Tuesday, May 31, 2011

my heart broken in Haiti (day 3)

Hi DW's! As many of you already know, last week I was in Haiti on a missions trip with friends. I was part of a small group of four people who independently traveled there to help out friends at The Apparent Project. The trip proved to be overwhelming on so many levels considering the large amount of poverty and the mass rubble still present from last year's earthquake in Port au Prince. Anyway, my bunk-mate and fellow DW friend, Jennifer, wrote a daily synopsis of the experience (from her viewpoint) in order to update family and friends while we were there. I was so impressed with her writings, I asked for her permission to post them here on Fresh Flowers for the coming week. We hope and pray that these daily entries paint a real-life picture for you and bless your hearts to further help the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned as mandated in James 1:27.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Ladies, each one of us is able to make a difference in the lives of others! We must only be willing to follow God's call! May you be richly blessed by His love as you enjoy Jennifer's writings this upcoming week. Blessings! ~Victoria

(Pictured above: Peterson & DW Jennifer)

My Heart Broken in Haiti (Day 3)
By Jennifer TheodorouYesterday was a day of complex emotions for me. For the most part, it was a day of great joy. Joy found in places I would never find at home. It was a busy day of multiple tasks, all in an effort of preparation for a very special guest at Apparent Project. The new President of Haiti is said to be preparing for a visit. President Martellie, throughout his campaign stood on a platform of Job Creation and Development. He understands that without employment for the Haitian people, there are no answers to any other problems here. Obviously, someone has told him that Apparent is getting the job done.

And so, a great part of today was spent painting the entry courtyard of the Guesthouse/Artisan workshop. Well protected by some serious sunscreen and armed with a paint brush and a small bench for reaching the higher places, I set to work.

To be honest, painting is not my most favorite task at home. Painting in 90 degree heat and humidity? Something I would surely try to avoid. But here, as I worked, I found myself overwhelmed with immense joy. True happiness in my heart to be helping with such important preparations. I actually felt HONORED! I mean, imagine (if) the president of the United States was planning a visit to your home or place of business! Wow!

So, for several hours I painted by myself while the others performed other tasks around the house. After completing one area of the courtyard, and about as much sun as I could handle for the moment, I took a break. I ate a granola bar, had some water and allowed myself to cool down a bit.

The others had now joined in on a second area, so I found myself a place in the shade that needed some work. As I worked I heard a young voice, "Hello.", with a strong creole accent. I looked over to the street side window where I worked to see the sweetest face of a young Haitian boy peering in.

I greeted him, "Bonjour.", and introduced myself, "Mwen rele, Jennifer."

He introduced himself as Peterson.

He surprised me by speaking rather good English, and before long he had unlatched the gate, entered the courtyard, grabbed a paintbrush and eagerly joined in. He had obviously been here before. As we worked he made small talk, in English, and gave me Creole lessons as we went along.

Peterson is 12 and very bright. Sweetly at one point he asked me "Do you love Jesus?" With a resounding "Oui!", I answered him. He responded that he too loved Jesus and that I was his Sister. Talk about joy in my heart! Wow!

Shortly, Shelley passed by on her way home for a bit. She informed me that Peterson was the street boy she had told us about yesterday, the one who lost both of his parents in the earthquake. He has a brother and sister too, but they disappeared after the quake and he never found them.

At one point Peterson told me that he loves Shelley, and in what was a little less clear English I believe he said she is like his mama. He began to tell me about his mother and father and his voice changed, his eyes dampened. He couldn't say much. I just told him I was so sorry and put my hand on his for a moment. He nodded sadly and we went back to work. After a bit he told me he was hungry so I gave him one of the granola bars I had packed and he was content. We finished our task, looked at our handy work and concluded, "Cest Bon."... "It is good."

I looked at Peterson, covered from his fingertips to his shoulders in beige paint and asked if he would like to wash it off. With a "Yes, please." I headed off to find some baby wipes. When I returned he simply stretched out his arm and let me begin to gently wash the paint from his skin. Quietly I cleaned him up as would any mother with her own child, and it was obvious that he was soaking up every moment of this loving care.

For the next couple hours Peterson entertained us with more creole lessons and dancing to his favorite songs that another worker at Apparent played on his phone. When it was time for us to get ready to go to the Clays for dinner Peterson was reluctant to leave. As he finally resolved that he must go, he hugged me and placed the most gentle kiss on my cheek. He said "I love Jennifer", (and) asked if he would see me tomorrow. I said I would be here.

