February 15, 2011

Free Gift

Hi Friends,

How are you? I hope this post finds you well. I am also doing fine. Two of my friends are here, Rachel (20) and Joanna (18) Knowles. They have given their time to come to Italy and teach English courses with our family. In fact, we have English registration tonight! It's so exciting. We have passed out over 1,000 fliers around our city! It's really exciting to think of the ways that God might use us in these people's lives. Yesterday was Valentines Day so we passed out 160 roses to the citizens of our town, Chiavari. I can't even begin to tell you how many times the roses were rejected. The people could not comprehend the fact that we were giving the roses away! a free gift for those who were willing to accept it. At first, I couldn't understand why anyone would reject such a gift, especially on Valentines Day, but then I realized something. The roses that we passed out were a symbol of God's love. Even though the roses will wither and die, God's love never does. This is a hard concept to grasp, that God would love someone like them, like me. Why would he love ME? Why would someone just give a rose away? there must be some trick! they will hand me the rose and then ask me for money and I will feel guilty enough to pay. This is the same reasoning behind why people don't accept God's love. Especially, Roman Catholics. Roman Catholicism is heavily based on works and how you can earn your way to heaven. However, the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9,

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast."

It is not something we can earn through our own merits. It is a simp
le act of love and mercy from God. He didn't HAVE to save us, but He chose to because He loved the world so much that He gave His son to die on the cross for our sins. It is not of our own doing, there is NOTHING and I repeat NOTHING that we can do to earn it. We are sinful and our "good deeds" are always tarnished by our sinfulness. Thankfully! God grants forgiveness to those who accept his love, to those who accept his free gift. In fact, I saw a simple reminder of this when we were passing out the roses. The look on the people's faces when they realized they really were free and there was no trick behind it. The came up to us, thanked us, hugged us, laughed, cried, and starred in amazement that something like this could really be true. That's how awesome God's love is, you can't believe it but it's true. And he's waiting for you to accept his gift. If you already have, you know how awesome it truly is. Share that free gift with someone else, let them know just how much God really loves them.

Even though I was kind of cranky on Valentine's because of not having a valentine, I'm actually thankful I didn't. I realized how much God loves me and that I don't need the love of someone to make me fulfilled. I hope you realize that too! Happy Late Valentine's Day!

January 24, 2011

Doing God's will...

Hi Friends,

How are you? I hope all is well in this new year. I am excited about this year as many things are changing and I find myself with some intense decisions to make. Usually, when decisions are based around myself and the consequences of those decisions only affect myself I tend to only ask one person what they think... me. As a Christian, someone who has a relationship with Jesus Christ, this is not good nor healthy. I am trying harder, with the Lord's help, to ask him what is HIS will for my life. This is really difficult, under all my "righteousness" and my "oh Lord, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it", there is a big secret. I want my will and I want it in my own certain way. I want the thing that I feel will best benefit me in the time frame that I choose. I think sometimes we all deceive ourselves in this way, does that justify it? NO. It is sin and the Bible specifically says;
Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path.” (~ KJV)

Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (NIV)

Psalm 37:23 “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.” (KJV)

THIS is what the righteous men and women of God do. They TRUST in the Lord, no matter what and don't listen to their own secret wills or ambitions but they know in their heart of hearts that he knows all things and is supremely wise. I want to be this kind of Christian. At times, it is difficult living in Italy... I know, I know... living in Italy? wow! so hard, right? right. It can be extremely lonely and depressing to the point where I question God's will. But, I know he has me here for a reason. I wouldn't be here if he didn't allow it. And you! you are in the place where God wants you right now or else you would be somewhere else. Does that mean you can never move from that spot? NO! of course not, I would just strongly suggest seeking God's will in any decision without concern for your own. I know it's hard, I am struggling through it right now but in being in the place where God wants you is way better than being somewhere else. It's not worth the heartache and pain just to get my own will. God will show you his will, just give it time and prayer, lots of prayer. If you want, we can be in it together. I pray for you, you pray for me. Just remember, the Lord rewards those who follow his will. He will provide for you. And me.

Lord, help us to seek out your will in all decisions and circumstances. Give me the desire to rid my heart completely of my own will. That I will search after you and not move in any direction that you are not leading. I also pray this for my friends, God. Help them to search out your will and make your path known to them. Thank you Lord.


October 31, 2010

A Sacrificing Spirit

Hi all. I have recently been thinking of something that is very difficult for me. This thing that I speak of is known as sacrifice. Sacrifice, by definition means;

"The surrender
or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim."

I can't even being to count how many times I thought I was doing something sacrificially when really, there was a motive behind my actions. A motive to bring glory and honor to myself. This is not sacrifice at all, in fact, it's just the opposite. When I think of sacrifice for Christ, I think of the verse in
John 12:24-25 that says,

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."

