Sunday, December 21, 2014

Grace to Know the Word to Speak

Chris and I met by chance at an eatery. Our conversation began with the typical small talk, and Chris said that he was just passing through the area as he looked for work. He said that he enjoys working outside with his hands, and for many years worked on oil rigs, sending money home to aid in the raising of his oldest two children (now adults). Then Chris told me he just had a new baby and was returning to some of those practices. 

I listened to Chris tell me about his children and his personal habits. Observing him, I could sense his pain and see concern in Chris's eyes; here was a man who wanted to help raise his child to be "a good person,” but was not sure how he could accomplish this when so many things in the world are a mess. It was at this point I said to Chris, “I don’t know if you are a person of faith, but I believe there is One who can fix all these problems in this world. His name is Jesus.” Chris agreed with me; he told me that he used to go to church, and that he had met Jesus. He quoted some Scripture from the book of Matthew and smiled.

A short time later, Chris told me of the regretful things he had done in his life, including belonging to a gang that he was able to leave only because of his brothers' positions in the gang. At that point the pain in Chris's heart became increasingly evident. “I want to change but I can’t. Sometimes I think my wife and baby would be better off without me,” he said.

I asked Chris if I could reflect on what I had heard up to that point, and he allowed me to do that. I recounted his desire to serve his family and raise his children well, and told Chris that although he felt helpless and useless, Christ sees him as being so important, He died for his sins. I told him there is nothing which can stop God from redeeming him, and that God has a purpose for him. 

At this point Chris thanked me and said that he believed God had sent me to that random eatery to meet with Chris and encourage him.

“All praise be to God," I said.

Chris asked, “Do you mean that? Do you really mean that?”

“I do.” 

“Thank you.” 

I told Chris to get back to his family and to take care of them, and reminded him to bring anything he needed to God. Chris left what was before him at that moment and returned to his family.

Please join me in praying for Chris and all of those who feel they aren’t good enough for God to love. Pray that their hearts and ears will be open to the truth of God's love and the Good News that, although none of us can be "good enough," Jesus’ righteousness reaches beyond each person's downfalls and redeems the broken.

Pastor Josh

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'm tired. Actually, a more accurate word would be exhausted.

Last Thursday my daughter ran into a tree while sledding, breaking both of the lower bones in her left leg (tibia and fibula). As one can guess, the physical pain associated with this injury is intense -- and it is compounded by the doctor's projection that Abigail will spend six weeks in a cast (an especially cruel sentence for a flittery, fluttery, dance-everywhere-you-go kind of girl).

For the past several days I have been subject to the discomfort of my child, I have slept very little, I have been limited in my ability to just hop in the car and "take care of business," and I have had to act as full-time nurse for a child who's just about unable to do anything for herself.

Just a short while ago, this type of situation would have been my undoing. But I thank God that--because of the lessons that He has lovingly taught me--I am able to look past my situation and instead focus on His grace! God has provided help though my (amazing) son, my family, and my friends; He has comforted Abigail (a blessing that cannot be overstated, especially from the mother's viewpoint); He has provided a wonderful insurance plan, which means there will be no worries about how to pay for the Emergency Room visit and subsequent follow-up visits with the orthopedic doctor; and He has reached down to instill in me a sense of peace throughout this entire situation.

There is no denying that I am exhausted; but more importantly, I am loved, I have been forgiven, I am blessed, and I am thankful.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:4-7

-Trish Gerstel

Friday, December 5, 2014

Over the past couple of months my husband has had health issues, on top of trying to help his sister, who has advanced MS. We have argued, cried together, and have prayed together. I have asked God for strength for my husband as well as for myself, and was feeling strong -- then a relative that I love crushed me with actions that led to bad feelings, and over the past two weeks little things that happen make me cry; this is unusual for me.
Last night I took a spiritual gifts test in prep for an activity we will be doing  next Tuesday at Unchained. The three gifts that had the top score were encouragement, faith, and shepherd. I spent some time in Scripture that went with those three, and realized why God has let these recent things happen: It is because I needed to feel it, to overcome it with His power and strength, and to advance in my maturity in Christ.
As I advance through my day today, I am not going to say "why me?". I am going to advance, knowing that by the grace God has given to me, and that no matter what happens, it's ok and it is in His will!
"When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts." Acts 11:23
Stacey Sicko