Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Miracle Season

Well, there's happy news and sad news. The sad news is, Shawn and I won't be going to India this summer. The happy news is twofold. First, two other people will go in our stead, and I will keep up the donation link to help them get there. Second, the reason we aren't going is because Shawn is being transferred to Huntsville, AL, and his start date at the new locale is in the middle of the trip. This is a very good thing for us, and an answer to prayer!

For the past two years Shawn has worked in Washington, DC. He has had to commute 4 1/2 hours every day he goes to the office. Fortunately he has been able to work from home some, but the last two years have been very difficult for him. It's hard for me and the kids, too, when he is away that much. It's also been very challenging for us financially. The cost of living is pretty high in the DC area, and haven't been able to live closer to shorten Shawn's commute. We've been blessed to have a place to live provided for us, but the situation has not been ideal, and not what we envisioned. We are very grateful for what we've had the past couple of years and for what we've learned. We have gotten closer to each other in unexpected ways and God has revealed areas where He wants to work in us. Our time here has been hard and good, but we are ready for a change, the kids included.

God has done so much work on our behalf in the past 6 months, and we've been amazed as we have watched His hand at work. Shawn has received amazing favor at work. Essentially a position was created for him. That simply does not happen with his employer. Normally they have to open the position to the entire company and put everyone through an application process, even if they have someone in mind for the position. This time they didn't follow the normal protocol.

Shawn's ability to take the position was dependent on our house in North Carolina selling. When we first moved to Virginia we attempted to sell the house, but we didn't get a single bite for three months. We could have left it on the market longer, but we simply couldn't afford to maintain an empty house while we lived in Virginia, so we rented the house out. The renters vacated the property this past December. The total cost of repairs to get the house ready to sell was less than $2500! We put the house on the market toward the end of January and had an offer in less than two weeks! The market is still pretty slow in our area of NC, and there was another house for sell on our cul-de-sac that was listed for less than ours, so for us to have an offer in less than two weeks was nothing less than God's hand at work. Well, the offer was a low-ball offer, so I really didn't believe those were the right buyers for us. I thought God was going to work something else out. One day Shawn and I were praying and he prayed that if these were the right buyers that God would work it out. Well, of course I "knew" that these weren't the right buyers, so I prayed that God would bring the right offer and that He would work everything out for the best of everyone involved. A couple of days later we got word that the buyers brought their offer up almost $15,000! I was overjoyed and humbled and thankful that God answered Shawn's prayer. Well, we closed on the sale last Monday and a couple of days later Shawn's transfer was made official and we were given his transfer date.

I'm astounded by the miracles we've seen in our lives the last few months, but I know that miracle season isn't over for us yet. The cost of living in Alabama is much lower than here in VA. We're praying for a property with a few acres attached so we can start a small farm (more on that in a later post). We've found some properties in the area with a few acres for less than $100,000. We could rent for awhile to make sure of where in the area we want to live, but I just feel that God has a place all picked out for us. Not to give too much away yet, but the farming thing is something God has been growing in my heart the last few years and it's time to start acting on the vision. I'm so excited about how He is going to use this to build His Kingdom! Since this is His work, I know He will provide what is needed so we can fulfill it.

It's been nice having Shawn's family nearby, and we hate that we'll be so far from them. We will also miss our church here and the relationships we've made. We've been privileged to sit under some of the best pastors we've encountered. Their hearts for their people is so refreshing and our time in the church has been a time of rest for us. We've made some great friendships here, too, and we'll miss them as well. I know that God will transplant us into another wonderful church family and he will bring people alongside that we can be friends with and that we can partner with to build His Kingdom. My sister also lives about 90 minutes from Huntsville and it will be good to be closer to her. Plus it will be easier for my parents to have us both in the same area. And, of course, there's always Facebook, and email, and cellphones, and Skype, so we can keep in touch with those that we're leaving behind.

I'd love it if you will join with us in prayer as we prepare to move and start our new venture. Pray for provision, safety, and that I will develop more self-discipline! Also, pray for the India team that God will provide for their needs and that He will do an amazing work through them. And please donate if you feel God's leading. There are 11 team members and the basic cost of the trip is $2700 each, which does not include additional expenses like shots, spending money, etc. I'm praying Shawn and I can make the trip next year. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and get my passport so that I'll be ready for the next opportunity that comes my way. I'm so thankful for what God is doing for and through us. Praise God for miracle season!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What Are You Full Of?

This message is from Steve Kelly, the Senior Pastor of Wave Church. Ps Steve lived was born in New York till he was nine when his parents emigrated to Australia. He grew up in an alcoholic home and became a Christian in his late teens. He eventually became an associate pastor at Hillsong in Sydney and was the leader of their college. He had always dreamed of returning to the US to minister, and God opened the door for him in 1999 at Church of the Redeemer (now Wave Church) in Virginia Beach, VA. God has done a wonderful work there. This is the church through which Shawn and I met, and we were married by one of the pastors there, Tom Harmon. I'm thankful for our time there, and for what God did in our lives while we were involved in the church. This message was delivered on July 30, 2000, shortly after Ps Steve returned from the Hillsong conference in Australia.

