Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Hope is in You

I hope you liked the video from last week. I've never heard the gospel spelled out quite like that before. I especially liked the ending, where they talk about not being able to accomplish our great commission outside of his strength. The fact that the living, loving Creator of all things is willing not only to save us from our sins, but adopt us as sons and daughters, and willing to come inside us that we can accomplish his will through his strength, not our own, is awesome stuff. 

So there is our hope. We are his greatly loved children, and if we will only give him our hands, feet, voice, he  will work through us in mighty ways! Here's a God story that happened today.

I don't often get over to visit my grandmother, aunt and nephew. Months go by and time seems to race along like a river, I'm doing so many things lately. Anyway, my Aunt had called me and asked me to come and take her to do some things, so I went. We were just talking and visiting when my nephew came in with his friend. He began to tell my aunt that he'd found a great church and had turned his life over to God, and tomorrow he is to be baptized. So I asked what church he'd found and- it's my church! :) Coincidence or God working? Turns out he needs someone to take him to church on Sundays, and I'm currently not taking anyone, so that works out great. And during the conversation, my aunt has decided she wants to start going as well. So now I have two people to pick up! It's an honor to be able to help someone get there. Anyway, Gods timing is always perfect.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.
Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.- Psalm 25:1-5

This video is "My Hope is in You" by Aaron Shust:


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Breaking out of Prison

This video was shown in my church today.
It's eleven minutes long.
And it will change your whole perception of who we are and who we can be.
There isn't anything I can add to it, only a prayer that you'll watch it and understand more fully the power and reality of what God has done for us and can do through us.

Let's get those people out of their prison cells!

Blessings until next time.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Cardboard Sign

I never thought I'd be on the side of the road with a cardboard sign! I've led an interesting life but that's not something I've ever done before. But on Easter Sunday, I got to stand at the entrance of my church with one. On one side it said "Jesus saves" and when I turned it over, it said "A parking spot for you!" I go to a large church and we get about 15,000 people in over three services on Easter. The police even come help direct traffic, so you can imagine people get a bit frustrated waiting just to turn into the lot. The pastor of the Magdalene Hope ministry I just joined came up with the idea to break the tension. It was a good idea; I had so much fun flipping the sign over and smiling at everyone! Lots of people smiled and waved back, and it was a blessing to me. And as usual we had excellent worship, message and a few surprises thrown in to make the service extra special.
I am so blessed to be able you have such a church to be able to go to! When my pastor speaks, I always learn something new and am encouraged. If you don't attend somewhere regularly, I encourage you to find a good place. It's hard to grow alone.
Then after service as people were all lined up in their cars waiting to go out, I had this sign:

Once again I got to smile and wave at a lot of people as they went out. Normally I'm a pretty shy person but I really had fun.
This song fits for Easter: God's Not Dead by the Newsboys. I love the chorus: "My God's not dead, he's surely alive, living on the inside, roaring like a lion." Our God is like a lion, mighty and strong and through him we can do all things.

It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night- Psalm 92:1-2

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.-2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Wishing you all blessings!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grace, faith, and purpose

You know, I've often heard that God has a specific plan for each of us but this verse really hit me with the truth of it. You and I are here to fill some specific purpose that our Father "prepared in advance for us to do." For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
The question for all of us is are we doing it?
Oh, how I struggle with this sometimes! There's so many things I'd love to do for God; work in an orphanage in Romania, or with the children in Africa that have lost their families to HIV...or maybe travel with some sort of medical team, using my nursing skills? How do we know when we're doing what God has made us for?
Well. I'm by no means an expert, but I believe that when we're heading in the direction he wants us to go he will do two things: he'll give us a peace in our hearts and he'll let events fold out in a way that confirms what we're doing. Or not! If everything is going wrong, perhaps we're going the wrong way. Sometimes the enemy attacks us when we are doing right, but I've experienced both and they feel different.
The best we can do is search his word and pray with all sincerity.  Sometimes I think he just wants me to do what I'm doing right now, writing for his kingdom. I joined the ministry at the church going out on the first and third Friday nights ministering to the prostitutes and I find that I absolutely love it. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to pray for these young women who are in the worst place of their lives.

So why did God put you here? Is there a person that would only listen to matters of faith from you, perhaps a sibling or parent or close friend? Do you have a particular talent you can use for his glory? I've always wished I could sing for him, but sadly, no.
One thing to remember is that our every action and word is our testimony to whomever sees us at the time.
Now we ALL blow it from time to time. That's our humanity. But when we blow it, what an opportunity to go back and humbly ask for forgiveness or whatever is needed. That in itself can be a very good testimony.

One more thing about this verse: it reminds us that no matter what good works we do, we are saved solely by our Fathers' grace and mercy.  Hang onto your gratefulness for that and it will keep away pride, I believe.

