Broken Lives & Tender Hearts

Was it just last week,
Here in this place,
I was overcome with tears,
Bearing a burden,
Much too heavy for me alone.

I cried out,
I beseeched Thee,
Oh Lord,
What are You doing through this?
Can anything good come from it?

I can’t go on,
With my life as it is,
I pled…please take this from me,
Or take me home.

But today…You have shown me,
How You can use even this for good,
A heart that’s been tendered,
Is one able to reach out to others,
With compassion and my Savior’s love.

Strength and wisdom found in Christ alone,
You bid me to step out in faith,
Turn hurt and pain into healing,
As we take up one another’s burdens,
And lift them up to the Lord.

When I weep,
May I weep for another,
When I am weak,
May I find strength,
In helping another carry their burden.

by Susan Bunts
October 28, 2007

Steven Curtis Chapman Live…

To say that Steven Curtis Chapman moves around a lot…is an understatement. So only got a few choice snapshots. But what a wonderful concert!

Getting his new album “This Moment” is a must!

The one thing that apparent from when Steven first came on stage was that he has a peace about him…the peace of our Lord.

And Joy…with a love for his family and life and all that it holds.

And Love for his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Oh to honor God…with songs of praise and live life in worthy manner…bringing praise, glory and honor to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A life that gives evidence to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. Thank You Jesus for bring this godly man to encourage and inspire us in our daily walk with You.

Glorifying Conviction

“Do you glorify God with your life?”

With the above question from Elder and Teacher Dave Dunn…I found the Holy Spirit giving me not just a nudge…but a good old whack upside the head. It kind of took me by surprise.

As we’ve studied the book of Revelation…God has brought forth lessons that I need to apply to my life. At times the Holy Spirit has convicted me…reining me in as I get off course.

But now that we are deep into the book of Revelation…chapter 15 talks about upcoming judgment of unbelieving people who have utterly rejected God. They are committed to living a life of utter depravity. While it’s not the very end of the book…in the timeline of the events in Revelation…it’s in the latter part of the 7 years of the Tribulation. So I wasn’t expecting God to get my attention on sin. Oh maybe the sin of not sharing the Gospel message as much as can and should with people in my sphere of influence. But conviction of my sin that’s on par with those facing God’s condemnation and destruction…now I wasn’t expecting that.

That’s exactly where God got my attention tonight. When Dave asked, “Do you glorify God with your life?”…I don’t remember if I looked up and caught Dave’s eye or whether I felt too convicted to glance up. But I did write a note in my Bible…I wrote down Dave’s very question.

Quite obviously…the answer is no…I don’t glorify God with my life…or least not as consistently as He deserves or as much as I should.

They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,
Lord God Almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
King of the ages.
Who will not fear you, O Lord,
and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 15:2-4

Do I glorify God with how I act, what I say and do and even think? Do I sing His praises from my lips regularly? Do I have a deep abiding peace and joy within my spirit which causes people to look to my Lord and seek Him? Do I fully trust Him, knowing that He alone is good and has a good plan for me that He laid before the foundations of the world? Do I trust Him in all circumstances? Do I trust Him to bring good out of evil and wrong that was done? Do I trust Him to execute His plan and promises that He laid out in the Bible? Do I act loving…not just toward those whom I love…but even my enemy? Am I burdened to pray for their lost soul…or do I prefer to complain about what they’ve done? Do I love the un-loveable? Do I seek to do good to them? Do I choose to worry about my circumstances instead of going to God in prayer knowing that He cares for me? Do I thank Him daily for all the blessings and provisions He has given me? Do I seek Him and to know Him better each day through prayer and reading His word? Is Jesus pleased to know me? Do I cause His heart to swell with overflowing love for me? Or am I like the family member that is put up with…because after all…they are family? Am I pleased to know Jesus? How, where and with whom do I share about my love for my great and magnificent God, Lord and Savior?

I’ve been a Christian for sixteen years now. While I came to Christ late in my life…I’ve had the privilege to sit under some wonderful Bible study teachers who teach the full counsel of God’s word. I am most blessed by God to attend a church I am most unworthy of, Kindred Community Church. I have fellow Christians which show me great mercy and love…and what it truly means to be a Christian. When I see them…I see a little bit of Jesus. I listen to God’s word daily through Bible study CD’s and sermons. I attend Bible Study and read God’s word regularly. Most of the music I listen to is Christian music. And yet…I can honestly say…that I don’t consistently glorify God with my life.

