Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts on grace

       So what is grace?  Grace is God doing what man cannot do.  Grace makes salvation possible.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).  Grace is not just received, it is to be experienced more and more each day.  As Christians we are to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:2) and are to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18a).  Growing in grace is dying to self.  It is an attitude of allowing God to work through you, despite you.  Growing in grace is allowing God to do what you cannot do: display His holiness through your life.  That is why Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a).  Paul understood that only through God’s grace can others see Christ in him.  The fact that grace is a gift is to remind us that we are “not to think more highly of ourselves then we ought to think” (Romans 12:3). 

       We are saved through grace and are to live through grace.  “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Update on the shelter for trafficked women

       When we were over in Bucharest in February we had the chance to visit a shelter that was being opened up for women who have escaped from a life of forced prostitution.  The shelter, which was started by a Romanian believer, is now up an running!  Here are a few updates to what is going on there:

• Praise God that one of the girls living in the home placed her faith in Christ!
• A partnership was signed with Starbucks and the Radisson hotel in Bucharest with their agreement to offer jobs for the women living in the home. They will train them, provide extra medical testing, and offer other help. Starbucks is donating coffee and tea and discussing the possibility of donating 2% of their annual profit to the foundation.
• Air conditioners units were provided to us at a greatly reduced cost.  The sales director is a member of the Nazarene church in Bucharest.  We got the last units available in Romania because the EU now requires only one specific kind- much more expensive. They were installed in all the rooms for free, and the home also has extras waiting for the future rooms in the attic!

Above: One of the new ductless air conditioners 

• After much prayer, in faith we decided to begin the work in the attic, and we ordered the wood for the walls and the ceilings again at the wholesale cost from a fellow Christian. The day after the wood arrived, we received notice that a Nazarene church in the US donated the exact amount of money we paid for the wood.  We are speechless and in awe of God’s mighty way of providing.  So far, the structure has been framed for five rooms, two bathrooms and a kitchenette. By fall we hope to be able to house ten more women up here! Also, work is being done to replace the roof.  

Above: The attic last month
Above: Process!  Once these rooms are completed, the shelter will be 
able to take in ten more women.

Please be praying for the shelter in the following ways:
• Extra wisdom, discernment and strength for their staff for all aspects of ministry. 
• For Moni, the director, to balance work and family life, often feeling overwhelmed under the load.
• For all the future victims that will be referred to this shelter, that they will come to know God’s love, forgiveness and restoration. One young woman currently living here has a hard time believing God can forgive the terrible sins she’s keeps telling us she’s committed.
• For God’s continued provision for all our needs- financial and material.
• For work/ministry teams who might come to help with different projects on the building or with the women here.
• Plans are in the works for an event surrounding October 18, the European Day Against Human Trafficking, and there have been several meetings in coordination with other non-profit organizations also involved in fighting human trafficking. There would be many events: film screenings of Nefarious, flash mobs, a fashion show, and other events. Pray for good organization, unity among the planners, for plans to come together, and a great outcome.

Thank you everyone for your prayers for this ministry!

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
                                                                                  --John 13:35

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Learning to listen to the Holy Spirit's voice

       After high school I was going to head off to a big state college and study real estate economics and finance.  However, two weeks before classes started the school called me and said, “We ran out of room in the dorms, you have to get an apartment off campus.”    Distraught, I contacted my back up schools just to find out that it was too late to get in there.  The only school I knew of that I could get into last minute was a small Bible college.  So, I went there with the intention of just staying one semester and then transferring to a school I actually wanted to go to.  However, I brought my high school habits of cheating with me.
       About two months into classes I saw a video of a tribe of people living in a remote location hearing the gospel for the first time.  Many of the tribe believed instantly.  What stood out to me was that they had joy and excitement.  My first thought was, “I have been a Christian since I was a kid and don’t have that joy.  Either I am believing something different or I am doing something wrong.”  
       That thought caused me to dive into reading the Bible like I had never before.  I was excited!  ..Until I read for about one hour and a still small voice inside my head said, “I want you to tell on yourself for cheating on your first test.”  I pushed it off.  “No, I’m not going to do that.”  But the more I read the Bible, the stronger the voice got.  “I can’t tell on myself.”  I would reason.  “If I do that then I will get kicked out of this school!  I actually want to be here now so I don’t want to get kicked out.”  The voice replied, “I want you to trust me and tell on yourself.”  
So, did I go tell on myself?  Not yet.  I spent the next two days reading through most of the New Testament with the thought, “There has to be a way I can justify not telling on myself.”  Ultimately, I came to 1 Timothy 1:19, “Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.”  I instantly realized that the quiet voice I heard while reading the Bible was the Holy Spirit’s voice.  He was speaking to me, but I didn’t want to listen.  I thought it would be okay not to listen, “Just this one time!  Next time I will…  I won’t do it again!”  The verse in First Timothy was like a 2x4 to the head.  Not keeping a good conscience will result in suffering a faith shipwreck.  It will ruin you.  God gently came aside me in that moment and said, “I have replaced your conscience with my Spirit.  If you want to grow closer to me then you cannot push aside that voice any longer.  Listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice is how you grow closer to me.”
       So I did.  I told on myself for cheating.  It was hard.  I got a zero on the test, but I didn’t get kicked out.  I learned that even though it was difficult and humiliating I still got joy out of doing it.  Not because it was fun but because I knew it pleased God to listen to and obey Him. During this process I realized I had heard that voice for years telling me that I should read my Bible instead of watching a movie or that I should go talk to the guy in my class who is visibly hurting or to go talk to someone about Christ.  However, I don't think I ever wanted to admit that it was God's voice because not doing it meant I was disobeying Him.  It is easy to justify not going along with some idea that popped into you head, but when you admit that God is telling you do something it is blatant disobedience not to.  I must admit that I voluntarily lived ignorantly for years not listening to His voice.  That is why I never had the joy that comes with knowing Christ.
       Do you want more joy?  Listen to God's voice and obey Him!  It is difficult, but you will experience peace and joy like never before.  Please pray this month that the Body of Christ would learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice and that they would obey Him.  Also, please be praying with us that those who God desires to partner with this ministry would listen to His leading. 

I Samuel 15:22
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Praise God with us!  We had one of our financial partners increase the amount they are giving and we may have had one new partner join our team today!  (Many times we don't know until the following month if it is a one-time gift or if they desire to partner monthly.)