HOPE Poverty Simulation: An Invitation

HOPE Poverty Simulation: An Invitation

For the past three years, I have had the pleasure of serving on the local Nashville Board of HOPE International. And Isaac Ezell, HOPE Associate Director of Development, recently informed me about an exciting new initiative HOPE is about to undertake—a way to help people understand and experience the daily struggles of those in poverty. I immediately wanted to know more about this initiative.

Growing up, I would have been considered lower to middle class, but I never understood or experienced abject poverty. Now that I have children, I realize the importance of teaching them that everyone made in the image of God is important and valuable and that one way for us to truly love our neighbors as ourselves is to gain better understanding of their lives.

That’s one of many reasons I look forward to taking part in the HOPE Poverty Simulation in Brentwood, Tennessee on January 8. I would love for you to join me.

Here’s a little more information from the HOPE Poverty Simulation Team:

In the face of overwhelming global need, it’s easy to feel paralyzed. As believers, we know we’re called to act—but what do we do? You are invited to take a first step by symbolically slipping into the shoes of men and women living in poverty, to gain a greater understanding of what it’s like from the inside.

The HOPE Poverty Simulation is a 2 1/2-hour, immersive, experiential learning opportunity designed to help participants catch a glimpse into the realities of a lifetime living in poverty. Over the course of the simulation, you will be confronted with a series of challenges that mimic the complex, everyday realities that men and women living in poverty are forced to grapple with. This experience will bene t anyone interested in learning more about engaging in global poverty.

Please wear clothing suitable for sitting on the ground and closed-toe shoes. The simulation is appropriate for ages 14+.

The Details:

  • WHEN: Monday, January 8, 2018 from 6:30-9:00 p.m.
  • WHERE: Fellowship Bible Church- Brentwood Campus (1210 Franklin Rd, Brentwood, TN 37027)
  • REGISTRATION LINK: www.hopeinternational.org/nashvillesim

There are limited spots for this simulation, so please take the time to sign up now to secure your spot.

I hope to see you there!

Only By God’s Grace—a Marriage Testimony

Only By God’s Grace—a Marriage Testimony

Romantic comedies have a formula: girl meets boy, boy and girl have some strange and complicated confusion, boy and girl discover they are truly made for one another, then everything is bliss, marriage is inevitable, life is good. Or something like that.

Romantic comedies often leave out the part that marriage is more like a lifetime of learning to enjoy and love and forgive and serve a person who will inevitably sin against you. Romantic comedies leave out months of mourning the loss of a baby or dealing with illness or late night talks through tear-filled eyes. Romantic comedies leave out the restless nights, financial struggles, prayers for safety, conversations about children, and thoughts about the end of life. Oh, some romantic comedies may hit on a few of these things, but these movies are typically one-dimensional, fairy tales and can’t encompass all that marriage entails through a lifetime of knowing and being known by another person.

My husband, Thern, and I have lived what many may think is a bit of a fairytale. We love each other dearly, and we actually enjoy one another too. Though we are far from perfect, we really are happy. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for this union and covenant of marriage

On December 6 Thern and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage. We anticipate that this 15th year will be filled with the same joys and sorrows that each year so far has brought. But we once again anticipate the faithfulness of God. Today, I wanted to share a small taste of our testimony—a testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness.

Our Testimony

Thern and I started dating when I was incredibly young. I was 19 years old when we first began to show interest in one another. Thern was 25 and basically ready for marriage. I was ready to explore college life. Neither of us were Christians, but both of us enjoyed our friendship and what became a romantic relationship—except it was not a good or healthy relationship. My immaturity and desire to explore didn’t match his readiness for marriage. We tried twice at engagement and broke it off twice. Both heartbroken by sin and what seemed like the end, we parted ways.

After that second engagement to Thern ended, I went to a friend’s church, heard the gospel for what might have been the twentieth time, and submitted my life to the Lord. My life was forever changed. I still loved Thern, but I knew that now we could never be together. After awhile, my heart for Thern changed from a desire to be with him romantically to a desire for him to know the Lord. So, after a year of praying and waiting, I invited him to an event.

weddingkissTo make a long story short, Thern came to the event. After meeting with a now-dear friend, Thern, too, became a Christian. But that didn’t mean we immediately got back together. In fact, Thern and I barely spoke to one another, even though we now attended the same church. Many wouldn’t have even known that we had once been engaged (twice!). Thern was active in the singles ministry, and I was working for the church doing campus ministry. We kept our distance for the most part, enjoying a chat from time to time.

Finally, after another year, Thern asked me if I’d be interested in a courtship. (“Courtship” was what we were doing back then in certain Christian circles.) I said I was not interested at the time because I wanted to concentrate of serving the college ministry. I knew that I wanted to spend that year focused on ministry. Of course I spent that year worried that Thern might find someone else—so much for concentrating!

