Thursday, April 28, 2011

Secret Church- April 2011

I’m going to attempt to summarize David Platt’s sermon from Secret Church last week on Good Friday. I can’t possibly recreate the awesome experience of being there, but I’d like to hit the highlights of his message on Christ’s crucifixion and the gift of salvation offered to us by God through Christ's sacrifice and resurrection (especially for those who haven’t heard the gospel or want to better understand the doctrines in the church).

How do I condense 6 hours of biblical study into a blog post? Hopefully the video, audio, and notes will be posted soon for people to use themselves. If you want to be on the look out for it and watch, listen to or read from previous Secret Church sermons you can go here.

We received a study guide/book that was produced by Disciple-Making International and LifeWay. It includes all of the sermon notes and scriptures for reference. David Platt is big about backing up everything he says with scripture from the Word and providing it so that we can read and research for ourselves after hearing a message on our own time. I recommend reading through all of the verses when you get a chance- maybe during your personal Bible study time. For it is God’s Word that speaks to our hearts and transforms the way that we think. He uses His Word and His Spirit to work in us and reveal his truth to us. The Word has the power to save (Romans 1:16). Merely reading what a human has written isn’t enough. Please read the referenced scriptures to understand each point entirely. Perhaps this study guide will be available for purchase or download soon if not already! I’ve mixed in some of my own thoughts and phrases, just so you know that this is a hodge-podge of David’s words and mine. I can’t even begin to cover it all! But here's the major points...

Crucifixion, Salvation and the Glory of God

The way of Christ is hard to follow (Luke 14:25-33, Matthew 5:10-12)
The way of Christ is hated by many (Matthew -23)
The way of Christ is always faithful and always fruitful (John 15:1-5, James 2:14-19, John 15:10-14, and Acts 26:19-20)
The way of Christ is dependent on His Word (Matthew and Acts -38)
The way of Christ is obedient to His Word (1 John 2:3-6)

Our Purpose as His creation and His children:

We need to listen to our Savior (Acts And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved.)
We need to examine our souls (2 Corinthians 13:5)
We need to abandon ourselves (Matthew -39)
We need to be ready to go wherever He leads (Acts 20:24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I’ve received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.)
We need to be ready to give whatever He requires (Mark -30)
                        So that the world might be saved (Revelation 7:9-10)

The Three Parts Broken Down

The Crucifixion: The Father is satisfied, the Son is sacrificed, and the Spirit is sent.
Our salvation: God reveals our need, God changes our heart, God enables our belief, God reverses our status, God transforms our lives, and God resurrects our bodies.
The glory of God: Crucifixion and salvation are all by God’s grace and all for His glory.

1) The Crucifixion

Consider God’s character: He is sovereign over all things (Psalm 24:1-2, Nehemiah 9:6), holy above all things (Isaiah 6:3, 1 Samuel 2:2), righteous in all His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 145:17), just in all His wrath -intolerant of sin and indignant toward sinners (Romans 3:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, Psalm 5:5-6), and yet loving toward all His creation (1 John 4:16, John 3:16).

Consider the sinfulness of man: We have denounced His sovereignty (Genesis 3:6-7), we have dishonored His holiness (Ezekiel 36:22-23), we have despised His righteousness (Romans -12), we have disregarded His wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3), and we have denied His love (Romans 2:4).

The divine dilemma: How can a just God save rebellious sinners who are deserving of His wrath? (Proverbs 17:15) How can he judge sin and justify the sinner at the same time? How does he satisfy himself and save sinners?
(Hosea 11:8-9, Romans 3:25-26)
By sacrificing His Son in the place of sinners. Jesus was fully man yet fully God. He came to live a sinless life that no one else can live. He came to die a substitutionary death (Hebrews , 2 Corinthians ). He died in the place of the disobedient and unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8, Galatians , 1 Peter ). The glory of God drove him to the cross (John -28). For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, who is Christ Jesus- 1 Timothy 2:5.

Just as sin entered the world through one man, Adam, so sin and the power of death was overcome by one man, Jesus (see Romans -21).

In the crucifixion of Christ, God’s total character (hating sin but loving his creation) is expressed. Does God hate sinners? Yes, look at the cross. Does God love sinners? Yes…look at the cross!

The divine dilemma solved through divine sacrifice: The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God; asserting himself against God and putting himself where only God deserves to be. The essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. God sacrifices Himself for man and puts himself where man deserves to be (2 Corinthians ). At the cross, God expresses His rightful judgment on sin. At the cross, He enables salvation for sinners.

2) Salvation

1. God reveals our need for a Savior to pay the costs of our punishment (Romans 1:21-23, Romans 1:28-32, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Peter 2:11, Romans 1:24-25, Romans 3:10-12, Romans 8:7, Genesis 3:8-10, James 4:4, Titus 3:3, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 4:18, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, John 3:18, Luke 19:10, Romans 6:23)

2. God changes our heart through regeneration- An instantaneous, unrepeatable, mysterious act of God in which he changes a lost sinner’s heart (Titus 3:3-7, Colossians 2:13-14, John 3:8, 1 Peter 1:3, Jeremiah 31:34, Ezekiel 37:14, Ezekiel 11:19-20, Hebrews 10:15-22, John 3:5, Romans 8:9, 2 Corinthians 5:17, 1 Corinthians 2:12-16, Ephesians 2:19-22)

