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These Nightmarish Fire Ant Rafts Can Teach Us A Lot About Church Unity

antsI saw one of the scariest things on a news site the other day; a man in South Carolina, where a lot of flooding has occurred recently, noticed what he thought were patches of mud floating on the water only to realize they were bands of fire ants–thousands of them, holding on to each other to make a raft so the colony would survive and the queen and larvae would be protected.

Officials have warned people not to go near them and to be careful entering flooded buildings in case you come across these because, if you accidentally touch one, they will likely disband and cover you. And they bite and it hurts.

Hashtag things nightmares are made of.

This article reminded me of that verse in the Bible that talks about ants. You know the one:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” -Proverbs 6:6-8

King Solomon teaches us a pretty important concept in these three verses. Ants have it together. They’re hard workers, they don’t procrastinate, they know what it’s going to take to survive and they get it done. They don’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll be taken care of–well, unless someone or something ruins their colony. Even then, they’ve apparently got a plan.

So what does this have to do with church?

Several years ago, back at my home church, we went through a devastating split. It wasn’t because of any immorality or wrong doing on the ministry’s part; people just started listening to others who were downing our church in an attempt to build their own in the next town over (they tried it on me, too) and people’s egos and desires for titles and positions got the best of them. They didn’t leave peacefully either; offenses came, and they let everybody know about it–not publicly, but one-on-one, trying to take as many people as possible to the church across town. (If you belong to a church that bases its growth on encouraging saints from other churches to switch to your own instead of winning unsaved people to God–do yourself a favor and find a church that is pursuing the Great Commission–but that’s another post for another day).

We went from a thriving church that needed two Sunday morning services just to fit everyone in to a smaller church that, while going through a process of healing, continued to thrive and still thrives to this day.

How did we make it? We did what those thousands of fire ants did.

When the floods hit, the thousands of ants in those colonies linked their legs and mouths together to hold on to one another to create a raft. By linking together they are able to stay connected and floating in the storm. Furthermore, they are able to protect their leader–the queen–and the larvae–their babies and future generations.

Now, our church didn’t link up the same way the ants did (wouldn’t that be an awkward picture) but we definitely had to bind together in the days leading up to the split, the days during it, and in the aftermath. Just like those ants knew that their survival depended on their unity and teamwork, so did our church’s. Those of us fighting for the church knew we had two big jobs on our hands: one, we wanted to protect and support our pastor and his wife (just like the ants protected their queen–the leader of their group that would ensure the colony would be re-established after the storm passes) and two, we wanted to protect our spiritual babies–the people who couldn’t understand what was happening and who were at higher risk of leaving in the confusion that was sowed (just like the ant larvae).

And you know what? The people who stuck together made it. The church survived and began to grow again. But it doesn’t end there.

The USA Today article said that not only do the ant colonies do this in times of flooding, but also if the colony wants to “migrate long distances”. If they want to move into new territory they once again have to bind together.

What about your church? Are you guys looking to move forward and go into places you’ve never been before to reach the lost? You’ve got to bind together.

My church does outreach every month at two different retirement homes and at a community feed. People have come to church through these outreaches, people have been baptized, some have received the Holy Ghost. But truthfully, it’s not always easy to get people to come. They’re outreaches that require you to get out of your comfort zone. You might have people swear at you, you’ll be serving people who may not smell the best because they have no place to call home or money for hygiene products, you might be asked to do something you never though you could do (I learned this the hard way when no-talent-at-singing me got requested to lead songs at the retirement home last month–boy did I ever feel awkward!).

But you know what, it’s worth it every time we see a senior citizen at one of the homes lift their hands in worship, when they share prayer requests with us that show the deepest parts of their lives, when you see tears streaming down their faces. It’s worth it when we see those homeless people walk through the doors of our church and join us for service.Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s messy. But when the people of God bind together and migrate into these areas where people are desperate for God, great things happen.

What about your church? Does it have people who are ready to play the part of a fire ant? People who will bind together in unity for the protection of the church and for its growth? What about you? Go to the ant…consider its ways…and be wise.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

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Posted by on October 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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I Lost My Self-Identity after Loss, Abuse, or Rejection…Now What?

Somebody shared a YouTube link with me the other day and it hit home like nothing I had ever seen before. The video, clearly designed to motivate people to get involved in the foster and adoption process, is called Removed and the sequel to it Remember My Story (click the links to be taken to the video. TRIGGER WARNING for abuse survivors/victims). Although fictitious, the story, which follows a young girl as she is removed from an abusive home and cycles through the foster system, is remarkably true to kids who have gone through the same or a similar ordeal.

