Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Past Weekend....

Wow!! It’s midweek already and I still haven’t taken the time to blog about Swiss Days (which was last weekend). All of you North Eastern Indiana peeps all know what Swiss Days is, but for those of you that don’t, it’s an annual festival in my childhood hometown. Normally, I don’t say too much about it, but I’m going to this time because it was such an eventful weekend!

Friday, we went to Swiss Days and spent most of the day there before going to Trees Drive-in (a nice seasonal place to eat and the only time we really get to go there!). While we were in town, we had our usual “fair food” favorites as we watched performers on the stage.

We were primarily there to see Tom Frye (please feel free to check out his website and myspace page). He’s an excellent performer and singer - even with his newly broken finger!! (You’ve got to give a guy props for playing a guitar with a broken finger!!). Anyways, he’s a truly gifted and talented guy and a huge blessing to God’s Kingdom (and so are his cute little Frye Kids who sing as well!!). Keep on writing, singing, and praising the Lord Tom!! We all love and support you!!

In addition to that, we walked around and browsed the different booths. One that interested me in particular was the Hoopdaloop booth. The gal there was selling weighted hula hoops (for exercise). My friend Saundra had told me about them before, and said that you can lose a lot of weight with those. I was eager to get one when she first mentioned it, but never got one because I have never been able to hula hoop! LOL So, last Friday was my big opportunity to “try before I buy.” After a few failed attempts, I started getting the hang of it. So, I got one and then gave myself a good bruising on my side when I hula hooped in excess when I got home. LOL But, I couldn’t be happier because the sore muscles give me hope for the problem tummy of mine!! AND, I’ve learned quickly and can already maneuver/exercise with it in lots of ways!! It’s so fun!!

Speaking of fun, the fun only got better when Mitch had his ten year class reunion on Saturday (which he has been anticipating for months!! LOL). He got to see and talk to a lot of his old friends/classmates, and we had lots of fun with everyone!! We caught up with current friends and also made some new ones (right Angie?!). ;) Almost everyone in Mitch’s class is married or engaged, so there were lots of new people to get to know!!

The weekend came to a blessed close as we celebrated Mitch’s grandparents 60th wedding anniversary!! That’s right….60th!!! The family held a little celebration party on Sunday and it’s so refreshing to see a couple still in love after so many years!! I love Mitch’s grandparents as if they were my own, and I’m so proud of them!! They are such an inspiration!! I love you Grandpa and Grandma!!

Well, that’s about it for my weekend!! Aside from that, I got to spend some time with an old friend/classmate on Monday (it was great to see you Martha!!). Now, things are slowing down a bit (before our busiest time arrives in September!). So, maybe I will get to blog a few things that I have been wanting to share and haven’t gotten to yet. I definitely want to finish blogging the “Trapped in the Magic Mirror” book that I have been reading so that I can start blogging on some other good books that have been inspiring and teaching me!!

Ok, I’ll see you around everyone!! Grace and peace to all of you!!! Lots of love!! OXOX

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's All About Him

[Note: I didn’t blog last week’s sermon because I was out of town and couldn’t be at church. When/if the sermon is uploaded on the church website, I will listen to it and blog about it later.]

In part five of the series on Colossians, Chad talked about Colossians 1:15-20 which reads:

15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

16For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

18And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

19For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;

20And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Chad explained that EVERYTHING is “by Him, for Him, and in Him….all about Him and not about us.” That obviously goes against the cry of our culture that exclaims “it’s all about me” - which, ironically, I just read on a t-shirt a few days ago. Chad asked us if we have awakened to the fact that “it’s not all about you.” Well? Have we? Does this nation and this planet realize that we were created by Him, for Him, and in Him? Are we living to honor and glorify our Creator, or ourselves?

Maybe we would “wake up” a little better if we began understanding just how amazing, big, and sovereign God is. In Sunday’s scripture, Chad said that we needed to expand our view of Jesus. He wasn’t just a person in a place and time. The preceding verses said that He is the “firstborn of every creature” which is a place of favor and honor. He didn’t just come into being 2,000 years ago. He was here before time even began because He was and is a part of the Father (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). If we don’t have Jesus first, all the rest isn’t going to make sense or matter much. Chad pointed out that the “rules for holy living” that Paul describes later on in Colossians came only after he talked about the foundation of Jesus first. Having “rules” before Christ only makes it “religion” and nothing more. It’s not about “religion” - it’s about relationship…….and the rest will follow as Christ transforms the heart.

So, how great is our God? Well, Chad began describing just how BIG the universe is and how amazingly vast and complex everything is (I recommend listening to the message for yourself when it’s available on the church website so you can hear all the mind-boggling details!!). God’s imprint is on everything because He created everything (Genesis 1, Psalm 33:6). He described how the earth and everything in our world is at just the right degree, with all the right atmospheric compositions, etc. and if one thing were to be even slightly less or more, there would be “no life on planet earth.” He said it’s like having all these “dials” set to a specific calculation and if one is off, they are all off. God is the master controller that sets all those “dials.” He’s the one that created everything and keeps it all running. If you ever thought the “big bang theory” was even remotely true, I suggest that you wake up to the evidence all around you that nothing is by mistake or coincidence. HOW IN THE WORLD COULD EVERYTHING BE ARRANGED SO PERFECTLY BY HAPPENSTANCE???? Just like a computer needs a programmer to create and manage all it’s intricate complexities and components in order to exist and function, so does something as infinitely multifaceted as the universe, life, etc.!! A “big bang” of anything doesn’t create, it destroys (case and point: an atomic bomb).

