Beautiful Design

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 “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

-Jeremiah 29:11

To be honest, I have moments when I don’t know the answers. Days when depression grips my soul and I am anxious about the future. I find myself in situations when I am afraid to step out, terrified my words will fall on deaf ears or that they will turn those I love away from me. Sometimes I want to give up even though I know I never could. You see I am human, and this Christian life isn’t easy.

But I chose this path and I’m sticking to it! You see, it’s all the certainties, the truths I believe without a doubt to be true that lift me up every time I fall. Satan can’t shake me from what I know, he can’t make me forget what I have already seen for myself. God is Good. I know it and I’ve seen it, and so when life seems to be full of bad things I can instantly look at the big picture and realize that it is just satan trying to shake this truth in me. That truth is where my hope rests, and it isn’t determined by circumstance.

I took this picture above while walking through a garden in Delaware. This flower caught my eye because it was so beautiful, and it was only just about to bloom. Every part of it fit together perfectly, and yet it was made to unfold and display its inner beauty to the world. If it had only been a bud, I wouldn’t have seen what it had to offer.

Maybe our lives are this way. We all suffer greatly in this life, we have our ups and downs, sometimes on a daily basis. And yet God sees the big picture, the entirety of our lives and our eternities, and to Him, I bet we are much like this beautiful flower, only in mid-bloom, just starting to discover who we are.

Sometimes I don’t feel like I am good enough. What do I have to offer? What giftings do I really have compared to others? …recently, our friend who recently lost his wife in a car accident said that when his wife would try to measure her worth in what she could do, he would tell her that “You are the gift.”

That was displayed in who she was to others, how she had lifted them up, was a friend and mother to them. A sister, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen. Someone who remembered people and saw the beauty in them when others couldn’t. She was the gift. She didn’t have to be good at anything but being herself. Being who God called her and formed her to be. No one can be the best you. You are the gift, and maybe even the answer to someone’s prayer.

We are all a part of God’s beautiful design, we are all but flowers in His garden, and He is the gardener, watering, pruning, and smiling as we discover who we are and start to bloom. Each of us displaying our own unique hue and shape and design. And all of us pointed toward the Sun.

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Hope Family Church

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Pastor Dan: “God is Good!”

Church Family: “All the time!”

I’ve found the real thing…what’s that? you may ask. Well, come on in! It’s something I have to show you. One walk through these doors and I promise you will feel it too. Again you ask, what’s that? I smile back and say, “a family.”

I’ve been through many church doors in my life, growing accustomed to the sound of worship and the laughter of children. I’ve shaken many hands and have sat through many sermons. I’ve stood upon the stage and have looked out upon many different people. I’ve watched those people grow and mature in Christ, while others have fallen away or have moved on to other churches, becoming a part of other families.

I have seen the very depths of religion, the spirit of which chaining people to shame and guilt. I have witnessed the transforming love of God and the joy of truly uncovering the gifts paid for through Jesus sacrifice. And now? I have finally discovered what church is all about.

Outwardly it’s a mixture of many components; the building, the people, the music, the vision…to name a few. Inwardly, it’s so much more. It’s a family of believers coming together to uplift one another. It’s a place of acceptance, guidance, love, and hope.

Just like Aaron and I had no idea God had written Hope Family Church into His great plan for us, Pastor Dan and Erica Owings had no idea that God would call them away from their lives in Montana to start a church here in Marion, OH. A town struggling to rise from the pits of hopelessness, drugs, and poverty. They gave it all, sold their home and came here with their 3 young children because God said, “go.”

They relied on faith to start this church, to name it Hope, to make an impact in our community. They loved like no other, they pursued God with everything they had, and they sought not that their church pews would be filled, but that lives would be transformed and ultimately that Marion would be a place of hope again.

