Gates of Hades

Part 3 in The Austin Stone’s “From Israel” series (see Part 1 here and Part 2 here). Matt Carter delivers a sermon from Caesarea Philippi.

The Gates of Hades at Caesarea Philippi: This was the center of pagan worship in the first century. The pagan gods here were loved and worship and honored. The people of this time dedicated their lives to gods they though would endure forever. Yet, how familiar are you with Echo the Mountain Nymph? or Nemesis? or Pan?

This is the place Jesus took his disciples in Matthew 16 where he asked “Who do people say that I am?”

psst… click the four arrows-facing-out button on the bottom right of the video to make it full screen.

The Gates of Hades from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Advertisements

Thankfulness

I’m tired today. Like… soul tired. I’m just not feeling oh so joyful. I’m feeling down and annoyed and frustrated and “leave me alone”-like.

I know, I know…  I’m being a Negative Nancy

Oscar the Grouch…

Ebenezer Scroodge…

{insert other ridiculously negative life-hating characters here}…

And though life is not as easy as pie, though circumstances aren’t helping my crabbiness… it’s still not an excuse to give into the way I feel.

Instead, we {and by we I mean me} are going to take this opportunity to be thankful because really… what is there not to be thankful for when my Savior and the Creator of the universe loves me??? When He loves me so much that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, {nor bad days, nor diminishing bank accounts, nor ungrateful co-workers, nor eating sandwiches for 7 meals in a row, nor headaches, nor loneliness, nor sleepless nights, nor weariness} nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from HIS love?!? {Romans 8:38-39}

His love is enough. It’s MORE than enough. So today I will choose to be thankful. I will choose joy.

Just two things in my life I'm beyond thankful for: My great-grandparents. These two amazing people in my life have poured themselves into me: encoured, loved, hugged, baked cookies, made carboard box castles, supported me, taught me to swim, and breathed scripture by the way they've lived their lives. Thank you Lord for using these two incredible people to show me what it is to be your hands and feet.

Garden of Gethsemane

Part 2 in The Austin Stone’s “From Israel” series. Matt Carter delivers a sermon from The Garden of Gethsemane.

Holy cow… if you like the first video (seen here) you will be BLOWN away by this one. Garden of Gethsemane: the place Jesus prayed hours before he was crucified. He was right there! Right there! Can you even comprehend that?!? This is where our Savior spent his remaining time before dying for the sins of the entire world! I’m blown away.

psst… click the four arrows-facing-out button on the bottom right of the video to make it full screen

The Garden of Gethsemane from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Sermon on the Mount

Austin Stone is doing a 4 week video series, “From Israel” All of the videos are shot entirely on site from Israel. It’s incredible to see the words of scripture come to life in the places they happened 2000 years ago!

Here is part one. Matt Carter reads the words of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. Take a few minutes to watch this video. I promise it will bless you.

psst… click the four arrows-facing-out button on the bottom right of the video to make it full screen 

Sermon on the Mount from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

Blessings

Blessings – Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching(s) of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

Help me to choose to trust You. Your plan. Your promises. Your guidance. Your love. Your portion.

You, Lord. . . You are enough.

Nothing?

The idea of missions has always excited me.

This idea of being GREAT for the Lord.

I hear stories about Billy Graham and the thousands and thousands of people he’s led to Christ. Mother Theresa and the millions of lives she touched. The young Katie Davis who is devoting her life to the people of Uganda and changing the lives of hundreds and hundreds. She has thousands who read her blog.

All of that is exciting! It’s exhilarating. How great the Lord has used these people. I would commit my life to that in a second. ‘Here am I; send me”!!!

But what if His calling for me is to be nothing for Him. What if my purpose in life is to serve and love and pour myself out but never to see the fruit this side of heaven? What if no one remembers my name? What if no books about me are written? No movie drafted in my honor? What then? What if God calls me to some remote place to spend all of my days loving on people and not one of them becomes a believer in my lifetime? What if he calls me to have a 9 – 5 job for the rest of my life and serve my co-workers but not harvest the fruit?

Doesn’t sound very glamorous. It’s sounds excruciatingly hard.

But what if that were my calling? It very well could be…

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Col 3:23-24

Am I willing to be nothing for Him?

The Leap

Today is a hard day. One of the hardest I’ve had in a very long time.

But He’s whispering… trust me

“Lord, I am so thankful that I have a High Priest who understands. No one would ever be able to completely comprehend the stirring in my heart. But You do. No one could know the hurt and confusion, the joy, the fullness, the never-ceasing battle to choose Your will over mine, the feelings of rejection, when I feel unloved, unworthy and vulnerable. No human could understand any of it. Oh but Lord, You do! You not only understand but you are feeling it with me. Abba, draw near.” -My journal, August 14, 2011

Trust me…. trust me….