So, since the “big bang” is such an obvious farce, that only leaves the only reasonable and logical conclusion. Since the world didn’t make itself, someone had to have made the world. That someone is God Almighty. The irrefutable fact is that God spoke the universe and all there is into being. In fact, the word “universe” actually means “single spoken sentence.” We live in the very breath that spoke this world into being!! WOW!! What a mighty God we serve!! The Master and Creator of all things made all there is by the utterance of just a few words!!

God didn’t stop with just the universe though. No, he saved his greatest creation for last -that would be us!! We are the ONLY beings to be made in HIS IMAGE!! He took great care in making us!! Chad even showed us something that I remembered getting via e-mail not so very long ago by my good friend Saundra. It was a brilliant illustration of today’s scripture message and how Christ holds all things together; not just in the universe and nature, but actually in us!! That amazing thing is something called laminin (to read it’s definition, please see the Wikipedia entry). The sentence that stands out to me is: “Laminin is vital to making sure overall body structures hold together.” In addition to that, you might be interested to know that laminin is in the shape of a cross. Yep, that’s right!! A CROSS!!! (Google it if you don’t believe me!!).

In all of this we see the supremacy and sovereignty of God. It’s an overwhelmingly obvious pile of evidence and awe-striking wonder that no one can argue with (well, you can…..but you’ll look ridiculous and foolish if you try!). Those that deny the authority and superiority of God are ignorant and foolish (Psalm 14:1, 1 Peter 2:15, 2 Peter 3:16). As “intellectual” as a non-believer may think he/she is, one knows nothing unless he knows his own Maker. Even nature and animals understand this fact (Psalm 148:3, Isaiah 55:12). Everything declares His workmanship!! Chad described how lions know the order and hierarchy of things and how all of creation is in subjection to God’s authority and order. How else would every moving creature know how to function and do what they were born to do? Who teaches a spider to spin a web? Who teaches an eagle to fly? They do what they do because they have a Creator who created them “on purpose for a purpose….there are no accidents” (as my English teacher always said). How much MORE, then, are we who are made in HIS IMAGE created with even GREATER PURPOSE?! Do YOU know yours?!! If you don’t, why don’t you ask the One who made you? HE will tell you!!

I pray that everyone reading this will know the great sovereignty of God!! Greater still is His immense love for you!! If you don’t know that, and don’t know Him, please don’t hesitate to ask me or another brother/sister in Christ about how you can get to know your Creator!! Grace and peace to all of you!! I’ll close with Psalm 33. Ponder and marvel at the awesomeness of God as you take in every word!! (I’m posting it in the NLT rather than the KJV this time so it’s in plain English for everyone to understand and enjoy).

Psalm 33

1 Let the godly sing for joy to the Lord;it is fitting for the pure to praise him.

2 Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre;make music for him on the ten-stringed harp.

3 Sing a new song of praise to him;play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.

4 For the word of the Lord holds true,and we can trust everything he does.

5 He loves whatever is just and good;the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.

6 The Lord merely spoke,and the heavens were created.He breathed the word,and all the stars were born.

7 He assigned the sea its boundariesand locked the oceans in vast reservoirs.

8 Let the whole world fear the Lord,and let everyone stand in awe of him.

9 For when he spoke, the world began!It appeared at his command.

10 The Lord frustrates the plans of the nationsand thwarts all their schemes.

11 But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever;his intentions can never be shaken.

12 What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord,whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.
13 The Lord looks down from heavenand sees the whole human race.

14 From his throne he observesall who live on the earth.

15 He made their hearts,so he understands everything they do.

16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.

17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you.

18 But the Lord watches over those who fear him,those who rely on his unfailing love.

19 He rescues them from deathand keeps them alive in times of famine.

20 We put our hope in the Lord.He is our help and our shield.

21 In him our hearts rejoice,for we trust in his holy name.

22 Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord,for our hope is in you alone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

He Is...

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine was telling me how Psalm 62 had given her some peace and helped her to deal with her circumstances That’s not surprising considering that the book of Psalms is so encouraging. So, the Lord reminded me of that yesterday and I decided to read what she read.

When I read it, I was comforted with much peace and joy. I was filled with thanksgiving and praise for the Lord as I hung on every word and pondered it deeply. Read it for yourself and let it sink in!! It’s awesome!! Here is what Psalm 62 says:

1Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation.

2He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.

3How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.

4They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah.

5My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.

6He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense; I shall not be moved.

7In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

8Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

9Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.

10Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

11God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.

12Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.

Verse one reminded me of the peace one gets in the stillness; just waiting on the Lord and being in his presence. I thought of the sermon from a couple weeks ago that continues to stay with me (it was the sermon about the “fig tree”). I just sat and remained still; just concentrating on the goodness of the Lord and all that He is. He is THE GREAT “I AM”; He is everything!!

Verse two…..WOW!! He’s my rock!! He is solid, faithful, and trustworthy. He is my refuge and defender and I will not be shaken. The next two verses describe the reasons why one will not be “moved” or shaken. They talk about the persecution and oppression that all of us face in our lives. Of course, Jesus told us in John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." What a blessed comfort it is to know that even in troubling storms, Jesus is there. He is our peace! He has already overcome all evil and therefore, we have the victory in Him!!
I like how verse five says that He is our expectation. Waiting on and trusting in Him is to be our focus. EXPECT great things from God!!

Following that verse is the repeated affirmation that He is our rock and salvation. He is our defense from all that accuse and persecute us. We don’t have to worry. He brings us peace and rest.

Verses seven and eight calm the heart even further by describing God’s provision for us. He provides (and IS!) our salvation, glory, strength, and refuge. When we trust in Him and pour out our heart, He comforts us and builds us up! It’s amazing!! I don’t know what I would do without Him!!