I'm sure people who hear this verse out of context think "Are those Christians crazy?, why would anyone willing hate their life?" But that's not the meaning of the verse. Christ is saying that the man who lays down his own life for Christ and for others, will keep it forever and spend eternity in Heaven. We are naturally selfish beings, we are brought into the world with a mindset of "me, myself, and I". It only get's worse as we get older. "Where will I go to college? Will will be my friends? Where will I work? Who will I marry, how many children will I have? Where will I live?" That's not to say that these things are bad, they are great things to think about but they cause us to focus on ourselves and no one else. I am currently going through the "Experiencing God" study book which I would recommend to everyone but basically, I was having doubts and questions about the will of the Lord for my life. That morning's study said something that hit me hard. It said, when we ask the wrong questions, we get the wrong answers. We should not ask "Lord, what is your will for my life?" but "Lord, what is your will?" Our lives are but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. That is not to say that God doesn't have a plan for my life or yours, he does, but I believe he calls us to think outside of ourselves and to ask him how we can lay down our lives for the sake of the cross. Gay Thomas, author of the book "Authentic Faith" says,
"Once we adopt a heart of sacrifice, everything else tends to fall into place."

In itself, sacrifice means that we will eventually come up against something that we want but that is against the will of God. This is the defining point of sacrifice. Will we sacrifice and choose to obey? or choose to follow our own will? Sacrifice is the heart of the true, authentic, christian life.

October 7, 2010

Outside of my comfort zone.

Moving to a new country moves you outside of your box. It is a new place, a new language, a new culture, people group, food, government, primary religions, etc. etc. etc. There are so many new experiences that just when I grasp the idea of something new and it becomes familiar, something even newer comes along and tries to teach me a lesson on humility and relying on God. I emphasize the word "tries" because a lot of times I am resistent to obey. I have seen time and time again, the faithfulness of God though when something else tests me, I doubt and worry that it isn't in his hands. I know, I'm dumb. It's like looking in a mirror and knowing every detail of your face but then walking away a moment later to forget what you look like at all. I know that he is faithful, I know that he is good, but head knowledge is completely different from heart knowledge. I tend to become easily jealous and easily discontent with my situation... common thoughts such as "why am I living here?", "God has a very strange path for me..", "why is he doing this to me?", "my friends are in the states having fun without me while I'm here living with NO friends and no life." Can you hear the sin in my thoughts? You should be able to. I'm ripe with it. I love how the Lord uses small things to pull me from these selfish thoughts, today I read a story about a man whose wife just had a child and then 14 days later, died of cancer. Our lives are not so tragic as this and yet, why do I continue to complain? My dad used to quote someone famous, I believe it was Charles Spurgeon, when he said "discontent and not in hell?" really.. it's sad. I complain about my life and yet the Lord has saved me from the grips of hell and has given me eternal life with him. He has been so good to me, to me and to you. I feel like I, as an American, am addicted to the world of comforts. We are spoiled beyond belief and when I stepped into a culture, ah, I believed everything would function better if they did it like America. (While some and a lot of that is true... it's not biblical nor right.) Who are we? What is our goal in life? Is it not to glorify God, our maker, and enjoy him forever? To preach the gospel to the ends of the earth? While I sat for 13 years in an American church without understanding the need for the Gospel right outside of my box. Right outside. I'm not talking about "oh! I have to go have way across the world to preach the Gospel.." I'm talking about sharing the good news with our neighbor, with our colleagues, with our friends, anyone that is willing to listen. You don't have to become a "missionary kid" to reach people for the Lord. This is one thing that you can do anywhere, anytime with ANYONE. Let's reach out to those that need it most. Let's help one another to look around and see the people hurting, crying out for something more. I'm willing Lord. Send me. Send the person reading this blog. I want to show others your love. Help me to be more like you. Let's challenge one another to reach out beyond ourselves, beyond our comfort zones. Don't let fear stop you. Amazing things happen when you step out.

August 19, 2010

Idols of the Heart.

I wanted to write a post on idols after watching a short devotion on this topic put out by "Gospel in Life." I would encourage everyone to go and get this study as it is very powerful and convicting. I have heard many sermons on idols but I would usually think "oh, I know I have some idols but not as many as other people." After going through this session it struck me how many things are idols in my life. There are even many good things, that, when I place them before the Lord, they become idols of my heart. For instance, relationships. I long for good, strong, Christian, relationships but sometimes I put so much focus on them that I forget about my most important relationship. My spiritual relationship with the Lord. There are many other things as well, family, material things, money, a longing to be remembered and known, school, technology, the list goes on and on! I know many of these things are good as well so how do we know when these things have become or start to become an idol? Richard Keyes in his essay The Idol Factory notes,

All sorts of things are potential idols...If this is so, how do we determine when something has become or is becoming an idol? ... As soon as our loyalty to anything leads us to disobey God, we are in danger of making it an idol... An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero.

This quote makes me wonder how many other things I make into idols without even realizing it. Not only have these things become idols in my life but I am trying to gain happiness and satisfaction from these things instead of from the Lord! The only one who can grant me true happiness and fullness of life.The pathetic thing is is that these idols will NEVER satisfy, we always want something more, something better, more fun, to fill the emptiness within. It is only by the Lord's help that we can stop living for these idols and start living our lives out for him as "living sacrifices."

