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My praise

Was feeling defeated.  Then this song:

[Chorus:]
If this life has anything to gain at all
I’ll count it loss if I can’t hear you, feel you, ’cause I need you.
Can’t walk this earth alone.
I recognize I’m not my own, so before I fall
I need to hear you, feel you, as I live to make my boast in you alone.

[Verse 1:]
With every breath I take, with every heart beat,
Sunrise and the moon lights in the dark street.
Every glance, every dance, every note of a song.
It’s all a gift undeserved that I shouldn’t have known.
Every day that I lie, every moment I covet
I’m deserving to die, I’m just earning your judgment.
I, without the cross there’s only condemnation.
If Jesus wasn’t executed there’s no celebration.
So in times that are good, in times that are bad
For any times that I’ve had it all I will be glad.
And I will boast in the cross. I’ll boast in my pains.
I will boast in the sunshine, boast in his reign.
What’s my life if it’s not praising you?
Another dollar in my bank account of vain pursuit.
I do not count my life as any value or precious at all.
Let me finish my race, let me answer my call.

[Chorus]

[Verse 2:]
Tomorrow’s never promised, but it is we swear.
Think we holding our own, just a fist full of air.
God has never been obligated to give us life.
If we fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight.
Mere sinners owed nothing but a fierce hand.
We never loved him, we pushed away his pierced hands.
I rejected his love, grace, kindness, and mercy.
Dying of thirst, yet, willing to die thirsty.
Eternally worthy, how could I live for less?
Patiently you turned my heart away from selfishness.
I volunteer for your sanctifying surgery.
I know the Spirit’s purging me of everything that’s hurting me.
Remove the veil from my darkened eyes.
So now every morning I open your word and see the Son rise.
I hope in nothin, boast in nothin, only in your suffering.
I live to show your glory, dying to tell your story.

[Chorus]

[Bridge:]
Glory was solely meant for you.
Doing what no one else could do.
With All I have to give, (With all I have to Give)
I’ll use my life, I’ll use my lips. (My Lips Yeaaah)
I’ll only glory in your Word. What gift to me I don’t deserve.
I’ll live in such a way that it reflects to you, my Praise.

“Boasting” by Lacrae

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Held

“Daddy, when it get’s scary, will you hold me?”
John M

My children and I enjoy watching superhero cartoons together.  Two of our favorite shows are Super Hero Squad and Justice League.  The kids like to mimic the characters and sing the song during the introduction sequences.  However, along with each superhero comes a super villain, and the battle against the super villain can often be scary.  My youngest child James wants to watch with his older sisters.  However, some parts may get scary for him.  Rather than go away and do something else, he asks “Daddy, when it gets scary, will you hold me?”

James’ question made me think of my life and my attitude to God.  Many times our life can be difficult causing fear and anxiety.  We can face trials and disappointments such as uncertainty with school or work, relationship issues, or health problems.  God does not promise a life without trials.  In fact, as Christians, He tells us to expect trials.  However, God also reminds us He has overcome the world.  When life gets tough and trials come my way, do I run away to somewhere I perceive that it is safe?  Or do I face my fears and run to God’s arms and ask Him, “Daddy, when it gets scary, will you hold me?”  God, our Father, welcomes us with open arms.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  [John 16:33]

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  [Deuteronomy 31:6]

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Share when you were most in love with Jesus

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take 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.

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.  [Ephesians 6:10-20]

Satan will not take my joy away!

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

   “For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither 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.  [Romans 8:26-39]

Amen!

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[He]’s out of his surgery…but the doctor had less than stellar news to tell us.  ….it doesn’t seem like it can be controlled at this point from any human standpoint or intervention. 

I’m in a great deal of emotional pain right now.  Thankfully, somehow my thoughts are being protected from spiraling too deep into the what ifs and what coulds.  I still cry a lot though. I am comforted by God at this time and I’m trying to live minute to minute, day by day.  I know He’s crying with me and I know He’s guarding and protecting me as well as [him].  Whatever happens next is all part of the masterpiece of our lives. 

I’m tempted to shout out that it’s not fair, that we don’t deserve this, that we’re so young, and that we’re good people who deserve to be happy… but all of those phrases get cut off before I even finish thinking them.  They are replaced by phrases like: he is not mine to keep, this is all part of His plan, we’ve been happy, these 6 years have been the best gift I’ve ever received, and the Lord feels and He knows the pain of loss.  I really don’t think that all of these phrases come out of human rationalization, they are of God and are the fruit of your prayers for us.  Thank you. 