The next verses spoke to me even more; especially when I read “Trust not in oppression.” It hit me like a ton of bricks because sometimes, I focus too much on the trouble and not enough on God. Why trust in the oppression and in my own ability to deal with things? I need to trust in the Lord!! One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6 which says: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” I want to trust and acknowledge Him and His sovereignty - in all my “ways” and circumstances. I want HIM to direct my steps. I want to be filled with His wisdom, peace, joy, and all good things. I want to think about and dwell on good Spirit-filled things; not the things that oppress and oppose me. (Philippians 4:8).

The last two verses were the icing on the cake, so to speak. It was the blessed assurance of the fact that God is in control. He takes care of everything, and He takes care of ME! “Power belongeth to God” as well as mercy. He will “renderest to every man according to his work.” I desire God’s power and mercy in my life. I pray that He will render and pour it out on me. I desire it for all of you!! God truly is an awesome God!! May His power and mercy be rendered to you!!

This Psalm spoke grace and peace to me, and I just thought I would share it with all of you in the hope that your heart would be just as blessed!! I pray that everyone will have sweet moments of peace and stillness with God. I pray that every heart will have the reassurance that God is in control and that He is our rock, our defender, our strength, our everything!! Be encouraged!! He has overcome all things and is the “blessed controller” of all things (as I have been reading in a book that I will be blogging about sometime soon!). Grace and peace to you all! I love you!! OXOXO

Monday, July 14, 2008

How the Media Uses the Lies of the Magic Mirror

[This is part four in the blog series regarding the book I’m reading: “Trapped in the Magic Mirror.” If you missed the earlier blogs, or need to re-read, you can read them by clicking the links here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

In chapter three of “Trapped in the Magic Mirror”, the author talks about the impact of the media in regards to romance. She says that while sexual and violent conduct have been studied, as to their effects on the development on a child’s brain, romance has been largely ignored. Maybe that’s because it has yet to be identified as a problem.

When you take into account that the vast types of media contribute to the thinking patterns that last a lifetime, one would think that more studies would be relevant and beneficial. What child doesn’t remember their favorite childhood movies, old-school commercials, music, etc.? Those memories last a lifetime and influence our long term choices. Take the very simplest example of a commercial. How many kids, who are now adults, are using favorite name brand products because of the messages they heard about them when they were younger? How many people have a favorite commercial jingle in their mind when they buy a certain product from the store? The media is incredibly influential and has an amazing ability to persuade and influence our opinions (sometimes permanently!).

This is especially true of children. In a quote from the book, the author says: ”Neuroscience has proven that the information we see and hear repeatedly as children causes the formation of new neural pathways as our young brains develop.” The greater the exposure, the greater the risk of a permanent mindset. And, these mindsets have the ability to become strongholds if they are based on falsehoods. In addition to that, the author asserts that “our most primitive emotional responses and beliefs about life are laid down very early in childhood, and the more they are reinforced by experience, the more deeply rooted they become.”

Wow!! That’s a big dose of truth medicine isn’t it?! It kind of makes you want to be more careful about what you see and hear doesn’t it? In fact, it was also pointed out that having visual and audio combined only increases the impact that a concept has on a person’s brain. Yeah, all the more reason to be careful of television, movies, and video games!!

This concept of influence is what keeps the media machine running. It goes unchallenged and unchecked because we keep feeding our minds with whatever they crank out; whether it be good or bad. Many times, we use the “it’s only pretend” or “it’s not real” justification in order to create a sense of immunity to the mind games that the media plays with us. Though, are we really that immune? I should say not!! We are very easily influenced - whether we are aware of it or not. Even if we know that something isn’t true, that doesn’t stop many of us from blurring the lines between fact and fiction. We are simply just not that aware of how easy it is to be duped and brainwashed; and we imitate everything we see despite the “do not try this at home“ warnings (who of us hasn’t seen a report on kids imitating stunts from MTV’s show “Jackass”?). This kind of makes me think that maybe the Amish are a lot smarter than we give them credit for since they have enough sense to avoid all these methods of influence and “mind control”. ;)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have had moments where the fantasy/reality lines have been fuzzy to me. I’m sure we have all had these moments!! If you think you haven’t, I will venture to say that you’re lying because we have all lied to ourselves at times and have been gullible to different schemes and brainwashing. In fact, I could deviate from the topic by going on a political tangent in order to prove it…..but I won’t (since it‘s pretty hard to convince a brainwashed person that they are indeed brainwashed). Instead, I will cite the case and point with the romance issue.

Romance is hardly (if ever) painted in a negative light. So, seeing it as harmful is rare. Therefore, we are oblivious to the fact that our overly romanticized movies, television, and music are hurting us. We still go on thinking that we can be swept off our feet by that perfect mate and live happily ever after because that’s always how the story goes in the storybooks and movies. We start believing that love is all about “feelings” and all the good pleasures that “falling in love” brings. The truth of the matter is, real love begins when all the warm fuzzies wear off and you’re seeing the person for who they are. Love really is a choice; not a “feeling.”

That’s not to say that the feelings are an altogether bad thing. Our feelings do serve as a bit of a guide in choosing a mate. We all have hormones and brain chemistry that stirs us up and initially attracts us to the person we want to be with. Though, it’s because of those very same chemicals that we are “blinded” by love. The author describes all the interesting details of the “biochemical process”, but I won’t get into the specifics here. Though, the bottom line is, these “feel good” chemicals wear off after about two years. If that’s true, that should be the mandatory time a couple should be together before even THINKING about getting married; thus ensuring a clear-headed mind based on real love and not mere feelings.

