What is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

What is the gospel?

The question was asked.  An awkward silence reigned in the room.  My eyes nervously scanned the quiet room.  Everyone at the Bible study was deep in thought. It was as if I could feel all the thoughts going through everyone’s mind; What is the gospel?  Yes, we know what it is.  But when the opportunity arises, do we know how to put it into words? 
After the short silence, the leader of the study proceeded to share his explanation of the gospel.  Then he challenged every one of us to write up our own explanation of the gospel to share during the next study.  So here I am sitting down at my computer ready to type up, in my own words, what I believe the gospel is.  And I thought, why not share here on my blog as well.

Why understanding the Gospel is important

First of all, I want to highlight the reason why it is important for us to know what the gospel is.  We never know when we may have the opportunity to share the truth of God’s word with people.  Maybe today or tomorrow God will put someone in your life and the topic of the Gospel will come up.  Are you ready to share it with them?  If you know what the gospel is in your heart but don’t know how to verbalize it to someone else then you might fight yourself stuck.  The opportunity may come, but all you have is a sinking feeling in the gut as you can’t find your words.
Have you ever tried to tell someone about a new product or idea but you have no information or research to back it up.  Rather than persuade your friend that this new product is worth investing in, they leave thinking they are better of without it because you obviously don’t have a good enough argument.  Taking the time to think about what the Gospel is going to help us when that time comes for us to share it with someone who needs it.  It’s so much easier to tell someone about something if you understand it and can put it into words.

My understanding of the Gospel

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
I believe that the gospel begins with the fact that we are all sinners, unable to save ourselves.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden they brought sin into the world and all of mankind is born into sin.  But God was not surprised when they sinned.  God had a plan for redeeming His people from the start.  His plan was Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Son God, humbled himself and came into the world as a human.  Jesus lived the perfect sinless life that we could never live and then died the horrible death that we deserve.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)
Jesus took all our sin upon himself when he died on the cross. And when Jesus cried out to God on the cross; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”, He was experiencing true separation from God for sin.  For three days Jesus lay dead in the grave and on the third day He rose again to life.  His resurrection means that He has conquered death and paid the penalty for sin (our sin).  Through the blood of Jesus, we too are able to conquer death and be set free from sin.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us..” (Romans 5:8)
I believe that even though Jesus died on the cross for all the world, there are some who will not come to know Him.  We are trapped in our sin and flesh and unable to be saved until the Holy Spirit does a work in our hearts and opens our eyes to the truth.  God gets all the glory in salvation and it is through faith and God’s amazing grace that we are saved.  
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—  to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:5-6)
I believe that God is constantly at work and sovereign over all things.  He uses us, His chosen children, to spread his truth, but He ultimately is the one who saves.  And Jesus will return one day and all those who are His will live forever with Him because we have been washed clean through the blood of Jesus.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
This is what I believe the gospel is.

Your Turn

When you think about the gospel, does your understanding ring true to mine or is it different?  It’s okay if you tell it a little differently than I tell it.  You may use different verses than I used or use different words than I used.  But the main truth of the gospel (that Jesus Christ came to save sinners and is the only way to be saved) doesn’t change.  If you are sharing the gospel it should still be the same message and the truths I shared above should be true of your understanding as well.
Understanding the gospel is essential to be effective lights for Him in this world. Now it’s your turn to take on this challenge.  How would you put your understanding of the gospel into words?  Write it out in your journal, or type it up on the computer.  Let us always be ready to give an account of how amazing our God is and how he Has given us new life in Jesus Christ!

 

“…He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Bible Verses for Waiting

Bible Verses for Waiting
If you find yourself in a season of waiting, it can be hard.  It’s easy to get discouraged.  When other’s seem to be getting all the things you desire and God keeps telling you to wait.  Trust me, waiting for God’s timing in all things is worth it.  He has a plan and purpose for everything in your life.  Just because He is asking you to wait now doesn’t mean He won’t bring the good things you desire into your life later.  And when you wait for His way and His timing it will be so much better than anything you can imagine.
If God is telling you to wait, I just want to tell you that you aren’t alone, even though at times it may feel like you are alone.  One of the best sources of comfort during these times is God’s word.  We can find strength and comfort in God’s word to keep on waiting for  His good purposes to play out in His perfect timing.  As you wait, I want to share with you some of my favorite verses that have helped me in my times of waiting.

Bible Verses for Times of Waiting

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Psalm 27:13-14)

 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

“but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

 

“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:25)

 

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

 

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

 

“Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)

 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

I pray these verses will encourage your heart and give you strength.
If you have any favorite verses that have helped you through hard seasons of waiting, I’d love to know which verses!  Share in the comments the ways and verses that God has used to encourage you during seasons of waiting.