3. God enables our belief through conversion- the divinely enabled response of people to the gospel in which they turn from their sin and themselves (repentance) and trust in Jesus as their Savior and Lord (belief) (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 11:18, Romans 2:4, Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29, Acts 2:38, Acts 16:31, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Job 42:6, 2 Chronicles 7:14-18, Joel 2:12-13, Romans 10:9, John 8:24, Romans 10:14-17, John 1:12, John 6:37, Matthew 11:28-30)

4. God reverses our status through justification- the gracious act of God by which He declares a sinner righteous only through faith in Jesus. And through adoption- the gracious act of God in which he confers upon sinners the position of sons and daughters with an inheritance. And through union with Christ- Christ is in us, we are now with him and he is with us (Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:10-11, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 103:8-12, Romans 3:21-26, Ephesians 2:8, 1 Corinthians 6:11, Romans 2:13, Romans 3:20, Colossians 2:13-14, 1 John 1:9, Romans 8:1, Isaiah 61:10, Galatians 2:15-16, Galatians 4:4-5, Romans 8:14-17, 1 John 3:1, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Romans 6:11, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 3:28, Romans 6:4-6)

5. God sanctifies us- the process by which God transforms our lives into the image of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, Hebrews , Romans , Romans -14, 2 Corinthians , 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Romans 6:15-23, Philippians 2:12-13, Romans 7:18-19, 1 Peter -16, Ephesians 2:8-10)

6. God transforms our lives through preservation and perseverance- Everyone who has been born again (died to sin, made alive in Christ) will persevere to the end by the power of God’s preservation (2 Timothy 2:11-13, Psalm 37:28, Psalm 73:23-24, 2 Thessalonians 3:3, Hosea 2:19, 1 Peter 1:3-5, Romans 8:38-39, John 5:24, 1 Peter 5:10, Ephesians 1:13-14, John 8:31-32, John 15:1-7, 1 John 3:4-10, Hebrews 6:11-12, John 10:28)

7. God resurrects our bodies through glorification- In the final stage of our salvation, Christ will return for His people (his heirs who believe in him) and resurrect their bodies to reign forever with him (2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 1 Corinthians 15:42-57, Romans 4:20-25, Romans 8:18, Romans 8:23-25, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 1 John 3:2, 2 Timothy 4:18, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Revelation 22:5)

3) The Glory of God

Eternal election- the sovereign act of God before the foundation of the world in which he chose to save his people solely by his grace and solely for his glory (Ephesians 1:3-14, Romans 8:28-30, John 6:44, John 10:25-30, John 15:16, Acts 16:14, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5, 1 Corinthians 1:22-29, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 9:11-13, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Psalm 139:16, 1 John 2:2, Romans 8:29-30, Exodus 33:18-19, Genesis 50:19-20, Ephesians 1:4, Ephesians 1:3-4)

Global mission- God saves his people for the spread of his glory to all people. We have received salvation and now we share the good news so others may be saved from punishment and reconciled to God. Every believer is called to be a disciple-maker, telling people the good news and spurring one another to follow Christ (Psalm 67:1-2, 1 Timothy 1:15-17, Ephesians 2:8, John 3:3, Romans 10:9, Galatians 1:15-16, Matthew 24:14, Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 10:16-33, Acts 1:8, Matthew 25:32, Luke 24:47, Luke 4:43, Romans 1:14-17, Acts 2:38, Acts 14:15-22).
Go and make disciples of all nations! Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Mark

If someone were to ask you “Have you been saved?” and you begin your response with “Yes, I…” then you’ve completely missed the point. I’m not considered saved because “I go to church” or “I accepted Jesus into my heart” or “I believe in God” or "I'm a good person." No, our response should always begin with “Yes, because God…” or “Yes, because Christ…”
“...because God loved me and opened my heart to hear and understand his truth. Because God was so kind to offer my salvation. Because Christ died for my sins and through his crucifixion and resurrection I can now have a relationship with God our Father.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My generation and work: Job vs Career

Callie is an acquaintance of mine from college. We were both in Campus Crusade for Christ at Ole Miss, aka CRU, that met every Tuesday night and hosted various events such as Girls Dessert Night, Freshmen Backyard BBQs, holiday parties, Spring Break mission trips (we went to Salerno, Italy one year. It was amazing and led me to go back in the summer of 2009) and the annual Atlanta Christmas Conference. Crusade was basically my sorority. Instead of rushing, which is a big deal in the South especially, I opted for making girl friends through this Christian organization and it changed my life! It set me on a whole 'nother course than I probably would have gone down if I'd joined something else, or nothing at all, at the beginning of my college years. I didn't attend all the way through college as my personal relationship with God grew and changed, however, i'll always be grateful for the teaching I received those couples of years and all the great girls I met (including my discipler who i've mentioned before).

Anyway, we were also in the same freshmen girls bible study together where we covered "Lady in Waiting," "Having A Mary Heart in A Martha World," and "Breaking Free." She shared her testimony at the Girls Night Out: Redeemed Girl Ministries Event when it was held at Ole Miss. We were in the same biology class that year as well. All that to say, I was excited to come across her blog as I was reading another girl's blog (Amy, who was one of the ladies on our Crusade Staff Team, discipling young girls and leading mission trips).

It was so comforting to discover that someone else is going through some of the same questioning and wandering post-college graduation in today's workforce. Well, was. Now Callie seems to have found a way to do something she enjoys, is good at, and that helps other people (utilizing her gifts and experiences for serving others). If you want to know more about the career she's found (and possible purchase or benefit from her services) you can check it out at Edit by Lauren: Edit your makeup.

