Thursday, September 29, 2011

Journal Church

Sunday I had church in my journal.
What does that mean?
Well when I normally go to church I worship, listen to a message, and pray.
Here it is hard for me to engage in church.
Church here is 2 ½ hours long, all in Russian.
I don’t know the songs, I can’t understand the message, and I pray when they pray but can’t hear the other praises and thanks from the congregation.
So yesterday I remembered to take my journal with me.
As I sat in the back surrounded by the church I experienced the Spirit.
During worship I prayed and asked the Lord to have the time, not letting me be bored and lost.
When we sat I opened up my devotional and was encouraged to dwell on the sacrifice of Jesus.
I opened my journal and wrote a message to myself inspired by the Lord.

“Trying to actually feel the weight of the cross is a difficult task. It’s a story we know. We’ve seen the movies. We’ve heard it told in various ways. We’ve read the scriptures. It happened over 2,000 years ago. It’s hard to make it truly personal today. Yes, I know what Jesus did for me. But at the same time I allow it to be something that applies to humanity as whole. Because of this I don’t let my own personal actions connect with the cross as I should. I know Jesus died for me, but He died for all. So turning it the other way…my actions reflecting on Him and not just His affecting me. It wasn’t just the sin of humanity laid on Jesus. It was the inequity of us all. Not some abstract idea. Not something in itself: ‘humanity’s sin.’ That was made up by something, many things. Each sin from every person that ever was, is now, and all to come. That includes me. All the things I have ever done, am doing, and will do that are contrary to Jesus. They all played a role in getting Jesus to the earth, beaten, hung on the cross, and then raised from the dead. When Jesus turned His attitude towards the Father and said, “forgive them, for they know now what they do…” that applies to me. While He was in pain. As He was nailed to a cross, hanging in pure agony He asked for my forgiveness. And yet I live each day my way. Saying “thank you Jesus” and then on with my day. He covered it all so I am forgiven, but I should be striving for something better. He spent His life paying for mine. I should be doing the same for Him. Paying Him back by letting Him work through me. Because He is not here is my debt. He didn’t get to stay here because I am sinful. I owe Him. I did the offense to the Father and when the Father came to punish, Jesus stepped up and asked for my punishment. He loaned me eternal life. With my finite, earthly life I need to pay Him back. The terms of payment are different than what this world calls for. It is not a one-time offer. It is nothing to desire freedom from. It will never be done. If for some reason I think it is covered and paid in full I would be sadly mistaken. And why should I not grow weary? Why should I continue? Why should I not grow cold in this pursuit?
The foundation of it all is love.
Coming to the earth was an act of desperate act of love from the Father.
Speaking truth was not out of a place of being better. It was love pouring out in hopes of redemption.
Healing was not to show off. It was love wrapping arms around a child.
Being beaten didn’t occur because He failed. It was love stepping in and saying “stand back my child. I will take it.”
Hanging on the cross wasn’t showing a lack of authority. It was displaying just how powerful love truly is.
Raising from the dead wasn’t because Jesus wanted better for Himself. It was love proclaiming our freedom.
So to pay it all back. To give Jesus back what He gave. It must be love. And if it is love, there will be no end. Love sees past obligation.”
When my pen inked the last sentence we engaged in worship again. I stood with eyes closed and opened my lips to praise Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice. I made up a song to the tune of the worship. Then I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. When I opened my eyes leaders went to the front to prepare communion. How incredible! I had no idea we were going to do that this Sunday. The Lord put me in a place of incredible awe. He spoke to me a message about His sacrifice and then allowed me to engage in communion sealing the deed. Our God is not just good, He is the author and definition of good.
I had church in my journal and the Lord had His way in me.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

With All Your Soul

In Matthew 22 a Pharisee asked Jesus which commadment of the Law was the greatest.
In response Jesus said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind."-verse 37

the word soul is thrown around often.
everyone seems to have their own definition.
some try and seperate it from the body and claim it is only spiritual.
others say it is just an abstract thought.
but today I read something that summed it up pretty well for me.

in the devotional
Worship the King by Chris Tiegreen
he wrote:

"The soul is hard to define, but God doesn't really ask us to define it.
He asks us to love Him with it.
He tells us that our life is all about Him.
That affects our commitments, our passions, our drives,
our motives, our thoughts, our feelings, our will, and our ways.
Our whole personality is to revolve around Him as the earth revolves around the sun.
Our soul is the center of our lives, and He is to be the center of our soul.
When we dive deep down inside, we should find Him there.
That's what it means to love Him with our soul."