I am still comforted by the story of Gideon and the story of Job.  I’m not sure if our ending will be parallel to their story, but there is still hope.  It’s not over yet.

I will never be able to speak about all of this as much, as deeply, or as eloquently as I can write it.  Think of these emails as windows into my heart. 

I’m so tired.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

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Just to see You smile

Tim McGraw’s lyrics on the radio driving home reminded me of Philippians 3:7-11:

just to see You smile
i’d do anything
that You wanted me to
and all is said and done
i’d never count the cost
it’s worth all that’s lost
just to see You smile

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

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Hahaha, better late than never.  Like I said before, I’ve already read the Bible through twice when I was younger.  Of course, it’s simply that, reading to get through it.  And my resolution is still that, just to get through it, but in a different way.  I finally seriously started the Bible reading plans from my new year’s resolution.  The first list is a “Survey of the Bible” in two months, then “Biographical Highlights” in four, and “Chronological” in two.  I am trying to read a day’s worth a day, with Friday or Sunday reading double portion to make up for Saturday, my designated “sabbath.”  My first week’s random verses that stuck out:

So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14).  I’ve been told that all the LORDs in the Old Testament are in all capitals while the Lords in the New Testament only capitalize the “L.”  This is because the OT is referring to YHWH (Yahweh) while the NT is referring to Jesus, with Lord being used as a title (such as in the phrase “Lord of lords”).   Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  Reading this well-known statement reminds me of thoughts from Soren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death:

Sin is not an action, but rather a condition, a state of mind. People often think that their sinfulness increases every time they commit a wrongful act. The truth is far worse: sinfulness increases every moment that a person fails to take action to pursue faith and overcome his or her sinful state.
 
There are articular ways in which people may intensify their sin by failing to take action against it. In the sin of despairing over one’s sinfulness, an individual recognizes that he or she is living in sin but adopts a mindset of self-pity rather than pursuing faith. Such a mindset involves an intensification of sin because the individual has recognized that he or she is sinful and yet has chosen to dwell on the sin rather than act to alleviate it.
 
Then there is the sin of refusing to believe in the forgiveness of sins. At first glance, this refusal might seem to be a mark of sophistication, a sign that the individual is wrestling with religious truths. It is in fact a mark of the gravest sin. Christianity’s fundamental command is that human beings must believe in Christ and in the forgiveness of sins. It is a sin to reject this teaching.
 
The highest intensification of sin is rejecting Christ’s teachings. Christianity teaches that human beings must strive to maintain an individual relationship with God, despite the vast differences between God and human beings. Those who choose to remain undecided about the truth of Christianity commit sin because they violate the Christian imperative that all individuals shall believe in Christ. Those who want to believe in Christ but feel unable to believe in his paradoxical teachings are also in sin. The most intense sin, however, is the sin of those who willfully refuse even to try to believe in Christ.
 
Sin is a condition that may be overcome only by pursuing faith. Faith, not virtue, is the opposite of sin. Those who are in sin are in despair. Faith is the condition of establishing a relationship with God that eliminates despair and sin.  Again, faith involves an individual relationship with God.

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Harvey came to speak with us as part of our weekend missions conference.  He was Pastor Brian’s classmate before he went to East Asia for thirty years.  He’s married to Laura and have two children (Stephen’s in 11th grade and Michelle’s a freshman at Rice).  He shared how a good leader would instill a sense of purpose in you, model what you are to do, and empower you to do it.  We all know bosses who ask us to do things where we don’t know how it connects with the big picture, or they can’t do it themselves so they tell us to do it, or they expect us to do something when we are able to at the time.  God gave us the Great Commission (in Matthew, Mark, Luke 24, Acts….), guaranteeing that it would happen (Revelation7), and inviting us to be a part of it.  And just as Jesus was sent out, we are sent out in like manner (John 20:21)–with authority from the Father through Christ, humbly (Isaiah 53), and never losing sight of the people (Mark 10:14).  Finally, in the “Upper Room Discourse” (John 20:19-23), He gave us infinite resources for tackling the vision with the Holy Spirit and prayer (John 14:13-14, 15:7, 16:23).  One has to have the eyes and spirit of an artist, not just the paints (the Word).  He shared the story of James Fraser and his prayer of faith.  And the reason for all of this?  Because He GAVE, so that we can GIVE.  So the next step?  Pray for missions, learn about missions, welcome the world, mobilize/encourage missionaries on their tough road, send support (and not just financial), and go.  Then we concluded with a song that a band from Ireland was moved to come forth playing in a brothel while on a mission trip in Padi, Thailand:

