Tag Archives: Scripture

Hope

“They devoted themselves to the prophets’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

For as far back as I can remember I have heard people reference a longing to return to the days of the early Church, “The Acts 2 Church.” Having spent much time wandering the streets of Jerusalem, I must admit I can’t help but daydream about what those days must have been like. The words, the miracles, the numbers added daily! The two things that used to boggle my mind the most, however, are the love had and community shared by the first century believers. What would it look and feel like to be so devoted to God that you in turn devote yourself to others to the point of speaking covenantually,”What’s mine is yours.”

In July of 2007 Patrick & I found ourselves in the midst of new pages in life and being written upon with words we never expected. We had no home church. This was new to us and frankly speaking, it truly upset my idea of the Christian walk. Yes, I know the Church is not a building, but the corporate body of believers in Jesus as savior. I had always been a part of such a body. And now we were in a place where after 8 years of close intimate fellowship with people who had become family, it was just we four. We live in a city that is often times referred to as “crowded” with churches, so we began our search for the people we would join our children and ourselves to as our church family.

We awakened early each Sunday morning and went through the routine of preparing for church and drove across town to “try out” each new place. As we did I asked the Lord to lead us to the people He would have us call “home.” I didn’t lay out before Him my list of requests for what I’d like in a church. I only wanted for my family what God had for us; the man who would speak the Word as directed by God; the Sunday school teachers and children’s church leaders who would seek God weekly and partner with me and Patrick in training up our girls in the way they should go; worship that was pure, for and about Jesus; and a community that would love us like Jesus, regardless of where we had been, what we had done, or who we once were.

Finally, after months of searching which often times resulted in quitting, we found ourselves walking through the doors of Hope Community Church one Sunday morning in December.

We asked where to take our children for classes, checked them in, and walked into the sanctuary and found our seats all without being greeted. Ironically, this was perfect for us! Only God knew how desperately we wanted to just blend and not be noticed. He loved us so much and cared so much about us living out His plan to hide us from a community of people who are typically quick to greet visitors. This was His way of delicately aligning His plan for us, people who were so fragile we might have shattered at the slightest approach.

We settled in for only a couple minutes (we purposely got there as close to start time as possible so that we would not be forced to be “fake” with strangers). When the lights dimmed and the music began to play, in the darkness I heard an angelic voice begin to sing:

You’ve taken my pain and called me by a new name.

You’ve taken my shame and in its place, you give me joy.

You’ve taken my pain and called me by a new name.

You’ve taken my shame and in its place, you give me joy.

That’s all it took. I broke. I thrust my hands up in the air, the flood-gates flew open, and I began to weep in the presence of God. With those tears and as the song continued, I felt my soul going through a baptism. I received hope that with the death and burial of my old life, I might receive a new life and with it a new name and joy.

As the service closed out and the team returned to the stage to close out with the same song they opened with, I heard God speak to me through His Spirit saying, “This is your safe place.”

We returned faithfully week after week. After our initial “visit” we were greeted every week and many of the faces became more familiar until it was just natural to see the same people every week. But we continued to “sneak” in so we really did not have any names to go with many of the faces we saw.

It wasn’t until two years later that we felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit to truly commit to this community by receiving their friendship and offering ours. What has followed as a result has been like nothing we’ve ever experienced within a community of believers.

They have not only loved us, but they have loved our children, and they have nurtured our call by speaking words of prophecy and knowledge and praying for us and giving to us constantly.

Which brings me to 3 weeks ago, July 2012.

We were in Israel for three weeks, California for one week, and Dallas, TX for a few days for ministry and family time. The whole time we were away from home we were hearing about the record-breaking temperatures in and around Springfield. We were bracing ourselves to return home to an unbearable summer and I knew that this was weighing heavily on my husband.

We returned home at 8:30 on a hot Wednesday night to find a cool house and new air conditioners in three of our rooms including our two living areas and our daughters’ bedroom. These were gifts from people who chose not to divulge their names, but we know they were from our Hope family.

Dear Hope Family,

There are no words to express the gratitude in our hearts (although I may have already written much more than some may have the patience or time to read:). Your gifts over the past 3 years have touched us much deeper than many we have received from others in the past, because we know that they came from wells of love and altars of sacrifice. You have provided for us, and more importantly for our girls, what we could not. We do not take this lightly. We love you all deeply and will always praise God for guiding us through the silent halls of Hope on that somber Sunday morning 5 years ago. In doing so, He lead us to YOU. Our desire is to be as much of a blessing to you, or more, as you have been to us.

