Friday, October 16, 2009
Saturday, October 03, 2009
I want to share a couple of stories with you. Recently I shared a message at Christian Challenge about the persecuted church in Nepal, Pakistan and other parts of the world. But the persecution is also much closer to home than many of us realize. Many pastors in Latin America have received death threats from the narco-traffickers and some have been kidnapped or murdered. The couple pictured at the right received death threats this week and his uncle (who is also a pastor) was kidnapped and is being held for ransom. Please pray for Manuel and Susana as they walk through this difficult time. Even though they have received death threats, they are not backing down from preaching the gospel.
The dear sister at the left, standing with the conference organizer, Mario Tagle, was co-pastor with her husband for many years. He attended the first leadership conference that Joel taught at back in March but he passed away two days ago. Yesterday she buried her husband and today she came to the leadership training. Mario led us in prayer for her and their church. I admire her service and dedication.
We had over 400 leaders from 60+ churches at the conference (the numbers are still being finalized). It amazes and humbles me that Joel and I could be used of the Lord to touch so many lives down here. Something so small that began in 1988 has now flourished into not only several Agua Viva churches, but the ability to influence hundreds of leaders in so many churches. It's truly an honor to be a part of this, extending the Kingdom of God in southern Mexico by joining hands.
I've uploaded some pictures to my Flickr account that tell the story, perhaps a little better than these words. Check it out here.
The conference started out with some awesome praise and worship and then Joel taught the first lesson on "The Leadership Test" which dealt with different kinds of tests that leaders face and how God uses them to form character in our lives. I then taught on the subject of "Security or Sabotage" which dealt with the issue of insecurity in the life of a leader. I really enjoyed studying for this session and picked up a few tidbits for my own life.
- Delegating Tasks and Developing People - Moving from Addition to Multiplication (Nathan)
- Teamwork Makes the Dream Work - The Characteristics of a Great Team (Joel)
- The Wisest Investment You'll Ever Make -Mentoring Future Leaders (Nathan)
- Measuring Your Leadership Growth - An Evaluation for Growing Leaders (Joel)
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
I received an email from the brother in Nepal that I wrote to you about previously. I had sent him a link to the two blog entries and let him know that there were MANY people praying for him and for the persecuted church in those areas. He is VERY appreciative. However, he requested that I remove his name and any identifying information from the blog as that could pose a higher security risk for him. So I've gone back to the past two posts and removed his name and other information that could be used to identify him. It's ok to talk about these things among ourselves, but the Internet is accessible around the world and I definitely don't want to jeopardize them. So I'm calling him "Pastor T" in the posts.
Please continue to pray for them. If you'd like a higher quality version of the bookmark on the left, just let me know and I'll get one to you (with their full names). Thank you for your interest, your concern and your prayers.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I've been asked by several people if I've heard any updates from Pastor T who I wrote about in my last blog entry. Below is an email I just received from him:
Dear Respected Pastor Nathan Martin,How are you? Thank you very much for your email to me. We are praying for you and for your ministries. Thank you very much for your kind prayer and great encouragements to us in this situation. We are still getting persecutions from the Hindu Defence Army people. Want to make only Hindu Religious Kingdom. But God is with us. They could not do nothing. We are still safe from the evil persons and evil one. You are so great man of God in this earth who loves us in the Lord. Yes, He is living God with us who protect every on of us.Yes, we are trying to live carefully in the Lord. Every church members are careful in this situation. The government security force people (policemen) visit us during the church service times and other times also. And ask us to be careful and wise for protections. But sometimes we inform them and ask them to come our church. The police office is near by our church. The asked us if any persons comes and trying us to threaten. Any one of have to go to police station to inform about them.Last week, some one called to pastor of Jawa Jiwan Church informing to Pastor during the praise and worship service time on Saturday Service that there is a bomb in your church. He informed to his church congragation, then most of them ran away from the hall. Police came and check there but nothing there in hall. Later policemen caught the man who informed about the bomb to the Pastor of Nawa Jiwan Church. Like this some people are trying to frightening and disturbing to the Christians of Nepal. Policemen care most of churches during the services times of Kathmandu.I will keep writing all the informations of situations of Nepal. Thank you very brother! You may pray for us continue in the Lord.Yours Faithfully,T [named removed to preserve identity]Kathmandu, Nepal
As you can tell, the difficulties continue and the strain is very great. After writing my last blog entry I was very impressed to share this story with our church. I had also received an email from my friend Babar in Pakistan with very similar concerns. These two emails had a profound impact on me. No longer was persecution some far away concept happening to some nameless faces. These were my friends. I had eaten supper in Pastor T's house. I had held Babar's baby in my arms. And the persecution was real.