Questions about your heart:

Proverbs 27:19
Ephesians 3:19-20
Psalm 16:1

  • 1. Who, or what, is the lord of your heart?
    • You soon see who the lord of your heart is by your words.
Psalm 16:5-9

  • 2. What does the night season reveal about your heart?
    • Your heart can only instruct you according to what it knows.
    • Can your heart remain steady in any season?
Psalm 45:1

  • 3. What theme overflows from your heart?
    • Being filled with the Spirit changes what flows from your heart.
1 Samuel 18:1

  • 4. What associations identify with your heart?
    • What soul does your soul knit to?
    • What type of people identify with you?
    • What type of people do you identify with?

My thoughts: These are great questions I should be asking myself periodically to examine the health of my relationship with God. We are judged by our fruit and honest answers to these questions will reveal the fruit that I am bearing. These questions shouldn't be handled lightly, so I'm not going to answer them here and now, but prayerfully in my devotional time tomorrow. I do feel that the answers to these questions are different now than they would have been at the beginning of the year. I can say that in recent weeks my heart has instructed me to draw closer to Him, for which I am very thankful.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Stop Making Excuses and Go For It!

Since I'm doing a series of posts of sermon notes, I would be remiss not to include current notes from the church I'm attending now. This past Sunday we had an amazing service at Crossroads Vineyard. We launched our first church plant, Skyline Vineyard in Falls Church, VA. Jeff and Diane Wright are the pastors of this plant. Jeff was one of our pastors at Crossroads for several years. He is an amazingly intelligent man and a deep thinker who cares very deeply about people and evangelizing the lost. The motto for Skyline is, "Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly." What a difference the Church would make in the world if we truly lived this way! This is what he shared for his last sermon at Crossroads (though I'm sure he'll be back as a visiting speaker!):

Acts 20:17-24
  • There is a God who adores you and desires your life to be transformed by His grace. He wants to bring you from where you are to where He is. He desires you to have a life of worship--a love walk with Him.
  • Mediocrity is not a spiritual gift. Pursue excellence.
  • What are you compelled to do that you are ignoring?
    • What's stopping you?
  • When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see? A loser?
    • When Jesus looks at you, He sees a son or daughter.
    • When God looks at you, He sees Jesus.
    • Learn to see yourself as God sees you!
  • There's no change you can make for Jesus to love you more, but there's a lot of change you need to do to love Him back.
    • Where are you wasting you time, money, and talent? 
    • What are you doing instead of loving Him?
    • Are you trading toilet water for living water?
  • What is He calling you to do now?
    • God is more interested in your call and your life than you are.
    • What excuses are keeping you from action?
    • Don't worry about the details! Let God handle them.

My thoughts: Man, God just keeps hitting me with this stuff! Again, this confirms to me that I'm on the path that He has laid out for me. It's time for me to stop making excuses and start acting! (And by "acting," I'm not talking about joining a theatrical troop.) Faith without works is dead. It's time to starting putting my faith to work by building God's Kingdom. He's been filling my heart with so much new and renewed vision recently, and there are some things I feel compelled to do. Going to India is definitely one of those things. The other is something that God has been growing in my heart for some time. I will share it soon. My prayer is that in an effort to become equipped I don't get side-tracked by the act of preparation. For me it's easy to allow what I perceive as my limitations to stop me from doing what God has called me to. I've also let fear and feelings of inadequacy paralyze me. And there's my tendency to pursue momentary desires instead of delaying gratification. I'm determined to consider each choice in the light of whether it builds my kingdom or His. I want to surrender my ideal of personal security and live by faith. I definitely want to go all in! Dear God, empower me to fulfill Your call on my life!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Keeping Your Vision Fresh

Robert Cameron, July 9, 2000

(Robert Cameron is for one of my faith heroes. He’s a cheerful, robust Scotsman who’s love for God shows in everything I’ve seen him say or do. He is a great man of faith. I can hear his brogue as I go through these notes. He is an associate pastor at Wave Church, and is in charge of the Wave Network of churches. His family traveled around the country for years preaching and singing.)

Primary text - 1 Samuel 3:1-10
     Verse 2 says that Samuel was in his usual place.
  • God is looking for a Church that's on the edge, not on the run. (1 Peter 2:9)
  • A person without vision ail always revisit the past.
  • Vision will... 
    • Give you boundaries.
    • Teach how to go straight.
      • Have a goal and set your eyes upon it. (John 21:3-7, 1 Samuel 16:1-13)
    • Help you to spend your money correctly.
    • Drive you to new heights.
    • Stretch you.
    • Cause you to attempt great things for God and expect great things from Him.
  • Lack of vision will...
    • Cause complacency.
      • It's dangerous to get too familiar with the things of God. (The old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt.")
      • With complacency there is no expectancy.
        • It produces nothing.
        • It'll put you in a rut. The only difference between a rut and a grave is depth.
      • Complacency brings a lack of intimacy.
      • Complacency brings a lack of sensitivity.
      • Complacency will bring calamity and chaos.
    • Cause judgment.
    • Cause death.
Habakkuk 2:2 - How to keep vision fresh.
  • Write it down. Develop a mission statement.
  • Get out of your "usual place".
    • Don't settle for good. The good is the enemy of the best.
  • Expect God to move.
    • Faith expects miracles.
  • Ask God to bring your vision to pass.
    • Be very determined about it.
      • You have to be just as determined to see your family saved as Satan is to have them.
  • Fellowship with visionaries.
    • Attitude rubs off.
  • Talk about your vision.
    • Bring it to life.
    • Keep your heart right.
If we have vision and passion, we won't have to worry about discipline and commitment.

