I haven’t published a blog post in a really long time. I have a few half-finished posts in my drafts folder, but I haven’t been able to find the words to finish them. Maybe it’s laziness, or the melancholy of the summer, or a desire to take the spotlight off of myself for awhile, but regardless I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into words for quite some time. And so instead of forcing something out, I just want to leave whatever audience I have with some truth that is ringing with a special tune of beauty for me tonight. This truth comes out of Romans 8.

1I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son-ship, the redemption of our bodies 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 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.

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Ever been so lost in your own thoughts that you can’t even seem to express it, even though you really want to?

Yeah, I’m there. I guess the only think I really want to say is that you are SO loved. You have VALUE, and it is much deeper than what you can (and will ever) do. You have a PURPOSE. You are beautiful!  You were created by a God who loves you so much that it grieves Him to be far from you. So much so that He allowed His Son to die in your place! Please don’t forget who you are, sweet children of the one true God.

My heart is so broken for the students here at Ohio University who are struggling and don’t know they have a great doctor healer and a father that loves them. I can’t imagine the isolation they feel, and the brokenness they face. Jesus, please show yourself to these students. You are the one and great Messiah, you love to heal and you died for my friends. Use me in whatever capacity you will. I’m praying for open hearts and minds, and for your Gospel to penetrate those really dark places in their lives. Thank you for your goodness and grace. Amen. 

Real Repentance

“The way which you destroy the power of your sin is by taking it to the cross, not Mount Sinai. If you take a sin to Mount Sinai that means you’re thinking about the danger of it. You’re thinking about how it has messed up your life.

You’re thinking about all the punishments that are probably going to come down on you for it. That is not repentance; that is self-pity. Self-pity and repentance are two different things. I came to a place in my life where I realized 90 percent of what I thought I had been doing as repentance throughout most of my life was really just self-pity. The difference between self-pity and repentance is this: Self-pity is thinking about what a mess your sin got you into.

Self-pity is thinking about the consequences of it, what a wreck it’s made of you, how God will probably get me for it, or how my parents will probably get me for it, or how my boss will probably get me for it, or all the problems it will create in my life or already has created in my life. “Oh, Lord, how sorry I am this has happened. Oh, Lord, get this out of my life.” What you’re really doing is saying, “I hate the consequences of this sin,” but you haven’t learned to hate the sin. What is happening is instead of hating the sin, you’re hating the consequences of the sin, and you’re hating yourself for being so stupid.

Self-pity leads to continuing to love the sin so it still has power over you but hating yourself. Real repentance is when you say, “What has this sin done to God? What has it cost God? What does God feel about it?”

When you see what effect it has had on the loving God who died so you wouldn’t do it, who died for your holiness, when you begin to see that it melts you, and it makes you begin to hate the sin. It begins to lose its attractive power over you. Instead of making you hate yourself, you find you hate it, and so the idol begins to get crushed bit by bit.”

 

-Tim Keller, Removing the Idols of the Heart 

Ruhamah

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Ruhamah: She has received Mercy
“The name Ruhamah comes from the root-verb רחמ (raham), meaning to love deeply or to have mercy”

I am in love with this name. It comes from the root word raham; a term that no longer has one definition, but often varies from meaning soft and gentle to compassionate and affectionate. It often is used as a verb to describe to love deeply or have mercy, to describe a parent’s love for their child, and God’s love for His people.

One of the derivatives of this word is rahamani denoting compassionate women (Lamentations 4:10).

It is a Hebrew name, and is found in Hosea. If you’re not familiar with that book of the Bible, it’s about a prophet who God tells to marry an adulturous woman, Gomer, to show how the Israelis have been adulterous to God by serving idols. Gomer becomes pregnant with three children, and God chooses the names for them.  The one that struck me was the daughter, Lo-ruhamah.

 “Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them. -Hosea 1:6

 Names in those times were super important, and told everything about that person. So, can you imagine being named “No mercy?”.