Over dinner at the Clays we talked a lot about adoption here in Haiti. The good orphanages with appropriate caretaker to child ratios, and the not so good with a 100 children and 2 or 3 caretakers. I asked about Peterson. Shelley shared that they have been trying to find a way to help him. I learned that Peterson spends his nights in the tent of a woman who has beaten him before. They don't know who she is, but that the situation is not good.

There is not much hope for Peterson. With both parents deceased and no legal documentation of birth or death certificates, he cannot enter the adoption system. Orphanages will not take him. He is not in school, and who knows how much longer this woman will let him sleep in her tent.

This day that began with such joy, was ending with such sorrow. My first heartbreak in Haiti. I know I will see Peterson again this week, and my love for him will grow, as will the desire to help him, and the reality that beyond this week here, I cannot. I will pray for him probably every day for the rest of my life, if only this were enough.

(Continued tomorrow...)

Monday, May 30, 2011

my heart in Haiti (day 2)

Hi DW's! As many of you already know, last week I was in Haiti on a missions trip with friends. I was part of a small group of four people who independently traveled there to help out friends at The Apparent Project. The trip proved to be overwhelming on so many levels considering the large amount of poverty and the mass rubble still present from last year's earthquake in Port au Prince. Anyway, my bunk-mate and fellow DW friend, Jennifer, wrote a daily synopsis of the experience (from her viewpoint) in order to update family and friends while we were there. I was so impressed with her writings, I asked for her permission to post them here on Fresh Flowers for the coming week. We hope and pray that these daily entries paint a real-life picture for you and bless your hearts to further help the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned as mandated in James 1:27.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Ladies, each one of us is able to make a difference in the lives of others! We must only be willing to follow God's call! May you be richly blessed by His love as you enjoy Jennifer's writings this upcoming week. Blessings! ~Victoria

(Pictured above: A typical tent house in Haiti)

My Heart in Haiti (Day 2)
By Jennifer Theodorou
It's 5 a.m. The roosters are crowing, the light of day is breaking the horizon. After being awake for 36 hrs with early morning travel I am grateful to have gotten a few hours rest.

Last night I drifted off to sleep to the sound of a gently rumbling thunder storm. A sound I have always enjoyed and found somewhat soothing. As I lie here this morning I am thinking about the 800,000 people still in tents here. As I was soothed to sleep last night, their floors were turning to mud. They probably spent half the night adjusting and readjusting the tarps and sheets that comprise some of these tents, in an effort to stay even remotely dry. Some sheltering 3, 4, 5 children in the elements.

Hurricane season in coming. June 1st marks the beginning of a season of fear here. It is guaranteed that MANY storms will form over the Caribbean waters in the months ahead. And many prayers will be lifted up here, that this country would be spared another major disaster. With so many people outside of secure shelter, a direct hit from a hurricane would guarantee death of thousands more Haitians.

Yesterday I asked Shelley, our host, where all these people were before the quake. There were no tent cities before last years disaster. I learned that some were in apartments that collapsed, some rented houses that collapsed, and some rented houses that stood strong. The houses that survived were often owned by people who's primary residence did not. Landlords kicking out tenants so that they could have shelter for themselves and their families. None the less, 800,000 people still needing so much. Where will this help come from?

Yesterday I was blessed with the opportunity to meet 2 of the three families that we built homes for at the start of the new year. I got to stand within the walls that now protect their families. I was overcome with emotion. It was hard to explain. I was filled with joy in knowing that God used me and those that joined me in giving, to change these peoples lives. They, for the most part, were dry last night.

I don't share this to bring any glory to myself. It was all obedience to the calling of the Holy Spirit I felt clearly in my heart last October. It was all God moving those who gave into action. To GOD be the glory! I share this because I want people to see how it IS possible to make a difference. Hopefully in the next few days I will meet Nadege, who works here at Apparent. She received our third house. We have not changed the world here in Haiti, but in the lives of these three families, we have made a difference.

If you read my post yesterday, you'll recall my cry to the Lord, asking how I could possibly help in a nation that needed so much. He showed me, and I obeyed. Maybe you find yourself asking the same question. How can I possibly help? You can. You don't need to be rich, you don't have to pack up your life and move to Haiti. Through Apparent you can host a jewelry party. It costs you nothing. The jewelry is sent to you at no charge. You just track the sales and return the funds you receive. Each artist is paid 80% of the sales price when their pieces sell. 20% goes back into materials and aids in the cost of feeding the artists and their children each day that they come to work. How many of you have hosted or been to one of those ridiculously priced jewelry parties? How bout hosting one that is changing the lives of people in need?

Jewelry not your thing? Organize a cereal box drive at your kids school or in your work place. These materials are used to make the amazing paper beads that adorn the Apparent jewelry.

