Our Savior Knows our Pains

I belong to a special Facebook group for mothers of adopted and foster children. The children of these mothers come from traumatized backgrounds. As a result, these mothers experience more than their fair share of pain and agony – it very difficult to raise angry, traumatized children. On an almost daily basis, they seek to deliberately hurt (both physically and emotionally) their mothers or primary caregivers. One of these mother’s, in an attempt to help those in our group, shared this recently. It is a quote by Chieko N. Okazaki and it is profound! We all have our burdens to bear and our difficulties to endure. I hope it will provide you with comfort as it has me!:

“It’s our faith that He experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually.

That means He knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer — how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism.

Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced … that He does not also know and recognize. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten when a bully picks on your fifth-grader when your daughter calls to say that the new baby has Down Syndrome. He knows your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your two-year-old when someone gives your thirteen-year-old drugs when someone seduces your seventeen-year-old. He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple last week when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.” Chieko N. Okazaki

Today’s image was shared from the gospel library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (lds.org)

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Your Life, God’s Way

God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies Hudson Taylor

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Years ago, my church – Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida – rented a billboard near a busy highway. We were looking to attract people to what God was doing in our world. The ad featured an image of me (which made sense because the invitation was coming from the church, and well, I’m the pastor) with these words emblazoned across the ad:

Your Life, God’s Way

Despite the blinding vibrancy of my lime green golf shirt, we got a great response to that billboard. Lots of people visited Celebration for the first time and made it their home. Why? I seriously doubt it was due to my friendly-yet-penetrating gaze as drivers made their daily commute to work each day. No.

What drew people in was that the ad offered a different approach to the one thing everyone is concerned about and probably mulling over on their way to work: my life. Imagine the thoughts of those drivers. It’s not hard because we’ve all had them at one time or another, maybe at this very moment:

  • My life is a mess.
  • My life is going great.
  • My life doesn’t matter.
  • My life is about to change.
  • My life is falling apart.
  • My life has no purpose.
  • My life is too busy.
  • My life is depressing.
  • My life is over-the-top amazing.

The billboard reached all these people behind the wheel – all with different plans, experiences, hopes, disappointments, and so on – and offered them one more lens through which to view their life: God’s way.

Adding these two words has a way of changing our perspective. It forces us to pause and consider that there may be a completely different way of doing life than we are currently doing it, one we may never have considered. I’m sure more than one person drove by that billboard and thought, “God’s way,” huh? What does that look like? It’s gotta be better than the way I’m doing it.

When I first started thinking about my life in terms of God’s way, three life-altering, game-changing realizations came to mind. And speaking now as a pastor, let me add that these apply to anyone.

God has a “way” for our lives. Most people think God is not at all interested in the details of our lives. But he is.

He doesn’t sit in heaven simply watching our lives from the nosebleeds. God wants to be fully involved in your life, and He has a game plan, a path, a way for your life that is designed specifically for you (Psalm 37:23). As you make Him the first priority in your life, you’ll witness firsthand just how much God wants to be present and active in your life. You will experience His presence on a whole new level.

We don’t have to carry the weight of our life alone. Life is challenging, and the cares of life are heavy, but God doesn’t want you to carry the burden alone. Jesus invites you to keep step with Him while He does the heavy lifting (Matthew 11:28). When you put God first, you begin to live in response to Him as He shapes your life. Rather than striving to manipulate and control every outcome under your own strength, you will find that God is standing close, ready to help lighten the load.

God’s way is better than ours.

The Bible says that God’s way is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, right, and enlightening (Psalm 19:7-8). I don’t know about you, but my way usually isn’t any of those things. Amazingly, God’s way is not only all those things, but it also meets us wherever we are.

When you feel like your life…

  • is a mess, God works all things out for your good (Romans 8:28).
  • is going great, God has greater things in store for you (1 Corinthians 2:9).
  • doesn’t matter, God ascribes incredible value to you (1 Peter 1:18-19).
  • is about to change, he will be with you every step of the way (Hebrews 13:5).
  • is falling apart, God is your strength and deliverer (Psalm 18:1-2).
  • has no purpose, God’s purpose for you will prevail (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • is too busy, God’s peace guards your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7).
  • is depressing, he is the giver of joy (Romans 15:13).
  • is over-the-top amazing, there is a place to direct your gratitude (James 5:13).

God’s way for your life is the best possible way you can live. This is the God-first life. It’s the life God intends you to live.

Today’s article was written by Stovall Weems and is shared from the following website: https://www.faithgateway.com/your-life-gods-way/#.W3Q_gy-ZNmA

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He That is Greatest Among You…Giving Service

He that is Greatest among you shall be your Servant Matthew 23:11When I think of the Savior of us all, I think of all his abilities, all of his intelligence and all of his service.

His, was an amazing example of the one with the most serving those with the least.

Having had a near-death experience, I know like few others do, the total and complete perfection of our Savior. I know that he could have delivered himself out of the hands of his persecutors and yet he didn’t. Mortality makes it really difficult for most of us to comprehend just how much has been done for us through the atonement of Jesus Christ and his perfection.

Ego, desire for power and selfishness distance us from our Savior and our Creator. I know how much they love us. I also know that overcoming the “man” in ourselves results in priceless joy.

We may have power, prestige, and possessions but if we don’t know how to love or care or serve, life is truly empty and void of joy.

I love today’s story. I believe it is a great reminder to us all that service can come from anywhere at any time – and that service is a priceless gift to both the giver and the receiver! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Today You, Tomorrow Me

During this past year I’ve had three instances of car trouble: a blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out-of-gas situation. They all happened while I was driving other people’s cars, which for some reason makes it worse on an emotional level. And on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my own car, and know enough not to park on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a hand basket,” which I actually said.