So, what happens when the feelings wear off? Well, needless to say, I felt like she was talking directly to me when I read this: “Unfortunately, many couples assume that when the chemical soup goes sour, that means they’re no longer in love. This belief has even more power when a woman is addicted to that euphoric feeling, needs it in order to feel good about herself, and is anxious and unhappy when her need for romance and excitement is no longer being met by her husband. This is when we are most likely to start eating for comfort and looking for ways to relieve the boredom and anxiety that begins to bubble in the secret places of our hearts.” She also says that this also becomes the point where women decide they want to have a baby in order to fill up that empty space that their husband isn’t filling.

Egad!! That sounds like me!! I’ve definitely used food and children to try and “fill the gap.“ At least I have seen/realized it and have been working to change it. (Jesus is the only true “gap filler”). Is there anyone else that can relate with me on this? Come on, girls, be honest! Or, maybe you’re a guy and you can relate to how the author says men are just as addicted to romance as well; but more sexually rather than emotionally (no surprise there!! LOL). She says, “The two-year mark for a marriage is often the time when men who are not strong in their relationship with God and committed to monogamy, and who deeply crave sexual intensity will initiate affairs with other women. Certain narcissistic men will continue that pattern throughout marriage. Men often confuse intense sexual feelings with real love.”

Whether you are a man or woman, I’m sure we can all relate to the romantic letdown at some point in our lives. And, a large part of it is because of all the unrealistic romantic messages that the media feeds us. It’s engrained into our minds as the high standard and expectation for “love” and many of us don’t even know it! Is it any wonder we have a hard time being content? We are trying to achieve and retain the impossible dream!!

This book is really working on me!! I don’t know about you, but I sure want to get rid of all those fairy tale mindsets in my mind!! Even though those mindsets might be strongholds, conquering them is not impossible. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

Through Christ, we have the spiritual weapons to tear down the spiritual strongholds. We can take those thoughts and mindsets captive and train ourselves to be obedient. There is hope for the “hopeless romantics”, even me!! ;)

I look forward to reading the rest of this book and blogging about it. Until the next chapter, read and ponder the study questions provided within this book (and consider buying a copy for yourself!!) Grace and peace to you. God bless you all!!

Chapter Three Questions

1. In what way(s) has secular television programming encouraged us to form irrational and false beliefs about life?

2. Do you agree that women today are in more bondage to romantic thinking than they were years ago? Why or why not?

3. As you were growing up, how did your family and friends view the romantic content of secular television programs?

4. How might a woman’s dissatisfaction with her husband relate to her dissatisfaction with herself?

5. Are there ways your husband shows you real, biblical love even when he isn’t demonstrating romantic love? How are you showing him real love?

6. What types of things do women do to fill the empty space created by anxiety about their husbands’ waning attention and the loss of the romantic experience?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Got Hope?

Hope. What comes to mind when you hear that word? What is it and where does it come from? Today, Chad talked about “hope” as he continued the sermon series on the book of Colossians.

Chad talked about Colossians 1:3-8 and said that as he was preparing for the message, he kept coming back to verse five in particular. Chad showed the NIV version which says: “faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel..”

Faith and love “spring” from hope. Where does the hope come from? Hope comes from the gospel. And what is the gospel? 1 Corinthians 15:1-14 describes the gospel as Christ’s sacrifice for ours sins, his burial, and resurrection. The fact that Christ accomplished all this and that it’s TRUE is why the gospel brings us such hope. Paul said in verse fourteen “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” In other words, the gospel is TRUE. If it weren’t, then talking about it and believing it would be a meaningless waste of time.

So, what is hope? Hope is the blessed truth that JESUS IS ALIVE!! Hope isn’t merely the idea that we will “someday” experience Jesus in heaven when we get there. Hope is alive NOW because Jesus is alive TODAY!! Hope is in us and with us because Jesus is HERE!

Where do you see hope? Chad talked about how having the hope of Jesus within himself and the Guatemala team enabled them to touch the lives of those they met on their mission trip. Chad said, “there’s hope for the hopeless because Jesus lives.” In verse 27 of the first chapter of Colossians, Paul says: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”

Sometimes, people find it hard to hope. Sometimes, it‘s because they don’t know Jesus who IS hope. Whatever the case, they can begin to understand the hope of Jesus through seeing it at work within His people. We bear the gospel of hope; a message of peace, compassion, love, mercy, and grace. We have all these encouraging and good things in the gospel of Christ!

We hope and have all these good things because of Christ. All of it is a gracious undeserved gift from God. You see, we’re all sinners and justice demands that sin be paid for. God abounds with love and grace and because of Jesus‘ blood sacrifice, we are spared from paying the price for our sins ourselves if we call on His Name. Chad said, “You name the Name, you get the benefits by grace.” Grace is the filter. We can’t enter heaven any other way except through Jesus. To enter in, we must have that blood red filter of grace.

How blessed we are to have this hope of the gospel and all the good things it brings!! Who wouldn’t want to share it?! So,…are we? Are we showing the hope of Christ to people? Chad asked “who has hope?“ I raised my hand and said, “yeah!“ ;) Some others raised their hands too. Chad said if anyone needed some hope, start hanging around some hopeful people. If you hang around some hopeful people, you will start wanting what they have. You’ll see the source of that hope: Jesus.

When talking about hopeful people, I had one particular person come to mind: my sweet and humble friend Saundra (Don‘t blush, Saundra. I just had to! LOL). She radiates hope and people see and experience it every day! She feeds and clothes the homeless in her area and is always giving of her heart. She says that sometimes, people come to her and ask her why she does what she does. She just shows them the love of the Father and tells them of the hope she has. Often times, they even ask where she goes to church. Her hope is contagious and it inspires their hunger and thirst for God. They want to come to her church and hear more about this God of hope - and meet even more hopeful people!! Her testament of hope draws people to Christ!

