The Lord Shall Provide

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This week I am excited to share about the Lord’s provision in my personal life through trusting the Lord. We all come to those times in our lives where things just seem good. We can go through our daily lives without having to worry about something other than the tasks put before us. However, the problem with things being “good” is that we forget to rely on God. We “forget” to do our daily Bible readings. We “forget” to pray.  Sometimes we even “forget” to go to church. I say “forget” in quotes because maybe we aren’t forgetting as much as we just aren’t “doing”. There’s no problem in my life so why do I need to pray, read my Bible, and go to church? Unfortunately this is a pit I fell into this past summer, but in a different way.

As many of you know, this past summer I had the opportunity to go on a mission’s trip to Nepal for three weeks. While I was there we did four hours of prayer and worship every day and God was good! Sure, I felt the awful spiritual oppression of the unreached country, but man, the Lord spoke to me in ways like never before. My spiritual high had begun!

Directly after coming home from Nepal, my team flew to Colorado for a mission’s conference.  Again, the Lord was good! I could feel His presence at all the worship services and through the messages. It was good. Life was good. I had nothing to worry about because the Lord was so good!

In the midst of this, I had received a call from my mom telling me that I had a tuition bill to pay that was $3,000 more than what I had paid the previous semester. I didn’t know what to do. I had just taken a month off of work and didn’t have the money to pay for it. I was really shaken. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.

My friend and I had this spontaneous idea of treating all of those from our area in Ohio to lunch. So we took everyone to this awesome burger joint and then just split the bill. This wasn’t a huge deal for me. I was excited to just bless the people that had poured into me. But, I had offered to pick up the tip too because I had cash. The bill came to $100.65.  I paid $50 and my friend put the rest on his card. Originally, I was going to leave $5 for a tip, but then noticing how large our bill was, I decided $20 would be better. As I pulled out the leftover cash I had from my adventurous month, I started to count how much I had left. I had about $80 left. After counting it all, I felt the Spirit telling me to leave the whole $80. I was like, what? NO. I cannot do that! Lord, you know the bill that I have to pay. I prayed that if this is what He wanted me to do that He would give me a confirmation. As you can imagine, He certainly did. So, after everyone got up, I left the tip.

We got back to where we were staying and I had a meltdown. I grabbed my tablet and found a quiet place to sit and started looking up classes and tuition rates. I planned when to take certain classes, but it just wasn’t working to where I would be able to afford tuition each semester because of the amount of credit hours I would have to take. I called my mom and vented to her and she said, “well, if you have to stay another semester to finish then so be it, but we have to do what we have to do to make it affordable”.

This was hard to hear. My plan was to graduate during a certain time frame, get my degree, work for a summer, and then find an organization to do missions with… it would be perfect. Well, I went for a walk and thought about it. I realized that my problem was that it was MY plan, not God’s plan. Maybe God wants me to stay an extra semester. After my walk, I had come to the conclusion that God was in control of the situation. That God would make a way and provide for me, just like he had done the previous semesters, and just like he had done for the whole summer.

We went back to the conference and got into small groups. In my group we were sharing about prayer requests and I asked for my new friends to pray about God’s provision for tuition. At the next session, one of the guys in my group got on stage. Once the crowd quieted down he asked where I was sitting. I waved at him and he asked if he could share what I had told our group. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about because I had told my group a lot of things. But he decided that he was just going to share it anyway. He told the rest of the students (as in college students from all across America) that I was struggling to pay tuition. He then asked them to not just pray for God to provide, but to be an answer to their own prayers. He then set a hat in the back of the room and students fled to the back to put donations in the hat.

I sobbed. I couldn’t believe what was happening. At the end of the night my friend that shared came up to me and handed me an envelope. He said: “there’s about $800 in here”.  I wasn’t sure how to respond but just kept saying thank you, and thanked the Lord. I felt so blessed.

However, I knew this wasn’t enough and that I had to talk to financial aid and other various people at college. So, the next day instead of hiking, I stayed back and made some phone calls and talked to basically everyone I needed to in order to find out what to do next.

I had pretty much come to grips with the fact that I would have to take out another loan. While I was on the phone with financial aid the advisor asked me what my major was. I told her Social Work and Missions. She then asked what I wanted to do after I graduated. I told her I wanted to sell everything and buy the field. I told her I wanted to go to the 10/40 window and share the Gospel with the unreached. She then paused, and said, “I have a scholarship just for you.”  I again did not know how to respond to this. She told me I was a perfect candidate and then asked me to immediately fill out the application that she had just emailed me. The next day, I got an email with the update of my financial aid reward.