The young girl, Zoe, describes her life as like being in a tornado that, despite as hard and as often as you try to escape, it keeps sucking you back in. She makes the observation that just when life is starting to get peaceful and she might be just a bit happy, something happens that stirs it up again and she faces another loss.

I know she’s a fake person. But for the first time in my life, somebody explained exactly how I felt as a survivor of child abuse. Kids who suffer through abuse, who get moved around from home to home in the foster system, and even some who have been adopted can oftentimes face a struggle in trying to figure out where they fit in the world. So where do we go when we find ourselves trying to find our identity?

Truthfully, my ten-year-old self knew better than my fifteen- or twenty-year-old self. When I was ten, late at night when everyone was finally asleep I would turn on a boombox at the end of the mattress I slept on, just loud enough for me to hear but not to wake anyone else. I would rewind the tape that I had used to record music off of the radio and listen to the same songs over and over, crying as I stared out the window up at the sky, asking God when would He help me.

I’m looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world…not a lot to lean on, I need Your light to help me find my place in this world…If there are millions down on their knees, among the many, can you still hear me? Hear me asking, where do I belong?… 

As I stared at the stars and moon I wondered who else out there was also looking up, and if God had a family for me that would love me. I would then picture myself walking down a dirt road, free and at peace, as the next song came on:

So much pain and no good reason why…you’ve cried until the tears run dry…why, why, why, does it go this way…why, why, why, all I can say is somewhere down the road there’ll be answers to the questions…somewhere down the road, though we cannot see it now…somewhere down the road you will find mighty arms reaching for you, and they will hold the answers at the end of the road…

In my thoughts I could see myself running to Jesus, who was standing at the end of this dirt road, and He loved me and hugged me and protected me. At that point in my life, everything I knew about myself was in Jesus. He was the reason I was surviving.

And then I would fall asleep only to wake back up to my reality.

Within a year of being in this particular house God did eventually make a way for me to be rescued. Unfortunately, those in my family who took me in wanted me as far away from the church as possible, blaming them for what happened. If only they knew my pastor had tried to help…

The longer I was away from church the further I got from God. I was determined to find my purpose–my identity–a reason for being alive, a talent, something nobody could take from me. I poured myself into school, had straight As in honor classes–but nobody knew how much I struggled because the years I wasn’t allowed to go to school put me significantly back. Everyone thought I was naturally smart. Perhaps God did bless me with the ability to learn quickly, but it didn’t come without a lot of work. I had a lot of friends and was in at least half the clubs the school ran, but still I wasn’t happy. At the end of the day I would drink whatever alcohol I could get and frequently contemplated suicide.

I tried the club scene. I looked older than I was as a teen and so when possible I would go to the nightclubs and bars. I could walk in with a confidence that got people’s attention but deep down was false. By the grace of God, He kept me from illicit relationships. As much as I wanted somebody to love me, I never once assumed I would find it in a significant other or in temporary flings. The drug abuse I saw growing up kept me away from that as well. Somehow the extent of my trying to find myself in the pleasures of the world ended with alcohol and dancing.

Around that same time, God put a father-figure in my life who drove me to make it through school, get into a good college, and make something of myself. But then I was forced to move and while we still emailed on and off, I had lost the only support system I had. My friends were gone, too, as was the reputation I had built up for myself at school. Like Zoe described in the video, it was like everything was coming together and then a tornado comes and tears you away again.

About two years later I ended up making a pact with God–telling Him that if He didn’t change my life one night when I first made the attempt to go back to church that I would go home and kill myself. God was faithful that night and He did change my life. I felt peace for the first time–that peace I always imagined on that dirt road leading to Him. I said goodbye to drinking and partying and found joy in prayer, church, and helping others.

I wish I could say my life got perfect there, but it didn’t. As much as being filled with the Holy Ghost (God’s spirit) changes you in ways you never thought possible, your past life, the memories, the hurts, the hangups, etc., they don’t automatically leave you. My obsession with perfection followed me into my life for God and I struggled with the idea of grace–that God could love me even if I couldn’t perform for Him. I allowed that perfection to follow me into ministry, putting unrealistic demands on myself in the name of finding my identity and in proving that I could do great things for God. That was my life for the better part of a decade. It wasn’t all negative, though. The good in my life oftentimes covered the bad and I could forget where I came from. God blessed me with an adoptive family, friends, opportunities to be used in ministry, a great college–truthfully, I felt like I was living a dream. I got to a point where I actually said, “My life is perfect. There’s nothing else I want or need.”