No better example of that…than my reaction this week as I heard of the unjust and mean treatment of an alcoholic towards his wife and family. My first response was a desire to beat him up. Next I thought how great it would be to dish back to him some of the demeaning and humiliating remarks he so easily delivers in his drunken state.

I didn’t think right off the bat we need to pray for this man’s salvation and for God to deliver him from alcoholism. My first reaction was not to lift up the wife in prayer and ask that God would give her wisdom and discernment on what to do.

I wanted to act in the flesh…and use my tongue to tear down and hurt a person…not lift them up in prayer.

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:24-25

As I read God’s word, study the Bible and pray…the closer I draw to God. As I draw closer…I see all the more clearly my sin and unworthiness. Thankfully…my salvation is not dependent upon my good works…but on Jesus blood shed on the cross. Not just to cover my sins…but to take them away completely. In Him…I am white as snow. As a bonus…He has given me His Holy Spirit to dwell within me…to guide me and correct me.

Good gracious…the Holy Spirit has boat load of work left to do in this here unworthy sinner…saved by grace alone, through Christ alone. He should be getting some serious overtime pay for the work He has to do in me!

I will call you Israel!

“I’m going to call you Israel from now on.” That was Mason’s response after I had asked for prayer on Sunday evening. I explained that recently I felt like I was Jacob wrestling with God…and I was growing weary and want this episode to come to an end. Yet…I will not let go…no…I will not…until God blesses me.

While I love God and will serve Him…no matter what…I would rather God take me home than to let my life continue on as it has been for low these many years.

Yet this is a stronghold…and it will not be demolished and nothing will be accomplished without God’s hand in it. I desire to praise Him and testify to His goodness, mercy and love to one so undeserving as He gives me the desires of my heart.

Sometimes I find it humbling and difficult to ask a person to pray for something that’s very personal. It’s embarrassing to ask people to pray for me. Why? Probably because I feel such huge failure and I’m not able to accomplish something on my own that people do everyday with ease. But more than that it touches my heart in such a deep place…a vulnerable spot that I don’t feel comfortable having exposed.

I guess having my hope deferred for all these years has made it…if not easier…than at least necessary to ask for others prayers in this situation.

Mason has a logical way of approaching things…and even faith seemed simple and easy when Mason offered a word of encouragement.

When I said it was hard to ask for prayer on this…Mason asked “Why would you deprive your brothers and sisters in Christ the opportunity to be in prayer for you and see God at work in your situation? They will be part of the process…and God will use it to build up their faith in addition to your own.”

He assured me that “it’s the journey that’s important…not just the end”. Indeed I know that’s true…but I also look forward to the end destination of this journey…knowing that the next one will begin as this one concludes.

When Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he wrestled all night long. Many believe this to be the pre-incarnate Christ. As day break approached the angel told Jacob to let him go…but Jacob held tight and said he would not let go until he was blessed. The angel asked Jacob what his name was…and Jacob told him his name. “I am Jacob”…this one who had lied and deceived…he who was known as a supplanter gave his name correctly this time around because he wanted to be blessed.

Indeed he was blessed. The angel told Jacob that he would now be called Israel for he had struggled with God and with man and had overcome.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” Jacob,” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” – Genesis 32:24-30

As I wrestle with God…I wonder what will He call me? In Revelation God tells us that He will give us a new name that only He will know.

I wonder…what will be my name? Will it be Faith? Steadfast? Overcomer? Immovable? Patient? Waited Upon the Lord? Beloved?

Or will I hang my head in shame as I bear the name “Oh ye of little faith”? Failure? Weak Willed? Believed the Lies of the Enemy?

Israel…I would gladly bear that name. Oh to be known as one who struggled with God and man and who over came. I continue to wrestle with God and will do so until He blesses me. I would be most grateful for your prayers on my behalf.

Mason…this is dedicated to you…thanks for being a faith encourager!

Take Peace

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – John 14:27

This past weekend when visiting my friend Ruth…I realized how much I lack the very thing I experienced while at her home. From the moment I walked in…a sense of peace enveloped me. It was so recognizable that I felt as if I could reach out and touch it. When I commented about it to Ruth…she mentioned that the peace in their home was God answering their prayers and desire to have peace reign in their hearts and home.

Last week I felt like I had bit of a meltdown…a major crisis of my faith. On Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church…I had the overwhelming impression from God, “Susan, I want you to meet Me at the foot of the cross. We have some business to take care of.”

I am most fortunate…because I can actually walk to the foot of a cross our church property. While symbolic…in certain respects it is very powerful in bringing me into the presence of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That outward symbol is not something I need every time…but I surely did this time. Praise God…it was available to me.