We are so excited because we see in the Word that love like you have given us is often times followed up with “the Lord add[ing] to their number daily those… being saved.” (Acts 2:47) And that is our ultimate desire as a community.

We love you, our treasured friends,

Patrick, Rebecca, Eden, & Leia

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The Dance of Jerusalem Day

I wrote the following last year as a reflection of my time in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day. I decided to post it today in honor of Jerusalem Day 2012, which is tomorrow May 20th. Be blessed and sing with gladness for Israel!

This is what the Lord says:”Sing with joy for Jacob;shout for the foremost of the nations.Make your praises heard, and say,’Lord, save your people,the remnant of Israel.’ (Jeremiah 31:7 NIV)

Patrick & I have been home from Israel for over two weeks now and my days and  nights are still filled with precious thoughts of our amazing experience. Chief among them was having been in the Old City at the Western Wall on Jerusalem Day this year. As Patrick & I stood in the midst of thousands of dancing men I couldn’t help but imagine Jesus there dancing among them, a smile on His face, and tears flooding His eyes, as He celebrated the City that He loves. It is an experience I know I will never forget and I pray I will live out again many times. The following article was written by a dear friend of Bridges for Peace named Moshe Kempinski. As I read it I felt it painted a vivid picture of what we saw and experienced on that amazing night.

Please take time to read it and continue or begin a habit of praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

The Dance of Jerusalem Day

Written by Moshe Kempinski on May 31, 2011 – 2 Comments

Categories: Jerusalem Insights

President Obama would do well to listen to recordings of the radio broadcasts that were aired prior to the Six day war. This was prior to the formation of the 1967 lines precedent Obama seems to rely on. This was before Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland was returned to their ancestral tenants. Yet in spite of the fact there was not yet an Israeli controlled “west Bank” hatred was overabundant. Yet President Obama will probably not stop to listen, as he is too busy speaking.

Before those fateful days in June of 1967, the radio waves were filled with hatred and threats against the small sliver of a country called Israel. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the president of Egypt declared on radio” We intend on beginningan all out campaign, it will be a total war and our basic purpose is theeradication of the Israeli state” (27.5.67). Ahmed Shukeiri the head of the Palestinian resistance movement also delivered the following statement:” Israelis who were born in Palestine that will still be alive after the war will be allowed to live in Palestine. But based on my best estimation not a single one of them will still be found alive.” (26.5.67)” Similar threats were being aired every day by leaders of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Even the darling of North American media, King Hussein of Jordan joined the war that began in June of 1967 with the following words,” Kill the Jews with everything that comes to your hands. Kill them with your arms, with your hands, with your nails and with your teeth.”

The days prior to those fateful days were days filled with prayers, concern and gloomy and dark fears. Then everything changed in a flash of divine intervention.” Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing; Thou didst loose my sackcloth, and gird me with gladness ;”(psalm 30:12).

In the summer of 1967 the radio broadcasts from Israelreported the following; The Kol Israel (Israel Radio) microphones held by the Israeli war correspondents were picking up the voices of battle and the commands and instructions of the commanders.  Amidst intermittent bullet fire one hears General Uzi Narkiss asking breathlessly, “Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?”

Israeli radio correspondent Yossi Ronen continues with following hesitant words, “I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall,” and his voice trails off into a silence of awe and tears .

In the background one could hear hoarse voices of battle weary soldiers screaming, “Shehechiyanu v’kiyimanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh — Blessed are You, L-rd G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day.” As Yossi Ronen and others answer “Amen,” Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the Chief Rabbi of the army, declares, “Baruch ata Hashem, menachem Tzion uvoneh Yerushalayim (Blessed are You, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem),” and again a loud and hoarse “Amen” is heard. At that point some of the soldiers begin to sing Israel’s National anthem, ‘HaTikva,’ .

Shots continue to be fired and soldiers continue to weep as Rabbi Shlomo Goren blows the shofar he has brought with him with mighty and crystal clear sounds. He then ends with the declaration, “L’Shana HAZOT b’Yerushalayim hab’nuya, b’Yerushalayim HaAtika! This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of Old!”

That shofar began a melody in my soul as well in the souls of many of my brethren .It began an eternal melody that has given direction to all those who attune their ears to hear. Only with that melody resonating in one’s soul one can step back and see the splendor of that which is being formed in our lifetime. With that melody in one’s heart one begins to see that regardless of the spiritual blindness of some of the builders the building continues.