Friends, I am not telling you this story to brag about how the Lord provided for me. I am telling you so you can see my mistakes. I did not rely on the Lord when I first received the amount of my bill. I completely took matters into my own hands, knowing that God is the God that provides and has done it in my life since the day I was born. How could I have been so selfish and blind to what the Lord wanted to give me? Because I was so caught up in how good my life was to the point where I forgot about the promises of the Lord. I forgot that trusting in Him comes with the goodness I had encountered.

God had provided in the past, and He was eager to do it again! I only needed to take that step of faith and continue to believe and trust that He is the God who will provide for me! We all need to do this. We all need to recognize that we simply cannot take matters into our own hands, or we will all end up like me, in distress over an issue that’s smaller than a grain of sand to the Lord.

Church, take the next hour or so to listen to Pastor Aaron’s sermon about King Asa and how he tried to take matters into his own hands when the enemy attacked. http://painesvilleag.com/lessons-from-king-asa  Don’t let the enemy have a grip on you anymore with stress, anxiety, bitterness, fear, etc. Take that step of faith and remember the Lord’s promises. Don’t fall into that pit of  “forgetting” in trusting the Lord.

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

Growing Pains

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I’m sure that we have all realized that life is like a roller coaster that never ends. It’s filled with loop-de-loops, twists and turns, hills to climb, and mountains to ride down. Sometimes it even feels like we are going backwards. We should know by now that, just because we are Christians, our lives are not going to be easy. Actually, let me be the first to admit that it is going to be quite difficult. But don’t let that scare you away from the love of Christ! It’s a bearable kind of difficult because Christ is our burden-bearer! It’s a difficult that only the Lord of Hosts can help us through. We are going to have our ups and we are certainly going to have our downs, but we’re not alone.

Today, we are going to focus on those downs; those times of suffering and pain, that seem to be the longest part of the roller coaster of life. Pastor Aaron has been leading us through a series in the book of 1 Peter. So far, we have learned that we are exiles in this world. We don’t belong here; this is our temporary home. We also learned that we are called to holy living. We are called to consecrate ourselves before the Lord. We are called to not let ourselves be of “the things of this world”, but to be embedded in Jesus and only Jesus. Next, which makes sense, we are going to experience suffering. Actually, we are called to suffering! Isn’t that wonderful?!? (No sarcasm is meant to be implied to the previous statement). Isn’t it just a beautiful thing to be exiles, called out to live holy lives in an unholy world, and to suffer for the glory of Jesus, the one and only who saved us?

I know you’re probably thinking: “well, that’s really not my cup of tea…” Don’t worry, it’s not mine either. No one wants to endure pain. No one wants to go through suffering. We prefer that our lives be simple, easy, and fun. How in the world does pain and suffering fit into that?!

Friends, in this world, because we are called out to live holy lives, we aren’t going to be accepted in all places. We aren’t going to be welcomed in like Jesus welcomes us into His kingdom. It’s actually going to be very hard, whether we are at work, school, sometimes home, the grocery store, or let’s just be blunt here, sometimes even church. We might be mocked, discriminated against, or persecuted for our belief in the one true God. I think of the missionaries that accept the call to take the Gospel to the darkest and hardest regions of the world, sometimes where the Gospel is illegal. Think of the suffering they endure.

But there is something significant about this suffering. It is for the name of Jesus. We don’t just allow someone to mock us for our faith “just because”, we do it for Jesus. Peter even tells us that Christ suffered for us as an example. We are told to follow in His footsteps and embrace the suffering of the cross (1 Peter 2.21). Even though Jesus was beaten, whipped, and then crucified, He still continued to trust in God and understand that it was His will.

With that being said Church, we are called to suffering just like Jesus was. We have to embrace that whatever we are going through is a part of the will of the Lord for our lives. If we suffer and endure things for the name of Jesus, He will reward us.