Are you in a circle of people that ARE financially in a position to give? That have hearts for those in need? Challenge people to help you raise funds to build a home here. It only takes $1600-3200.

If nothing else, please pray for Haiti and her people. Pray that God's protection would be with them during this hurricane season. Pray that the new president, recently inaugurated, would be able to establish change here, so that funds promised to Haiti would be received. Pray for Apparent and the Clays. For endurance, protection, wisdom and opportunity. There are big things on the horizon for Apparent. I'll share more about that later.

Today we will begin some work here at the Apparent guest house and artisan work shop in preparation for what's ahead. We will be painting, reorganizing, moving some furniture; anything and everything we can in the time we have been given. Please pray for our safety.

Give thanks for this day! For all that the Lord has blessed you with! For there are many here who have nothing. And in that nothingness they STILL praise the Lord!

(Continued tomorrow...)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

my heart in Haiti (day 1)

Hi DW's! As many of you already know, last week I was in Haiti on a missions trip with friends. I was part of a small group of four people who independently traveled there to help out friends at The Apparent Project. The trip proved to be overwhelming on so many levels considering the large amount of poverty and the mass rubble still present from last year's earthquake in Port au Prince. Anyway, my bunk-mate and fellow DW friend, Jennifer, wrote a daily synopsis of the experience (from her viewpoint) in order to update family and friends while we were there. I was so impressed with her writings, I asked for her permission to post them here on Fresh Flowers for the coming week. We hope and pray that these daily entries paint a real-life picture for you and bless your hearts to further help the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned as mandated in James 1:27.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

Ladies, each one of us is able to make a difference in the lives of others! We must only be willing to follow God's call! May you be richly blessed by His love as you enjoy Jennifer's writings this upcoming week. Blessings! ~Victoria

(Pictured above: DW Jennifer and DW Victoria)

My Heart in Haiti (Day 1)
By Jennifer Theodorou
The view from the plane on this early morning flight is an incomparable reminder of the foremost purpose for this journey; the Glory of God. The God who created the earth below, the God who created the sun in the sky, is who I desire to serve, exemplify and glorify in the week ahead. He put this path before me, one I never thought, until about six months ago, my feet would ever walk upon. Several years ago I joined my brothers and sisters in Christ to pray over a couple from our small group as they were preparing to depart for a mission trip to Mexico. At that time the only thought I had about missions was how beautiful it was that THEY were called to serve in this way. No personal thoughts of action ever crossed my mind.

Forward to January 2010. Haiti had just been devastated by a massive earthquake. I've never been one to follow world news, but I found myself glued to the coverage of this unimaginable disaster. And not in a train-wreck kind of way either. My heart was broken for these people in a way I had never experienced before. I would watch CNN, cry and pray, watch, cry and pray. I had no connections to Haiti, but the pain I felt in my heart for this nation, these people, was personal.

Four days after the quake our Pastor announced that he would be going to Haiti. I turned to my husband quietly and said, "I swear, if he said there was an extra seat on that plane, I'd be in it." I didn't really know what I had to offer these people in the midst of such grief, but if it were just to hold the hand of someone in despair, I would go. I followed our pastors journey and grieved right along side him and those he encountered.

Over the next few months, as the media coverage quieted down, so did my heart. Around May, my friend Sara began her involvement with The Apparent Project in Haiti. She was introduced to the organization as a possibility for employing Haitians in the production of a simple product to be sold in the Fair Trade market. We began supporting Apparent by selling the beautiful jewelry their artisans make in our salon suites. (Jennifer is a hairdresser by trade.)

I began to follow the blogs of Shelley Clay, founder of Apparent, and quickly found my heart consumed once again, with grief for Haiti and it's people. Shelley writes in a way that allows you to see what she writes about, to feel what she feels in her daily walk with this nation. After reading a particularly painful blog, I found myself overwhelmed with a desire to help these people.

Again in tears, I cried out to God, asking, "How can I possibly help? I'm one person. This is a NATION in need of so much!" Over the next few months God showed me what one person, led by the Holy Spirit, could do. I found myself blessed with several opportunities at my church, to have large jewelry sales for Apparent. And I felt led to encourage friends and clients in a holiday drive to build homes in Haiti for the new year.

Through the generosity of these loved ones, and by the grace of God, three homes were built for families by March 2011. In prayer, I walked beside my friend Sara on her first trip to Haiti. I told her, while she was there, to be thinking of how I could be of help if I joined her on her next trip. And here we are, in mid air, 6 hours away from touchdown in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I never thought I would be here. But God had a plan for me, long before I knew of it.

