Unbroken 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” Corinthians 9:24

Today we began a series entitled “At the Movies.” Our pastor takes a popular movie, shortens it to fulfill  the purpose of his message, and inserts himself in the film and provides biblical commentary.

The film today was Unbroken, which is about the life of Louis Zamperini. It recounts his amazing odyssey of triumph that he contributes to the unfailing grace of God.

His life was such a powerful testimony! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us and Louis proved just that! His brother Pete gave him a mantra-“If you can take it, you can make it.” This gave Louis strength for the journey  during his 97 years on earth.

I was moved to tears during the showing and sat on the edge of my seat. It was hard to watch the evil he endured.

I could relate to so much of his life-the low self esteem, facing trial after trial that would break most, and the strong will to make it despite the odds.

Pastor Dave reminded us that the devil has no real power over us and he can only trick us into destroying ourselves. He plays a lot of mind games and excels at convincing us that we  are worthless. In the case of Louis, the devil used the Bird to try to break his spirit. It was obvious that the Bird saw greatness in him, too and hated him for it.

Pastor Dave also talked about how living out of season can hamper us. Louis defined himself as an Olympic runner and was almost destroyed when he lost a race as a prisoner. His focus should have been on survival instead of his past glory. We must stay in the present in order to appreciate the blessings that we do have.

It is true that God prepares us in advance to fight future battles. Louis was “trained” as a youth with the many gladiator type battles he faced as an Italian immigrant in his neighborhood and his Olympic training as a runner.

The most astonishing part of his story was the ability to forgive his captors-the very men who tormented him as a POW. He actually met with them all except for the Bird who refused. Again, another solid example of how we can do anything as long as we rely on the strength of the Lord.

Louis spent 47 days at sea after their military plane crashed. He vowed to God that he would dedicate his life to him if he would only let him live. God granted his request and Louis eventually kept his promise.

I have been down-but never out, bent-but not broken, and I’ve been through many fires-but I never smell like smoke-Hallelujah!!!!

I want to encourage anyone reading these words today to keep running the race! Our sufferings are never in vain and all things can be used for good by God. He hears every prayer we utter and stores them in His golden goblet in heaven. Never grow weary of fighting the good fight of faith my friend!

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From Saul to Paul

“Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.” ~Acts 13:9


Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna

God is in the transformation business. Your beginning does not have to be your end. We see this made manifest in the life of Paul. Paul began his life as a persecutor of Christians. He was known as Saul of Tarsus before he was handpicked by God to be His apostle. At this time in his life, he had no regard, reverence or love for Christians. Saul watched the stoning death of the martyr Stephen and held the garments of the ones hurling stones. 

He was a devout Jew who had permission from the High Priest to persecute anyone professing that Jesus was the Chosen One. Saul says:

“I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.”Acts 22:3-5

It wasn’t until that faithful day on Damascus Road that Saul encountered the Prince of peace in a personal way. The bright light and the voice of the Savior caused him to fall to his feet, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? ~Acts 9:4 

Persecution of His people was persecution of Him. Saul answered humbly and submitted himself and asked what he should do. He was told to rise and go into the city. This act of obedience left him blind. There he met Ananais who was rightfully afraid as Saul’s reputation preceded him. Also instructed by the Lord, he too obeyed and healed Saul of his temporary blindness. 

Although Saul was well versed in the Bible, he did not believe that Jesus was the anointed Messiah. After the fateful encounter, he dedicated his life to the Great Commission and  traveled to synagogues all across the region to deliver the Good News. Because he was a Hebrew who held Roman citizenship, he was able to speak  with confidence to both the Jews and Greeks and therefore was able to reach more people.  