The year passed, and I anxiously waited to see if Thern might still be interested in me. He was! By then I knew that I wanted to be his—forever, if he’d have me. We were married six months later.

Grace Upon Grace

God was merciful to us, first reconciling each of us to Himself and then to one another. Our testimony is that God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love that he has for us, made us alive in Christ. By his grace we have been saved. We recognize God’s sovereign wisdom in all the brokenness we experienced prior to our marriage. We also believe that those obstacles that kept us from getting together at first were actually a blessing, that God was likely protecting us from what might have been a miserable and hard marriage. God is so good!

And we believe it’s a bit of icing on the cake that we are in an interracial marriage. In many ways God allows us to testify about his ability to bring together people from every tribe, tongue, and nation every single day. Again, our God is so good!

methernThern and I have experienced more happy and wonderful days than sad, but to say we haven’t had terribly sad days would be a lie. Oh, how grateful I am that neither of us has to put on a mask, pretend we have it all together, or fake our way through this life. God has used the counsel of others and the local church as a means of protecting and caring for our marriage. Thern and I know that every trial and sorrow and struggle that we’ve experienced only points back to the awesome sustaining grace of our Father. We can honestly say that we love one another more today than we did yesterday. This is only because of the grace and mercy of our God.

So, thank you for reading our testimony and celebrating with us! We are thankful for these past 14 years together. God has been faithful! We don’t have a RomCom marriage—and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

 

thefam

Our Crushing Snare

Our Crushing Snare

I walked down the hallway clueless to the fact that in a few short minutes my relationship with two girls would be forever changed. There were no warning signs. Nothing would have given me the impression that I wasn’t liked by my friends. We’d spent hours together, and I thought we enjoyed each other immensely. But when I approached their dorm room I discovered I was wrong. They were engaged in a full-out slanderfest and, unbeknownst to them, I was outside the door about to knock.

Hearing my name and personhood slammed was pretty terrible. It hurt. I went into the room and immediately confronted them. I cried, they confessed, and that was that. They asked for forgiveness, and I forgave.

We don’t typically learn what others really think of us. But do we really want to know? More often we’re left to assume the best or nothing at all. Unfortunately, though, many of us don’t assume the best or nothing at all. We’re preoccupied by the opinions of others.

This is the fear of man. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms, but there’s one thing we can be certain of—it’s a snare (Prov. 29:25). I’ve discovered that when I’m tempted to fear man, it’s usually rooted in fear of what someone else thinks of me. But as I dig deeper, I realize that I’m actually judging and assuming the worst of them.

Fear of Man and Judgment

The fear of man so often ends with judging others because we begin assuming we know another’s motives, thoughts, character, and intentions. Someone forgets to answer an email, so you assume you’re not a priority and she is selfish—turns out she was on vacation. You pass someone in the hall and he doesn’t wave, so you assume he doesn’t like you or is rude—turns out he didn’t see you. You invite someone to do something and she kindly declines, so you assume she’s disappointed in you—turns out she simply doesn’t want to attend or is sick or tied up. It really doesn’t matter what the other person thinks or does? But our preoccupation with worrying about what others think of us drives us to sinfully judge.

Fear of Man and Self-Forgetfulness

The false thoughts leading us to judge others is a form of pride that can only be remedied by what Tim Keller calls “gospel humility.” As he explains in his helpful book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness:

Gospel humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, “I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?” True gospel humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.

Preoccupation with what others think is pride. Perhaps you long to be highly regarded. Maybe you hate the idea of being misunderstood (oh, how I relate). Whatever it is, it’s pride, and we know God opposes the proud (James 4:6).

Every true believer longs for gospel humility. None of us wishes to stay as we are—we want to be transformed into Christlikeness. Christians don’t desire to disobey God and grieve the Spirit. Besides, it’s no fun being consumed by what you think someone else thinks. Keller shares the secret to the sweet forgetfulness that we find in the gospel:

Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance? . . . In Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict. In Christianity, the moment we believe, God says, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Or take Romans 8:1, which says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into his family. In other words, God can say to us just as he once said to Christ, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Brothers and sisters, the verdict of “well done” is in, and as a result we run the race of faith, putting off judgment and the fear of man. Even though we will fail miserably, we make the effort nonetheless. After all, God’s “well done” motivates and inspires a life consecrated to his glory.

I wish I could say the fight against fear of man and the temptation to judge others were easy. But it isn’t. We can be assured, though, that God will indeed finish the good work he began in us (Phil. 1:6). This is a walk of faith, a race to the finish line that will lead us out of our struggle with sin and temptation and into glory. One day we will be with our Savior, worshiping him forever. We’ll never again worship the idol of man.

