Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Twelve Stones by Christina Darnell

I am really selfish. God began to gently lead me to this truth (like it was some big surprise) last year. I knew that my prayer life wasn’t supposed to be all about me, but I also wanted to cry out to God with my issues as opposed to turning elsewhere. What was missing was both praise to God and interceding for others. For the sake of this moment, I’m going to focus on my lessons in praising God. I often wondered why I was still full of anxiety and fear regarding my future when I spent so much time praying about it. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Um, so where was my peace? Did it get lost in some epic battle on its way down from heaven? Doubtful.

But my prayers were more focused on my problems than they were on God’s power. I was looking at the size of my problem instead of the greatness of God. Even though I said “thank you” to God often, I wasn’t focused on His goodness. That “with thanksgiving” section of the passage was more crucial than I knew. I needed to focus on praising God, but there was a disconnect for me. I still thought of praise as fancy church words that hold little meaning for me or thought of it as lots and lots of singing. There was so much more to it, I knew, but I wasn’t sure what it was. So I turned to the Psalms. If anyone was known for praising God well, it was David, and he wrote the majority of the book.

I noticed Psalms to have a number of common threads. It’s amazing that after growing up in a Christian home, and walking with God for years, there is still so much to learn. Psalms has taught me that praise is so much different from my mindset about it. First, David praises God by proclaiming his desperate need for Him. No matter how comfortable we are in life, we cannot do nothing nor have anything of everlasting value without Christ. Secondly, David recognized God as sovereign. While most of us would look to other people, circumstances, or even ourselves, David saw God as in control. His victories against the enemies were up to God. Also, he found his fulfillment in God. Psalm 16:5 says, “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot.” David expected great things from God. By doing so, he showed his faith that God was able to do all that He had promised. How often do I go to God sheepishly, afraid to ask too much? God desires to do great things for us as we place Him first. Lastly, I noticed that the writers praise God for specific works He has performed. They actually boast in and dwell on God’s greatness in creation, Scriptures, and personal and national victories.

Chapters 3 and 4 in Joshua highlight this truth. Joshua leads the people of Israel across the Jordan River to fight for the Promised Land after God instructs them. God stopped the sea (can you imagine?) so they could all cross over on dry ground. While they crossed, 12 of the men, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, each took a stone from the bed of the dry sea. They were to serve as reminders; mementos of God’s incredible faithfulness. Children from generations following would see those stones and ask about them, encouraging the story to be told over and over again.

What an incredible principle. The more I focus on God’s faithfulness and power, the less I focus on myself and my worries…and the more my needs are met. Praising God increases our faith because we focus on His ability instead of our inability, His sovereignty instead of our lack of control, and His life instead of our sin. God has done so many wonders in my own life. I can remember, after years of facing doubt about my salvation, sitting on my bed crying before God. I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking to me, revealing the source of my doubts, and freeing me from that bondage. It was amazing, and I can remember it vividly. I was compelled to share it with others, and it was wonderful to praise God about it with them. There are so many of those turning points in my life that are as monumental as those stones were to the people of Israelite. It’s my turn to set up reminders of God’s miracles. They will be both reminders of the works of God and reminders to focus on Him instead of myself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Believe in the Lord by Emily Carter

My daughter, Grace, has begun asking questions about faith in Jesus. This is very exciting for me. Sometimes her inquiries are deep and difficult to answer. For instance, her latest was this, “Why do we need to ask Jesus into our hearts? He already knows we believe in Him.” Some of you may have this same question.

Writing a second letter of encouragement to the Thessalonians, Paul pens these words, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13, NASB)

God chooses us for salvation. It is completely His work through the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and yet we must choose to believe in Him. That is a deep theological statement to make to a five year old, and yet she grasps it. Her only requirement is to believe in the Lord Jesus. This belief is more than just head knowledge. It is having faith and complete trust in Jesus for every aspect of life.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy were traveling, from one place to another, becoming somewhat frustrated and confused. They were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” Upon arriving in Troas, Paul had a dream. A Macedonian man was pleading with him to come to Macedonia and help them. Paul determined that this was the Lord calling them to share the good news in Macedonia. After preaching in two cities, they came to Philippi, a “leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony.”

Paul shares the gospel with Lydia and she believes. The church of Philippi begins meeting in her house. Paul gets in trouble with the law because God sets a young girl free from her demon possession, which upsets the men who are making money off of her fortune-telling. This lands Paul and Silas in prison. Around midnight, they begin singing hymns and praying, and the prisoners are listening to them. The earth begins to shake and the bars of the gates, that once closed them in, are now wide open. The chains are falling off and they are no longer bound. Yet, not one tries to escape. The prisoners are held captive by more than their chains. These men, this Paul and Silas, are singing and speaking Truth. The jailer awakes from his slumber, and seeing the doors open, he draws his sword and prepares to die. Paul cries out “Sir, do not harm yourself, we are all here.” Trembling with fear the guard asks, “What must I do to be saved?”

Paul and Silas respond, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:1-31.

From the beginning, God chose to save the Macedonian jailer. Unbeknownst to Paul, it was going to require some movement from one place to another, some great times of sharing, and some prison time for God’s plan to come to fruition. I believe that my daughter will come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord, and that she will live out the full life that He offers her. I don’t know how or when it will happen, but it will be incredible to watch and recognize the work that God is doing.

What about you? Is God calling you to believe today? Is He calling you to step out and believe in the Lord for the first time? Let me encourage you to trust Him and know Him as Lord and Savior. Simply pray to God and let Him know that you realize that you are a sinner, someone who chooses to do things that are against Him and wrong. Acknowledge your need for Jesus, the One and Only Son of God. Ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to take up residence in your heart. If this is a decision that you have made, please contact Josh at Crossroads Church at or call (704) 795-0423. The church would love to help you grow in your faith.