As a result, I shared a message this past Sunday entitled "Remember My Chains" - based on Paul's admonition to the Colossian Christians in Col 4:18 and based on the words of Hebrews 13:3 "Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." We are called upon to remember those who are persecuted for the cause of Christ because we are all part of the same body.
For those who may not have seen it, you can view the sermon on our website until next Sunday, when it will be replaced with the current week's sermon. Just go to http://christianchallenge.org/live/index.html and look for the "View Sermon Archives" section at the bottom of the page. Here's a list of the videos I used in the sermon:
- The Battle is Real: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_uLJT7n9vM
- Orissa: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQlzOoXEXQ4
- We Are One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkBkO1DG_iA
- Thank you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV8t917nNIk
- Extraordinary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6g5S3aZffBs
There are so many other good videos put out by Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs. I would recommend some time checking out their Youtube channels:
- Open Doors: http://www.youtube.com/user/OpenDoorsUSA
- Voice of the Martyrs: http://www.youtube.com/user/VoiceOfTheMartyrsUSA
We had several guests in service with us this weekend and one of them shared how the message impacted her on her blog at: http://createdtopraise.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/persecuted/ - She really captured the essence of the message. (Thanks for sharing that, Becky.)
At the end of the service we gave out a bookmark with pictures of Pastor T & family and Babar & family as a reminder to "remember their chains" and to pray for the persecuted church. On the back of each bookmark was taped a small piece of chain that I suggested each one put on their keychain as a daily reminder to pray for the persecuted church. If you'd like one of the bookmarks, send me an email. I'm not going to put my email address on here but my name is Nathan and I'm at ChristianChallenge.org - does that help you figure it out? :)
Anyhow, thanks for the inquiries about Pastor T and Babar. I'll keep the blog posted with updates as I get them. Keep praying!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Dear blog friends,
Today I received an email from a pastor in Kathmandu, Nepal, who I met in 2007 when I traveled with Patrick Calhoun to establish Christians Sharing Christ film teams in the Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan and India. I blogged about the trip back in 2007, starting with this entry: Off to Asia! (July 1, 1007). I posted about my visit with the pastor here and shared part of his testimony on that blog post.
Today I received an email from my pastor friend requesting prayer for the persecuted Christians of Nepal. He outlines some of the struggles they're having and shares that the persecution is real. I'm asking that you read his letter prayerfully and pray as the Lord directs. Please excuse his English as that is his second language. However, I think he heart comes through loud and clear. Thank you for reading. And praying.
Dear Respected Pastor Nathan in the Lord,
Warm Greetings in the name of Lord!
How are you? We pray for you and hope that you are fine in the Lord. We have not communicated each other. We would like to communicate continue with you and share some news and situations of Nepal and Nepali Christians. We are glad in the Lord and protect us from evil ones. God is with us and living and walking in the Lord by the Holy Spirit. We pray and hope that God is with us and protecting us from the evil ones and from evil persons of Nepal. Please pray for us we are in risky situations now again.
Present Situations of Nepal:-
Satan is using the Hindu people strongly now in Nepal:- Nepal is full with the temple of hindu gods and goddesses in every house and places of Nepal. Christians are only 3% in Nepal. Hindu are 90% in Nepal. Most of Hindu people want Nepal as Hindu Nation. We Christians are facing going to attacks again in Nepal. We are living and serving the Lord in risky situations here again now. Christians in Nepal are facing worrying times amid threats against them by Hindu extremists who recently carried out a bomb attack on a church. There are many many Hindu people are against the Christianity now. They have some religious toreros groups as Shiva Sena (armies of Shiv god), Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a Hindu fundamentalist group and World Hindu Association etc. All Hindu people support to them and their activities in Nepal. They have already targeted to attack the Churches and want to attack again to Christians with bombs and guns in Church. They have already threatened to many pastors and leaders in Kathmandu and other places time to time on phones and by mails. Also they came to churches during the church service time with big group people to many churches in and gave warning papers and asked the churches to stop church activities in Nepal and live the country. They asked the big money as millions rupees from each church if the Christians want to run the churches in Nepal. Some pastors are already hidden underground to be protected from them as I heard. Some leaders of churches are already regined from their leader’s positions of church with fear of attack. I think this situation came to be filtering times in the Lord. Any how Satan is working strongly in Nepal now. He is using the Hindu people to do that. We can see that most of Hindu are not kind, no compassion, no love at Christians. They are increasing their cruelness in their hearts against the Christianity. They love Hindu cultures and the Christian people.