And then I faced a sickness that lasted 8.5 months. I hit burnout. Some people walked out of my life. I moved and got married (this was a positive!) Life eventually got to the point where everything I was was no longer. Again, like Zoe said, I had gotten to a place where I was pretty much out of my tornado, only to be sucked back in. I had to come to the realization that I had found my identity in what I was doing rather than who I was. I was an honor student in school. Eventually the Sunday School Director. The church drummer. The administrator. Youth leader. College graduate. Successful career woman. I also realized that parts of my identity I based on how others viewed me. To some, I was a preacher’s kid. To others who refused to acknowledge that my pastor and his wife had taken me in as one of their family, I wasn’t. With the exception of those individuals, I had been so long in this Mayberry life that most people didn’t even know of my past with child abuse–they thought I was a kid who grew up in church (for the most part I was) who never had any problems (not true) and was perfect (very much not true).

As life changed around me I struggled with finding my identity again. Was I the daughter of a child abuser or the daughter of a pastor? It all depended on who you asked. I let situations and titles become who I was. I had gotten to a place where everything I had become concealed everything I grew up as, but eventually it surfaced in my private life.

I found myself alone at my church one night, sitting on the floor at the altar praying. I was pouring my heart out to God about how deep down I still struggled with abandonment, rejection,  and feeling used and unwanted. I felt Him prompting me to get my Bible, and while I rarely just flip open the Bible to a random spot and assume that God is talking, I knew it was Him. I started reading verses about being forsaken.

“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” -Hebrews 13:5c

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.” -Psalm 27:10

“I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” -Psalm 37:25

And then I felt God speak directly to me–giving me my identity, in the last verse:

“Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.” -Isaiah 62:4

All my life, even if I could ignore it at times, I felt forsaken. I had poured so much of my life into finding who I was–where I belonged, what I was good at, building a reputation–that I failed to realized where my true identity was. It was and is in Christ. The whole world can forsake you but He has promised that He never will. We are not forsaken and will no longer be called that, for God delights in us. His love is not based on what we do. Yes, we need to obey His word to be saved–but He has made that simple. He hasn’t put us in a rat race where we have to figure everything out and be perfect. He loves us. HE. LOVES. US.

If you are struggling with finding your identity I encourage you to get into the Bible and spend some time in prayer. What the world tells us is success leaves us empty. The media that tells us we need to find ourselves leads us astray.It is only in Jesus that we will find a constant who will never leave us, who will not reject us, and who will not send us spiraling back into those tornadoes.

We sang a song in church choir a few months ago that I will close with:

I was running and you found me, I was blinded and you gave me sight…You put a song of praise in me…I was broken and you healed me, I was dying and you gave me life…Lord you are my identity…And I know, I know who I am, I am Yours, and You are mine…

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Kim Davis’ Marriages are the Most Important Part of Her Story

kim-davisYou would have to be living under a rock to not be familiar with the Kim Davis story these days. Headlines are all over the internet–and not just about why she made the news–for standing up for her religious beliefs and refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses–but about something completely irrelevant to the story–her personal marriage life.

In a nutshell, she got married, had two children with her husband, then got pregnant by another man and divorced her husband. The man who fathered the twins she became pregnant with was reportedly abusive so she didn’t stay with him. She then met her current husband, whom she married. This marriage also ended in divorce. She then married the father of her two youngest, which didn’t work out and led to divorce as well. Finally, she remarried her second husband who is her current husband. (Whether this is accurate I don’t know–I don’t know Kim Davis–all I know is that this is what is being said on the internet.)

What does this have to do with her being jailed for following her religious beliefs? Absolutely nothing, unless you are trying to find dirt on her to disprove her case that she should have religious rights in the workplace.

That said, I personally believe that Kim Davis’ marriage history is the single most important thing on the news in regards to her story.

Hear me out.

Whether you agree with her stance or not, there’s no arguing that all of the talk about Kim Davis is about–well, Kim Davis. “Kim Davis stood up for our rights!” “Kim Davis is a homophobe.” “Kim Davis is an example to Christians everywhere.” “Kim Davis is a bigot.” “Kim Davis stood up for our rights as Americans!” “Kim Davis is a hateful person.” “Kim Davis is what bravery really looks like!” “Kim Davis is a coward.”

