Tuesday, November 30, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Anelle.

We've made it through the month of November celebrating the faithfulness of the Lord. And now for our last cheer, our last hoorah, the cake topper, the grand finale... I present to you my sister Anelle! Things I won't say about my sister in her presence: I admire her wisdom, her jokes are pretty funny (that's why I steal them), that I love her and will forever wait for her to tie her long shoe laces (inside joke). She is one of my best friends and really my life wouldn't be as blessed without her.
May the Lord bless you greatly through her post:


"Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’”
13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” 15 Then Nathan departed o his house." 2 Samuel 12:7-15

How do you respond when you're confronted with your own sin? Do you readily accept your guilt like David did, or do you deny that you have done any wrong?

Part of what makes the Bible so fascinating to me is that it tells the story not of how God has dealt with blameless people, but of how he has dealt with a pack of failures like you and me. What set David apart from other Biblical figures, what made God call him a "man after His own heart," was what David did with the aftermath of his mess-up. "I have sinned against the LORD," he said. Let's see how other people match up:

a. A short while after Cain killed Abel, God asked Cain a very simple question, "Where is your brother?" That was Cain's cue to confess what he had done, but did he own up to anything? No. Instead of showing any type of sorrow or any shadow of repentance, Cain 1. lied to the Almighty God and 2. gave Him attitude by saying these now famous words: I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper? (I can almost picture him crossing his arms and rolling his eyes, Sheneneh-style).

b. More than once, Saul disobeyed God. In 1 Samuel 15, when Samuel rebuked Saul for not following God's orders, Saul first played stupid (v.20) and then admitted guilt, but with a justification attached. He admitted that he had sinned but then added, "I was scared of the men, and so I gave in to their demands." Like that was supposed to make it better. He sounded kind of like Adam and Eve: "the snake made me do it..." "the woman you gave me..."

c. In Genesis 18, we find Sarah eavesdropping in her tent while 3 messengers are telling Abraham that she will bear a son in a year. When she heard that piece of news, she laughed to herself. God brought that to Abraham's attention saying, "Why did Sarah laugh?" The Bible tells us that Sarah got scared, and her best come-back was, "I didn't laugh." And God said, "No, you did laugh."

It reminds me of the time that some of my 6th grade students accused this one boy of eating in class. When I asked him if it was true or not, the boy looked at me straight in the face and told me-- with chip crumbs all over his mouth-- that they were lying. I had to laugh. It takes a lot of guts to admit wrongdoing, even when you're caught red-handed. It's hard to realize that we're just flesh and that we do fall (very) short of perfection. I hate lies, and, still, I straight-up lied to my sister once because I didn't want to deal with the truth of what had happened.

And yet, the worst thing we can do after we sin is keep it concealed. The Bible says that the truth sets us free (John 8:36). 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness." James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed."

When God grants us the opportunity to confess our sins, we might as well grab hold of that chance, and of the healing that comes with it, because I've learned that with Christians there is no such thing as secret sin. It will eventually come to the light.

Who will you be like? Will you be a Cain, a Saul, a Sarah, or will you be a David?
God bless!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Christy!

Hi Friends. Today's guest blogger is my amazing friend Christy. The best way to describe her is Proverbs 31:26, "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness." I know that God will speak to all of you through her post. May the Lord bless you abundantly as you seek to know Him and make Him known. 




Whenever food comes up in conversation with anyone I have to mention Latin House Grill. It's a restaurant on wheels that travels throughout the city serving the most amazing Mexican/Cuban inspired dishes. I feel like I'm holding back and depriving you if I don't let you know about this delicious place!  Imagine the kind of friend I would be if I didn’t tell you about this life changing restaurant (seriously, the place will change your taste buds).  Imagine if you found out through someone else and then found out I had been going to this place all this time. This desire to share good news (hint hint) about the restaurant, can be likened to my desire to share with people whose lives need fixing, the amazing power of my Lord and Savior, who changed my life when I was 17 years old.

I'll spare you all the details, but I pray as you read this tidbit on my life you recognize that God sees you, knows you, and loves you unconditionally in spite of you :)

In high school I was pretty popular.  I had a group of friends who I partied with, a car, money for whatever I needed and the freedom to use all these things at my leisure, however, like all people, I always wanted more.  And the more I wanted, the duller life got. I remember driving home from clubs at 2 and 3 in the morning wanting to cry or leaving a party and asking about my self "who was that in there?"  I was empty, I had a void in my heart I felt no one could fill, however, for years, I strived desperately to fill it with myself.  Something was missing and I never could figure out what that something was.

Around the time all this was going on in my heart, my mom, who had recently been saved, invited me to church.  You would think that a person living in the rebellious state I was in would automatically say no, however, I went without much hesitation one Sunday morning.  The night before I had partied so late that the following morning I still had on the same make up.  Tears streamed down my face as I felt God begin to work in my heart and show me my need for Him to fill the void I desperately needed filled.   That morning, the void was filled, however, my life didn’t change much. 

The year that followed was brutal.  I spent the rest of my junior year in high school battling conviction and struggling to live a life both in the world and in the Lord, something Jesus makes clear is impossible (Matt 6:24).   It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally gave up the battle to live two lives and surrendered my life fully to the Lord.