Here's her old blog post that sums up my thoughts exactly, My Generation- Jobs and Passion. I couldn't have written a post on this subject without rambling, but she does a good job conveying our struggle in a concise manner. She's a good writer and better at blogging. She blogs for Edit by Lauren on Fridays. She has her own blog, My Yellow Kitchen Aid. And she use to work for Style Me Pretty, the ultimate wedding design blog, under Little Black Book. You can get a glimpse of her creative talent- fashion, beauty, decor and organization- by checking out her Vintage Texas Wedding that Style Me Pretty featured.

But mainly, I wanted to share her post on jobs since that's what I'm trying to figure out for myself right now. Maybe some of you are feeling the same way. Hearing about Lauren and Callie, and several other women my age or a little older, figuring out how to do something they love and earn money for it is really inspiring to me! My creative wheels are starting to turn.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Good Friday!

Since I don't have much time to write today and I couldn't have worded it better myself, I'd like to share Marian Jordan's Easter blog post with you today Resurrection Love.

I'm so excited that I will be here until midnight or later with my hubby and our small group listening to David Platt preach on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our salvation through him.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade."
1 Peter 1:3-4

Monday, April 18, 2011

Weekend Update and Guest Writer on Inspiring Excellence

Hey everyone, I hope you had a good weekend! Ours was pretty eventful. It all started on Friday afternoon about 4 o'clock. I left work early because a tornado touched down in Tuscaloosa south of the Alabama campus and was said to be headed our way within an hour. Another was spotted in Alabaster near Montevallo headed up I65 (which I needed to take to meet Patrick and family for dinner). So I headed out like everyone else and tried to beat the bad storm. After sitting in traffic and rain for about an hour, I made it to the restaurant okay and within another hour the worst of it was gone!

So we tried this new place that had only been open for about 5 days called Genghis Grill that does Mongolian Stir Fry/ BBQ. It was really good and fun!You walk through a buffet line with a bowl and pick your protein (chicken, beef, steak, crab, fish, shrimp, ham, or tofu) then your vegetables (tons of options) then your seasoning, then your sauce, and take it all to a chef who tosses it on the grill with your choice starch (white rice, brown rice, low mein noodles, tortillas, spiraled pasta or fried rice). You can top it off with peanuts or sesame seeds too. One bowl is only $9.99 while a bottomless bowl is only $13.99. The guys loved that! If you stick to one of their recipe cards and build one of the signature bowls, most of them are 500 calories or less. It was yummy and filling so we'll be going back!

The fun really got started when we returned home that night and found significant water damage to our house due to the bad storm and a leaky roof. Our upstairs guest bedroom and downstairs living room were soaked with water. Patrick and his brothers stayed up until 2 am moving our furniture around, ripping up the carpet and trying to get out the drenched padding under the carpet. We had a few fans that night to try to dry out the carpets until we could get professionals over on Saturday. Poor Patrick, he was on the phone with everyone and their mother from 7am to 4pm Saturday trying to get people to bring better fans and dehumidifiers to the house so mildew and mold wouldn't start growing. We weren't able to get someone to come out and take an assessment of the damage then start repairing our ceiling and roof until today. He's at home working with them now. What an unexpected mess! We weren't really planning on spending my Christmas bonus on water damage and new carpet (or maybe hardwood floors), but thank goodness for it! I guess we're walking through our first huge home project together. Thankfully, he's really good at handling these kinds of situations and he has a wonderful family to come help out!

Saturday afternoon we had been planning to go to the Lovelady Center for our monthly visit. The kids were having an Easter party then outdoor play time. Sadly, Patrick couldn't go with me this time but I still ran up there with another couple from small group. I'm so glad I still got to go! I spotted the same little girl from Hargis Retreat the moment we walked into the party. It took her a few minutes, but she finally remembered me and we spent the rest of the afternoon together! They played games, had cake and punch, listened to a Bible lesson, then did an Easter egg hunt in the cafeteria and won prizes. After the party inside we moved outside to a field across the street where other church volunteers had set up areas for them to play softball, football, soccer, jump rope, and hoola hoops. The weather was gorgeous (as it usually is the day after an awful storm) and it was so nice to be outside enjoying it with the kids. I love soaking up the sun on the weekends since I sit in a little cubicle all week under artificial lighting with no windows. It was fun playing her "mommy" for the day again, holding all of her stuff while she ran around with her sisters. I was juggling Capri Suns, cupcakes, goodie bags, her jacket, my jacket, my phone and her stuffed animal. They ended play time with a prayer and letting them pick out a stuffed animal to take home. At first she picked out a lion (which matched her strong-willed, independent, diva-like and warm-hearted personality), but then after I showed her the sweet-looking and cute, innocent lamb she wanted it. It reminded us of the lamb of God, Jesus. She held it like her baby and named it Diamond. Once again, she wanted me to take her home and spend the night when it was time to go. She argued, "Y'all don't have a baby to take care of right now anyway. Y'all can take care of me until you have one." She's so ready for me to get pregnant! It's funny. I love having little spurts of getting to take care of kids, but I know i'm just not ready for that right now. I'm too much of a child myself still (as Patrick says, and he can't take care of two kids!)