Last time there were three people died and 13 others were injured when an improvised explosive device detonated at a catholic church in Dhobighat in Lalitpur district. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a Hindu fundamentalist group. Worryingly, the NDA issued new threats, saying it was planning to explode ten further bombs at the homes of Nepali Christians. In a statement, the group said the action was in response ‘to the open rape of Hindu culture through open religious conversion’.
The NDA has pointed the finger at Christian aid groups and given `unholy elements’ until tomorrow to leave Nepal. Ominously the statement goes on: `if this warning is ignored they will have to bear a punishment beyond human imagination.’
We have political and religious freedom in Nepal. This came at a critical time for Nepal which is currently working on a new constitution that will shape the outlook of the nation and importantly the position of Christians within it. The political groups are still fighting for the power and for chair of Nepal. There are still dangerous situations in Nepal. The Nepal Communist Party (UML) is leading the government of Nepal. But they are weaker than the Maoists Party. They are trying to do well but lot of opposites people in parliament. The Maoists Leaders want to run government of Nepal themselves.
Rainy Season, flood and landslide and cholera disease in Nepal. We are rainy season in Nepal. Everyday is raining here. It is happy to rain in Nepal but now we can see and hear there are flood and landslide everywhere. People are loosing their life in flood and landslide now. Also people are losing their lives, lands, house, animals and crops too. We can not hear good news in Nepal. People are suffering and facing many critical situations. Also we can see and hear that there are spreading the cholera disease in west of Nepal and other places. We can see all these suffering are here because of people are sinning against the God. I have remembered one verse from The Bible: Rom. 8:22 “Fro we know that the whole creation groaned and travailed in pain together until now.”
Pastor! Please pray for us for protection and please request to pray for all of your church brothers and sisters. We are living in end of times in this world. Our Lord Jesus is coming soon. We have to suffer and be patience in the Lord. We have to be faithful until death. I would like to request all of you please remember us in your daily prayer. We need your kind prayer support and encouragements in the Lord.
Thank you very much for your kind prayer support to us. God is with us. We trust and live in Him. He is the almighty God. He will take cares all of us. God bless you richly in this matter. I am waiting to hear from you.
Pastor T [name removed to protect identity]
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
You can read the story of how we got married on my of my websites at: http://www.GuardHerHeart.com/HowWeGotMarried.shtml. Yes, it's a crazy story, one I probably wouldn't believe if someone told me it happened to them. But that is what happened 22 years ago today!
Lori left a comfortable life in the United States to join me as a missionary to Mexico. We lived in a tiny one-room (not one-BEDroom, one ROOM) apartment and she was a real trooper! (We did eventually move to something bigger!) Over the next 3 1/2 years we helped establish and oversee churches in the state of Oaxaca and later helped plant a large congregation in the city of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz with Joel and Angel Dyke. Lori learned Spanish the hard way - going to the market, sitting through church services, conversing with neighbors. She jumped in with both feet and truly made us a home in the heat of those southern jungles, an oasis of love on foreign land.
As I think back over the last 22 years of our life together, there have been a lot of changes, a lot of laughter, a few tears and a lot of growth. We have grown in our love and respect for one another. We have learned to give each other space and be gracious with each others' flaws and shortcomings. (She's had to be more gracious than me!
Both of us are 44 now, which means we've now been married for half of our lives. In looking back, I have to admire that young lady who left a life of ease and comfort to join me in the unknown world of missions and life in general. It's been quite an adventure! And she has loved me, believed in me, encouraged me ... every step of the way. Thank you, Lori, for spending half your life with me. I look forward to spending the rest of our lives together. I love you!
I love serving Jesus with YOU, Lori Marie Chapman Martin!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you."(Josh 1:5 NASB emphasis mine.)
Friday, March 27, 2009
I'm excited about Christian Challenge's 33rd Jubilee Homecoming Anniversary taking place this weekend, March 28-29! Thirty-three years ago this month Christian Challenge first opened its doors as a School for Christian Workers in Boyce. We later moved to two different temporary locations in Pineville before moving into our permanent facilities on Pearce Road in 1990.
The 33rd year is special because it speaks of a certain level of completeness. History tells us Jesus fulfilled His mission on earth in His 33rd year. With the idea of "completeness" in mind, it's fitting that Sunday's special speaker for this Jubilee will be the founder of Christian Challenge, my dad, Buddy Martin. He has prepared a special video that walks you through the early years and he'll be sharing some special memories of the early days of CCI. I know you'll enjoy that. (BTW, he posted an entry on his blog about the weekend that you'd probably enjoy.)