“You make known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

Trust me, beloved…

“Everyday the choice will be the same: will God reign in my life or will my desires win out? . . . Each day brings the question, will you obey no matter the cost?” Francine Rivers, Unafraid

And still He echos in my head... trust me, trust me

“Here I am face to face with Jesus in the dirt and all I have to do is choose to see, accept the grace offered freely. His compassion and His mercy, this Grace, it never fails. Each moment, each breath, is a gift simply and only because I get to spend it with Him. . . ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ Lamenations 3:22-23. . . Whatever He wants. And I am thankful.” –Kisses from Katie

Whatever He wants.

Ashley, trust me…

 

Places

‎”The hardest places to leave are the places God leads us to. Because those are the places where you are shaped and molded into a new person. Those are the places where your heart expands, your minds open to new perspectives, and your eyes begin to really see.” –Environments of Grace

My focus was so narrow before Iraq, I wasn’t able to see how much bigger the world was than my itty bitty bubble of a life. My world centered around me, my private school education, my “faith” based pedastool and my yearning to be perceived as a “good” Christian girl. I had no idea my perspective was so off. I loved the Lord; I loved people; I loved serving. I really thought I had it figured out. I thought I knew what it was to be a Christian; I thought I truly knew what it meant to follow after Him.

But I didn’t.

I made things so complicated when it came to Faith. I was a Pharisee, putting so many rules and restrictions on what being a Christian was suppose to look like. In my naivety, a person of faith was suppose to look a certain way, walk and talk a certain way. I condemned those, though not realizing it, for not fitting into my guidelines. The qualities I attributed as necessities of walking with Christ had WAY more to do with my West Texas-itty bitty bubble of a culture and WAY less to do with what it means to follow Christ. It’s like a veil was taken off my eyes and I realized how much more complicated I was making things than what God had intended.

Living overseas taught me how to love people better, even when they’re difficult to love. It taught me how to live in community instead of pushing away when things get difficult. It made me realize that others think and view things completely different based on where they’ve been. And that understanding the way a person thinks and views life is the key to helping them understand the love of Christ. It made me not want to settle into a normal life living the American dream. And it made the old aspirations of what I thought I wanted in life dim in comparison to how HE could use my life. Living in Iraq made me realize how crucial it is to depend on the Lord and yearn after Him and how scary it is when you don’t.

I DEFINITELY haven’t arrived. If anything I’ve realized now how much I will never completely understand about the Lord this side of heaven. How much I have to be dependent on Him because I know absolutely nothing.

There are days I miss that country so much I can barely breathe. My six months in Iraq were HARD. That time was exhausting. Painful. Draining. Stretching. Uncomfortable. Maturing. Humbling. Joyful. Exciting. Revealing. And full.   I’m humbled that God was so incredibly gracious enough to me to take me half way around the world to shape and mold me into a new person, expand my mind to new perspectives, and open my eyes so that I may see. How great is the Father’s love that He would take me halfway around the world so that I can know Him better?!?

Simply amazing.

Radical

Photo by Joshua Gigliotti

Photo by Joshua Gigliotti

‎”There is never going to be a day when I stand before God and He looks at me and says, ‘I wish you would have kept more for yourself.’ I’m confident that God will take care of me.”

David Platt

 

Open our eyes

“I try to avoid seeing pictures of those starving people. It’s too depressing. I would rather see the pictures of safari animals.”

A good friend of mine recently took a trip to Kenya and Uganda. Yesterday at work, I sat on my computer sifting through pictures of her recent trip. My heart aching at the sight of these orphans – hungry for food and love. Wishing with everything in me I knew how to teleport so I could hold them for a while. Love on this one and that one. Put hope in his beautiful chocolate eyes. Tickle them relentlessly just to hear joy in their laughter. Shower her with kisses and tell her of One who will never leave nor forsake – no matter who in her past has done just that.

At one point a co-worker passed by my desk and made the off the cuff statement at the top of this post. I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it – she is a sweet and good-natured person. But it took everything in me to not explode at that moment. I was fuming inside. ‘What do you mean you try to avoid them?  What if that was your son – your mother – your sister???  What if that was you?!?’

Why do we close our eyes from the difficult? Why do we choose not to see? Is it easier to look the other way? Less uncomfortable? Does it seem too overwhelming?

Yes.

Does choosing to open our eyes cause us pain? Does it stretch us? Require us to spend ourselves for someone else?

Yes.

Is it too much to handle? Is there too much hurt? Is it impossible to make a difference?

Absolutely not.

I think we have this whole thing backwards. Maybe we are afraid to pour ourselves out because in doing so we believe we won’t have enough for us. But what if the very act of taking on someone else’s burden and giving away is the exact thing that fills our cup to overflowing? That brings us joy? What if giving away is the key to contentment?

“If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”  -Isaiah 58:10-12

Friends. Let us open our eyes. Let us choose to see.

 The most severe drought in decades is threatening the lives of more than 11 million people — especially young children — in the Horn of Africa. Famine has been declared in parts of southern Somalia, and threatens to spread further if nothing is done to prevent it. Kenya and Ethiopia are also severely affected by the crisis, with millions in critical need of food and water. World Vision has launched an emergency response to the drought and food crisis, working to provide life-saving essentials to the most vulnerable children and families . . .Thanks to government grants, your gift today can multiply up to 5 times in impact to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families in need.