Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Bit More On Loving God

I am done! What a great read this book was. The last portion of the book spoke volumes to me; the words kept leaping off the pages at me. Charles Colson wrote about how we (Christians) are to be the church --- very relevant at this time for me in terms of the church plant journey. See ... God had something to tell me when He urged me to pick up this book just one more time! I'm sure glad I did! :-)

Let me share them here:

"...the church is an organism not an organization --- a movement, not a monument. It is not part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.

The believer's ministry is being Christ's person right where he or she is, in the marketplace or the home, every moment of every day. This is part of the everyday business of holiness. This is the very nature of loving God.

Taking the gospel to people wherever they are is frontline evangelism. Frontline love. It is our one hope for breaking down barriers and for restoring the sense of community, of caring for one another, that our decadent, impersonalized culture has sucked out of us. It is the most urgent challenge for the holy nation.

But the true church is not held together by any structure man creates; it is not an organization. It is alive, its life breathed into it by a sovereign God. Its heart beats with God's heart. It is one with Him and moves as His Spirit moves --- where He chooses and often against the designs of man. The life function of this living organism is to love the God who created it --- to care for others out of obedience to Christ, to heal those who hurt, to take away fear, to restore community, to belong to one another, to proclaim the Good News while living it out. The church is the invisible made visible."

Loving God is --- to believe, to repent, to obey, to be holy, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to serve. Lots to think about, lots to digest, and lots to live out!

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) --- "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More On Loving God

I am about halfway through the book now. Here are some more thoughts that grabbed me:
"Salvation, therefore, is not simply a matter of being separated from our past and freed from our bondage to sin; salvation means also that we are joined to a holy God. By pitching His tent in our midst, God identifies with His people through His very presence. The reality of a 'God who is here' --- personal and in our midst --- is an extraordinary assurance, one which distinguishes the Judeo-Christian faith from all other religions.

But God demands something in return for His presense. He demands that we identify with Him --- that we be holy because He is holy. Holiness is not an option. God will not tolerate our indifference to His central command. What does this mean for us, then, in the real world in which we live every day? Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day."
Charles Colson goes on to make several points on holiness specifically on how it translates into the everyday business of a Christian:
Holiness is obeying God --- loving one another as He loves us.
Holiness is obeying God --- even when it's against our own interests.
Holiness is obeying God --- sharing His love, even when it is inconvenient.
Holiness is obeying God --- finding ways to help those in need.
Holiness is obeying God --- consists in thinking as God thinks and willing as God wills.
Holiness is obeying God.
Wow! A lot for me to digest in just a few chapters but very timely indeed considering what God has asked our family to do in terms of being involved in the ministry of a church plant. Well, I'm off now to start my work day (the server was down at work earlier this morning, hopefully it is now fixed!). More reading tonight --- I'm sure.

"For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time — to show us His grace through Christ Jesus."
---2 Timothy 1:9 NLT

"So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.' "
---1 Peter 1:14-16 NLT

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Loving God

I am attempting (once again!) to read through the book 'Loving God' by Charles Colson. I say attempting because since I got this book about three years ago, I've picked it up twice but both times failed to delve into it for reasons I can't really pinpoint at that time --- the book just didn't grab me, it didn't seem relevant to me...

This time though, somehow it is different! I was barely through the first chapter when tears started to form in my eyes and I couldn't put the book down. I think the difference is that over the past three years, I have grown, spiritually that is! I now understand (more than before) what it really takes to love God.

Some snippets from the first few chapters that grabbed me ---
"It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self."