 In 2: 1 Hosea calls her “Ruhamah“, showing a change “not having mercy” to “she has obtained mercy”. This change shows Hosea considering this illegitimate child to be his, and also shows the mercy in store for Israel. But, I also think it shows the mercy in store for us, too.

Before I can go into why this term means so much to me, I’m going to ask for you to read about “The Camel Story”. You can find it on this blog: http://talkcamel.blogspot.com/2013/11/welcome-to-herd.html.

Basically, the Camel Story is an interpretation of the special purpose & name that the Lord gives to each of His followers. More often than not, God gifts us most with the one thing we couldn’t do without Him.

God has shown me more loving mercy than I could ever imagine.

I grew up in a really normal life. I had a great family, but I always distanced myself from them. I had friends, but no one close. I was in my own thoughts a lot. So often I entertained the idea of God, and I think the best way to describe Him was as “distant”, where as long as I went to church sometimes, and didn’t do too many bad things, He’d continue to bless me.

I thought I had this whole God thing down, until my sophomore year of high school. During that year, my world flipped over time and time again. In my mind, I really wasn’t doing anything to deserve this- I had just started attending Young Life and was getting pretty involved, and was a pretty good kid. God just wasn’t keeping His end of the “bargain”. I felt like my cries and screams weren’t going anywhere. I was so broken. No one knew the depth of my struggle, I wouldn’t allow it. So, I kept quoting bible verses on my Facebook, and kept going to churchy things, even though I knew in my heart that I wanted nothing to do with God.

Somehow I got talked into going to Young Life camp that summer. And, something in my heart changed that week.

I heard about how God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for my sins. Even though I had been able to recite John 3:16 since childhood, it was the first time I really heard this truth. A God who sends His Son to die for me couldn’t be a God who destined me for misery. He understands pain, because He’s had to experience the loss of a child, a far greater hurting than I’ve ever had to experience. As Christ, He took on all my sin and shame, and endured the pain I was supposed to endure. What kind of love is that?!

God didn’t want to torture me. He wasn’t skipping out on His end of a so-called bargain, but instead He was allowing my own sin and brokenness to bring me crawling to His feet. Only there would I be able to find the love and acceptance I’ve always been missing. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and my God at that camp. And, He has met me with SO MUCH MERCY I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN IT TO YOU.

Mercy: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God had every right to punish me. I was being drown by my own sin. My own failures. My own inability to save myself. Perfection does not mix with imperfection, and so he could not be in fellowship with me. But, Jesus came down as a man and took the punishment for my sin for me. That is MERCY. He took compassion on me and paved a way for a relationship between us to be fostered.

 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever -Psalms 23:6

 

Now back to why the Camel Story and Ruhamah are important: Because God has shown me so much Loving Mercy, He’s able to shine right through me and use me as a vessel that can carry proof of His loving mercy to others  Jesus has totally changed my heart. I am not the same person that I was four years ago, and all the credit goes to Him!

 

I am riding on Ruhamah. I am an example of God’s loving mercy, and the life changing power He holds. I know that He is working through me and changing me daily, and I know I have a purpose in this world that only I can fill. It’s all because of Jesus. It’s all because He loves me so much. It’s all because He conquered the grave. It’s all because He lives.

 

What are you riding on?

Waiting in the Presence of the Lord // Hope For Haiti

God. Is. So. Good.

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I am just returning to the states after a week spent in one of my favorite places in the world: Bercy, Haiti. My first time traveling to Haiti was last summer, where I followed a call from the Lord to go there. I loved my stay, and it opened my eyes to the Lord’s love for His people. I went expecting to change Haiti, but the Lord used Haiti to change me. Some fears that I had held on to were revealed, and God used the following year to meet those fears and provide comfort and peace there. But, despite all of that, I had spent the week selfishly. After realizing that fact, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to Haiti again. But, I heard another calling.

So, I went. No longer was I holding on to the false hope of “saving Haiti” (which isn’t possible for me to do, by the way. God saves. I can only love). I had one expectation for my trip: to experience my Savior like never before. And boy, God provided more than I ever imagined.