Maybe you go to work every day and there’s that one person that always has to make a comment about your religious beliefs because they like to get you fired up. Maybe you go to a secular school and the other students make fun of you because you chose to write your papers based on Biblical truths. Maybe you realized the relationship you were in was not of the Lord because you weren’t equally yoked and, as a result, you’re now suffering the heartache of a breakup… but it’s for the Lord. Maybe you are being challenged to die to yourself more and more every day… To pick up your Bible and actually drink in the scriptures you read each morning instead of rushing through them. Maybe you are struggling to give up buying Starbucks coffee three times a week in order to give donations to missionaries that need support.

Friends, these are growing pains! These are sufferings that we endure for the name of Jesus. Sometimes we ask ourselves, why is this so hard, why am I not getting any further, why am I suffering? It’s okay. Take a deep breath and look to the Lord. He will guide our steps through the suffering. We endure these things so that our relationship with Jesus grows further and further and deeper and deeper.

I have a friend who has been my best friend since fourth grade. As of this past August, we celebrated 10 years of friendship. Can you imagine the things we went through together? We experienced being on a worship team for the first time together, we went on our first missions trip together, we went through middle school and high school together, and we’re still friends even though we’re now at different colleges. We went through break ups and other friendships together. We went through a shooting at our high school together. We went through fights and times of trials in our friendship. But let me tell you, because we have gone through so much together, our relationship is deeper and better than I ever could have imagined.

Jesus wants to be that for each of us. He is with us every step of the way. He is with us in the growing pains. He is pushing us, with love, to strive for greatness in the midst of our suffering for Him. He’s not just sending us out in the ocean to learn how to swim and find our way back to shore. NO. He is right there beside us, coaching us, and teaching us how to do this life.

Find out more about what Peter has to say about suffering for the Lord. Pastor Aaron goes more in depth of how our suffering for the Lord is a calling on each of our lives. You can find it in the sermon series “Exiles in Hope” by clicking on this link: http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope  Take the next hour out of your schedule to listen to this podcast and learn how you can really embrace the suffering of the cross and follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

Remember Church, Jesus is with us as we endure these growing pains, and it’s going to be worth it when it’s all said and done! Have a Blessed weekend!

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer/Blogger/College Student

Huh? You Want Me To What?!

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This past week has been a busy week for me. I moved back into my college dorm a week early to help the new freshman class move in and feel welcome. On the last night of freshman orientation, the night before classes started, our student-led worship service was held. Student-led meaning “all the band members are students and both of the speakers are students”.

After the service opened with worship, the first speaker came up. She talked about Psalm 139 and how God knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. She put emphasis on the fact that we are all here for a reason. Psalm 139.16 says: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them”. God wrote our days before we were even formed in our mother’s womb.

The next student speaker came up.  He spoke about Jeremiah 29.11 that states: “For I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. He talked about how God has a plan for each one of our lives. He knows that plan and it’s not going to harm us. His plan doesn’t set us up for failure, rather the complete opposite. The Lord declares that He knows the plans, even when it feels like He may not be listening or even around. The Lord wants to prosper us, not destroy us.

The speaker then said something that really stuck with me. We have heard both of these passages of scripture more than most. We have heard countless messages on them, been to VBS programs based on them, and could recite them back to anyone. We know the words that were written on the pages by the Psalmist David and the prophet Jeremiah. But are we really being obedient and walking in these truths? Do we really live as though we believe there is a higher being (God) in control of our entire lives? Amidst the memorization and countless messages of these two passages of scripture, are we submitting to God, who has written our days in His book and knows the plans He has for our lives?

This is something I believe every human being struggles with. No one wants to submit to someone else leading their lives. No one wants to admit that there may be someone who knows what’s best for you, besides yourself. Look at a baby for example. Babies just want to put everything in their mouths and play with everything. So, picture a baby that is just Cordlearning to crawl and comes across an electrical cord. Having no idea what this object is, the baby takes the cord and tries to put it in his mouth. Immediately, the baby’s mom grabs the cord out of the baby’s hand. The baby isn’t too happy about that and begins wailing because he wants the dangerous electrical cord back. He thinks that putting it in his mouth will satisfy him, but mom knows best in that he cannot play with such a thing, even if it means her son has to suffer as a result.

We are just like the baby. We are afraid to submit to the authority of God (and those God has placed in authority over us) because we are scared they may mess up our plan. We are scared that they may take away that one thing that we think is best for us to have, when in all actuality it is very dangerous.