"For maturing faith --- faith which deepens and grows as we live our Christian life --- is not just knowledge, but knowledge acted upon. It is not just belief, but belief lived out --- practiced. So obedience is the key to real faith --- the unshakable kind of faith so powerfully illustrated by Job's life. This is real faith: believing and acting obediently regardless of circumstances or contrary evidence. After all, if faith depended on visible evidence, it wouldn't be faith. True faith depends not upon mysterious signs, celestial fireworks, or grandiose dispensation from a God who is seen as a rich, benevolent uncle; true faith, as Job understood, rests on the assurance that God is who He is. Indeed, on that we must be willing to stake our lives. There was a time when eleven men did just that. They staked their lives on obedience to their leader, even when doing so was contrary to all human wisdom. That act of obedience produced a faith that emboldened them to stand against the world and, in their lifetimes, change it forever."
I have a feeling that I am going to be able to read through this book this time around! :-)

"Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands."
---Deuteronomy 7:9 NLT

Thursday, January 24, 2008

God's Everlasting Arms

Remember the lyrics to the old hymn 'Leaning On The Everlasting Arms'? Here's the chorus:
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
This past Monday, God's everlasting arms kept my son safe and secure during a very bad fall. My son was climbing up the stairs at school (following behind me) and all of a sudden, he tripped on something and fell backwards, head-first, facing up, down the stairs. He kept sliding down and miraculously came to a full stop with his head just a couple of inches from hitting the stair landing! My heart stopped for a moment as I watched in horror. Time seemed to stand still for me as I ran down to help him get up. Right away, I noticed him limping. I checked for other injuries and found none. Right then and there, my thoughts turned to God, thanking Him for protecting my son. I told my son that God's arms were cradling him, preventing his head from hitting the landing!

It turns out my son has a knee injury that has to heal for a week or so. He's thinks it's a treat that he gets to stay in for recess this week because he gets to play with the toys in his classroom when everyone else is out in the school yard. :-)

This morning, as he was heading out for school, I was checking his school bag as usual. I commented on this huge, hardcover Star Wars book that he borrowed from the school library and how it is very heavy and taking up lots of space in his backpack. He went on to say that he just renewed it this week for no reason, and now he thinks the book (being on his back, inside his backpack when he fell) protected his back during the slide down and when it got stuck on the steps, he stopped sliding when he did --- just before his head would have hit the floor!

This is the conversation that followed:
Me: Did you know that it was God who made you renew the book?
Son: No...I did it myself?!? (with a questioning look on his face)
Me: Did you know that God knows what we are going to do even before we do it?
Son: Oh! I didn't know that.
Me: God knew that you needed that particular book in your backpack when you fell off the stairs, so that you didn't hurt your back and your head. That's why He made you renew it.
Son: Wow, He knows what I will be thinking next year?
Me: Yes.
Son: In 1000 years? Wait, I'll be in heaven by then!
Right back to his silliness! That's my son for you. While having a knee injury to nurse isn't a pleasant thing, I am thankful that through this incident, we have been reminded once again that our God cares about the little details of our lives.

In my devotions today, the writer speaks about teaching our children about God using the everyday details of life. My little conversation with my son today was precisely that! I feel privileged to have had that opportunity with him --- a teachable moment, for sure!

Today, I have been challenged by the devotion writer to reflect on the following questions:
  • When observing your life, what do your children learn about God?
  • Does your life reflect that your children are amongst your top priorities?
  • Do you play and pray together as a family?
Lots to reflect upon. Parenting is indeed a serious assignment, one that God intends for us to strive to do our best in!

"The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
---Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Then and Now

As requested, here are the then-and-now photos of the "sisters"! I must say we all haven't aged much in twenty years --- just older and wiser!!! :-)

In the "then" photo (from left to right): AE, JD, RL, JN and AL.

In the "now" photo (from left to right): AL, RL, AE, JD and JN.

Proverbs 17:17 (The Message) --- "Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Mommies On A Playdate!!!

This past weekend, I was away on a rare girls' getaway to celebrate my "big sister's" 40th birthday!!! This group of friends date back to almost twenty years ago when we were all still teenagers. Time sure flies --- I cannot believe that we are now all mommies in our thirties (well, except for one of us, that is!) with ten children among the five of us!!!

We partied all weekend starting with a dinner and movie on Thursday night, high tea on Friday, a short detour to shop at IKEA, dinner and live theatre on Friday night, a slumber party and of course, shopping all day on Saturday! We even managed to have a short dip in the hotel's hot tub.

We also managed to relive old memories by cramming into a photo booth at the mall (see photo at the top)! I must say that I think we all fit better in there twenty years ago! We all had a GREAT weekend --- it was over way too fast! This saying is very true --- time flies when you're having fun!!! A huge thank you goes out to all our hubbies who stayed home with children all weekend long.