And yet, in the small 1 minute or so clip that hit news stations everywhere of Kim Davis making a speech of thanks with Mike Huckabee, she comes out, lifts her hands in worship to God, and then when the crowd starts chanting “We want Kim!” she responds, “I just want to give God the glory. His people have rallied, and you are a strong people. Just keep on pressing. Don’t let down, because he is here. He’s worthy.” Her focus was not on herself, but on God.

People can argue about whether or not what Kim Davis did was glorifying to God–depending on your stance the answers will differ greatly. But nobody can argue that God took Kim Davis’ life–a life with failed marriages, with sin, with disappointment, and turned it around to make a woman who is faithful to both Him and to her faith in Him.

“She’s a hypocrite,” her opposers say. Not according to the Bible. Take a look at the Apostle Paul, who is known as possibly the greatest evangelist in the history of Christianity. Paul didn’t start out as a faithful Christian. No, he was a Pharisee, a strict Jew who hated Christians. His mission was to rid the world of Christians, killing and imprisoning as many as possible. He stood and watched as Stephen, a godly man, was stoned to death. The Bible says he breathed out “threatenings and slaughter” against the church. Ananias, called of God to lead Paul to the truth, was scared of him.

Yet God spoke to Paul (whose name was Saul at the time) and confronted him about killing the Christians who were just as much His children as the Jews. Paul came to the realization that Jesus was God come in the flesh and converted to Christianity. He then began to evangelize and tell as many people about Jesus as possible, despite being persecuted himself.

So was Paul a hypocrite? No, because his sin against the Christians happened before he became a Christian. He realized the error of his ways and worked toward getting his life right. No doubt he probably had guilt his entire life for what he did before he became a Christian, but he had to realize that God is merciful, a forgiver, and that he was free from the sin of his past. Being an evangelist–who stood strong in the face persecution–also didn’t mean that Paul never sinned. On the contrary, Paul himself said that he was the “chiefest of sinners”. That didn’t mean that he was going out and living a double life. It meant that he was trying the best he could, but that everybody fails. The Bible says that if a man says he doesn’t sin he is a liar. All Christians sin. We just realize that God is a forgiver of sins and we try our best to change.

Kim Davis’ marital history does not make her any more of a hypocrite than Paul’s murderous history. Kim Davis was not an Apostolic Christian when the marriages and divorces occurred (but even if she was, again, we have to realize that Christians are not perfect–they make mistakes just like everybody else). Saying that she is a hypocrite would mean that we all are. We all lived in sin before choosing to live for God. A hypocrite is someone who says, “Yeah, I am going to judge other people for doing the same exact thing I’m doing, and I don’t care if I say I don’t believe in it, I’m going to do it anyway.” That is hardly the attitude Ms. Davis is displaying. (I also want to say this: hypocrisy is also a sin that can be forgiven. If you feel that you have been a hypocrite it is never too late for you to ask God for forgiveness and change your ways.)

What makes this the most important part of her story on the news, I believe, is that Kim Davis’ forgiveness and restoration after her life of sin and failed marriages shows the world that God can take someone who lived such a life and heal them. He can help us overcome our past mistakes. He is a great God, merciful, and ready to forgive the moment we ask. Her marital history and her testimony of overcoming her past and living a fruitful life for God speaks volumes to people who may be looking at their own lives and thinking, “I’ve failed too much. I’ve made too many mistakes. God can never make anything out of me.” God can. Going through three divorces is hardly the worst thing someone can do. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Paul demanding the imprisonment and deaths of people for their faith is definitely worse.

Kim Davis’ stand for her faith is definitely a commendable thing (and whether you agree with her beliefs or not, if you are a United States citizen you should agree that we are entitled to our religious rights), but in the media it is all about Kim. Kim this, Kim that. The media is not printing headlines that say, “Glory belongs to God.” However, her testimony of how she overcame her life and now lives for God is all about God. It’s about God’s power. God’s saving grace. God’s ability to take a sinner and save them and help them lead a better life. It’s about how God can save me and how He can save you.

Her testimony is about God.

“And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”  -John 8:11

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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It Happened at a Crowns Concert

September 1st was the fifth time I had been to a Casting Crowns concert and while I had always been blessed by the music, I had yet to see God work in the way He did this time around.

