike made the relaxation at the campsite that much more sweet.

Often the best things in this life come after hardship. I recently had the opportunity to preach on 1 Peter 4:1-11 at Prairie Flower Baptist Church. In the first two verses Peter tells us to “arm” ourselves with the mentality of Christ. Peter reminds us (as Christ demonstrated for us) that while on earth Christ had the mindset that he would suffer in this life. If we are to truly become Christlike, then we must embrace the reality that we will suffer.

I find it interesting that my experience hiking mountains, and my experiences observing suffering are quite similar. Suffering is a hard road with many difficult “climbs”. There were many times hiking up the mountain that I thought I would not make it, just as there are many times in suffering that you will not think you can make it. Hiking the mountain often left me physically exhausted, and isolated me from the group at times just as suffering can leave you emotionally exhausted, and feeling socially isolated. The most important aspect of my hike was drinking plenty of bottled water that we took along our journey, and the most important aspect of surviving suffering is depending upon the living waters of Jesus Christ.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16).”

Jesus Christ is the only person who has not only experienced every emotion we are feeling during suffering, but he has also experienced far more than we ever have. The cancer patient, who has just received a poor diagnoses, can rest in the fact that Christ predicted to suffer in extreme pain more than 400 years before he walked the earth. The child with no father can identify with Christ in the fact that His perfect Heavenly was forced to forsake His perfect son. The family grieving the loss of a loved one can hold on to Jesus, who not only lost friends (Lazarus), but also gave His life for people he loved, who would never accept Him as savior. The family struggling with their wayward son can trust Christ, who relentlessly pursued after us, when we were wayward.


Trusting Christ is primary in our walk through suffering. We can also rest assured that God does grant us several precious tools for our difficult climb up the mountain of suffering. On my hike up the mountain I needed certain tools and in the same way we need tools from God that will not weigh us down, but that will encourage, sustain, and cultivate our hike up the mountain of suffering.

  1. God’s All-Sufficient Trail Guide: His Word
    • 2 Peter tells us that God’s Word is sufficient for, “all things that pertain to life, and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).” I could never tell you, in this blog, exactly what to do in every circumstance that you will ever experience suffering in. What I can do is point you to the one who knows exactly what to do in every circumstance you will ever face. God’s Word has a plethora of resources, especially concerning suffering. There are entire books in God’s Word that deal with suffering (e.g. Job, Habakkuk, 1 Peter etc…). There are several biblical characters that we can identify with in the bible (e.g. Jacob, Joseph, Daniel, Paul, Jesus etc…). There are also plenty of New Testament Passages dealing with suffering (James 1, 2 Corinthians 1, Hebrews 4, etc…). Finally my favorite place to turn to when suffering comes my ways is the Psalms. As Pastor Dave says, “Sometimes the Psalms don’t just speak to us… they speak for us!” The Psalms are a wonderful place for the Christian to turn to when the problems of life become too much. When life becomes too much, God’s Word has the power to encourage, sustain, and cultivate you.
  2. God’s Always Available Lifeline: Prayer
    • The hike up the mountain of suffering can leave us isolated, and feeling lonely. Fortunately we serve a God, who never leaves us. When suffering has crippled you with loneliness; cling to your lifeline: prayer. If you say, “I have tried everything,” but you have not prayed; then not only have you lied, but you have also forgotten an importance practice in this life that will truly help you. Don’t underestimate the power of a consistent daily prayer life.
  3. God’s Perfectly Imperfect Servants: Pastor
    • I can remember several years ago, when I first discovered that I wanted to devote my life to Pastoral Ministry. I remember understanding that I was nowhere near capable to handle the problems and situations of ministry. My thought process was, “When I become a Pastor, I’ll have it all figured out.” I am now an intern, I am 2 years away from graduating, and I’ve been dealing with tons of “real ministry” experiences. I now realize that I didn’t feel prepared then, and I don’t feel prepared now. However, God has given Pastors to the church to equip the saints (Ephesians 4), and He continually empowers His servants. One of a Pastor’s primary responsibilities is to counsel and comfort his flock, especially in times of suffering. One tool that every believer has in their local church, is their Pastoral Staff.
  4. God’s Support System for Hikers: The Local Church
    • We are not meant to endure this hike alone. Not only do we have Pastors, but we also have other brothers and sisters in Christ, that can support us on this hike. In suffering, you often don’t need someone who will try to explain the situation to you, but you do need some one who will walk alongside you. Find some godly Christian friends in your local church, who are willing to engage in suffering with you. You would be surprised how willing the body of Christ is to help you.

The most frustrating part of our hike in Colorado, was the fact that we were lost for a good portion of it. Every step is a little heavier when you have no idea where you are going. When we finally saw that the end is near, each step was totally worth the trip, because we had finally reached our destination.

Suffering is a difficult and draining process, especially when there is no end in sight! The Christian, who understands God’s Word, understands that there will come a day when all of this suffering comes to an end. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).” The day is coming where Christ will have the final word, and He will wipe away our tears. You can continue to endure suffering, because the one who suffered for you will eventually end all of your pain.

Understand that all of this suffering is doing something in your life. John Piper says, “This is God’s universal purpose in suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.” God is using this suffering in your life to mold you into His image. Suffering ultimately changes us, and glorifies God. Jerry Bridges says this, in his book Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, he writes, “The reason we ask (why) is because we do not see any possible good to us or glory to God that can come from the particular adverse circumstances that have come upon us or our loved ones. But is not the wisdom of God -thus the glory of God- more eminently displayed in bringing good out of calamity than out of blessing (p.g. 125)?”