This past week has seen thousands come through the gates of the old city, to sing dance and pray. Yesterday a group of seemingly secular Jews formed a circle at the foot of the Hurva synagogue and began to sing songs of Jerusalem. One man then pulled out a large shofar and began to blow. He was soon followed by another. Within minutes there several  shofars “ singing” with the circle of people.

Tonight again, as always the streets of the old city will be filled with tens of thousands of people coming to celebrate within the walls of the eternal city. It is then that I always remember the dancing man.

Several  years ago in preparation for the thousands of people who were going to be dancing with Israeli flags, through all the gates of the Old City on Jerusalem Day, a music and record company had set up a booth outside of our shop. Their speakers were playing Jewish Chassidic music throughout that whole Jerusalem Day.

Early in the day I saw an older man walking across the square and stop when he heard the music. He turned to two strangers who were walking in the same direction, grabbed their hands and started dancing with them. They danced but soon left him, yet he continued to dance alone. Very quickly several other people joined him in a circle. When they eventually left he continued to dance on his own until he was joined by others. When one disc had ended and there was a pause before the next music disc was put on, he still continued to dance. It was obvious that the melody he heard was not coming from the speakers. A group of young secular children walked by and smiled at the dancing man. He beckoned to them to join him and they hesitated. They did not hesitate for long as they probably saw the melody burning in his eyes and another circle began to form.

Within minutes a group of young soldiers joined in and the circles became larger and one circle formed within another one. The dancing man continued to sway and dance in the middle. Everybody he touched or danced with him left the encounter a little bit changed. Even those who did not join but preferred to watch or dance from a distance heard the very same melody that had captured this dancing man’s soul. It was a melody exuding from every move of his feet and sway of his upturned arms. The dancing man continued alone or in circles with others for a very long time.

Finally, when the first wave of marchers came through the Jewish Quarter on their way to the Western Wall, he was swept up with them, lost in the flowing blue and white flags. I followed him for a part of the way until he became enveloped by the growing joyful crowd. Yet he never stopped dancing.

President Obama may keep speaking but we will never stop dancing

The melody that began in the mighty blast of the Shofar at Mount Sinai and then continued in the blast that I heard from the shofar of Rabbi Goren over forty years ago and continued to run  through the soul of this dancing man . That melody was the very “song of Hashem.”

As the Psalmist writes in Tehillim 137: “How shall we sing the L-rd’s song (the song of Hashem) in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its strength. If I do not remember you, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I don’t prefer Jerusalem over and above my chief joy.”

It is a song that cannot be sung in a “strange land,” and at times it is even forgotten. Yet those that have not forgotten the melody will find themselves drawn back to the land of their forefathers and brought up into the Gates of Jerusalem. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the House of Hashem!’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.A city that is re-united ( Chubra Yachdav) together” (Tehillim 122:1-3)

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach – May we soon see Yerushalayim completely rebuilt, with the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple)!

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Longing

This week I experienced the loss of a friend. She and I didn’t have a history of many years of intimate friendship. We knew each other for four short years. In those four years, though, every one of our encounters was very profound. I always left her presence knowing that I had just been with a spiritual giant. As I write this I can easily recall the many confirming words of knowledge she’s spoken over me since my very first encounter with her.

She was radiant and intriguing, yet she was authentic and always approachable. She unknowingly played a major role in my restoration and healing. She came alongside me in my affliction and spoke life and vision into me as if God had opened up His mighty hands before her to reveal His plans for me. My journal is filled with her words and I walk expectantly in my call because of her obedience to speak the heart of God. She leaves behind an amazing husband, who is also awe-inspiring, and two beautiful, small children.

This past March I lost my grandfather and had the honor and privilege of officiating his memorial service. Two years ago I was graced to do the same for my grandmother.

The Bible tells us that it is appointed unto men once to die. This is the unavoidable truth. We were formed in our mothers’ wombs by the hand of God, and from the time we take our very first breath our life here on earth is destined to come to an end.

There is a wide spectrum of emotions that death evokes in me. The first is usually shock.

 

How could someone who was here one moment, be suddenly gone in the next?

I tossed and turned at that very question the night of my friend’s death. The next emotion I walk through is sadness. I ponder the times we had together and I ponder the days my loved one will not be around for. The final emotion usually lingers a bit longer. It’s one I was surprised by the first time I experienced it. After the initial shock and the expected sadness, I experience envy.

