Anna's Alcove

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Category: Church

Re-Igniting the Fire of Passionate Worship

What would you do if you caught a glimpse of the throne room of God? Dance for joy? Gawk in awe? Fall flat on your face out of respect and fear? Sadly, these aren’t the responses of many Christians who participate in worship. Whether it’s singing in church on Sunday morning or gathered with a group of believers on a week night, worship is supposed to bring you into the presence of the Most High God. Yet most times our “worship” can seem like just another song that happens to be on the agenda. If our focus and our heart aren’t in the right place, what was meant to be a special time in the throne room of our Heavenly Father can easily turn into a less-than-meaningful experience.

Worship requires a certain level of intentionality, passion and focus. So, how do you achieve this? Spend time in His Word! No, I don’t mean just anywhere in the Scriptures. Seek out passages that talk directly about His glory. For example, this past week, my small group read through Ezekiel 1, where he describes the vision he had of the glory of God:

“… a whirlwind… a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself;
and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber.”
(1:4)

“… within it came the likeness of four creatures…
Each one had four faces and each one had four wings…

each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side,
each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had a face of an eagle.”
(1:5-6, 10)

“The likeness of the firmament above the heads of the living creatures
was the color of an awesome crystal,

stretched out over their heads… and above the firmament over their heads
was the likeness of a throne,

in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness
with the appearance of a man high above it.”
(1:22, 26)

“…and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were,
the appearance of fire with brightness all around.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day,
so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.
This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of God.”
(1:27-28)

Just take a moment to picture all of that. Read through those portions again if you have to. It’s pretty amazing, right?

DSCN1310-2Once you obtain a revelation of how awesome our God is, the intentionality, passion and focus of worship should happen naturally. I find that reading and picturing passages like the one in Ezekiel help me to focus on God’s glory during a time of worship. I mean, it’s super difficult to be nonchalant in worship while picturing something as wonderful as the throne room and majesty of God.

Worship was meant to be a tangible experience for every believer. It shouldn’t become a routine. It shouldn’t be obligatory. Worship should be a time of expressing your love and awe of who God is. It’s an intimate time with your Creator who loved you enough to give up His own Son in order to secure your redemption. Don’t waste a moment of it.

“To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father,
to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
(Rev. 1:6)

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We have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Whether you’re new to Christianity or believed in Christ at a young age, you’re bound to hear that fact more than once.

But what does it mean?

Granted, it will be different for everyone. I’ve struggled with this verse off and on throughout my walk with Christ and still have yet to come to a full conclusion of what it means for me.

How can we, as humans, have the mind capacity of the Creator? There’s so much about God that we don’t completely understand yet, so how can we understand or comprehend the mysteries and knowledge of Him?

In 2 Peter 1:2-4, it says “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

The first part of that verse is easy to grasp. Peter is blessing the people receiving the letter in the knowledge of God and of Jesus (which is kind of like blessing them in the name of God). But then it goes on to say that through the knowledge of Him, we may be partakers of the divine nature.

What all does that encompass? When you think about your “nature,” what comes to mind?

Your soul, thoughts, feelings, personality, creativity… the very essence that makes you you, right?

Take a moment and realize what that means for us as believers.

Mind blowing, I know… and it gets better:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1)

It is by faith, and faith alone, that we have a part in God’s nature. There’s nothing that we can do to earn it. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), so He pretty much imprinted Himself on our souls and being “partakers of the divine nature” and “having the mind of Christ” is a part of following Jesus.

DSCN2500

Getting access to all that knowledge doesn’t happen automatically when we believe, but we’re given a key. Once we realize that we have the key to the mind and knowledge of God and claim it for ourselves (fully believe it), that’s when things start happening:

Colossians 2:2-3 gives us a glimpse of what we could experience once we start seeking to know to mind of God and take ownership of our right to the divine nature: “… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Wow…

I mean, as believers, this passage says that we have the right to seek after the mysteries and knowledge of God! Too many of us don’t take advantage of it and miss an entire aspect of our faith. God wants to reveal more of Himself to us, His beloved creation, and He’s waiting for His followers to actively start seeking after the divine nature that is rightfully ours.

Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this and figure out what it means for me. But I’m working on talking with God more frequently and asking Him direct questions instead of wondering quietly to myself. Diving into His Word and discovering new meanings behind well-known passages has been one of the immediate benefits.

