Have you ever had something happen to you that you look back on in hindsight and it felt like it was something that could have been pulled straight from a movie? I had this experience last week and it seemed so surreal! I was driving home from work, like any other day. I got about half way home and noticed that there was smoke coming from underneath the hood of my SUV. I had this gut feeling (which I know beyond the shadow of a doubt was God) telling me that I needed to pull my SUV over and get it out of the road.
I was able to pull over in this gas station parking lot (far away from the gas pumps) and I decided to just sit for a few minutes and let the smoke dissipate. While waiting, I happened to look over to the left and noticed a couple of people screaming something. I couldn’t understand what they were saying so I opened my door. It turns out they were screaming at me – “Get out!! Your SUV is on fire!!” I grabbed my stuff and got as far away as I possibly could. Not five minutes later, my SUV went up in flames. At the time, I was shaking so badly when I had the realization that I could’ve been in the SUV when it caught fire. God was definitely looking out for me!
One of the merchants of a nearby store called 911 for me and the fire department was there in a few short minutes. They hosed down my SUV and it was no longer recognizable. Fortunately, neither I nor anyone else was injured as a result of the fire (I was the only one in my SUV). A tow truck came and took what remained of my SUV to their lot and I spoke with the fire chief about what I need to do in order to file a claim with my insurance company.
It was like something straight out of the movies – seeing a vehicle go up in flames in an action movie. I was not able to sleep for the first few nights as I kept having these visions of being stuck in the SUV, not being able to get out as it was engulfed in flames. Last night, I took a couple of Benadryl and went to bed around 12:00 AM and didn’t wake up until almost 2:00 PM.
My youngest brother took several pictures of the remains of my SUV (in case my insurance company needed them). Below are just a few of the pictures.
We often hear the word love used in many different contexts. “I love hamburgers!” “I love the color blue!” “I love my family!” ”I love my church!” What is the true definition of love and how does surrender come into play with this definition? Upon the recommendation of a friend/mentor, I read the book Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. When I started this book, I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I had never heard of the author.
The book is a trilogy of sorts (the second book being The Gift of Being Yourself and the third book being Desiring God’s Will). In Surrender to Love, Benner discusses the concept of Godly love and how the ultimate surrender (the death of Jesus Christ, God’s only son) provides this love for us. We have a tendency to believe that God loves us based on our merits…if we do well then God loves us more…if we don’t do well morally then God doesn’t love us as much. This concept has caused many a people to fear God in an unhealthy way. God loves us regardless of what we do. He may be disappointed in us, but that doesn’t mean He loves us any less.
I walked away from reading this book with a better sense of what true love means and that you must have some sort of surrender in order to have that true love, or it isn’t really true love. This book was an easy read and I had no problem understanding the terminology and illustrations the author used. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the concept of love and/or surrender.
Here are a few takeaways that I had from the book:
- “Love is God’s character, not simply an emotion.”
- “The Christian God doesn’t turn away from sinners in disgust but moves toward us, bringing us His redemptive presence.”
- “The story of Jesus is the story of love personified.”
- “Most of us who call ourselves Christians do so on the basis of belief more than experience.” – A. W. Tozer
- “God isn’t simply the projection of our own image on the cosmos.”
- “He (God) created us and knows us intimately…He knows how we respond to anything that threatens our need for control.”
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
If you know me well at all, you know that U2 is my all time favorite band. I had the amazing opportunity to see them live the last time they came to Atlanta and it was well worth the price of admission. The fact that they sang one of my favorite songs, 40, made my experience “even better than the real thing” (sorry, I promise no more U2 song title puns). One of my life-long friends got me a book for Christmas several years ago and I just finally got around to reading it. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen takes the reader through twelve different topics regarding Christianity and shows how different songs in the U2 music catalog fit within these topics.
The topics covered include: Singing Scripture, Psalms as Thanksgiving and Lament, Wisdom as Desire and Illusion, Prophecy as Judgment and Hope, Parables as Offense and Mercy, Apocalypse as Ecstasy and Healing, Singing the Cross, Faith (Not Sight), Hope (Not Possession), Love (Not Power), Now (Not Yet), and Singing the Truth. I learned so much about my favorite band as well as what motivates them to do what they do. They are not in it for the fame and fortune – they feel God has given them a platform to share via their music. Some categorize the band as “too Christian” while others label them as “not Christian enough” but the author likens the band’s songs to modern parables.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes and take aways from the book:
- “We don’t get what we deserve; we get what God offers. As Bono put it in a recent interview, ‘It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.’”