I am excited for what I will experience, anxious for what I will learn, and overjoyed for the opportunity. I pray that the Lord will use us this week to be His hands and feet. That we will be able to serve Him, by serving others, EXUDING the love of Jesus Christ.

(Continued tomorrow...)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

good morning everyone!


Good morning everyone!

Let's say YES today!
Let's welcome in!
Let's open up and offer out!
Let's rejoice in the "good" of this good morning God has given!
Let's worship the Savior with our all!

ALL for Jesus!
ALL for His Way!
ALL for His Kingdom!
ALL for His Love!

Good morning everyone!

~Victoria

Sunday, May 8, 2011

everyday is a gift! everyday!!!

Chuck and I spent Saturday evening visiting with our dear friends Mike and Michele who are currently camped out at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Without going into extensive detail about Mike's physical condition, let me just say that for years he has suffered the threat of dangerous blood clots building up in his veins along with many other associated health concerns.

Today, Mike's health situation has reached a critical decision point for his perplexed doctors. The question: How to best treat Mike's health? Do they keep him in the hospital or do they release him? Do they perform a very dangerous, life-threatening surgical procedure that may or may not improve Mike's condition, or do they leave everything as is and manage Mike's blood flow (which thankfully for now is reaching all his major organs) with thinning agents and pain management medicines? Either decision is risky. Neither decision is easy. But one thing is certain... moving forward, both decisions will result in the same undebatable, undeniable, and unquestionable truth for Mike and those who love him: Everyday is a gift! Everyday!!!

Chuck and I spent Sunday afternoon visiting with family to celebrate Mother's Day together. Without going into extensive details about the many events and participants involved in our day, let me just say that I was one of five people packed into a car who drove about an hour across Illinois in order to meet up with other beloved relatives to enjoy a lovely luncheon together.

To get to our location quickly, Chuck decided to take the expressway. This resulted in our group arriving earlier than expected before our reservation. So, there we were... together in a historic, little town with time to kill. As it turned out, we decided to use our free time to bum around in a quaint antique/resale shoppe that, upon first glance, may as well have been painted by Norman Rockwell himself. This place had everything! It was bursting at the seems with all sorts of memories from yesterday past.

I love places like that. Places that remind me of lives lived before my own life began. Places filled with precious remnants once greatly appreciated and newly purchased by their original owners... hobbies enjoyed, books read, fashions revealed, souvenirs acquired, time lived. Ahhh.

While running my fingers down the worn lines of an old furnishing that most likely graced someone's home only a century before, I kept thinking about the one truth that the Lord so evidently made clear to me while in the hospital with Mike and Michele just the day before: Everyday is a gift! Everyday!!!

The luncheon proved to be a grand success. Everyone hugged and said their farewells, then piled back into their vehicles to head back to familiar destinations. Since the weather was sunny and the temperature delightful, Chuck decided to spoil our group by meandering through the back roads. This allowed our original five to travel home laughing and sharing stories of life. Life that has proven to be a gift for each of us. Life that has been both a solitary journey as well as communion alongside one another. Life, no matter how difficult, we each still appreciate - no matter how trying a moment has been faced... no matter how terrible an experience has been endured. No, yesterday those hard times were easily discarded (if only for a short while) as our ride home paused our spirits to enjoy the beauty of scenic farmlands, breezy country roads, rusty tractors, playful horses, faded barns, white picket fences, reminiscent chit-chat, happy seconds. Yesterday, LIFE (in and of itself) proved good, and the blessedness enjoyed was undebatable, undeniable, and unquestionable.

This got me to thinking: a good life is what we each crave, isn't it? The desire of every living being is to enjoy these moments of poetic fullness, feelings of acceptance and love, visions of beauty, experiences of pleasure... purpose...hope! LIFE!

Everyday is a gift! Everyday!!!

I realize by now that some of you might be wondering why I feel compelled to share these experiences for what seems to most to be an ordinary Monday morning. But to this I ask you: Is today really ordinary? For isn't today the only Monday, May 9, 2011 that our earth's history will ever record? Isn't this "now" the only moment you can really choose to rejoice in, appreciate, enjoy, and LIVE? If so, how will you choose to live THIS day... and who will you live it for?

Might I suggest you choose to live for the One who can insure that this "now" - this good part of life that everyone is so desperately scrambling to hold onto - will continue and actually improve for the better? You see, there is a NEW LIFE of everlasting goodness that Jesus has offered to those who will choose to receive Him. His is an even better life... an ETERNAL life!!! A life without uncertainty, sickness, horror, hardship, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, hatred or fear. A good, holy, perfect life that He is able to assure us of - even after our gift of "everydays" on this earth have past by and concluded.