These following questions are really helpful to understand what our idols are and even show us the hidden idols of our heart.

1. What is my greatest nightmare? What do I worry about the most?

2. What do I rely on or comfort myself with when things go badly or become difficult?

3. What makes me feel the most self-worth? What am I the proudest of?

4. What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?

I think we should all reflect on these questions and ask the Lord to help us remove these from our hearts.

Lord, I see how repulsive idolizing this mere idol really is. In yearning after this, I was trampling on your love for me. I realize now my lack of thankfulness, my lack of grateful joy for what you have done for me.

August 5, 2010

Resting in God's Love

Hello friends,

How are you? I hope well. I decided to write another blog post about things that have been happening recently in Italy. God is so powerful and immense and even though he doesn't need us to accomplish his will; he uses us as his vessels to bring others to himself and his Gospel. This is an amazing thought and very encouraging with some of the stuff that has happened more recently. I can honestly say that before moving to Italy, I didn't really understand nor had I truly experienced true spiritual warfare. The devil knows the things that drive us to our breaking point and tries to use them to pull us away from God and toward himself. Just recently, our car (which we bought only a year ago) has been brought into the mechanic over 10+ times for strange and unusual problems, numerous computers have crashed and died, windows have broken, shelves destroyed by the heat, innumerable health problems, important documents have evaporated into thin air, pipes ruined in the fridge, more technology problems then I care to think about, and so on and so forth. I don't tell you these things so as to complain or for sympathy but for your prayers and encouragement and so that those who don't feel or see the spiritual battle may know that this battle is being fought and to remember that whether or not we win the battle, the Lord has already won the war. I would also like to encourage those that are experiencing this battle to remain steadfast in your faith and trust in the Lord, to keep him as your #1 priority. The Bible encourages us with these verses:

Ephesians 6:10-18
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

I am also incredibly encouraged by this verse in Romans:

Romans 8:38-39
38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an incredible promise, we will NEVER be separated from the LOVE of our Lord. Absolutely nothing can separate us. Isn't that an amazing promise? I can rest peacefully knowing that whatever happens in this life, I will rest in the love of the Lord. No amount of demons or power of Satan can pluck me from my Savior's hand. I hope that you remember this promise and are encouraged by it.

Resting in his love,


July 9, 2010

To the end of the world and back again.

Hi again! :)

Ahhh...summer. It feels good. Well, I am officially back from my trip to America. I had an amazing time and it seems like it went by WAY too fast. I loved every moment though and the Lord blessed me with many opportunities to spend quality time with good friends. Aren't good friends just the best? I love them. They definitely made my summer fun. Though it seems as if summer is flying by and as it drifts away, I am taking some time to evaluate my priorities and goals for this next year. I can honestly say, without doubt, that I have no idea what I am doing or where I am going in life. I can also honestly say that the previous statement is very freeing knowing who's hands I rest in, the Lord's. I have many ideas and plans for my own life... what is commonly referred to as "Hannah's fantasy land" ;) but the Lord's plans are greater than my own and I can rest peacefully knowing that he promises to never leave me nor forsake me. I hope that in this next year; I will search and pray for the will of the Lord no matter where it might take me. That I will not confuse my own will with his and try to make the two coincide. Lord, make me more like you, give me a heart that is pursuing of you, Jesus. We are currently taking some vision trips in order to find a place where the Lord would lead us to bring his Word. We are now in Genova, it's crazy! There are so many people but the town is so small that everything looks crammed in. I like it though, the city is right in between the ocean and the mountains. =) We are having fun, yesterday we went to Portofino and Cinque Terre, it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! I love how everything in Italy is so old. In America, you can rarely find anything that is older than 100 years. There is so much history here, it's insane. I just finished the book, "A Voice in the Wind", by Francine Rivers. I would recommend it to ANYONE. It is so convicting and amazing. The story is about a young girl from Judea whose family was murdered by Romans. She was then taken to Rome and sold as a slave to a wealthy family where she lives and tries to honor the Lord while serving this worldly family, I won't give much away but it is so powerful. At first, I thought "This book is kind of slow.... but I will keep reading.." I'm glad I did. I couldn't put it down. The way the young girl, "Hadassah", remains faithful to the Lord even in the hardest suffering and trials, it's incredible. Seriously, read it. You won't regret it. Ok, book-plugging over. ;) I am very excited to go to Rome this next month as the book I just read is based mainly in Rome and it is based a lot upon actual history and the martyrs that were killed in the Coliseum. So sad how the people took pleasure in the deaths and torture of these innocent people. It makes you wonder what kind of things are happening in other parts of the world where Christianity is not allowed and even to speak the name of the Lord would bring punishment upon you. Well, ok, I should go but thank you to anyone who reads this. I know I am not very faithful with it, I am trying to be better. ;) Love you! How has the Lord brought you through trials and suffering? How has it made you stronger?