Today, 3 years later we have defied the odds and have proven that God is with us. Each year goals have been met and blessings have been poured out. Our family has grown not only in numbers but in love, transformations, and miracles. And through Pastor Dan’s God-given desire to unite families and build relationships within our community, we have developed a deep respect between churches and now have a Marion United youth group, connecting church families even more regardless of denomination.

Everything is changing, God is moving…and it is only the beginning. Sure we have our moments, times when satan attacks so viciously that we must seek God’s voice again, to which He says, “rise up! Fight back! I am with you.” And so we dust off and stand stronger than before.

I believe in this church, I love my family and I can’t wait to see what God has in store next for Hope Family Church!

For more visit, Hope Family Church on Facebook or watch our Sunday service live streams! God bless you all ❤

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Please pray for Marion, that God would continue to break the chains of addiction and poverty and that we would continue to follow His call for our church. Praise God that we are only three weeks away from moving into our new church building!! The first church ever built in Marion! Thank you all!

True Hope

Hope

“…O God, our savior, you are the hope of everyone on earth…”

-Psalm 65:5

Throughout everything that has happened lately, despite satan’s attacks, our hope has remained immovable. I have seen what hope can do and it goes beyond comprehension. It can make a man stand strong and give praises to God even amidst the loss of his wife, it can turn a funeral into a celebration of life, it can cause a hurting church to sing loud, full of passion and joy, during worship. It can even open doors to a future full of God’s promises and blessings. Our fight isn’t over yet, in fact, it has barely begun! The truth is, our audience in heaven is getting bigger, and that is all the more reason to do our best down here.

Our pastor spoke last Sunday about the difference between Hope and Optimism. By definition, they seem roughly the same, until you delve deeper. As author and theologian N.T. Wright said in his novel, Paul: A Biography:

‘”Hope” and “optimism” are not the same thing. The optimist looks at the world and feels good about the way that it’s going. Things are looking up! Everything is going to be alright! But hope, at least as conceived within the Jewish and then the early Christian world, was quite different. Hope could be and often was, a dogged and deliberate choice when the world seemed dark. It depended not on a feeling about the way things were or the way they were moving but on faith, faith in the One God. This God had made the world.”

Hope involves faith…it isn’t dependant upon circumstance or worldly outlook, it is a belief. And I would even add that it is a “trust.” Trust in God’s Word and His Goodness that never change with the passing of time because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

You can lose optimism, but you can’t lose Hope.

God, thank you for this hope. Nothing can take it away! And I won’t stop running, I won’t stop fighting….until I see you face to face. 

The Compass and the Clock

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“Where are you going, sir?” A street seller asked as a young man perused his many trinkets and tools. The young man appeared ready for a long hike, with mountain boots strapped high, waterproof jacket and clothing, and a survival backpack slung over his shoulders and fastened at the waist.

He smiled at the old seller and replied, “I must travel through the mountains, my home is on the other side.” The lad then squinted up at the stormy sky, and as if on cue a light rain began to fall, “my, my…what a time to travel,” the old sellar muttered as he rushed to cover his valuables.

The young man reached forward and lifted a compass from the table just as the seller pulled a tarp across, he then started to fasten the tarp to the ground unawares. “How much for this compass?” The seller turned startled that the lad was still standing there in the rain. “If you still want to travel in this weather you’re going to need more than a compass my boy!” The young man raised an eyebrow in apparent confusion, oblivious to the rain droplets now running down his face.

The seller beckoned the lad toward the shelter of an oak tree down the cobbled street. It’s branches drooping over the top of a bench. The seller sat down with a sigh, the young man followed suit, wiping his face on his sleeve. “Let me see the compass lad and I’ll explain.” The young man obediently handed over the silver compass, it’s arrows bouncing ever slightly but remaining true. “A compass is great for knowing which direction to go, but it doesn’t tell you how long you have to get there.” He gestured to the rainy skies, “if you are unable to locate the sun, how will you know when it will be dark? A compass is useless in the dark, you need the sun to light your path see?” The lad nodded, listening intently, “I can see that you haven’t packed a tent, so I reckon you plan on making this trip in a day, am I right?” The young man nodded again and replied, “yes sir, I’ve no time to stay the night, my wife and child expect me home before nightfall.” The seller reached into his pocket and withdrew a golden watch.

