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Archive for December, 2013

December 31, 2013

The last day of the year and God is not shy! I love this, it is such a beautiful morning full of His presence and steadfast delivery of His Word.

God directs us, so clearly, how to live a life that is pleasing to Him: “Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.  Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.  Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.  Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.  And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:13-17).

As He recognizes the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is indeed a large demand, He promises us:

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

It is true, God has asked and will continue to ask plenty of us, and as long as we remain faithful that He speaks volumes, He will continue to guide us to glorify Him.  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives;  the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). The road ahead may be unknown to our eyes, but God has predestined each and every nook and cranny, and He knows where we fall short and how to pick us up and reconnect our longing for His love, mercy, and guidance.  He says:

“Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last.  I alone am he…As for you, Israel, my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you and I will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you I will hold you up and with my victorious right hand… For I hold you by your right hand–I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.  Though you are a lowly worm, O Jacob, don’t be afraid, people of Israel, for I will help you. I am the LORD, your Redeemer, I am the Holy One of Israel'” (Isaiah 41: 4,8-10,13, 14, NLT).

God has then called us into fellowship, so that we may gain wisdom from those whom also spend time growing firm in the identity of which God has placed on their hearts.  He is the strength that is within us and He allows us to approach battle surrounded by others, all standing firm in the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

May we acknowledge Jesus’ parables and actions as relevant to our daily lives.  May we approach God, expecting that He will answer.

Jesus said to His followers, “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20).

What God has called us to do is impossible if we are on our own, but with the mighty strength of the Almighty Creator living within us, nothing is impossible.

May we never stop seeking Him (Isaiah 55:6).

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December 24, 2013

It’s Christmas Eve, a time to celebrate the coming of a newborn King’s birth.

Tonight, my family attended the North Coast Church Candlelight Service together for the second time.  I guess we finally have a tradition.

At the service, Pastor Chris spoke, forgiving Herod for his jealousy for a baby’s royalty is prophesied to outshine the power he once held over the land.  But when speaking of the general population, Chris mentioned he doesn’t understand what they were thinking that first Christmas.  All the Jewish people were made aware of the coming of a great ruler, and yet, few made the trip to Bethlehem to witness the greatest gift the world would ever receive.

Chris closed the candlelight service with a bold statement, “The only thing worse than unwrapping the worst gift under the tree is opening the best gift and not being able to use it” (paraphrased).

This time of celebration, joyfully receiving the coming of God’s answer for all the sin and heartache of the world–some people just don’t quite see the blessing that is right before them, present, waiting to unwrap itself.

As I praised God under the stars tonight, to my right stood three people (my family) who haven’t accepted Christ as their leader, the Father as their refuge, or the Spirit as their strength.

As the darkened plaza began to beam with the magnitude of candles being lit one-by-one in a chain reaction, God moved in a BIG way.  My 18 year-old brother and I have not had the greatest of relationships throughout our years, and not in the regular brother-sister conflict sorta way.  The person standing in front of him shared their flame parallel to my candle being lit.  However, as my brother turned to share his light, the flame blew out.  This happened 3 times.

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).  Peter lived along side Jesus for several years, serving him.  However, when his physical life was jeopardized, Peter did indeed verbally deny the relationship.

Each time the flame blew out (which there was very little breeze tonight), my little brother turned towards me to relight the flame.  God assured me this evening that it is through my life that David will become aware of the great offering that Jesus’ life serves.

The illustration is this, God recognized that my brother is unable to share His love before he accepts it into his own life.  This remains true for each of us.  We are God’s “Plan A” to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). However, we cannot complete the Great Commission without having first forgiven ourselves, allowing God’s merciful love to fill our lives and restore our life’s purpose. 

My brother is nearly there, perhaps.  Less distant than my father, anyhow, we refused partaking a part in the candle-lighting section of the short service.

Prayers for my family members and their hearts towards sacrificing their lives in trade for God’s everlasting love would be greatly appreciated. And know that God can indeed move mountains (Job 9:5) and that He truly still performs miracles.  He can mold anyone or anything into an image glorifying to His loving nature.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).  Believing without seeing is faith; may we all have faith, but also expect God to move in mighty ways right before our eyes.

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December 22, 2013

A compilation from the sermon series by Josh Nelson of “The Station” church in Carlsbad, California.