I know that sounds strange, and trust me, I never mean to sound morbid. But, I’ll never forget the deep anguish I felt four years ago when my unborn daughter died in my womb. I grieved a gut wrenching grief. I hurt from the top of my head to the very bottoms of my feet. I shook my fists at God in anger and asked, “How could you?!” But when the pain and anger had dissipated I found myself left with envy. Jealousy.

I envy the saint who has passed from this life into eternity because in a split second they pass from this world into the presence of the one I love deeper and stronger and more passionately than I love any one else in all of heaven or earth.

I know there is much argument over whether a person moves immediately into the presence of God or if they sleep for a while. We do know one thing, though, and that is a person will close their eyes in this life and open them in the next. I will not care about how long my eyes were closed because I will finally be home.

I love my life. The Lord has filled my life here on earth with so many blessings. I get to spend my days with the most amazing little girls. God’s given me the most extraordinary man as my partner in doing life. And He grants me the opportunity over and over again to see the grandeur of the world He created and to adventure in it. Yet, I can’t deny that there is a longing deep inside of me to physically walk and talk with my God. And He longs for the same thing with me. He created us to be with Him! He created man and set him in the garden of His delight and then, the Bible tells us, He physically walked with him. It was not the intent of God to ever be separated from man. And since The Fall He has been consumed with fulfilling His promises in order to be with us again.

            “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.”

I’ve heard that said a hundred or more times. The problem, however, is that this idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible. In fact, the messages found in the Word are quite the opposite. For many of the great men of faith it was revelation of God, His son Jesus, and His Kingdom that ignited a fire in them which would cause them to set their people and ultimately the world aflame.

Moses met God in a burning bush and spoke with Him as a man speaks with his friend.

Isaiah saw the Lord high and exalted and the train of His robe filling the temple. He saw the Seraphs circling the throne crying out “Holy, holy, holy!” This revelation caused him to fall on his face like a dead man, opened his eyes to his sin-saturated humanness and caused him to answer “Send me!” when God asked “Whom shall I send?” I imagine it was the memory of this revelation that gave him the courage and the boldness to stand before a wicked and depraved generation over and over again and declare the words of the Lord.

Twelve men forsook their careers, their families, their homes, and any chance at ever again living a safe and predictable life to follow a carpenter. Why? Because they saw the face of God. They looked into His eyes and heard His voice. They experienced heaven and they and we would never be the same because of it.

Jesus himself said, “I can only do what I see the father doing,” and “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.” He didn’t come to establish an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom.

And John, the beloved apostle, the Revelator, while banished to the island of Patmos was given first-hand revelation of things, which are to come. He heard the voice of God, which sounded like a trumpet. He turned to see the voice of the one who spoke and beheld the son of man. He was dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

How could he ever, from that day forward, live any other way than heavenly minded? He couldn’t. They couldn’t! And they didn’t. They and every single one of the great heroes of our spiritual heritage lived with their hearts and minds and actions focused on heaven and this has served humankind very well. They didn’t attach themselves to the fleeting things of earth. They lived as citizens of heaven, sojourners longing for home and the face and embrace of their beloved, father, friend, master, king, and God.

This same longing is at the core of every soul ever to walk the face of the earth since the beginning of time; in both the righteous and the unrighteous.

There is coming a day when our yearning will be put to rest. What a day that will be! The Bible tells us that there will be no pain or death or disease. Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will finally be with Him for all of eternity. There will be no more discontentment or striving or longing. Every one of our desires and every one of His will be fulfilled. Oh how I love the day of His appearing! I want to hasten His return! The Spirit and the Bride say COME!!!

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Lessons from a Mega Church

Driving away from the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas yesterday morning and through the desert, 45 minutes to the small town of Indian Springs, felt a lot like coming home after being gone for far too long. Some things were exactly as I remembered them: The casino where we’d have late night meals after church services, the gas station where we’d spend way too much money on soda, chips, and Chester Fried Chicken, the high school, and the park.

And then there was the church.

This tiny little military building stands as a literal oasis in this dessert town. It is a place where people have found hope, restoration, and acceptance for decades. It is in this place that I, and at least a hundred other young adults over the years, began to get our “feet wet” in ministry. Several nights every year were spent in this tiny church ministering to the children, youth, and adults of this tiny town. Our days were spent doing school assemblies in the high school gym, and outreaches in the park. We would roll into town with our team and vans and trailers filled with props and costumes and sound equipment and for the rest of the week we would be used to impact the town for God and then pack up and roll out until the following year.