In the coming weeks after my encounter with God my junior year, the rest of my family followed. One Sunday afternoon I was trying to rush through lunch to go to the beach with some friends (Sundays, I thought, were for the beach) when my mom casually turned to me and said I wouldn't be going to the beach, from now on we were going to be together on Sundays (a tradition we've continued for 8 years now). Part of me was angry, but a greater part of me was relieved. I felt as though I was beginning to take off some of the masks in my life.   Again, it wasn’t until almost a year later that I finally allowed God to begin changing my life, however, God was faithful, despite my faithlessness, and never gave up on me.

See God had started a work in my life which He has been perfecting ever since. He gently began taking away the people, hobbies and desires that were not only unpleasing to Him, but were killing me.  The things I thought would be impossible to let go, the wounds I thought would be impossible to heal, the life I thought would be impossible to restore, He healed, He restored and He transformed. 

I share this with you because Jesus changed my life. You may have seen that on a billboard or bumper sticker somewhere but the truth behind the words run deep in my life and the life of so many others. He is the only One who can fill our emptiness.  Some of you right now may think that your life is unfix-able, the place your in is unreachable.  Let me share something with you: It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him.  God gave Christ for us.  God hates our sin but loves us.  We can be so quick to buy into the lie that we first need to fix ourselves, then find Him.  Reality is we need Him before we can ever be fixed.  Wherever you are today, wherever life has brought you, you aren’t too far away from Him. As Paul said in Acts 17:26-28, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, for in Him we live and move and have our being”  All you have to do is open up your heart, no matter how broken, no matter how small, and let Him mend it and enlarge it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

birthday surprise: It's Francine.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am so thrilled that today is finally here, my favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving! And because it's my favorite day of the year, I asked a very special lady to guest blog. When I asked my friends to guest blog, I also gave them liberty to write and when to submit their post. However, after spending some time with the Lord one day I felt him prompting me to ask Francine to write the Thanksgiving Day post. The Lord is brilliant and He knows what He is doing. Francine truly is a crown o glory in the hand of our God (Isaiah 62:3). She is so precious. May you be blessed by Francine's post and encouraged to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks. God bless YOU.

Thankfulness, Thankfulness is what I want from You


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 16-17

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful reminder to us to be thankful for all God has, is and will do in our lives. I am thankful for the reminder.

Ever been through a horrific season and found that it became increasingly difficult as the trial continued to hold on to your faith let alone to praise God for your circumstances?

I have experienced some major seasons of drought, fire, despair, times I felt that I would drown, times I felt so alone that I was almost convinced there couldn’t be a God, times of such agonizing pain that I literally thought I would die from it. There is a specific time in my life where the trial was long and the suffering so intense that at one point I thought I had lost my faith and felt that if I didn’t hold on I would never get it back. I spent months of crying and pleading to God to heal my sweet husband Bill.

Bill was not well and in a lot of pain for 3 years. We were married for 2/1/2 years, all of which was during this time he was in constant pain (chronic pain) and we sought many treatments for nerve repair, spent a small fortune on changing his diet, juicing, all natural treatments, etc., etc. He was on 2 class 2 narcotics plus a host of other meds to treat his pain and symptoms from that pain. During this time he started getting swollen nodules in his neck. Two biopsies were done; they thought it was cancer and we prepared for the worst. The first biopsy wasn’t conclusive so they did the second to rule out the possibility of cancer. He had appointments with an Oncologist who was sure it was cancer and was preparing us for the worst. The swollen lymph nodes were all throughout his body even in his lungs. The second biopsy ruled out cancer. Then they thought for sure it was a fungus, so off to the Infection Disease doctor we went for more tests. We saw a few other doctors along the way but nothing was conclusive. Finally, his pain management doctor, after many trips to the emergency room for overdosing on his prescribed meds, determined that it was the medication itself that was killing him. His immune system (lymph nodes) was holding onto the meds so that he wouldn’t kill himself. All of this is too complicated to go into in great detail here but you get the idea.

His doctor sent him to a psychologist to help him prepare to come off the meds. He told him that if he did not stop taking all of the narcotics he would kill himself. The psychologist helped him to prepare. We went to our pastors and asked for counsel and guidance. Bill entered a 2-week detox program. Once he finished that he went to a Christian drug treatment program. He was there for 3 months.

When he came home it was a time of adjustment for him but he did really well. After 5 months of praying and seeking God for the direction our life would now take, we both sensed God calling us to move from Miami to Virginia to be a witness to his 9-year-old son, Bradley. Bradley had no Christian influence in his life and we readily moved 1 mile away from his house.

We were there for 6 weeks when the unthinkable happened. Bradley woke me one morning to tell me that Daddy fell in the bathroom and that he couldn’t get him up. My heart plunged.

You see for the first 2 years of our married life I had expected to wake up one morning and find that Bill had overdosed. After rehab that fear had dissipated. I knew before I ever went into the bathroom that morning that he was gone. I won’t go into all of the details of the situation but being away from my church family was extremely difficult. But from the first day God provided for my needs and spoke his peace and love into my life. The Calvary Chapel we were attending there has an amazing pastor. He and his wife and other members were there for me in anyway I needed them for the next 2 months.