Christian Challenge wouldn't exist if it weren't for the vision and sacrifice of my dad and mom, Buddy and Betty Martin. They nurtured this stewardship from nothing but a seed, pouring their life, their energy, their resources into creating a place where disciples could be made, servants could be prepared and broken lives could be restored. So it's perfectly fitting that he should be our speaker on Sunday morning. If your live has been touched by Christian Challenge, you won't want to miss this!
But before we get to Sunday we'll have Maxim Ammosov, the director of the Jews for Jesus ministry in Moscow, Russia, on hand Saturday night to lead us through a special "tasting Passover". You'll get to sample parts of the Passover meal as he presents "Christ in the Passover". The words Jesus spoke in the Upper Room will come alive as each Hebraic item is carefully explained. This will take place Saturday at 6:30 PM. There is no admission fee, although we will receive a love offering for the ministry of Jews for Jesus.
I hope you'll plan on being with us this weekend. There will be special music, drama, dance and dinner on the grounds! We'll also have a special commemorative gift for everyone in attendance. And if you can't join us in person, we'll be webcasting both Saturday night and Sunday morning on our webpage. Thanks for helping us celebrate 33 years of ministry!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
It's been awhile since my last post on January 31. Sorry 'bout that - I quickly got swept back into the routines of life and got out of the habit of blogging. Part of the reason was I got talked into creating a Facebook account, which is fun. I've also set up a Twitter account, so I've been using some other ways of staying in touch with people. But I've missed my blog! So here's a quick story to get me back into the swing of things.
Today I had the difficult task of preaching the funeral for a man I never met. Some of his family members had heard me preach another funeral some time back and as neither he or they were members of any church, when he passed away, they called to see if I would preach his funeral.
I met with the family yesterday afternoon and it was a little awkward. They explained that though they weren't "religious" and that he didn't believe in "organized religion," they felt like they needed some sort of religious ceremony to mark his passing. I asked about his faith and they said he believed in a "higher power" and had a couple of Bibles. I asked for, and received, one of the Bibles, a beautifully bound Doré Bible, full of beautiful illustrations. In the front he had meticulously written out his family tree and recorded the births, deaths and marriages of his family. We continued visiting for awhile, but it was difficult. There weren't many pleasant memories to be shared. I prayed with the family and returned to my office.
Later in the evening I went to another funeral home to visit with the family of another man I had never met. I wasn't asked to minister at the funeral, but was there to pay my respects and support a dear friend. This scene was entirely different. This man had been a believer and his family had the full assurance that he was with Jesus. Less than 24 hours before he died he had gathered his family together to say his goodbyes, to individually tell each one of them how much he loved them, instructing them to watch out for one another and telling them not to worry about him, that he was going to be with Jesus. While his passing was mourned, the family and friends had such a hope, such an assurance, such a comfort.
I was stricken by the drastic contrast between these two funeral homes. And the difference was a life lived for Jesus! The second family surely mourned for their loss, but their hearts were incredibly comforted by the firm assurance that their loved one had called on the name of Jesus and that they would see him again. I left there with both a sense of joy for this family and a sense of sadness for the other.
I ministered this morning at the funeral and it was sobering. I shared that the engravings in the Bible were famous the world over but the artist was relatively unknown because he drew long before the days of copyrights. I compared this to the majesty of God's creation who has left us magnificent portraits of His love, and yet we don't know Him. I spoke from Ecclesiastes about the yearning of eternity in our heart for meaning and purpose - that God has placed eternity in our hearts. And that nothing on this vast earth can fill that eternal void except for a relationship with an eternal God, as Solomon said:
"The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person." (Ecc 12:13 NASB)I shared that God had explained Himself through the person of His Son, Jesus (see Heb 1:1-3) and that a relationship with Him would fill that void of eternity in our hearts where nothing else would. I then closed with the story of John Newton, the author of "Amazing Grace," which they had picked out as the closing song. His story is one of redemption and hope for everyone, no matter what a "wretch" you've made of your life. God's grace is still amazing to this day.
I wish I could say there was a dramatic transformation or that someone professed faith in Jesus but that didn't happen ... yet. My role was to plant the seed, share the Gospel as plainly as I could and invite them to taste of the eternal fulfillment that we have in Jesus. I pray the Lord will water the seed and cause it to grow and bear fruit.