So………got hope? Got Jesus? Are you hopeful or hopeless? If you are hopeful, share it! If you are feeling hopeless, talk to me. I’ll share my hope with you! His name is Jesus! He loves you, and so do I!! Grace and peace to all of you!! God bless you!!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Little Letter With A BIG Impact!

Last Sunday‘s sermon was excellent!! In fact, it is one of those sermons that I don’t think I can possibly explain or articulate as well as the original speaker. It’s part of the reason why I haven’t gotten around to blogging it until now because I didn’t know how I could possibly deliver it as well as Craig did. This is definitely one you’ll have to hear for yourself because Craig talked about a book of the Bible that we probably don’t think about much: Philemon.

The book of Philemon is one of Paul’s letters. It’s a little letter, but it carries a BIG impact! In it, he was asking Philemon to show kindness to his runaway slave Onesimus. Craig explained that runaway slaves were typically executed if they were found. Therefore, Paul was pleading for Onesimus’s life and even offering to pay any damages that he might have caused. He even referred to Onesimus as his son and his very heart. Therefore, Paul was hoping that Philemon would receive Onesimus with just as much love as he would if it were he, himself, coming to him.
Awww. Isn’t that sweet? To us,….yes. To Philemon,….possibly not. Reading such a glowing letter about his runaway slave might have been a hard pill to swallow. Imagine what emotions you might have if your best friend wrote you a letter telling you that their love and blessing is on someone who wronged you. Now, imagine that they are telling you that this person is their very heart and like their child. And, if that weren‘t enough, they would now like you to welcome that person into your home. That could be pretty hard couldn’t it?

I’m sure Philemon really had to wrestle with how he was going to treat Onesimus once he read the personal letter from Paul. Out of love and respect for Paul, and as a Christian, he should forgive Onesimus and accept him back. Also, Onesimus had accepted Christ because of Paul’s ministry, so now Philemon has even more reason to do the right thing since Onesimus is now a brother in Christ. However, I’m sure he wrestled with a lot of negative feelings. Maybe he didn’t want to forgive and accept him back. Maybe he was bitter, angry, and frustrated with his slave to the point that he couldn’t put those feelings aside. Maybe he even doubted his slave’s conversion just as the apostles had originally doubted Paul’s.

Paul obviously understood this. This is why Paul approached the issue so gently. He began the letter by esteeming Philemon for his character and faith and asked his friend to show the kind of mercy to Onesimus that he would show to others. (Ha! Nothing like getting your faith thrown in your face!). So, that likely would have been an “Oh! He got me there!” kind of moment.

So, what did Philemon do? We don‘t know for sure, but Craig cited another source (and I can’t remember what it was - you‘ll have to listen to the message for yourself if you want to know) that suggested that things turned out alright. I’m sure that would have been a great encouragement to Paul considering that he knew what it felt like to be a “prodigal son” himself. Not only had Jesus accepted him, but the disciples even learned to accept him as well - even though they were reluctant and fearful at first because of his past.

I’m sure we all have Onesimuses in our lives. We all find it difficult to love, accept, and forgive others sometimes. It’s even harder when those people are in our own home and we have to live with them every day (just like Philemon and Onesimus living under the same roof). Craig even shared a real life example regarding a pastor who had a hard time coping with the news that his son had gotten a girl pregnant. He just couldn’t accept it. He just couldn’t forgive his son for what he did to embarrass and disgrace the family and the ministry. However, the pastor’s wife had a way of softening his heart. She reminded him that she had also put up with a lot of his own mistakes and that she had always forgiven him. She asked him if for only her sake and his love for her, could he forgive his son? Thankfully, he did!

That was the same question Paul posed to Philemon. Could he put aside his feelings and do this for the love of a friend and for the Lord? Could I? Could you??

This was an amazing message to hear. Click on the link provided if you would like to hear it for yourself. (I am also providing the link to the “fig tree” message- which I mentioned last week in my blog as an ABSOLUTE MUST HEAR!!! Don‘t cheat yourself out of this one!!).

I know this message blessed so many people; including myself. It’s definitely something I will always remember and carry with me. Just like anyone else out there, I have had “Onesimuses” in my life. And, I truly do want to live at peace with all of them; for their sake, my sake, and the Lord’s sake. May God give us all the strength to have the love and character of Philemon so that we can love and forgive our Onesimuses. Grace and peace to all of you!! God bless you!!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Is The Army?

Last night, I got an e-mail message from American Life League; which I would like to share with you. Even though I, and countless others, have been blasting the trumpet to tell the world about this issue, people are obviously still in the dark about this. What I am talking about is the fact that Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion chain in America) receives OUR TAX DOLLARS to fund their operations! Yep, that’s right, OUR MONEY helps keep Planned Parenthood in the business of silencing life and torturing women every day!!


So, what can we do to stop it? Well, if you haven’t done so already, please sign this petition: http://www.stopplannedparenthoodtaxfunding.com/ Also, keep the heat on your representatives. Do you REALIZE what would happen if we actually had a democracy in America? If this government really is for the people and by the people, why aren’t we taking an active role in it? Why aren’t we calling/e-mailing/writing our representatives to tell them what’s up? Why aren’t we jamming the phone lines and inboxes? WHY?!! What if EVERYONE did this just ONCE A MONTH - like with the call for life campaign (http://www.monthlycallforlife.com/ ). I know this really goes without saying, but I can’t make an impact all by myself!! Alone I am one, but together we are many!! WHERE IS THE ARMY???!! Sometimes, I feel like a lone soldier. Don’t I have ANYONE fighting with me???


