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be rich 2018

As a church, we took up a special offering with the plan to give it all away. Part of what we did is give families, who were part of our gathering one Sunday, an envelope with $50 with the instructions to:

  1. Accept the money.
  2. Decide who to give the money to.
  3. Give the money.
  4. Briefly tell us the STORY.

Over the course of the next number of weeks we’ll use this blog to tell some of those stories. Most are brief but each one reflects a heart to give. We did this as part of our annual Be Rich Campaign (Rich in good deeds, that is). Each story is kept anonymous.

We gave it to _________________. __________ has been working hard in their recovery from depression and has been low on income for the past year or so. 

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I stood with my head bowed at a seminar entitled, “Forgiving Forward.” I’d come with a friend who I thought might need this seminar, not that I didn’t need it, mind you. I’m always the one who tries to anticipate what God’s going to ask of me. I’m type A, after all, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard. I thought I’d forgiven everyone I could think of, but regardless, God knows our hearts better than we know our own heart.

I heard these true statements at the seminar: Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all my sins; Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all the sins of the whole world; and Jesus’ blood is sufficient to forgive all the sins that others have sinned against me. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness and gives Satan an opportunity to trip us up. Most of all, it hinders our relationship with God. In fact, in the Lord’s prayer we are told that we must forgive our debtors (those who’ve sinned against us), so that we will be forgiven by our Heavenly Father. 

The seminar speaker illustrated how seriously God considers unforgivness with the familiar story Jesus told in Matthew 18:34. The king calls in a man who owes him a great deal of money. The man begs for forgiveness and the king shows mercy and forgives the man. The forgiven man then finds a very poor man who owes him a small amount and demands he repay it all. The poor man can’t pay and begs for mercy. The forgiven man refuses to show mercy and throws the poor man and his family in prison. Hearing this, the king calls in the man he forgave the huge debt and the story says, the king turns him over to tormentors and puts him in prison until he pays everything back. Jesus concludes the story with, “And so will my Father do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

It was near the end of the seminar when the band began to play an unfamiliar song. I only recall part of the lyrics, “forgiving the deepest wound”. It hadn’t occurred to me that I still had unforgiveness toward the person that came to mind but it was the deepest wound that apparently, I still held onto. And that’s when God caught me off guard! After praying and forgiving the person, through a flood of tears, I felt the peace of God. I’d asked God to show me anyone I needed to forgive and He answered that prayer loud and clear. I have been forgiven so much and I must forgive.

I don’t know where you are in your faith walk but I do know that Jesus takes forgiveness seriously. He forgave us all our sins, past, present and future and does not hold them against us when we ask for His forgiveness. He asks that we do the same, that we forgive others when they hurt and mistreat us. Forgiveness frees us! It doesn’t mean we overlook the sin or wrong or that the person isn’t responsible. Instead, we release them to the Lord and allow Him to work on them. And freedom through forgiveness is worth it! It cost Jesus everything! Let go of whatever it is that holds you captive.

be rich 2018

As a church, we took up a special offering with the plan to give it all away. Part of what we did is give families, who were part of our gathering one Sunday, an envelope with $50 with the instructions to:

  1. Accept the money.
  2. Decide who to give the money to.
  3. Give the money.
  4. Briefly tell us the STORY.

Over the course of the next number of weeks we’ll use this blog to tell some of those stories. Most are brief but each one reflects a heart to give. We did this as part of our annual Be Rich Campaign (Rich in good deeds, that is). Each story is kept anonymous.

My classmate,  ___________. She’s a single mom and working so hard. I think she works every job she can find plus going to school. She commutes to our school (in Richardson from Ft. Worth). Sometimes she comes to class with no sleep. We love her and wanted to bless her and her daughter _____________.

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The book of Acts is the historical account of a revolutionary movement, not a violent physical overthrow of governments but the transformation of human hearts. Jesus spoke of this transformation. In fact, what was in the heart of God from the beginning was fulfilled through Jesus. God has always wanted to have a close relationship with us, but God is Holy and we are not. God sent Jesus, His Son, who became a man, God wrapped in human flesh. Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection we may know what God is like and be transformed, made right with God. This is the gospel of Jesus and the book of Acts is continuation of the book of Luke. It is the story that changed everything!

Jesus told His disciples, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He told them that the Holy Spirit would live in each believer and empower them to fulfill God’s will. In fact, the gospel is the only power that can change and transform human hearts. 

The gospel was so revolutionary that it was said of the disciples that they turned the world upside down. Jesus’ disciples were ordinary men who were transformed by the gospel and empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit to share with all who would listen. They could not keep this good news to themselves. Their message spread like wildfire as individuals gave their lives to Jesus and acknowledged Him as their Savior and Lord. Miracles often accompanied their preaching and lives were changed. When persecution of the church broke out, it fulfilled Jesus’ mission to reach all the world. As believers were scattered, they shared the gospel wherever they went. 