My thoughts: I used to have vision, but I let it grow stale and lost sight of it. I became complacent. Recently God has been restoring my vision, and growing new vision in my heart. This time around I need to endeavor to keep it fresh. I need to become determined to see it come to pass. In the past I've let fear stop me. It's time to become an overcomer. I need to be proactive about associating with visionaries. Developing new relationships is another area where I've allowed fear to stop me. I definitely need to get out of my usual place. Going to India would fulfill that. Lord, thank You for what You are showing me through so many voices. Help me to refresh my vision and to overcome the fear that has held me back from fulfilling it in the past. Thank You for fresh starts. Enable me to not only start well, but also to finish well. 

What does this message speak to you? Have you kept your vision fresh? Like me, do you need to refresh your vision? What do you do to keep your vision fresh?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Healthy Eating Helpful Links

Here are the links that I think are good places to start:

Traditional Diet:
Weston A. Price Foundation (This is an excellent source for all sorts of information about traditional foods like raw milk and the dangers of modern foods like soy.)
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, by Sally Fallon Morell*
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, by Weston A. Price (This is the original version and is free to read online. For a more recently published, updated version, go here*.)
Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition, 2nd Edition, by Ramiel Nagel*
Bread Beckers, "The Bread of Idleness" (I no longer agree with her method of bread making, but I highly recommend this CD. It is very thought provoking and talks about why in our modern society we see so much disease.)
Passionate Homemaking (This is the main blog that got me started doing more research into traditional foods)
The Healthy Home Economist
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
(There are a ton more great blogs out there, but most of them link back to these and you can easily find them through a Google search.)

General Health and Wellness:
Natural News

Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia, by Natasha Campbell McBride, MD*
Gaps Guide, by Baden Lashkov* (This book is currently unavailable. She has a new edition coming out next month.)
Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet, by Elaine Gloria Gottschall* (This is about SCD--Specific Carbohydrate Diet--that Dr. McBride based GAPS on.) 
Health, Home, & Happiness (She has a very helpful meal plan ebook you can purchase to do Intro in 30 days.)
Loving Our Guts
The Well-fed Homestead

While this list is not strictly food, vaccines are taken into the body and have a major impact on total health.
CDC Table of Vaccine Ingredients (For me this was the most eye-opening piece of information about what makes vaccines unsafe. There are ingredients like formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury, monkey kidney tissue, and even aborted fetal tissue used in vaccines. Once I read this information I knew we needed to stop vaccinating our kids.)
National Vaccine Information Center
Vaccine Injury Info

*These are affiliate links.

Our Food Journey - Part 2

Taking the GAPS Plunge

I had done a lot of research about a traditional diet, and we had seen some improvement in our health after we started eating that way. However, as I continued reading about a truly healthy lifestyle (and anyone who is my friend on Facebook knows that I read A LOT about how to be healthy) I began learning about the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and how it can benefit children on the Autism spectrum. I learned about gut dysbiosis and realized that all five of us probably have it to some extent and realized that GAPS is not just an Autism diet. I also realized that even though we had seen some improvement with a traditional diet, if we wanted full healing we would need to go further. I began researching the GAPS diet more and more and felt it could help us (this video convinced me), but I have to admit that I was very intimidated. Even with all the changes we had made there were still lots more we would need to make, and I would have to make almost all of our food from scratch.  I already had a lot on my hands with homeschool and housework, but the more I read and prayed the more I knew that God was leading us to take the GAPS plunge. I left it on the back burner for awhile until a local friend told me that she wanted to try the GAPS diet, too, for her son who is Aspergers. This was the thing I needed to spur me into action. I ordered Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia, by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride* and Gaps Guide, by Baden Lashkov* and read them cover to cover. What I read in the books made total sense and confirmed we were on the right track. Even so it was last summer before we actually got started. My friend also added me to a Facebook group devoted to the GAPS diet. That has been one of the most helpful resources for me of all. The people in the group are very knowledgable and I have learned so much from them I could write a book. (If you'd like to join the group, let me know. It's a closed group, so I would need to add you.) Right now we are doing what is considered the "full" version of the diet, which is the least restrictive. (We've been trying to figure out when to do the Intro and decided we'd wait till after we move and get settled for various reasons.)