1. From Josh Nelson’s sermon, “One Lie Women Believe,” February 10, 2013:

“The lie the enemy would speak to you, is that you are damaged goods. Nothing could be further from the truth.  You know what blows my mind is that the Bible says that God knit us together in His womb.  And that all of our days were ordained before we were ever born.  What the Bible literally says is that God knew every single thing that we were ever going to do and every single thing that was going to be done to us, and He made us anyways.  It says that all the bad things… and the mistakes that we would make…He knew about, and decided to created us, anyways.  And he initiated a plan of salvation, and of forgiveness, and of redemption.  So that, every single thing that would happen to us… He has already done the work for us, on the cross…so that you don’t have to live with an attitude of guilt, or shame…the Bible say that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  And those who have been set free through the Son, are free indeed, and you need to walk in the freedom that is available to you… GOD DOES NOT BASE YOUR WORTH ON YOUR PERFORMANCE, HE BASES YOUR WORTH ON WHAT SOMEBODY WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR YOU AND HE GAVE UP HIS MOST VALUABLE POSSESSION, HIS SON.”

Two truths…Number one, in Christ and Christ, alone, you are priceless. The second truth, in Him, you are complete… In Jesus dwells all that God is… and only in Him do you have that completeness (adapted from Colossians 2:9).”

2. From Josh Nelson’s sermon, “The Question Every Man Should Answer,” February 3, 2013:

“Jesus had time for kids. He said, let the little children come to me… He’s enjoying their presence… As guys, we think, my kids will love me if I buy them presents, when really all they need is our presence.”

“As a church, we need to be championing men.  Men need to lead.  What would the church look like if men led in worship? … The men who said, I’m gonna raise my hands because I stand before a Holy God.  And He has done so much for me that I can’t help but respond.”  When approaching the emotions of men, Josh bluntly testified, ” You get emotional, just about the wrong things” as he references the football games.

“As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15).

3.  From Josh Nelson’s sermon, “Four Things to Look for in a Man,”          February 24, 2013:

Josh reviews Jesus’ compassion in John 8:1-10, ” Jesus came to raise the standard. He came to change things…”  In order to do so, he demonstrated a trait we tend to shy away from. “Jesus, the lion, the lamb: confrontational, extremely confrontational”

“The purpose of confrontation is never condemnation; it’s always correction…Jesus is in the business of changing us from the inside out” by means of “the Holy Spirit challeng(ing) your heart.”

“God does not hate you; He may hate the situation you are in”

4. From Josh’s “Friend with Benefits,” March 3, 2013:

Reviewing Genesis 3:

“Eve had a relationship with God before she had a relationship with Adam.  She drew her identity, her security from God, first and foremost, and then, she met a man!”

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:7). Therefore, “I may not know you, but I do know this…if there is any area of your life that is falling apart, it’s because it’s not in Christ!…If you are not wrapped up in Christ and your marriage is not based on the Solid Rock of a relationship with Him, you can not make it.  The things we are going to talk about today are impossible to do on your own…. That’s the point! We need to have that relationship with Him.  We need to be connected with Him.  We need to have His grace working in and thru us so that we can be the men He has called us to be, to have the marriages He has called us to have.  But apart from Him, forget about it.  So, I’ve got a question for you men, ‘How are you treating God’s daughter?”’

“The Lord God called to the man,’where are you?'”(Genesis 3:9).  Josh raised his voice, “we are responsible to lead our families” and God will “keep us accountable.”

Speaking to the men, Pastor Josh referenced back to Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” He proclaimed, “If you don’t lead your family, Satan will!”

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December 21, 2013

Yesterday I had my best friend in my passenger seat and asked, “You’re the one who says ‘If God were to bless me with any one thing I don’t have it would be a singing voice’ right?”  I was incorrect in my wording.  For she does sarcastically remark she wish she had a better voice, but she followed my question by stating, “No, if God gave me one thing, I ask him to see myself through the eyes of others.”

As a precursor, I will have you know that I spent a portion of time revisiting my own insecurities before approaching this publicly.

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:4-5, NIV).

My worry is simple, I was immediately saddened to hear her response.  Her words made it clear that it had been on her mind for years.  My best friend is a beautifully fit 20-something with such spunk, but her past struggles have shaped her today and many tomorrows to come.

I truly believe God’s greatest works derive from revolutionizing an individual’s weaknesses into an opportunity of offering.  For me personally, family struggles throughout my childhood have developed my compassion for the isolated (dismissed and orphaned) and the abused.