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.”

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.

Originally by Justin Horner, posted Mar 10, 2011 [From a post on reddit.com and re-published in NY Times.]

Story shared from the following website: http://www.kindspring.org/story/view.php?sid=25237

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You Are a Child of God

Remember who you are. Don’t comprimise for anyone, for any reason. You are a child of the Almighty God. Live That Truth. Lysa TerkeurstWhen I was a young boy, we had a man in our ward whose face had been disfigured by a terrible disease. The man’s appearance frightened me and other children in the ward. Then, one day when I was five or six years old, he stood up in fast and testimony meeting and bore his testimony. I don’t remember what he said, but into my young heart came a powerful feeling of warmth and love.

After that experience, my fear of the man left. I didn’t realize it then, but the Spirit had touched my heart and helped me to see more than the man’s physical appearance. Through those feelings, I learned that he was a beloved child of Heavenly Father and that I didn’t need to be afraid of him.

Later, I had an experience that helped me understand that I too am a child of God. When I was in Primary, disturbing things were happening in the world. I remember being frightened sometimes when I listened to the news. I wondered what the future would be like.

One Sunday in Junior Sunday School, our leaders announced that we were going to learn a new hymn called “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” (Hymns,no. 270). The music director taught us the words to the hymn using pictures of mountains, stormy seas, and other scenes mentioned in the words: “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord, over mountain or plain or sea; I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord; I’ll be what you want me to be.”

As the words of the hymn ran through my mind, the feeling of warmth and love that I had felt before came into my heart again. I knew for the first time that Heavenly Father knew who I was and that I was important to Him. I knew that my life had a purpose and that everything would be all right.

I am one of 11 children. As I grew up, my parents taught us the principles of the gospel in our home. We worked hard milking cows, feeding chickens, moving sprinkler pipe, and taking care of animals. Summers were spent planting, weeding, harvesting, and preserving fruits and vegetables. We were active in church, school, and sports. There was never enough time to get everything done. But our parents always insisted on us waking up early each morning for family scripture study and prayers before we went our separate ways. Through the years, I felt that feeling of warmth and love reminding me who I was and that everything would be all right.

I testify that each of us is a beloved child of Heavenly Father. He loves us with all of His heart. Take time to read about Him, pray to Him, and attend church to worship Him. I know that He will give you that feeling of warmth and love in your heart. Then you can know that you are a child of God, your life has a purpose, and everything will be all right.

Today’s story is shared from an interview with Paul B. Pieper. It is shared from the following website: https://www.lds.org/friend/2008/01/you-are-a-child-of-god?lang=eng

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How to Get Closer to God & to Know God Personally

We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness Francis Chan

Are you looking for deep spiritual meaning in your life and to learn how to get closer to God?

The good news is that God loves you (yes, you!) and He wants to get to know you too! He wants to show you how to have a peaceful, joyful life… right where you’re at.

Growing closer to God can include a Bible study for women (I’ll show you my simple Bible study method), but at its core, learning how to be closer to God starts with an open heart ready to welcome in God’s loving spirit.

Let’s learn about how to become closer to God, including the #1 spiritual growth skill that will help you better understand the Bible and apply God’s truth to your life.

DO YOU KNOW GOD PERSONALLY?

Do you know God? I don’t mean do you know “of” God. I mean, do you have an authentic personal relationship with the One who created you?

I’m not asking if you go to church every week or if you grew up in a home where God was talked about frequently. Honestly, that doesn’t guarantee that you actually know God at all.

I’m talking about “knowing God” in the sense of a friendship. A relationship founded on grace (not a religion based on rules and regulations).

I’m asking if you’ve had an opportunity to be forgiven for the bad things you’ve done (and yes, according to Romans 3:23, we’ve all done bad things) and made new through the power of Christ’s forgiveness on the cross.

I’m asking if you’ve experienced (even a taste) of God’s great love for you (Ephesians 3:19) and chosen to surrender your life to His plans and His ways.

Perhaps it seems strange to ask you this (since we’ve probably never met in person and choosing to enter into a relationship with God is a very personal decision) but…

Would you like to have a relationship with God?

Would you like to know how to discover that vibrant, full life that only He can show you (John 10:10) when you choose to surrender your heart to Him?

Let me show you how to start that relationship right now.

HOW TO KNOW GOD PERSONALLY

  1. Understand that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16, John 10:10).
  2. Know that all of us sin and that our sin has separated us from God (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23).
  3. Understand that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sin (Romans 5:8, John 14:6).
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our savior so that we can experience God’s love and know His plans for us (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8-9, Revelation 3:20).

If you believe these truths about God and would like to have a life that is led by Christ (instead of your own plans), you can start that personal relationship with God right now!

Simply pray something like this:

“God, I recognize that I’m not perfect. I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’d like to ask your forgiveness for them. I realize now that your death on the cross is the only way that I can be made right with God and to atone for the wrongs I’ve done.

I want my life to be led by you. I want to learn more about you and to discover your good plans for my life.

I want you to show me how to have that abundant, full life that I’m craving. Please come into my life and take control. Please shape me into the person that you want me to be.”

If these words are the desire of your heart and your prayed something similar to this, then you can be assured that you are now in a personal relationship with Christ!

Today’s post is shared from the following website: https://yourvibrantfamily.com/get-closer-to-god/. I love this article and believe in what it shares. However, a portion of the post has been excluded. That portion infers that only faith is needed and not works. I have omitted it because my near-death experience clearly taught and showed me that our works are a vital part of our relationship with God and to success in our lives – from an eternal perspective. I love sharing the inspirational words that others share but I also feel a responsibility to make sure what I share is complete truth!

Have a great day!

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