Friends, there is no denying that in this world human death is as certain as the life you are presently living. Our time on this planet is limited. Our important agendas, dearest relationships, and valuable belongings will one day become memories, relics, and antiques of yesteryear and we will each ultimately pass away and likely be forgotten. Everyday is limited here. But everyday promised in Christ offers us an eternity of whatever is good, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, whatever is excellent and praiseworthy. Oh, what a wonderful life Jesus has to offer!!! But this NEW LIFE can only exist in His presence. It can only be found in His kingdom and under His rule. Indeed, this NEW LIFE is the life our Creator originally intended for us to know and enjoy in the glory of His holy presence!

The Bible says that from the dust of the ground God created man in His own image and breathed into His nostrils the breath of LIFE! (Life comes from God!) Unfortunately, man selfishly turned against God and corrupted his own existence by choosing to sin. And, unfortunately, where there is sin, there is death. (Just look around - death consistently surrounds us and threatens us. I hate sin and death! Don't you?)

Thankfully, God - the Giver of all LIFE, loves us enough to keep on giving! To right our selfish wrong, He came to earth and paid the ultimate price for our sin! Sure, this world still displays many examples of His creation - the good He first intended for mankind to enjoy. For our God is gracious, loving, and anxious to extend us His goodness - even to those who deny Him. Why? Because He loves mankind and desires to be intimately close to us forever. However, ultimately God cannot allow sin. Corruption must be corrected or removed. So, man must either choose God's gift to become new again (Jesus) or be removed from His kingdom forever. If we choose Jesus, our sin is forgiven. If we reject Him, we will die and be removed forever - then the gift of life will be lost FOREVER.

Knowing this, will you choose Jesus as your Savior, dear friend? Will you trust and learn to obey His loving, life-giving Word? Will you believe that His Way is healthy, good, and can insure you eternal LIFE? I pray that you will. For this is the day... this is the moment... this is the only "now" you have to choose Jesus... the Giver that keeps on giving!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

In Jesus Holy Name, I wish you all His eternal goodness, love, and blessings!
Love you all!
XOX!

~Victoria

___________________________________________________

P.S. For those who seek to receive the gift of NEW LIFE in Jesus Christ...

Can people in today's world have hope? Yes. God's power can make us secure.
Many people today live without hope. They have no resources to strengthen them or guide them through their struggles in life. However, the focus of the Christian faith is God's power to help us in whatever trials arise. Through Jesus we are able to receive a power great enough to bring salvation and deliverance. It is available to any person who believes His Word.

Romans 1:16, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile."

God's power results in change.
Through God's loving plan, people can change. The biblical word for "change" is repentance. This means allowing God to change the direction of our lives for what is best.

Romans 2:4, "God's kindness leads you toward repentance."

Sin makes change necessary.
Why do people need to change? According to the Bible, every human being has to face the problem of sin. Sin is to fall short of the standard we were originally created to uphold. The Bible teaches that God created us in His image with a standard of perfection. (See Matthew 5:48) However, man failed to meet that standard by disobeying God's plan. As a result, man has to face his problem of sin. We may do much that is good, and we may not want to do anything bad, but no person can measure up to God's standard of ALWAYS doing what is right.

Romans 3:23, "All have sinned and fall short to the glory of God."

God still loves us.
Some people think that our failure to meet God's standard results in God being our enemy. But the message of Jesus is that in spite of our sin, God still loves us. God hates sin.... not men. But God's love for us is not based on an unawareness or intolerance that overlooks our sin. God cannot tolerate sin. So, the Lord sent His perfect Son to take man's place for the penalty of sin. God demonstrated the depth and reality of His love for us, by doing what was necessary to overcome mankind's problem with sin. (See John 3:16 again.)

Romans 5:8, "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Sin earns death, but God gives life.
Sin would not be a problem, if it did not have serious consequences. However, the consequences of sin are too serious to overlook. Whenever we sin, the Bible says we earn the wages of death. This means, if every person is guilty of sinning, then every person must die. This does not refer to a physical death alone. This refers to a spiritual death and complete separation from God for eternity. (See John 3:36 and Revelation 20:11-15) However, because He loves us, God provided an eternal solution so that we may live with Him for all eternity. Jesus died on the cross in our place as a sacrifice to save us from death. (See 1 Peter 3:18) He took our guilt for sin upon Himself so that His death would fulfill the judgment against our sin. (See 2 Corinthians 5:21 and Colossians 2:13-14) Basically, Jesus substituted Himself so that we could live! By our own works, we earn death. But by His grace we can receive eternal life. This is the loving gift that God offers to mankind.

Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The Call to Salvation: Confess / Repent / Believe / Call

Confess: The biblical word translated confess means to "say the same thing". When we confess Jesus as Lord, we are recognizing His rightful authority over us - agreeing with who He says He is. (See Isaiah 45:5-7, 22-24 and Philippians 2:10-11) In acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, we admit our sin and the problem it poses for us.

Repent: In accepting Jesus authority, we can then repent of our sins and turn away from the hopeless life we have been living on our own terms. Rather, we can obey and serve Him by living a God-oriented life (rather than self-oriented). This turning away from sin in order to follow Jesus is called "repentance".

Believe: Believing God means to trust God. When you you choose to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, you have confidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus are enough to secure your salvation. You are trusting the work of Christ, rather than your own works to save you. You are putting the certainty of your physical and eternal life in His hands.

Call: Acknowledging that Jesus is now the rightful Lord in control of your life, and believing in His work alone for our salvation results in our calling on Him to be saved. Anyone who is willing to call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Anyone. No other qualifications are required. To call on the name of the Lord is to ask Him for forgiveness of sin and for salvation. By doing this, you are acknowledging Jesus as your Lord and expressing your intention to live a life following Him.

Romans 10:9-10, 13, "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
The Sinner's Prayer
Would you like to have an intimate, eternal relationship with the One who made you and loves you unconditionally? If so, tell Him in your own words or repeat this simple prayer of repentance (below). Note: The language used in a person's prayer of salvation is not the primary issue. The action of genuinely committing one's life to Christ matters the most. Words are not more holy or effective if they are scripted. The prayer shown below is only to help someone express what they want Jesus to do in their life.

“Father in Heaven, until now I have been living life my own way, but I want to start living for You. I trust You. Through the working of Your Holy Spirit, I realize I’ve sinned before You and come to You in repentance. I believe that You loved me so much that You sent Jesus, Your Only Son, to fully pay the penalty for my sin by dying on the cross. I receive the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf and trust Him as my Lord and Savior. Because Jesus rose from the dead, I will live eternally in Your perfect, glorious presence. Dear God, thank you for forgiving me, making me Your child, and preparing a place for me in Heaven. Amen.”

Those who have accepted Jesus as Savior have hope because we are heirs of God!
Once we have accepted God's gift of salvation, God adopts us as His own children, and His Holy Spirit assures us that we are part of His family. According to Roman law at the time of Paul's writing, someone's adopted son also became his heir. While Christ is God's heir by nature, Christians have become God's heirs by adoption. Therefore, we are now joint heirs with Christ Jesus.

Verses 38-39 tell us that we are eternally secure in God because Jesus defeated the principalities and powers of this earth. The result is that we need not fear any human or superhuman enemies. Nothing can separate us from God's love in Jesus Christ!!! Believers can live with hope because they are God's children - secure in His eternal love. GOOD NEWS!!!

Romans 8:16-17, 38-39, "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 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."

Faith = Life for God
Once you become a Christian, God calls you to live your life for Him. He wants only the very best for you! By following His commands, your life will change to become more like Jesus who is perfect. New Christians can expect their life to be different because of this. God wants a Christian's life to change (even if it means sacrifice). The goal for believers is to look and live less like the unsaved world and more like Jesus. That kind of change only happens because God brings it about. He will transform the new Christian's life, making it more like the life of Jesus. (See Philippians 1:6 and 2:13) It is important to note that a person does not need to be "religiously inclined" to become a faithful Christian. Jesus is all you need to focus on. He will make you look and live like one of His children.

Romans 12:1-2, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Blessings!
Blog Posting Written By Victoria Anderson

Saturday, May 7, 2011

false gods

Every now and then, I like to poke my head out into the world to see who and what is being said by the elite, leaders, and celebrities that the masses follow. Today, I found myself visiting a famous talk show host's website. This is a person who has a disturbing amount of influence and power in this world, but sadly does not claim Jesus as her Savior. She is a person who I will continue to pray for, but refuse to follow or recommend no matter how big a philanthropist she may present herself to be.

Anyway, on her website, this talk show host has dedicated an entire section to showcase all things spiritual... at least spiritual to her. There, her flavor-of-the-month assigned spiritual advisor is showcased under the headline "How to be Spiritual Every Day" along with the following quote, "While it's good to have strong relationships with the people in your life, it's important to put your relationship with your 'Source' at the top of your priority list... Your Source can be God, the Tao, Divine mind, Krishna or whatever else you call your higher power—the key is that you make this bond your number one."