Bill had secretly kept some medication. As I said he was taking class 2 narcotics. The meds he was taking were extremely strong. You had to “work your way up to them”. He had been complaining of pain for a couple of weeks and I can only imagine that it became unbearable for him. Sometime during that last night he took one of the narcotics and immediately went home to be with the Lord.

As I prayed about what to write, this was not my intention, it doesn’t feel holidayish, but I do feel certain that this is what God asked me to write.

I shared this with you to share this specifically, what I learned during this time. My loss was immense and it is just within the last couple of months that I feel completely whole in Christ. In the onset of my grief God asked me to praise Him in my circumstances. He had chosen not to heal my husband but to take Him home and yet He asked me to have a grateful heart. I must confess that I started off with mere words, my feelings were not gracious, nor understanding. But I did what God asked of me. After months of saying “thank you” to God during my prayer time and through out my days, one day I realized that I WAS thankful to God for taking Bill home.

Is. 57:1- The righteous perishes, and no man takes heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.” God gave me this scripture within the first couple of weeks of Bill’s death. It did bring me comfort that God had spared Bill from evil that was to come. A couple of months later God gave me this scripture again and told me that He had spared me from evil to come also.

I now understand that 1 Thes. 1:16-17 that we are to give thanks IN everything. Not just for everything, while it is actually occurring. I believe that thankfulness is the same as forgiveness in that both are claimed in the Spirit and are done at that moment through the strength of Christ. The flesh eventually catches up as we continue to claim it and walk it out.

I want to encourage you to be thankful in the midst of your situation, no matter how bad it seems. Thanksgiving is a great time to think on all God has, is and will continue to do in your life and it is a special holiday to do this! But, please take it to the next level and give God the thanks He is due at all times and in all things. “All things work together for our good and His glory”. Either God’s Word is true or it isn’t. Let’s stand in faith that God hasn’t given us more than we can bear and let’s praise Him in the midst of our worst.

I pray that your Thanksgiving and Christmas is filled with God’s love through His Spirit and His people. The best blessing in life…that God loves us! Receive all that He has for you. Let go of any bitterness toward God and know that He is working all things out for you so that He will be glorified!

I moved back to Miami to be with my loving, supportive, church family. I am completely healed and take great comfort that Bill will never hurt again.

Blessings, peace and love.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Caro.

Hello.
I am very excited to share with you a woman who is very special to me: Caro. I met her when she was attending youth group and I was her leader. Definitely a cool girl, in the sense that you know this girl loves Jesus <-- what cooler way to be!? She has flourished into an amazing woman. I absolutely love her post and pray that you be encouraged tremendously by it:

Seed Planters!


My way of thinking is very scatter-brain like. If I lose you in my train of thoughts, I won’t feel offended. hah!

I’ve been thinking a lot on not being worthy for God. Thinking why God would choose me?? Why me?? I probably mess up more than I should yet He chose me anyway. (there’s a thought....)

There, right there you notice something about God. You notice that there is a purpose in his choosing and second the type of love He has. One that doesn’t stop once you become a complete fool but it’s a consistent love even when you mess up. Hmm, okay so here’s a new concept for people. “HEY I’M STILL GOING TO LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT, AND IT’S A REAL LOVE THAT WILL ROCK YOUR WORLD!” -God.

Woah, What, Really? A love that stands the test of time? One that will be pure, amazing and beyond spectacular!? Yep, that type of love. But that’s not what I wanted to write about...so you’re thinking “Okay, then what?”

I wanted to talk about God and why He chooses the most unlikely, the rejects, the strange, the mess-ups and pretty much the complete weirdos!

I’ve been reading Acts, and one thing that really jumped out at me is in Acts 9, The Conversion of Saul. Let me give you a run-down of this dude, he definitely hated the disciples, and the disciples were definitely scared of him. Wanted them ALL jailed/killed etc (the good stuff). The best part.... he DESPISED that they were from The Way.

The ironic thing is God ends up using Saul to further his ministry on earth...WOAH WHAT! back up, wait a minute..yeah Saul the most unlikely of persons is chosen by God to spread the Gospel. Who also is Paul (name change), the one that we all know and love! Let’s rewind and review: Saul who was not the most loving person (can we say jerk?) towards the disciples is called to join them and does so!

One of the things that astounds me of that story is that you see God’s guiding hand in the whole thing. You see that God had a purpose for each one of their lives, and has one for ours also. It also gives me the perspective that not one person is too sinful to get to know Jesus as their Lord.

I think when it comes down to us in our lives, (at least I do) we look at people, and we see that they are so far from the truth they’d never be willing to hear about the loving goodness of God. I pray that our assumptions of those be crushed so we’d be able to just share just how stinken’ good the Lord has been in our lives.
Let’s be the seed planters!!

...(and if you’re thinking why doesn’t God just blind the ones he wants and tells them clearly; read Matthew 28:16-20)

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:13-14

I pray that God continually humbles us where we see everyone as someone who can be used for the kingdom of God. Lord let us not grow cold and presumptuous but continually remind us that at some point we were a Saul also.