Part of Jesus’ revolutionary plan was to build a spiritual kingdom of believers united to fulfill His will on earth. God wanted to create a diverse community where people are equal and where their unity and faith transcends all divisions of race, color or nationality. The Church of Jesus is not a building made by human hands but individuals who worship together and are united for His purpose – to share the good news, teach, help, and encourage each other. It is His plan to reconcile to Himself all who will believe on Jesus and receive His gift of salvation. This is the role of the Church and importance of the local Church is center stage in the book of Acts. He loves the Church and calls it His bride. 

God is still in the business of changing hearts and lives. Today, the gospel is still God’s good news to all mankind. Jesus is alive and His message is still the same. His Holy Spirit continues to empower men and women to spread His story and to build His Church, even today. This is the story that changed everything, including me. Who is Jesus to you?

be rich 2018

As a church, we took up a special offering with the plan to give it all away. Part of what we did is give families, who were part of our gathering one Sunday, an envelope with $50 with the instructions to:

  1. Accept the money.
  2. Decide who to give the money to.
  3. Give the money.
  4. Briefly tell us the STORY.

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll use this blog to tell some of those stories. Most are brief but each one reflects a heart to give. We did this as part of our annual Be Rich Campaign (Rich in good deeds, that is). Each story is kept anonymous.

“I gave the money to a family that has a hard year. Dad had a heart attack, mom has cancer and is in treatment. She is still working but struggling.”

acts

Are you up for a challenge that just might change your life? For the next 15 days, would you be willing to explore with an open mind a historical account? A story full of intrigue, influence, mystery, murder, persecution, adventure, loyalty, diversity, inclusiveness, and love. It shows people at their worst and their best. Bitterest enemies become close friends; prejudices are overcome; unity and love are the key. I ask that you read with an inquiring mind and fresh eyes the story of the birth of the church. Set aside any preconceived ideas you may have about the church. See how God took a few devoted followers to turn the Roman world upside down and spread a message that continues to influence our world. In fact, this story changed history and the hardest hearts of men.

Are you ready for the challenge yet? Explore the possibility that God’s story- His Story holds the key to many of your questions about life, mankind, eternity and more specifically- your life and your story. You’ll see how God used ordinary people just like you and me as instruments of change in their world. Are you ready? Here’s an easy, creative intro to get you started:

Acts 1-12

The book of Acts is the story of the birth of the church, the work of the Holy Spirit in everyday people’s lives. It chronicles the growth, struggles and spread of Christianity. I hope you’ll join me in reading the book of Acts.  

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Note – Here are two resources that could help as you walk through the book of Acts:

Dr. Constable Commentary: If you come across something you have a hard time understanding or if you simply want to dig deeper, look up this free online commentary.

https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/acts/acts.htm

Youversion Bible Plan: If you desire to walk through this online, check out this online Bible reading plan that will help you keep on track. 

https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/89-acts

Recommended Bible Versions: ESV, NIV.

Recommended Study Bibles: Life Application Version which can be found in the ESV and NIV version.

 

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In trying to understand this scripture in Psalm 91:1-2, I have imagined myself hiding behind the Lord as a frightened child clings and hides behind their mom or dad’s legs.  I wrote this from that perspective and, perhaps, you can relate…

In the Folds of His Robe

I fearfully peek out from behind the heavy fabric. I am hiding. I have hidden myself securely and I’m too afraid to come out! I tremble in fear. The fabric isn’t musty like old fabric but smells of a sweet fragrance – other worldly. I know the One that stands in front of me is shielding me from the storm that has driven me to my hiding place. I want to wrap myself in the fabric that drapes around Him like a child hides behind a parent. I know what I’m seeing in front of me, it is frightening, but it can’t touch me. And suddenly, the calm settles on me. I am safe, I am safe in the folds of His robe. He stands between me and the storm, the uncertainty of this day, the looming fears of an uncertain future. I am holding as tightly, grasping, clinging. Now, feeling safe I wipe tears of relieve on His robe. This One who stands for me is none other than my Savior. The very name Savior, one who saves only describes a part of who He is!  He stands for me and you and prays for us. He speaks peace to the storm and it obeys. The storm must obey His voice. If I must walk through the storm, He walks with me, in front of me, surrounding me with His love. 

I often can’t sense the calm in the storm or the peace until I hide myself in the folds of His robe. The enemy can’t reach me or touch me there, the enemy has no access when I’m in the folds of His robe. It is the secret place. The pure light that radiates from my Savior blinds the enemy. I am hidden, I am safe and I am strengthened until He bids me come out, it is safe. If I had a choice I’d stay in the folds of His robe. He takes off a robe, one He’s made just for me and says, “Put this on, it is mine. Now you can go on.” I timidly take it, I know I don’t deserve His robe but as I touch it and place it around me, I am free of the gripping fear.  I’m renewed to walk today through whatever comes my way.  And then He says, “Now let’s walk on. Do you know how much I love you? Let me tell you…,”and as He speaks He begins to lead the way. I am reassured and know I can run to the folds of His robe again, and again and again. He is the Savior, He is my Savior and my secret place, my hiding place, He is Jesus! 

Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”