Even though we haven't done Intro yet, we have already seen a good amount of healing. My son's temper tantrums have almost completely gone away. It used to be that when he got upset I'd have to have him go in the bedroom to cool off. He'd still be yelling and acting out 30 minutes or so later, so I would go in and hold him, wrestle him, tickle him, etc., to get him to calm down. Sometimes it took well over an hour before he would settle. Now he still gets stubborn at times, but it's much easier to reason with him and he almost never tantrums. My youngest daughter would have whole days of cranky and irritable behavior and she would tantrum at the drop of a hat. She can still be quit dramatic, but she never has whole days of difficult behavior anymore. We're still hoping to see improvements in their speech. I'm thinking we'll have to do Intro to see changes there. My oldest daughter would complain every day that her stomach was hurting and she would get carsick very easily--almost every time we got in the car. Since we've been on GAPS she has very rarely complained of a stomach ache and her carsickness has almost completely abated. I think this is because if you already have a stomach ache before you get in the car, riding in the car will make it much worse. Since she doesn't have stomach aches anymore she doesn't get carsick as often. My husband and I have both lost weight. I was the heaviest I'd ever been (even compared to when I was pregnant) before we started the diet last June. I have lost almost 30 pounds as my body has healed, and I don't even go to the gym. My husband has also had comparatively fewer migraines since we started doing GAPS. The diet isn't easy, and we still have a long way to go, but I'm encouraged by the healing we've had so far, and I can't wait to see what happens as the result of doing Intro.

One of the nice things about this diet is, unlike the GF/CF diet, GAPS is not a life sentence. As your body heals, you can potentially add things back into your diet that caused problems before. We will never go back to SAD eating. If we eat grains they will be soaked or sprouted first. Pretty much all of our seed-based foods will be scratch made so that I can control how they are processed. We won't return to processed sugars. We'll continue eating pastured meat and eggs. We'll drink raw milk. We'll eat almost no processed food, and we'll be very selective about the processed food we do allow. And we'll consume lots of bone broth. There's a lot of reasons behind maintaining these changes. One of the most important things I've come to realize is that many of the outward symptoms we see, like being overweight, behavior issues, acne, allergies, and the list goes on, are merely symptoms of a deeper problem. In our society we want to take shortcuts and treat the symptoms without dealing with the source of the problem. Through GAPS we have begun dealing with the source of the problem and have seen true healing as a result. Because of that we don't want to consume foods that could compromise all the hard work we've done so far. So I've learned to be selective and make wise food choices. (I'll talk some more about what I've learned in a later post.) Are there some things I miss eating? Of course, but I the long-term benefits have become more important to me than the momentary pleasure. I want to see my children healthy and I want them to succeed, and I will do whatever I can to make that a reality.

So that brings us to where we are today. There's lots of great information out there about how and why to eat healthy food, and most of what we have been told about what is healthy is wrong. If you decide to go on your journey of healthy eating, do so with prayer and an open mind. You just may be amazed at what you learn and the vibrant health you gain as a result!

Check out the links I've posted here to help you get started.

*These are affiliate links.

Our Food Journey - Part 1

From Awareness to Reality

I have had several people ask me lately about how and why we eat like we do, how we got started, and so on. So, I thought I'd kill several birds with one stone and put it all down in a blog post. I have to say that there is no doubt in my mind that God has taken us on this journey. He wants what is best for us not just spiritually, but physically as well. So, here goes!

When I became a teenager a couple of things happened that changed my general awareness regarding food. First I had the privilege to go on several missions trips in which I was exposed to several different types of food from other cultures. Before this I had been a pretty picky eater, but overseas we were required to eat everything that was set before us. This pretty much cured me of my pickiness. Also, my family got involved in Melaleuca, Inc. This gave me an awareness of the dangers of chemicals and the need for natural ways to clean and be healthy. My parents stopped buying Pepsi for us to drink all the time and we started drinking more tea and water. We also started eating whole grain bread. We also started using natural cleaners. However, beyond that I didn't go much past awareness and avoiding some chemicals. I still ate a pretty typical Standard American Diet (SAD). When I think back on the stuff I used to eat... UGH! I ate some pretty nasty stuff back then.

With my limited knowledge of what is "healthy" I navigated my 20s, and gained a good bit of weight in the process. I met Shawn when I was 26, and we married a little over a year later. He had grown up eating a much more healthy diet that I did. His parents were more aware of the problems with sugar, white flour, and MSG than were mine. Also, since his family was from California, they were familiar with ingredients that I was unfamiliar with. Shawn's mother taught me to use and love things like cilantro and avocados. When I was pregnant with my first child I somehow knew enough to try to have a natural delivery, so I read some books, learned the Bradley method & sought out a midwife who was part of a conventional OB-GYN practice. I was having a lot of pain in my ribs from costochondritis (inflammation in the lining of the rib cage), so she referred me to an amazing chiropractor, Dr. David Block.  He recommended that we not get our daughter vaccinated and suggested a really good pediatrician. (I did consider his suggestion, but at the time I was pretty ignorant about vaccines and only knew the information provided by conventional medicine and the media. It didn't even occur to me at the time to research the ingredients in the vaccines. If I had, I would have definitely refused all vaccines. As it was, we did wait till she was a year old before we started vaccinating.) After my daughter was born I still had to work till she was eight months old. I had a terrible pump at the time and wasn't able to get enough milk for her when she wasn't with me. She also had trouble with dairy. I had to go off all dairy while I was nursing. When I ate dairy she would scream half the day. After I went off dairy she was a different baby within two weeks. (Of course, at the time, the only dairy I consumed was conventional dairy. I didn't know about the benefits of raw milk at the time.) I needed something to supplement nursing while I was at work. We tried soy formula, but she wouldn't take it (and for that I'm extremely grateful now since I've learned more about soy and its dangers). One day a friend was keeping her. She tried to give her the soy formula, but all the baby did was somehow suck on the nipple without taking any of the formula in ALL DAY LONG! I guess she didn't like the taste. That was one HUNGRY baby! She couldn't get enough of me that night! Obviously I needed to find another way to supplement nursing, so I told my chiro about the formula debacle. He suggested that we give her raw goats milk and gave me the name of a local farmer. We tried it, and she didn't react to it, so from the time she was seven weeks old or so, till she was eight months we supplemented with goats milk when I couldn't nurse. The goats milk was expensive, however, so we only used it for her. Shawn and I did the South Beach diet for awhile and lost several pounds. (I know now that the focus of the diet is wrong and it overlooks the foods we need to be truly healthy, but it did help to think more about what is healthy and what isn't.) Other than that we really didn't look much into nutrition, though we did continue to avoid processed flours and sugars and some food dyes. When I was training to work with kids on the Autism spectrum at work I had learned at about how red and yellow food dye contributed to hyperactivity and autistic behaviors, so we avoided them some, but we hadn't completely eliminated them from our diet.