I’m grateful that Mike Pence is fighting the good fight. He’s my congressional representative and is featured in one of the videos that you can view on ALL’s YouTube channel. Though, because I’m particularly proud of our man Mike (and because he hits all the points on the head!!) here is the link to his video segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SpKvnIRmcI
I hope that Mike Pence never has to feel like a lone soldier. He’s got at least one person backing him up (ME!). I remember seeing him in a parade last year and I shouted out to him to keep up the good work in regards to this issue. He pointed at me and said, “we’ll get it done.”


Indeed, we shall “get it done.” We’ll get it done the more help and support we have and the more that the American people stand up and make their voices heard; the way it’s SUPPOSED to be done in a “democracy.” Even more so, I should hope that there would be more CHRISTIANS out there doing their part. Again, I say “where is the army?”


Please read this message that I got from American Life League and take time to watch the videos, get educated, and get moving!! Let’s mobilize!!!

****
American Life League is leading the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, and our federal representatives are fighting to make this happen! Last evening, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith joined 10 other pro-life congressmen to spend an hour on the floor of the US House of Representatives, discussing the business of Big Abortion and the need to completely cut Planned Parenthood from YOUR money!

What they had to say is powerful!

"It's time for us to take a serious, and for some, a second look at Planned Parenthood, its origins, and the fact that since 1973, the year the US Supreme Court issued its famous Roe. v. Wade decision, and legalized abortion, that approximately 4.5 million babies, disproportionately African-American and hispanic, have died in Planned Parenthood clinics."

"Planned Parenthood ought to be called 'Child Abuse Incorporated' for the 4.5 million children it has already killed"

"For Planned Parenthood, business is good. Violence against children pays handsomely." -- Rep. Chris Smith, New Jersey

"The abortion industry is a billion dollar business." -- Rep. Joseph Pitts, Pennsylvania

"This organization has now become a big box retailer; big abortion in other words. It is a big retailer and it brought in a billion dollars in revenues."

"They are the Wal-Mart of Big Abortion." -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota

"An accounting gimic masks the way for Planned Parenthood to use federal dollars to fund its (Planned Parenthood) abortion services."

"Lest there be any confusion, abortion is an industry." -- Rep. Bill Sali, Idaho

"Planned Parenthood is using your tax dollars to raise more money to run against your candidate to elect someone who will give them more tax dollars." -- Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio.

You can view each representative's segment on this important topic ... DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD .. by going to http://nvs.all.org/sendstudio/link.php?M=42671&N=347&L=1488&F=H.

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Birthday Wish

As many of you may know, today is my birthday. And, in case you are wondering, I am 26 years young. ;) (Yes, I know…..I'm "just a kid" to most of you!! Ha ha.)

So, what did "the kid" do for her birthday? Well, I'm not doing much today, but yesterday I had a good day. Church was AWESOME (which I will blog about later) and the rest of the day was great too. Mitch, the kids, my Dad and stepmother, and I all went out to eat. We went to Carlos O'Kelly's where I was subjected to the sombrero and the singing. Then, we did some shopping, followed by a movie with the kids (which I will likely review later if I get the chance).

All that was great, but do you know what would be even greater? My birthday would be so much sweeter if someone else shared my birthday. What I mean is not a regular birthday, but a spiritual birthday. I would be thrilled if I knew that someone had their "re-birthday" today!!! That is my ultimate birthday wish!! Even hearing some awesome stories of how God touched their life would be great!! I want to hear lots of God-stories and see people get saved!! That is what I would love more than anything!!

Therefore, I would like to share a beautiful and amazing God-story with you!! I read this over a week ago and have been waiting for the right moment to share it. It may look long, but it is worth the read!! I couldn't stop once I started!! It's a TRUE STORY that comes from one of my friends on sparkpeople.com (and she gave me permission to share this story). I pray that it blesses you as much as it blessed me; and brings you to a place of rebirth and new life if you don't know it already! Read it!! It's amazing!! Here it is in her own words:

From New Age to New Life

"Wow, oh my god dad, thank you for these tarot cards!" I said, as I bounced and jumped in my seat with excitement! How could he have possibly known just how much I had wanted these cards for my birthday? Honestly, my dad was such a traditionalist. How would he even know of their existence? (Let alone approve?!) I was shocked at the fact that he was actually knowledgeable about this stuff. Hmmm.... little did I know that my dad was 'up with the times'. How cool was that?

For years I had watched Sylvia Brown, and John Edwards (to name a few), encourage and astound others with their supernatural abilities to communicate with spirits and foretell the future. Don't we all want to know what lies ahead? Especially if everything around us looks so bleak. I especially wanted to know my purpose in life, because the life I was living couldn't be all there was! I was completely obsessed with what they believed and I dreamed of being just like them. And I myself had gone to several psychics over the years, fascinated by their endeavors to foretell my future. Of which many, were very accurate which only drew me further into the occult (although at the time, I didn't realize it was the occult). I was spiritually hungry for the spirit realm. Nothing excited me more than the unknown. From the time that I was a little girl, there was something about the spirit world that captivated me. I was raised and taught that God existed. I knew about Him. I knew about Jesus, but I didn't really know them. And I wasn't certain if God really was real. Was He a person, force, Spirit or just the universe?

Anyway, it had been about 5 years, give or take since my mom had passed away with breast cancer. My heart was broken and I yearned for her arms to wrap around my ever diminishing body. My sorrow, frustration and pain led me to a struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I longed for her laughter to permeate my home. But life had been excruciatingly unfair. "How could God, (if He actually existed), be so cruel as to take away my mother?" I thought. For years I had tried to find Him, but nothing. I tried Buddha. With eyes, he couldn't see. With ears, he couldn't hear me. With a mouth, he couldn't speak to me. He was a statue. Nothing more. A mere statue made with human hands. A carved image. Where was the logic in worshipping a statue?