Help us to love how you love us.
xoxo, Carolina


If you want to read more from Caro, ck our her blog HERE!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Andreina.

Hi Friends.
Today's post comes from Andreina. It was a sweet surprise for me to read her words. She was actually replying to an email that I had sent her. Andreina's response was so profound yet so simple, I knew then and there that God wanted me to share this with you. May the Lord bless you richly.

First let's read the portion of scripture Andreina will be writing from.
Luke 9:28-35
Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

From Andreina:
I was just reading my Bible study about how Peter, just like us, thought that he was able to figure out the "spiritual", and because of that He missed the point. He put Moises (law) and Elijah (Prophets) in the same level as Jesus (the cross) . We too do the same, when the only thing we know is that God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us in the cross....and we should listen to Him, because He is the only One that pleases the Father, not us .....humbling!!!! ONLY the Son's work satisfied the Father's justice, and we have to land (like Peter) under the cross and under His grace every day, knowing that He already has done everything we are unable to do (ever) because our rebellious and arrogant hearts.

The only thing we have to offer is to believe in the Gospel of His Son...FOR EVERYTHING to get to heaven and for our journey to heaven. We are to serve Him based on that truth; in response to HIS LOVE FOR US, for what HE HAS DONE FOR US and IN US. AY,AY,AY!!! He has already satisfied...are we listening??? That is a good news for me in the sense that it liberates me, but is not so good for my pride .

*I love her God-given wisdom.
Thank You Jesus.
Let's keep the main thing, the main thing. And the main thing is always Christ! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Denise.

Hi dear friends.
Today you will be reading from my cousin Denise. I have seen with my very eyes the transforming work of God through her life. You know that verse that says, "you have taken me from the miry clay and set my feet upon a rock?" Well... Denise is a display of that verse in Psalm 41. God saved her from a dark world and brought her into the marvelous light. It's amazing to witness God doing miracles today! Here is her post:

Trials and Adoration

Life is difficult on our own and my story is proof. I wasted many years of my life in isolation, imprisoning myself, stuck in a bubble that wouldn’t break. Until someone came and burst it for me. A savior, a king, Jesus.

I was always the quiet girl. I went through high school with no friends. I always thought that this was part of my personality until later when I realized it was something much more than just painful shyness. I was suffering from severe depression and anxiety. Life got better though. I met Jesus and He told me that I would not have to worry anymore. I started making friends and I gained confidence but most of all, hope. The years went by and there were days where I would doubt and I would start drifting away from God. But He never ceased to remind me of His wonders and how awesome He is. This past year has been a very long year for me. My mother passed away after eight years of battling with cancer and my father left to Afghanistan to work, leaving me and my younger siblings behind. That doesn’t even begin to describe all the trials I have been through just this past year. But one thing I do know, I have a God who loves me and He is more powerful than anything I could ever go through.

While my mother was in the hospital, I felt my world flipping upside down very quickly. The verse the Lord gave me was, 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” This verse kept coming up over and over and I had this overwhelming feeling that God would get me through this. When my mom died, I felt like I needed God more than ever now, and I just wanted to cling to Him for dear life. How could I do this or anything for that matter without Him?
It’s during times like these, that a lot of people feel the closest to God. We get so caught up in life that God needs to slow us down so we can hear Him. In Hosea 2:18, it says, “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her to the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

I love God so much and I am humbled to know that the creator of the universe loves me and cares about me. We think our problems are huge and overwhelming but compared to how huge God is, even our greatest problems are minuscule.
“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in your sight, O Lord God.....” 2 Samuel 7:18-19a

We may go through periods where we are in the desert but then there are periods where we think we have it all under control. We get caught up with day to day life and we may even stop thinking about God completely. We are doing well at work or at school and we make sure everyone knows what a great job we did. We forget about the One who got us there in the first place. This is called pride and it’s a very ugly thing. We begin to worship ourselves and our possessions and we put other things before God. But what a lot of us forget is that there is another kind of pride. This is the pride that I was caught up in, and often, still am. It’s the kind of pride that turns up when we are not doing well. When we start having a pity party with ourselves and start asking questions like, “Why me?” and, “No one cares about me” and “Why does it always have to be me?” The common factor here in both types of pride is, Me. It’s always about “Me” and not “He”. He is the one who should receive the glory. He is the one who is going to pull us out of this.

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name goes all the glory for your unfailing love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1

What I have learned through all of this,is to not to do things my way, but to do them His way. I need to trust in Him and He will be able to handle everything for me. We need to praise Him when we are up and praise Him when we are down.

My prayer for you is that the Lord would pour His spirit upon you and that you would see Him for who He is. He is more than we could ever ask for. He sent His only Son to die for us on the cross so that we might live. God bless you and may you seek Him so that He can be the filler of that empty space in your heart that you have been searching for.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Sunday, November 14, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Stephanie.

