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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Church Bullies: Are You One?

I heard a story on the radio the other day that resonated with me:

The radio host and her friend went to a half-marathon to cheer on their other friend, Ruthann, as she ran the race. They had signs with them that said, “GO RUTHANN!” and “WAY TO GO RUTHANN!” and proceeded to meet her at each milepost, shouting cheers and words of encouragement as she went. The radio host said that at one point another runner had passed them and said, “Man, I sure wish I was Ruthann.”

The radio host said it was at that point that it occurred to her: in this life we are all running the same race, trying to accomplish the same goals (yes, they may be different as far as details are concerned but ultimately we are all going after the same thing–what we each deem to be having a successful life), and yet, not everyone has someone to cheer them along the way. Some people have a lot of encouragement in their lives, some people have just one person cheering them along the way and some people have nobody, like the runner who said she wished she were Ruthann.

It occurred to me right after she finished telling the story…what if, just what if someone had been there at the race booing at the people?

Well, that sounds stupid, you say.

Really?

Let’s consider:

There are five types of people in this race we call life:

1- those with lots of encouragers

2- those with just 1 or 2 encouragers

3- those with no encouragers

4- those that not only have no encouragers but have people actually trying to bring them down along the way

5- those with a/some encouragers and some people trying to bring them down

I want to talk about BULLIES. Church bullies.

“Well, I’ve never seen anyone get hit or shoved at church,” you say. (Well, hopefully not!) So where do we see bullies there?

-You see them when someone new comes in to church and the person is ignored or worse, snubbed.

-You see it when someone walks in to the building and people give them dirty looks for dressing differently, looking different, having bad hygiene, etc.

-You see it when no one invites the new teen in church to go to youth group

-You see it when teens in the youth group are being made fun of or excluded from cliques (and if you have cliques in the church that’s the first sign that there’s bullying going on–“us four no more” is the mentality of a dead church)

-You see it when certain kids in Sunday School are never picked for teams

-You see it when a family invites every kid in the church over for a birthday party except for that one kid

-You see it when people get together at church and make plans in front of others but never invite that one or two specific people

So ask yourself: am I a church bully? Do I make people feel less important, awkward or unwanted when they come to my church? Do I reach out to people who come so that they feel wanted and accepted? Am I wanting my church to grow or having an “us four no more” mentality?

Am I acting how Christ would act?

We are all in the same race, trying to live for God and have the best life possible. We, as God’s people, should be the ones cheering not the ones booing. When someone joins the race or desires to join the race are we encouraging them or booing at them?

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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Pastor Appreciation Day – A Tribute to My Pastors

If you are looking for something to share with your pastor for Pastor Appreciation Day or just a special occasion, check out my post 8 Things I Wish My Pastor Knew

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From left: Pastor Don Gifford of Mulberry, Fl, Pastor and Sis. Jones of Coeur d’Alene, ID, and Pastor and Sis. Luke of Auburn, WA. Not pictured: Pastor Stephen Kelley of Kamiah, ID.

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.” -I Timothy 5:17

October is the official Pastor Appreciation Month and, more specifically, the second Sunday of the month is Pastor Appreciation Day. I just want to take a few minutes to honor the ministers God has placed in my life.

Most people don’t have a list of pastors like I do but my biological parents moved a lot. It seems like moving churches a lot would be hard–and it was–but the plus was that I can say I’ve had several great influences on my life growing up. Here’s a quick snapshot of the churches i went to and when:

I was blessed to be born into the Apostolic church. Word has it that my mother went into labor during a Sunday night service in Rialto, CA. When I was three I moved in with my uncle, Steve Aguilar, who pastored a Spanish work just outside San Diego. We moved to Idaho when I was six and started going to Stephen Kelley’s church and then, at eight, moved to Florida and went to Don Gifford’s church. After a year and a half we moved back to Kamiah and stayed at Bro. Kelley’s church until the year before middle school. My biological parents divorced and backslid and that left me out of church for a while until we moved to Coeur d’Alene, ID  where I started going on my own. Finally, this past February, I relocated to Auburn, WA and started going to Pastor Michael Luke’s church.

Pastor Stephen Kelley – He was the first pastor I ever remember having (outside of vague memories from my uncle’s church). Under his leadership I first learned what it truly meant to be loved of God and really, that there are people in the world who have no obligation to you that will love you. I never fully understood it as a kid but now that I am older I realize just how much he impacted my life. I had a very difficult upbringing and realized (way later than I wish I had) that he had done everything he could to protect me and my siblings.