When people are placed in authority over us (by God), we sometimes doubt their leadership. We sometimes think, “how can they be any better at that position than us?” or “there’s no way I’m going to listen to them, they have no idea what they are doing let alone knowing what’s best for me”. We let our own selfish ambitions, the jealousy of a co-worker getting a raise and promotion, take over. We lose complete respect for them, and in turn, we lose our reverence and fear for the Lord because He is the one that put them in authority over us in the first place. We are too busy reacting, rather than responding appropriately, to see that the Lord has a plan for our lives too! Just like He has a plan for the person He promoted and put in authority over us. All too often, we are so wrapped up in ourselves that we can’t recognize that it was GOD who placed them in authority over us. As a result, when we decide we’re not going to obey them because of jealousy, we are in actuality disobeying the Lord. When we disrespect our authority figure(s), we are disrespecting the Lord. We are saying: “God, you really have no idea what you are doing putting them in such an authoritative position! I can’t believe you would do this!”

Church, as we are called to higher standards and holy living while here on the Earth, we are also called to respect and obey those that God has placed in authority over us. 1 Peter 2.13-14 states: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good”. We are commanded to obey those God has placed over us. It is a hard thing to do sometimes because of our human nature, but with the strength of the Lord, all things are possible.

Pastor Aaron shared a powerful message about Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2 just this past Sunday! You definitely want to check out what he had to say about submission to authority.  http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope

Do you need to learn to submit to those God has placed over you? Listen to the podcast for our current series at PAG, “Exiles in Hope,” to hear a more in depth teaching about submitting to the authorities God has placed over you. Friends, join me in honoring those over us. Next time you hear someone bashing an authoritative figure, skip out on joining in the conversation and instead set the example by helping them recognize that God has placed them there for a reason.

Jenny Bushnell
Writer, Blogger, College Student

The Glory of God

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These past few weeks we have talked about living a Holy life and what that looks like as we apply it to our lives. As Pastor Aaron continues through the book of 1 Peter in our series, “Exiles in Hope,” we are presented with the two greatest issues of the Bible. Two BIG points that we may have missed in Sunday school as a child. Two important pieces of the “bigger picture-puzzle” Jesus was putting together before our very eyes. Without these two key elements, we basically miss the whole point of the Gospel.

First, is the salvation of the soul. You may be thinking, “well, I was saved years ago and have been obediently going to church ever since, doing my share of serving in the church and giving to the church, so I’ve got this one down.”  But hear me out on this. Are we all really living in that Salvation we received years ago? Or are we letting the enemy get to us over and over again with sin creeping at our doors?  We spend so much time thinking about our behaviors and how we are going to make ourselves look like the Christian we ought to be, that we forget about dealing with the issues of our heart; our soul health.

We let our hearts get jealous, bitter, angry, and thus fall into sin, but on the outside we look presentable.  We look like we have our whole life planned out and like we have it all together.  No one can see what’s fighting you on the inside, and as far as you are concerned, they don’t need to see it… let alone “know” about it.  So, the best way to hide it is to hide it from yourself too and continue to focus on your outward actions so that it simply cannot be possible for anyone to know a single hint of what is going on inside.

Friends, let me tell you something, drop what you are doing and look at these problems for what they are!  Take a moment and ask the Lord to reveal your true soul to yourself.  Ask Him to allow you to see your heart as He sees your heart.  The enemy is creeping in because you are too focused on the outside, but the Lord works from the inside out!  While you are focusing on making yourself look as good as that “always-put-together mom,” there is a war going on and it’s waging for your soul!

The second issue of the Bible is the glory of God.  Why is this an issue?  Because Jesus is simply not getting His glory!  How is this so?  As ones who are called to Holy Living, ones who are consecrated for the Lord, we need to keep our behavior so excellent that we glorify God through it.  Jesus isn’t getting His glory because our behavior is not glorifying to the Lord.  I’m not just talking about us as a church here, I am talking about people all around the world.  I am talking about those that are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, etc.  I am talking about anyone who worships anyone/anything other than our God, the Great I Am.  I am talking about anyone who gives their time, energy, and life to something other than Jesus, our Great Savior.

Did you know that there is a portion of the world that has no idea what the Gospel is? A part of the world that has no idea that there is a God who loves them?  …So much so that He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross to wash away our sins, cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and return for us in the very near future!?  It is called the 10\40 window. The unreached people groups in this region (including America), have no idea that they can receive eternal life and love.  While we are here, jealous and letting the enemy creep in with sin in our lives, there are people who have never heard of Jesus.  Talk about Jesus not getting the gory He deserves!  He died for these people, and they have no idea who He even is!

