Archive | March, 2014

Chocolate, God’s Grace and the Drama of Scripture

29 Mar

iphone 037_opt“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.” Ephesians 1:6 (NLT)

Recently 24 women from Taft headed up to Big Bear in the San Bernardino mountains for a women’s retreat weekend of worship, connection, and fellowship. Using meaningful activites and devotions designed to celebrate the richness of God’s blessing and His extravagant grace, those present were afforded the opportunity to unpack God’s grace while resting at the feet of Jesus.

Sessions focused on the following:

  1. The first miracle of Jesus (John 2:1-11) where the glory of Christ is revealed and a fullness of grace is shown.
  2. The lowering of a paralyzed man through the roof to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26, and Matthew 9:2-8) where undeserved grace is experienced through healing.
  3. Extending grace to others in need in the form of a gift from the heart.
  4. The strength of offering grace in tough circumstances (Luke 22:47-51 and John 18:10-11) and receiving the ultimate outpouring of grace (Romans 5:6-8).
  5. Quiet prayer and contemplation in the presence of the Lord.
  6. Grace poured out on the cross; Jesus death, burial, and resurrection.

This was a wonderful experience for the women involved to get to know each other on a deeper more personal level while spending time with the Lord exploring our place in God’s story.

For those of you who attended and loved Michaele’s cooking or those who want to try something new, click here for a delicious lasagna soup recipe.

Additional photos and info here: Taft avenue Community Church | Women’s Ministries

Seasoned with Salt, Peppered with Grace | Prayer and Hope for Unbelieving Adult Children

15 Mar

salt pepper2“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” –Colossians 4:5-6

Do you have family members who do not believe in Christ? If you answered “yes” like me, take heart, Jesus did too. According to John, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5) and Mark makes note of his family thinking he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). They lived with Jesus for 30 years and did not KNOW him! Take comfort for although they did not truly know Jesus during his earthly ministry, after the ascension there they are in the upper room with the Apostles praying (Acts 1:14).

This is a topic very close to my heart as I see this unbelief in my own daughter. She is, like Christian in Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress,”  trapped by Giant Despair, imprisoned in Doubting Castle. Lamenting her condition and blind to the fact that she possesses good news in her heart; the key of Promise that will unlock the dungeon that holds her captive is forgotten. So I pray that she “will know the truth” (John 8:32). I pray she will put her faith and trust in Jesus who poured out His own blood on the cross, taking her deserved punishment (1 Peter 2:24), to free her from the enslavement of sin. I pray her heart is softened and her eyes and ears are opened. I pray she pictures the warrior Jesus ready for battle and realizes nothing is too big for our Savior. I pray my husband and I will continue to shine Christ, speak truth, and extend grace to our daughter through email, Facebook messages, phone calls, and the very rare visit. I pray that God will continue to strengthen our marriage, root us deeper in Christ, and surround us with church family who love and pray with us, for us and for our daughter who many do not even know.

While home recently our daughter said, “Mom, why do you guys keep holding out your arms to me?” I pray someday she will truly understand what a precious gift she is to us and how loved she is, by her Dad and I of course, but even more so by the Lord whose arms are also open.

Relating to your unsaved grown child by Annette Cole

I looked at the row of velvet boxes and noticed a cross with a rose nestled next to it. I asked to see the attractive silver ring and bought it minutes later. For the first time in days, I felt a gentle touch of peace.

I’d been feeling only fear and grief as I watched my youngest daughter denounce her faith and rush into sin. Now I had a symbol of hope to cling to. As the father of the prodigal son placed a ring on his son’s finger at a “coming home” celebration, one day I hope to do the same for my daughter.

It has been years since my daughter walked away from Jesus Christ. Today we call and visit each other, but it has not been easy. The Bible asks, “What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14, NIV).

Since the obvious answer to this is none, how do parents maintain relationships with their adult, unsaved children? I have had to find answers because my daughter does not want to be estranged from her family.

The remainder of this article can be viewed here: Relating to Your Unsaved Grown Child

The first paragraph of this blog was influenced by Jon Bloom’s article: Jesus Also Had Unbelieving Family Members

John Piper’s son Abraham, once a prodigal, wrote this letter from his perspective: 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

For more of Christian’s journey pick up a copy of John Bunyan’s classic book: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Five Truths About Christian Suffering

8 Mar

stress

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” –Romans 5:3-4

God is the author of His story – our story and no chapter is without purpose. The story is not one of isolation for there on every page is the presence of the one true living God revealed. When the words of our story are thick, inky black, tear stained, strokes of pain, grief, or suffering God is near sharing in our ache (Psalm 34:18). When we struggle to muster the strength to begin the next page He is there relieving our burdens (Matthew 11:28).