There you have the tale of two funeral homes. One filled with sorrow and emptiness. In the other was mourning, but with hope. And that hope makes all the difference.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
And then I opened my Bible. That sentence tells you all you need to know - for just about every situation in life. As I read the final chapter on the final day of our 21 Days of Consecration, I was captivated by the familiar stories. I saw the tenderness of Jesus calling the disciples "Children" - such a term of endearment. I could hear the grunt of the fishermen as they tried to pull in the net that was miraculously full of fish. I stepped back to avoid being splashed on by Peter as he hurled himself into the water to greet Jesus with such gusto, and yet without his familiar bravado, unsure of his current standing with Jesus, his recent denials still ringing in his own ears.
I sniffed the smell of a charcoal fire with the aroma broiling fish wafting through the morning sun. Oh how thoughtful Jesus was to have prepared a meal for them. Sure they could have cleaned a few of the fish, started a fire, waited for the coals to get just right and tossed them on. But Jesus knew the antidote to their sleepless night was a hot breakfast and cool conversation.
After they finished and were licking their fingers clean, Jesus turns to Peter and asked him, "Do you still think you love me more than these other guys do?" Peter, ashamed that the question even had to be asked, cautiously replied, "Lord, You know how much I care for you." No more bravado. No more boasting. No more comparing himself to others, holding himself out as the example of a leader. Just "You know."
Expecting a harsh reply, perhaps a quick correction, instead he heard Jesus remind him of why He had called him in the first place. "OK, Peter. Remember to feed my little lambs that are so precious to Me."
What? That wasn't the answer he was expecting. Where was the stern rebuke? Where was the harsh reply? Where was the public humiliation in front of his peers? "I don't deserve this kindness," he thought. "I deserve to be put down, laughed at, thought poorly of by those who know my betrayal so well."
Another question interrupted the tangle of thoughts racing through his mind. This time not a comparison to the others, just a simple question: "Peter, do you love Me?" Unable to use the same word, "love," that Jesus had used, and not sure where He was going with this - still expecting the other shoe to drop, Peter haltingly responded, "Yes, Lord. You know that I really care for you."
A pause. A hesitation. "Does He doubt what I'm saying? How can I say I care for Him when I abandoned Him so quickly?" But before the thoughts could untangle Jesus' voice cut through like a spear, "You've got to take care of my sheep."
"How can He trust ME to take care of His sheep? I don't understand. I failed Him! I abandoned Him! I denied Him! I cursed Him! HOW CAN THIS BE?"
As the echoes of condemnation faded he heard the clear voice of Jesus softly and slowly rise through the mist of his tortured mind, "Peter, do you care for Me?" He could stand it no longer, a torrent of shame and guilt rushed from His mouth. All his hopes and fears, expectations and disappointments came tumbling together. There was nothing left. He was bare. He was empty. It all came out at once.
"OH LORD! You know everything! There's nothing you don't know. You know the deepest places of my heart. You know my failures and my self-loathing. And through all this you know that I truly do care for You!"
There. It was out. No hiding. No shifting blame. He hated himself for failing. ... But he still loved Jesus. He couldn't bring himself to use the same word Jesus had used, but Jesus had brought it down to his level. And he told Him everything. Nothing was hidden. It was all out in the open for all to see.
The next words rocked His world. "Peter. I want you to feed my sheep." With each question Peter had remembered his personal failure. And with each answer Peter had relived the horror of it. Yet with each response from Jesus Peter had slowly been restored. Back to his original calling. Back to his original love. Restored. Restored. Restored.
Jesus went on to talk about his future, to tell him that his journey wasn't over, that no matter how big the failure, there was much journey left to be had. There was an ending point to the journey, but this wasn't it. And in the meantime, he didn't have to worry about others, what God was doing in their lives or how God wanted to use them. He just had to follow Jesus. If God wanted to do greater things in the lives of others, that was ok. He was going to follow Jesus. Because the journey continues!
This chapter ends with this statement:
Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25 NLT)There are many more chapters to be written, many more miles to travel. This journey that we've been on has not come to a close, only one leg of it. I don't know what tomorrow holds. But I know the journey continues. Will you travel with me?
Friday, January 30, 2009
Some, however, knew exactly what to do. They didn't have time to figure out the secrets of the universe or to try to understand the whys. They just needed to be at the tomb, to find a way to demonstrate their love. Mary Magdalene was one of those.
Early in the morning, just as the sun began to glow in the east, she made her way through the dawny darkness to the unfamiliar place where Jesus' body had been hurriedly placed. When she arrived she looked around, unsure if this was the right place. The big stone that had blocked the entrance wasn't where she saw it last. A million thoughts rushed through her head as she tried to put the pieces together. Instantly it came to her - someone moved His body!