When we allow our behavior to be transformed by the death Jesus bore on the cross and His resurrection life, we become His light.  We become the lamp in the darkest of places. Through this behavior, it opens doors to talk about the beauty of the Gospel.  How?  Because when you have the Holy Spirit within you, you are different than those who are not saved.  They will see a difference in your behavior, even if it’s something as simple as leaving a bigger tip at your favorite restaurant, saying hello to a stranger, or helping a family member.  People need to know about the salvation of their souls …and God needs the glory He deserves.

Friends, I challenge you to change your behavior.  Allow the Spirit to work through you, shaping you into the person that He has called you to be.  Stop letting ungodly behaviors rule over your life and step into the light, out of the darkness, and be the light!  Join me in this new step of faith so that Jesus may finally receive the Glory He deserves!

It’s not about being better than one another.  It’s not about being a better Christian, holding your life together, or even just having everything you desire.  It’s about God being glorified in all that we do.  Church, I tell you, let that other mom be better than you, let the world come at you with all it has, and give your desires to Jesus because like we just talked about last week, Jesus is the rock on which we stand and we will not fail when we trust in the Rock!

I encourage you to listen to this past week’s sermon from “Exiles in Hope.” http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope  Learn more about the two greatest issues of the Bible, as well as the battle for your desires and behavior.  Ask the Spirit to show you a certain area in your heart, behavior, or desire that you need to give over to God completely.  Church, let’s be a Church that walks in out salvation with fear and trembling.  Let’s be a light in our community; letting Jesus work through us and glorified like He deserves!

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

Identity In “The Rock”

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I just recently got home from a 3-week missions trip. On that trip we would have 4 hours of prayer each weekday. During one of those prayer sessions the Lord visited me in a vision. In this vision I was sitting in the front pew of our very own sanctuary (at Painesville Assembly of God). There were angels singing from above on the stage. Then, one of the side-doors to the sanctuary opened up and a bright light flooded the room. Jesus, the man in white, came walking over to me. He sat with me and we had a conversation. He said to me, “You are My Beloved, and those angels are fighting for you”.  Then I asked Him, “When will I meet my husband?” and He replied: “NOW”.  After that, He handed me a blue stone to keep in my pocket and take with me wherever I went.  He then pointed to the door in the corner next to the stage that was blowing in the wind.  There were trees and a whole other world on the other side of the door, it was no longer just the back hallway that runs behind the sanctuary. He said to me: “Go!”

There is so much more to this vision, but for today’s blog, this is the significant part I needed to share with you. After having this vision I was slightly confused about a lot of things.  First, it was significant that I was in our sanctuary and not just any church in the world.  Second, Jesus told me that the angels were fighting for me.  This means that the angels are fighting a fight that I can’t even see, but they are protecting me no matter where I go.  Also, in that same part, Jesus called me “Beloved”.  Third, when I asked Jesus when I would meet my husband, He told me “now”.  Surely, I did not think that anyone I had met on the trip would become my husband.  So what did He mean by “now?”  Then He handed me a stone.

Blue Stones

Lastly, He pointed to a door that led to somewhere outside my comfort zone and said “go!”  Where was I going?  The only thing I knew was that the angels would be going with me and fighting for me.

After a lot of prayer and sharing this vision with many I consider to be “Spiritual Mentors,” I believe that the significance of this dream is not something that God just solely wants me to know.  Rather, He gave it to me to share with all.

Friends, when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are welcomed into His Kingdom.  We are accepted into His family forever.  He becomes our perfect, Heavenly Father.  We become His children.  Our inheritance becomes Heaven itself!  Our citizenship is no longer on this earth, but in Heaven with our Father.  We are adopted into a new family, a royal family.

Not only is God our Father, but Jesus is our Husband.  We are the Bride.  He searches for us. He wants us to know that we are His Beloved.  We are His inheritance on earth.  He is our friend, not just our teacher.  He is our husband, not just our master.  When Jesus told me that I would meet my husband “now”, He was talking about Himself.  Jesus is my husband.  I am His Bride and He calls me “Beloved”.  Friends, He calls you that too!  He is searching for you in the vineyard.  He longs to know your secrets just like you would tell your spouse!  I encourage you to read Song of Solomon.