Saturday night when I got home and the ServPro guys were gone, Patrick and I spent the rest of the night on the couch in our upstairs living room/his man cave and watched TV, ordered in pizza (which we haven't done in a loong time) and fell asleep early. It was awesome. Thin crust supreme pizza with crushed red pepper, ranch and a glass of red wine. Sunday we stayed in the bed until noon when Patrick headed over to his brother's house to help him with building their new deck. After reading blogs for a while I finally got myself up and ran errands then took a nice long walk outside around our pretty neighborhood. The weather was beautiful again and I didn't want to stop to go back inside! I decided to head back over to their house because at least then i'd be around everybody and see Patrick. I picked up Subway sandwiches for everyone and was at their place until about 10:30 when the boys finally stopped working for the day. The guys in this family are determined and efficient! Once they start a project they don't want to stop until it's done. This is a great trait except that the sawing and hammering might've been keeping neighbors up on a work night. Lindsay and I were about to have to pick up and take away all of their tools (it's like their toys). We missed out on going to evening church service but i'm so excited about Secret Church this Friday night with David Platt!!

Also on Sunday, I'm excited to tell you that I was featured on Sarah Harmony-Powell's blog where I wrote on forgiveness! If you'd like to read it and the rest of her series on "Taking Back Our Faith" you can go here.

Well, we're about to have a crazy-busy week! Between the water damage repair project, it being Patrick's work week, small group dinner with the bride and groom on Tues (wedding in 2 weeks!), small group Bible study on Wed, Bunco night with girls on Thurs, Secret Church on Friday and Easter on Sunday we'll see how much time I get for writing. If you'd like to read my recently written devotionals you can check Daily Bread!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Attitude Check

I remember seeing and reading this quote every day for a solid year in elementary school. I can't recall which year it was, maybe 1st or 5th, but from where I was sitting in the classroom I had to see it every day. It was on a long, big banner positioned right above the teacher's head and the chalkboard so it was right in front of me every time I looked up from my desk.

At the time, I probably didn't fully comprehend this wise saying. Actually, I know I didn't. Today though, I get just how big a difference my attitude can make on a daily basis. If I have a bad attitude, no matter what's going on, it can completely ruin my day (and possibly other peoples' day if they unfortunately happen to come across my path).

I was listening to one of Joyce Meyer's audio books (I Dare You) on my way into work this morning. I have a pretty long commute so I like to listen to something. Not just anything though- Music on the radio just makes me feel more stressed while driving in traffic. I usually listen to NPR news or soothing classical music or, preferably, something positive and uplifting such as Joyce Meyer teachings and the Brook Hill's worship cd.

Anyway, one of the things she said was "I believe that our life is about 10% of what happens to us and 90% how we react to it." Attitude does make a big difference in the quality of our daily life. There's nothing we can do about the things that happen to us (those things out of our control), but we can do something about how we handle them. I'll admit, I don't handle things well. Anything that wasn't within my plan, anything that happens unexpectedly or for the worst, basically anything that doesn't go my way I immediately get a bad attitude about. This bad attitude steals any chance of me having joy and peace.

The Bible says I can have joy and peace despite any bad circumstance going on. It says that it's possible for me to have contentment no matter my circumstances. So i'm the only one to blame if I have a rotten, no good, terrible, bad day. Do you remember reading that book as a kid? I loved it! Whenever I had a bad day at school I would come home and ask my mom to read it to me. You know, Alexander's only real problem was his attitude, not everything bad that happened to him. I was reminded of all this this morning and it got me thinking that maybe I need an attitude check on a regular basis. I'm tired of letting my circumstances and emotions control me. Many people say "I can't help how I feel." I've certainly been one to say that. But it's not true, we can help how we feel! Whatever we're thinking and dwelling on in our minds will eventually become how we feel which ultimately affects our behavior and character. We can change our attitude and feelings by transforming the way we think and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than the facts. It's more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It's more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home... The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We can't change our past. We can't change the fact that people will act a certain way. We can't change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes." Charles Swindoll

On a completely different note, this coming Sunday April 17 I have the pleasure of being featured on Sarah Harmony-Powell's blog where I will be writing on the topic of forgiveness! She is the author of Inspiring Excellence where she writes to encourage women in their spiritual journey with God and inspire excellent living. She's part of the (In)Courage Community- where we came to know each other- and has posted as a daily guest for (In)Courage. She's doing a series titled "Take Back Your Faith!" For those of you who go to Brook Hills and/or have read David Platt's book "Radical," you'll be interested to know that she was inspired to do this series after finding out about him and his message to take back our faith from the American Dream. If you want to start at the beginning and find out more about this series in which she challenges herself and other women to go deeper in their relationship with God, you can go here. Be sure to check out her blog on Sunday to read my article/devotional on forgiveness! Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Romans: Grace, Truth and Redemption

Now that our small group has finished John Piper’s study “The Blazing Center,” we’re starting a new one by John MacArthur on Romans. He’s written a series of study guides for personal or group use to aid people in their study of the Bible. I love it so far! He includes the historical context in which Paul was writing Romans, background information to get a better idea of the people involved and time setting, as well as verse commentary and definitions (for example, what does Paul mean by being a bondservant to Jesus Christ? If you're curious, in the Hebrew sense it implies willing service for a beloved, respected master. Love that!)

I wanted to share a few things we’ve already covered in our meeting last night on Romans 1:1-17 titled “The Good News.”

“The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.”