When I asked my precious friend Danita if she would walk to the cross with me…I was so relieved when she said yes. We chatted as we walked up the road. Amazingly we only encountered a little mud on the path left over from the prior day’s rain. But the steep hill you climb up to get to the cross was dry and we were able to navigate it with ease. I just love the walking up to the cross. It’s so peaceful and quiet. A big freeway lies below…but you would never know it with quiet that surrounds you.

When we reached the cross…Danita and I looked down at our church…and we chatted some more. We talked about God’s faithfulness to our church and marveled at what He is doing. I shared a little bit with Danita about my struggle and asked if she would pray with me.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” – Matthew 18:20

I could feel God’s presence and it didn’t take long for the tears to flow as I confessed my lack of faith and desperation for God to intervene in my situation. I found that when I spoke the truth of God’s word…I was comforted and the tears stopped. Yet I was broken. Precious Danita prayed too…and her gentle and understanding words brought me much comfort. Thank you Jesus for bringing just the right person to accompany me on my trip to the cross.

I very relieved after that…and God ministered to my heart the rest of the day. I thought I was done with God taking me to task regarding this episode. But I was wrong. Thankfully…when I need correction He deals with me in small doses that I can handle. A little bit at a time.

Today’s lesson was peace. Even though I dealt with the issue my failing faith I didn’t see the outworking actions and consequences that remained. As I doubt God and who He is and the truth and reliability of His word…then I want to be in control of my life. I seek the counsel and wisdom of man…not God and His word.

There is a fine line…because if I’m speaking with a Christian rooted and grounded in the word of God…I may receive godly counsel. But I may receive man’s watered down version of God’s word instead of the powerful word of God. That which is able to change lives and change people. That which is able to save the souls of men from hell. Why wouldn’t I go directly to the source?

When I’m anxious and trying to be in control of my life…I have no peace. I’m trying to keep all plates spinning in the air. Then they start crashing in…one by one. Suddenly all around me everything is shattered, broken and jagged. It will hurt me when I step on it or try to walk away. Gee wiz…when, oh when, will I ever learn?

God impressed upon me the verse from John 14:27…where Jesus tells His disciples that He will give them His peace. He gave it to them and He will give it to me too.

Give. Give…if someone gives me something…I need to take it. I need to receive it. If my hands are full…and someone offers me something more valuable…won’t I set down that which is of little worth? Gladly and pick up that which is of lasting value from One who loves me.

So why am I not taking the peace that Jesus is offering me?

What am I holding on to instead? Why? What lies of the enemy am I believing? Even if I’m in the midst of circumstances I don’t want to be in and pray for God to change them…isn’t it better to have peace in the midst of those circumstances?

But of course there is price…it means I have to be prayer. Hand over my circumstances. Surrender my will to God. Chance the unknown for that which I can never fully achieve. Why would I think that God would call me to something that would not have a price or a sacrifice? My gain, my reward for trusting Jesus may not be in the here and now. It may be later…and it may be in heaven. But it surly does have its residual rewards…like peace. I pay an infinitesimally small price compared to what Jesus paid on the cross to buy me that peace.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’ – Jeremiah 2:13

Now that is an apt description of what I’m doing. I’m trying to dig my own well…only to find it dry or muddy or filled with brackish water. And I wonder why I still thirst?

Jesus wants to offer me a fresh endless flowing river of peace. Something that will quench my thirst and wash me clean. Now why wouldn’t I choose that?

I thank God that nothing is lost in God’s economy and that He is able to use my experiences and failures to help encourage others to not following down the same path. A path that will only cause pain and hurt…and possibly destruction if I remain on the wrong path. I’m so glad to know that He can use it for good.

But for once…no more than once…consistently I desire for me to choose to live according to His word and that my choices might be an example on doing it the right way according to God’s word and by the power of the Holy Spirit within me.

So Jesus…I give You over this mess of my life and my poor choices, my lack of faith and my failures. I ask You to please take it from me. Please exchange it for that which I can not do on my own. I ask You to give me wisdom…and fill me with Your love and with Your peace. Help me in my circumstances. Give me Your Living Water and I will lay down my broken, dirty, muddy cup. Jesus, You were with Danita and me at the foot of the cross. You heard my prayers…I give them over to You. My life and my situation is in Your hands…I’m asking You to work it out according to Your perfect plan. Dare I even ask for a miracle in this? Yes I do…knowing that You alone are able…more than able to accomplish what concerns me today. Praise God. It’s in Jesus name I pray…Amen!

My Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ

We a Kindred Community Church are on the eve of the installation ceremony for our new Sr. Pastor, Philip De Courcy. We are most grateful for God’s faithfulness and provision in bringing us a man of God who is faithful to preach the full counsel of God’s word.

Unfortunately in so many churches…all one hears are feel good messages that are preached with the intent to ensure that the parishioners will return next week, not to hold them accountable to the standards of God’s word and keep them from sinning. Churches have forgotten the primary mission is for the equipping of the saints so that they can go into all the world and share the Gospel Message. To equip the saints God’s word must be preached.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

Only God’s word has the power to convict men of sin, cleanse our heart, mind, soul and spirit. Those churches that preach with the aim of reaching the “seeker sensitive” crowd are missing the boat on two areas. One they are failing to instruct the body of Christ with our only standard…God’s word. Secondly…we have bought the lie of the enemy when we fail to preach God’s word. Those of us who are Christians know that it was God’s word that convicted us sin or comforted our souls and drew us to God. When we hear God’s word, we are giving the Holy Spirit tools to work with. Scriptures that He will bring back to remembrance. Unless we purposely seek out God’s word we will likely not hear it in the world as we travel in our everyday lives.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” – John 14:26

Think about it dear ones. The one thing that the church has to offer is the Word of God and when we fail to preach it from our pulpit on Sunday morning, we are tossing aside the one thing both believers and unbelievers won’t hear in the sin filled world.

There is an abundance of resources for Christians these days….all the more reason that we will be without excuse when we stand before the throne room of God. But generally you have to seek them out by turning to the Christian radio station, or TV station, or website, book, magazine or music.

On occasion you’ll catch a whiff of something Christian in our secular world…when gets by the ever so careful sensors. More often than not…it’s something that is intended to mock Christians or put them down for being so narrow minded.

That’s why we at Kindred are praising God…because our God was faithful in bringing us a man who will preach God’s word through expository preaching. He won’t lay aside those passages that will make people feel uncomfortable as they sit in their pews.

I have received some comments and communication from folks at Pastor Philip De Courcy’s former church, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Toledo, Ohio when they stumbled across this blog. First may I say that we at Kindred Community Church are in prayer for your church. We have been since the announcement was made that Pastor Philip was coming to Kindred. We are praying for God’s leading and guidance as He raises up and brings the next man of God whom He has called to serve at Emmanuel Baptist for this time.

We know first hand what it is to loose a Pastor…albeit God called Pastor Chuck Obremski home. Instead He called Pastor Philip to a new church. The whys are wherefores of God’s plan we likely never know fully this side of heaven. But it is important that we trust God in His goodness, wisdom and timing.

It has been evident from the comments made that the people are Emmanuel Baptist are hurting and saddened to see their Pastor depart. It is very hard to let go of great preaching, isn’t it? We know that because at Kindred we still have an abundance of Pastor Chuck’s sermons that we listen to. Many people there continue to hand out CDs from our beloved Pastor.

But praise God for the resources that He has made available. I’m sure that before long Pastor Philip’s messages will be available for download on our churches website. In the meantime if you desire to continue to hear his messages, I encourage you to contact our Audio Ministry at Kindred and request to receive the sermons on CD. If you come out California way…you know that you have a place to call home in Kindred Community Church.

When God called our Pastor home to be with Him…I had to come to a point where I trusted God and His plan and timing. Even though I was tempted to cling to something that was so very good. Or I could choose to be angry with God and reject His plan that was working out. But God was about doing a new work, a fresh work, not always according to what I liked or wanted.

One of my favorite songs by Steven Curtis Chapman is called “Hold on to Jesus”. In it he speaks of clinging loosely to things that are fleeting, but to hold on to Jesus for life.

Some of those things that are fleeting are people…good people and good things won’t always be around. God has them in our life for a season. Isn’t that all the more reason to be thankful and grateful for the good people and things that God brings into our life? Even when it’s just for a short while? Isn’t it all the more reason to say thank you and show appreciation and love…because tomorrow we may not have that opportunity? Isn’t it all the more reason to be mindful that all things come from God and we need to be most grateful to Him for the blessings He has given us? Isn’t all the more reason to be mindful of the fact that when we loose a brother or sister in Christ, be it a move or through death, we will one day see them again? We’re going to be spending an eternity together…and if we can grasp that…it will make the temporary partings more bearable. We can even look forward in eager anticipation of that reunion one day.

So my dear brothers and sisters at Emmanuel Baptist…we are praying for you and are confident that God will raise up the next man to lead your church. Remain faithful and grounded on the word of God…and He will bring another servant faithful to preach God’s word to a hungry, thirsty and grateful congregation.