ECA is in its 8th year of existence, and during those eight years, there have been multiple ups and downs, as well as difficult decisions. This year, we decided to eliminate our middle school and focus on rebuilding our elementary grades, which has proven to be beneficial and fruitful. That decision, however, caused many questions and doubts about the school's future. It even propelled someone to create a fake identity (let's add the humor to it - it was a fake celebrity identity) and send a message to us on Facebook: "Why don't you just close the doors." I must admit, I was temporarily hurt. I don't know why because I've learned in our new social media era that people love to hide behind anonymity and spew hatred or negativity. All that aside, I have also learned how hatred and negativity can make us search for answers - for truth. ECA doesn't exist out of dumb luck or out of any one person's talent/efforts or out of someone's desire to have his/her name praised. ECA exists because God has allowed it to exist. To what extent God will allow it to exist is beyond my realm of understanding. What I do understand is the amount of prayer that teachers and students and parents and community members put into this school. What I also understand is the power of prayer is not something we can or should disregard or discredit. God/the Bible never promises us that life will be easy or that we will not have struggles. Instead, God teaches us through His Word that we can overcome obstacles - that He will never leave us - that constant prayer is heard. We may not always get the answer we are looking for, but that doesn't mean we should cease praying.
In the book of Acts, chapter 12, Peter was sitting in a prison cell. He was shackled by two chains between two soldiers. The prison door was guarded by sentries. Yet, in the deep, dark night, an angel appeared and told Peter to get up. The chains fell off and no one around him awoke. The angel led Peter away from the prison, and when he came to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected." When you back up a few verses, you will see that the church was praying "fervently" to God for him. What a beautiful example of the power of prayer. Herod thought he was in total control. He had already ordered James beheaded and had all intentions of doing the same to Peter. Some people may ask, "Well, why didn't God save James? Why did he have to die?" I don't know. Maybe it was so Herod could gain a false sense of security or pride. Maybe it was to show the people that their worship was misplaced. After all, Herod was immediately struck by death when the crowd proclaimed him a god. What we do know is that these events led to God's Word flourishing and multiplying.
I encourage you to be prayerful - not just daily - but multiple times a day. God is listening. He is in control despite the fact that life came seem so chaotic around us. He uses people and situations and places to make a difference. While the world may be telling you to "close the doors," "give up," "quit trying," God may be telling you to "stay the course," "run with endurance," "keep the faith."
Peace and Blessings!
My husband is the ultimate planner. It doesn't matter what event, pending storm, future disaster - he is prepared. A week before Dorian, he busied himself filling gas tanks, making extra ice packs, and buying canned goods that could feed us for at least a week. I, on the other hand, am a procrastinator - or at least I am when it comes to situations that I don't want to deal with or don't feel will affect me in a negative way.
For a long period of my life, I treated Christianity the same way. It didn't bother me to miss a Sunday of church here or there. I had never read my Bible all the way through - and never really meditated on scripture. I believed in God and had been baptized at an early age, but I never realized I was missing out on a relationship with God. In other words, I procrastinated in making a true commitment to God. I'm talking about a "I want to talk to you," "I want to walk with you," "I want to consult you" kind of commitment. I am more than thankful my procrastination didn't end in death - before I had the chance to truly understand the importance of that relationship - the importance of putting God before everything else - the importance of asking for forgiveness of sins - the importance of repenting - the importance of treating others with Godly love. I am still learning and growing and reading my Bible. The Bible - from beginning to end - is a constant reminder of God's love, grace, and mercy for us. It is also a reminder that God wants us to prepare for the worst - not so the worst can happen to us, but so that it won't happen to us. God offers us eternal life rather than eternal damnation. What's most amazing is the simplicity of it all. We do not have to work for grace or pay for grace. We simply have to accept grace. That acceptance is what can and should lead us toward developing a joyful, lifetime commitment to and with God. Reading the Bible is God's way of speaking to us. Praying opens up a direct line of communication. Being surrounded by like-minded people is God's way of providing us with guidance, direction, and support when we falter or when we go through tough times.
The worst is going to happen. The Bible tells us so. Preparing for the worst, however, gives us every reason to live our lives with hope and joy. It doesn't mean we won't have troubles. It doesn't mean we are going to be perfect. It does mean we'll get through whatever lies ahead with the strength God gives us. What we think may be bad now doesn't compare to eternal separation from God. I am encouraging you, if you haven't done so yet, begin preparing for the worst. If you aren't involved in a church, begin visiting and find a place that can and will lift you up and support you in your journey. If you aren't reading your Bible, pick it up and start. It doesn't have to be in any particular order either. Find a good Bible companion that will help you understand what you are reading. More importantly, start talking to God. Sit with Him in silence and listen. He sends us messages in the simplest, smallest things if we just tune in.
Peace and blessings!
We've all felt it - that gnawing feeling you get in your stomach when you haven't eaten. As if the feeling isn't enough to deal with, along comes the growling. The growling itself isn't that bad unless it's during a moment of silence and you're sitting with other people. When that happens, we quickly crumble a piece of paper or begin to cough to mask the noise. Until recently, I never equated the physical aspects of hunger to my spiritual life, but a Sunday sermon led me face-to-face with a profound reality: We need to hunger for the Holy Spirit's presence.
