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Archive for November, 2014

Eh Chu….Bless you.

The origin of sneeze salutations:

Is there more integrity when “bless you” is stated from one who believes in an abundance of blessings poured upon God’s people, or has it become a polite use of words?

Some choose to say an arrangement of words meaning “good health to you” instead.

But for those who do say, regularly, “Bless you” or “God bless you,” I ask, “Are you truly speaking blessings from God over the individual?

Stories suggest that when one sneezes it opens the body to ‘evil’ entering the body.  For this, it makes much sense to ask God to bless the individual in fighting of the evil presence.  For those who do not know or believe the story to be true, why bless someone after sneezing?

I would like to consider a sneeze as an invitation to bring the good name of God into conversation.  An invitation to make His presence known by all people in our environment.  For disciples, this can be true.  For those who say it and may not know God or even hate the concept of god(s), I praise God that despite their contempt, praise is being lifted high.

We can delight in every salutation given after one sneezes.  Whether they believe or not, we can lift praise Heavenward and worship Him in our hearts.  Allow each sneeze you hear today to bring you in a state of worship.

Consider God to be your near Friend, a Healer to the sick, and a Father to the wounded at heart.  If a sneeze is an open door to ‘evil’ or ‘sickness’ then it too is an invitation for God’s victorious hand to be known.  May He bring comfort in the salutation following a sneeze.

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Without any theological backing, I began to give much attention to this stream of thoughts.  I began to consider, “do the Northern White Rhinos know they are the final 6 in all of existence?  Is there anything in them that can sense they no longer have family?  I assume not, since they chose not to breed with one another.  But as humans, we hear people say, “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man/woman on earth,” but really, would you?

God sent Noah two of every kind so that when the boat landed the animals and humans would continue in existence, as He initially designed.  Now we see extinction occurring, and mankind is to blame for crimes against creation and also the efforts in saving the species currently present on earth.

As Christians we believe that Jesus will come before the end of mankind, but for the secular world, is reproduction an importance?  Is reproduction a direct act of obedience to God’s creating us to live in community?

We look at environmental issues and consider that peoples across the world go without enough resources for the population.  China made perimeters to control such an end.

But really, if you were the only individual of your sex, would you take the responsibility upon yourself to continue the human race?

What does your answer say about how we consider our role and influence upon the good of humanity in modern life?

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On Wednesday I was posed the question, “What is faith?” Off the top of my head I rambled on, “confident hope in the unseen.”

Today I found myself rejecting several homes via a skype-in real estate tour of properties in Charlotte.  It was difficult to see the houses were not living up to my presupposed expectations.

I had hoped that the houses would deliver a balance of the purpose God gave me for the space along with safety and resale value.  Was it confident hope in the unseen? No. I did not have faith in the houses, I merely hoped they would turn out.

It struck me, hope is suggesting partial assurance in something with or without any evidence.  Whereas faith, is suggesting full assurance and choosing to fully devote oneself to something without any concrete evidence.  How would you distinguish the two?

On my 2-hour drive, where most of my deep thinking occurs on Saturdays, I began to praise God.  Praise you God, that you provided me with a House of Worship.  In the past, I’ve moved and had a place to live but sought out a place to worship regularly for weeks, sometimes months.  This time, I am already deeply challenged to draw closer to God and His Body through the church.

In the same conversation with the dear, mature sister in Christ I mentioned pointed to me as a “Starter,” I also shared about my heart for the persecuted.  Praying not only for the persecuted, but also for the persecutors.  Noting how rich the testimony of an ISIS member-turned-Christian would be in sharing God’s Truth to Muslims around the world.  We see Paul as a free man, confident in the Truths of the Gospel.  However, Paul was a persecutor, turned persecuted.  With confident hope, I too, stand before the world as  a Follower of Jesus.  If my time comes to take a zealous pledge, then let it be known that I love God with all my heart, all my soul, and all my body.  That my living breath is a living sacrifice and that in my dying, I will be forevermore in His Presence.