- “If we thought it was all about us, it would <expletive> us up. Something happens, but it is not something we make happen. It only happens when God walks through the room.” – Larry Mullen, Jr. (drummer for U2)
- “Great music, like great lives, moves us to see with more clarity.”
- “The band has always had the feeling – not unlike Flannery O’Connor in her writing – that revelation will come if they wait and pay attention.”
- “These relationships – to friends, family, and community – speak to a conscious effort to overcome the vertigo of being rock stars so that they can find ways to be normal people.”
- “They (the band) decided very early on that they would transgress the rule that rock bands don’t sing about religion and politics.”
- “It’s absolutely clear what’s on God’s mind. You just have to read Scripture. Those who read Scripture and don’t come away with God’s preferential concern for the poor are just blind given that there are 2,103 verses of Scripture about the poor.” Bono (lead singer of U2)
- “To make a difference, one must be different.”
I left this book with a better understanding of U2 and the thought process behind their lyrics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves U2 or is just interested in seeing how other believers in the world are making a difference.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
Music is an integral part of my life. I listen to just about any and every kind of music (although I just can’t get into country or southern gospel). Certain songs have had more significance in my life during a specific season. At church, from time to time, we sing Always by Kristian Stanfill. We sang it again last night at Night of Worship and it really spoke to me in a new way.
Oh, my God, He will not delay. My refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always, always.
Up until recently, I was listening to the lyrics and thinking “God will not delay?! My God will come through always?! Yeah right! I don’t think so…He isn’t doing a thing in my situation.” I let my circumstances (being without a job for almost 16 months) determine my view of God’s movement (or lack there of in my mind). I couldn’t see who God truly was because I was blinded by what was going on around me.
Something happened on Wednesday of this week to change my view of the above lyrics. I had a job interview and later that day received (and accepted) a job offer. Thursday night when I went to Night of Worship, I focused intently on these lyrics and realized the error in my earlier mindset. I was using MY timeline to determine if God was delaying or coming through on HIS part. It felt like God was saying to me “You know…I was delaying until I thought you were ready. I wasn’t doing it to be mean or to hurt you in any way. Remember, I know what’s best for you!”
Watch the video below – may the lyrics of the song encourage you and help you remember God’s timing is perfect.
Photo Credit: By Blake Patterson
I will be celebrating (okay, maybe “celebrating” isn’t quite the right word…more like “dreading” right now) a milestone birthday in less than six months. Last night I was talking with my roommate about all of these things that I had hoped to have accomplished or done by this upcoming birthday. We all have our “bucket list” of things we want to do by a certain age and my list was more out of feeling a sense of entitlement (like I deserved these things) – “Why am I not married by now?” or “Why do I not have a house of my own now?” These ideas brought more questions, but no answers.
Donald Miller’s blog Storyline has a great post by Jeff Goins on this very topic – “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect” and I felt like it was written specifically to me. Goins compares our life to that of a story where we are an important character, but not the MAIN character. God is the MAIN character in our story. Things happen in our life that we don’t plan – job loss, death of a friend or family member, car problems…and the list continues. We get frustrated because more often than not, we have no control over these situations.
One thing we are quick to forget – when we are on the other side of our respective situations, we will be stronger and a better person because of them.
How has your life turned out differently than you planned?
Photo Credit: By Wes Peck
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow (Friday) will be our last night in Londrina. The time has gone by so fast as it seems like we just got here. Tuesday night we helped them create an environment called Muvuka (our definition was “A relevant gathering for building community” but in Portuguese it means “a mob or large gathering”). This night was much like our Singles Gatherings at Buckhead/North Point Community Church, but it was geared more towards their culture.
Wednesday we had an amazing Brazilian BBQ (steak marinated all day and then cooked on the grill along with several traditional Brazilian side items) at the home of our Brazilian friend Ely and his family. On Wednesday, we also spent some time sight seeing in Londrina and were able to see a really cool Catholic church that is a big part of Londrina’s history. Tonight (Thursday) we ate dinner at a restaurant in the bus station (believe me, it was MUCH better than it sounds) and then we enjoyed fresh squeezed fruit juices while we talked for hours with several of our new Brazilian friends. Tomorrow (Friday) is a holiday in Brazil (their equivalent of our July 4th) and Capella is having a picnic and doing baptisms (around 15 people will be getting baptized – including our new friend Carlos).
We will be leaving Londrina at 11:00 PM Friday via bus headed to Iguazu Falls where we will arrive around 7:00 AM on Saturday morning. We will spend all of Saturday at the falls and then will begin our travels back to Atlanta. It’s been an AWESOME time seeing God at work in our Brazilian friends and their church…it will be very hard to leave them tomorrow evening, but we will be keeping in contact with them via e-mail and Facebook. We hate to leave Londrina, but we are exciting about getting back home to see our friends and family.