Fast forward a few years to when our son was three years old. We had learned that he had a speech and language delay and we had noticed that when he had red dye he would be extremely hyper, so instead of just avoiding red dye, we eliminated it for him, though we still let our daughters have it. My youngest daughter also has a speech and language delay, but she didn't display the same hyperactive behavior after consuming dyes. Our son amazed us when he was offered anything red (and I do mean ANYTHING till we explained that he could have  things that were naturally red) and would turn it down without any prompting from us, even when we weren't around. Not long after that we learned that he has a Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD-NOS). This essentially means he is on the Autism spectrum. He is high functioning, but because he has speech impairment, he is not considered Aspergers.

Somewhere during this time I learned about the death of Ramey Reeves, who I had gone to college with at Liberty University. We were little more than acquaintances at college, and she wasn't someone I had kept in touch with. I had just happened upon a post from another friend on MySpace about her illness a few weeks before she died. I started finding out everything I could about her on MySpace and Facebook. God really worked in my life through Ramey as I learned more about her. I was convicted by the joy she displayed in life and her desire that everyone know about Jesus. She had an easy way about her in sharing the Gospel, and she was a great friend to many. I was also able to reconnect with several friends from Liberty as I learned more about her. God has used these connections in so many ways in my life. I have been greatly influenced by what I've learned from these people. There are a couple in particular whose input has had a strong impact on my life. One of these friends has a blog and posted a lot on Facebook about a traditional diet and nutrition. I was intrigued and began reading her blog and several of the ones she linked to (which lead to more links, and more links... I've shared the ones that are good places to start researching here). As I did more and more research we began changing our diet to a more traditional one. We almost completely eliminated processed flours and sugars except when we were away from home. I began making my own organic sourdough bread and began searching out pastured meat, eggs, and raw milk (er, "pet milk", that is, since they don't sell raw milk for human consumption in NC; my "pets"--wink, wink--really loved it). We switched to mostly all organic fruits and vegetables and I started shopping at the local Farmers' Market on a regular basis. I had pretty much nailed down all our sources in North Carolina, and then we moved to Virginia. I had to find new sources all over again! (To me sourcing the food is the hardest part about a healthier diet. Once you've nailed down your sources and worked out your routines then it's no big deal. Plus it's so much more beneficial and enriching to shop from farmers instead of impersonal grocery stores. I've met lots of wonderful, interesting people in the last few years.)

This post is part of Fight Back Friday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

From Prostitute to Princess

I really should wait till tomorrow to post the first of the sermon notes, but I was so excited about doing this, I couldn’t wait. The first set of notes comes from my days at Wave Church in Virginia Beach, VA. The first several entries in this particular notebook seem to have been taken either during a conference, or when Steve Kelly, the head pastor was out of town (probably at the Hillsong conference in Sydney since these notes were taken in July), because they are from different speakers. Entry number 1 was taken on July 9, 2000. Ps Greg Phelps was the speaker. He is the pastor of one of the Wave Network churches, though I couldn’t find any bio info on him.

“From Prostitute to Princess”
Joshua 2:1-24

Rahab was the lowest of the low in her society. If a king wasn’t to be spared, how much less a prostitute? Because she welcomed the spies she was spared. She became a part of Israeli society. She married Sinoam, one of the spies, who was a prince of Israel. So, Rahab became a princess, mother of Boaz, and predecessor of King David and Christ. (Matt. 1:4, Heb. 11:31, James 2:25)

James 4:7, 1Peter 5:9
Are we willing to defy our society?
  • Rahab defied the world.
  • She had dependence on God (Josh 2:11b)
    • She was totally dependent on this God she had never met. She was willing to risk her life for this God because of the conviction of the spies.
    • Trust God—give up all the old things you depend on.
  • Rahab endured to the end.
    • The spies left and she was alone.
    •  The scarlet cord which had been a symbol of shame (her prostitute colors) became a symbol of hope and salvation when she hung it from her back window.
    • She took down her colors from her front door and had to endure persecutions for weeks from her society until the Israelites came.
    • The promise was kept and she was saved.
      • She brought her family with her. She didn’t seek salvation only for herself. She had a house of sanctuary where others could be saved.
      • She never quit believing.