“God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to us. He does not delight in causing us to experience pain or heartache. He always has a purpose for the grief He brings or allows to come into our lives. Most often we do not know what that purpose is, but it is enough to know that His infinite wisdom and perfect love have determined that the particular sorrow is best for us. God never wastes pain. He always uses it to accomplish His purpose. And His purpose is for His glory and our good. Therefore, we can trust Him when our hearts are aching or our bodies are racked with pain.” –Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts

God is the sovereign author of the universe; the chief character in our narrative glorified in our weakness. His great love for us is most visible in the suffering and excruciating death of His son–the Word made flesh–Jesus Christ bearing our sins on the cross. Ransomed by His blood, the richness of God’s abundant grace is evident and overflowing. It is here at the foot of the cross our sorrows can be exchanged for indescribable inexpressible soul filling joy and the hope found in Christ alone. Our book will not close with “the end.” Our story will continue to unfold and new pages will be written for our hope is in Heaven.

Five Truths About Christian Suffering by Joseph Scheumann

All Christians suffer. Either you have, you are, or you will — “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

This reality is a stark reminder that we have not reached the new heavens and new earth. The new Jerusalem of no tears and no pain, of no mourning and no death, hasn’t arrived yet (Revelation 21:1, 4).

But just because we experience suffering as we await the redemption of our bodies, it doesn’t mean that our suffering is random or without purpose. And neither does it mean that Scripture doesn’t tell us how to think about our suffering now.

Here are five important biblical truths about suffering every Christian should have ready:

Finish the article here: Five Truths About Christian Suffering | Desiring God.

 

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Yes!

2 Mar

hope_opt“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” –Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, March 1, 2014

“Trent Koontz passed away this morning at 5:17am. He is still a shining light in our lives. Have fun in heaven! Give Jesus a big hug from all of us!” –Jerry Koontz via Trent Koontz’s Blog

As we absorb those words, joy and sorrow tangle together within grieving hearts. Such is the paradox of living a life in Christ. Simultaneously we rejoice and mourn; are crushed and unburdened and through it all the confident expectation of hope endures; singing a wordless song of unceasing faith. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
 –Emily Dickenson

It is hope rooted in the Gospel that creates equilibrium between the bone deep sorrow of loss and joyful trust in the sovereignty of God who works for our good. It is in this stability that we come to understand God’s infinite wisdom is inscrutable and his providence mysterious and that opposing emotions can coexist harmoniously. 

The Koontz family continues to be a powerful witness for Christ. In weakness their continued love for the Lord glorifies Him; highlighting the strength through grace His love poured out on that tree provided. 

It is here in the strange mix of contrary feelings (ache and brokenness, relief and joy) that our church body is also strengthened; growing in spiritual maturity as through shared suffering we stand in Christ with Jerry, Kristie, and Grant sadly rejoicing now that Trent is freed from the pain of illness and is with Jesus in Heaven.

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? (excerpt) by John Piper

When a Christian dies, shall those of us who remain weep or rejoice? The biblical answer is both, even simultaneously.

An Invitation to Rejoice

He [Paul] already told them why he rejoices at the prospect of his death: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Presumably, that is why he thinks they should rejoice also. They love Paul. So when Paul is “with Christ” that will be “far better.”

Experiencing Intense Sorrow

But that is not the whole story. Ten verses later in Philippians 2 Paul praises Epaphroditus because “he nearly died for the work of Christ.” But then he did not die. God had mercy on Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow [or]…grief on top of all his other burdens.

The Complex Harmony

We should conclude that our sorrows at the death of a believer are joyful sorrows, and our rejoicing at the death of a believer is a sorrowful rejoicing. There is nothing hopeless about the sorrow. And there is nothing flippant about the joy. The joy hurts. And the sorrow is softened with invincible hope. (emphasis mine)

This is why one of the most common watchwords of the Christian life is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrow and joy are not merely sequential. They are simultaneous. This is not emotional schizophrenia. This is the complex harmony of the Christian soul.

Therefore, when a Christian dies, don’t begrudge the tears. And don’t belittle the joy…

Read this article in its entirety here: Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Desiring God.

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