I tried to reach my "higher self." What a joke that was. And very difficult I might add. Even if I did reach my higher self, who would take care of me? And why would I even want to be my own god? How much comfort is there in trusting in myself? (Not much!)

I tried religion. I went back to the foundation of what I was taught. It was boring, stuffy, repetitious and too conservative for my charismatic personality. It wasn't real to me. If God was real, how come I couldn't find Him in church? I still didn't know if God existed. But, I was convinced that I would find a way to my mother, either through these cards or ......through becoming a medium myself. I believed in my heart that she was just a trance away. Besides, how much harm could there be in reading cards and speaking to the deceased? If I could just tap into the spirit realm, then I knew that I would finally get some closure. I had questions, and believed if I could reach her from the other side, she could enlighten me.

I not only battled a food disorder, but insomnia--probably from the bi-polar disorder, had adopted me as its very own victim too. Endless nights of reasoning and analyzing, wishing and hoping that somehow, some way mom would know just how much I loved her and that I never knew how terminal her cancer was. Oh how I would have done things differently had I known or understood! How could I be so naive? Why couldn't I see what was going on? Or perhaps I selfishly blocked out the reality of death's piercing sting only to be saddened by its truth?

Soon, I thought, I would have these answers. "Practice....practice and more practice" I thought.

I was obsessed with seeking mom and the unknown spirit realm. Something in me hungered for a deeper more spiritual and satisfying life. Up until this point in my life, nothing had made any sense. Nothing in my life mattered anymore. The bulimia had robbed me of any possible attempts at enjoying food. Fear had paralyzed me from undertaking anything exciting or new. (Fear of failure, fear of confrontation--people pleaser; perfectionist, fear of winter driving etc). Drugs and alcohol had become my means of escape, peace, comfort and support. Only heaven knew how depressed I was in my marriage and how the kids only added to the sorrow that so deeply wove in and out of my heart.

The more I invested in the cards, the more I found myself wanting more. They consumed my every thought and my every waking moment. Every time I played and practiced, I got better and better and then one day....it happened. I received my own spirit guide. With his help, I received more accurate information that astounded some but brought them back for more. Yet more and more my world became darker and darker as though a black cloud hovered over us.

More years passed with more drinking, drugs, psychic readings and spiritual trances, endless arguments and near divorce with my husband. All the while depression raging within. As much as I wanted to believe that I was living a life of ecstasy; partying and playing with the spirits (and experiencing some terrifying dark phenomena), tapping into the unknown-- I was miserable. Suicide entered into my mind with a vengeance. My life was spiraling out of control and I felt alone, trapped and very much afraid. And when I thought that nothing could get any worse.....it did.

I found out my mother in law was diagnosed with terminal cancer too. "How could this be happening?" I thought. "Why, why God, is this happening? And why are YOU doing this to me? I remember crying out to Him, "Please God, don't take her away from me too, please God....please" I cried with tears streaming down my face clouding and blurring my vision. With my arms hugging my legs and my head resting upon my knees, cradling myself like a baby and sobbing uncontrollably, I desperately asked, "God, if YOU ARE REAL, please God....change my life. I can't handle my life anymore. Show me God, how to have peace physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Here, here I am... I need You. If You are real, please God help me"

Over the next few weeks, my life became unbearable. I watched as my mother-in-law suffered with the same symptoms my mother had to endure...and again, I was helpless. As she withered away and suffered horrifically, I was having post traumatic stress symptoms. There was nothing I could do....NOTHING. I couldn't and didn't believe in miracles, so the outcome was hopeless. Nothing but panic and anxiety. The only way to escape it in my mind, was through more drugs (marijuana) and alcohol.

Well, it was late December. Our friend came over. We rolled a joint, took a drag and within seconds, perhaps minutes, something strange was going on. I suddenly saw black, my heart began to palpitate, and I felt as though my body was ticking to an unfamiliar rhythm. I had no idea what was taking place, but whatever it was, I didn't appreciate it. I began to pace back and forth, self-talking to try to calm my nerves. My legs were trembling almost as though every nerve was pulsating out of my skin. And my heart felt like it was gonna explode out of my chest. This was far more serious than any anxiety or panic attack. I'll tell you, I sure sobered up fast! As the evening progressed, without any sleep at all, I made vows to God that I would serve Him if He didn't let me die. I vowed to quit the drugs and alcohol and to try living a better life. All I knew is that whatever was going on in my body, I had never experienced before and I couldn't explain why. Nothing was different. It was the same whiskey, and the same marijuana yet my body was having an extreme reaction. What used to be my best friend, now became my worst enemy! For 30 some hours, the symptoms continued without any moments of grace but I was too ashamed to go to the hospital and figured they'd probably label me as nuts anyway.

A week had passed, but my situation and life hadn't. Again in sorrow, I chose to light up a joint. This time, promising myself that nothing would happen since I wasn't mixing alcohol with it this time. With silent expectation of pure bliss, I inhaled its sweet substance when suddenly, my heart began to race irregularly ....AGAIN! I couldn't believe it! My body was violently rejecting a simple joint! But why? Why now? And the fear that came along with it overwhelmed me. What was happening and why? Again, I paced back and forth. Trying to meditate and self-talk myself to a calm and quieted state. HUH.....that didn't work. Nothing was working. Every nerve in my body was ticking uncontrollably. My mind was tormented with thoughts of death and my heart was racing like nascar near victory. I thought I was having a heart attack. An unbelievable 26 hours passed without sleep, comfort or calm. And again, without grace. On the twenty sixth hour (again give or take), I lay on my bed; nervous ticks and all, tears caressing every inch of my body as I was drenched in fear and sorrow, I cried out to God...., AGAIN "God please, IF YOU ARE REAL, save me. Help me get passed this. Please God, I need You. I need peace and I need this to stop."