So, here's to my "big sister" --- CHEERS and HAPPY 40th!!! P.S. I love you.

May our loving Heavenly Father continue to bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may He turn His face toward you and give you peace!

And finally, here is the lesson I learned from this weekend --- when you are 36, do not party until 3am for two consecutive nights thinking you can bounce back as quickly as when you were 18. It is Monday today and I am still feeling the effects of sleep deprivation --- my head is still groggy! I am now off to make myself some more coffee!!!

Proverbs 17:17a (NIV) --- "A friend loves at all times."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Journey, Not Destination

There is a quote that says: "It is all about the journey, not the destination." --- God sure has brought my hubby and me through an incredible journey this past half a year or so. Today, I can finally share our journey publicly as we feel that God has finally brought us to a point where another journey is about to begin.

Let me begin by saying we have good news and we have sad news. The sad news is that we will be leaving our home church very soon. This is the church that we have come to love so much over the past 15 years; where we started and built our family; and most importantly, where we have grown much with God and where we've had countless opportunities to serve Him faithfully. We know that it will be very difficult for us to say goodbye to our church family but God has given us a sense of release and a peace which transcends all understanding. A part of our hearts will always remain at Morningstar.

This is where the good news comes in. Why are we leaving our home church? Where are we going? Well, God has led us to join a church planting team to work in the very city and community in which we live! This is indeed very exciting for our family. This is the change that I have been referring to over the past few months. Now, I can finally claim the following quote to be true of what I am feeling:

"I know God is speaking to me when, in spite of my initial struggle, an undeniable release and peace follows when I have obeyed His voice. When I finally do the thing He has been nudging me to do, whether it's letting something or someone go, or taking a step toward the unknown, there is a deep calm in my soul. Where my heart and mind were once filled with terrible angst, I am now filled with a supernatural peace."
---Kathy Troccoli, as printed in 'Discerning the Voice of God' Week 4, Day 3, page 73

Here is our story ---
The year 2007 slowly developed into a very trying and difficult year for us in terms of ministry involvement. A sense of restlessness arose in our hearts causing us to really ask God what He is trying to tell us through all the turmoil that we were facing. My hubby and I spent much time in prayer, reading God's word, talking to people we trust and of course, with one another.

Initially, we thought that God was asking us to move into different ministries within our home church, but the sense of restlessness persisted within us and we still didn’t have peace. It was then when we started to sense that God might indeed be moving us out of our home church. But where was He leading us to? At that point, we could not see where. At about the same time, God gave us the verse from Isaiah 55:12 through a sermon on one day and through an online devotional that I read the following day. Now, that kind of a coincidence can only be God! The verse says: “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

My hubby and I brainstormed scenarios that would indeed cause us to leave our home church. Not one resonated with us or even seemed possible except for one --- a church plant. We left the conversation at that. I shrugged off this impression because I did not want to accept the ‘changes’ that would come with that, but the thought would not leave me in the days ahead. It lingered in my heart.

God also used Abraham’s story to speak to us. Abraham obeyed God and left his home not knowing where God was leading him to. In Hebrews 11:8 it says: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” After being confronted with Abraham’s story, we surrendered to God. We became willing to obey --- that is, willing to leave our home church and go wherever God would take us.

Believe it or not, within two weeks of surrendering to God, we came face to face with two (not just one, but TWO!) church plants that were starting up in early 2008. We were blown away. We certainly did not go searching for these church plants, they fell on our laps! In fact, we've never come across any church plants in the past, ever! This told us that God is indeed leading us to work in a church plant environment. It is quite amazing how God works as the details of our lives just fall into place like puzzle pieces when we are walking in His will.

These Bible verses came to mind for me at this point ---

Romans 8:28 (NIV) --- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Psalm 37:4 (NIV) --- “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV) --- “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We decided to pursue both church plants and asked God to open and close doors for us as He saw fit. At one point, we even pursued the possibility of these two church plant visions merging into one. Very quickly, God made it crystal clear to us which team He wanted us to go with. This church plant vision is a huge dream; it will be challenging and will require a lot of work. But, we have peace that this is what God would want us to do. So, we are charging full steam ahead.