My thoughts: Yet again, God is confirming what He has been showing me lately. If I truly live in a way that seeks His Kingdom first, then I will be required to defy the society in which I live. I will have to give up all the old things on which I have depended, forsake the life I have known, and depend solely on God. I will endure persecutions, yet I have to continue to believe no matter what happens. I also need to create a sanctuary in my home and life where others can be saved. I can’t just seek salvation for myself, which is the life I have lived in recent years, but I must seek salvation for others as well.

I’m also struck by the fact that the cord Rahab hung from her window was scarlet, much like the blood that covered the doorposts of the Israelites on the night of the first Passover was scarlet, and the blood of Christ that covers my heart is also scarlet. This cord was the symbol of her profession and would've been hung outside her front door when she was open for business. Rahab’s willingness to remove the scarlet cord from her front door and move it to her back window became the path to her salvation. She moved from a place of dependence on herself and worldly pursuits to dependence on God. Her perspective changed. As a prostitute she had probably spent many hours looking through the door onto the streets of Jericho, while waiting for her next customer. Once she took the scarlet cord from her door and moved it to the window, she probably spent many hours looking through it hoping to see the return of the spies. Rahab turned her back on the doorway to her past and sacrificed all she had known. In doing so she found the window to her future. In losing her life she found it. It’s so much easier to go through a door than through a window. There’s much you would have to leave behind to go through a window. Just like there’s much that must be left behind to forsake the broad road for the narrow. Lord, give me the grace, strength, and courage to leave behind what I must and forsake the broad road so that I can travel the narrow way.

This post has been added to "Walk With Him Wednesdays".

Putting God's Kingdom First

Back in 1996 I went to Hyderabad, India with Teen Mania Ministries. Angel Meagher (though that wasn’t her last name at the time) was one of my Project Directors on the trip. Of all the missions trips I have been on, India was the one place where I went that I didn’t want to leave. That trip had a very strong impact on my life and influences a lot of my current ideals and values. God moved so strongly in India, in me, and in the people there. I've always wanted to go back. Angel Meagher left India when I did, but not for long. Eventually she moved back and married a man from India, named Matthew Meagher. Together they have a wonderful ministry that impacts India for God’s Kingdom in several ways. For example, they have an orphanage that houses 700 kids!

This summer, a team from my church, Crossroads Vineyard, will be taking a trip to Hyderabad. We will be partnering with The Jesus Way, Matthew and Angel’s ministry, on this trip. We will be helping them in the orphanage, teaching English, helping with the construction of their new facility, feeding orphans and widows, and loving on the people of Hyderabad.

So, why do I want to go on this trip? I love the Indian people and I want to tell them how much God loves them, minister to the poor, love on those who are so often neglected in our world, and give them the opportunity to know Jesus. But there's more to it than that. God has been working a lot on my heart lately about living a life that seeks His Kingdom above all else. I have to admit that I have not always done that. I have often lived in a way that promoted my own kingdom of self and comfort. When I was younger I committed my life to God’s Kingdom. I dreamed of a life of adventure, bringing the Gospel to those in need. I even said to my parents, “Who wants a normal life?” Every decision I made regarding my schooling and training was with the purpose of enabling me to fulfill the calling I felt on my life. However as time went on, I let the worries and cares of everyday life take priority, and I let my own comfort become an idol. I wasn’t disciplined enough to delay gratification, especially with my finances and habits. I was very shortsighted and allowed momentary desires to guide many of my decisions rather than seeking God’s Kingdom first. This type of life is not the life I desire to have. I desire to live the life of faith. I no longer want to be hindered by the consequences that come as a result of poor choices. Don't get me wrong, I love my family so much it hurts and I am so thankful for the relationships that I have and the blessings God has mercifully given in spite of me, but I’ve realized that the time to make big changes has come. I want my kids to know there is a better way to live. It’s time to stop giving lip service to putting God’s Kingdom first, and actually start doing it. This means my life will have to be different than it has been. It will be uncomfortable for me and for others at times. I will have to learn walk in the Spirit, delay gratification, ask myself at every turn which choice puts God’s Kingdom first, and walk the narrow road of the Kingdom. Thank goodness I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I’ve already shown how miserably I fail when I try to walk the narrow road in my own strength.

So, does putting the Kingdom first mean I’m going to hop the first plane to a distant continent and become a full-time missionary? Well, no. Not yet anyway. I do have a family and obligations that God wants me to honor, but I can go to India this summer, if God makes the arrangements. It will not be easy for us to get there. Because of our current financial situation and potential schedule conflicts, it doesn’t look likely for us to go. The trip is June 24th through July 5th. We may be moving around that time, and family may be coming in during that time as well. The first deposit of $500 each is due on March 24th. There is no earthly way we can make this happen, but with God all things are possible, so I’m putting this out there in faith. Further, I currently need $135 to get my passport as it takes several weeks to obtain one. Please join with me in prayer that God will provide. If you feel He is leading you to be a part you can make a secure, tax-deductible donation via my church’s donation page. (If you make a donation on the page, put "For India missions trip via Ordinary Marvels" in the comment section.) Please, don’t make this decision out of sympathy or a sense of personal obligation, but only because of God’s prompting. What happens if someone donates, and Shawn and I don’t go? Well, my desire is to help the team get to India whether I go or not. This is not about Shawn and me, but about God’s Kingdom. So in the case that I raise money for the trip, but don’t end up going, I will give it to the team so others can go in our stead.

