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.

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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.

This Moment

This moment is painful. This speck of time I want so desperately to escape. Go backwards. Go forwards… any moment but this one. Any time but now.

The enemy is whispering. . .  Failure. Unloved. Weak. Alone. Hopeless. Broken. Unwanted. Forgotten.

His lies. . . Run. Escape. Don’t press into Him. He has no plan for you. Run. Escape the pain. Run. Run. Run. . .

I want to be there, last summer, laughing on the beach and so full I thought I might burst. Two years ago… basking in the Iraqi sun with my Kurdish friends singing Happy Birthday. That college night  surrounded by the family I chose, up until 3AM and laughing so hard I cried. At that gymnastics meet I won, grasping the plastic “gold” medal, my most treasured possession. I want to be 5 years old again, when scraping my knee was devastating, yet all I needed was to be wrapped in their arms to know my world was perfect again.

I don’t want to be in this second. I want it to be next year, my heart more mended, my pain more forgotten. Want it to be that moment when all the puzzle pieces fit and He says look daughter, this is why I created you to be you – this is why I brought you through. I want it to be my wedding day. Want it to be the day I become a mom. I want it to be tomorrow. Next week. Next month. But now? This now I just want to escape. This now-ness is a heavy blanket crushing me – I want to be out from under it.

But now is what I have. This moment is where I grow. Here is where He loves and shapes me. This second is where He picks me up, draws me closer, and urges me to trust.

This moment I choose to give up control. This second I choose to take comfort in El Roi,  my God that sees. This moment is where He has me and so this is the moment I will take shelter under His wings.

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.

Blind

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

John 9:1-3

I wish I knew more of the blind man’s background. What was he like growing up? Was he shunned? Did he have friends? Were his parents ousted from their society because of the perceived sin that made their child blind? Were they angry? Hurt? Were they confused?

I wish I knew the blind man’s heart. Wish I knew if he wondered, like I often do in hard times, “Why did this happen to me?” “Where did I go wrong?” “What did I do to bring this upon myself?” “Why am I going through this pain???”

Yet, Jesus said that this had come upon him, not because of sin, but because God might be glorified through him. I wonder if he had known growing up that his story would be retold for forever, I wonder if it would have made a difference, made his suffering easier. I wonder if he had known what God’s plan for him was… if the pain would have been less. His pain was not wasted. Yet the story of this man who lived two thousand years ago is used to glorify the Lord today.

His plan is perfect.

Lord, help me to not be blind in my circumstances.