Friday, November 27, 2015

Is Your Story in God's Story?

God's story of the creation of the earth and His purpose for his children is being written as you read this. If you are a child of God, you are in the book God is writing and you have your own chapter. You are writing that chapter now, and the experiences you have gone through are in that chapter and they are there to prepare you for the rest of the book, yet to be written. 
Why is this important?  Because the story of your life and how God has reconciled you is unique and significant. People need to hear your story because it represents the power of Christ, of what He has done and what He will do in the future. 

You may have grown up with two Christian parents like me and you think your story of becoming a follower of Christ to be rather boring. But I would bet there are some significant events that shaped your faith that are unique to you.  From the victories to the trials and heartbreaks of life, each experience has probably had some kind of relationship to your faith. Even though my story does not include a spectacular conversion, I look back and see significant events that chronicle a relationship with Jesus.
For me, I grew up with a thorough understanding of God's law because I had Christian parents but I had no clue about God's grace. It wasn't until I was invited to church by a high school friend that I began to learn about the grace of God. It was at this small church in West Covina, California that I would accept God's grace, become involved in the church for the first time and develop a passion for ministry. I vividly remember exchanging my life for Christ on a mountain side during a weekend church retreat. These four years radically shaped my understanding of God's grace and my purpose for living. Over the years, through my many mission trips and involvement with all kinds of people in ministry, my understanding of God's grace and truth has grown. It's like discovering the universe.  The further you go and the more of it you discover, the deeper it gets. You realize that you have just scratched the surface. 

I remember telling my story to a man from Scotland I was sitting next to on an African Safari. He and his mother were on a vacation of a lifetime and this safari was the highlight. The context of my story was that this Scottish man had been trying out the Mormon religion for a couple of years. I used my story to explain the difference between Christianity and Mormonism. It was a surreal experience because we were on this incredible photo safari, seeing amazing animals but he was more interested in hearing about the grace and love of Jesus Christ. He prayed to receive Christ the following day and I baptized him in a small pool attached to our lodge.  You never know how and when God will use your story to impact someone's life for Christ. 

What is your story?  How often have you shared it with others? There is someone who would benefit from your experience. When given the opportunity, ask someone about their story.  Give them a prompting to share and then share yours also.  You will both be blessed. And if you are not a follower of Jesus yet, God wants to include you in His book of life. Let Him write your chapter by giving your life to Him today!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

God's amazing personal love

I must admit I feel uneasy talking about my "personal" relationship with God. Someone once told me, "John, you would never say when talking about your earthly father, 'I have a 'personal relationship' with my Dad". You'd just say, 'I have a relationship with my Dad'. So why would you need to add 'personal' when describing your relationship with Christ"?  Yes, I guess it is possible to fixate on the personal aspect of our relationship with God to such an extreme that it becomes selfish and possessive. And yet what separates Christianity from the rest of the world's religions is that Christians believe that God is involved intimately with every individual believer. As Galatians 2:20 says, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This is what makes God so incredibly great, that our triune God, (God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) has the power to answer individual prayers and work in the lives of every single believer to redeem, transform and glorify them.

I've experienced just how deep and personal God's love for me and others is during my walk with Christ over the years, I've encountered God's love in so many different ways, in every area of my life, all in ways very unique to me. When I needed comforting during a time of grief, He was the great comforter. Time and time again, when I needed strength to make a decision that required risk and courage, God provided inspiration and power.  When I needed words to say to comfort and encourage someone else, God gave me just what to articulate. When I needed to crawl up in His lap and be loved, I felt his presence through scripture, prayer and worship. His love runs deep, to meet our individual needs in every situation. And when a miracle is needed, yes God provides those too.

I remember a time when God provided miraculously during a mission trip to Mexico. Our mission team was working at an orphanage for special needs children run by a pastor in Piedras Negras. During a devotional time, I read a letter written by one of our missionaries overseas that shared how God seemed to always provide exactly what they needed at exactly the right time. I then talked to our team about the sacrifice that this pastor was making and how he had shared with us that this had been a very difficult time financially for his family and the orphanage.  I was about to pray that God would provide for the pastor when my cell phone rang.  I seldom received a signal in Mexico but somehow I had service at this time.  I didn't recognize the number so I thought I'd better take the call and I asked another member of our team to pray while I answered it.

The person on the other end of my phone introduced himself by saying, "you don't know me, but my wife went on one of those mission trips to Piedras Negras with you last year. She was so impressed with the pastor and the orphanage that we committed to giving money to the orphanage if we ever sold our business.  Well, we have just sold it and we want to send you a check for the pastor in Mexico." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I seldom received a phone call in Mexico and had never ever had someone call and say they wanted to provide for this orphanage. But here was a call answering a prayer at the exact time we were praying for it! 

When I returned to the team and told them, we were all totally amazed and in awe of God and spent the rest of the night praising Him.  God's love is so personal that He knows our every need and provides for us in our very unique ways at just the right time!

For more amazing stories about the miracles of God that I've experienced go to: Miracles on the Mission Field.

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