Point is, I love my church.  The Church is the Bride of Christ, and as He loves His Church, I too love that He has called me to fellowship here at The Station but to also move and join Uptown.  I pray to always remain faithful in my walking, to speak when he opens my mouth, to listen when my lips can no longer move and my ears hear his tender voice.

Confession, I listened to this sermon on my way home tonight, prayed about what I learned, then started it again.

http://www.uptownchurch.org/sermons/worship-cant-stop-wont-stop/

Are you ready to take the pledge? If not, what is keeping you from having such confidence?

After vowing to God tonight, I asked “who is to keep me accountable?”  With a quick reply,  I thanked God that his provision of an answer could only strengthen my confidence in His provision in the face of persecution.   He is the Great Judge, and I praise Him for ruling in His own favor.  Glory be to God.

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The Garden House is a safe haven for 10 girls ages 9 to 18.  All who have been rescued from sex trafficking in Tijuana, Mexico.   I have had the opportunity to visit these girls twice in the past year and am planning the next trip this holiday season, along with other church members.  We are currently raising funds to provide these girls with their Christmas Wish List.  Each girl asked for essential clothing items, the 9-year-old would like a soccer ball and/or bike, two 14-year-olds would like blankets, and a 16-year-old would appreciate a stuffed panda.  Simple requests, nothing too extravagant.  A general list is also in circulation for the essentials (toiletries, cleaning, food, etc.).  I’d like to see each thing offered to the house.  Let’s band together and pray for an abundance, for radical devotion to God’s call of giving.  But don’t stop there, also, give, yourself.

Realistically, it makes no sense to send everyone off with the same shopping list, so we’ve made it easy.  You can donate to a special fund on the church tithe page.

The ministry itself is quite impressive.  Although we are Southern Californians, of the group of us who have gone down, none of us have been fluent in Spanish.  There is one girl of the rescued girls who speaks English, that’s it.  As God’s children we are blessed, for His absolute knowledge allows boundaries to be broken as He pleases.  Language is not a barrier; rather, it has become natural to share affection for one another during our visits despite the lack of mutually understood spoken word.

I mentioned this one girl.  Eighteen.  Abused and sent into the industry by her own father.  Her father, a religious leader in Mexico.  At the Garden House, she shares of God’s redeeming grace in her life.  Her image of God was not defiled by her father’s actions.  As I have prayed over her life this past year, I began to consider these girls as orphans–a lot has gone into this justification, it is not taken lightly.   We, as Christians, are all called to care for orphans and the widows:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV).

Our first visit, King’s Day, was also a day of grief for the girls.  Our pastor led us in prayer with the House Mom translating for the girls.  One of their “sisters” had attempted to take her own life.  I also learned that several of the girls have/are testifying against their persecutors, those who were responsible for their trafficking.  The young girls have been dealt a great deal.  Because of the emotional trauma they have each experienced, there are on site psychologists that work with the girls, a full-time security guard, an on-site big sister, an American missionary who teachers the girls about God through art, and several volunteers who shine God’s glory in their residence.  They are safe, protected by the wings of our Mighty Eagle.

I’d like to consider my pastor’s response to something else just a few week’s ago, “I know it is not these muscles carrying all the weight.”  In referring to the emotional weight on his figurative shoulders, Pastor Josh knew that God provided the strength to pastor this church, to counsel its’ members, and to stand up for His Kingdom in our city.  In the same way, these girls have the strength to carry on and to grow deeper in intimacy with Him, to call out to Him as Father, and to unite as sisters in His eternal Family.  They are now truly experiencing unconditional, agape love.

This last visit, we celebrated the opening of a new house.  The government requested their Tijuana house and they moved to a remote location.  A larger, secluded house where the girls have more space and are free to go outside.  They even have trips to the beach.  God provided well for His cherished princesses.

A 12-year-old and 9-year-old were both new to the house when we visited over summer.  As I painted each of their nails, they remained social only with the other girls.  While showing off their art work, demonstrations of why they appreciate the house, they both shied away, behind their individual posters.  By the end of the day, I nearly fell to the ground when they both jumped on me at the same time.  They each yearned for attention, for a sincere embrace.  Pure. Beautiful.  Things the world does not see, and yet, by the blood of Christ, it is all I could see as their faces lit up with joy and they paraded around in their ceremony dresses.

