{re}fresh

Month: June, 2014

Do You See How I See?

by ivyjonah

Godsheart

“For God so loved the world…” John 3:16

Our small, inner city congregation is a Smorgasbord of God’s children: Afro-Americans, Hispanic brothers and sisters, Messianic believers, Caucasians, a bunch of awesome young people and halfway house residents. Through them, I’ve learned to see people through the Lord’s heart of love, but in my younger days I wasn’t so gracious.

Working retail, my younger self and a coworker observed in disbelief as a small child lay face down, screaming, flailing and twisting like a fish on dry land. I never knew a fish-boy could make so much noise. We glanced at each other, rolled our eyes, pursed our lips and slowly shook our heads. It was an obvious out-of-control mother who was responsible for that kind of behavior I remember saying to my friend. “When I have kids,” I said, “they will NEVER act like that!” I know, some of you are nibbling your knuckles saying, “Uh oh maybe she shouldn’t have said that!”

We all view the world through personal filters and sometimes these filters become a mindset when our ideas “set” just like concrete. When someone holds a perspective differing from ours, we insist he is wrong and we are right. The bible calls these judgments. Along with judgments, we make vows. “My kids will NEVER act like that!” Gulp!

Over the years, the Lord has transformed my filters so that I might see His heart. A few Sundays ago, I underwent more heart change.

Worshiping among my fellow believers my heart broke. I didn’t let out a gentle whimper that could be quieted with a pat on the shoulder or a Kleenex and a hug from a concerned sister. No, this was a heaving, gut wrenching, snotty kind of cry. My Pastor thought I was being touched personally by God’s Spirit. I was being touched all right, but the wailing was not for me but from God’s deeply sorrowful, almost inconsolable heart for people.

Asked to share, the Lord prompted me to cry out for groups of people, one-by-one: drug addicts, prostitutes and prisoners. Pimps, drug dealers and abusers…Wait! These people are really bad,” I thought in a knee-jerk reaction to the Holy Spirit. My heart didn’t mirror God’s heart.

And so the list continued as the Holy Spirit challenged my heart…prideful, greedy, unfaithful, adulterers, lustful, drunkards, gossips, slanderers, liars…My heart weighed the sins—bad, not-so-bad. But, aren’t all sins equal in God’s eyes? Romans 3:23 (GNT) says, “everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence.” We may think some people are more worthy of forgiveness, but no one is worthy.

Like so many, I have categorized sin depending on what I felt was big and bad. In that I do two things: I judge another’s access to the mercy of God and I minimize smaller sins, justifying them as “not that bad”.

Being in this congregation, has solidified my knowledge that we ALL belong at the foot of the cross. There are no exceptions. Take time today and ask the Lord if you have categorized sin. Ask Him to show you, in His Word, how He views sinners. Ask for help in adjusting your thinking to match His perspective.

Pressing Through

by Wendy

by Wendy Coy

Image

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, (Is 61:1b, NIV)

 

His forehead wrinkled and a tiny grimace floated across my husband’s face. No one else noticed, but I saw it and winced. This would be harder than we thought.

The microphone in his hand didn’t stop him; nor did the sixty people in the room, who variously prayed, winced or watched intently. He was meeting with Jesus but he was doing it in public, verbally telling us the intimate pictures and conversations He and Jesus were having internally. It was classic inner healing (the person, the problem and Jesus all in the same room at the same time) but brave was far too mild a word to describe this interchange.

My heart raced with a strange combination of pride and concern. I was eager to see if the new prayer process which had worked so well in more private settings could hold up to this kind of public scrutiny, but had we gone too far? My husband was not easily jostled, but this might be too much.

“What’s going on?” I prompted.

“Jesus knows this internal wound requires surgery and it might be painful,” he responded. “The hateful words became arrows in my heart, and they’re infected. He has to pull them out and… well, this may be too graphic,” he paused. I edged almost off my stool and silently prayed my standard panic prayer. “O God, O God, O God, Help!” We didn’t need to scare away sixty eager prayer ministers wanting to watch God at work.

“He wants to suck out the [metaphorical] venom from my heart. The venom came from the poisoned words, the ones I believed.” OH! Graphic, perhaps, but incredibly freeing! Jesus had such creative ways of relieving pain.

I breathed a little, and we waited while my husband’s spiritual surgery continued. He asked questions, Jesus responded. Jesus offered healing, he cooperated. It wasn’t a smooth road, but the lies dissolved, and he forgave the ones who had hurled them.