I went onto Facebook to ask about purchasing tickets for the Crowns concert at the Evergreen State Fair up in Monroe, WA when a complete stranger sent me a private message and blessed my husband and I with free, 5th row tickets. I was excited over the generosity of this stranger but when we arrived at the concert area we almost forfeited our seats to go up to the “nosebleeds” for one reason: it was pouring rain and the good seats didn’t have a covering like the nosebleeds did.

Now, you have to understand that this wasn’t just your typical rain shower. No, this was hardcore, Seattle, torrential downpour. Fair employees were volunteering to dry our seats with paper towels, which, by the time the employee moved for the concert-goer to sit down, the seat was already wet again. Fortunately for my husband and I, we had our umbrella which offered some protection. Until the concert started, that is. At that point all umbrellas would be required to go down. We discussed moving but decided, “Nah, let’s just praise Him in the storm” (ha ha). We decided 5th row seats was worth getting soaked.

This was when the total God moment happened. One of the fair employees, a very sweet woman who we had chatted with several times before the concert, came over to dry off the seats of the people in front of us when a man across the aisle jokingly said, “Come on, God, what’s with the rain?” to which the employee responded, “Yeah, aren’t all of you guys supposed to be praying for Him to make this stop?” I guess it didn’t occur to me up until this point, but not all of the employees working this event were Christian. Based on this comment about us praying, I made the connection that this woman likely wasn’t.

Truthfully, in my mind I was praying for it to stop. I didn’t want to be soaked and cold even though I would’ve put up with it if necessary. All of a sudden a thought came to mind, though. God, if you made this rain stop it would be a great testimony to all of the non-Christians here. They would see what a powerful God You are! Lord, show this woman that You have the power to stop this rain. If she has any doubts, show her that You exist.

It kept raining harder and harder.

When 7:30 hit and the members of Casting Crowns started to come out on stage it was still raining and I thought we would just have to deal with it. Then Mark Hall (the lead singer of the band) stepped up to the microphone, everyone’s umbrellas came down, and just then, the rain stopped.

Not a single drop fell through that entire concert.

Okay, so big deal, it stopped raining.

It was a big deal. After the concert as we were walking away I heard that employee exclaiming to someone else, “Did you see that?! The rain! It stopped!”

It reminded me of two passages in scripture:

In I Kings 18, Elijah challenged the followers of Baal to prove who was the one true God. Was it Baal, or was it Jehovah? God proved Himself in this passage. The followers of Baal could not get their god to start fire to the sacrifice, but God–Jehovah–who would become Jesus in the flesh to die for the sins of the world, despite Elijah drenching the wood in water thus making fire “impossible”, proved Himself.

The other passage is Mark 4:37-41. Jesus and the disciples were in a boat when a massive storm hit. Jesus was sleeping while the disciples were panicking. They woke Him up and asked how in the world can He be sleeping at a time like this! Didn’t He care that they were all going to die in this storm? Jesus wasn’t concerned though. He simply got up and spoke to the storm. He said, “Peace, be still,” and the storm stopped.

The literal storm in Monroe, WA stopped in that very moment. At this precise time, God stepped in and proved Himself–He showed both the believers and non-believers that He controlled the wind and the rain. In the same way, He also spoke into my life (and countless others I’m sure) that He also calms the proverbial storms. The internal storms I was dealing with that night. The pain of rejection. The fear of loss and failure. The doubt of “God, don’t You care that I might perish?” Perhaps He spoke into whatever personal storms that employee was going through. The storms of the cancer survivors who all stood when Mark Hall gave tribute to them. The blind man and his wife who sat one row over from us. The people who sung on stage.

In that moment, at that concert on those little fairgrounds, God said, “Peace, be still.”

“I know the Peace Speaker, I know Him by name. I know the Peace Speaker, He controls the wind and the waves. And when He says “Peace, be still,” they have to obey. I know the Peace Speaker, yes, I know Him by name.”

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Where is Your God when it Hurts? (Partial Testimony)

“With everything that’s happened to you in your life, I have to ask, have you not ever wondered that if your God is so good where was He when all these things happened?”

A man asked me this a few weeks ago after I shared a small portion of my testimony and as a spur of the moment response I did my best to explain to him the whole “we live in a fallen world where God has given us free will” answer. This response is true, but I don’t feel it is a complete answer for me.

You see, lately I have been working through some grief from a loss in my life and last week my pastor and his wife encouraged me to study the 30th through the 60th Psalm. Something I’ve read many times before but that really stood out to me this time was verse 42:3: “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” King David himself had people ask him this very question and I don’t see him giving a theological explanation regarding it–he asks God for help with his sorrow, he remembers the good that God had done him, and offers praise to Him.