Now I was returning after five years away.

Yes. Many things were just as I had left them. But many things had definitely changed. Over all, the people had changed. The children were taller, the youth were now married and having families, and the adults… many of their faces were now inscribed with the beautiful lines that told of their many joys and sorrows.

My first encounter with Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV was in the summer of 2000. I was at the Christ for the Nations Institute youth camp, Youth for the Nations, along with two other team mates, recruiting for the discipleship program I helped lead. I was ministering in an afternoon session when I noticed the face of a young man sitting in the front row. There was something about the smile on his face and the joy in his eyes that kept drawing me back to him. I know now that it was God shining through him that kept bringing me to stop and speak right in front of him; almost directly to him.

Through that young man I met Pastor Kimmie Guerino, a woman who would challenge me for the rest of my life to be who God created me to be, to serve exactly where God has placed me, and to love people fiercely without the guarantee of a transformed life. The message of love recorded in I Corinthians chapter 13 is etched in her DNA, pumps through her veins, and saturates the lives of every person she spends time with.

Pastor Kimmie grew up in Indian Springs, and in a sense has never left. Through the years she has poured herself out on the people of the town. She has given of her time, money, and energy so that the people she loves would know the love of Jesus. And many times she has waited, like the father in Luke chapter 15. He waited for the return of his son and when he saw him still a ways off, he ran to meet him. I have seen Pastor Kimmie welcome the wayward sons and daughters of Indian Springs with honor and dignity and freedom from all judgment.

She has prayed for, cried with, and personally trained the youth of her town. And when many pastors would have tried with all of their might to keep these young people in order to build up their churches, Pastor Kimmie, using her own personal resources, sent them off to the very ends of the earth in order to build God’s church.

Today I want to honor Pastor Kimmie and I want to honor Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV. I also want to honor Jesus’ Bride, His Body, the Church; which is comprised of many tiny churches. These are churches of which without them the Body could not function.

I Corinthians 12: 12 tells us that the body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

We will probably never see Pastor Kimmie televised live preaching to a sports stadium filled with hundreds of thousands of people. But, we also may never see Joel Osteen, Bishop TD Jakes, or Francis Chan knocking on the doors of the homes in Indian Springs delivering Christmas gifts to their families or bringing the elderly to a community meal. These highly influential men of God cannot boast of the same hundreds of young people Pastor Kimmie has personally discipled since they were babies and sent out for the sake of the Kingdom. They also cannot boast of the many who have married and are raising families. They bought homes just outside of town. Yet, they make the 45 minute drive every week, often twice or three times a week out of hope that they might impact the town the same way Pastor Kimmie has impacted them.

For many years I found myself listening to the ever popular spiel about church growth. And I have walked away from those sessions with a very judgmental eye. There was a time, I am ashamed to admit, when I would walk into a church and take the liberty to point out every reason they were not “growing.”

I wonder if the same finger pointing was going on in the Church in Corinth. Maybe the “mega churches” were instructing the smaller churches to be more like them in order to “grow.” Maybe, just maybe this is why Paul taught them that “the body is made up of many parts.”

I wonder if the little churches looked at the mega churches and thought, “we might be better off to dissolve ourselves and join them.” Maybe their feelings of inferiority caused Paul to teach that if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.

I am beginning to learn, as I step into every type of church imaginable across this nation that if the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the Body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.

 He placed Pastor Matthew Barnnett in the inner city of Los Angeles to reach the addicts and prostitutes and gang members. He placed Pastor Bill Johnson in Redding, CA to be an agent for His miracles to flow through. And He placed Pastor Kimmie Guerino in Indian Springs, NV to reach the people who might be missed as others drive through the desert giving little or no attention to its inhabitants.

If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one Body. (I Corinthians 12:14-20)

This weekend I walked into Echoes of Faith in Indian Springs, NV, looked around at the less than 50 people sitting in the seats and realized that all of these years I was honored to be speaking in one of our nation’s only, true mega churches.

Pastor Kimmie Guerino along with members of Echoes of Faith Church.

*Note: Every year Pastor Kimmie , through Echoes of Faith Church, provides Christmas gifts to the families living in Indian Springs, and takes about 20 to 30 the Youth For the Nations camp in Dallas, TX at the cost of $400.00 per individual. She also provides a monthly meal for the elderly of the community. If you would like to give to Echoes of Faith to help with the costs of these projects please contact me and I will get you in contact with pastor Kimmie.

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