The Holy Spirit will be faithful and will open your mind to more of who God is. Strive toward Him. Claim your divine inheritance. Don’t get stuck in the lie that God won’t reveal things to us because we’re mere human beings.

Remember:

We have the mind of Christ!

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The Most Beautiful Poem in the Bible

Last Sunday, our pastor challenged us to take some time to read through Song of Solomon, to get a feel for the passionate love within marriage that depicts God’s love for the church.

OK, that sounds easy enough: read through the passionate love poem written by Solomon for his new bride and see how it parallels the love that our Creator has for those who seek and follow Him.

So I started reading it out loud during my morning devotions… and I was completely caught off guard.

It took a couple minutes to get the feel of the New King James way of talking, but soon I was able to read at an easy, comfortable pace.

Tasting each word as it rolled off my tongue and speculating on the various phrases and stanzas, a wonderful, crazy thing happened: I found myself lost in the beauty of the Word of God.

Song of Solomon is one of the most beautifully written poems in the Bible. Seriously, have you ever read the entirety of the book or heard it read out loud? I’m not talking the PG-rated portions, but the entire thing, beginning to end. Have you ever experienced what it’s like to hear those words of love and passion so boldly proclaimed, without shame?

As a teenager and a young adult, before marriage, whenever I skimmed through this book, it almost always set me daydreaming about the man I would marry. Would he look at me the way this man looks at his bride? Will he tell me over and over again how beautiful I am?

Now, as a married woman, there’s a completely different perspective and a whole new appreciation for the words of love written out in this book. What seemed like overkill or complete nonsense back then now make a little more sense.

Love – true love – can be that passionate.

It can get to a point where you just have to keep repeating the same phrases over and over again because you’re too giddy to think of anything new to say that describes your love for the other person, the longing for your husband the minute he leaves the house is a real thing (yes, I enjoy having the house to myself at times, but it’s always nice to have him near by) and the way his eyes light up when I walk into the room makes me feel like a princess.

And then I came across these verses:

Set me as a seal upon your heart, 
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave;
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
 
Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
 
(8:6-7a)

Wow…

Just take a moment and read that again.

“Set me as a seal…”

When I think of a seal, I think of something permanent, of claiming ownership and saying, “This is mine, no one else can have it.” While that may sound very possessive, I like knowing that my husband has chosen me to be his and his alone. He wouldn’t like it if I started checking out other guys or if other guys started hitting on me whenever we’re out somewhere… and the same goes for me. He’s my man and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in a committed relationship 🙂

“For love is as strong as death,
Jealousy as cruel as the grave…
 
Many waters cannot quench love…”

It’s very hard to break up true love. Especially when it’s a cord of three strands (with God as the third strand).. then nothing will be able to touch it!

This all reminds me of the song “Oh, How He Loves Us” by the David Crowder Band, where it says:

“He is jealous for me, 
Love like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy,
When all of a sudden, 
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful you are
And how great Your affections are for me.
 
Oh, how He loves us!”
If you asked me what I got from all this, I would tell you that God is love. He is the definition of love and the passion He has for His creation to draw near to him and to have a lasting, eternal relationship with us is more than our mere words can express.

It makes me want to soar through the air, bask in the sun, dance in the fields, sing at the top of my lungs, feel the rain on my face and just celebrate being alive and loved by my amazing, wonderful Savior.

So, my question for you is… what are you waiting for?

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God-Dependent

“To become a [true] servant is to become radically strong spiritually”<
[Be] God-dependent rather than spouse-dependent”

During one of my mornings with God last week, reading from a book called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas, these phrases popped out at me and got me thinking…

What does it mean to be “God-dependent”? How does that come through in every day life?

I know that most of us, growing up in Christian homes and churches, have been taught at a young age to put our trust in Christ, to have our happiness depend on God rather than our family or friends. To a young girl, that seems easier said than done.

My happiness depends on a God I can’t even see? How does that work? He can’t make silly faces that get me to laugh, He can’t tell me a joke or take me somewhere fun or sit for hours to just talk and catch up.

But as I got older, I began to realize what being “God-dependent” really means.

Throughout high school I got excited whenever one of the older guys happened to smile at me or when one of my friends invited me out to a girls’ night. Then college came, I got a boyfriend and felt like I was on cloud nine because I finally had someone who seemed to value me for who I was and who I enjoyed spending time with.

And what happened?