Today's birthday post comes from a very special friend. I was Stephanie's youth group leader when she was in High School. I have been a witness to the wonderful and faithful work of God in her life. Today Stephanie has bloomed into a beautiful lily among thorns. When I first asked her to pray about writing a guest post, she gently said no. However, the Lord had other plans. Below you will read what the Lord has spoken through her for you today.
God bless you!
Choosing to Forgive Even When We don’t ‘Feel’ Like It


Often times we are challenged to go beyond our “comfort zone” and do something out of the ordinary. Francis Chan could not have said it better: “We sometimes care about our comfort far more than we care about our character, but that's not God's desire.”

Sometimes we are faced with a challenge that we necessarily do not want to do. You see, I was challenged to do something in my life that I necessarily did not want to do. What’s the reason you may ask? Well, I could sit here for hours and give you excuses, but frankly, it was because I didn’t “feel” like it. I CHOSE not to do it.

One may hear all the time, “Life is FULL of choices” and if you really think about it, it’s true! You can choose to wake up in the morning expecting to have a wonderful day. You can choose to not get upset. You can choose to live a life worthy and surrendered to God. You can choose to set a good example at work, school, life, etc. You can choose to forgive those who have wronged you. You can choose to take charge of your own actions despite the way another may act. It’s all a choice, whether or not you “feel” like doing it. Why haven’t you done your homework? Because I don’t “feel” like it. Why haven’t you done your devo’s? Because I didn’t “feel” like it.

Choosing to base my decision upon all these “feelings” would be foolish. God’s word clearly tells us that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). I would only be deceiving myself if I chose to listen to those “feelings.”

My friend asked me, “Do you think Jesus ‘felt’ like dying on the cross for us? Go ahead. Think about it.” He also shared that Jesus prayed 3 times asking God if there was any other way. Not one. Not two, but THREE times! Feel free to read the story. It’s in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus knew that dying on the cross for our sins needed to be done. He loves us that much that He was willing to give it ALL just to be with us and offer that beautiful yet costly gift.

If we have chosen to give our “all” to God, yet we have chosen not to forgive another, have we truly given our “all” to Him? Forgiveness is definitely not an easy thing to do. If you are dealing with some type of hate or anger, let me ask you the following, “How does that hate/anger make you feel?” I bet it feels pretty bad. Note that hate is very hungry and has very sharp teeth. It can literally eat up your whole heart and leave no room left for love. Do not let your heart become a battlefield between love and hate.

Mediate upon the following two quotes:

• "Don't let your heart become angry toward people. God has not called us to yell at the darkness. God has called us to shine in the darkness." ΓΌ Brady Boyd

• Painful things that should be changed CAN be changed; from ending global poverty to healing a marriage. Willing to change is the difficult part. -Bianca Juarez

Now that God has given me all these insights into the things I was struggling with, I now have decided to take upon that challenge despite my feelings. An appropriate response is not a feeling, an appropriate response demands action. For me, in this season of my life, I have chosen to forgive. I love what Francis Chan said, “God is more concerned about changing YOU than changing your circumstance.”
At this time very moment you may be convinced with what I am sharing, but NOT necessarily converted and that’s fine because it is not my job. I’m not here to play the Holy Spirit. I’m here to share all that God has shown me and I pray that the Holy Spirit may give you the strength to do what He has called you to do and not just be filled with this knowledge and information God has shared through me. Stay strong in Him. Though roadblocks may alter your journey, remain steadfast in your Jesus journey and eventually, you will reach your destination. May we train ourselves to be still and hear the voice of God instead of our “feelings.”

I would like to close with the following statement I heard in a movie called “Amish Grace.” If you have not seen this film, I totally recommend it.

• “Faith when everything is as you want it to be is not true faith. It’s only when our lives are falling apart that we have our chance to make our faith real.”

Saturday, November 13, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Arlene.

Hi beloved friends. Are you in for a treat this post. You are about to read from one of the coolest, most amazing and overall, phenomenal people I know. As Paul was to Timothy, Arlene has been to me. I can't even begin to describe her without coming short. Hanging out with Arlene is like hanging out with one of the Disciples- she is that close to Jesus! Anywho, here is the post that she prayed about and received from the Lord to share with you:


SEASONS & The FUTILITY OF EXCESS LABOR


Arlene Hoffman, Seeker
Women At The Well Ministries, Inc
Ecclesiastes 3:1-16


I have always thought of myself as a 'reflector'. My definition of a reflector is one who plunges aggressively into any experience that's worth the investment of time and brain-energy after the actual experience has long gone. Well, that's me. I love to savor great experiences in my self-designed afterglow. My most recent investment has been reflecting on seasons. Not seasons marked by changes in weather, ecology or the revolution of the earth around the sun; but human-life seasons. The kinds of seasons that make us stop and pay attention. For the most part, these seasons require no input in their presentations, but they do demand appropriate responses and recognition as to their purpose in our lives. 2010 for me, ushered one of those 'stop and pay attention seasons' so I went into the book of Ecclesiastes to glean wisdom from King Solomon's brilliant though unstructured thesis of 'Life as man experiences it'.

My particular focus has been on Ecclesiastes 3:1-16. Solomon the Teacher parallels time and eternity in a great divide. He points out the inevitable contrasts in our lives, which are orchestrated by God and he admonishes his readers to accept the reality and inevitability of the seasons of our lives.

