Sunday, July 22, 2012

My Heart

Dear Friend,

When God brought you into my life, I knew from the very beginning that there was a reason.  He pricked my heart with a measure of His unconditional love and divine compassion, especially when I learned about your story of suffering.  I could plainly see the gaping hole in your heart.  Pain and heartache was evident in your eyes.  I knew you needed Jesus . . . but you hesitate to give your heart to Him.

I have watched in agony as you continue through life, trying to make it on your own strength.  Each time you fall down, my heart breaks a little more.  In my mind’s eye I envision you one day running into the arms of Jesus, your Savior . . . but in reality I know that day may never come.  The choice is up to you to accept Christ.  He will never force you.  And I can’t will it to happen.  But I can pray for you; and I do every day.  In fact, the Lord brings you to mind constantly.  The only other thing I can do is find ways to love you, and tell you from my own experience how Jesus Christ has changed my life -- and hope that it touches your heart.e He

Admittedly, I have never gone through circumstances exactly like yours.  I cannot relate to all of your experiences.  But I have suffered.  I have been rejected by others, by people I thought loved me.  I have experienced loss and deep depression.  I know what it is to walk through a valley.  I know what it is to be stuck in a pit and see no way out.  I have been mad at God, and felt let down by Him.  I have doubted God’s love for me, and even the truth of Jesus.  I have cried out for God’s help and heard nothing but silence.

BUT THEN . . . Jesus Christ, the Son of God, reached down from Heaven and touched my life.  He sent specific people to encourage me and point me to the truth.  It was like I had been walking around blind, with scales over my eyes.  But His touch made them all fall away, and finally I could clearly see – Jesus loves me.  And He loves you!  I hope that simple truth comforts you as much as it does me.  God showed me that He had been by my side through every single hurt.  Even when I had messed everything up and done wrong, He was still there telling me how much He loves me. 

And this is what I hope you will one day come to see and understand.  God created you, and He has a purpose for your life.  He knew that you were going to mess up along the way (because we all do), so He sent His Son Jesus Christ to live on earth as a perfect man and then die on a cross to take your punishment.  He didn’t deserve to die, because He never did anything wrong.  We are the ones who are tainted, and incapable of getting to Heaven on our own.  But the good news is, He didn’t stay dead for long!  On the third day after his death, He came back to life to show His power over death.  And this power over death is passed on to us when we accept Jesus for who He is and ask Him to come into our lives.  When we leave this earth through death, we won’t really die but will join Him in Heaven forever and ever.  And He is preparing such wonderful things for us there, we can’t even fathom them. 

Accepting Jesus is so simple.  He wants it to be simple, like us coming to Him as a little child.  All you need to do is believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son and that He died and came back to life for you.  Then, confess it out loud!  Tell someone about it. 

And it doesn’t stop there.  Jesus wants to be a part of your life while you’re still here on earth, too.  Invite Him to come into your heart and mind.  Talk to Him every day, whether you’re thanking Him for the good things He’s doing for you, or asking Him for help with your struggles.  Because He has promised to never leave you.  And He always keeps His promises.

He’s waiting for you to come to Him.  And I’m waiting too.  No matter how long it takes.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What I Learned in Germany

Earlier this month my family made a 10-day trek to Cologne, Germany and back.  We have some missionary friends there who invited us to stay with them and work alongside them as they strive to touch people there with Christ’s love.  Taking our entire family on this trip was an eye-opening experience for all of us, and I would like to share a little bit about what God taught me.

  1. Patience.  Unfortunately, the first thing I learned in Germany is that public restrooms are not free.  They are not always clean, or supplied with toilet paper.  And they are definitely not always easy to find.  Traveling with children, we naturally needed access to a bathroom many times.  Needless to say, we had many interesting, frustrating, and creative bathroom experiences.  So the Lord brought His Word to mind:  “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient …”  (Ephesians 4:2)
  2. Blind faith.  Cologne’s Cathedral (K├Âlner Dom) was awe-inspiring.  Its construction began in the 1200s and wasn’t officially completed until 1880.  That’s over 600 years!  This means that the men who designed and began building the cathedral never saw their work completed.  Countless men poured their lives into the building of this masterpiece, knowing that they would never get to see the finished product.  This reminded me of Abraham, Moses, and all the others in the Bible who did not get to see the end result of what they were moving toward.  “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”  (Hebrews 11:13)
  3. Trust.  This was the first time I’d been to another country where they speak a language other than English.  It’s a hard feeling to conceive of unless you’ve experienced it, but it can be quite frustrating!  Imagine you’re wandering the streets, trying to find your way, but you can’t read any of the signs.  You try to ask for help, but the people’s words sound like gibberish.  Or imagine that you’re a child trying to join a friendly game of soccer with some other children.  You want to make friends and joke with them while you play, but you can’t understand a word they’re saying.  A language barrier can feel like you’re trapped behind a wall or inside a bubble – you can see what’s happening on the other side of the barrier, but you can’t join in.  It was in these moments that I turned to God the most on our trip.  Because I know that our God can speak any language, I talked to Him whenever I felt frustrated with the communication obstacles.  I found myself relying on the Lord more and more, which is something I know He wants me to do all the time anyway!
  4. Love is a verb.  However, volleyball can be played in any language!  Our missionary friends     hosted a 4th of July/German outreach event while we were there, held in their neighborhood park.  An American mission team from Georgia was on-hand to perform American music     and lead some line dancing.  I attempted the line dancing for one song, but when I saw that there was a group of young people playing volleyball, I opted for that instead.  I bet we played for over an hour, and it was a lot of fun.  It was a friendly game where we didn’t keep score, so there were a lot of laughs.  And even though I couldn’t verbally share Jesus with those kids, I prayed that He would shine through me anyway.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  (Matthew 5:14)
  5. Passionate compassion.  God is moving in Germany, and He has a great compassion for the lost there (just as He does for all of His lost sheep everywhere)!  Honestly, for a long time the first thing that came to mind when I thought about Germany was Adolf Hitler and his horrible holocaust of World War 2.  And naturally, that thought does not exactly spring up a well of compassion in me for the Germans.  But through the experience of this family mission trip, God opened my eyes and my heart to a people who are not that different from me.      Immersing yourself in another culture reveals a new world that exists and functions thousands of miles away – but is filled with regular people who do ordinary things every day, and who go through pain and hard times just like everyone else.  As I sat in the train station one night praying for Jeromy and the missionaries who were trying to engage passersby with free coffee and tea, I was suddenly overwhelmed with compassion for everyone I saw.  The God of the universe gave me a glimpse of His unconditional love and steadfast longing for the precious     souls of this world.  “The Lord . . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)
This trip wasn’t your typical mission trip, with lots of pre-scheduled activities.  We were simply one family joining another family for a week, walking alongside them as they live a missional life in the everyday things.  We got to experience grocery shopping there, life without a car in the city, an end-of-the-year school program, along with several trips to some unique playgrounds.  We focused on prayer a lot, tilling and preparing the soil for seeds to be planted. We are so thankful that God gave us this experience, and I know that it opened our eyes to a whole new world of people and opportunities.