My past embraced || My sin forgiven

You delight in showing mercy
And mercy triumphs over judgement

My past embraced
My sin forgiven
I’m blameless in Your sight.
My history rewritten

Oh love, great love
Fear cannot be found in You
And there will never be a day
You’re uncertain of the ones You choose

So I will wake
And spend my days
Loving the One who has raised me up
From death to life
From wrong to right
You’re making all things beautiful

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Beautiful Hardships

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 11.14.29 AMToday as I sit trying to get a good picture of our year as a church… I begin to take inventory of some of our music. August to August… I start marking the recent service dates by the hardship that was occurring when we chose these songs together.

Sadness filled me as I thought, “Oh this song was picked through many tears…”, “This one happened when, _______…”.

But these times of hardship as church- marked in the annals of our software- have taught me something about God’s love.

He was there then… and we got through it. One foot in front of the other, as a church. He is here now as I write and reflect.

As I gaze over these dates, songs, prayers, lighting and audio notes… I realize that back then, something amazing happened. People on differing sides of arguments agreed to disagree. We ALL held hands during “the Lord’s Prayer”… and even hugged and cried together.

We all bowed the knee at the altar together.

Why can’t our software depict these moments?

As I make my list…. I just had to stop and remember this major monument to God’s grace and goodness in our lives. FBC… I treasure this year with you. I treasure the things God has done, the times we hit the ground in prayer together, shaken by hardships. These are beautiful hardships… because God is found there.

God never said we would always agree. He never said the entire Bible is black and white… our theology may sometimes not line up, leaving frustrations and questions. Relationships were never easy in Bible times, and they’re not now.

But we know in our future, we never have to go it alone…. God will be there in the future just like He is now.

The only difference will be that our FAITH will be bigger next time around.

We can smile and have joy, through tears, knowing God never changes.

Dream Big, Sustain that Joy.

I think that joy is different than happiness because happiness is circumstantial.

Joy is hard to sustain. It just plain is.

I want to encourage you today that when surrounded by negativity… don’t miss a beat. Don’t fixate on the negative you hear. Just keep personifying joy through trials. {Tweet}

Focus your efforts on who God says you are; because, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Draw Near to God, He is already Near to You

Screenshot 2015-07-08 12.34.26

Recently I thought I had too much on my plate. I exercised my ability to say “no”, and took my day off seriously. Looking to the future: I tossed the idea of cutting down my hours at work. I wanted to work on future details of our family, make our house a home, and visit my family back home more.

None of that was the plan, for now.

In a recent turn of events I was asked to take on more of a leadership role at the Church, with more responsibility, with pay cuts and budget cuts all across the board for our church.

So. I dropped my plans and fell on my face before Jesus. He has been my Rock. I have peace. I have joy. I am brave.

I know God will make it possible for me to plan our future as a family, cook, clean, plan visits, have people over, take care of our pets, enjoy life… all while taking on this important calling. I just need to listen to His voice.

I’m ashamed to say in these times of turmoil… they are the sweetest times of worship for me.

Why can’t I seem to be this close to my Lord during the good times?

I realized today that I find the most peace and joy in the trials– not because God has changed, but because I have. Tweet this.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you {HE IS already close by}. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8

God Is For You (Just ask Samuel)

Samuel

I always identified with Samuel as a child. Not that my mom dropped me off to live in a temple… or that I was a boy… or that my name was Sam… but just the “called by God” part.

I loved his boldness! He didn’t CHOOSE grow up literally in the church– God and his mother had an amazing relationship and that’s just how he ended up there.

But as I said a while back, I have been reading through the Bible this year, yesterday was the book of 1 Samuel.

I love how God brings out new things each time we seek Him through His word. God speaks in the book of Deuteronomy that prophets’ words had to come true, or else they were considered a false prophet.

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. Deuteronomy 18:22

God also said that not many people heard directly from God after Moses and Joshua, unless the Spirit of the Lord came upon them. Pretty cool stuff.

In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. 1 Samuel 3:1

So I’ve always wondered why God allowed Samuel to get up three times before Eli realized God was asking him to converse with him.

To me, if Eli hadn’t witnessed Samuel directly hearing from God… then he wouldn’t have taken the upcoming bad news as God’s words. He would’ve probably been angry with Samuel and called him a false prophet (poor kid… right?!).

So God has a conversation with Samuel that night. He tells Samuel that Eli’s sons’ sin was noticed and since Eli turned a blind eye, they would all pay the price.

The next morning, Samuel was afraid (rightfully so) to tell Eli. But because Eli witnessed that it was the Lord speaking the night before, he is eager to hear what the word from God was.