Please continue to keep our team in your prayers as we travel to Igauzu Falls and then back to Atlanta.
Other Posts From Our Trip
Our luggage (okay, the luggage that belonged to the ladies – Adam and I were fortunate enough to have our luggage from day one of our time in Londrina) arrived bright and early on Sunday morning, so that was a great sense of relief. Last night we went to a Brazilian hamburger restaurant and ate entirely too much. I was playing with Pastor Paulo’s son David (he is 2 years old) last night at the restaurant by swinging him around in my arms like I do my nephew. He would laugh hysterically and when we were about to leave, he said something to me in Portuguese but I couldn’t understand him. I asked Pastor Paulo what David said and he replied “David said to you, ‘Goodbye my American Uncle!’” and that just made my heart melt!
This morning Saulo (the Singles Pastor) took us on walk around the lake and brought his dog Mona Lisa along with us. After another wonderful meal we met with the Singles environment volunteers and during our meeting we shared some American candy with them. Tomorrow evening we will be doing an event for the singles in the area and we can’t wait. We are having a great time in Londrina! The food is amazing, but we have been going constantly without much rest. It’s getting late, so we need to hit the sack.
Other Posts From Our Trip
- We’re Here! 6 Americans Invade Londrina. (Posted 9/1/12)
- Londrina – It’s Been Amazing! (Posted 9/7/12)
I can’t believe we have to be at the airport in 4 hours and 45 minutes. This will be short and sweet because I need to make an attempt at getting some sleep. I am packed and ready to go; my AWESOME friend Jennifer and her dad are coming to pick me up at 3:00 AM (now THAT’S a true a friend!) and we’re heading to the airport. Keep our team in your prayers as we travel over the next day to reach our destination of Londrina, Brazil.
I wanted you to be able to put names and faces together with the people on our team for whom you will be praying, so I have attached a copy of our team photo to this post. For those of you who have contributed to our trip (both financially and through prayers), we greatly appreciate it! Please continue to pray for us while we are on the trip. I will be updating my blog while we are gone, so make sure to check back here to see what we have been doing.
It’s time for me to get some rest!
When you are in the will of God and doing what He has called you to do, the enemy will attack. This is a promise – just look at James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice this verse doesn’t say “IF you face trials…” it says “WHENEVER you face trials…” so they are a guarantee in the Christian life. When we do what we are supposed to do, it irritates Satan and he will do everything in his power to make us fall.
In preparing for my Brazil mission trip, something happened the other day that can only be explained as a spiritual attack from the enemy. This situation came completely out of no where and the details are not important as to what exactly happened, but I could definitely tell I was getting push back for doing what God was wanting me to do. More often than not, our initial reaction is to just give up and given in by attacking anyone else involved, but that is exactly what the enemy wants. In my situation, I didn’t want to fire off words that I would later regret or do something that would hurt the other people involved so I stopped and immediately prayed about it – that God would give me patience and understanding with those involved in the situation.
The Lord woke me up early one morning after everything had transpired and put Ephesians 6:11-20 on my heart to pray for myself, my fellow Brazil mission trip team members, and the people of Capela in Londrina as we prepare for the trip next week:
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For 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. Therefore 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And 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 Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
What do you do when you feel like the enemy is attacking you spiritually?
Photo Credit: By Neeraj Raj
Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those philosophical “Why are we all here on this planet? Where did we come from?” posts. I went to a meeting at church last night for small group leaders and there were a lot of individuals who would be leading a group for the first time. Mark Shull, the Director of Men’s Groups, shared something with all of the leaders (both new and old) that has resonated with me today. “You are here for a reason!” He was talking specifically about why all the leaders who were in attendance last night were at the meeting, but it could be applied to life in general.
God has put you in the place where you currently are for a reason. We may not understand any of the details as to why or what is going on, but HE does. Don’t get so caught up with thoughts like “Why am I still living in this city?” or “Why am I still at this job?” or even “Why am I still without a job right now?” Focus on what you can do while you are in your current “here.” Who are the people around you? How can you have an impact on their life by serving them?
Personally, I get so frustrated with my current situation – I’ve been unemployed for almost 14 months, I’m not living in the area of town where I want to live, I am not married, and I do not have a family of my own. I am approaching a certain age where I thought all of these issues would be resolved, but apparently God has another plan in mind. I truly don’t understand one bit of this and I’m trying my best to do what I can, but more often than not, I let the current circumstances of my life get the best of me. I am trying to be like Paul in Philippians 4:11-13:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
In what ways are you trying to embrace where God has you in your life now?
Photo Credit: By Jorge