She rushed back to the only person she could think of who would do something - Peter! He might not know WHAT to do, but he would do SOMETHING! Peter called to John and together they dashed toward the tomb, arranging their clothing as they went. The younger John rushed ahead of Peter but his youthful zeal evaporated at the edge of the darkened cavern. He wouldn't go in there alone, but Peter barged right in, hoping the catch whoever it was in the act.
Amazingly what they saw was not the signs of a grave robbery. There wasn't a heap of disheveled burial cloths, but instead everything was neatly in place - except there was no body. The face-cloth was folded neatly and gently placed aside, almost as if someone had caressed His face ... and then ... what?
They didn't know. Confused, dazed, bewildered, each disciple went back to his house. John believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter just wasn't so sure. He just didn't know.
Mary couldn't leave. She just couldn't. It was fine for others to leave, but this place was the last connection she had with Jesus and even if His body wasn't there any more, she had to stay there to weep. To mourn. Her love formed droplets of tears as they ran down her cheeks and dissolved into her clothing.
She ventured another look into the tomb and this time she saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus had been lying. They asked her why she was crying and in her grief she was too upset to question why angels would be there. She poured out her heart - "they've taken my Lord and I don't know where!"
As she spoke these words she heard a rustle behind her and saw the angels' eyes look past her, as if someone had come in. She turned and in the darkness of the tomb looking into the bright opening she saw the outline of a man, perhaps the gardener. He said, "Ma'am, what's the matter? Who are you looking for?"
Angry that perhaps this was the one who had disturbed her Lord's resting place she blurted out, "If YOU have taken Him somewhere, just tell me. I'LL go get Him and take Him off your hands. It won't be a bother, just tell me!"
Just then the Gardener opened His mouth and with the tender love that she had first heard from His voice so long ago He simply said, "Mary!" She knew! She knew!!! It was Him! It WAS Him!
Emotions flooded her soul, her mournful sobbing deepened into sobs of relief and joy and she lost all decorum, flinging herself at Him, clutching at Him, holding His head in her hands in disbelief and then clinging to Him so tightly she could barely breathe. It was Him!
He had been there. She just hadn't seen Him. She just hadn't recognized Him. But He had been there.
He gave her a message, told her of things to come, made her the first evangelist of His resurrection and sent her to tell the others. He called her name.
As I read this familiar story I was brought into the complex web of emotions and truly sensed the wonder of the morning. I also was captivated by the fact that Jesus stood there but she didn't know it was Him. How many times in our lives have we felt all alone, completely bewildered and confused - and He was there all the time? And when He calls our name - oh what joy, oh what peace, oh what comfort!
Today I hope you're encouraged that no matter what's going on in your life, He is there. You may not recognize Him. Your darkness may obscure His form. Your grief may prevent you from recognizing Him. But His is there. And all you need is to hear Him call your name. So pour out your heart. Don't hold back. Tell Him why you're crying and Who you're looking for. And listen for Him to call your name. He's there.
This YouTube video might bless you:
(If you can't see it, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diFPNeDLSZs)
Thursday, January 29, 2009
But when I opened the pages and began to read, a sense of calm came over me. This was necessary. And it was good. Here are several things that really jumped out to me:
- Jesus' innocence was repeatedly proclaimed (18:34; 19:4,6) demonstrating His purity. He was thoroughly examined and proclaim perfectly pure, the unblemished sacrifice.
- Jesus was shown to be the King of the Jews on multiple occasions (19:3,11,14,15,19-22) though not in the sense of a political king that they expected. But He came to rule the hearts of men.
- All of this happened to fulfill Scriptures (19:24,36,37). This was not fate, nor happenstance. There was a specific purpose for all of this.
- Jesus was in complete control the entire time (19:11,26-27,30). He willingly laid down His life to set the captives free.
This past Sunday we dealt with the topic, setting the captives free. Those who were here will remember we distributed half-sheets of paper with prison bars on them. As I ministered, I encouraged everyone to write the names down in the open prison door on their paper, as a reminder to pray for them. We also gave those who wanted to do so the opportunity to bring a copy and place them in the "bars" up on the platform. We assembled those names and yesterday sent them out to the Prayer Team. I also had Jenni take the papers back out to take a picture of them in the "bars", which you can see at the left.
On the 48 sheets that were turned in were over 270 names (not counting the ones that said "and family"). Truly there are many captives, who we love so much, that we want to see set free. And this is possible because of what we read in John 19. "It is finished!" That's the cry from heaven. That's the response when anyone falls to their knees and asks for forgiveness for sins. The work has been done. Now they must walk it out and walk in it.