Romans says, “The righteous will live by faith.” In other words, it is by our faith alone that we are considered righteous before God. We can’t live a righteous life or attain God’s standard for how we should live based on what we say and do (our works). Our salvation and status of righteousness is solely based on the work that Jesus did on the cross.

One of MacArthur’s study questions is “What is so good about the good news of the gospel?”
To me, it’s so good because I didn’t deserve to be forgiven for my sins, but I am anyway! I didn’t have to do anything or sacrifice anything to get this forgiveness. I didn’t have to pay the cost or endure the punishment. Jesus stepped in on my behalf and said, “No, I love her too much. She may deserve this death for the things she has done, but I don’t want her to suffer. I’ll suffer the punishment for her. Consider my death as payment for her sins so that she may be pardoned and God will not condemn her to an eternity separated from him. I want her to receive God’s love and mercy because I know it is so good!” It’s so good because it’s free to us and it frees us (from striving tirelessly to live the perfect life, from enduring earthly troubles on our own, from enslavement to sin, from judgment and the power of the enemy).

“The essence of Paul’s letter to the Romans is that despite all the bad in the world, there is good news that is truly good! The apostle was a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles preaching the gospel of God (Romans ). He brought the good news that, in Christ, sin can be forgiven, selfishness can be overcome, guilt can be removed, anxiety can be alleviated and people can, indeed, have hope and eternal glory.”

In verses 2-4 we learn that the good news was foretold long ago by prophets in the Old Testament and it is Jesus, the Son of God, who is the one that fulfills God’s promise of the good news.

In verses 14-16 Paul says, “I am a debtor to both Greeks and barbarians, to both the wise and the unwise (in other words, all people without discrimination). So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes in him.” We shouldn’t be ashamed of sharing the gospel with others (fearing embarrassment or rejection) because for those of us who have been saved and changed by it, we know that it has the power to save others as well. As we start to adopt the same desires and affections that God has, we develop the same love for people that he has. We should be passionate about sharing this good news with others so that they can know the mercy and love of God and the peace and joy that comes in having a relationship with Him too. “The Lord isn’t being slow about keeping his promise as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.

MacArthur then references the testimony of Paul in Acts 26:12-18 and why he became so passionate about preaching the gospel of Christ. I hope you take a chance to read it because it’s a powerful testimony! Before his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul was a Pharisee who lived strictly according to the Jewish laws and traditions. He himself persecuted Christ and Christ followers. He witnessed the executions of Christians. Yet, when Jesus confronted him one day and asked him, “Why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads (in other words, you’re only hurting yourself by rebelling against my will and accepting me into your life), Paul finally believe in him, repented for his sins and old way of living, and totally changed his life around. Paul did a complete 180 in his life by going from persecuting Christians to ministering to Christians and trying to save everyone he could by sharing the gospel with them.

Don’t we want to do the same thing? Once we realize how awesome and good the good news is we want to share it with others! We want to save them from the life they’ve been living so they can live the life abundantly (John )!

MacArthur wraps up by discussing two key words: Salvation and Grace. He says, “For those people who object to the word ‘salvation’ or don’t like the phrase ‘being saved,’ I must say that alvation is God’s term. There’s no better word to describe what he offers fallen mankind through the sacrifice of his Son. Christ saves people from sin, the enemy, judgment, God’s wrath, and eternal spiritual death.” He poses the difficult (yet easy) question of “What is grace?”

To me, God’s grace is his undeserved, unmerited favor, goodwill, mercy, love and pardon upon us. It’s a free gift we can choose to receive without having to pay anything for it because he’s already paid for it. It’s good because without it we’d be lost for forever without any hope. He gives it to us because of his own loving kindness. There’s no way we can earn it or lose it, we just have to choose to accept it.

“How can lukewarm Christians recapture a sense that the gospel is good news?”

Sometimes, we can forget just how good and awe-inspiring the gospel is. We get comfortable in our faith and relationship with God. I think when we become lukewarm (which God can’t stand, see Revelation -16) we must remember the way we were before being saved. We must recall and consider the seriousness and awfulness of our sin. Although we continue to sin even after we are saved, we should never become indifferent towards it. It should still bother us (not the point of wallowing in guilt, but we should feel convicted by the Spirit and go to God in repentance every time we sin). Until we grasp just how bad and serious our sin is to God and others affected by it, we won’t understand our great need for his forgiveness and the awesomeness of God to give us that mercy freely.

I really want to learn from Paul and have the same passion and ability to share the gospel with others in such a way that displays God’s glory, not my imperfections or the imperfection of the Church. Too often, I feel that I or people get in the way when trying to “witness” to others, instead of letting God shine through the conversation. It’s not up to us to save people (Acts ). It’s only up to us to share the Word with others. God’s word (his truth) has the power to save. Therefore, we don’t have to be discouraged, nervous, or scared of telling others about the good news. We don’t have to do any work, Jesus has done it and the Spirit will do all the work in that person’s heart. We shouldn’t stop sharing with others completely because some choose not to receive it (There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent, Luke 15:7). There are so many people out there who God has been preparing to hear and accept his good news. He’s wanting and waiting on you to bring it to them. The harvest is plenty but the workers are few, Matthew .