When Jesus handed me the stone right after all of this happened, He wanted to give me a reminder to never lose my identity in Him.  I am a child of God.  I am the Bride of Christ, His Beloved.  I am protected by angels fighting above.  He is my Father in Heaven.  Friends, all these truths about Jesus and Who He is to me, Jesus didn’t want me to forget that!

So why a stone?  Because Jesus is the living stone.  Jesus is our foundation and our identity is in Him and no one or nothing else.  We cannot forget that Church.  We cannot forget that! He is the rock on which we stand.  Jesus is the piece that holds all together because He is strong and mighty and there is nothing that can defeat Him! He wears the Victor’s Crown! Jesus handed me a stone because He is the stone, the foundation of my life.

It is significant that I was in PAG’s sanctuary because that is where my relationship with Jesus started. That is the one place where I have fallen to my knees so many times at the altar, served Jesus endlessly with my time and energy, and heard the word of the Lord that stuck with me all these years. PAG is my Christianity birth-place and Jesus wanted me to remember where I was when the foundation of my life was built.

And in the last part where Jesus tells me to go into an unknown land, He is telling me that He is with me.  That I am protected by His heavenly angels.  To not forget that my identity is in Him and Him alone.  To keep that stone with me and to remember that I am His Bride and one day He is coming back for me.  One day, He is coming back for each and every one of us who has placed our faith and trust in Him alone.  He has not forgotten about us.  Jesus was telling me it is okay to go into the nations that I desire to go to in order to share the Gospel.

Friends, is Jesus telling you to go somewhere, but you are wrestling with the idea because you are afraid?  I encourage you, remember who your foundation is.  It is JESUS.  He is the strongest and mightiest of all.  He will not let you down.  You have the authority in Jesus’ name to go and do what He is calling you to do! He is the rock on which we stand. Even when the storms come, He is still strong.  He will not be defeated and we will not be washed away in the waters that try to overtake us.

Church, do you remember who your foundation is?  Do you believe that Jesus has angels fighting for you?  This is an “identity-matter” above all things.  We cannot let our identity be sucked up into the modern way of living.  We have to consecrate ourselves and remain in Christ.  I am not saying to never do anything because you are separating yourself from the world.  I am saying that we have to watch what we do with our lives because we are called to Holy living… giving into matters of the world will only allow the enemy to come in and steal our joy, fire, and desire to do what the Lord has called us to do.  We simply cannot forget the rock that we stand on.  We simply cannot forget that Jesus is our foundation, the Living Stone of our life, the Capstone, and the Stumbling stone to those who reject Him.

Because we are like Jesus, and because Jesus is all these different types of stones, we have an identification with Christ that we cannot forget about, but must remain strong in and remember. Pastor Aaron, in His series: “Exiles in Hope”, shares about these various identifications. Take the next several moments of your time and listen to his message and be reminded of your identity in THE ROCK.  http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope

Friends, do not let fear overcome you and stop you from doing what the Lord has clearly made a path for you to do. Take this step today and declare: “I am a child of God” and there is nothing that can separate me from that fact (Romans 8)!  Now take the first step towards obedience and live in your God-given identity!

Jenny Bushnell,
Blogger, Writer, College Student

The Call to Holy Living

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We have heard this phrase a lot throughout our Christian walks. But have we taken a moment to consider what it really means? What does it mean to “live holy?” We are told to “be holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1.16), but what does that truly mean?

To be holy deals with a wide variety of things that pertains to how each and every one of us lives. It could be interactions with other people (both believers and non-believers), what you do when others aren’t around, and how you interact with Jesus and perceive Him. You see, Jesus is holy (in case you missed that in your Sunday school class). As a matter of fact,  Jesus is holy, holy, holy (Revelation 4.8). Jesus is so holy that we don’t just say it once, we don’t just say it twice, we say it three times for emphasis and importance. Jesus is so worthy to be called our holy, holy, holy Lord because He is the Son of God, He is the Lamb that was slain, and behold, He is our soon coming King! Hallelujah!

We have to see how holy Jesus is before we can live holy ourselves. In doing so, we learn all the attributes He possess. We quickly see that we need to fear Him (not a “scaredy-cat” kind of fear) with reverence and awe. This fear comes from the respect we have for Him and knowing that He ultimately knows what’s best for our little human lives. God is our Father, Judge, and Redeemer. He is a Father to us because He adopted us into His family the moment we said “Yes” to His gift called Salvation. He is our Judge because on the Great and Mighty day of the Lord we will have to give an account before Him. Lastly, He is our Redeemer because He has redeemed us from the sins that entangle us. Let’s just take a praise break right here to thank Jesus for the fact that we no longer have to be bound to sin here on earth, but rather our citizenship is in Heaven with our Holy, Holy, Holy Father, Judge, and Redeemer!