Ladies, do you realize that society has stopped looking to God's Word for answers and has instead decided to daily seek the "spiritual" advice offered by a talk show host and her paid network associates? Let me just say that again... A TALK SHOW HOST AND HER PAID NETWORK ASSOCIATES!!!! And the "spiritual" advice presented is BAD ADVICE, to say the least! Anyone who wants to stand up and publicly proclaim that I should hold the ONE TRUE GOD as an equal to the shuffled deck of false gods created by men until I find the one who is best matched to work as my "source" of choice is pointing me in only one direction... toward SATAN! Call on whatever "god" you wish... it doesn't matter... if you are not following JESUS CHRIST... you will only find eternal death and separation from your Creator.

Look in 1 Kings 18. King Ahab and the people of Israel were following the many false gods of Ba'al. Elijah boldly stood up against the wicked king and his prophets to offer a challenge. His purpose: to show Israel WHO was the real God... the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob... or the false gods of Ba'al. Here is what happened:

THE CHALLENGE IS MADE
Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the Lord's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire - he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good."

BA'AL... ARE YOU THERE?
Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

GOD IS GOD!
Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it... He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."

"Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord - he is God! The Lord - he is God!" (1 Kings 18:22-39)


The times of Ba'al actually parallels the "spiritual" beliefs of today in so many ways. Here were the Israelites who had finally settled into the promised land only to be convinced by the elite, leaders, and celebrities of their day to worship God as an equal alongside the other gods and idols of Ba'al. Mind you, the Israelites never abandoned the idea of worshipping God. They simply added the syncretism to also accept the politically and socially acceptable Ba'al into their lives. Sure, God was who they would continue to call upon in real crisis and emergency. But Ba'al was more up-to-date... more modern... more in tune to everyday. Ba'al gods were recognized as the spiritual source of worship for all things natural, fertile, peaceful. Even though Ba'al promoted all sorts of sexual immorality, the desire for power and motives for personal and selfish gain, that wasn't really discussed. Rather, the gods of Ba'al were worshipped by followers who had high hopes that they would receive back from the generous gods in control of the earth so they could live their best life NOW... sound familiar?

Considering this, I strongly urge you to read what the Lord says in His Word...

"You shall have NO OTHER GODS before me." (Exodus 20:3)

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exodus 20:4)

"Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you." (Leviticus 18:24-28)

"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)


Ladies, the day is approaching when Christ will return and claim His throne. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is the ONE TRUE GOD... that Jesus Christ is LORD! And when unbelievers cry out in the name of their false gods...there will be no response, no one will answer, no one will pay attention.

I encourage you to consider who you are listening to for "spiritual" guidance and what false gods, sources, and idols you have accepted into your life. Are you following the unchanging, all-knowing wisdom of Jesus Christ, Creator of the Universe, Who Was and Is and Is To Come.... or are you following the feel-good advice of a talk show host?

Please think about it. Choose whom you will serve. But as for me and my house... WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!

Blessings!

~Victoria

Thursday, May 5, 2011

walking with God

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:24)

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)


Enoch walked with God. Enoch accompanied His Master. Enoch stayed close and served His King until he was lovingly escorted directly to the throne room of the Most High. Oh, to be Enoch... to walk through this life and into the next WITH God. To intimately know God's grace that is greater than all our sin. Amazing love! What joy and hope to behold! Yes, Enoch walked with God because God is all Enoch needed! As such, he pleased His Father with his continued devotion and faithfulness.

I just love the brevity of Enoch's story in scripture. It's as if the Almighty couldn't bare to be apart from His most faithful even one more second. "Just come be with me, Enoch... walk with me... remain with me... and while your at it... oh, why not just STAY with me forever!!!" Glory Hallelujah! Enoch walked with God!

Recently, Momba came across an old, worn book in her belongings and gave it to me to read. The fragile pages within it are separating from it's binding but the print remains sound and the message is definitively clear. You may wonder why my mother would give me this tattered old book to read? The reason is because of WHO the book represents. You see, it is a devotional, published in the 1940's, that was given to my Great Uncle Harold by the Servicemen's Committee of Roseland Evangelical Mission Church just before he left for World War II. During this time, my uncle served in the Army and traveled through North Africa, Italy, and Europe carrying this simple but substantial book in his pocket. As a medic, my uncle saw just about every horror resulting from war. As a man, he faced every emotional, physical, and spiritual trial that accompanies the life of military service.

After my uncle returned to the states, his mother (my great grandmother) decided to read this little devotional every day, documenting her prayers and praises within it's pages for 20 years. So, as you can imagine, this tattered little book holds many notes written by the hands of my ancestors. Needless to say, every page is a treasure to relish.