I broke my heart multiple times because those high school boys were just being nice and had no interest in me whatsoever. Most of those girls’ nights ended up being gossip-fests that I couldn’t share in because I was homeschooled and didn’t know anyone outside of church. Half of the guys in college, including my then-boyfriend, weren’t interested in a long-term relationship and eventually started to push me away.

The bottom line is that people will let you down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s just the way we are with the sin nature in our lives… and that’s why we’re encouraged to allow God to become the source of our joy and happiness.

David realized this when he wrote Psalm 28:7:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped;
therefore my heart greatly rejoices and with my song I will praise Him.”

What does he do in this verse?

David owns the truth by saying “my strength” and “my shield.”DSCN7730

By claiming that truth as his own and striving each day to place his dependence on God alone, David was able to “greatly rejoice” and “praise” the God of joy and peace!

So, how would that apply in real life?

The verse that popped in my head was Ephesians 5:21, which says:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

As we start to turn our focus toward Christ and work to base our joy off of our relationship with Him, everything else will fall into place.

It’s just like Thomas says:

“If [you] are faithfully serving [your spouse] when [they’re] in a surely mood and [they’re] not exactly falling over [themselves] to show [their] appreciation, [you] still receive an inner affirmation and sense of fulfillment from God. [You] have that inner witness that tells [you] that [your] Creator is pleased with [you]…”

When we place our identity in the One who is the source of joy and happiness, it won’t matter so much what other people do to us, as long as we’re faithfully striving to serve our heavenly Father and do His will by loving on those He created…

… because He will be pleased with us.

“There is true joy when true service is offered up with a true heart”

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To love like Christ

Your hatred is for individuals, whereas mine is for certain actions and ideas.”
Matt Walsh.

Recently, one of my favorite bloggers, Matt Walsh, wrote a response to all of the hate mail that he has been receiving for voicing his opinions on some of society’s issues.
Whenever a breaking news story comes out or an issue gets heavily debated on social media sites, you can almost guarantee that Walsh will have something to say on the matter… and it’s refreshing to read a Christian viewpoint on what’s happening in the world.
He doesn’t blatantly shove the Bible in his readers’ faces or act as if he’s superior to them. He states the facts and explains why he thinks the way he does (with plenty resources to back up his viewpoint).
So, my question is, why do we, as Christians, get so much hate for voicing our opinions or not agreeing with the way society thinks?
 Some people claim that Christians are just out to condemn others for their sinful ways and to bring down judgement upon them. Still others seem to see us as cold-hearted Pharisees that follow a strict set of rules and look down upon those who don’t believe the way we do.

“They laugh hysterically when a Christian suggests that it’s possible to condemn the homosexual act without hating the homosexual person. I’ve attempted to make this
clarification so many times, and, on every occasion, I’m told that such a distinction is impossible. Hate what a person does, hate the person. It’s that simple.”
Walsh

But that’s not it at all!
As Walsh says in his post: “I hate attacks on marriage, on the family, on my faith, on liberty, on truth, on reason, on the constitution, but I don’t hate the attackers. I hate what they stand for, I hate their agenda, I hate their lies, but I do not hate the individuals.”
Why?
Because, as children of the Most High God, we are called to love one another; as God has loved us, that we also love one another. By this all will know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
That’s all there is to it. Since God is love and, as the sons and daughters of God, we have the likeness of Christ, we are called to spread that love to those around us, not hate.
Yes, it is not our place to pass judgement on anyone for God “has committed all judgment to the Son… [whose] judgment is righteous, because [He] does not seek [His] own will but the will of the Father who sent [Him]” (John 5:22, 30) and sometimes it might seem as if Christians are judging others for their actions left and right (and maybe sometimes we are unintentionally).
But we’re not perfect either. As Christians, we should all be striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and that’s what grace is all about), and in reality, we are condemning the sin and hoping to reveal the truth to those around us.
 So, in short, yes, I believe it is possible to hate the sin and love the sinner.
I mean, there is a spiritual battle going on all around us all the time. Satan is fighting to claim as many souls as he can and will do all he can to confuse and mislead those who are still stuck in their sin. He will keep leading them in endless circles, away from the Light of the One who is calling out to them in Christ’s name, offering hope and salvation.
As Walsh put it in his blog, if we were really out to get people, we wouldn’t be approaching them about the issues we see in their lives. If we “hated” them, we would just ignore it and let them sink deeper and deeper into the pit of despair until they were overcome and consumed.