that's how this world will come to know who Jesus is.
Jesus was, is, and always will be set apart, holy.
we need to live as though our soul is the temple of Jesus.
can you imagine?
it's a challenge I know. I can't pretend I live this way.
but through prayer, investing in the Word, and fellowship the Holy Spirit will have His way.

if you're on the same page as me you need a soul check.
spend some time with the Lord asking Him to cleanse your soul.
ask to be refined so that He may live more fully in your soul.
and pray for one another as this task is of no ease.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Today we celebrated Thanksgiving in our church.
as is normal for every Thanksgiving season I was reminded to reflect on all
the things I have in life to be thankful for.
everytime I do this it humbles me and encourages me.
I am humbled because, well, it puts me in my place.
so often we go through life thinking about what we want and how this or that could be better.
if our prayers were put on a scale the side with our requests would far outweigh our thanksgiving right?
but this reflection also encourages me.
I am reminded and even made aware of how much the Lord has truly blessed me in this life.
this season I have become aware of something that I have not given thanks for in a while.

my testimony.

yeah, that's right.
I don't thank the Lord for my testimony very often.
salvation, yes when I focus on it I thank Jesus for the salvation He made possible.
but how often do I thank the Lord that I not only have salvation but
I have a way of sharing that.
I get to share how the Lord Jesus became a reality to me.

I have been in an attitude of thankfulness for this lately because of how often I have shared pieces of my testimony while being in the Ukraine.
at almost every place I have traveled with Alexander I have been asked to either stand in front of a congregation or share with a group my testimony.
In America I overlook it.
the only place I ever truly share my testimony is with a group of fellow believers.
don't get me wrong this is still powerful and useful.
but last week I shared my testimony in the home of a man and wife who are not believers.
they asked me to share about how I became a Christian.

in that moment I had to thank the Lord that I had a story.
there isn't just one way that the Lord works and moves.
no two believers have the exact same testimony.
God is creative.
He is not boring.
He is not stupid.
He knows that each person thinks differently.
He knows that giving each person a testimony with different details makes it effective for other individuals to hear because of those details.
giving us testimonies with different details shows that God is real.
there is no formula to our God.
He works in us with what we have so we can tell the specific ways He delivered us.

"it's beauiful a beautiful story"
that's what the woman said after hearing my testimony.
now she didn't drop to her knees and repent
she did see the beauty of God.
whatever it is she remembers she will remember that the only reason I told the story was because of the hand of God on my life.
through my testimony.
praise the Lord for testimonies.

I challenge you:
1. try being in a state of thankfulness. for each detail.  not just the big stuff but for everday things you take for granted. all those things that if they disappeared would change your life.
2. think about your testimony. ask God to reveal all the details to you. share it.
3. if you don't have a testimony find someone who is a believer and ask them to share their's with you. take a leap of faith and rest assured that God is the creator of all and His son died so we could be reconciled with our creator.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Word of Life

today I was reminded of how powerful the Word of God truly is.
we visited a sister in Christ who happens to be a widow.
her husband died a the young age of 38.
she had a daughter and twin boys.
she worked hard to provide for her children.

she was not a Christian.

as time went on her daughter got married.
they were Christian and the husdband tried speaking to the widow about Christ.
he told her that she was living life wrong because she wasn't living for Christ.
she isnisted that her life was good. she was a hard worker.
well her twin boys started hanging around the wrong crowd.
drugs.alcohol.harsh words.
she didn't know what to do.
her son-in-law said he would take them for 1 week.
during that week he made them work around the house and yard.
saturday of the week he took them to a Bible study.
Sunday one twin repented.
when they went home their mother saw two different boys.
no alcohol. kind words instead of harsh.
they asked to go to church and she thought it was worth a try.
the other twin repented. both were baptized
eventually the widow gave her life to Christ through the help of her grandaughter preaching to her.
while we were sipping tea and listening to her story all I could hear was "power"
God's Word is power.

we left after a word of prayer.

in the car we reflected on how amazing it is that someone can be so changed once having met with Jesus. we talked about true Christ followers and one's who simply proclaim.
without live change there is no evidence of Christ.
Alexander mentioned that his church was filled with 1st generation Christians.
he proceeded to tell that he was 3rd generation.
his grandfather was the first in his family to be a Christian.

here is where it all hit me.