In verse 1, he reminds the reader that to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. And for the next seven (7) verses he makes synonymous parallels with contrasts and comparisons that would incite interest even in a mildewed brain. And then from verses 9-16, he brilliantly summarizes God's purpose from beginning to end; and emphasized the fact that God has put a sense of past and future into the hearts of man, thus awakening us to the reality of eternity.

As members of the Body of Christ, it is our responsibility to apply the principle of God's word to our lives and to assess with wisdom and understanding, the inevitable contrasts in our life experiences. Our responsibility involves accepting the things we cannot change and being careful to recognize the things we can change. I exercised my own responsibility by defining each verse of the Teacher's 7-Point sermon on the Cycles of Life and Nature in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. I am using these points as the measuring line in my own life, and it's helping me find pleasure in my 'new season experiences' instead of entertaining unnecessary attitude sessions regarding the things that are out of my control.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
There is a season, A Time for every purpose under heaven
  • A time to be born - 'A time to birth new ideas'
  • And a time to die - 'So you can be Born-again'
  • A time to plant - 'To make wise investment'
  • And a time to pluck what is planted - 'Time to harvest'
  • A time to kill - 'Not people but bad habits, which destroys life'
  • And a time to heal - 'Heal wounds caused from scarring'
  • A time to break down -'Things that are no longer relevant'
  • And a time to build up - 'A mismanaged life'
  • A Time to weep - 'To wash away discouragement'
  • And a time to laugh - 'To encourage oneself with joy'
  • A time to mourn - 'To grieve the untimely removal of things that matter'
  • And a time to dance - 'To embrace the gift of life and opportunity'
  • A time to cast away stones - 'To pass out good ideas and advice'
  • And a time to gather stones - 'To receive good ideas and advice'
  • A time to embrace - 'Reach out to someone in need'
  • And a time to refrain from embracing - 'To set boundaries with wisdom'
  • A time to gain - 'Wisdom and understanding'
  • And a time to lose - 'Things that are no longer useful'
  • A time to keep - 'Things that are life supporting'
  • And a time to throw away - 'That which is life cluttering'
  • A time to tear -'To separate good from bad'
  • And a time sew - 'To repair broken positive relationships'
  • A time to keep silence - 'In order to hear and listen to God'
  • And a time to speak - 'To be bold in your Christian witness'
  • A time to love - 'Life'
  • And a time to hate -'Things that destroy life'
  • A time of war - 'To battle against the enemy of your soul'
  • A time of peace - 'With God - yourself - and others'

In Reflection:
Everything is appropriate in its own time. But though God has planted eternity in the hearts of men, even so man cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. Whatever God does is final - nothing can be added or taken from it; God's purpose in this is that man should fear the all-powerful God in all the seasons of our lives.

*I told she was good! lol 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

birthday surprise! It's Laura.

I'm so happy to share today's post with you. From my precious friend Laura to all of you:

WORM
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent.
But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
“He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
Psalm 22:1-8

Worm?

In the Hebrew the word worm is tolaat a word that means scarlet or crimson. The reason why is that scarlet dye was made from a particular worm called the Kermes Vermilion worm. This worm pierces the thin bark of a twig to suck the sap from which it prepares a waxy scale to protect its soft body. The red dye is in the scale. When reproducing the female climbs the tree usually an Oak tree where it bears its eggs the larva hatch and feed on the body of the worm. (The worm gives life) a crimson spot is left on the branch. When the scarlet branch dries out (It takes 3 days for it to dry out!) it then changes to WHITE as it flakes off!!!!!

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
Isaiah 1:18

Interesting, takes 3 days!!!
It took 3 days for the crimson sin of humanity to be changed into the holy white of the Lord. Thank you Jesus!

Pretty neat, eh?!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

OH MY! I almost forgot.
Friends today, November the10th, is exactly a year since A Lily Among Thorns has been with you. To all of you who have been following closely since the beginning, to all who joined me along the way and to those of you who happened upon this blog today:
May the Lord bless you abundantly.
May His joy be your strength!
May the love of Christ fill you to overflow.
May you be salt and light.
May you be a lily among thorns as you seek to know God and make Him known!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

birthday surprise! It's Chris.

Hi Friends. As promised, throughout the month of November you will be reading from many of my friends. I have asked them to pray and seek of the Lord what He would have them share with you. Today, you will be reading a very encouraging post by my friend Chris, from The Stoph. Enjoy!

Trying Growth
Too often am I focused on the future or drowning in the past, that I often forget the present, what C.S. Lewis refers to as “the point at which time touches eternity.” What he meant by that is that in the present time, we are given freedom and actuality, and in the present is where our decisions can affect our eternity.

In the case of a Christian, we are driven by our convictions and our morals, things that God works in us through the process of sanctification. However, sometimes we lose sight of it, the present I mean. We often spend countless hours focused on the “would have beens” and the “should have been” that we forget the currently being. Or we can get swallowed up by the idea of the “going to be” and the “what if” that we again forget the currently being.

It is a dangerous game to forget the little things in life happening around us in the right now. To forget the mundane is to often forget life itself. To me, there are more mundane moments then there are major moments. However, too often do we live for those major moments in life. We like going from major event to major event. Yet we forget that major events are like puzzles, made up of hundreds of small otherwise mundane pieces of a huge picture.