My fondest memory of him was from when I was nine. I had come down with a horrible migraine and was left home alone while my father and siblings went to church. I was led to believe by my father (who genuinely believed it) that the reason I had migraines was because I was sinning and that God was punishing me for it; I awakened later that night after church had gotten out to my father and Pastor standing by my bed. I thought, in my childish mind, that he was there to punish me for whatever I did to get sick. Imagine my surprise when he started praying for me and told me God loved me and that everyone gets sick but God would heal me. It was one of the very first times in my life I felt safe and protected. He probably doesn’t remember that night but it stands out to me like it was just yesterday.

Pastor Don Gifford – This man had an impeccable ability to make kids feel important at church. It seemed that there was always something going on for the kids. One time he got up behind the pulpit and, feeling like kids needed their own worship song too, led the congregation in “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. At his church I first understood the power of prayer. Every Sunday I would find myself at the altar praying and he would always come over and pray for me to get the Holy Ghost. He baptized me in the name of Jesus on April 14, 1996. It was under his leadership that, at eight years old, I first understood that I needed God and wanted to serve Him with my entire being. Elder Gifford and his wife passed away several years ago and I cannot wait until the day I get to see him in Heaven!

Pastor Buddy and Sis. Jana Jones – These two, whom I eventually called my parents after they took me in as a teenager, impacted my life more than anyone I’ve known to this day. Everything I learned as a kid but lost during my biological parents’ divorce and backsliding I regained at their church. They gave me a home, a family, and every opportunity I could ever hope for to be used of God. They taught me just about everything I know as far as service and leadership. They helped me become who I am today (only God knows where I’d be if it weren’t for them!)

I have so many great memories that picking one would be hard! Ministry wise, I’ll never forget the day we were at the fair doing a church event and this man who was mentally disabled came over and started talking to my pastor. Upon seeing that the man’s shoe was untied, he knelt down and tied it for him. As a teenager I remember being really embarrassed at first (why I have no idea!) but as I saw him kneel before this man images of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet ran through my mind. It was at this moment that I understood what true servanthood was. I saw this kind of servanthood in Sis. Jones, too. It never failed that she was helping someone. Whether it was taking someone to a food bank, bringing me dinner and a coloring book when I was sick (haha yes even in my twenties), or telling people about Jesus in line at Fred Meyer, she was always showing the love of Christ. They taught me that the ultimate goal in this life is to love God and love people.

Pastor Michael and  Sis. Paula Luke – My current pastor and pastor’s wife, they’ve been the ones leading me into this next chapter of my life. I don’t think I have yet to meet a more gentle and wise couple than these two. Moving away from my family was really hard for me but they have been so great at making me feel welcomed here and helping me navigate life as I follow God in this present and the future. They are so giving of their time, energy and resources and if you spent just five minutes at the church here and talked with people you would see just how much they are loved!

I have Sis. Luke (along with Sis. Jones) to thank for this new chapter…they were always on the lookout for someone to marry me off to haha. The August before last when she first mentioned Daniel, who is now my boyfriend, I cynically said to her, “Uh-huh. These things never work out. In fact, if this one worked out I’d give you a thousand dollars!” Well, here I am now living in Auburn, still with Daniel, and about to be out a thousand bucks!

I would encourage everyone–not only during Pastor Appreciation Month but throughout the year–to think about the fond memories you have of your pastor (and his wife if he is married). Let them know how they have impacted you. Their work is very tiring and sometimes they wonder if they’re making a difference. Let them know they are. Bless them (both verbally and financially or with gifts if you have the ability). They give so much of their time, energy and resources to helping people and oftentimes put others before themselves.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Take No Thought for Tomorrow

This was originally posted to my Facebook wall but I felt it should be shared here, too.

I’m seeing a lot of my Christian friends posting stuff on about how the government is going to oppress, how the economy is going to fail, how rights are going to be diminished, how health problems are arising, how natural disasters are ruining, etc. due to things happening in the world today…in response to all of that, I had a conversation with Sis. Myers a few weeks ago and this pretty much sums it up:

-When God flooded the earth in Noah’s time, the righteous were protected even when everything around them was destroyed

-When the plagues hit Egypt, the righteous were protected even when everything around them was destroyed.