“Like the compass, a good working watch will never steer you wrong. No matter what the skies are hiding, you will know how much time you have left to reach your destination.” The seller chuckled, “no sense in getting lost, and no sense in arriving late, your wife would be worried.” The young man pulled out his wallet, “thank you for your advice, you have been very kind…what do I owe you?” The seller smiled warmly at the young lad before him, reminded of how he was at that age, “take them both so that you can find your way back to my seller stand again.” He handed both the watch and the compass over to the young man and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m open from 9-5 and not a second more!”

The Holy Spirit is our compass, guiding us to our destinies and encounters. If we remain focused on him we will know the path we are to take regardless of what lies in our way. And yet the night is falling all around us, and time is valuable. The Bible expresses this in that the coming of our Lord will be soon, and like a thief in the night. It gives us signs and wonders to point to His coming, each a tick of the clock, bringing us closer to the end. We must hurry and finish this race before time runs out!

Psalm 23: Sermon Notes

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“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

-Psalm 23:4

Sunday, Sept. 30 I had the privilege of leading a short 5-minute sermon at church. I was one of 6 people who spoke on Psalm 23. My assigned verse is listed above.

Each chapter in the Bible has so much to offer us, during my pre-sermon studies I discovered that God’s Word will teach you something new every time you read it, even if it’s one verse!

My Sermon Notes:

When I read (Psalm 23:4) the first thing God highlighted to me was, the shadow of death.” That is all death is, just a shadow we will all someday pass under, but thanks to Jesus, death will never have the final say, it will never have substance, as 1 Corinthians 15:55 says

“Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?”

The next line, “I will fear no evil” is the assurance that God is enough and that satan stands defeated even while we walk this valley of death. The battle over satan and death is already decided. The battle is not God vs. satan but man vs. satan. We can share in God’s victory!

“You are with me.” God doesn’t trail behind you, He doesn’t begrudgingly walk with you, I believe that He walks in stride with you, hand in hand. Just like He did in the garden of Eden, in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve. “you are with me” implies that God stands beside us, and has a close relationship with us. There is a bond, an agreeance in mind, will, and heart.

Here’s something you can do, next time you are alone with God doing devotions ask God to show you where He was standing in a particular moment in your life when you felt afraid or alone. I believe He will show you and you will be amazed to see that He wasn’t far away but right at your side.

You see, in the moment when you are afraid it’s hard to see or feel God. And that is because fear is imagining a future without Him. It blinds us to the truth and can cripple us spiritually, mentally and physically because we weren’t created to ever feel alone or separated from God’s presence.

Lastly, we read the phrase, “Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”

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As a shepherd, you carried roughly two tools, a rod and a staff. The curved handle of the staff was used to pull sheep in when they started to stray off. The rod was used to drive the sheep or discipline them. And either tool worked well against fighting wolves.

Like a father in the wilderness with his child, he will discipline and he will protect, he will guide and he will comfort, and he will walk hand in hand with you because he loves you!

Who here loves discipline? It can hurt! Here’s something I didn’t want to hear when I researched a shepherd’s rod. If a certain lamb strayed off too many times, endangering itself, the shepherd would use the rod to break one or two of its legs. This way the lamb wouldn’t be able to leave and would learn the hard way never to stray too far from the protection of the shepherd. Ouch! We are to find comfort in that? Yes.

(After the sermon a dear friend of mine mentioned that the shepherd most likely carried the lamb over his shoulders with him wherever he went, building trust and dependency)

I’m not saying God will break your legs, but if we ever find ourselves turning from Him, ignoring his call, or not heeding his warnings, we had better hope He will save us from total destruction, that He will remind us that we need Him more than anything and anyone. God doesn’t cause horrible things to happen, but often He works through those times to bring us closer to Him.

