Posted in Church, God Story, Refugees, tagged Arizona, college, ESL, Experiencing God, Holy Spirit, Imagine Schools, peace feast, redeem, Redemption, Redemption AZ, Redemption Church, Refugees, Riccardo Stewart, significance, Somalia, Tempe, Uzbekistan on January 12, 2014 |
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I can’t believe it has been three years since the Redemption church merger. Even though Redemption has never been a home church for me, I’ve been an off and on attendee since their early days. I love how God uses them to reach all areas of Arizona with the gospel with their multiple church plants. Tonight Pastor Riccardo shared many stories from the past three years of how God has been faithful and good to the church. I got to attend the service for a few reasons. Redemption likes to share God stories of how members of the congregation are being used in the community by God. Pastor Mullins interviewed my ESL director Stephanie on stage about how we are reaching the refugee community here locally in Tempe. Our students are mostly from Somalia and Redemption church oversees our teaching program. In fact, many of our volunteer teachers are members of Redemption.
Teaching ESL has been such a humbling and rewarding experience for me. My involvement came from when God called me to attend a Uzbekistan peace feast in November of 2011. Even though I had no idea why I was meant to go, God opened my eyes to the refugee community for the first time. Soon after I became an english teacher and now here I am two and half years later still teaching. Hearing the story of Redemption church tonight and my own personal story remind me of the Experiencing God study – Watch where God is working and join Him there. Trust me, do that and He will do the rest.
But my main reason I attended church tonight is because of the friend I brought. He was an old drinking buddy of mine from back in college. I haven’t seen him in 15 years, yet we are Facebook friends. He reach out to me earlier this week and mentioned life had become purposeless for him. He has been inspired by how I’ve been living my life and wanted to know what it is that kept me going these days. I laugh because I’m such a messy person, but I know it is Christ that He is seeing in me as the Spirit has really been working through my life these past couple years. He just moved to Tempe and I offered to introduce him to Redemption church because they are in the area. We had a great time catching up and I felt for him as I have been in that place of searching for significance many times in my life. I spent most of my night praying for him at church and was excited for him to hear the God-stories they were taking about from the stage. I pray that God grab a hold of him and that he becomes another God-story that will be shared to others someday.
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Posted in Advent, India, tagged Advent, Africa, Child Sponsorship, Christmas, Compassion, Compassion International, Cornerstone Chandler, Experiencing God, extraordinary things, Haiti, Harvest India, Hindu, Hope, India, lepers, prayer, Suresh Kumar, testimony, water wells on December 19, 2012 |
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Advent – Day 18
I spent the day at Starbucks today reading a book and a letter that I got from my Compassion child that I sponsor. I have been supporting him since my birthday of 2006 – it was my gift to myself. As I was writing Ladouceur (who is now 11), I was trying to put myself in his shoes in the country of Haiti and what his everyday life is like. This is when I appreciate all the countries I’ve been to and how I’ve seen with my own eyes what poverty-stricken countries go through. Not too long after that, my buddy Kory Kredit posted this video of an India trip I took with him and Cornerstone two years ago. Even though I love the ministry of Harvest India, that was a one time trip for me (unless He calls me back). But it was a trip that came at the perfect time of my life. I saw the power of God and the power of prayer in a country dominated by Hinduism. I was able to share my testimony to hundreds of lepers, dedicate a water well and saw scores of people come to Christ. Harvest India has made a difference in the Kingdom because of prayer. I needed a boost to my faith during that difficult time and I can now look back at that spiritual marker as a source of hope. God has always used my life for extraordinary things and I time and time again forget His faithfulness. I needed to see this video. Later today I got an amazing out-of-the-blue email that just blew me away, but yet not surprising because it is how God works. Watch where God is working and join Him there – Experiencing God. Try not to figure what He is doing and just take a step in faith. As I join in this new partnership, I look forward to sharing this awesome God story as it unfolds. God is working and He loves us enough to ask us to join Him.