If anyone in the bible had the right to ask why me, or focus on the past and the future, it was Joseph. I wonder what Joseph felt like when he sat in his jail cell in Gen 39 alone in his undeserved circumstance. I wonder if in those moments, Joseph plagued himself with thoughts of a distant vision given to him by God through dreams? Or, if he sat motionless remembering the past where his beaten body lay at the bottom of a pit awaiting death? I would venture to say that he did neither of the two. Instead, I think Joseph did something different. According to Gen 39:21 Joseph found favor in the sight of the Lord, “He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Why was that? We keep going on to verse 23 and we see that “whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.” I wonder the kind of attitude that got Joseph such favor?

Moving into Gen 40, we see Joseph presented with something familiar to him, dreams. It was dreams that got him in trouble in the first place,well really it was dreams combined with a premature, trigger happy mouth that landed him in the center of his brothers’ contempt. However, something had changed in Gen 40, no longer was Joseph so quick to speak, rather he was “slow to speak,” he showed self-control. In verse 8 after listening to two men, he tells us to whom interpretations belong to, that it is not by his power or his words, but by God’s word alone, would any sense be made of the dreams. We start to see maturity in his demeanor and this continues despite the fact that he spends another 2 years in prison (41:1) and was forgotten by the man whom he helped (40:23).

Finally, in Gen 41, Joseph gets his big chance, and rather than squander it as he did back in Gen 37:5-10, he gave all glory to God, he was humble (41:16). What I find so interesting is how the very thing that got Joseph in trouble, was the same thing that got him out of it. What changed? Was it Joseph’s circumstances? Well they only went from bad to worse. If anything, his circumstances should have driven him to anger. And as it is for many people today, a disdain for all things holy, because after all, “How dare God allow this to happen to me?!” or worse, “How could God DO this to me?!” As if God is some cosmic bully out to push people’s buttons and line things up like a game of chess for His own personal fun with complete disregard for having a relationship with His creation.

While his circumstances did change, his attitude changed as well, and it went in the polar-opposite of his circumstances. Why was that? Joseph did not allow for circumstances to govern his actions as the disciples did when they were scattered. He did something a good friend of mine said in the beginning of what I would say is my favorite letter ever written: Joseph “Counted it all joy when he fell into various trials, knowing that the testing of faith produces patience.” Joseph also let “patience have its perfect work, that he may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)


The word perfect in the Greek is the word teleios, used twice in verse 4. In both cases, teleios, describes something that has been brought to its end, completed, a finished work. Coincidentally, this word is also a root from which we get the famous word teteleiosti, the word Jesus uttered from the cross when the propitiation for our sin had been finished.

What then does that say to us about what we go through? Oftentimes, we are presented with situations in life and we are inclined to look to the past. We easily regret the mistakes and the mishaps or we look to the future and become consumed with some vision we received or some end we wish to reach. In doing this we become useless in the present. We become the very thing we are trying to avoid: being idle. Rather than focus on the present task or otherwise mundane things before us, we look behind us or in front of us rather than around us. We forget the purpose behind life’s trials and tribulations. We forget who it is that controls the ocean, the seas, the winds, and who put the earth into motion.

Sad thing is, many of us know all of what I said above. In fact a lot of us like to throw around that axiom of “It will all turn out for good" or "everything has a purpose.” However, our actions and our response to life’s issues tend to tell a different story. We’re great at loving these reminders when we read about them, but when we experience them, everything changes. And like any student, reading the information is one thing, but no one likes taking the exam.

I think Joseph knew very well who his God was. He understood that while he may not understand the current situation, he focused on what he did know, or better put, Who he knew.

Circumstances aren’t permanent, they are subject to change; what we need is to stop focusing on the things that change, and start focusing on the constants. It makes little sense to look at those things that change, we end up wasting time and eye sight.In the midst of our trials, our eyes must shift back to and remain fixed upon those things which are constant. I can think of only One thing that is, and the beautiful thing is that it isn’t a thing, but rather, a person. “Jesus Christ IS the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8). If you won’t find comfort in James or Joseph, find it in God, because after all, His love is what compelled both men to do and write as they did.

James in the midst of Nero and Pharisaical persecution did not back down to remind the Jewish Christians to consider it joy. Joseph did not forget who his God was. I am almost sure that He was quick to remember the success God had brought his fathers before him. Both these men understood one thing about their problems. Their problems would produce in them spiritual maturity, spiritual growth, and the patience they would receive from enduring said trials would work in them a more perfect faith, or better put, a more complete faith, one lacking nothing.

God is sovereign, and for that I am thankful. If anyone else were in charge, I would be dead by now. Nevertheless, because the all loving, all knowing, all powerful, all present God is in control, I can be sure that He will work all for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28), I can be sure that like Joseph, what was originally evil, He will use for good (Gen 50:20).