 

 

  • This post first appeared at TGC.
Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

Sorrowful, Yet Always Rejoicing

I have walked this earth a short 39 years, but in that time I have experienced a wide range of trials. When I was a young child, my parents’ financial struggles meant that occasionally the electricity would be shut off and we would have to visit a relative’s home. During my freshman year of college, I was the victim of sexual assault (not rape, thankfully). A few months later my father passed away from his battle with cancer. As a young adult I have experienced four miscarriages, general health issues, and recently the sudden loss of my oldest sister.And yet I can honestly say I am joyful.

Joyful—but not without sorrow.

This Thanksgiving I imagine there are many of you who are wondering how in the world you might rejoice. How can you be thankful in a world full of pain? How can you be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing?

Real Pain

Trials of any kind bring a rush of emotions. The pain is real. The sorrow is real. It’s hard to endure at times. And it’s all but inevitable.

God never once promised this Christian life would be without trouble. In fact, Jesus told us explicitly that we will have tribulation in this life (John 16:33). All we need to do is live long enough, and surely trials will arrive.

So we don’t have to pretend to be without pain this Thanksgiving—or any day of the year. And thankfully we have a Savior who relates to our suffering. Jesus is aware of and acquainted with human grief—my grief and your grief. The God-Man endured both trials and temptation, though he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). He faced agony to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44). He even prayed fervently that his Father would take the cup of suffering away if at all possible.

And yet we know that Jesus willingly drank that cup. He chose to go to the cross, to suffer physical agony and emotional devastation. In his final moments on the cross, Mark records him saying, “’Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).

Jesus endured great pain, pain I can only imagine. But his pain was for a purpose—the redemption of the world. He did it on my behalf—and yours.

Purposeful Pain

Our pain, too, has a purpose. The believer knows that there’s a great and glorious purpose in trials. Suffering is designed to purify our faith. Peter comforted the Christians in Asia Minor by reminding them (thus reminding me) of the great purpose of suffering. He writes, “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” (1 Peter 1:6–7).

Any trial or suffering I endure is a testing of the genuineness of my faith. Charles Spurgeon addresses this in his classic, The Suffering of Man and the Sovereignty of God. Referring to Job, whose genuine faith was tested by extreme suffering. Spurgeon writes, “In what better way can the believer reveal his loyalty to his Lord? He evidently follows his Master, not in fair weather only, but in the foulest and roughest ways.”

The beauty of faith is that it isn’t something I have to come up with on my own. It’s a gift from God! All good things, including the faith to endure trails, comes from him (James 1:17). He graciously grants me faith to trust that he is with me in my days of trouble and will sustain me to the end as he has promised. So though trials may come, I can be confident that he will give me the sustaining grace for them.

And I Rejoice

You and I can rejoice in suffering because we know we have a living hope. We know that our hope will bring us to an eternal glory. You and I will one day rise and be with Christ forever. We can rejoice in suffering today because we know that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5). This is the truth that you and I can easily forget in times of sorrow but that God is good and faithful to remind us of through his Word, his Spirit, and friends who preach it to our hearts and minds.

So though I have experienced various trials—and will no doubt experience more in the future—my hope is in Christ. I can rejoice during these trials in my living hope, knowing that nothing—no great trial, no pain or sorrow, and no one—will separate me from the love of God.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37–39).

About Last Night and Thank You!

About Last Night and Thank You!

Thern has been out of town for a week and last night I found myself desperately in need of prayer. I was on the phone with my Thern, sobbing. I was filled with fear, confusion, doubts, and sorrows. I realized that a situation I’ve been praying about was truly out of my control. I may never see justice. I may never be reconciled. I may never experience peace. The truth may not prevail. The open door for me to share my concerns may have just been closed to me. At least those were all my anxious thoughts. I’m not one to be less than transparent so I asked everyone I could think of to pray. I don’t remember a time or day when I have ever felt my absolute human weakness and a need for dependence on God to rescue my heart and mind than I did last night.

Thank you!

Many of you called, texted, sent notes, and messaged me to remind me what my mind and heart could not remember. God is for me and if this is true, who can be against me? Not only that, he has given me a way of escape to experience his peace. I can lean on him for understanding. He is my refuge and rock, my salvation! I can trust him to do his good will in this situation and all situations.

This morning, I woke up aware that God is indeed on the move. My friend and colleague, Phillip Bethancourt, said to me during a podcast interview: “What if the one thing you are asking Jesus to take away is the one thing he is using to conform you to Christ.” Yep. I get it. I’m currently writing a book on enduring in the faith. There’s no wonder that I’m learning how to endure.

Thank you all for your prayers. I believe the Lord used them and I’m confident that he will use them in greater ways in the future. Let’s keep praying! God is good and near to the brokenhearted. I’m confident that God is working such good in this and me as I learn to trust him with the unknown.

THANK YOU!

p.s. Thern gets back today! 🙂 We are thrilled!

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