2011 Team to India
Hundreds of Indians coming to Christ at a crusade
The leper colony I shared my testimony with
Praying for the people of India
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Posted in Advent, tagged Advent, Christmas, Christmas songs, Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby, Holiday Music, Jesus Christ, O Holy Night, Silent Night on December 3, 2012 |
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I enjoy Christmas music. There are some songs I like, and there are some that are pretty bad. The ones I love the most are the ones that the lyrics reflect the coming of the Christ. “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” are some of my favorites that really move me. Tonight we were singing songs and I took the time to reflect on the words. What a difference a year makes. God has me in another transition phase of my life. Yet this time, I am following His will. Henry Blackaby says in “Experiencing God” to watch where God is working and join Him there. Well, I’m doing that and I’m not trying to make sense of it – just being obedient. God is leading the way and now it’s clear where He wants me and I’m starting to get a glimpse of this wonderful path He has me on. I’m enjoying this season of Advent and the reminder of how God sent his son to redeem us and this world.
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In Genesis 16, we see that Sarai gives a slave girl (Hagar) to Abram to bear him a child because she didn’t believe in God’s promise for herself to bear a child. After Hagar gets pregnant, Sarai begins to get jealous and Hagar flees her into the desert. She cries out to the Lord and Jesus appears before her:
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named El-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”).
El-Roi – the God who hears and sees. I once did a study of the names of God. For me, it helped me get a bigger and broader perspective of who He was. I know during many times of distress, God has come through for me and these names are a reminder of how He is always there for us. Experiencing God has a whole section devoted to the names of God. In fact, earlier this year I had a day that I was really hurting and just couldn’t get myself out of bed. In that moment, I got an email from Tom Blackaby telling me he was praying for me and my kids. Now he isn’t an angel, but at the time that email was a huge source of encouragement and enough for me to acknowledge that God was with me in that moment (Tom is a Pastor and the President of the Experiencing God network and had been following my blog). I now call him my friend.
So we can rest and know God is always with us and that he listens to our prayers and feels our pain. These different names are a reflection of how amazing He is.
In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
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I have made a new friend recently through the Christian network. Dr. Tom Blackaby serves as the Director of International Ministries for Blackaby Ministries International. He also once served as senior pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway and is also a writer and a musician. His father Henry Blackaby wrote an incredible book called Experiencing God. When I was in the middle of the Experiencing God study, Tom reached out to me when he heard my story and we offered to pray for each other. We have been corresponding via social media since. He is a wonderful man and father and I look forward to meeting him someday.
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I have been doing this Experiencing God study for 4 weeks now. I started this study over a year ago and was pretty committed to it for a few weeks. Then life got hard and the devotions I did weren’t consistent. I would do a devotion maybe once a week. Today’s devotion is the last one I did before I quit doing Experiencing God altogether over a year ago. I remember that period of my life. Life was getting rough and I was taking hold of the reigns on my own. I quit trusting God was sovereign over my trials. As I look at today’s devotion, I was convicted by what it was about and what I probably struggled with back then – Loving God. My time with God is very intimate right now and I look forward to going through this whole study as it has enriched my life so much. It has revealed so much of my heart issues and how I view God. I am thankful He continues to initiate His love for me so I can respond in obedience and in love.
Your relationship with God right now reveals what you believe about Him. It is spiritually impossible for you to truly believe one way and practice another. If you really believe God is love, you will also accept the fact that His will is always best for you. By nature God is omniscient – all-knowing. He has all the knowledge – past, present, and future. Nothing is outside His knowledge. Whenever God expresses Himself to you, therefore, His directions are always trustworthy.
If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.