So to answer this question, I’ll tell you where God was when all these things happened:

-When my grandmother (who was raised in the church) decided she would no longer live in the Apostolic faith–nor would she tell anyone in the family about it so that her progeny wouldn’t either–God orchestrated a meeting between an aunt from the other side of my family and an Apostolic preacher she would eventually marry. This man would lead my family to the truth. As a result I would be born into the church and raised knowing God my entire life.

-When my parents (by birth) backslid, God allowed bad financial circumstances that would force us to move from our home in Las Vegas to a small town in Idaho where we would get back into church. Here I would meet the man whom I remember as my first pastor–a man who would years later have a very profound impact on my life.

-When I faced abuse as a child, I had a pastor and church family that showed me not only God’s love, but was the embodiment of that love. Despite trying, they could not help the situation; however, in every way possible they showed me how Jesus would never leave me and gave me a Bible that would be a stronghold for me in years to come. I also had a radio that I would listen to every moment possible, where at any time I could hear praises sung to God and know that there was a God in Heaven who loved me and Who was looking out for me.

-When I was made to do forced labor as a child, there were always people who would offer small gestures of kindness: one woman invited me into her home for tea and cookies, others would buy me drinks or food. Many paid for trinkets they never needed but gave anyway to help a girl in desperate need.

-When my family backslid again, we became homeless and had to move across the country to live with relatives–where we ended up in a town with yet another amazing Apostolic church. I would once again meet people who would deeply affect my life. One of those people was a woman named Sis. Susan–this woman would be the one who prayed with me til I received the Holy Ghost, who would become a mentor to me and an example of Christ who I would remember for years to come. Her husband and father-in-law, who was my pastor, would also be the ones to baptize me in the name of Jesus. I received the gift of salvation here.

-When my parents divorced and backslid yet again, I had the Bible with me that was given to me by a former Sunday School teacher. This Bible would be a constant reminder to me through all of it that Jesus would never leave my side. When I had no support this book became my connection to the One who would never fail me.

-When I was eleven years old and told that everything I believed growing up was wrong, God was patient with me and helped me see over the years what truth really is. He also was faithful to keep me until I was old enough to get back into church on my own.

-When I was thirteen and in the hospital literally dying from blood loss, the doctor said, “There is no possible explanation for why she is alive. It is impossible.” But God in all His sovereignty met me in that hospital room that night where I prayed, “God, I can’t die unsaved. If You will heal me, I will get back into church as soon as I’m old enough to go on my own.” He healed me of my bleeding disorder and today I am a blood donor which has given me the opportunity to share my story of God’s miraculous healing in my life.

-When I was in middle school and had no father in the home, God put a father-figure in my life. He would encourage me (as well as many other young people) to do well in school, get a good education and job, and better yourself. He and his wife are still in my life today.

-When I was in high school and struggled with suicidal thoughts and considered giving up completely, I was moved into a home just down the street from an Apostolic church. This would be the church where I dedicated my life back to God and fulfilled my promise from years earlier to get back in as soon as I could. He healed me from these thoughts and gave me reason to live.

-When family members disowned me for living for God, a pastor and his wife took me in and called me their own. I would find family, my beginnings in ministry, and all of the opportunities and blessings I have in life today from this point.

-When I was going through other losses in life, God brought me the man I would marry. I also received the blessing of attending his church and having a second church family. From here I was able to sit under another amazing man and woman of God who showed so much love to me, and since their retirement am blessed to sit under yet another wonderful pastoral couple.

So to this man, who only heard a small portion of my testimony (an even smaller part than I summed up in this post), the statements I highlighted in bold letters were what he heard. What he focused on was the negative things that happened to me and he didn’t understand why I felt that God was so good to me throughout my life. I think Mr. Rogers (you know, from the neighborhood) had an experience that can help explain it:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

This man who asked me, “if God is so good where was He when all this stuff happened,” saw the “disaster”. He didn’t see the helpers. He didn’t focus on the people or situations God would send to get me through. He didn’t focus on how God was there–oh, He was there–helping me make it through every situation. Because it is true, we live in a fallen world where God has given us each the free will to do as we please. And that free will sometimes results in sin that hurts ourselves and others. But through that, God provides help.

So God wasn’t deserting me in the hard times. He wasn’t turning a blind eye. He didn’t forsake me. He didn’t fail me. He stuck by my side. He gave me hope. He put people in my life–whether they were pastors, Sunday School teachers, father-figures, church people, radio artists, strangers who had compassion on a child–He always had someone there to help.