We may never know the exact reason why God chooses us to hike up the mountain of suffering, but we do know that His grace is sufficient for the climb. When I reached the end of my journey, in Colorado, it was all worth it. The view of the mountains I was breathtaking. The satisfaction I had at the end was far greater than the pain I endured on the hike. One day you will reach the top of the mountain, and all your pain, tears, and grief will go away. One day you will understand why God set you on this journey. Until that day, trust God and His grace for your hike up the mountain of suffering.

Suffering, Dateline, and the Glory of God (3 Years Later) By Elisabeth Tinnes


Explosion. With one sentence, time stood still. For the past 2 ½ years I had spent taping together a broken life, frantically grasping for the pieces of a wounded family; desperately hoping to save them before they were too far-gone. But like a delicately mended porcelain doll, guarded from human hands, my perceived reality was crushed under the immense weight of the truth.

On July 6, 2014 (3 years ago today) my husband spoke words to me that freed his soul and simultaneously crushed mine. “I had an affair,” he said. Every fragment of air was sucked from that room. In my numbness, I whispered, “God can be glorified.” I stood. I paced. I tried to breathe. My whisper became a chant…“God can be glorified. God can be glorified.” It was all I could say. I knew it was true. All of my life: my reality, my perceived worth, the truth of our past, the truth of our marriage, the certainty of our future…all of that was destroyed in one sentence. But…God could be glorified. Even in the moment of impact between my life and that charging freight train, my Father’s voice spoke to me.

Infidelity alone severs the human soul, but this situation had a twist. Shortly after my husband’s affair with his coworker (Lisa) ended in 2012, she and her unborn child were gruesomely murdered. I knew this… I knew her… I went to the visitation and her funeral. I grieved the senseless loss of life and I watched my husband shed tears for his co-worker and friend. What I didn’t know at the time was that one little sentence. The four words that changed everything I thought I knew about our past.

What followed in 2014 were events great authors conjure up for highly desired novels.  Before I could catch my breath, we were tossed into the 3rd murder trial of this woman. The first two trials ended in hung juries in 2012 and 2013. My husband was now a suspect and I was asked to testify as his alibi. So, with nine days of “the truth” under my belt, Jason and I made the 80-minute drive to Davenport, Iowa and we each took the stand to testify in the murder trial of someone who had been dead for more than 2 years…someone who died with a secret weighty enough to destroy our family.

I think the English language falls short when it comes to pain. The war that waged in my heart was complicated, powerful and real. Anger wrestled with peace, love fought with hate, disgust battled with loyalty…my mind was an ever-fighting battleground. There was no relief in sleep. It was intense, unpredictable, and exhausting. As the trial progressed, reporters were writing and newspapers were printing. Local, statewide, and even across the nation, our story – MY LIFE – was being printed for millions of people to read, dissect and judge. The result of that 3rd trial was the conviction of Lisa’s husband (Seth) for first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The final blow of 2014 came in September when Dateline NBC broadcasted a 2-hour season premiere of this small-town Iowa story. The murder, the suspects, the two hung juries, and the greatest twist of all: the secret affair. No one asked to use my name or my picture. No one contacted us from Dateline to inquire of our side of the story. But there we were, September 26, 2014, watching our personal hurt being broadcast on national television. There’s no preparation for that.

They say time heals all wounds, but I disagree. The power is not in the time; the power is in the Gospel. What time does provide is…

  • Perspective. Pain has the powerful ability to blind us from perspective. Without perspective, we either move forward in faith, leaning heavily into the Word, or we become self-destructive in the darkness. As time passes, and our perspective widens, we have the privilege to see so much beauty from the ashes. And the beauty is so beautiful.

As the Lord has graciously allowed more perspective in my life, I’ve seen non-believers tilt their heads as if to ask, “What is it that they have that makes them handle this so differently?” I’ve heard complete strangers say years later, “You brought peace into that courtroom. I don’t know what it was, but you were different.”  We’ve seen, as a couple, others trust us with their hurting hearts. Strangers have become friends as God continues to use our story for His glory and, ultimately, our good (which is to be more like Christ).

  • Opportunities. That is to say, opportunities to choose. I’m going to say something radical here, but love is not a feeling, it is a choice. Likewise, forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice. At one point, I taped a piece of paper to my alarm clock that said, “Choose forgiveness.” I chose to forgive Jason daily. I chose to forgive Lisa daily. I had every earthly “right” not to, but I knew peace was at the end of forgiveness and I wanted peace in my own heart more than I wanted to be “right.”

It’s been three years today that I’ve known the real events of 2011 and 2012, and while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, I can honestly say I am thankful. And while the list is long, I’ve selected three things I am most thankful for that I want to share with you…

  • My Father. My Yahweh. He carried me, He held me, He convicted me, He pursued me, and He protected me not just from others, but also from myself.
  • His written Word. When I didn’t feel like God was good, I laid myself in the promises of Scripture that He was and is good. I mentally combated the continuous, unreliable dialogue in my head with Truth. How lost I would be without His Word…
  • Before Lisa died, I had a chance to meet her. I didn’t know anything physical had happened (or was happening) at that time in 2011/2012, but what I thought I did know (i.e. that this was just an emotional affair) was enough for me to cultivate hatred and bitterness towards her. My Lord did not allow that. He convicted me mightily and I met with her to confess my hatred and ask for her forgiveness over coffee on a Monday afternoon. I’m thankful that, even in my ignorance, my one and only interaction with her was one that showcased Jesus Christ.

Are you currently suffering? Is your pain so great you are blinded from perspective? Are you in a place where you are being asked to choose forgiveness or love even without knowing the outcome? I don’t have the answers, but I know the One who does, so in closing, I will leave you with this passage from 2 Corinthians… “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10