Each morning as I turn the delicate paper to the next calendar date, I am reminded of the generations that came before me who also turned these same pages. With every word I digest, I am comforted in the knowledge that my own family members read and absorbed these holy truths. Best yet, I am so very pleased to know that these faithful, devoted family members chose to walk with God through their own journey. Knowing their history, I am confident that God remained a constant presence beyond their last earthly breath and into His throne room where Enoch and others joyfully awaited their Heavenly debut. Glory Hallelujah! Uncle Harold walked with God! Great Grandma walked with God!

Interestingly enough, my uncle's devotional was written by Dr. Henry Ironside (a former pastor of Moody Church here in Chicago), and my grandmother had inserted a 1951 clipping of Dr. Ironside's death within the pages. The clipping reads,

"Dr. Henry A. Ironside, 74, pastor of Moody church, Clark st. and North ave., for 18 years until his retirement in 1948, died Sunday in a hospital in Cambridge, New Zealand, while on a world evangelistic tour, friends here learned yesterday. Dr. Ironside began his preaching career with the Salvation Army when he was 14 and later became a traveling evangelist and Bible conference minister. He became pastor of Moody church in 1930. He was the author of many religious books. Surviving are his widow, Ann, who was with him on the tour; a son, the Rev. John, and one daughter, Mrs. Gilbert I. Koppin. Burial will be tomorrow in Aukland, New Zealand. Memorial services will be held later in the Moody church."


As I think about the lives of Enoch, Dr. Ironside, my Uncle Harold, my great grandmother, and the impact of their individual existence here on earth... I'm amazed at how greatly God can use the lives of those who faithfully choose to walk with Him. Those who deliberately live with purpose to please their magnificent Creator. Those who carry His Word secure in their pocket through the worst of human storm and tragedy. Those who boldly evangelize His truth from the early age of 14 until the late age of 74. Those who quietly nurture their families day in and day out, trusting that their Master is always near and making it a priority to remain close to their King's redeeming presence.

Yes, these few walked with God. They were not perfect. They were not immune to trial or hardship. But they each made it a priority to know the Savior intimately. Today, these beloved brothers and sisters of the faith now stand free in the grace of the Lord God Almighty! Glory Hallelujah! For the same God that traveled alongside them, is also my great God. He is the God who will see me through this life and escort me into the next. He is the King who will direct my every step, even when the ground I walk upon quakes. He is the Master who promises to remain close... to always be with me... to always, always love me. He is my most cherished and faithful Friend. Yes, I'm with Him! No matter where this life takes me... I choose to walk with God! Blessed Jesus... Blessed Lord!

He who walks with God must take His way,
Across far distances and gray,
To goals that others do not see,
Where others do not care to be.

Who walks with God must have no fear,
When danger and defeat appear,
Nor stop when every hope seems gone,
For God, our God, moves ever on.

Who walks with God must press ahead,
When sun or cloud is overhead,
When all the waiting thousands cheer,
Or when they only stop to sneer;

When all the challenge leaves the hours,
And naught is left but jaded powers;
But he will some day reach the dawn,
For God, our God, moves ever on.

(Taken from H.A. Ironside's The Continual Burnt Offering)

Ladies, who are you walking with? Who do you trust and turn to? Who directs your path? Who do you seek for comfort in times of trouble? Who do you stay near in the simplicity and complexity of everyday life? Might I encourage you to make it a priority to walk with the One who knows you better than you know yourself? Might I suggest you seek Jesus first... His kingdom... His righteousness... His love! Really, don't just talk about it... do it! For He alone holds the plans to your future. So, walk closely with your God. And trust me when I tell you that the impact of this decision may not only benefit you, but it will likely impact generations to follow... so, onward Christian soldier! Our loving God will never leave or forsake you! In fact, He invites you to cling to His everlasting security, peace, hope, and wisdom. He gives you His trustworthy Word to know Him better... to be WITH Him more!

So, will you choose to walk with the King of kings? Will you please the Almighty Creator with your attentive faithfulness? Will you follow the Savior wherever He leads? Will you, beloved sister, choose to walk with God this very day? For this is the day to rejoice and be glad in Him. This is the day to enjoy His unchanging and everlasting friendship... a friendship with the Most Worthy and Most High! O Glory, Hallelujah!

When all is said and done, my hope is that the final chapter of your life here on earth will be written like this:

" ____________ (fill in your name) walked with God and
she was commended as one who pleased her King."
O Glory, Hallelujah! Today, ____________ (fill in your name) walks with God!!!

Blessings!

~Victoria

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