I can't imagine what it must have been like to walk, talk, and eat with Jesus. The disciples were exposed to many experiences and lessons about God's grace and mercy through Jesus. Even so, even though they were hearing the teaching of Jesus and seeing the miracles He performed, they faltered as humans. At one point they argued about who among them was the most important, one betrayed Him, and one denied Him. We live in a world that's not so different. We argue. We spew hatred. We judge. We hurt. We gossip. We deny. We do this even though we know what the Bible teaches us. Why? Because we're human, and alone, we cannot overcome the sin that our mind and body wants to commit.
In the book of Acts, Chapter 1, verses 4-5 we read, "In one of these meetings as he was eating a meal with them, he told them. 'Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you what he promised. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit'." Jesus knew that the disciples would need a connection to Him, and so that connection came in the form of the Holy Spirit. It would be the Holy Spirit that would allow the disciples to continue spreading the Word. It would be the Holy Spirit that would allow them to face the beatings, the imprisonments, the cruelties, and even death that lay ahead of them. It would be the Holy Spirit that would allow Christ to be everywhere that the Word was spread and received.
More importantly, however, is how hungry we should be for the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 tells us we can't be Christians without the Holy Spirit, and yet, I don't think this is a concept that is taught or explained enough. I know I certainly didn't understand it until recently. I've been forced to stop and ask myself, "Am I hungry?" and "What am I hungry for?" I can be hungry for what the world tells me is important and ignore what the Spirit tells me, or I can be hungry for what the Spirit reveals to me and ignore what the world says. When I put it in those terms, it seems so simple.
Frank Viola in an excerpt from his book, Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ lists 50 things the Holy Spirit Does. As you read through his list, consider this: Are you hungry for the Holy Spirit? Are you feeding on the Word of God? Are you allowing the Holy Spirit to change you? That's not to say that I or we will ever be perfect, but feeding the hunger we have for the Holy Spirit will put us on a path that allows us to change, to be redeemed, to be more Christ-like. How thankful we should be for the Holy Spirit!
1. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
2. The Spirit guides us into all truth (John 16:13).
3. The Spirit regenerates us (John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).
4. The Spirit glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26; 16:14).
5. The Spirit reveals Christ to us and in us (John 16:14-15).
6. The Spirit leads us (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18; Matt. 4:1; Luke 4:1).
7. The Spirit sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 5:16).
8. The Spirit empowers us (Luke 4:14; 24:49; Rom. 15:19; Acts 1:8).
9. The Spirit fills us (Eph. 5:18; Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17).
10. The Spirit teaches us to pray (Rom. 8:26-27; Jude 1:20).
11. The Spirit bears witness in us that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).
12. The Spirit produces in us the fruit or evidence of His work and presence (Gal. 5:22-23).
13. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts and manifestations of His presence to and through the body (1 Cor. 12:4, 8-10).
14. The Spirit anoints us for ministry (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38).
15. The Spirit washes and renews us (Titus 3:5).
16. The Spirit brings unity and oneness to the body (Eph. 4:3; 2:14-18).
17. The Spirit is our guarantee and deposit of the future resurrection (2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5).
18. The Spirit seals us unto the day of redemption (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
19. The Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
20. The Spirit quickens our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11).
21. The Spirit reveals the deep things of God to us (1 Cor. 2:10).
22. The Spirit reveals what has been given to us from God (1 Cor. 2:12).
23. The Spirit dwells in us (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14; John 14:17).
24. The Spirit speaks to, in, and through us (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:11; Heb 3:7; Matt. 10:20; Acts 2:4; 8:29; 10:19;
11:12, 28; 13:2; 16:6,7; 21:4,11).
25. The Spirit is the agent by which we are baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).
26. The Spirit brings liberty (2 Cor. 3:17).
27. The Spirit transforms us into the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
28. The Spirit cries in our hearts, "Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6).
29. The Spirit enables us to wait (Gal. 5:5).
30. The Spirit supplies us with Christ (Phil. 1:19, KJV).
31. The Spirit grants everlasting life (Gal. 6:8).
32. The Spirit gives us access to God the Father (Eph. 2:18).
33. The Spirit makes us (corporately) God's habitation (Eph. 2:22).
34. The Spirit reveals the mystery of God to us (Eph. 3:5).
35. The Spirit strengthens our spirits (Eph. 3:16).
36. The Spirit enables us to obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22).
37. The Spirit enables us to know that Jesus abides in us (1 John 3:24; 4:13).
38. The Spirit confesses that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:2).
39. The Spirit says "Come, Lord Jesus" along with the bride (Rev. 22:17).
40. The Spirit dispenses God's love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5).
41. The Spirit bears witness to the truth in our conscience (Rom. 9:1).
42. The Spirit teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13; John 14:26).
43. The Spirit gives us joy (1 Thess. 1:6).
44. The Spirit enables some to preach the gospel (1 Pet. 1:12).
45. The Spirit moves us (2 Pet. 1:21).
46. The Spirit knows the things of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
47. The Spirit casts out demons (Matt. 12:28).
48. The Spirit brings things to our remembrance (John 14:26).
49. The Spirit comforts us (Acts 9:31).
50. The Spirit makes some overseers in the church and sends some out to the work of church planting [through the body] (Acts 20:28; 13:2).