Jesus is Holy because He is set apart from the things of this world. That’s what the call to Holy living is all about. To allow yourself to be set apart from the things of this earth. To not fear what your reputation may look like to others because you choose to love Jesus with your WHOLE heart. Holy living is when you choose to fear the Lord instead. God wants our whole hearts. He doesn’t want half of your heart (or half your attention) while the other half is being given to a popular T.V. series (He wants your undivided attention and loyalty).

A good friend of mine pointed out a big issue humanity has, even followers of Christ. We can get so caught up in our T.V. shows, movies, and books… And there’s nothing wrong with watching some television every now and again, but the issue is this: we binge on these things. We allow it to consume us, but not only that, we even allow it to change our thinking without even knowing it. You know that book you read that they turned into a movie where the girl gets the guy in the end and everything turns out to be a beautiful romance? Or how about the T.V. series where no matter what, when something goes wrong, there’s always that person that has the answer to everything and can somehow magically make everything better? Or what about that show where the married couple seems to never have issues with their marriage and when they do, they figure it out easily.

Friends, when we let our minds feast on these things we start to wish they would happen in our own lives. We want a beautiful romance like in the novels, we want to be able to solve problems easily, we want to have a marriage with no issues. How are we being faithful and obedient to accepting the call to live a holy life, when we are allowing all of this “non-reality” to take control of our thinking?

What we need to recognize is that we have a God that writes our life stories much better than any books, shows, or movies we watch/read. Our God is not going to write some cliché novel where it’s all going to be simple and easy. God is not just watching us through a television screen and yelling, “don’t go in there!” when a scary part of our lives comes up. No, He has a pen in hand and is writing what’s going to happen next, you just have to accept that and come into alignment with that.

What does this have to do with holy living? We can’t allow ourselves to be sucked into the flow of humanity. We have to consecrate ourselves for Jesus. Friends, we are called out of this “normal” living. It’s not just what we do in public, but also what we do when it’s just us and the Lord. John, who wrote the book of Revelation, was exiled to an island called Patmos. While he was there, there was no one else but him. He was completely and utterly alone. He had no one there to hold him accountable, he had no one there to pray over him, he had no one there to talk to about the things God was doing in His life. And guess what? He still sought the Lord. Revelation 1.10 says he was “in the Spirit of God”. He was still in tune with the Spirit even though no one was there watching him. Talk about a holy life!

Friends, let’s accept this call of holy living together. Let’s take the step and consecrate ourselves from the things of this world. Let’s encounter the Lord on a greater level together. This may mean turning the T.V. off and reading your Bible instead. It may mean getting off social media. It may mean biting your tongue when someone cuts you off on the road or takes the last box of cheese at the grocery store. But friends, let me tell you, Jesus is so worth it. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. He is the Almighty and He chooses what has Kingdom value over, “I must have my double cappuccino latte with two pumps of soy milk, one pump of 2%, 1.5 spoons of sugar, and extra whip cream,” kind of life.

Take the next several moments and listen to Pastor Aaron’s sermon on holy living. http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope  Learn the aspects of application and motivation. Learn how to apply this to your own life and start living holy for the Lord today. Do not hesitate.

Jenny Bushnell,
Writer, Blogger, College Student

Sheep Without a Shepherd

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Matthew 28.18-20 states: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age’”

This past Sunday, August 1, 2016, we had a U.S. Missionary speak at our church. His name was Jay Covert. Jay is definitely doing his part when it comes to the command given by Jesus before ascending into Heaven. He shared about church planting. He shared the burden on his heart for those in our own country that do not know Jesus because their hearts are corrupted with the things of the enemy. Things like: drugs, alcohol, false religions, sheer evil, violence, and darkness. He spoke about his experience with his team going into the deepest and darkest places (brothels, gang hangouts, cultures that differ from ours) of the city they are based in and sharing the Good News of the Gospel, fellowshipping with those who don’t know the hope of Christ, and praying for any division to be torn down between their hearts and the Salvation of God.