Let's continue to pray for the captives in our lives, that they will truly be set free. We love them. That's why their name is on the list! And God loves them - that's why He had us put their name on the list! So let's do our part: Pray Unceasingly, Love Unconditionally, Share Appropriately. And God WILL do the rest!
P.S. This Sunday is going to be a Consecration Celebration! You'll have the opportunity to share what God has done in your life during these 21 Days of Consecration. And we'll close with communion - it's going to be "off the hook!!!" I can't wait! Let's finish strong!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Jesus had a place like that with His friends too. In the story of Judas betraying Jesus we get a glimpse of it:
"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the ravine of the Kidron, where there was a garden, in which He entered with His disciples. Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples." (John 18:1-2 NASB) (See picture of Garden of Gethsemane at right, courtesy of BibleStudy.org)Did you catch that last part? Jesus often met there with His disciples. There's a certain intimacy and familiarity about the verse that speaks comfort to my soul. Jesus had a favorite hangout with His friends. And in those moments when He wanted to get away, to just be with His friends, that's where He went. So He could talk with them, be real with them, let down His hair around them. (OK, I doubt He ever wore His hair up, but you get the point! :-) )
As I think back over these 18 days I realize we've developed a new "favorite meeting place" with Him. Each day we've met with Him in the garden of His Word. And each day He has shared some new intimacy, some new peek into the corner of His heart for us and our loved ones. We've also met with him in the garden of our soul and together we have weeded and pruned and lovingly cared for what He sees as a beautiful place.
Even though our 21 Days of Consecration journey is drawing to its destination (I'm a little sad about that), our favorite meeting place doesn't end on Saturday. I believe He still longs to meet with us in the garden, to share heart intimacies with us, to experience life exchange. We've got three days left - but let's make it just the beginning of regular "gardening time" in our new favorite places: the garden of His word and the garden of our soul.
P.S. I've been given 25 tickets to the Louisiana College basketball game Thursday night. Women play at 5:30, men at 7:30. I've got Community Group that night but I'd love for these tickets not to go to waste. Just give me a shout if you'd like some!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
"For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:19-21 NASB)Obviously I was deeply touched by the fact that in Jesus' prayer for His disciples He included you and me ... "for those also who believe in Me through their word". That's a powerful truth that we need to remember. Jesus is praying for me!
Monday, January 26, 2009
We are into the last week of our 21 Days of Consecration. The finish line is just around the bend. You can hear the distant chant of those gathered around the checkered flag. You can smell the fresh-baked bread of champions. (OK, maybe I've been fasting too long!!! [Grin]) But we're almost there. Don't stumble now! Listen to Jesus:
"These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling." (John 16:1 NASB)While this is talking about stumbling in our overall walk with the Lord, let me apply it to our 21 Days of Consecration. You've come so far and made such great strides in your personal consecration. Whether you've been fasting, giving up some pleasure/leisure to replace it with spiritual intimacy or reading through John one chapter at a time, don't give up now! Kick it up! Pick up the pace! Press on to through the week to the finish line! Finish strong! And if you haven't joined in, start today! There's still time to finish strong!
As a reminder, this week we are focusing on the loved ones in our lives who are in captivity in some area of their lives. We are "standing in the gap" for them, praying, loving and sharing (when appropriate). Later today we'll be compiling the list of all the names that were turned in for prayer and will be sharing them with our prayer team. If you'd like a copy of that list, just let me know and we'll get it to you.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of 21 Days. It's been a powerful time. Let's encourage each other to finish strong!
Sunday, January 25, 2009
"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." (John 15:7 NASB)Today our focus shifts off of us to those loved ones in our lives who are in captivity, whether they know it or not. We love them so much and want to see them set free. In this morning's service we'll be talking about this subject and they will be the subject of some intense prayers in the days and weeks to come.
What captivated me about this verse is the promise that God would answer our prayers if we abide in Him and His word abides in us. We've spent two weeks of intense abiding, feasting on His word, setting new habits in our lives, delighting in Him. And now He invites us to "ask whatever we wish" - and because we've been abiding in Him, we want what He wants! And He wants the captives free!
This week as you pray, the Lord will put the specific people on your heart to pray for. He'll show you how to love them unconditionally and how to position yourself through love to share the truth at the right time. All because you've been abiding in Him! And His words are abiding in you!
So keep on! Don't get discouraged! Don't let up! In whatever area of consecration you've begun, don't give up - keep pressing on, whether it's fasting or some other area of consecration. This is the week that will make a difference! And if you haven't joined with us yet, start today! Read John 15 today and commit to read a chapter a day with us for the rest of this week. Commit to abide in Him and let His words abide in you! As the old saying goes, "You'll be glad you did!"