Monday, April 11, 2011

David Platt, Secret Church, and 31 Days to Clean Challenge

I’m amazed at how many people across the country are starting to hear about David Platt! Not just people in the surrounding areas of Birmingham or other major cities in Alabama or on college campuses, but online in other peoples’ blogs and in the news. His book is now being sold at LifeWay Christian Stores and made the New York Times best seller list.
I wish you could meet him or attend just one of our Sunday services! For people who can't physically make it to Birmingham, many have started "attending" online by watching the sermon videos.  I wish you could hear just one of his sermons and witness the incredible gift he’s received from God to teach the Word! Some people are just blessed with the gift of teaching (explaining the Word then encouraging others to live it out). I wish people could just feel the experience of being in the room with him and our worship team where you can’t help but become passionate about the gospel, about your own salvation and the salvation of others! Where you’re encouraged to go deeper in your faith and relationship with God, to dedicate your life to serving others and sharing the gospel with them, and to let God use you to accomplish his will.
He’s been facing a lot of criticism and confrontation lately for his ideas, not only from people outside the church but within it. People are upset about the new ideas he’s preaching and things he’s encouraging people to do. The title of his book accurately describes him though: Radical. For those of us who who see and hear him on a regular basis and witness his biblical knowledge and love for God, it's encouraging to see him handle the harsh words and argumentative language with grace, humility, respect, and kindness. I wish I could respond with such mercy, love and understanding in the face of insult and slander.
I think it’s hard for people to hear and accept his message of the gospel- which he aims to base solely on the Word and God’s truth. But to give up the pursuit of "the American Dream” in exchange for the life Jesus died to give us and that glorifies God instead of ourselves, isn’t that attractive or easy to accept. It calls us to be uncomfortable, selfless, and totally surrendered to serving others and the Lord. He’s been blamed of preaching the “poverty gospel.” In other words, in order to be saved and considered righteous before God you must live a poor life. I wish people would actually read his book and meet him. Once you hear him talk and teach though, you see just how devoted he is to truly following the example of Christ. He is a display of a man after God’s own heart (Acts and Titus 1:6-9). By no means does he support this idea that you must be poor in order to be saved or righteous. Instead, he suggests that we should not care more about wealth and material things of this world and living a comfortable, safe, selfish lifestyle than we do about our relationship with God and advancing his kingdom while we are here. He bases all of his teaching on the things Jesus said while he was here concerning how a true disciple should live and what the character of a child of God looks like.
I feel blessed to have found and become a member of his church- The Church at Brook Hills. Patrick and I started attending in the Fall of 2009 and joined in the Summer of 2010. Every time we leave feeling encouraged to grow deeper in our faith and relationship with God, to live in such a way that reflects Christ’s character and the way he would have us live in this world, to serve others and share the gospel with them. We always learn something new and interesting then want to share our new knowledge with others. David’s not always there to preach since he has a passion for missions and is often traveling to share the gospel with unreached people, but he’s still significantly impacting our church community, the city of Birmingham and nations around the world.
Needless to say, I would recommend his book to anyone who wants to deny themselves, take up their cross, follow after Jesus and make disciples of all nations. Also, I’d recommend listening to and reading any of his teaching series! All of our Sunday services are recorded then posted online for viewing or you can read the sermon notes
He will be hosting the next Secret Church on Friday, April 22 of Easter weekend if you'd like to watch the simulcast! I'm so excited that this is my first one to attend. 6-7 hours of David preaching on the crucifixion of Christ, our salvation and the glory of God! To find out how to watch the simulcast you can go to one of these sites:
Also, totally unrelated to David Platt, I might have mentioned before that the girls in our small group are reading and studying the book "A Woman After God's Own Heart." I'd love to write about what God has been showing and teaching me through this book, but that post will have to be saved for another time! I do want to tell everyone today that Sarah Mae who blogs at Like A Warm Cup of Coffee has written an E-book expanding on her articles about house cleaning. This relates to our book in that we've been studying the importance and blessing of taking care of our home as women. We are on an assignment from God to serve our husband and children because, after all, they're the most important people in our life. Therefore, our home should be our primary area of ministry! A place where we and our family members feel peace, joy, love, comfort, and the presence of God. We should take care of our homes not just for the sake of the people living in it, but as an act of worship and thanksgiving to the God who blessed us with it. So Sarah Mae has written a book on having a "Martha house" that's clean and not characterized by chaos in the "Mary way," meaning that we have the right heart and attitude about house cleaning. I just wanted to promote it for her because I plan to read it and take the 31 day challenge myself! If you're struggling with the approach and ability to keep your house in a nice, clean order or you're struggling with the desire and motivation to do it, I think this book will be a great way to get started transforming our hearts and our home! 31 Days to Clean just in time for Spring cleaning.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A quick hello!

I wish I had more time to write today. Actually, I wish I had more time to write in general. I have a Word doc going with a list of all the things I'd like to share and talk about! haha. Most people know I love lists. Hopefully one day soon, like this weekend, I'll find some time to sit and address at least one or two big things God has been doing in my life lately. Things I've been learning and what we've been up to.

For now, I only have time to post a couple things that aren't even related and may seem jumbled up.

First, I took a few minutes to update my profile. I remembered that when I started this blog I got swept up in writing my first entry (a long one, I know! I'm working on it) and I forgot to go back and share more about who I am and what I'm passionate about. So if you get the chance you can read my profile page.