Alexander's grandfather didn't repent after an emotional sermon.
back then there was no option of that.
he didn't repent because someone convinced him.

he read the Word of God.

in case you didn't let that fully hit you please read it again.

he read the Word of God.

immediately I was reminded of the promise in Isaiah 55.
the Lord declares:
"So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,
but it will accomplish what I desire
and acheive the purpose for which I sent it." 

this brought me encouragement and at the same time conviction.
how often do we forget that the Word of God needs no fixing up.
it is not dirty.
there is no fault in it.
it is not boring.
we need not add our eloquence.

the Word does not need us, we need the Word.

His Word will not return void!
rejoice in that!
dance in the grace of the promise!

when we think we are not equipped like other leaders out there we need to stop looking at our weaknesses and start looking to the power of the Word.
it doesn't matter how pretty you look or smooth your voice is.
the Word of God has a job and the One who powers that job is powerful.

I challenge you today to get into the Word and praise God for it.
stop takin for granted that fact that you get to hold the Word.
pray through the Word today, use it as a guideline.
share the Word today.
and don't be discouraged if there is no immediate response.
God works in His time and His place.
it will not return void.
for if it was false and empty you would not be reading this right now.
without His Word I would be just another lost, lonely, and conused soul out there searching for something among the nothingness of this world.
because of the Word we don't have to rely on ourselves.
proclaim the Word today and show the enemy that he is powerless against the Lord!

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Answer

Coming to the Ukraine I was faced with many questions. But the one that occured the most, of course, was this, "What will you be doing there?"

I had a few stock answers based off the only information I had:
focuing upon youth, but heavily involved in family ministry. oh and possibly teaching english in a school.

you see whenever people go on short term missions there is usually a list of to-do's.
so when I only gave a list of a few things and then proceeded to tell that I was planning on staying for 5 months I got some funy looks every now and then.

but I'm not on a short term mission. I'm on a short long term mission I guess.
I kind of don't like calling it that actually. I don't even like to say that I'm on a mission because of what people expect to come along with it.

I didn't come to have an agenda and check off my list. I came here to be here. I am living in the Ukraine. And I realize something now. I don't want to call it a mission because in reality I should be on the same mission here as I should be every single day of my life whether it be here, there, or anywhere.

David A. Livermore put it very simply but beautifully.
"our eternal mission as people-to reflect God's glory to the world."

to me this is both humbling and encouraging.
humbling because it reminds me that I can't actually do anything but be used by the Father.
encouraging because it reminds me that though I can do nothing Christ can still use me.
God's idea for us isn't to plan, plan, plan but rather to be.
to be His temple that allows His reflection to be seen.
to be His obedient children that always give Him glory.
to be witnesses of the power of Christ.
to be the love that He first showed us.

no, I am not saying that we stop plannin events or having agendas.
however, they do need to come second in importance.
if we are first making sure to step into His glory then we will be able to reflect it.
because it's way too easy to get caught up in the planning and doing while forgetting about the reflecting. but if we first make sure to reflect, then it will carry into all things.

so yeah, some of my days here aren't filled with "ministry outreaches" but every conversation, action, attitude, and way of handling things is an opportunity to reflect God's glory.

that's what I am attempting to do here. that's my new answer to the question.
I am filling my days by trying to empty myself.
empty myself of all the things that take glory away from Christ so He can fill my life with Him oveflowing. and I get to do this in different ways on different days. sometimes it is simply to my host family while other times it is to a society of blind people.

the agenda doesn't determine the "mission"
my God does.

Susie Larson wrote something that, to me, goes along with this very well.
she wrote,
"What kind of change could be affected in our world if we, as Christ's followers, had lines we wouldn't cross no matter what anyone else was doing or saying? If we could remain kind while others are cruel, if we could keep from hating while others do dreadful things-are there any bounds to what the Lord could do through us?"

if that wouldn't reflect God's glory I'm not sure what would.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

a few funnies

I was thinking about it and with Max's help we put this little list together.

You know you're living in the Urkaine when...
*you can't understand the converstaion, not because of content but because you don't speak Russian
*Ashley wears longer shorts than all men
*you pour your milk from a bag
*(for Max) you only go #1 in the restroom but come back smelling like #2
*the car's trunk door opens on the highway rather than the bumpiest back road
*our favorite grocery store is an old night club
*consuming tea only once a day is weird
*Max is the best basketball player on the court
*the boys call Ashley "Lucy" because she's American
*Max and Ashley sing a song in front of the entire church...and they clap
*you shower sitting down without a curtain
*you use mayo more than we use Ranch
*bread is as standard as a napkin with your meal
*everyday consists of cherades simply to communicate
*walking into McDonald's makes you a "somebody" not just anybody