But God protects his righteous. Eli urges Samuel not to lie to him.. to tell him everything God said. So Samuel delivers Eli the terrible news, and Eli says, “Well… He IS God.” (pretty much.)

I love verse 19 and on.

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. 1 Samuel 3:19-21

All we need to do in tough situations is do exactly what God tells us to do… no more, no less. He will take care of the details!

I Met the Widow Who Gave Two Coins

Jonathan I recently made friends with a woman who is new to our church. She recently hit some rough times, and she is currently homeless.

During the offering time this past Sunday I sat down late and missed the chance to fill out my tithe check so we laid it aside to walk to the finance office later.

My friend walked down after worship holding a church offering envelope with a few coins in it. I tried to hold back my tears as I told her I too needed to bring my offering, and we agreed to walk together. We walked in silence; like we usually do- because it’s hard to strike up a conversation as a wealthy person befriending a person that doesn’t have a home. Even my worship and my tithe seem inferior to her praise amidst her struggles. Her quarters, nickels and dimes are far superior because they are gifts out of her poverty, and mine are a measly 10% of my extreme wealth.

People smiled at us as we walked slowly over the finance office, and a few felt the need to whisper to me beforehand that she was indeed homeless.

I tell you this story because Jonathan and I said last year in a post we have big news coming in the years to come. And we do. I might reveal it on my twitter, facebook, and here on the blog this week.

On the topic we do wonder: who does God mean by, “to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” ? If my friend doesn’t have a husband or any family or friends who will help her… doesn’t she qualify? And if she does? “OH LORD! Forgive us for not helping more!”

I love our church- because they help the community so much. I’m here full time- and yet I’m still finding out about more ministries every week! Just this morning we stuffed our weekly bags for children who are on free and reduced lunches at school.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

I can’t wait to share with you what God is up to with Jonathan and I!

~Love,
Jonathan & Brittany

A Special Place in God’s own Heart

crush-serpent

Ladies. “Fellow laborers” in Christ as Paul says. I want to talk to you about how God really sees us as equals and a partner with men to serve him. The Bible actually tells us we are special. Important. Equal. Loved. {Tweet this quote!}

So many different types of Christians see women as lesser, thwarting the beautiful “Good News” into something it was never intended to be. Women are mistreated {throughout history, and today more than ever} because of the fall. The Bible talks about this.

In Genesis 3, Satan attacks the woman first. He tries to get her to pull away from God, so that her husband, who loves her more than his own life— will follow. See the influence and potential the wicked one sees in her. And then stomps on it:

“Now the serpent was MORE CRAFTY  than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
You will not certainly die,” {The lie satan ALWAYS uses on MEN and WOMEN!} the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

… Later, because of what they’ve done, A “forever curse” is put on both man and woman, they must leave paradise- walking and conversing with the Heavenly Father- to labor in misery and pain. They will never look upon the face of God again until Jesus comes, dies, and returns to bring us all home to paradise again.

Read carefully: “13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”….
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this… I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

Satan hates all believers. He hates anyone who loves God. But in my reading of the scriptures I believe he has a special hatred for womankind.

Throughout history humanity has enslaved, mistreated and abused women. Young and old. Yes, the weaker vessel.

But that’s not what God intends for us. We may be smaller (1 Peter 3:7), but our souls are NOT so. We were created in God’s image with many of the Trinity’s beautiful, compassionate traits. Women nurture and love in a way all their own. {Tweet this quote!}
Satan would love nothing more than for us to take every single thing that comes our way, believing we are lesser and cannot serve. Do you see his plot? (I have a close to home testimony about this in my own life. Maybe a story to come later.)

What would GOD love, and satan HATE?

For women, all around the world to rise up and disciple other women in the TRUE Words of God- the Bible. The Good news. To spread His love despite our lesser view in humanity’s eyes. There is nothing more we can do but prepare for God’s return and just go around loving others!

Women, we actually have a really tough assignment. We have to put aside our differences between each other, and any of the past hurts we have experienced, and go all-in for the cause of the gospel. For one young lady, it may be a season of life of staying home and discipling and pouring into our children and husbands. For another, maybe a season of life that is singleness and finding other women to pour into. For yet another, it may be serving in the local church here or abroad.

God sees who we are “on stage” (figuratively or literally)… and he sees us “off stage”. Let’s strive to make both a pleasing aroma to him.

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. YES, and I ask you, my TRUE companion, help these WOMEN — since they have contended at my side in the CAUSE of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Philippians 4:1-3

Your names are in the book of life, beautiful women all around! Take the baton, God has called you out! Rise up, and serve!