When God Says Wait (practical tips for seeking Him in the waiting)

When God Says Wait (practical tips for seeking Him in the waiting)

When God says wait, what are you supposed to do?

I’m gonna go out and whim and make an assumption and say that I don’t think I am the only one who thinks it sometimes feels like pure torture to just do nothing and wait for God to work. When everything I want is out of my reach and still one big unknown, it’s hard.  Do you agree?  When God says wait, why is it my initial reaction is to panic and feel stressed?  Especially when I realize that waiting could mean waiting a really long time.
I don’t know about you, but I have been in a waiting season for a while and I’m learning day by day to rest in Him during this time.  I’m learning that waiting on God is actually not as scary as I first thought it would be.
If you find yourself in one of these extended periods of waiting, what can you do? God has been faithful to show me many ways to draw nearer to Him as I wait. These simple habits have become so comforting to my soul as I face the huge unknowns in my life. What are the simple habits I have been doing you may ask?  Well, today I want to share some of them with you all in hopes that they can help and encourage you too.

A consistent bedtime routine with a focus on scripture memory

“When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” (Psalm 63:6)
The first helpful habit I started is journaling each night before I go to bed. Whenever my heart is heavy I find so much comfort in journaling a few thoughts before bed. I will usually write out four categories in my journal; “Verse“, “Reflection“, “Thankfulness“, and “Prayer and Confession“.
In the verse section, I write out a verse to focus on. In the reflection section, I usually write down any thoughts about the day I just need to write out and put on paper. Often I’ll write things related to how I feel and how I am processing the things in my life. Then in the thankfulness section, I jot down a few things I’m thankful for from the day. Lastly in the prayer and confession section, I try to think about a way that I have not loved or followed God well. I write out a simple prayer of confession and ask God for help to do better the next day.
It takes me only about five minutes to go through all these steps and I have noticed my sleep has improved so much whenever I take the time to journal and give thanks to God before bed. It’s really quite amazing!

Long walks for praying and journaling

Walks have always been a way for me to unwind and process things. When I need to talk to God about the things on my heart I always go on a walk. I have started referring to my long walks as prayer walks. I find so much relief in being able to talk out loud to God as I walk. Often times I will bring my journal with me on my walks and if I feel led I will find a pretty place to rest and write a few thoughts down in my journal.

When you are in a season of uncertainty and waiting, I highly encourage getting outside each day and going on a walk. It’s good for your physical health too. When we get overwhelmed by life it is too easy to let the sadness keep us from moving and making healthy choices. But something beautiful happens when we choose to pick ourselves up and move our bodies and talk to our Lord about how we feel.

Reading good biblical books

In the season of waiting that God has me in, I noticed that I often have so much time on my hands.  I realized that I need to keep my mind busy so I don’t’ sink back into feelings of fear and worry. One thing that has helped is reading good Christian books. Especially good biblical books that keep me focused on the character of God.  I have been trying to read at least one or two chapters before I go to bed each night when time allows.  Reading books about God’s character and attributes are some of my favorites.  Currently, I’m reading a book about walking through pain and suffering by Timothy Keller.

Jamming to worship music

I also have found that music does a lot to lift my mood. One of the best ways to change my mood when I’m worried has been listening to worship music while working or driving in my car. The words of worship songs always speak to my heart in deep ways and remind me to keep seeking God.
When you are in a season of waiting, try changing your normal jam to songs that talk about God’s goodness and faithfulness.  Let the words of the songs encourage your heart.

Staying connected with mentors and attend a Bible study

Lastly, I want to say that it’s important to stay connected. When we go through hard seasons of waiting it can be so easy to shut ourselves up and keep ourselves isolated. Waiting is hard but we can never truly move onto what God has next for us if we don’t let others into our life. I have found so much encouragement from my weekly bible study and fellowship with other believers. It has become such a strong foundation for me during my days of uncertainty.
I also have found so much love and support from others when I reach out to them and ask them to pray for me. There are a few people I have in my life whom I constantly reach out to and ask for prayer. I believe that God gives us these people to help us get through these hard seasons. When we don’t reach out to the people in our life then we do a disservice to ourselves. A friend who will pray with you and read scripture with you may be just the gift that your heart needs in your season of waiting.
I could probably keep going on with the ways I have been learning to rely more on God and keep my focus on him in seasons of waiting.  But I am running out of time so I must bring this post to end now.  When I look back at all the ways God has been growing me through my hard seasons of waiting I am thankful. I’m thankful to see that God is faithful to me and he is always using my hard seasons to help me develop Godly habits and rely more on Him.
I pray these tips and ideas will encourage you to keep chasing after God. Whatever it is you are facing, may it be a means for God to grow your faith!