God Of This City
Bluetree
Bluetree album

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
You are

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city

You’re the Lord of creation
The creator of all things
You’re the King above all Kings
You are

You’re the strength in the weakness
You’re the love to the broken
You’re the joy in the sadness
You are

Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done in this city
Where glory shines from hearts alive
With praise for You and love for You in this city
Greater things have yet to come
Greater things have still to be done here

[edit]  Saturday morning, another speaker came to speak, and he brought up the story of Williams C. Burns.  He says most of us have heard of Hudson Taylor and incredible instrument he was in God’s hands in bringing the Chinese to Christ.  Well, his mentor was Burns.  He was a famous evangelist, bringing thousands to Christ, but he felt called by God to pioneer into China.  People wondered why he was leaving since he was so effective in Scotland.  He obeyed regardless, six years witnessing not a single convert.  He started questioning and doubting whether the call was really from God, and God reassured him through some Chinese finally coming to Him as well as sending Hudson Taylor.  The seeds he sowed those six years were finally realized as Hudson Taylor continuing sowing and started harvesting.

After turning Scotland upside-down, Burns went off to preach the gospel in China. Though recognized as the premier revivalist of his day, he joyfully surrendered himself to a life of obscurity and hardship on this neglected mission field. No other episode in his life reveals more about his sterling character than this one decision. He left popularity, prestige, wealth and loved ones, all behind. When asked how soon before he would be ready to leave for China, he answered, “NOW.” Boldly declaring, “I am ready to burn out for God. I am ready to endure any hardship, if by any means I might save some. The longing of my heart is to make known my glorious Redeemer to those who have never heard.” On another occasion he was heard to say, “The longing of my heart would be to go once around the world before I die, and preach one gospel invitation in the ear of every creature.” His mother likened him to a sharp knife that would be worn out by cutting, rather than by rusting; and the young Burns wished that it might be so!

In 1855, Burns unexpectedly met a young missionary in China: James Hudson Taylor. This seemingly random meeting resulted in a great blessing for both men. William found in Hudson a man after his own heart, and for seven months they walked together laboring as kindred souls. He took notice of the warm reception Taylor received as he ministered in the native Chinese dress, and was quick to learn from his new friend. Not long after he adopted this practice for himself.

The impact he made upon the youthful Taylor is evident through his journals and letters: “Never had I had such a spiritual father as Mr. Burns. Those happy months were an unspeakable joy and privilege to me. His love for the Word was delightful, and his holy, reverential life and constant communings with GOD made fellowship with him satisfying to the deep cravings of my heart. His accounts of revival work and of persecutions in Canada, and Dublin, and in Southern China were most instructive, as well as interesting; for with true spiritual insight he often pointed out GOD’S purposes in trial in a way that made all life assume quite a new aspect and value. His views especially about evangelism as the great work of the Church, and the order of lay evangelists as a lost order that Scripture required to be restored, were seed-thoughts which were to prove fruitful in the subsequent organization of the China Inland Mission.” (Hudson Taylor, “A Retrospect”).

When asked, “Do you know William Burns?,” another missionary to China replied, “Know him? All China knows him to be the holiest man alive!”  Driven by an all-consuming passion for the Lamb of God, in Burns, God found a man who cared enough to listen, obey, and stay on his knees. Recognizing that shallow and superficial praying was one of the greatest hindrances to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, he believed that a lack of true endurance in the secret place of prayer gives the victory to Satan.

Burns writes: “Oh, how is it that the Lord’s own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their place of prayer to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to be turned away empty; instead of wrestling with God to pour out His Spirit, they retire from the secret place without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.”  Ezekiel (22:30,31) the prophet warns of what happens when God cannot find true men and women of broken-hearted prayer and obedience: “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads, says the Lord God.” Whom among us will STAND in the gap and pray, and then pray again until heaven comes down to earth?

An edited version of “Prayer Makes History” by David Smithers

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