But the thing is… we care. The love of Christ drives us to do all we can to save those who haven’t realized the truth.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

“So, if you get upset at any of us, get upset at those of us who think we know the truth yet are too lazy and selfish to speak up and share it. Indeed, just because someone voices a disagreement with you doesn’t mean they hate you. Often, it means the exact opposite.”
Walsh

To read the full post that I based this off of, visit http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/06/05/this-person-is-planning-to-kill-me-in-order-to-teach-me-that-shouldnt-be-mean-and-hateful/2/#HvUev1Y8obubj19i.99

 

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Live Out Loud!

Walking along a city street, strolling through the mall with your friends or shopping in a farmers’ market, you’re bound to bump shoulders and be jostled by at least a dozen or more people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs. Guaranteed.DSCN1978

Some of us relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in a crowd, experiencing the excitement of navigating our way through a throng of people, diving for that open space when the moment is just right. Others dread having to deal with crowds and will attempt to plan their outings when the volume of shoppers, walkers and employees is significantly lower.

But we all interact with people at some point of our day, extroverts or introverts alike. Now, take a moment and think about the number of people you come in contact with throughout the day. How about in two days? Three? A week? A month? A year?

The numbers have increased, right?

You’re probably thinking, ok, so what? Yes, we know that dealing with crowds is just a part of life, so what’s the big deal? You just shove your way through or impatiently wait in line to check out, surfing Facebook on your smartphone as the customer in front of you pays for their items…

… but wait a minute!

How many of those people know Jesus? How many of those people have heard about the free gift of salvation that He’s holding out to them? How many of those people are headed to eternal punishment because no one reached out to them with God’s love?

Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

A couple Sundays ago, Kevin King, one of the missionaries my church supports who is based in New York City with his family, shared about what God has been doing in his life and what He has laid on his heart.

Their mission in NYC is to share the gospel with students from other countries (Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) while they’re studying here in America. As they come to know Christ as their personal Savior, King disciples and teaches them more about the Bible and how to lead their own studies.

That way, when they head back home, which is more likely than not to be located in the “10/40 window” (a section of unreached countries, tribes and people located in Japan through China, India, the Middle East and Northwestern Africa), these students can share what they’ve learned about the gospel in places where our missionaries are unable to go.

This seems to be one of the most effective ways to reach countries where Christian missionaries are not welcome. These students grew up in the villages and can easily get back into these countries, where they’ll have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned during their time in NYC and start Bible studies and churches with the people they know.

The goal of the Kings’ mission is to create relationships with the people they come into contact with on the streets, in schools, at stores, etc., spreading the love of Christ and sharing the Good News. They don’t wait for opportunities to come to them.. they intentionally seek out anyone who needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Some of us get stuck in the thinking that we’re not qualified or don’t know enough to be a good witness for Christ. What if they ask us questions we don’t know the answer to? What if what I say ends up sounding stupid or doesn’t make sense?

Yet, God still chooses to work through us to spread His Word. God can use common and ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

While talking with our congregation, King used the example of Peter and John in Acts 4:1-13. The men were arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. When questioned by what power and in whose name they acted in, Peter started to testify:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: if we this day are judged for the good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (vs. 8-12)

Now, you’d think the whole place would go ballistic after a claim like that, but they don’t. These leaders heard what Peter said and “when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (vs. 13)

Peter and John didn’t go through seminary. They didn’t spend years studying up on the Scriptures. No. They were just stating a fact and giving an eye-witness account of what they did. And it was evident through their actions and straightforward answers that they had been with Jesus.

Another example King used included the woman at the well (John 4) and how “many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did!'” (vs. 39). She just shared her story and told about what Jesus had done in her life. There wasn’t any exams she had to take or memorization of Scriptures. It was just her story and the love of Christ that was evident within her.

Also the demon-possessed man in Mark 5. After Jesus cast out his demons and the man begged to go with Him, Jesus wouldn’t let him. He said “Go home to your friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and begain to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him and all marveled.” (vs. 19-20) Again, this man was just sharing his story. No training. No studying. Just talking with his friends and family.

I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. It can be really scary to go up to someone in a public place, introduce yourself, build that 5-minute relationship and steer the conversation toward religion and what they believe. Some may turn you down directly, others may be really interested and ask a lot of questions that you may not know the full answer to.

But that’s ok. No need to freak out or worry that you don’t know the answer. This is an opportunity for you to continue the relationship after this conversation by promising them that you’ll get the answer for them at a later time. Admitting that you don’t know everything reveals that you’re still human, not some super godly person who is superior to them.