Serving at a Joni and Friends Family Camp

Serving at a Joni and Friends Family Camp

Hey all!  You may have noticed that last week there was no new blog post. Well, it was because I was up in Oregon serving at Joni and Friends family camp.  If you don’t know what Joni and Friends is, it’s an organization for families that are affected by disabilities.  Today I thought I’d share with you all a bit about this amazing ministry opportunity I had and share some pictures.
Way back at the beginning of summer God began to put on my heart the desire to serve Hin during the summer and go on some sort of mission trip.  But I had no idea where to start in terms of where to go and serve.  Literally, the next day after God put this desire in my heart God brought this camp to my attention.  A couple of girls from my church serve at this camp every year and I knew that this was the place God where asking me to serve.  It’s hard to believe that my week of serving at this camp is already come and gone.  I was praying for my time at this camp all summer and now it is over and in the past.
I can’t begin to even describe how much I was blessed by this amazing experience. I made many new and dear friends and was filled with God’s strength to serve all the families that came to the camp.  As I reflect on my time I want to share a few things that really stood out time as I served.

Bathed in prayer

The first thing I want to share is that I was overwhelmed with how much this camp was saturated in prayer.  Before the families come to camp the volunteers go through a day (and a half) of training to learn how to serve people with disabilities.  Working with disabilities was a new experience for me and I’m so thankful for the way this organization took time to educate us all on how to be God’s hands of service to all the families that would come.  Right before the families came to the camp all of the volunteers gathered for an extended time of prayer.  The leaders all stood in the back and one by one they laid hands on and prayed for each volunteer individually.  My heart was just so overwhelmed with how many prayers went into preparing for this camp.  I felt all my fears melt away as we prayed and I was filled with a calmness and readiness to serve. Each morning and evening as the camp was going we would gather in prayer.  It was truly beautiful to see how much this place and all the families were being bathed in prayer.

Christ-like service and humility

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
Another unique aspect about serving at this camp that stood out to me was the way in which we were serving.  Each volunteer was paired up with a person who had a disability or with a sibling of a person with a disability.  Our role was to be a buddy with that person each day and assist/join them in all the activities at camp.  This allowed the parents to have time to rest and relax.  As I served my camper (Mackenzie, a twenty-three-year-old girl affected by autism) it struck me that the way I was serving was unique to other ways I’ve served.  In order to serve, I had to lay aside any thoughts or plans I had for how I wanted my day to go.  Instead, it was simply my job to be with my camper and join her in whatever she desired to do.  And for my camper that meant sitting with her and listening to Micheal Jackson songs over and over again or listening to how she is obsessed with a certain cat that is famous on Facebook.
It took a lot of patience on my part, but I have never served in such a humble way and it made me think of Christ when he willingly laid down his life to save us.  This last week at camp I felt like I met God in a new way as I laid aside my desires in such a self-sacrificing way to serve.

A little slice of heaven

The last thing I want to share is how I was also blessed by serving all the families that were affected by disabilities.  Each time we worshiped the Lord together everyone was encouraged to worship God in whatever way they desired.  A bin of instruments and streamers was at the front for everyone to use.  It melted my heart to see all the children and even adults affected by disabilities up there praising God and worshiping in their unique way.  One young man who was affected by severe seizures would go up on stage to sing praises to Jesus with the worship band.  I even had to privilege to speak with his mother and she shared how when he was born the doctors said he would never speak.  But here he was standing on stage unable to stop singing praises to the Lord.
I was filled with awe to see how the disabilities these people struggled with, which are usually looked down upon in the world, was a beautiful addition to worshiping the Lord.  The way everyone worshiped was so raw and pure and I’m am quite certain that God was smiling down on all of his beautiful children praising Him.  During the training for this camp, the leaders talked about how this camp allows us to experience what is called “a little slice of heaven”.  Each day when we gathered together and worshiped God together was my “little slice of heaven”.  My heart has never been so full of love and joy for the Lord and his people as it was in those moments.  Serving the families affected by disabilities at this camp has been one of the most fulfilling and joy-filled weeks of my life.

If you have never heard of Joni and Freinds I would encourage you to visit their site and learn more about how you can help this organization (Joni and Freinds Website).  I was so blessed by my time as a volunteer and I pray that God will allow me to return again next year to serve in this way again.  Each family retreat is limited to how many families can come because they need to have enough volunteers for each camper.  The need for serving is great and I hope that if you read this blog post you might consider how you could help this ministry or even serve as a volunteer if the Lord moves you in that direction.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:4-8

A Prayer for Afghanistan

A Prayer for Afghanistan

Oh Lord,

How our hearts hurt for Afghanistan and all that is going on there.  We know you are good, but sometimes it is hard to trust in you when so much evil seems to prevail.  Lord let us cling to the truth that you are sovereign, you are in control, and you are with all those right now who are in great need.  Show us Lord how we can help, impress upon our hearts an ache for your justice to be done, and bring us to our knees in prayer for this country.  May we have your heart as we seek your face and your will in these difficult times.