I’m still processing through a lot of the feelings that my trip evoked, but what I can cling on to is the love that my God has for me, despite my sin and short comings. I fail Him daily, and yet He still so perfectly provides for every desire deeply held in my heart. From the hugs, kisses, and smiles from the Haitian children, I began to see a glimpse of the joy God wants me to feel. From worshiping with Haitians at church, I saw a glimpse of eternity and the beauty of ALL of God’s people. From the convictions I felt from the idols I have been turning to, I was reminded of the sovereignty of the Lord and how nothing else matters. The list goes on and on, and I’d love to share everything I learned with you, someday. (Just ask!)

I went to Haiti wanting to bring Jesus to the people there, but what I learned is Jesus is already there, and He’s actively changing Haiti. This is where my hope for Haiti stems from. Here’s a list of changes I’ve noticed between my two trips:

  • Last year, we were kept up all night because of the sound of voodoo drums coming from the neighbors. This year, we did not hear them. They are still actively practicing voodoo, but by the Spirit of God they have been quieted, and because of that I have hope.
  • One of the girls I met last year was a little hard to connect to because of attitude problems. When I would talk to any other kids, she would either hit them or pretend to faint so that she would have my attention, all of the time. But, by the Spirit of God, her heart has been totally softened, and because of that I have hope.
  • I remember being totally uncomfortable in the city of Cabaret (We stay in a village outside of the city) because of the overall bitterness from the people in the city. And while there were a few instances this year that still seemed to be true, I noticed an overall change in demeanor in the city. By the Spirit of God, people seemed much more positive and were generally very welcoming, and because of that I have hope.
  • Last year I learned about Moringa, a super food that grows well in impoverished areas. Basically, it has the ability to eradicate malnutrition in Haiti (learn about it here: https://cpr-3.com/moringa/). But, the people of Haiti didn’t know to/refused to eat it, and it didn’t seem like it would take off. But, this year there are many more people eating it, and the changes it’s bringing to those people is astonishing. Something that broke my heart last year was the number of kids I saw with bleached hair, a sign of extreme malnourishment, but this year I noticed less. By the Spirit of God, Moringa is taking off and helping Haitians, and because of that I have hope.
  • Last year, my heart broke for a 15 year old boy I met (you can learn about him here: https://cpr-3.com/simons-gospel/). Basically, when I met him he was homeless and beaten by his voodoo priest dad for accepting Jesus into his life. But when I returned this year, he was back to living with his dad, and on the second day of my trip, SIMON’S DAD ACCEPTED JESUS! Please let that sink in for a second. My heart is singing for joy!! (Please be praying for both of them, by the way). By the Spirit of God, an abusive, voodoo priest accepted Jesus as his Savior, and because of that I have hope.
  • One thing that really captivated my heart last year was the church that we were supporting. I loved it then, and I love it now. People genuinely want to know more about God, and they passionately want to worship Him. All of that is still true, but by the Spirit of God, the church has grown from 20 people to over 60. With this kind of growth, it’s beyond obvious that God is moving in Haiti. And because of that, I have hope.

Even if none of these things ever occurred, or I wouldn’t have gotten to witness them, I would still have hope for Haiti. My hope is ultimately rooted in my Hope in Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is yet to come. Because He has already won the battle over sin, I know there is victory that I can bask in. And so can the people of Haiti. And so can you. Jesus’ victory stands whether you accept it into your life or not; but just know that accepting it has been the greatest decision of my life. I have Hope in the Risen Lord.

 

So, right about now you’re probably wondering why this is partially titled “Waiting in the Presence of the Lord”. Lucky you, that’s the exact question we’re going to dive into. So sit back, relax, and get ready to ride.