For this friend and many other girls out there, as well as men, I pray everyday that our efforts are spent on preparing and strengthening our inner being for God’s work more so than our outward appearance.  I remember in my first year of college–at a small Christian school in the Rocky Mountain foothills–many upper-class female students rallied for natural beauty.  At my school it was the minority of girls who wore make-up.  I just recently began wearing make-up.  Now this isn’t me spouting about the “fake mask” ladies put on each morning, but rather the importance of our inner makings.

This friend I mentioned just packed a small suitcase to return for the month and in it: gym clothes.  Health is of great value to allowing us to minister with the greatest allotment of energy (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  However, she did not include her Bible, journal, nor glasses.  When she lost a contact, she went the day without seeing clearly.  Symbolically, I recognize that without glasses, she is nearly physically blind, and without the intention of spending time in God’s word above all else, this season, she will (hopefully not, but possibly) become spiritually blind and absent-minded as she progresses through her days for her own satisfaction rather then spending them on glorifying God.

When we get to Heaven, is God overjoyed by the muscular, lean bodies we present before Him or is it the purity of our hearts?

1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down — when we die and leave these bodies — we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. 4 Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. 6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-8, NLT).

It is my deepest hope, in the current moment, that this is my one and only post that will include body image. I say this because it is my genuine belief that the American people–especially in our current society and culture–spend too much money and time consumed with the worries of body image.  Whereas, as I mentioned before, it is my personal suggestion and understanding, and therefore, belief that the real characteristics that are valued and must be improved upon within our lives should be our ability to serve others and our understanding of our individual soul’s desires–not the human desires, but the desires that personify the will of God for the individual soul.  Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that so many individuals are feeling uninspired, humiliated by the person they embody, by that first impression they make, by how others perceive them, physically.  So, it is my desire, my utmost hope that we as a society can learn to respect an individual in the first encounter: not on the physical appearance, but the handshake, the confidence of the person’s abilities.

I once heard from Pastor Josh Nelson of “The Station” church in Carlsbad, California, “females hear love and they want to be told that they are beautiful; whereas, the male, his love language is through his eyes, and when complimented, he wants to be complimented on his abilities” (paraphrased).  I so strongly desire, that all of us (female and male) begin to unravel the male aspect.  It is so much more important for us to, yes recognize that we are all princes and princesses of God’s, and He has created us beautifully, that He created us when we were in our mother’s wombs, and that we are the perfect image of God (imago dei).

We have strayed, but He still sees us as His beautiful creatures.  When we approach others, we must see ourselves as the beautiful craftsmanship that we are.  We cannot be so worried about our outward being that we start saying that God’s craftsmanship is just not good enough.  It is as if we are walking around a gallery and saying, “this piece of art isn’t awe-striking, it isn’t inspiring.”  And who are we to judge God’s craftsmanship?

Rather, I would like to walk into a museum and be blown to pieces.  To enjoy staring at each piece and imagine the deeper meanings of each canvas.  That is exactly how God has created us.  The deeper meaning is within that purpose, the mission that He has created for us.  So yes, every person is a unique being, a different painting, orchestrated by a beautiful Creator, a Maker, a Painter, but it is not the image that we must stare upon and judge, it is the Painter, Himself.  The Creator’s original purpose and what it continues to be.
That is my hope: that each of us look upon ourselves and sees beyond the canvas.  That we look upon a Creator and thank Him for what we have.  That we are able to be like my old roommate and recognize the utility of our joints, thank Him that our knees are able to bend and serve Him, that are hands are able to reach out and pray for others.  That we don’t judge the size or boniness of our fingers based on physicality, but more so the utility and purpose and how our body functions to allow us to serve our God greater.

That is my prayer for us today.

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Contrast

December 9, 2013

This morning I awoke, singing “Great joy, great joy has found me in the midst of a hurricane” with cheerful praises and thanksgiving.

I believe fully that beauty and grace becomes more radiant when viewed in a state of opposition.  In photography a red berry pops when in focus against the blurred green leafs around it.  Also, women are told to wear makeup that contrasts their eye color: brown for blue and purple for green-eyed girls.

God has called us to return into darkness (not of the soul, but the physical surrounding) to radiate, as His Light is the source of all Life (John 8:12).