Do you already know Him? Is He asking you to move to another place in life? Is He asking you to share the gospel with someone? Is He asking you to sing His praises and pray to Him? Whatever God is asking, I pray you will respond as Paul did, with immediate obedience. We serve The Great and Mighty God, won’t you join Him in the work that He has prepared for you to do?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heavy Arms by Tammy Blackburn

Have you ever engaged in a task that required you to keep your arms above your head for a long period of time? Your arms begin to ache. They feel much too heavy to continue holding up. I have worked with puppets for most of my life and there have been times behind the puppet stage when I felt as if my arm were going to explode form being held up so long. In Exodus chapter 17, we are told about a battle the Israelites had to fight against the Amalekites. Moses spoke to Joshua and told him to choose the best men to go out and fight. Moses promised that for the whole day he would stand at the top of the hill with his arms raised to God interceding on their behalf for victory. Moses did as promised. He grew weary a few times and the Bible tells us that each time he lowered his arms the Israelites began to lose the battle. When Moses raised his arms to back toward God the Israelites were winning again. Aaron and Hur saw what was happening. They knew Moses was getting tired. Can you just imagine? Aaron and Hur rushed to the top of the hill and found a rock for Moses to sit on. They positioned themselves on either side of Moses and held his arms up and steady until sunset. Joshua and his men defeated the Amalekites. Afterward Moses built an altar and gave praise to God for the victory. In Exodus 17:15, Moses said, “The Lord is our Banner; for hands were lifted to the throne of the Lord.”

My daughter has been suffering from a lot of illness this past winter. She has been to the doctor on several occasions. Very recently she had to go again. Preliminary tests came back positive for Lymphoma or cancer of the lymph nodes. I felt as if my heart had fallen into the pit of my stomach. “No, no, no, not my baby girl,” was all that kept going through my mind. It was a plea from the bottom of my being. I was given the news by phone and was forced to comfort my tearful child from afar. After ending the phone call, I literally fell to my knees in prayer. My emotions were in such turmoil that I didn’t feel like I could get out a coherent sentence. I was begging God for healing, for strength, for wisdom, for comfort, and for peace. Our family has been through a number of hard experiences in the last few years and at that moment I was feeling very tired. As I was crying out to God I told Him how tired I was. I remember saying that I knew I didn’t have the strength to face this situation. I know God is the source of our strength and He has proven that to me many times, but in that moment I couldn’t even muster the little bit I needed to continue praying. God in His mercy reminded me of the story about Moses that I just shared. He gently helped me to realize that if I was too weak to lift arms to Him there were friends who could help. I shot out a few quick emails and phone calls and within minutes there was a band of friends praying and lifting their arms to God on our behalf. I felt their strength even from a distance. To make a long story short, further tests came back completely negative for any trace of cancer. Praise the Lord! He is my Banner!

How thankful I am for Godly friends who can hold my arms up in times of weakness, friends who will approach the throne of God on my behalf. Perhaps you are struggling with a situation that you don’t have the strength to face. Lift your arms to the throne of God, but don’t do it alone. Call on friends who can hold you up and intercede on your behalf. We are never alone and we don’t have to struggle with heavy arms.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lost But Not Alone by Kim Jackson

"Lost" was not an accurate assessment of my situation. "Lost-without-a-clue-how-to-be-found" summed it up better.

It was the second day of our outreach trip to Caracas, Venezuela. Due to a major miscommunication, I was left standing alone, on a Saturday evening, in a city of two million.

It really didn't matter that I don't speak Spanish, because there was one small detail standing between me and the apartment where I was staying: I didn't know the address....not even the general location. All I knew was that the building across the street had big red doors.

This fact led to one benefit of being lost in a foreign country. Your prayer life instantly improves. In my moment of crisis, I felt led to pray for an angel. I've often read about angel activity in the Bible, but I'd never prayed for one. What did I have to lose?

So I prayed, "God, I am so lost...and I don't know how to get found. Please send an angel to help me."

No swarming sea of seraphim raced to my rescue. Not a single winged creature appeared.

But a blond-haired gentleman in line for a soon-departing bus caught my attention. To this day I am amazed at what I did next.

I followed him onto the bus.

I sat down across from him, behind the driver. The bus had barely pulled away when the blond-haired man turned to me and asked, in English, with a German accent, "Do you know which stop is yours?"

"No," I squeaked.

"Describe it to me."

I told him about the only landmark I recalled: the building with the huge red doors.

"Ah," he said. "I know where that is. It's one stop before mine. I'll tell the driver to let you off there."

I was in shock. I was on the right bus. I was on my way home!

My awe at this divine intervention grew as we continued to talk. He told me his name was Axel, and he was completing an internship and was leaving Venezuela Monday.

Finally I confessed, "Sir, I don't know what you're going to think about this, but I believe you are an angel."

He tilted his head and laughed. "Dressed like this?"

"My Bible says angels can travel incognito. All I know is that I was lost, and now I'm on my home."

Suddenly we were stopping at the building with the brightly painted doors. I shook Axel's hand before stepping from the bus. "Thank you, thank you, and God bless you!"

I ran to the apartment and attempted to tell my Venezuelan host family about my incredible adventure. Later in the privacy of my room, the details of the evening played over and over in my mind. I sobbed as relief and gratitude swept over me.

Then I opened my Bible and began reading in Psalms where I had left off the night before. My heart welled up with thankfulness as I read from Psalm 34:

"I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears."

When I read verse 7, God's loving confirmation initiated another round of tears. "The angel of the Lord camps around those who fear him and he saves them."

Now there could be no doubt: God had indeed sent me Axel the Angel.