A lot of my life is spent questioning “What’s next?”. I tend to miss out a little on every moment because I’m constantly trying to search for the relevance of the moment and what it could mean for my future. I so desperately want to “Get it right” that I miss the lessons that God is teaching me in the moment, and the joy that could be had by just being present. If you know me, you probably know that I’m not crazy about my major. But, for some reason I felt called to pick it up, so I did. Every day I battle what I should switch it, if I even want to finish college, and if I’d rather just pack up and move to Haiti and become a full-time missionary. Or I struggle with all of my friendships, my relationship, and literally every aspect of my life. Obviously, part of the reason I had to go to Haiti was to see if it could satisfy the hunger I was feeling in those areas.

Here’s the crazy thing: DOING can’t satisfy me. Only BEING can do that. This simple message came to me at some point during my trip, and while I don’t remember the exact moment I felt it, I do know the crazy amount of life change and potential it holds. When my mind is full of the things I need to do, or need to be, I end up so tired. This is especially true when I’m trying to find my identity in the world.

BUT, my identity can never be found in the world. My identity is found in JESUS CHRIST. Without Him, I am nothing. And, because of the Holy Spirit, I am found in the presence of the Lord no matter where I go. When my thoughts are full of Him, the less space I have to stress out about me. I can stress out as much as I want, but God is going to have His way anyways, and all I have to do is abide in Him.

For me, that means waiting exactly where I am right now. I know God placed me at Ohio University, and led me to major in Chemical Engineering, and even though none of this makes sense to me right now, I know that God is with me. And as I choose Him every day, He reveals Himself to me in new ways. I am so thankful that He is so patient with me, and that He chooses to be yoked with me in this life.

Until Next Time,

Ali

We Need To Make It Personal.

Well worth the read. It’s hard to take in that so many people are dying every year from something both preventable and treatable, and we are still not doing anything about it. We were never called to ignore the needs of the world- we are given financial blessings from the Father so that we can be a blessing to others!

Redeeming Spaces

Exhaustion .

I’m talking, my Amanda finds me sleeping on the office tile floor exhaustion.

That’s after a three hour nap in my own room and falling asleep in the middle of breakfast right on the table after my body had no interest in more than a bite of bread.

Aches.

Somehow I hurt all over, sore as if I’ve been doing physical labor all day even though I haven’t left the house.

Fever.

One that has me shivering in 90 degree weather plus humidity, wrapped in towels because I don’t “need” a blanket in Haiti, and therefore don’t have one.

I don’t want anything.

Food, people around me, or even a book to read. Get it all away from me. There’s nothing that I want & there’s nothing that I want to do.

That’s what malaria felt like last August.

Today (April 25) is World Malaria Day & as…

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He Is Risen.

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If you’ve been following my posts you would have noticed that in my last blog I mentioned that there was something awesome that happened after the cross. And, that awesome thing, is the Resurrection.

 

We know that Jesus’s death on the cross was the final payment for our sins. With His death we too can agree to look at our past lives and say “It is Finished” and choose a new life that is in harmony with the Lord and His heart for us. 

But, if that’s where the story stopped, our hope in Jesus can only extend to this life. Since He died, we die. We’d be praying out to a dead god, that doesn’t have power over this world he created.

But, that’s not true. Jesus rose again. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

1 Peter 1:3

 

Because Jesus IS risen, we have hope that extends into eternity. We have a Savior who defeated DEATH! Our God is immensely powerful, greatly wonderful, and totally in love with His people. 

God loves us so much that He used Jesus’ death on the cross to give us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe in this?”

John 11:25-26 

Do you believe in this?

Could you trust that there is a God so powerful that He defeated death, and loves you so much that He Himself paid the ultimate sacrifice? 

With the Resurrection, this is no longer a far claim to make. The Resurrection is what we, Christians, place our faith in.

Because of the Resurrection, we know that Jesus is trustworthy. Since He kept His promise to rise from the dead, we know that we can trust His other promises as well. I encourage you to look into the awesome promises Jesus has made to you, and know that each one of them can be trusted because He kept this huge promise to rise again.

Because of the Resurrection, we know that we worship a LIVING GOD. Not some dead prophet, idol, or book of morals, but someone who wants to be yoked with you and spend every second with you. Someone who has power in the present because they are alive in it. Someone who can be called upon and someone who will answer to prayers. I am in total awe of my God!