So where is God when it hurts? Right there next to you, hurting with you and also helping you through it.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” -John 14:18

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” -Hebrews 13:5c

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” -Psalm 27:10

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” -II Peter 3:9

“For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” -Psalm 31:22

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You – Sermon Snippet on Repentance

While looking online for music and sermons several years ago I stumbled across a [longer] version of this sermon on a church website. Unfortunately, neither a Google search nor the preacher who preached this sermon knows if any copy of the sermon exists now other than this 8:55 minute clip that was uploaded to youtube.

As a young adult it really moved me and convicted me about my prayer life and my walk with God. I pray it does the same for you. (Because it is just a clip I have added some notes to the bottom of the transcript).

Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You

When you’re given an opportunity by the presence of the Lord–when the Holy Spirit gives you an opportunity, and He begins to touch your life, and He begins to deal with you and point out areas in your life that you need to change and shares with you and touches you and causes you and brings you to a place of repentance, and you say, “Yes, Lord, I repent, I turn away from that God, and I turn towards you,” and you say those things to the Lord yet just to turn back and act the same way, you’ve treated that which is holy as common. You’ve profaned the holy. We’ve been touched, blessed, convicted, repented–all these things have taken place–we draw near to God–and I have an overwhelming sense in my presence–we draw near to the Lord only to go home and be the same person that we were before we came.

And then we come back into the presence of God as if it’s an average thing. Some will say, “Well, man, I’m okay! I mean, I’m living this way and nobody–nothing’s happened to me. God’s not striking me down and my life is fine.” Fool! You don’t poison a dog with a spoonful of poison. You take the biggest, fattest, juiciest piece of meat and you inject it with the poison. The dog comes. He smells the smell of blood–he smells that steak–and he devours it without even the notion that there was anything in there that would kill him. And he walks away satisfied, thinking he just had a great meal. Only to find out in several hours his life will be taken from him.

“Well, man, I’m living my life. I’m doing what I want, man, I don’t see any of that happen.” You’re just getting started on your steak. You don’t recognize the severity of the situation. You don’t recognize that Satan has reeled you in and that you’ve become ensnared in his trap. And the devil himself is laughing at you, my friend, he’s laughing at you all the way home. Because you think you’re partying and having a good time or you think you’re keeping your issue a secret. Or you think you’re just doing your thing and putting your Christian face on. And the devil is laughing at you. And he says, “Revival? Ha ha ha, they can’t even live right. How they gonna have revival?”

When you come down and you weep and welp and you repent and you say, “God forgive me. Cleanse me. Set me free, Jesus, please, pardon my sin.” Do you get back up and act the same way you did before you came down? If you had a snot attitude with your mom, do you go back home and have the same snot attitude? If you were a liar before, do you keep lying? If you were cheating on your schoolwork before, did you cheat again this week? Or did you plan to cheat? If God put his finger on that area of lust in your life, did you go back out and still try to act like you were the player? Young lady, did you go back out and still try to get the attention of the boys?

Can I tell you something? It’s profane. Can I tell you something? Listen to me. Repentance is not walking to an altar; it’s not crying; it’s not even asking for forgiveness. Repentance is none of that! Repentance is turning away from the thing you were doing before that was breaking the very heart of God.

If you’re a backbiter–if you like to talk about people–did you come down and repent and ask God to forgive you and get up and keep talking about people? The Bible says it one of the things God hates–sowing strife. Christian repentance–there’s a brokenness in your heart because you sinned against God–you’ve broken the heart of God. You’ve treated the things that are holy as if they were common. And you have a recognition that before God, you are undone. You are in danger of judgment. You recognize that your sin is what nailed Jesus to the cross. Nothing more, nothing less.

Not, “What about that guy?” It’s not about that guy; it’s about you! It’s about your actions! We don’t have time to be cold anymore! We don’t have time to be lazy anymore! You can’t fix your prayer life when you’re standing at the judgment seat! It will be too late! You can’t repent of your sin issue when you’re standing at the judgement seat. It’s too late! So many young people–you’re like an ostrich with your head in the ground. You act like it’s not there. You act like this sin issue is not a sin; it’s a problem. A challenge. “I’m working on that.” As if repentance was like building a house. It’s a change of heart. The problem with most of us is we’re just like the prodigal–we’ve got to be down eating pig slop before we realize that what we’ve done has totally ruined our life.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This sermon was preached by Billy Humphrey of IHOP Atlanta. I am in no way affiliated with his church or to any organizations to which he belongs, nor do I agree with his doctrinal statement. However, I do feel like what he has preached here is good.

