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

The Ultimate Paradox

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I remember attending a Catholic elementary school until I was 12 years old.  I remember having to conform to rules and codes of conduct.  Now don’t hear what I’m not saying.  Boundaries for children can be beneficial.  It teaches kids how far they can go and the consequences of their actions.  I believed the entire time I was attending Catholic school that the rules were based on my best interest and must be good.  If I chose to follow them, I wouldn’t get in trouble.

Fast forward to ages 9 through 12 as a boy trying to be independent.  I thought I needed my own identity since I was an identical twin.  Yes, I have an identical twin brother.  He lives in South Carolina.  Have you ever worn the same clothes as another individual and was told that was OK?  Really.  Outside of school until I was about 8 years old, our gifts of clothing were exactly alike.  The reasoning was unless we wore the same clothes, you couldn’t tell if we were twins.  Not like our faces and physical structure was identical.  The world needed to see the identical clothing of the 50s and 60s on us.  Two kids wearing paisley shirts, corduroy trousers, and white socks.  Are you laughing at me?  I was finally released from the fashion statements I made and got to choose what to wear.  I also chose to change the way I looked at rules.

My point is this.  In my effort to obey the rules at school, and my parent’s rules about clothing, was independence really that important?  In my effort to find independence, was trying to live by the standards of the world the right thing to do? What a paradox!

The same paradox exists in our life as a Christian.  We are asked to live Holy.  When you think of the word “Holy”, do you think about rules and living obediently?  Do you think about it as being a burden or overbearing?  Maybe you think living Holy is inaccessible to you.  Maybe you’ve said to God, “But God, if You really knew me, You wouldn’t like me.”

Peter said this  in 1 Peter 1:13-16 (ESV): Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  Did you see what I saw?  God’s Word says for us, as obedient children, to not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.  Peter calls us to live holy.  When we think holy is all about rules, it can be very stressful.  At the very best, people think of a holy person as somebody who keeps all the rules. While holiness does have to do with living obediently, the word means so much more.  Holiness goes so much deeper than keeping all the rules. Holiness is an attitude of the heart in which you look at God and say, “Use me.” This is a tremendous clash with modern culture. In modern culture you’re supposed to be independent. You’re not supposed to let anybody use you, but that’s the antithesis to this. A holy person is someone who looks at God and does NOT say, “Just give me the rules and tell me what the rules are so I can get to it.” Friend, a holy person is someone who says, “I belong to you. I’m set apart for you.”  Holiness is not just separation but it is separation and dedication.  It is to be set apart from ordinary and evil use and devoted to glorifying God.

So how do we get there?  It’s in God’s Word.  Peter gave some important instructions in verse 13.  Let’s go back and read it again.  1 Peter 1:13 (ESV): Therefore, preparing your minds for action and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Then it goes on to say, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…” 1 Peter 1:14 (ESV).  We need to prepare our minds for action.  We need to be sober minded.  And we need to not be conformed.

If you want to know more about putting these pieces together for Holy Living in an Unholy World, click on the podcast link http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope to hear a powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor.

Friend, we need to live Holy in an unholy world.  Leonard Ravenhill said this,   “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world, and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”  God bless you in your journey.

George Leonhardt,
Blogger/Writer

Me against the World

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I remember a number of years ago, my life in Christ was suffering.  What I mean is, I knew what the Lord wanted from me in accordance with His word, but I was not living that life.  The past and the world were pulling very hard.  I was struggling to understand where I fit into God’s plan.  I was finding it hard to set aside the world and live solely for Christ.  It seemed I was living in a world that was not my home.  I was blaming myself for all of my mistakes both past and present and was slowly walking back to my life before Jesus Christ. I needed encouragement and someone who would walk with me to understand what was going on.  God provided such a person.  His name is James and he lives in Florida.

I found it a little strange that James and I would come together, but God led me to call a dear friend.  I talked with him for about an hour and he led me to contact James.  He said that James had helped him and that I should call him.  So I did.

James is a “Life Coach”.  That was the ministry God called him into and he used it to glorify God and impact Christian brothers in the Lord.  I told him that I felt that I was a stranger in the world.  That I loved Jesus with all my heart yet the world didn’t understand me.  The world was persecuting me and I was being beaten down.  I felt I had no strength left to fight back and that it would be better for me to return to the world and be a part of something that I was familiar with.  You see, I followed the world and its ways for 44 years before I gave my life to Jesus.