Please pray for these girls, for the ministry, and also know that their house is in need of construction work.  Regular upkeep is necessary, household essentials are needed, prayers and awareness are needed.  To learn more visit InternationalNetworkofHearts.com and follow them on Facebook for updates on prayer requests and praise reports.

We are called to be missionaries to the nations, to share God’s love and the news of Jesus to all peoples.  During this holiday season and throughout each day of the entire year, may you practice discipline in considering these girls in your prayer life.  Disciplined to be gracious with all that God has gifted you.  Disciplined to please God with obedience.

“Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world” (James 1:27, The Message).

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In preparing for the move to Charlotte, I posted my resume on a job website and received a free resume critique, in which I read, “You come across as a ‘doer,’ not an ‘achiever.'”

I was taken aback.

Began to think of all the failures that must be perceived if what she wrote was accurate.  Luckily, I have a friend who knows me better than I know myself, and He reminded me of words He inspired a dear, mature sister in Christ to share with me just last week.

“Melanie, I see you as a starter.  You won’t always see the impact you have, but you will be used to plant the seed” (paraphrased).

Whatever seeds God chooses for my life’s work to plant, I will be grateful (1 Corinthians 3:6).  And to whomever, He places in the ministry’s path to water the seed, I am grateful.  To the One who grows the seed, I am eternally grateful.

To Miss. Resume Editor, I will no longer hold offense to your words, but I will not value them either.  For I know that my purpose is to “do” and that does not always allow me the privilege of seeing a work completed.

 

 

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Whether you take Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday as a day of Sabbath rest, may you find yourself

  • Away from:
    • Physical labor (Exodus 20:8-11; Proverbs 6:9-11, 24:30-34; Exodus 31:12-17)
    • Fear, worry, and anxiety (Psalm 37:7, Philippians 4:6-7)
    • Amidst trial and trouble (Psalm 55:5-8, 116:5-9)
  • By God’s purpose:
    • Refreshed (Exodus 31:17, Mark 6:30-32)
    • Restored (Psalm 23:1-3, Mark 6:45-52)
    • Gifted (Psalm 127:1-2, 4:8; Proverbs 3:24)
    • Sustained (Psalm 3:5, 121:1-4)
    • Trusting in God’s ultimate sovereignty (Psalm 46:10, Isaiah 30:12-15, John 5:16-18)
    • With hope in God’s ultimate salvation (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 6:11, 14:13-14, 22:1-4, 22:20-21)

Most of all, I pray that we too are able to sing this, praising Father, Son and Spirit as we enter into rest:

Lord, I believe a rest remains
To all Thy people known,
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns,
And Thou art loved alone.
A rest where all our soul’s desire
Is fixed on things above;
Where fear, and sin, and grief expire,
Cast out by perfect love.
O that I now the rest might know,
Believe, and enter in!
Now, Savior, now the power bestow,
And let me cease from sin.
Remove this hardness from my heart,
This unbelief remove:
To me the rest of faith impart,
The Sabbath of Thy love.

-A hymn by Charles Wesley-

*Also a compilation taken from David Platt’s Secret Church 2014: Session 4

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“Ten Cross-Centered Commandments for Entertainment and Social Media”, David Platt:

May you set aside the time to study these scriptures and ask God where you may need to make changes in the use of your time.

“If we have been crucified with Christ and Christ lives in us, then how does that effect the way we approach entertainment and social media?”