I knew someone who never settled down, they were so busy all the time, never stopping. They didn’t listen to God when He warned, “slow down, I didn’t create you to work like this!” Pretty soon that person had an accident that kept them bedridden for months, they were forced to go slow. But they didn’t wallow in self-pity, their faith was renewed and their focus shifted toward God and they were restored in more ways than one.

God cares more about the heart of an individual than the body of an individual. Our body, though important, is only a shell concealing our Spirit, the core of our being. The body will fail us someday, but our hearts will remain. And so, give praise to God during times of discipline, understand that it doesn’t bring him joy to discipline you, but He loves you so much that He would rather you break your leg then be killed by a pack of wolves.

Proverbs 13:24

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.”

 

100 Followers!

50 followers

Wow! 100 followers!

I am so thankful and honored for all your support, there are many days in which you have filled me with joy and have encouraged me to press forward with my writing and Christian walk. I consider you my friends, and I am excited to see what God has in store next! 😃

Looking back on this blog there was a time when I had stopped writing for about a year. I thank God that He stirred within me the passion to start again. I can’t imagine closing my laptop today, seeing the impact that God has made. I truly give it all to Him.

It is my joy to continue writing and getting to know you all deeper as my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you again, and God bless! ❤

Checkmate

Checkmate

“Satan is so much more in earnest than we are–he buys up the opportunity while we are wondering how much it will cost.” 
― Amy Carmichael

Moves and countermoves. I’ve seen it over and over, satan makes what appears to be a striking blow against God’s children, and to his dismay, we deal him an even greater one. It has been a never-ending game of chess, and yet his pieces are being taken from the board, and soon we will checkmate him.

satan is crafty, but he is predictable. Since the beginning of time, he has learned of our weaknesses and has perfected his attack to specifically target those weaknesses. If we truly die to ourselves and become aware of our pitfalls, then we will be able to discern satan’s attacks, possibly even before they occur. Let’s face it, we have played chess together a long time, just as he has learned a great deal about us, we have learned a great deal about him.

Expect trials, temptations, and attacks, never assume that you are safe, and if you ever discover that you are, then I would question whether satan has already won you over. You see he won’t play chess against someone who won’t make a move. What damage could you do by standing still? He will chuckle and go sit at another table where his opponents are actually a threat to him.

You may keep your pieces safe this way, but you will never conquer ground for the Kingdom of God. Much like the servant who buried his master’s treasure in the Parable of the Three Servants (Matthew 25:14-30). Our heavenly master longs very much for us to use what has been given us to dispel the dark forces of the world and save the lost and hurting souls.

When we stand tall amidst trials, when we worship during times of suffering, when we pray, louder still, drowning out the sound of torrential rain from countless storms, we strike fear into satan and his demons, and his chess piece, meant to stop us in our tracks, rolls harmlessly to the floor.

I believe that is why we are here. We are here to fight, to win, and to lead as many people we can into that sweet victory. The ultimate game has been won, now it’s our turn to take back what is ours, and bring heaven to earth.

During this time of great loss at our church, I have also seen a greater passion being stirred, a righteous anger toward our enemy. Reminding us that we are all fighting a very real battle, and no “God pursuing Christian” is exempt from this fight. In fact, the deeper in we go, the more arrows we will have to block, and dragons we will have to slay. And yet, God is with us every step of the way, guiding our blade and keeping our feet steady.

devil, you’re a crafty one

but you don’t make the rules

I know the outcome of this game

You do not have me fooled

You think you have a snare laid out

But I’ve seen this move before

It may have snared a thousand men

But I won’t add one more

I laugh at your humility

Chess pieces on the floor

You still think you stand a chance?

I’ve seen the final score!

Pack up and leave this silly game

Before I start to snore

God holds my life upon His hands

I won’t fear you no more…