Amen.

After hearing about Afghanistan, maybe you are like me and asking; what can we do?  When I live here in the states, how can my life make any difference to those who are now experiencing great suffering?
When the world seems like it is so dark and one thing after another keeps happening that causes our hope to be diminished.  We need to be reminded that we still have a hope that can never be diminished.  Our God is sovereign and He is working all this evil for his good purposes.  Our hearts may be broken, but our hope in God is never lost.
We also must never discount how powerful prayer is and the one thing we can do right now is to pray. We must pray for all those facing this horrible new reality. We must pray day and night for God to give them strength to stand up for Him and for God to provide a way for some to escape.
Below I wanted to share a few verses with you to encourage you as you lift up all the women and Christians in Afghanistan that are facing persecution.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)

 

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

 

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:22)

 

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

 

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

I have found so much comfort in these verses and I pray they can comfort you too.  They remind us that God cares for all of his children, especially those who are suffering.  Some of His children are called to live a life of sacrifice and martyrdom for God and this is one of the highest honors. So let us be encouraged in knowing that God will richly bless all those who are persecuted for His name and let us keep on praying for our dear brothers and sisters in Afghanistan that are on the verge of receiving God’s richest of blessings.

Why Do We Suffer?

Why Do We Suffer?
Have you ever wondered why we suffer?  Why does God, who is a good God, allow so much suffering in our lives and in this world?
In fact, did you know that God even says in His word that simply being a Christian means we are going to endure suffering in this life. Suffering in our lives as Christian is a sign that we are truly one of God’s children. If someone ever tells you that your life as a Christian should be full of good times and prosperity, you need to check their theology.  Suffering is a part of the Christian walk.  We suffer just like Christ did and to suffer with Christ is one of the highest honors.
I’ll be the first to say that this doesn’t make me get all excited to learn that this is the way God has chosen to mark those that are His.  But after living a little and walking through my own suffering, I’m beginning to understand it better.  Recently I heard a great sermon at my church about suffering that helped to encourage my heart and give me a better understanding of suffering.  So in this post, I want to share with you some of the ‘why’s’ behind the sufferings that God has us walkthrough and hopefully it can encourage your heart.

Suffering as Discipline

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Hebrews 12:7

If you are suffering as a Christian, guess what?!  It means that God loves you and is treating you as His child.  Children need discipline to grow and become mature adults.  It’s the same for us in our walk with God.  God takes us through seasons of discipline to grow us and teach us how to follow him.
Sometimes we must endure suffering because of a bad choice we made and God brings hard trials to force us to come back to Him.  Other times we don’t know the reason why we suffer, just that God is using it in our life to prepare us for something in the future. But we can trust 100% in God’s disciplining of us.  God doesn’t ever make any mistakes in the training he causes us to go through as Christians.

Sufferings Purpose

I don’t know about you, but I find it so encouraging to know that suffering has a purpose.  Suffering is meant to make us more like Christ.  It is part of the process of sanctification in our lives.  In Hebrews 12:10 it says that “…he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Suffering and discipline is meant to bring us closer to the holiness of God.  Let that sink in for a moment.  All the hard trials you walk through, are bringing you closer to God’s holiness!
Whether we are suffering because of a bad choice we’ve made, or from simply following God, be encouraged that suffering is never wasted in your life.  God is a good father who doesn’t let us get away with our sin and he uses every experience we go through for his good purposes in our life.  The suffering you face is going to bring you closer to God and to His Holiness.

How to View Suffering

 “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” Romans 5:3

Lastly, in this post, I want to touch briefly on what our response should be to suffering.  I’m sure you’re familiar with the verse above that says we are to rejoice in our suffering.  Well, when we view suffering in this new light; as a display of God’s love towards us as his children, then, of course, it should cause us to rejoice!  Suffering in our life means that God loves us!  That sure makes me want to rejoice and be thankful that God is going to be using all my suffering for good!
Also, one last thing from the sermon that has just stuck in my head has been the word trustworthy.  God is trustworthy!  He can be trusted to get us through each and every hardship we face!  I basically prayed this word over and over in my car as I was driving home the other day.  Isn’t it amazing! God can be trusted with your life. God can be trusted with your future and all your unknowns. God can be trusted with all your sufferings.

Do you trust Him with the suffering you are going through?

God is doing something beautiful in you through the times you spend in suffering, so let us rejoice and trust in our sovereign God!