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Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Faith More Precious Than Gold

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1Peter 1:3-7)

How very blessed we are to be loved, protected, and guided by our God! I am so glad that God lead us to River City Ministry. Now that I am here, I have no doubt that this is where God wants us to be. I also felt that God lead me to my educational decisions, but the reason for those decisions seemed less clear. When it came time to choose which school I would go to, I placed it in God’s hands, took it to Him in prayer, and all the doors that opened seemed to point to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I was not sure why this school seemed to be the answer, unless it was because it was so close to River City Ministry, but God just paved the way for us to come to Little Rock, so we followed.

With work, school, and family, my life is pretty busy. I try to live in God’s presence and “be anxious about nothing,” but sometimes I get overwhelmed. There have been a few times when I asked myself why I was going to school in the midst of all this (besides the fact that I need the education to help me understand the urban world I am working in and the needs of the people in it). My classes and my major were chosen with my work in the inner city in mind, so that knowledge kept me going most of the time. God has always used what I learn in college to equip me for His work and provide me with new opportunities to reach people for Him, but I was having trouble seeing what God was doing in the moment.

I took some time to ask God if I was really doing what He wanted from me when it came to my education, and God was swift to answer. I am studying American Sign Language (ASL) because I have to study a language for my degree, it interested my daughter, and practicing it gives me time with her. I was serving lunch one day and asked a man how his day was going as I handed him a drink. He pointed to his ears and shook his head. I excitedly signed to him to ask if he knew ASL. He signed that he did and we chatted briefly before people started to get annoyed with us holding up the line. I was very excited about the encounter and couldn't wait to get home and tell my family. But that was not the end.

About two Sundays later, I say my new friend, Davis, as we were preparing for lunch. We sat down together and began signing to one another. I wanted to talk to him about the Lord but realized I did not know any religious signs. Seeing that I was thinking very hard about how to sign what was on my mind, Davis signed that if I would fingerspell or write what I wanted to know how to sign, he would teach me. Over the next half hour, he patiently taught me religious signs.

As we continued to talk, we asked each other basic information, like where do you live, and I found out that Davis is homeless. “I have no money for rent; I do have a car though, so I sleep in my car.” I told Davis that I was sorry and what he told me made a great impact on me. “I don’t need money, I have –“ here he signed something I did not recognize. He formed his hands in the shape below...

and drew his right hand down from his forehead to his left hand held in front of his heart. When I asked what it meant, he told me it means faith. Wow, “I don’t need money, I have faith.” As you can imagine, as we talked, I realized that Davis has a deep and intense love for and faith in his Lord.

This hand shape is used for sewing in ASL, so it's as if the mind and heart are connected by a thread. I thought this was a beautiful way to portray faith. It is with the heart that we believe and not with the mind of logic. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Often when all logic tells us to give up, faith tells us to hold on. So often the connection between what logic tells us and what faith tells us is a fine thread. So we walk by faith and not by sight. My friend told me exactly what I needed to hear and set a marvelous example for me.
I wondered what I was doing with me education; I was asking the wrong question, because it was all about what God is doing with it. God was equipping me to serve in a way that I did not know that I could.       

Davis was surprised to find that he was the first deaf person I had talked to at River City Ministry because there are several homeless people he knew of who are deaf. I have talked to Davis and the staff of RCM and let them know to tell any deaf people they meet that I sign and would be glad to talk with them. I pray that the Lord brings us together so I can have a chance to spread the Gospel in ways I never have before.

This is just one of the wonderful things that God allowed us to be a part of in the month of October. Twelve people were baptized and eighteen people were restored to the Lord at RCM this past month. We also had one of the girls who Anthony and I have been working with in the Hope Works spirituality class come to the Lord. Olivia was baptized and set a wonderful example for all the other students in the class. God is so good and I am so thankful to be a part of the work He is doing here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Jesus Wept for You

Two of my friends recently lost their love ones and it brought my mind to this passage. 

Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 
When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?” 
“Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.” (John 11:32-36). 

Where do you go when you have no place to go? 
For Jesus, this place was in Bethany with three of his closest friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. In the hardest times in his life, when he needed to escape from it all, Jesus went to be with these people; the family he chose. 
Jesus had such a close relationship with this family, that when Lazarus became sick, Mary and Martha sent word that "The one you love so very much is sick." Wow! Imagine having such a close relationship with someone that when someone says "the one you love so much," there is no question about whom they are speaking. 

When Jesus heard the message he waited because he said, "this will not end in death, but it will become an occasion to show God’s glory by glorifying God’s Son.” But when Jesus got to Bethany and saw his dearest friends heartbroken, he was overwhelmed.

Why? Jesus told his disciples before he left for Bethany that he was going to "wake up" Lazarus. But John tells us that Jesus had a deep anger well up in him and that he wept. The term literally means to be overwhelmed with tears. Why would Jesus do this when he knew he was there to raise Lazarus from the dead?

In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him. So He was there when man was placed in the garden of Eden. He placed him there. He was the life of men, and knew He created man for life, not for death.
God warned man to stay away from the one tree that would bring death and warned him that he would die if he ate from it. In the garden was also the Tree of Life, the tree God desired man to eat from and live forever. But sin entered the world when Adam and Eve made their fateful choice, and with it came death.
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. He walked the streets, he knew love, he knew pain, he knew sorrow... and here he stood confronted with the pain, sorrow, misery and hopelessness that death brings upon us; all the while knowing that we were never meant to experience any of it.

When Jesus looked at the pitiful state that the loss of a loved one puts us in he was angry and overwhelmed with tears. Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus, he knew for a time he would ease Mary and Martha's pain, but he also knew that until the last enemy is made his footstool, death still plagues us all and causes deeper pain and loss than we were ever made to experience. So, though he wept for them, he wept for you too, and he weeps still when he sees our pain. 

Jesus understands our anger and our sadness. He has felt the depths of woe that we feel, and he too longs for the day when death dies. I pray this is a comfort to anyone suffering loss, but especially to my dear sisters in Christ.