Thanks for joining with us in prayer. I know God is going to move in a mighty way!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I am Christ

I know, I know. It's been months since I've posted anything, and the first thing I post sounds extremely boastful at first take. Please don't assume I'm having delusions of grandeur. Before you call the psych ward, I assure you, the opposite is true. It is only with utmost humility that I can make any such claim, as "I am Christ", because inherit in the claim is the acknowledgement that I am dead. It's only through Christ that I can claim Him and that He is remaking me to the point that only He is left. I am by no means saying that I am perfected yet. He is definitely still working on me. But after this morning, which is really the culmination of Christ's work in my life up to this point, I can see how more and more of me has died every day, and how more and more of me continues to die, and I couldn't be happier about it.
This morning I began reading a new (to me) book, Victorious Faith, by Rev. Richard Wurmbrand. He originally wrote the book in 1974, but thanks to the Kindle revolution, I was able to obtain an updated copy for $1.00 from Amazon, and so far the book has been well worth the investment. Rev. Wurmbrand was a pastor in Romania when the Communist Revolution made its way into that nation. He refused to swear loyalty to the communist regime and instead declared that he would give glory to Christ alone on Romanian national television. A couple of years later he was arrested and imprisoned. He suffered a total of 14 years in the communist prison. It’s amazing that he survived those torturous years, but God had another purpose for His suffering other than martyrdom. In 1964 Rev. Wurmbrand was granted amnesty and ransomed out of Romania for $10,000. He eventually came to the United States. He testified before Congress about the horrors he witnessed and the tortures he received, even removing his shirt to bear witness with the scars he bore on his abused body. He went on to establish Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) which endeavors to connect Western Christians with their fellow brothers and sisters who are living under persecution. VOM educates Westerners and ministers to the persecuted and their families. You can learn more about Rev. Wurmbrand and how to help our persecuted family at www.persecution.com. You can even order a free copy of Tortured for Christ. Rev. Wurmbrand passed away at the age of 91 in 2001 after a remarkable life as a good and faithful servant. He walked in love and forgiveness, even for those that had tortured him. He definitely was someone who could write a book called Victorious Faith with complete integrity.[i]
I didn’t get very far into Victorious Faith this morning. I was a couple of pages in and I started to get confused. This is what I read:
A great confusion of spheres has taken place. The sphere of grammar and the sphere of religion are different from each other. Every pupil in school, who, when asked to conjugate a verb, replies that God is love and that whosoever believes in Him is born of God, will get a bad mark, even if the teacher is religious. Religion has no place in an examination on grammar.
But neither has grammar any say in religion. In the sphere of practical life we have to conjugate verbs, and for this we need personal pronouns. We have to distinguish between properties: between my house, my book, my wife, and that belonging to another. And so we have to use “I,” “you,” and “he.” But please leave pronouns in the realm of grammar, to which they belong; do not introduce them into religion![ii]

I was thinking, “Why is he talking about grammar?” He went on to say:
When Jesus Christ met Saul of Tarsus, a great persecutor of the Christians, on the road to Damascus, He asked him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul could have answered truthfully, “I never persecuted You. I persecuted Your disciples.” But those who belong to Jesus form the very body of Christ. Jesus feels Himself persecuted as often as His disciple is hurt; He weeps with every disciple who weeps, He rejoices with every disciple who rejoices.[iii]

Those last two sentences caught my attention. I even highlighted them, but I hadn’t really experienced any revelation yet.
Jesus says that at the last judgment the wicked will hear the reproach, “I have been hungry, sick, or in prison and you did not visit Me.” And He then explains that as often as one of His little brethren suffered hardships, it was He Himself who passed through suffering.
The Lord Jesus is our leader in religion. But He might not pass an examination in grammar because He uses interchangeably the personal pronouns “he” and “I.”[iv]

“Huh?” I thought. “Back to grammar again?” Clearly I wasn’t getting it. Then in the next section he said:
Two thousand years ago Jesus said, “I am the truth.” And for 2,000 years this assertion of His has been falsified and quoted as meaning that Jesus said, “He is the truth.” But He never said that He is the truth. He said, “I am the truth.” If you make Him a “he,” even with a capital H, you have lost the truth.[v]

Here was another interesting thought, but the revelation didn’t strike until I got to the last few paragraphs of that section. He said:
Jesus never wished to be “he.” As a condition for His being the truth, He must always remain an “I.” I am the truth, not He is the truth. If I wish to have the truth and to be the truth, Jesus must be for me an “I.”
 It is not true that He must become an I. He is an I. Luther says, “The Christian is Christ.” This is a fact, though you may not realize it yet. When my eyes are opened, I say with the apostle Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Then I become sure of my own thoughts.
Men of God have always thought like this.
Luther wrote, “I have to distinguish between myself and my calling. I consider myself as the smallest. But my calling is untouchable …Nobody should have a high opinion of his own person, but everyone should mightily praise his calling to the glory of God.”[vi]