We are God's workmanship! Created in Christ Jesus to do good works that he planned out ahead of time.
How he must love us...
I was wondering what song to share with you today and it just occurred to fits! Thanks, Father.
Wishing you all blessings.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A little about love...

A famous sculptor was once asked how he produced such beautiful and realistic sculptures.  He replied that he just chipped away the parts that didn't look like what he was trying to make until before him was the likeness that he wanted. We can apply this to our spiritual lives. We just need to keep chipping away the parts of ourselves that don't look like Jesus, right?

When I study the gospels, the most overwhelming attribute of Jesus that I see is love.  Love for God our Father and of our neighbor.  Jesus said that if we followed these two commandments, we would keep them all. In fact, when he taught about love he had a radical idea.  " But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."- Luke 6:27

This is a hard teaching. There are some people in my life that have hurt me badly. But once I started praying for them over time I found I was able to forgive.  I prayed for their salvation, that God would move in their lives as well as mine. I prayed for the strength to forgive and that those that had hurt me would change from the inside out. It worked on my end. Not overnight by any means, but today I find that my heart is at peace because the issues I struggled with are gone.  I am at peace with these old hurts. And when their ugliness rears its head, I pray again. The person you hold a grudge against isn't bothered by it, it is ourselves that suffer. When we are unforgiving it eats holes in our hearts, not theirs. Bitterness can consume us. What about anger? There is a place for it as long as we take care not to sin. Some things should make us angry. Should we stand by while a child is hurt? Never. We should be angry enough to do something to stop the situation. Because we are called to love doesn't mean we're called to be doormats. We should never tolerate people hurting others, desecrating our Father, or cruelness to those who cannot defend themselves. There is an anger that is righteous. Our Father was angry many times with Israel, wasn't he? In Ephesians 4:26 it says: "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.-Ephesians 4:26. The quotation marks are because Paul was quoting Psalm 4:4.

I think one of the most awesome examples of love was when Jesus was on the cross, in agony.  He took on the sin of the world and hung there being mocked while he suffered, bled, and died. And what did he say? "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." What a perfect love.

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.-Luke 6:40

So this is the sort of love we must strive for. In 1 Corinthians 13 we get the perfect description of love.
Paul begins this famous chapter by saying "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."-1 Cor 13:1-3
We can do all the good works we want, but if it isn't done in love there's no point in it.  So what is this love like? What are its attributes? Paul lists them for us: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...1 Cor 13:4-8.

Jesus teaches in Luke that: "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.- Luke 6:43-45

So we should take a look at our lives and see what kind of fruit are we producing. Of course we know that we aren't perfect. If we were we wouldn't have needed a Savior in the first place! But day by day as we study the scriptures and apply them to our lives we can become more like him. When an expert in the law tried to test Jesus in Luke 10 by asking him what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus answered his question with a question of his own. (I love how Jesus often did that.) Jesus asked him what was written in the law.
He answered: " ' Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " 
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."-Luke 27-28
Then the man tried to trip Jesus up by asking who his neighbor was, and Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, pointing out that our neighbors are all we cross paths with. So today let's chip away at the part of ourselves that looks out for number one (ourselves) and chose to love God with all our heart and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves.

I want to leave you with this beautiful song, How Great is our God. The English is by Chris Tomlin and throughout the song the language changes. There is Indonesian, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, and an African language among others. May it bless your day as it did mine!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He's Alive!

In order to talk about Jesus' resurrection, we should first talk about his death. This is such a hard video to watch; please be advised that it's very graphic. I hate the fact that Jesus had to suffer so much. But that's how much he loved us. He took the punishment that we deserve so that we can be forgiven. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.-John 3:16-17
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.-1John 4:10-11

But today, we celebrate the most amazing event of all: his resurrection. 

There are two places in Israel that may have been the tomb where Jesus was laid, although I believe the evidence points more to this site, the Garden Tomb, as being the real one. Either way, the point is what happened. He rose!
This cross was drawn on the wall inside the tomb sometime around the first century:
Standing inside the tomb I felt so much joy! Being there was just incredible. Outside a group was singing and clapping to the song, and it added to my happiness. Everywhere you go in Israel, there are other believers from all over the world learning and worshiping. This sign is on the door leading out of the tomb:
Today we can celebrate that we have a risen Savior, one who is living today, and has sent his Holy Spirit to live inside us as our helper. I know this: he has completely transformed my life. He is my comfort, my joy, my rock, my Savior, my life. Before Jesus ascended into heaven he had some final words.
..."All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
This world is such a desperate place. Let's bring the good news of his transforming love to as many as will listen. He is surely with us. Happy Easter, and I wish you all blessings!