Secondly, you may have read the post a while back about marriage and why I got married or why I think it's important and a good thing. This week I read another blogger's article on the same topic. I wanted to share what her thoughts were:

"5 Purposes of marriage: Companionship, spiritual offspring, to glorify God and reflect the Trinity through unity, refinement/our sanctification, and Kingdom fruit. The main purpose of marriage is for us to bare the image of Christ- the love he has for his bride, the church, who he loved and gave himself up for. We reflect the love of Christ when we choose to love our spouse selflessly and unconditionally, whether they are deserving of it or not, despite the fact that they'll hurt us and fail us, and not just if but especially when it's hard to do so."

True love always requires sacrifice. We learned this while wrapping up our small group's study on John Piper's "Blazing Center." God showed his love for us by sacrificing his only son so that we may be reconciled to him. To truly love our spouse requires sacrifice on our part, too. We must deny ourselves (turn from selfishness and what the flesh wants) and serve them selflessly. We glorify God and show others who see our marriage that we have God in our hearts when we choose to love, serve and respect our spouse even if we're not getting the same treatment in return. Jesus sacrificed himself for the sake of others and chose to love us more than his own life, knowing that we would persecute, reject, deny, fail, disappoint and sin against him. The beauty of God's love is that no matter how many times we fail to meet his standards or disappoint him, no matter what things we do and how bad it seems to us, he will never reject or abandon us. He'll never stop loving us- it's unfailing. He'll never stop forgiving us- His mercies are new every morning. So we must try to show this same love and mercy towards each other in marriage. Marriage is meant to be a place of acceptance, companionship, support, unconditional love and endless forgiveness as we live on this earth together as sinners, but pressing on to reflect the character of Christ more and more.

Lastly, somewhat building upon my last paragraph, we were reading "The Love Dare: Day by Day" the other night and I wanted to share the major point it made:
"How many people end up getting a divorce and walk out on their marriage because they say 'I deserve to be happy.' True love does not use its own satisfaction as a barometer for whether or not to remain in love and hold to its commitment."

When you get married, you are binding yourself into a covenant with not only your spouse, but the Lord. You have witnesses to this promise you've made to your spouse and to the Lord, as well. We're suppose to take it more seriously than we actually do. So many people are quick to give up when marriage gets hard. It's suppose to be hard! It doesn't mean that something is wrong with you or your spouse. It's hard to be married to anyone (we're all sinners), so the grass is certainly not always- or never is- greener on the other side. People only exchange one set of problems for a new set with a new face. Marriage isn't about being happy. Don't get me wrong, it often involves happiness! But more importantly, it's about learning to love someone more than you love yourself. It's about learning to become selfless, reaching the end of yourself and what you're capable of, leading you to realize that you need God. He alone knows the love that we all need and has the capacity to give it. Whenever we're having a hard time loving and forgiving in marriage like this, we can go to the one who knows how. His will is to see godly marriages carried out on earth (by godly I mean God-centered). It tests our faith to prove that it's genuine, it reveals our weaknesses to convict us to change, it drives us to the Lord for strength and comfort and direction, it bears witness to others the presence and glory of God, it influences the emotional and physical stability of our children, it advances God's kingdom with spiritual offspring, and it makes someone else's life better (your spouse's :-)

So today, and every day, my goal is not to base how I treat Patrick on whether or not i'm feeling happy, on whether I'm getting "what I need" from him or not, on whether I feel like getting up and making him a sandwich before he goes into work or not, and whether he says the very same thing that hurts my feelings again the next day or not. My goal is to serve and forgive him at all times based on my deep, constant, unconditional love for him that comes from the One who first loved me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

While reading this month's Joyce Meyer Magazine, I came across an article on temptation. Temptation is part of every person's life, no matter what their spiritual beliefs are. As Christians, we may be more aware, frustrated and grieved by our temptations to sin though. Temptation will never go away either. It's been there since the beginning with Eve and will always be lurking in different areas of our lives throughout our life. Every person has different weaknesses too and are tempted to do different things. Without focusing on the specifics, one thing is certain: It's not a matter of if we will be tempted, but when we will be tempted. No one is perfect and all fall short of the glory of God (every one gives into temptation and falls into sin).

There are ways though that we can overcome our temptation to sin and excerise Spiritually-led control over our flesh in order to be more like Christ and glorify God (which we desire and strive to do as Christians). I'll take a back-seat today and just let you read Joyce's article for yourself. It's only a couple of pages so if you have the time I hope you read it! It'll be well worth your while to give this area of your life energy and attention. Giving into our temptations/ sinning not only hurts ourselves in the long run, but it hurts our relationship with God and often other people. We'll never be completely free and blameless of sin, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't stop trying to flee from it. As a new creation in Christ, we are no longer a slave to it. Once we've been set free from that bondage, we are the only ones who can keep ourselves in the prison of sin.

If you don't have the time to read her article today, here's a quick synopsis:

6 Secrets to Resisting Temptation:

1. Be wise (Proverbs 5:1-2)
2. Believe you can do it (1 Corinthians 10:13)
3. Be prepared (study and meditate on God's word regarding temptation)
4. Avoid the scenes or situations that lead you to sin
5. You can't trust yourself too much- You need God's help (Galatians 3:3)
6. Remember that with God all things are possible. Keep praying and trying! God is on your side! He wants you to accomplish it and He will help you do it.

I hope this helps someone struggling with temptation! I'm blessed that right now i'm not in a season of strong temptation, other than with food, but I have experienced seasons of great temptation and I'm sure there are more to come. We can lean on God's Word to help us get through current struggles and prepare us for future ones!