-When the “walls came tumbling down” in Jericho, the righteous were protected even when everything around them was destroyed.

-When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to the idol and were thrown into the fiery furnace, they were protected even when everything around them was burned up

-When Daniel was cast into the den of lions, he was protected even when everyone around him tried to destroy him

-When Josiah was but a child the government tried to kill him; God not only protected him but rose him up to be king

-When Jesus was born the ruler of the land desired to have Him killed; He was protected

-When the 5,000 had no food God provided

-When the masses wanted Jesus to die, He rose again

-When Stephen was stoned for preaching the faith he felt no pain

-When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison they were freed

Christian–the world may be in chaos around us but has God not ALWAYS protected the righteous? So why must we worry now? Take no thought for the morrow….

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Hide-n-Seek With Jesus

The best games of hide-n-seek are always played when mom and dad are away and the kids have the run of the house–literally. No one to stop you from scaling the stairs to get to home base safely or to tell you to slow down when you’re dashing from one hiding place to another as “It” goes from room to room to find you.

This particular night I was playing with my little brother who was 11 and my sisters who were 7 and 6. Rachel, the youngest, was “It”. To make sure she counted right we would set the timer on the oven, tell her to wait in dad’s recliner until it beeped, and then come upstairs and find us.

After playing several rounds the hiding spots were getting harder to find and as I went from one place to another trying to find somewhere she wouldn’t look I discovered I was out of time. The timer was beeping and Rachel was coming. Quickly I climbed onto the bathroom counter and sat there in the dark. No doubt she would find me but hey, at least it was worth the shot.

I heard her open the hall closet and look. Nothing. I heard her go into the first bedroom. Nothing. I held my breath. Logically, she would come into the bathroom next as it was the next room in the hallway. In she walked. And would you believe it–she walked straight to the shower, looked behind the curtain–and then turned around and walked right back out of the bathroom without even noticing me! I was the last of the three to be found that round and as I sat there on the counter waiting for her to come find me it occurred to me: how much is this like God?

He is always with us and yet sometimes, because we so expect Him to be in the places we suppose He ought to be, we fail to see Him right in front of us.

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In Jeremiah 29:13 we read, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Now, while we know that the Bible was written to specific people it was also written for all of mankind to come. Therefore, the promises given were not only for those present when written but also for us today. If we seek Him with all of our being we will find Him.

I remember I struggled with this concept for many years because I kept hearing the phrase “seek God’ when I would pray for direction but I never fully understood what it meant. One night before church many years ago I knelt down and prayed in my mind, “God, I need direction tonight. I don’t know what you want me to do with my life and I don’t know what next step to take. Please show me.” As the evangelist, Bro. Don Stewart, closed the service and gave the invitation to pray at the altar he said, “I don’t know who this is for but feel like God is telling me to say this. Someone here has asked God for direction tonight and this is what He wants you to know: seek Him and His will will come to pass.”

About a year later I found myself alone at my church one night praying, asking God again, “God, where would you have me to go now? What do you want me to do in this stage of my life?” As the night wore on and as I prayed I felt an urge to grab my Bible and turn to Jeremiah 29. I brushed it off because I’m not a big fan of opening the Bible and assuming God is speaking from wherever we turn to (imagine being depressed and opening the Bible to where Judas kills himself!) After about 20 minutes of trying to push the thought out of my mind to read this particular chapter of the BIble I finally gave in and read it; “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

Another year or so went by and I found myself wondering again, what’s next? What will I do once I graduate from college? I had attended a live webinar class one afternoon and my professor, B.J. Wilmoth, had taught on the topic of seeking God. As I cleaned later that night it kept running through my mind, “What does it mean to seek God? Pray? Read the Bible? Live Holy? What does seeking God really mean?” So I emailed him and asked him what his opinion was on what that really meant. I never got an email back from him that night but about an hour later as I was listening to a sermon by Rev. Carl Ballestero on Holy Ghost Radio I heard him preaching scriptures about seeking God. And no joke he said, “And some people might wonder what it means to seek God. Well, I’ll tell you what it means to seek God. It means to want Him more than anything else in your life.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So are we truly seeking God?

-Asa and the people of Judah sought God in a time of rest (II Chronicles 14); is God still front and center when things are at their best?

-David sought the Lord amidst his fears (Psalm 34); is He still our focus when things are at their worst? Do we see Him even when the shadows overwhelm us?