That’s when the light bulb finally illuminated in my reluctant mind. After I read that (a few times) I got stuck. I couldn’t go any further this morning. I was driven to the Word and driven to write. The following is what God said through my fingers this morning. It may seem startling at first. I have to admit I was startled by it, but the more God brought scripture after scripture to mind and further enlightened me the more I began to see the necessity of it and the truth of it since there is nothing good we can do apart from God. At first it may seem theologically incorrect, but please bear with me and read to the end:

I am Christ. He is me. We are one. I am literally a part of His body. I am the physical embodiment of Christ on the earth. Just as my finger is me—is part of me. It has no identity, no purpose apart from me. But neither can it be said to belong to someone else, even should it be could off, it is still mine. I will never be cut off because Christ will present to Himself a Bride that is whole and spotless. I abide in Christ and He abides in me. I was crucified with Him and now I am dead and He was resurrected in me. It is no longer I who live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME! The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son, walking in the Spirit. I am dead to sin. I can no longer fulfill the desires of the flesh. I adhere to Christ, rely on Him, and completely trust His life in me. It is He who strengthens me, quickening my body to perform with His mighty power. I have the mind of Christ. His mind possesses mine. My thoughts are taken captive and made obedient to Christ. He dwells deep within my heart, indwelling my innermost being, my very personality. He has overtaken me. I am rooted deep in love and founded on it securely. He empowers me to understand His love, to experience its height and width and length and depth by letting Him love me, by loving Him, and by loving others. As I love others I come to know and practically experience His love. I love because He loves me. HE LOVES ME! There are no longer any barriers to His love in my life—not suffering, affliction or tribulation, nor calamity or distress, nor persecution, hunger, destitution, peril, or conflict, nor death or life, angels or principalities, nor things impending or threatening or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation—not even myself. I am completely surrendered to Him—every organ, every membrane, every tissue, every cell, every particle of every cell. My whole being is filled with the fullness of God, every electron charged with the power of His Spirit. I have the richest measure of His divine presence. I am a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself! I am no longer my own. I have been bought with a price, sold to the Highest Bidder. He possesses every part of me. I am His to do with as He pleases. He does with me as He sees fit. I am not separate from Him, but I am one with Him. Where I go, He goes with me, whether to the highest of highs or the lowest of lows, to the uttermost parts of the sea, or the furthest corners of the earth, whether in dark or light He is with me because I am Him and He is me.
In the past I misunderstood. I mistreated God's precious gift, seeing it as something less than it is. I saw Christ as separate from me, and held back parts of myself. I did not let His Lordship rule every area of my life. I did not live fully surrendered to Him, did not fully comprehend the implications of my salvation, the all-encompassing nature of it. Through my own destructive hands I have been guilty of treating His most precious, gracious gift as something of minor importance, defeating its purpose in my life. I will no longer set aside and invalidate and frustrate the grace of God in my life. I am a new creation, engrafted in Him. Those sinful, self-serving things which were once a part of me are no more. They have dried up and died, pruned off and carried away to be burned, destroyed forever. I have been purified by His blood, and now His life has become superimposed on mine. Each day I am transformed anew, His image becoming sharper and clearer in me, through me. When people look at me, they see through me straight to Christ. I become less and less as He becomes more and more. I must diminish so that there is nothing of me to color and obscure the view of Christ. I have become welded to Him—each cell has melded with His until my beginning and my ending are in Him. There is no me without Christ. I am completely and utterly lost in Him, lost to the World. I am His and His alone. When He moves, I move. When He hurts, I hurt. When He rejoices, I rejoice. When He gives, I give. When He loves, I love. I am helpless to stop it because I am more than just His representative—I am Him. To the people around me, I am Christ in the world. This is the reason I am here. This is my purpose. I live for one thing, and for that alone—to join in unity with my fellow members of Christ’s beautiful body to bring glory to Christ and His Kingdom. Let it be so!

(The following are the scriptures referenced, all from the Amplified Version:  Eph. 5:25-33, Rom. 12:5, 1 Cor. 12:12-27, Jn. 15:4-12, Gal 2:20, Gal 5:16, Rom 6:11, Rom. 8:11, Eph. 3:16-19, Phil. 3:14, I Cor. 2:16, II Cor. 10:5, I Jn. 4:19, Rom. 8:35, 38-39, I Cor 6:19-20, I Cor 7:23, Ps. 139:7-13, Gal 2:21, II Cor. 5:15, 17, Heb 12:1-2, Phil. 3:7-14, Rom. 12:1, Rev. 7:14, Gen. 1:26-27, Jn. 3:30, Rom. 12:15, Ps 133.)

[ii] Wurmbrand, Richard (2011-04-11). Victorious Faith (Kindle Locations 42-48). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.
[iii] Ibid. Kindle Locations 48-51.
[iv] Ibid. Kindle Locations 51-55.
[v] Ibid. Kindle Locations 57-60.
[vi] Ibid. Kindle Locations 64-70.