Friday, April 1, 2011

We were made to crave

Happy Friday everyone! It’s almost the weekend, yay! We had a wonderful weekend last week with a friend’s coed bridal shower/tool party on Friday night, serving at Hargis Retreat with our small group on Saturday (where we got to play with and mentor 36 kids from the Lovelady Center) and hanging out with Patrick's family all day Sunday, ending the night with great worship and teaching on Acts at church!
Just a quick note about what we did Saturday:
Our small group enjoyed the first time we served at the Lovelady Center so much that we’ve been aiming to serve there and meet with the kids once a month. It just so happened that this past Saturday the Center had arranged for all the kids to spend the day at Hargis Retreat (a beautiful YMCA camp out of the city where there’s a chapel, pond, cabins, conference center, playground, swimming pool, you name it)! We thought this would be a great opportunity to spend several hours with the kids and they had a buddy system so we each got to really invest in one kid specifically. It’s hard for me not to go on and on about it, but the day was so fun and it went really well! I couldn’t have been matched with a sweeter, easier, and cuter little 6 year old girl. She had a big, diva-like personality! I think she made more of an impact on me than I did her, but hopefully some of the talking we got to do planted some seeds about how much God loves her and wants a relationship with her for the rest of her life. It was so sweet how she wanted to be held or piggy-backed all day, sitting in my lap, or holding my hand, and wearing my sunglasses. I ended up just letting her have them because she loved them so much and wanted to show them off to her friends at her school. She gave me one of her crazy bands in exchange so that anytime I wear it I’ll remember her. I can’t forget her!
I hope to return to Lovelady Center and see her again, each month if possible, or at least stay in touch with her. She even took my name tag so she could know whose name to say when she prays for me! That just melts your heart. I found out a little bit about her family life and how she ended up at Lovelady Center with her mom and sister. We talked a little about dating and marriage since she was enthralled with Patrick and I being married. Her mother has also recently re-married so it’s on her mind. By the end of the day, she was calling Patrick and I mommy and daddy and asked if we could take her home "since we don't have a baby to take care of yet" haha. It breaks your heart to say goodbye after they start feeling attached to you. But I hope she had a fun day with all the activities and hearing a quick sermon. We got to go canoeing and hiking, we swung on the playground and went for a walk to see the ducks, we did face painting, shooting archery and ate McDonalds for lunch. We were suppose to have thunderstorms but the day ended up being sunny and warm. I had a blast myself! I was also completely worn out by the end of the day! We came home and I went to sleep at like 6! If that was at all a glimpse into motherhood, which i'm sure it was and not even half of what it entails, then i'm not near ready. The mental, emotional and physical attention children require is constant. It's truly a selfless and servant-like act to parent. I think it's wonderful that they’re being exposed to the gospel and people who are Christ-followers through the Center at such a young age. I hope for her and all the kids there that no matter where their family goes from here and how hard life is right now, that God is tugging on their hearts and drawing them close to Him, the way he did with me as I was growing up.
Anyway, so to get to the purpose of today’s post, I wanted to share with everyone about a new book called “Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food.” It’s written by Lysa TerKeurst whose one of the founders of Proverbs 31 Ministries: Bringing God’s Peace, Perspective and Purpose to Today’s Busy Woman. Now, I haven’t read this book yet, though I’m really looking forward to it whenever I get the time! It’s a little hard right now with doing a couples small group study, a women’s study, and a marriage study with my husband (which we rarely fit in). But as you may know based on the devotions blog I started, I have issues with food as many other women do. She addresses the battle people have with food (whether that’s eating too much or not enough, but usually too much) and why it’s such a struggle. She says the heart of the issue is that God created us to experience craving. He created all of us with an emptiness in our soul and deepest part of our body that only He can fill up and make whole. We were made to crave! The problem is we all try to fix that emptiness with other things- food being one of the most common, but there are others such as alcohol, drugs, a relationship, a friendship, exercising, entertainment, etc. I know this is true for me! For years I’ve struggled with overeating and turning to food when I’m stressed, hurt, angry, happy, bored, celebrating, crying, whatever the emotion or event may be. I use food to try to make myself feel better instead of turning to God with my emotions and problems. This is what her whole book is all about! But it’s not just about this difficult and sinful approach we have to food, she also teaches on how to stop this frustrating cycle and bad habit, putting our desire to be healthy into action and having the spiritual empowerment from God to overcome our temptation to sin once and for all! Based on her experiences and struggle with food, she guides readers to change their lifestyles (not just go on diets that cause us to gain and lose weight over and over), how to turn to God for comfort and strength when we’re dealing with life’s troubles instead of other things, and how to make these changes with His help (we know when we try to do it on our own out of self-determination, despite our good intentions, we always fail at some point). So, I’m looking forward to reading this one day and wanted others to know about it in case they can start it now!
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred and you together are that temple.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 You say that you have the right to do anything, but not everything you want to do is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything,” you say, “but I will not be mastered by anything.” You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord and the Lord for the body. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? God’s own Spirit dwells in your body. You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.
**My friend and one of the girls in our small group is a clinical dietitian. She offered us a very good piece of advice and phrase to make decisions by regarding when to eat or not. You might find it helpful too! "If anything sounds good to eat-even a piece of fruit or vegetables- then your body is hungry and you should eat. If you're only wanting something like chocolate or chips, then you have a craving and you're not really hungry." Wow! So when we're experiencing a craving that's when we know we should pass on the food and go to God to get filled up**