In Matthew 28 where Jesus commands us to go into every nation and make disciples, this is one of the last things He says to His disciples before ascending into Heaven (Check out Acts 1 for His very last words before being caught up into Heaven). Doesn’t this show us how important this command is? I would like to make a few points about this passage, maybe refute some excuses as to why we haven’t done better a better job at listening to this one, simple command.

First, we need to recognize this as a true command. Matthew didn’t quote Jesus saying: “If you hear the audible voice of God, a prophetic word, or some other spiritual encounter, go to all the nations…”  He also doesn’t quote Jesus saying: “Go if you feel comfortable” or “Go to a place where you feel comfortable living.” This is something we all struggle with.

Also, sometimes we may get these ideas that maybe if we go to all the cool places, like the Bahamas, the Grand Canyon, the west coast, etc. and post a bunch of pictures of the awesome things we’ve seen and done with a comment that says: “I can feel God’s presence in this place. He is surely moving,” then we’d be doing our part in the Great Commission. But friends, let me tell you, sometimes there are too many Instagram pictures clouding the voice of God for us to truly hear His command to “go into all the nations”.

I understand, as I struggle with it too. It’s difficult to think about living in the places that aren’t exactly the American Dream. But we have to consider that there are people in our own backyard that need to hear the Gospel. There are people who are so lost that they don’t know where else to turn. There are people who feel ashamed of their lives, who are living in depression, and are bound in the chains of the enemy. These people are everywhere. In every nation. And more times than not, we find them in the darkest places because that’s all they know. That’s where they’re comfortable. That’s what’s familiar to them.  I don’t just mean location when I say this. I mean depression, addictions, and mindsets. These are the places that are scary to explore, but they are found everywhere.

Secondly, I would like to put emphasis on what else Jesus had to say about the nations before giving this command:

  • Matthew 24.6-7: “For nation will rise against nation…”
  • Matthew 24.9: “You will be hated by all nations for my Name’s sake.”
  • Matthew 24.14: “…and this Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
  • Matthew 24.29-31: “All the tribes of the earth will mourn and see the Son of Man.”
  • Matthew 25.31-32: “…before Him all nations will be gathered.”

We are told that nations will rise against each other, that we will be hated for the name of Jesus. We are straight up warned that this is going to happen. But Jesus still says what He says in Matthew 28. We are also told that the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout all the world, that tribes will mourn and be gathered before His throne on the day of judgment.

My question is this: when the nations are sitting at the feet of Jesus on the day of judgment, how many nations will inherit the Kingdom if we stick to our everyday, white-picket fenced, with a big front porch dream, instead of following this command?

Do you think America will inherit the Kingdom?

Friends, this is something that may seem scary, but it is time for us to wake up and smell the coffee (or in some cases, put the coffee down!). What are you doing to fulfill the Great Commission? Are you praying? Fasting? Going? Giving? We each have our own part in fulfilling this command. Together, we need to all put down our American idea of Christianity, pick up the cross and live a life of raw Christianity for the sake of Jesus! Every nation, tribe and tongue, should have the right to receive His full inheritance and salvation. It’s the human right!

Even in our everyday lives we can work towards this goal. At your job, your extracurricular activities, your community, you can make a difference. You can share the Gospel. Doesn’t it bother you that there are people in our own backyards that don’t know Jesus or have ever heard His name? They deserve to know their Savior, but how will they ever know or hear if we don’t share Him with them?

Church, I encourage you to pray today and ask Jesus how He wants to use you in this commission. Maybe that will mean praying daily for a specific unreached area in our country or across the globe, maybe it means selling everything and giving to the poor, maybe it means giving more than just the average 10% tithe and supporting missionaries all over, or maybe it means mobilizing and sending laborers out…you being one of them. For each of us it will look different.

Listen to Jay’s message by clicking on this link: http://painesvilleag.com/stand-alone and listen to his own personal testimonies on the field and how God is using him. Let it inspire you to realize that you are a missionary wherever you live. Church, we cannot just sit and be silent anymore about our beautiful Savior, we have no choice but to stand up and share Him with the rest of the world. I’m not asking you to accept a “call” to missions work with me, I’m asking you to join me in being obedient in carrying out the command of Jesus in your own sphere of influence. Let’s do this together, as the church God commissioned us to be.

Matthew 9.35-39: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

Jenny Bushnell,
Blogger/Writer/College Student