Throughout his life Paul suffered many trials but continued to press on and fight the good fight of faith despite being imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, flogged, stoned, faced death a myriad of times, battled his own flesh, was often hungry, thirsty and cold-yet he never allowed any of it to prevent him from serving the Lord. Even when the Lord elected not to remove the thorn from his side, he continued on. He felt it an honor to be weak as it showed the strength of the Lord. “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 1 Corinthians 12:9

At the end of his life Paul was content knowing his reward. He spent the remainder of his life working tirelessly for the Kingdom. He had written 14 of the 27 epistles in the New Testsment, lead an innumerable amount of people to Christ, enlisted others to teach about Christ, created the theological framework of justification by faith and lead an exemplary life of faith. He had done all he was called to do and knew his time of death was at hand. “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”~2 Timothy 4-6 

Through his life we learn that God can use anyone. Each and every one of us matter to God. We are never beyond redemption. We also learn that anyone can be a witness for Christ if they are willing to be transformed and made anew. 

Paul was willing and even counted his sufferings all joy. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” ~Philippians 1:12-14). His transformation was complete. Can you say the same? 

RIP

“And because of his glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. ” ~2 Peter 1:4

This morning I woke up with my mother on my mind and felt heavy hearted. Coincidently,  Mother’s Day is in four days. 

However, before I could become too consumed with gloom, God put the thought RIP in my mind. 

Most of us are aware that RIP stands for “rest in peace” and is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase Requiescat in pace. 

But today God graciously gave me a new meaning and replaced rest in peace with rest in promise. Thus there is no reason to be sad when I can infinitely hope in the Lord. 

The Bible says that “the dead know nothing” Ecclesiates 9:6  which is true. But our omniscient, unchanging, constant God “cannot lie” and is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8. With this knowledge we can be assured that even in death, His promises remain the same for us. Hallelujah! This revelation brought so much joy to my heart I almost shouted! 

Psalm 37:25 says “…Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken” thus death has “no sting” or victory in the face of God and His word which can never return void. 

May my precious mother continue to RIP until “the Lord Himself comes down from heaven!” ~1 Thessalonians 4:16

Testimony

 “It seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.” Daniel 4:2

We all have a story to tell that would glorify God and serve to bring others to Christ. You never know just who is in need of your  edifying words. A testimony can provide hope for the hurting and broken-hearted.  Importantly, it is expected of us Christians to encourage others “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” Romans 15:5 Through the reading of the Word, we are capable of encouraging others, “The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” Isaiah 50:4

However, exactly how do you go about sharing your story with others? Testifying requires transparency and truth. You have to be willing to expose your inadequacies and flaws to the world without fear of judgment. Your motive for testifying must be pure as well-least you make a mockery of God. You can’t be vague and noncommittal in your sharing. How could that possibly give God the credit for your victory? You shouldn’t leave any listener with a doubt or question about who did what for you. 

God will even supply you with what to say. He has done this countless times for others throughout the Bible. Jeremiah: “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me “I have put my words in your mouth.” Jeremiah 1:19…Moses: “You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.” Exodus 4:15-16 …Disciples: “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Matthew 10:20 

Others may not like your testimony or even have an issue with it though you can’t concern yourself with their opinions. Jesus tells us in Luke 21:14-15 “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 

Testifying is indeed a vulnerable thing but very necessary. We simply have to count it all joy.  So I’d like to encourage anyone who is afraid to share their testimony with the following verses: James 5:10 says “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” And 1 Peter 3:14 “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.” 1 Peter 3:14 …but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” 1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong ; you are distinguished, but we are without honor.”  Lastly, “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” 2 Corinthian 4:5. 

May your glory be to God and God alone! 

Thankful Thursday

  
Today I was able to raise both arms worship style since my surgery. Praise Him!

Today I was able to encourage another person going through what I am. Praise Him!

Today I received a beautiful love token from my job. Praise Him! 

God simply has been overwhelming me with His everlasting love. Praise Him! 

Testimony Tuesday

“But You, O Lord are a holy shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.” Psalm 3:3-4

God has been my shield. He has heard each of my cries as He sits on High looking low. Thank You Father! Today I received some good news from my doctor, another battle won in the war He’s fighting on my behalf. 

It’s no coincidence that the Lord gave me a word for 2015, “still.” Still as in “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 and “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14. He knew in advance the magnitude of what I would be facing. 

Despite His faithfulness, I continue to struggle with whether or not I deserve His goodness. But I came to the conclusion today that I don’t. However God “remembers that we are dust” and covers us with His grace and mercy daily. Thank You Lord!