That said, because this is only a clip of his sermon, I would like to add a few notes. My pastor has often said that preachers should always offer mercy to people when they preach. So in this instance, the clip is not the complete sermon and so upon reading it, one might think “Wow, I’m a sinner and have no hope of ever being saved.” This is far from the truth. The Bible says if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God is a just God, and so it is very important that we preach repentance (Jesus did it, as did the disciples and the early church as recorded in the book of Acts). Equally important though, is that we preach that God died on the cross for us so we can be saved. He also promised us multiple times in the Bible that if we repent, He will forgive us.

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.

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.

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.

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 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Proverbs 28:13 – He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy.

It is also important to note that the Bible does say we need to repent to be saved:

Acts 2:38 – Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Revelation 2:5 – Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

Acts 17:30 – And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Luke 13:3 – I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Right now is a good time to make a minute to pray, asking God to forgive you, cleanse you, and to help you turn from any sin in your life. Also take a moment to recognize that God is merciful and is ready to forgive. We serve a great God.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here is the youtube video of the sermon clip. Some of the images the video creator put to the sermon may not be suitable for younger viewers. Sin and the Devil is Laughing at You

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Rev. Lee Stoneking: United Nations Transcript (Raised from Dead Testimony)

Your Excellency, Mr. Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly; Your Excellency, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of United Nations; Your Excellency, Nassir Abdulaziz-Al-Nasser, High Representative for the Alliance of Civilization; Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen:

I want to thank the President of this General Assembly, the Secretary General of United Nations, and the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilization for your leadership and convening this high level thematic debate on a very important agenda item. Thank you.

You are looking at a miracle. By all medical expertise, I’m not supposed to be alive.

On November 12, 2003 I fell dead of a massive heart attack in the airport in Sydney, Australia. I was clinically dead forty-five minutes. They administered CPR, resuscitation, and they gave me ten electric shock treatments to my heart. In the United States, they give three shock treatments and they stop. In Australia, they give four shock treatments and they stop. They gave me ten electric shock treatments to my heart.The blood had coagulated already in my hands, in my arms, in my feet, in my legs. There was absolutely no hope for me at all. I was just a corpse.

They took my body and put it on a stretcher and carried it to an ambulance. And the paperwork had been finished and it was DOA: Dead on Arrival at the hospital. But in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, when all that medical science knew to do, and with all that was at their disposal to administer, they did not work. But in the ambulance, just a corpse lying on that stretcher, Jesus stepped on board that ambulance and my heart began to beat and the breath came back. The driver was startled. The paramedic was startled. He told me later, he said, “I have never seen anyone recover from what has happened to you.”

This all happened November 12, 2003. After several weeks in Australia, I returned to United States, to my home, by myself because I was totally healed. In 2004, I went to a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee for just a major checkup and they gave me a complete blood lipid profile. Triglycerides, LDLs, HDLs, cholesterol, et cetera. In a couple of weeks I went back for the results and when I walked in the doctor looked at me and he said, “Your results are absolutely excellent.” He said, “But Reverend, we now can check the DNA in a person’s body. We decided to check your DNA.” He said, “When we checked your DNA,” he said, “when God raised you miraculously from the dead, He removed the APOE genote, genetic marker for heart disease, out of every cell in your body.” He said, “That is impossible. It’s impossible.” He said, “Only God could do such a thing.” He said, “When God healed you and raised you up, He totally, miraculously healed you.”

So I am grateful today to be alive because we know, having been clinically dead for forty-five minutes with no breath and no heartbeat, I asked the paramedic later, I said, “Nigel, what happened when you shocked my heart?” He said, “It would beat three or four times and it would stop.” We know that after six minutes or less, with no oxygen to the brain, there is irreparable brain damage. But God has totally raised me from the dead. Finally, a doctor looked at me and he said, “You have defied all the laws of medical science.” I looked at him and I said, “I didn’t, but I know the One who did. His name is Jesus.”

I am an Apostolic Christian and my message here to you today is this: in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, chapter two and verse thirty-eight, it says, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

The answer, Your Excellencies, to the violence in our day and to the human atrocities in our day, is Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace. I give you Jesus. God bless you.

-Rev. Lee Stoneking addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City on April 22, 2015.

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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