(Big Ouch on this one. Very convicting…)
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Posted in Adoption/Foster Care, Missional Community, Small group, tagged CCEF, Community, Cornerstone, cosmos, Experiencing God, glory, God, Gospel, growth, Missio Dei on January 29, 2012 |
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I only know a few people in this Experiencing God small group (I would hardly call 25 people small..) that I am in. But tonight I shared my testimony with them so they could get to know me. A lot of them go to Cornerstone and to meet someone who had Pastor Linn as a youth Pastor and then to also meet someone who was a part of the beginning days of the church was interesting to them. They of course had lots of questions for me. For me, it was a time of reflection of my roller coaster life. Not that it has been bad, but I can see where God has always been present and how he has always been calling me back to him all throughout my life.
This week’s study has been focused on joining God where he is working and to be a servant for him. For me, I have always interpreted that as a service project or an event, etc. I have had so many opportunities that have come my way lately that I could easily jump on board with. I have been very careful about not keeping myself too busy or ignore where I am at in life. So I just commit to pray about each opportunity and to make sure it is part of Gods plan. Other than be father to my kids, God keeps telling me to be still. He doesn’t mean to just sit and do nothing, but to really take the time and build my relationship with him. I know it is because he is molding me for something bigger and better in my life. I have experienced things the past six years that only I can attribute to God, but I truly feel he has something even bigger than my puny brain can ever come up with. My relationship with the Lord is so rich right now, I can’t ever imagine walking away from it.
God has taught me so much about his sovereignty and the power of prayer. I always find myself in situations where I want to control my environment. But I am in a place right now that I know praying is more than enough for God to do his work and I don’t have to anything more. It takes the power out of my hands and teaches me to trust God. Last year, I left my last church looking for community to apply the gospel to my life. At that church, my life was mainly about me and my accomplishments (not to say there wasn’t good things.. but this was my idolatry issue there). There are a lot of people who like to pat themselves on the back there and I got caught up with that. I have learned the importance of community at my current church and I now have that and it has become a big part of my life. But now God is teaching me another part of the gospel – the cosmic part of it. This is the part where we look at all creation and trust God is in charge and that he is at work. This is huge because we all want to do things our way because our faith and trust in God is weak. This is where in my Experiencing God study that I feel God is wanting me to look at and join with him.
At church today they nominated Mark Durban to be a deacon. You know, Mark has stuck to me like glue these past few months. I have had many great mentors (I can’t tell you how important having older wiser people in your life is for growth. You will never get that from younger people or people your age), but Mark seeks me out each week to see how I am doing. My last counselor was great and he helped me with a lot of things. But what I have learned is counseling is a process that process needs to keep going, even when things are great. Mark has been counseling me each week for the past few months with the material from CCEF. This stuff is so rich with the gospel and is truly material for life long change. I have taken some courses myself, but to have is applied has been amazing. I’m not going to lie to you, I fought God long and hard my first month of counseling. Our tendency is to finger-point, blame everyone for our problems and simply to avoid them all together (I hate it when I fall into this trap). It is such an exhausting way to live and one will simply carry those burdens their whole life and look to quick fixes to get by. True change doesn’t even begin until you have a desire to change first and that you are willing only to look at yourself and your own heart issues and not anyone elses. We spent a lot of time re-visiting my childhood and I did not like seeing myself as that scared little boy in the corner watching my parents fight and my father abusing me. Or being picked on in school or going through divorce. But after a few weeks, I finally gave in and repented my crap to God and I have experienced so much freedom since. I quit blaming all these people and circumstances for who I am today and remembered who I was in Christ. Just learning about the gospel and my need for a Savior has so enriched my life. I have never had this much peace in my heart and I feel the changes going on in me will be life long changes. I am so thankful for Mark, my church, my MC and the scores of support from friends for their commitment to me and the changes God is doing.
So today the plan is to be still and allow God to mold me. I’m growing, learning and I love my life! I am so thankful I am choosing to go through the fire and trusting God as I face my problems and not side-step or hide from them. God has something huge in store and I want to be ready for it. And the glory part of it comes with how he used this broken guy who loves Jesus for his purposes.
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