-The apostles sought God during a time of waiting (Acts 1); do we desire God more than anything in periods of waiting? Do we still see His hands on our lives when we don’t understand His timing?

Just like Rachel had assumed that if someone was hiding in the bathroom they would be behind the shower curtain, we tend to think that if God is anywhere near our lives He must be where we expect Him to be–blessing us, protecting us from any bad thing in life, giving us our wants (in addition to our needs). This isn’t always the case, though. Life happens. We live in a fallen world. Chaos may surround us but it doesn’t mean God is not beside us. God may not be where we want Him to be but He is exactly where we need Him to be.

Will we continue to seek Him when He isn’t where we think He should be? When so many things happen and our eyes get off of our blessings, do we still want God more than anything? When we have all that we think we could ever want, is God still #1 on that list of desires? When we are struggling and fighting spiritual battles and don’t understand His ways, is He still the first and foremost thing we want?

Are we truly seeking God?

If not, what is stopping us? Remember He said, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” He’s waiting. It’s never too late to look again.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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20 Reminders that If We Seek God He Will Bless Us

I Chronicles 16:10-12 – Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;

I Chronicles 28:9 – And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.

II Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Psalm 9:10 – And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Psalm 27:8 – When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore.

Psalm 119:2 – Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

Proverbs 8:17 – I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.

Isaiah 55:6 – Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Jeremiah 29:13 – And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Lamentations 3:25 – The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

Hosea 10:12 – Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time toseek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

Amos 5:4 – For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:

Amos 5:8 – Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name:

Amos 5:14 – Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

Matthew 7:7 – Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

Matthew 7:8 – For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:9 – And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Acts 17:27-28 – That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

Hebrews 11:6 – But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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10 Reminders that God Forgives Our Sin

I John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Isaiah 1:18 – Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Micah 7:19 – He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 – As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Acts 10:43 – To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

I John 2:2 – And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (As a side note, I’ll never forget the best explanation of what propitiation is that I ever heard. At a Tenth Avenue North concert the lead singer explained, “Propitiation is kind of like when you’re about to get a huge spanking and God comes and puts His rear in the way.”)

Acts 3:19 – Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

II Chronicles 7:14 – If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Matthew 6:14 – For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

There are so many verses about the mercy of God and His neverending forgiveness; a part 2 list will come soon 🙂

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

The Prayer on the Pass

It was a cold day in early February when I traveled across the state of Washington from Spokane to the Seattle area. It was a Sunday afternoon fading into the evening as I approached the pass between Ellensberg and Seattle. The sun had gone down and I found myself, in a hurry to get to my destination, driving as quickly as possible through the winding roads toward Snoqualmie.

I knew from friends who had made the same trip the week prior that there were large herds of elk in the area and that made me a bit uneasy as I drove through the dark mountains, especially when the fog set in so thick I couldn’t see beyond two road dashes in front of my car.

As I got closer to my destination the roads because curvier and curvier and I came to a point where I almost went off the embankment from not being able to see the road in front of me.

“Oh God help me!” I shouted out loud.

“God I need your help,” I prayed, “I really need to be in Your house tonight and if I slow down I’m going to miss the service. It’s so foggy and dark out here I can’t see anything. Please God help me to see the road. Please don’t let anything be in front of my car that would cause me to wreck. I trust You, God. I know Your hand is on me and You’re not going to let me hit anything.”

After I prayed I calmed down, set my eyes steadily on the road, and continued driving. About ten minutes later, mind racing on a major life change going on at the time, I started to pray again.

“God, how much is this like You! Leave it to You to make me realize this! God this is my life now. I don’t understand it all. I don’t see what’s going on, what You’re doing. I can’t see in front of me, Lord. But God, just as I trust You that You aren’t going to let anything get in front of my car that’s going to cause a wreck, I trust You that though I can’t see the road in front of my life that You’re not going to let anything happen to me to let my life wreck. Help me to trust You with my life like I do with this road tonight.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The prayer of trust is a hard one to remember during life’s difficulties but sometimes we have to bring ourselves back to a time where we had a solid faith–where we knew God would protect us–and then do whatever it takes to bring ourselves back to that place of trust.

Has life thrown you a curveball? Are things so unclear you feel like you’re walking in the dark? Remember that old Sunday School song, “Take a step of faith, take a step of faith. When you can’t see your hand in front of your face take a step of faith. With no stars to guide your way, He’ll be beside you saying ‘Take a step of faith, take a step of faith’.”

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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