At this point, the Bible verse from Jeremiah 29:11 came to me. It says: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We told both our children about the changes that are about to happen in terms of how we serve God as a family. Both are understandably sad at having to leave our home church (the only church they know), but both of them quickly warmed up to and are excited about the idea of a church plant. I am indeed grateful to God for giving my children the understanding and the willingness to obey Him in whatever and wherever He leads us as a family.

On New Year’s Day 2008, God gave me the verses from Joshua 1:5b-6,8-9 through my personal devotions and also through an online sermon, both on the same day from two different sources. Now, again, only God can make that happen!


Joshua 1:5b-6, 8-9 (NIV) --- "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

My God never ceases to amaze me. These verses spoke to me significantly. It was a new beginning for Joshua after Moses had died. God assured Joshua in these passages that He will never leave him or forsake him, and that Joshua was to be strong and courageous because God will do amazing things among the people. The online sermon I listened to spoke significantly to me as well --- the pastor spoke about it being the time to move on; the start of a new beginning.

So yesterday, we met with the leadership of our home church to share our journey with them. We will forever remember the grace, love, affirmation and support they showed us as we told them our story. Although we will still attend worship services there each week until Sunday services start at the church plant, yesterday certainly felt very much like the end of a chapter, and the beginning of a new one!

We wrote a letter to our home church and this is how we ended it: “As you can see, we have struggled long and hard before coming to this decision but ultimately, it comes down to one thing --- obedience. We strongly believe that obedience to God is our foremost priority as children of God. We know that it will be difficult for us to say goodbye to the Morningstar church family that we have come to love over the past 15 years but God has given us a sense of release and a peace which transcends all understanding. Please pray for us, as we will continue to pray for Morningstar, that as we continue to co-labour for the Kingdom of God, we will fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

Thus ends this journey and the next one begins! We are excitedly and eagerly anticipating what God has in store for us through this church plant. I know that it will be a wild ride --- another journey that will grow us and mold us into the people that God wants us to become! To God be all the glory.


"There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
---Ephesians 4:4-6 NIV

"...and upon this Rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it."
---Matthew 16:18 NLT

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Faith

Last night, my Bible study group met again after taking a break during the Christmas holidays. We watched the video for week 6 of 'Discerning the Voice of God' by Priscilla Shirer. Priscilla said something that caught my attention. She said that deliverance comes only from being obedient to God's voice, it is that plain and simple! She also said that when we delay obedience, we are actually delaying God's power and supernatural results.

I came home and thought some more about what I'd just heard. I couldn't help but link obedience to faith --- to obey God requires one to have much faith. My thoughts turned to what God has been telling hubby and me these past few months --- to step out in obedience into something with a lot of unknowns. It quickly occured to me that what God is really asking us to do is to step out in faith as He asks us to obey His voice and follow His direction.

So for my devotions this morning, I decided to look up verses from the Bible that talked about faith. Here are a few that are meaningful to me:

Luke 17:6 (NIV) --- "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you."

John 14:12 (NIV) --- "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."

I Corinthians 2:5 (NIV) --- "...so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

I Corinthians 16:13 (NIV) --- "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong."

Ephesians 6:16 (NIV) --- "...take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) --- "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) --- "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

Hebrews 11:7 (NIV) --- "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."

Hebrews 11:8-10 (NIV) --- "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Welcome 2008!

Happy New Year from our family to yours!!! This year, we rang in the New Year a lot quieter than we usually do as a few of our usual New Year's Eve guests opted to stay home or weren't in town. We missed you guys! Nevertheless, we partied all night --- finally calling it a night at about 1:30am New Year's Day! Even the kids managed to stay up. We had a fun evening just being with family and friends.

As we all welcome 2008 together, may these Bible verses from my devotions today be as living and as real to you as they are to me.

"As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
---Joshua 1:5b-6, 8-9 NIV

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you."
---Joshua 3:5 NIV

"The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him."
---Lamentations 3:25 NIV