Immediately in my minds eye, I saw the words, "Show me God how to have peace physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually" flashing boldly. And instantly, at that moment a light entered the room and a Presence of peace, God Himself, the real, true and living God, came upon me. It was absolutely amazing! From the top of my head to the souls of my feet, peace swept over every inch of my body silencing and ceasing every tick, every tremble and all fear was completely and utterly diminished. At that moment, I knew that I knew that I knew that God was in my room and He heard my prayer. I knew that my spirit was encountering the true God and that the reason my body rejected those substances was because He heard me that night in the bathroom and it was the beginning to answered prayer. And it was the beginning of my new relationship, not religion with the true and living God!!!

The next day, all I wanted was a bible. Something in me desired to read the bible. It was the weirdest thing. Never in my life did I ever imagine a desire to read the bible! Yet, I couldn't stop this new hunger inside. God wanted to introduce Himself. He wanted to distinguish Himself from all the other gods. He wanted me to know who He was....He wasn't a statue or a force. He wasn't the universe--no, He created it! He wasn't a church, but He was/is this beautiful God who calmed me and gave me a peace that I had never experienced any other way!

As a read my new bible, God would literally speak to me. I would sit and talk to God in prayer, and ask Him question after question and low and behold, He would lead me to scriptures that would answer those very questions! It was really unbelievable. It wasn't as though I knew the scriptures or even knew where to find them, but somehow I could hear in my spirit, "Leviticus 19:26 & 31 or whatever." I mean really, I didn't even know if there was such a scripture. But out of curiosity and hunger, I would search the bible for that very scripture, and sure enough, it was there!!

It was that very scripture that made my jaw hit the floor. This is what it said and still says, " You shall not eat anything with blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying....give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them; I am the Lord your God!!!!!!!!"

Sometime later, I was woken up at 3:00am, with a voice that said, "Throw away all that you have that is occult. Your crystals, books, tarot cards and cloth."

I tell you, I knew it was God again. I remembered the scripture and what it said. Now He was asking me to throw it all away because He didn't want me to be defiled by it. I got up and I did throw it all away.

I know this was a long story, but a story worth being told! God speaks. God is real. God is distinguished and cares that you know exactly who He is. Just like you and I have a name, so does He.

This God is the God of the bible. And He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. This may not make any sense, but it is truth. God is a God of miracles and love. I have been completely healed and delivered from bi-polar disorder, bulimia and anorexia! And, God restored our marriage!!

I pray that you meet Him and come to know Him. Your life will never be the same again. I know mine hasn't and I have never lived such a beautiful, fulfilling, successful, passionate, and blessed life!!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Is It Merely "The Fourth Of July"?

Happy Independence day everyone!! That’s right, INDEPENDENCE day. Not just merely “the 4th of July” but the core reason for why “the 4th” is so meaningful to every American (or at least it should be!).

How soon we forget what today is really about!! It’s not just fireworks and BBQs. It’s about the day we declared our independence from the oppressive tyranny of Great Britain. How shameful it is that we should ever forget our precious freedoms and all we have been liberated from!

Contrary to what liberal America wants you to remember, we ARE a nation founded on the principles of God; principles that our forefathers fought for. It was for the freedom to worship God that they even came to America and founded this nation to begin with. It has, and always will be, worth fighting and dying for!! Why? Because Jesus first attained that freedom for US!! Galatians 5:1 says: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

We have LIBERTY in Christ!! He has freed us from sin and death and gives us eternal life!! We are no longer weighted down by our sins and bondages. Jesus releases us from all of that!! He paid the price for us through His blood sacrifice on the cross!

That first blood is what has motivated others to be so willing to shed their own blood just so all of us can continue to be free in the faith that we cling to!! In case you didn’t realize, there are people all over the world that are persecuted and killed for their faith. There is no one to stand up for them. They have no freedom to openly and publicly declare their faith in Christ like we do.

Is there any other God so worth fighting and dying for? Is there any savior that first died for us other than Jesus? None other makes life so worth living!!

Speaking of life, today is also the monthly call for life. (get involved people!). How fitting isn’t it? Today is a day of celebration in which we take a moment to praise God and be grateful for our freedom. Yet, there are those that have no voices to praise because they have been forever silenced. Every day, it continues; despite what the forefathers wrote in the constitution that we supposedly live by. If we indeed have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” why are our rights being stripped away? Do we not also have a provision in the constitution that says we have a right to overthrow corrupt government? Where’s that revolution people?! When do we stand up and say, “No more!! We will no longer let our moral foundation crumble and decay!! We will repent and rebuild!!” When, America, when??? Today? Tomorrow? Never?

Let today be the day that we remember and return to the godly morals we were founded on!! As you shop the special sales, watch the fireworks, eat hot dogs, and spend time with your family, take a moment to remember why it is that you have that time together. Remember that there are troops fighting across the globe to ensure that we remain free and that we aren’t bombed and terrorized because of those that hate our faith and freedom. Also remember those that are oppressed, killed, and denied their basic human rights; whether they soldiers and P.O.W., Christian martyrs, or innocent babies that never got the chance to live. Remember all of them, as well as those that are tortured inside because of the “freedom of choice” decision that they can never take back. Pray for all of them. Remember them and love them and more importantly, fight for them the way Jesus fought for us!! Let us stand together and make a difference!! God bless you all!!