  1. Fear God
    • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).
    • “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
  2. Flee sexual immorality
    • Flee sexual lust– wrongful sexual desires yourself
      • “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
    • Flee sexual immodesty– provoking wrong sexual desires in others
      • “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (Romans 14:21).
      • “…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is properfor women who profess godliness–with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
        • This is a lesson I feel nearly all women must face in young adulthood.  I remember my sophomore year of high school (before I knew Christ), my friend had to tell me why my boyfriend just removed me from sitting on his lap at a football game.  I had no concept of sexual-anything. Then, freshman year of college, a brother in Christ took me aside one day to talk about hugging.  He had struggled through addition to pornography and shared that when we hugged it was a lure to consider his old ways.  I had a similar conversation about necklines on shirts and dresses.  Today, when around my brother (21 and doesn’t know the Lord), I sometimes get complimented on clothing and other times get called Amish.  Nonetheless, I know that my clothing should not lead someone astray.  I know girls, we also have our weakness, especially at the beach, gym, etc.  This is a concern, may we be strengthened in a way that strengthens others: modest (Proverbs 27:17).
    • Flee sexual allurement- including inappropriate emotional attachment outside of marriage
      • “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:223).
      • “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.  For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it” (Proverbs 5:1-6).
    • Flee sexual looking outside of marriage
      • “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high?  Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?  Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” (Job 31:1-4).
      • “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4).
    • Flee entertainment that exalts, glamorizes, jokes around about, and/or makes light of sex outside of marriage
      • Ephesians 5:3-12
  3. Speak wisely
    • “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.   You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:33-34).
    • “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.  Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.  For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:32-36).
    • Think before you speak
      • Proverbs 10:19, 11:22, 13:3, 15:28, 17:28, 18:2, 21:23, 26:23, 29:11, 29:20; James 3:5-10
      • “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
        • Will what I say adorn the gospel?
          • Proverbs 15:23, 16:13; Titus 2:9-10
          • “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body: (Proverbs 16:24).
          • “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison–that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:3-6).
        • Will what I say glorify God?
          • “Let the words of my moth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
          • Matthew 5:13-16
    • Avoid evil and angry speech
      • Proverbs 10:11, 12:18, 15:18, 18:6, 20:3, 25:23
    • Avoid retaliatory and inflammatory speech
      • Proverbs 17:14, 20:22, 23:9, 26:17, 29:8
    • Avoid gossip and slander
      • Proverbs 10:18, 16:27-28
      • “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear…Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4: 29-32).
    • Avoid grumbling and complaining
      • “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15).
    • Avoid saying on a screen what you wouldn’t say in person
      • 2 Corinthians 10:8-11
  4. Communicate honestly
    • Proverbs 12:17-22, 19:9, 25:14, 1 Corinthians 4:5
    • “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit” (Proverbs 16:2).
  5. Cultivate humility
    • Proverbs 11:2, 20:6, 24:17-18, 27:2, 29:23, 30:32; Mark 8:34-36; 2 Timothy 3:2;
    • “…Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:6-10).
  6. Have accountability
    • Proverbs 5:7-13, 13:1, 19:20, 19:27, 27:17; Hebrews 10:24
  7. Maintain mastery
    • “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12).
    • Galatians 5: 16-26
  8. Guard your heart
    • “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
    • From envy and jealousy
      • “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” (1 Timothy 6:6).
      • Philippians 4:11-13
    • From pride and ambition
      • “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
    • From unhealthy friendships and unhelpful associations
      • Proverbs 1:10-16, 4:14-15, 12:26, 13:20
      • “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals”‘ (1 Corinthians 15:33).
  9. Renew your mind
    • “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
    • Beware of falsehood
      • Romans 16:17-18, Colossians 2:8, 2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Peter 2:1
    • Beware of filth
      • “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.  I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3).
      • Proverbs 2:12-22
      • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
    • Beware of frivolity
      • Proverbs 12:11, 15:14, 26:18-19;  1 Peter 1:24-25
  10. Redeem your time
    • Ephesians 5:15-16, Proverbs 10:26, 14:23, 19:15, 24:30-34, 28:19
    • Make the most out of every opportunity
      • Acts 17:17-18, Colossians 4:5
    • Don’t neglect other priorities
      • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
        • Your time at work (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12)
        • Your time to rest (Psalm 127:2, Mark 6:32)
        • Your time with people (Matthew 22:39)
        • Your time with God (Matthew 22:37)

And always pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

*These are compiled from David Platt’s Session 4 sermon from Secret Church 2014.  All black font is exact, sometimes shortened, but the integrity of his sermon notes remains.  I have added commentary in a separate color.

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