And then, as if on cue, it was over. “Thank you Jesus!” I said involuntarily. My valiant praying husband looked up, exhausted but happy. The heartache was gone. So was the mental picture that had held him back for years. And sixty people watched the whole miracle happen.

The room was electric with anticipation. Hurting hearts grabbed hope and dared to break through pain to Jesus’ healing.   One vulnerability led to another. Dread and anxiety eased out the door, and we watched pained faces give way to joy.

Was this freedom worth the risky cost of being so terribly transparent and vulnerable? I looked up at my husband, searching to see what he really thought, and smiled as he said all the right words. “Jesus knew what they needed and the model opened the door for them to go deeper!”

The risk was real but the reward was even greater. Pushing through the boundaries of doubt and anxiety brought more healing than we imagined, to my husband and to dozens of others who joined in. “I desire healing even more than you do,” Jesus reminded me. It was an old lesson, now made new: He offers hope and emotional healing to all who are willing to receive it. Relieved, I nodded. He certainly honored prayers, bravery and faithfulness that morning! How many others would benefit from that lesson, as well, I wondered?

Grateful, I wrapped my arms around my husband’s chest and hugged him, hard.

Love is Always Worth the Fight

by Dawn Aldrich

I ran across this story told by Christina Norton on Facebook a few weeks ago. Since it portrayed breakthrough so beautifully, I asked her to share it with us. May you be inspired and challenged to love hard. 

lovehard

We decided to up our exercise game.

Day one. Luke sat out.

Day two. Caleb raced me to the TV. Couldn’t wait to start. Awesome. My six-year old, Luke, planted his pouty self on the couch and picked up a video game. He sometimes struggles with anxiety and for some reason he was afraid to try this new thing. Fear gripped him… hard…bringing tears to his eyes and a quiver to his chin.

After thirty seconds of inward deliberation I gently, but firmly, told Luke to stand up and come to me. He did, tears spilling over, quiver becoming a whimper. I bent down and eye-to-eye told him this is part of school and I expected him to participate. No participation, no video games. His little hands covered his face as a sob escaped his throat.

I stood behind him, my arms wrapped around his, my hands gently grasping his wrists, as together we shuffled to the left, raised our hands, then shuffled to right, over and over again. We punched it out, Luke crying and jabbing the air, picturing my face in front of his, I imagine. Front kicks and back kicks and football sprints and bicycle spins and Luke sobbing, “But I’m the littlest one in the family! I want to stop!”

Heart squeezed and ripping, with great love, I told Luke he was doing amazing; that he COULD do this; that he had nothing to fear; that he is an overcomer, a winner, a champion, a warrior. He said he wanted to sleep. I said no. I pushed him harder, I loved him harder, I fought for him harder.

And you know what happened?

The tears stopped. He started to smile. A giggle bubbled up from where a sob had once been. He gleefully began jumping around. I stepped back, watching the transformation. I teared, I smiled. I inwardly cheered my heart out.

We have a choice: Will we break or will we break through?

Love doesn’t enable. Love doesn’t take the easy way out. Love doesn’t cater to fear. Love doesn’t quit. Love is patient and kind, yes, and gentle. But love is also strong and bold. Courageous. Fearless. Powerful. Transforming. The easy way out is no way out. It’s a way into bondage. Love does not go quietly into that dark night. Love rages, rages against the dying of the light.

Love is always worth the fight.

JohnChristinaNorton2

John & Christina Norton, Hope Immanuel Mission (HIM)

Christina and her husband, John are founders of  Hope Immanuel Mission (HIM), an inner city outreach aiming to provide food, clothing, and eventually shelter for the needy. It is their goal to bring the Kingdom of God to the streets. Most importantly, they aim to share the love of God with all those they meet–by meeting and loving others right where they are. John & Christina have hope because God is with us! Their mission is to share this hope with others.

To help support their family and ministry, they sell Mission Coffee. (“We always knew coffee would help save the world!” they say.) They offer the following roasts: Boldness, Fearless, Victory, and Freedom. Each bag is $10 and can be purchased by contacting theym by phone (860-463-1050), email (norton227@yahoo.com), or Facebook (www.facebook.com/johnandchristina.norton). Their website will be up and running soon, and at that time purchases can be made online as well (www.missioncoffee.net).

by Rob Dunne

father_son_hugging

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7 As we took our seats in the newly built Sanctuary, hundreds of voices had already joined in near perfect unison to worship the God of […]

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