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Posts Tagged ‘Experiencing God’

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I’m excited for my son Ty and his cousin Devyn to go up to Forest Home this year for summer camp. This place has always been special to me and I’m happy to see others in my family get to experience God like I did there. This will be Ty’s last week going as a high school student. Below are some photos from their fun week there.

Photos from Forest Home

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Reality 2 – God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal

Christianity isn’t merely a religion, it’s a personal relationship with a Person. God created humans for a love relationship with Him (Mark 12:30). He pursues a love relationship with us. He did this by sending His Son, Jesus (John 3:16). God demonstrated this when he invited Moses into a personal relationship with Him. God interrupted his plans by engaging with him through a burning bush while he was tending sheep. This relationship was practical and God used Moses to lead his people out of slavery.

A divine joy comes from a deep, unwavering relationship with the Father. This makes me want a deeper relationship with God so I can experience this joy. I can best do this by reading about God in scripture. I am thankful to be doing this Experiencing God study with my community. God pursued me during the darkest times of my life. He never gave up on me and Experiencing God is helping me learn and grow closer to Him.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:9-10

(click on video to watch on Vimeo)

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Reality 1 – God is always at work around you

(click on video to watch on Vimeo)

God has always been actively involved in human affairs throughout history. Because of our sin, he is working to bring about redemption to those of that have rejected him. He wants to reconcile us through Christ so we can have a loving relationship with him. If we don’t open our spiritual eyes to what he is doing, we will remain blind to his presence.

I’m going through my second round of this study called Experiencing God. I am doing it with a men’s group and my young professionals group. Last week was more of an introduction. This week is reality one of the seven realities. It tells us that God is always at work around us. God was always at work in the life Moses from when he was a child to when he was in exile. God has provided me with many things like a good church and community so I can answer his calling for me. I am thankful he still uses me and I don’t want to forget what he has done for me in the past. I just want to be obedient to him so I can experience him more.

 

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A few years back I got to do the Experiencing God study with a life group that I was a part of. It was life-changing for me. I have been attending a men’s group at Cornerstone Chandler and they are going through an updated version of it with the whole church. I felt this is a good study for me to do to kick off 2017. We are also doing this study in my young professionals group. So I get double accountability while doing this series.

A God-Centered Life 

The Bible is God-centered. The Bible is designed to help you understand the ways of God. Then, when God starts to use your life in the same way He worked in Scripture, you’ll recognize that it’s God who’s at work. Below are the Seven Realities that identify ways God works to involve people in His activity.  (Hebrews 11)

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  1. God is always at work around you.

  2. God pursues a continuing love relationship with you that is real and personal.

  3. God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.

  4. God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.

  5. God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action.

  6. You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing.

  7. You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.

Below is a teaching video from Pastor Linn Winters on vimeo that will guide you each week of the Experiencing God study.

(click on video to watch on Vimeo)

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ESL teachers

ESL teachers

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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Advent – Day 18

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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 thereExperiencing 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

2011 Team to India

Hundreds of Indians coming to Christ at a crusade

Hundreds of Indians coming to Christ at a crusade

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The leper colony I shared my testimony with

Lots of people wanted to be prayed over

Praying for the people of India

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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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El Roi

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. 

Psalms 18:6 

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Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30

In this chapter we focus on God’s amazing and unconditional love for us. But it also asks us to reflect on our earthly father and how that relationship shaped our view of God. For me, my Dad was a provider. He worked long hard hours to make sure we had what we needed. But what he missed out on was being there for us. I learned many lessons of life on my own through trial and error. So for me to fathom knowing God is always there for me when I need Him is hard for me. I have always relied on myself to get things done and for the most part found myself in some jams because of it.

I know I can never fully understand God’s love for us. But I experience it by spending time focusing on how good He is and how He is always there for me. Even through the trials of life, God has been there and has restored me and gotten me through some difficult times. He blesses me and uses me for His purposes. But what always awes me the most is when He chases me when I drift away from Him. God has never given up on me even when I screw up.

God doesn’t have to love us, but He does. And nothing can separate that love He has for us.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-39

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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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