When Jesus says to go and make disciples of all the nations, He mostly meant to build relationships. Strike up those conversations. Sit with someone in the food court if they look like they could use a friend. Put your phone away and talk with people in line while you wait to check out.

We’re created to be relational and we should use that to our advantage!

Let’s work on living out loud for Jesus by building relationships and sharing what He has done for us each day, no matter how big or small 🙂

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Love covers a multitude of sins!

There may be time where it feels like you’ve done something so terrible that there’s no way you can make it up to God. You’ve fallen into the trap of sin over and over again, it seems impossible to approach the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness one more time. You’re left with this feeling of being unclean and unworthy of the love that God is holding out for you.

I know that there have been many times in my life where I kept putting off asking God for forgiveness because I was afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of coming face to face with my sin, afraid of seeing the hurt in my Father’s eyes.

But the minute I slink into the throne room (figuratively of course), stumbling under the heavy burden of guilt, I immediately feel the power and glory of His presence. I fall to my knees in awe and shame, afraid to look up, afraid of what I might see.

Then I hear Him say “My child, I love you and nothing can ever change that. Give me your burden and let me fill you with My grace and love, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light. I’ll cast your sins as far as the east is from the west, washing you white as snow. For you are Mine and no sin can ever snatch you out of My hand.”

A feeling of peace and love overwhelms me. Tears streaming down my face, I feel the weight lift off my shoulders and am wrapped up in a huge hug by the Father who would never disown me.

Each time I enter God’s presence, I come away wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. He’s so full of love and compassion and He understands us completely!

That’s the wonder of grace. We don’t have to earn it, per say. It’s a gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Ephesians 2:8-9

As it says in 1 Peter 4:8 –

“Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

This unconditional love was ultimately demonstrated at the cross.

One of my Facebook friends had posted an excerpt from the book “When God Weeps” by
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes. It gives such a graphic visual of what happened at the cross that fateful day and what exactly our Savior had to go through in order to offer us the free gift of salvation:

The face that Moses had begged to see—was forbidden to see—was slapped bloody (Exodus 33:19-20).
The thorns that God had sent to curse the earth’s rebellion now twisted around his own brow…
“On your back with you!” One raises a mallet to sink in the spike.
But the soldier’s heart must continue pumping as he readies the prisoner’s wrist.
Someone must sustain the soldier’s life minute by minute, for no man has this power on his own.
Who supplies breath to his lungs? Who gives energy to his cells? Who holds his molecules together?
Only by the Son do “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).
The victim wills that the solider live on—he grants the warriors continued existence.
The man swings.
As the man swings, the Son recalls how he and the Father first designed the medial nerve of the human forearm—the sensations it would be capable of.
The design proves flawless—the nerves perform exquisitely. “Up you go!”
They lift the cross.
God is on display in his underwear and can scarcely breathe.
But these pains are a mere warm-up to his other and growing dread. He begins to feel a foreign sensation. Somewhere during this day an unearthly foul odor began to waft, not around his nose, but his heart. He feels dirty. Human wickedness starts to crawl upon his spotless being—the living excrement from our souls. The apple of his Father’s eye turns brown with rot.
His Father! He must face his Father like this! From heaven the Father now rouses himself like a lion disturbed, shakes his mane, and roars against the shriveling remnant of a man hanging on a cross. Never has the Son seen the Father look at him so, never felt even the least of his hot breath. But the roar shakes the unseen world and darkens the visible sky. The Son does not recognize these eyes.
“Son of Man! Why have you behaved so? You have cheated, lusted, stolen, gossiped—murdered, envied, hated, lied. You have cursed, robbed overspent, overeaten—fornicated, disobeyed, embezzled, and blasphemed. Oh, the duties you have shirked, the children you have abandoned! Who has ever so ignored the poor, so played the coward, so belittled my name? Have you ever held your razor tongue? What a self-righteous, pitiful drunk—you, who molest young boys, peddle killer drugs, travel in cliques, and mock your parents. Who gave you the boldness to rig elections, foment revolutions, torture animals, and worship demons? Does the list never end! Splitting families, raping virgins, acting smugly, playing the pimp—buying politicians, practicing exhortation, filming pornography, accepting bribes. You have burned down buildings, perfected terrorist tactics, founded false religions, traded in slaves—relishing each morsel and bragging about it all. I hate, loathe these things in you! Disgust for everything about you consumes me! Can you not feel my wrath?”
Of course, the Son is innocent. He is blamelessness itself. The Father knows this.
But the divine pair have an agreement, and the unthinkable must now take place.
Jesus will be treated as if personally responsible for every sin ever committed.
The Father watches as his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself,
sinks drowning into raw, liquid sin. Jehovah’s stored rage against humankind from every century
explodes in a single direction.
“Father! Father! Why have you forsaken me?!”
But heaven stops its ears. The Son stares up at the One who cannot,
who will not,
reach down or reply.
The Trinity had planned it. The Son endured it. The Spirit enabled him.
The Father rejected the Son whom he loved. Jesus, the God-man from Nazareth, perished.
The Father accepted his sacrifice for sin and was satisfied. The Rescue was accomplished.
Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes, “When God Weeps.”