It is the Great Commission, the doings of Jesus’ life, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Jesus, continues by affirming His followers, “And surely I am with you always, to he very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

We are able to live, knowing that the Perfect, Most Divine God came and walked among the crippled, blind, and sick to remove wickedness and share His great Truth.  He took upon Himself the physical appearance of mankind and later sacrificed that body in order to remove all symbolism of sin that is upon the flesh.  Since Jesus’ physical life, we are able to live knowing Paul’s legacy, “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:8-9).

A British man and nationally recognized hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), said in his dying breath, “Thank God, I have done my duty.”

May this be how we all live.  Knowing that in the midst of war, depression (financial and emotional), natural disaster, and grief that kindness, grace, love, and mercy shine brighter, have greater impact.  In vulnerability, God can and does move mountains to bring His children home.

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December 6, 2013

Last night I heard a sermon by Jeff Moores at North Coast Church’s “The Jordan” college ministry.  Jeff’s sermon, entitled “Home Is” was the invitation to define home by the people not the building structure.

I find that God invites me to randomly join the college students during their time of worship not to approach the community, but to spend quality time in an environment, surrounded by His followers’ praises.

During the musical worship, before knowing the sermon topic, God utilized the love language of all women in me.  My ears were open and my heart melted for the realizations that flowed.  It was during this time that I realized, it was nearly a year ago that I told God, “I am ready, if you are willing” to gift me with my life companion, my spouse. I fully believe God grew me fonder of approaching that next chapter and am still passionate about awaiting (less passively) His intended relationship for me.

However, last night, something new progressed.  My life’s work, in Christ, is to serve the broken families, to invite the possible future good Samaritans of the world to find peace within the chaos and to seek an everlasting love.  My life’s work is the FAMILY.

Before the sermon began, I, for the first time, confessed, “Father, the one thing I know the least about is how to incorporate my blood family into my future family… my father and mother removed You to make compromise in the relationship. I will not compromise You for anyone!”

During this holiday season, when families follow the ole’ traditions of their previous generations, laughing around Christmas trees and singing praises of joy as a family, I find myself in the dark.

Last night, God affirmed me that He intentionally brings His followers into the darkness of the world, so that His Light shines brightly as the source of all Life.

My confession remained.  I am passionately seeking the best means to have, nurture, and counsel families living obediently to God’s great Truths.  And yet, I do not know how to have a home for the holidays.

I knew that I grew up without knowledge of god(s) due to my parent’s opposing religious backgrounds.  My parents sacrificed yearning for an everlasting love in order to quietly unite as a couple in marriage.  However, all my Christian life I felt dismissed for truly living a life of spirituality.

My worry last night was genuinely my greatest weakness, the one thing I believe my spouse will bring best into the marriage.  For I have no idea how to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with my future kids, honoring the season for the blessing it is scripturely without excluding my brothers and parents.

I do not desire for my children to admire materialism as I have in my childhood.

As a child, my father put blue and white Christmas lights up, celebrating the colors of Hanukkah while following Christmas tradition, but nothing more was ever done in celebration of the birth of Jesus nor the miracle of burning oil.

I don’t have family traditions. I have fond memories at my grandparent’s house, but cannot share them directly with my future family.  I began to become saddened by the imbalance of my spiritual giftings, mission, and understanding of a home.

Just one day later, God shattered my newly recognized fears.

Tonight, my father told my brothers and I that we had received Hanukkah checks from his mother.  We were to call her and thank you for the gift.  These bi-yearly (Hanukkah and birthday) calls have always been an awkward experience.  However, tonight God ensured me that He is present.  My grandmother spoke, “We are so proud of you.. you are out there saving the world.”  She meant it truly.  I out of a dismay replied, “Nah…just one life at a time.”  My work is rescuing the physical and emotional lives of individuals struggling to move on.  Her words were quite literal, and yet, it took me a while to find the truth in her concern.  For the second time, I heard a distant relative uplift and applaud the progression of my life rather than rant about their disinterest in such work.

I have yet to give up on the Almighty God in terms of bringing salvation to my family, but this, this was entirely more than I had ever anticipated.

I run from my parents.  While understanding, “honor thy father and mother,” I live a life on the cusp, bordering between respecting their authority and rejecting  their direction apart from God’s Path.

I have not felt their support, and once again, the blamed source of all my family’s pain is used as God’s means to remind me: there is good.

He even has me delighted by the thought of visiting my Jewish grandparent’s home, randomly and independently, for the first time since my rebirth 6 years ago.

He truly moves mountains…and the view, breath-taking.

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