James told me that I was chosen by God and set apart to do His will.  He told me that it wasn’t by accident that I was facing the struggle.  He said that I should expect persecution.  But he also told me that I was not able to fight the world and the enemy by myself.  If I did, I would lose.  I needed God and His Word.

Over the weeks to come, James and I talked and he taught me so much from the truth of God’s Word.  He encouraged me in the Word and our conversations began to get longer and longer.  He taught me about “Self-Talk” and how each morning I should speak the promises of the God in His Word before I started my day.  You see God appointed James to be a part of my life before time began and I was like a sponge; soaking up everything I could.  It was God’s infinite grace being poured out on me.

God used James to impact my life at a time of great personal struggle.  He taught me that I was important to God.  You see, the more we learn to follow and obey Christ, the more we are set apart for Him, the less comfortable we will be in this world and the less we will be a part of its social standards.

Peter said this in 1 Peter 1.2: “…we have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”  We have been chosen before time began.  Peter also says that, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:6 NIV)

God used James to teach me that I can rejoice in Christ no matter what I’m facing.  My life in Christ was Holy Spirit birthed and through the suffering God is using me to be salt and light to this world.

If you would like to learn more about being “Exiles in Hope: Living in a World That’s Not Our Own, click on this link:   http://painesvilleag.com/exiles-in-hope.  Here you will hear a powerful message from our Lead Pastor, Aaron Taylor.

Friend, be encouraged.  Grace and peace is yours in abundance!  Peter used this greeting in all thirteen of his letters.  I use this to conclude my letter to you… that when we begin to discover God’s grace, we can then begin to walk in peace.

Glory to God!

George Leonhardt,
Blogger/Writer

 

Hello, It’s Me.

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Hello, it’s me God.  It’s been a rough few days and I know I’ve been trying to figure this all out by myself.  Again, I confess that I can’t.  You see God, it’s overwhelming at times.  It seems that every day something new comes up and gets heaped upon my shoulders.  The weight is getting unbearable.  Yet, I think I’m superman or something.  I know you didn’t create me to be superman or any other superhero.  But I just seem to forget.

You know those white boards that we keep in our offices to keep track of things that need to be accomplished?  A visual “to do” list if you will?  Well, when I was thinking about all of this before bed a few nights ago, I saw an empty white board in my thoughts.  And then all of a sudden the board was full.  Like there was no more room to add a single thing.  It was then I thought to myself, “That’s where I’m at.”  Again, it overwhelmed me.

God, I’m told that You hear and answer every prayer.  I’m told that You are faithful and that You are able.  I’m told that You never leave my side and that You are my Rock, my Refuge, my Strong Tower.  Well, God, I really need You.  I’m at my end and I submit to You that I’m not able.  I need You to get through the next moment in time even if it’s just the next second because I have no more strength.  Help me God!  Really, help me God!

I have no more to say because I can’t put anything more into words.  So I’m turning to my faith and my hope in You.  Encourage me along the way because God I really need it.

Signed,
Your child.

Sometimes we are puzzled.  We question why we are facing so much at one time.  We ask ourselves, “Can it get any worse?”  It’s like the white board that’s all filled up.  All of what we are facing is right in front of us.  We see it every day.  Sometimes we freak out.  I know I do.  So we ask God in prayer for discernment.  We want to know if what we are seeing is accurate.  The stress, the issues, the crisis in our lives, they all leave us distracted.  We react to the natural when what we need is to embrace the supernatural.

The Apostle Peter says this in God’s Word:  “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) God is saying, “Hey, you’re going to have some trials, but don’t forget… I walk with you in those trials.”

Our trials, our storms… they have purpose.  When we are surrendered to God, they serve an eternal purpose for the deepening and strengthening of our faith.  Without the storms, in many cases, our faith would remain lifeless and void of any true meaning and depth.

To hear more about The Purpose for Puzzling Situations, click on the Podcast link http://painesvilleag.com/puzzled and listen to a powerful message from Pastor Aaron Taylor.

Friend, there’s a purpose as to why our “white board” is full.  The items identify our storms.  God will take us deeper than we could ever go in our own effort so that our faith in Him may be made stronger in the very presence of our Savior.

Be encouraged!
George Leonhardt,
Writer/Blogger