Ultimately remember this about God, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, have created it.” Isaiah 45:7. Pretty harsh words at first glance, however, this drips with love. When God spoke these words, it was to a people who were going to be attacked by Cyrus. They were spoken so that when the people asked “Why me?!” they would be reminded that it was God who had allowed it and that it was God that would use this king to humble His people. What was a horrible situation, God would use to better and grow His people. I call it true love, because it isn’t just about pampering, it is about causing growth. Remember that “…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2b)

Am I saying that you are being punished? No! Am I saying you deserve it? No! I can’t answer those questions. Regardless though, know this, whatever the situation, whatever the problem, look to the constant, look to the cross. I may not be able to tell you why it is, but I will be able to tell you what it isn’t and it isn’t that He doesn’t love you. It isn’t that He has forgotten you. Our suffering, our trials, when compared to the cross and the One who suffered on it for you, are but seconds in time in comparison to the eternal pain felt in that moment of separation. God knew what He was doing when He made you. He knows what He is doing now. And you can rest assured that if not one sparrow hits the ground apart from God’s will. You are worth more then they are. And God, who knew you before birth, knows what He is doing, and He always will. (Matt 10:29-30, Psalm 139:13).

To the past I say, keep God your omega point, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:13-14)

To the future I say, don’t despise the day of small things (Zech 4:10) and remember that “each day has enough trouble of its own… seek first His kingdom” (Matt 6:33-34)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

raging seas

Hi Readers.
Today's post comes from one of my top 3 favorites stories about Jesus. In Mark 4:35-41 we read about Jesus calming a raging storm while out at sea. Let's read:
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
I absolutely adore this story. I can't even begin to imagine how terrifying this experience was. I often times wonder: WWRHD- What would Raquel have done? I would have thrown some people over... for sure, let's take some weight off this sinking boat. OR better yet, start sprinting over water (ha ha)... after all, they were only going to the other side of the lake. But thank the Lord that I was not living in Biblical times nor was I a Biblical character.

The simplicity of this story is immeasurably profound.
Let's take a look at the storm.
Obviously no one forecasting a storm would carry on in a boat. This storm was a sudden happening, unforeseen and hellish. At times trials and tribulations come our way much like this storm, out of no where.

Let's take a look at the boat(s).
I am reminded through this passage that no one is exempt from storms. Remember, there were other boats with them. In a strange way, this is comforting. I am not alone in my suffering or in my moments of desperation. Every one has trials of their own, everyone is going through some sort of storm. We are not alone!

Let's take a look at the Disciples.
There really is nothing luxurious about these men. They were mere humans in need of Jesus. This is of great encouragement to me. These men had the Prince of Peace on their boat and what did they do? They ran to him whining! My goodness, how many times don't we do that. I know I do. Rather than seeking the Lord we look to Him with the 'why me' attitude. Or the 'don't you care about me' cry. I don't want to be that Christian. That's ugly. I want to run to Jesus for who He is: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Let's not forget what Jesus tells them upon calming the storm, "How is it that you have no faith?" These men had seen miracles and wonders, yet they feared and were even amazed that Jesus calmed the storm. Oh, that we would never fear but be clothed with strength and dignity, laughing without fear of the future (Proverbs 31:25) because we know who holds our future. And may we always have that childlike wonder when it comes to the things of God.
Let's take a look at Jesus. Honestly, my favorite part of this story is that Jesus is sleeping during the storm. This always cracks me up. Though I do find it funny, I sometimes feel like "Hey Jesus, are you sleeping?" Time and Time again this portion of the Bible reveals to me that Jesus is God. He arose and spoke. That's all it took. There is power in His Words. During my "storm" am I seeking His word? Am I going to Him to hear Him speak or only to demand and ask of things like a bratty 5 year old?

Finally, let's take a look at the wind and waves.
The New King James Version says that the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Did you get that, God spoke and BAM, a great calm. When God speaks into our lives, no matter how great the "storm" there can be a great calm. For it is only in His Words, that you and I can find comfort, peace, direction, revelation, hope, encouragement, strength and so much more. It also amazes me, how quickly the wind and waves obeyed. No procrastination. No grumbling. No conditions. The wind just stopped. The waves calmed. When God speaks, do I obey immediately? Do you?

Overall, this short little story challenges me to trust God with my life and to obey Him. Imagine living such a life of unshakable faith and immediate obedience in the midst of difficult, trying times... Those around us without a doubt will be asking, "who is this man?" Praying that in all things, our life would point others to Jesus.

They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits’ end.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
and stilled the waves.
What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Psalm 107:27-31

Monday, November 1, 2010

birthday month


I cannot believe that the 10th of this month will be a year since God placed it in my heart to start this blog journey. Wow! I am blown away.. both honored and humbled. Every week during the wonderful month of November you will be reading from a birthday guest. I am very excited to share with you a couple of the ladies that have been lilies among thorns in my life.

From day one, the vision I recieved from the Lord was to use this blog as a vessel of hope, encouragement, truth, but above all, to point others to Jesus. May the Lord continue using this home, A Lily Among Thorns, as His vessel of honor.

Dear Friends, let the birthday celebration begin!!!

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
and gathered out of the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way;
They found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted in them.
Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and He delivered them out of their distresses.
And He led them forth by the right way,
that they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
and for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
and fills the hungry soul with goodness.
Psalm 107:1-9 

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