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Jesus' very next words tells how He wants us to respond:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me." (John 14:1 NASB)During these past two weeks of spiritual alignment and breaking yokes you may have discovered some things about your life that troubled you. You may have discovered some ways you've failed the Lord or let Him down. Or, you may have received some news that was discouraging. Jesus' answer is still the same - Don't LET your heart be troubled...believe!
Belief is the antidote for a troubled heart. Jesus had never let the apostles down. Not one time. So He goes on to talk about the future He has planned for them. No matter how difficult the situation now, or how many times we've failed Him, He still loves us and has prepared a place for us so that we might be with Him. That's how much He loves us! That's good news!
Today is the 14th day of our 21 Days of Consecration. We've been focusing on our lives getting in line with God and breaking the yokes that keep us back from serving Him fully. Tomorrow we start our last week where we will focus on the people in our lives who are captives. We want to see the captives set free! Spend some time asking the Lord who He wants you to focus your prayers on and let's believe together. God's going to do it!
Friday, January 23, 2009
The long of the story is that neither of us transferred, we both finished our senior years at PHS, John and his family moved back to Georgia and he went on to bigger and better things. (And you know about me.) But I'll never forget the look on Mr. Clement's face, the disappointment, the hurt that showed. And I'll never forget the way I learned the eternal truth that "Timing is everything."
I thought of that experience when I read the first verse of John 13:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1 NASB)On several different occasions John mentions Jesus' time or hour. Prior to now, each time it was to say that it had not come (John 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). But now the hour has come. Jesus had been moving inevitably toward the destiny for which He had come - the cross. That's why He had never feared the crowds or the death threats or the cliffs. His time was in God's hands. He knew that timing is everything.
In our lives we're always in a hurry, trying to rush along to the next outcome, trying to speed up things, wanting to grow faster, mature more quickly, etc. But what peace comes from knowing that our time is in God's hands and His timing is perfect. If we can rest in that assurance, it will bring a great sense of settledness to our souls. Even if we don't see things the way we like them - just hold on, timing is everything.
This even applies to outgrowing the yokes on our lives. Is it possible that the Lord allows certain yokes to remain so we WILL grow stronger and eventually break them by the strength HE provides? Perhaps He is saving our victory for just the right moment? I don't have all that figured out in my head but one thing I do know. Timing is everything! And MY time is in His hands! How about yours?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Kudzu was first brought from Japan to the US in 1876 and promoted as an ornamental plant and a cure for erosion. However, the hot, humid summers, mild winters and lack of natural predators allowed kudzu to take off like gang-busters. (That a highly technical word for "a lot" [Grin]) Now it's listed as a "pest weed" and costs around $500 million annually in lost cropland and control costs. (Source: Wikipedia) While they help prevent erosion, the vines can also destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting sunlight. And they take over EVERYTHING! (Just check out the car in the picture. Yes, that's a car!)
This is what I thought of when I read part of John 12 today. Listen to these verses:
"But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus." (John 12:10-11 NASB)How do I associate kudzu with these verses? Well, it's actually pretty easy - sin grows! In yesterday's reading we hear Caiaphas, the high priest that year, say, "... it is expedient for you that one man die for the people..." (John 11:50b NASB) Now they've gone from wanting to kill ONE man to planning to kill TWO! All in just one chapter! Sin grows!
This week we've been dealing with the issue of breaking yokes in our lives. On Sunday one of the yokes we talked about that keeps us back from serving God fully is sin. Others included bitterness, selfishness, religion, habits, addictions, etc. There are lots of things that can keep us back from serving God the way we long to. But if we never deal with them, the yoke will actually grow and become more heavy. (I probably should have written "heavier" there - but "more heavy" sounded more ominous! [Grin])
Once you've identified the yokes in your life and brought them to Jesus, it's time to OUTGROW them by doing what Jesus tells us to do. In our Community Groups notes this week I've asked you to share what steps the Lord has given you to deal with them, so that they can help you remain accountable. I hope that's going well for you.
So how about it? Are you dealing with the yokes in your life? Or are they growing? Because they will grow, left untended. And they'll be more than a pest weed. They'll actually consume your life! Let's Deal With It! ... Together! Don't forget to leave me a comment or send me an email about what God is doing in your life! I love hearing from you!
P.S. Here are a couple of other devotional resources you might enjoy from others who are participating in the 21 Days of Consecration (also called "Awakening"):