Because of the Resurrection, we know that we will someday be resurrected. Just like the John verse above. We get to spend eternity worshiping the One who loves us, all because He paid our debt and defeated the grace.

Because of the Resurrection, we know that God can bring us from death to life, too. Even though we are born into a state of spiritual death, God can bring us into ABUNDANT LIFE. He will bring us to living waters and fill us with His Spirit! No matter what your past is, or how you’re currently living, God can always flip that situation and make you the person you were created to be. All because He loves you! 

Because of the Resurrection, the story we share with others is ALIVE. We, as Christians, are not followers of a dead faith. We don’t even follow a set of rules anymore, because of God’s great and overflowing grace and mercy towards us. We just follow a WHO. We don’t merely follow the lessons of a good teacher, but we proclaim the reality of the Resurrection of Christ! 

 

 

Enjoy your Easter. Enjoy the time with your family, and your holiday traditions. But, It is my prayer that you can experience the power of the Living God at some point today. If you’ve never chosen to become a follower of Him yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s just a conversation between your heart and God’s heart, asking for forgiveness for the sinful life you are chained to, trusting and thanking Him for being the solution, and choosing to live your life for Him.

 

As the Greeks would say- XRISTOS ANESTI! 

 

 

It Is Finished.

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Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

-John 15:13

I’ve never really known the correct response to Easter.

I have spent a lot of time using the day to feel bad for Jesus. I don’t know if this was a response I was taught, or just my natural human instinct, but I just pitied Him. What other response could you have for someone who died a gruesome death? He was flogged nearly to the point of death, adorned with a crown of thorns dug into his head, forced to carry his own cross, and crucified- being mocked the entire time. So, I would spend Good Friday in reflection of this, and then move on to the celebration of Easter- the time I’d get to spend with my family and all the food I’d eat.

What if pity isn’t the right response to Jesus’ death on the cross?

If we view the cross with pity, we have no hope to understand Jesus’ love for us.

I titled this post “It Is Finished” a direct reference to Jesus’ last words found in John 19:30.  But, what was finished?

Up until Jesus’ death on the cross, a complicated system of sacrifices had atoned for sin. Sin is what separates us from God. Every day, we fail God. We are born into a broken relationship with God because of our sin, and there’s no way for us to fix this on our own. Only with the payment of a sacrifice can we be forgiven and be made right with God. In the Old Testament, this sacrifice was an animal, and had was not a lasting thing. But, Jesus’ death changed that.

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

-Isaiah 53:4-5

With Jesus’ death, He became the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins. If we choose to trust in that, our relationship with God can be restored and we can live in perfect fellowship with Him.

Our response to the cross should be extreme thankfulness.

The cross is a symbol of God’s extreme love for us. We have a God who loves us so much that He died for us. Jesus wants to be close to you. The inner longings of our hearts scream for this kind of love. Deep down, we all want to be desired. We want to know that we are loved to a point that someone who do something drastic for us, for our good. Jesus shows this love on the cross. God knew we were separated from Him because of our Sin, and He chose to be the solution. What kind of love is this!!

I don’t think we will ever, until we meet our Maker, be able to understand this love. How could we? Our only exposure to love in this world is conditional. Parents are able to be less conditional in their love, but even then we have never seen perfect love. So we view the cross with shades smeared with our perspective of how we love. But, God doesn’t love like we do. He loves you perfectly. He loves you even though you hurt him every day. The Bible would even say that before you choose to follow Him, you hate  Him in your heart. To be loved by God is not something that can ever be earned. It’s not something trite or trivial and it’s surely not something that can go ignored.

Jesus had every opportunity to turn back from the cross. He was fully man but also fully God and could have stopped it at any point. But He chose to endure the pain. He did it for you. He did it because He loves you.

When someone tells you they love you, you can’t ignore it. You have to choose if you love them too, or if you don’t. The cross is Jesus screaming out that He loves you.

What is YOUR response?

(Easter didn’t end with the cross-but with something even greater. Stay tuned.)