The bottom line is this. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, Jesus paid it all. He went to the cross for your sins. Not just the small ones or the big, life-changing ones, but ALL sins. He took them upon Himself and paid the price so that we could be washed clean and live eternally.

Satan wants us to believe that we’re unworthy, that we’re too dirty for God to even bother with.

That’s not true at all!

Remember…

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy.
I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
John 10:10.

Praise Him!

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A Time and a Season for Everything

Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013 – It was Promotion Sunday…

The first few rows of pews were full of kids, preschool through 12th grade, who were sitting with each of their Sunday School teachers upstairs in the sanctuary during the first service. Each teacher would present the students who were moving up from their class and talk a little bit about what they do during Sunday School.

The preschool teachers stood and presented the two children who were moving up from their class, gently coaxing the nervous kids to stand and smile at the congregation, and then they passed the mic on to the Kindergarten and 1st grade class.

Mr. Walt Semenyna, the kids’ Sunday School teacher, stood up in front of the congregation and said how glad he was that he had this chance to share with the congregation what their normal morning routine looks like. He was talking about how the kids enjoyed singing along with the songs he played on his keyboard and started to describe the lesson time, when he suddenly collapsed, clutching his chest.

Time seemed to stand still.

Then, it slowly seemed to pick up speed again, as people rushed up to help, including a local EMT who attends our services. The Sunday School classes were escorted out by their teachers, one person called 911 and one of our church leaders led the congregation in a group prayer. The ambulance arrived and we all filed out of the sanctuary to give them privacy to do what they needed to do.

Everyone gathered in small groups throughout the foyer to pray, talk or just to be together in silence while we waited to hear the news. When the ambulance took Mr. Walt away, we were told that he was still not responding and the situation seemed critical.

By the end of the second service, we received word that God had called Mr. Walt home to be with Him in heaven.

Having served in the children’s ministry (AWANA, Sunday School and VBS) at Bethel Memorial Baptist Church for 30 years, Mr Walt had been doing the work that he loved when God chose to take him out of this world.

It’s events like this that make you think. We live life as if we’re going to be here forever and as if it doesn’t matter what we do from moment to moment. Yes, we have the hope of eternal life with Jesus and we know that we’ll go to be with Him in heaven some day… but where’s the proof of that belief? Who are we to tell God what needs to be done or how we want things to go in our lives?

David makes a good point in Psalm 139:14-16

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Every single one of our lives, our days and our moments are written down in God’s book. He has this master plan that we’re all a part of and, while we may not see the big picture just yet, each of us has a significant part to play.

It was interesting too, because on that very same Sunday that Mr. Walt went to be the our Savior, our pastor’s sermon was based off of Ecclesiastes 3, which starts off like this:

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.”

There is a time for everything.. and our Creator is sovereign over time. We can’t rush things and we can’t slow things down. It may seem like God is too far away to care about us down here on earth, but there is evidence all around that He is very present in each of our lives.

My pastor then read Ecclesiastes 3:11, which says,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

We may never fully understand what God is doing from moment to moment or how much of an impact we can have on someone’s life, but in the end, we have a hope… the hope that “we belong to eternity, but are presently stranded in time… that we can know our eternal destiny and can walk with God in our earthly lives.” (as my pastor said)

So, what are you doing with your life? Are you living as if nothing could take you down, as if you’re “unstoppable”? Or are you seizing the moment, using every opportunity you get to make a difference in someone’s life?

Take every moment and find a way to use it for the glory of God. That’s really the best kind of legacy to have once you leave this earth.. living a life that is glorifying to God 🙂

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