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One of my favorite pictures of Jesus is of him kneeling on a beach to cook breakfast for his disciples after his resurrection. Even after he had given all he had to give, offering his very life to pay the penalty of our sin, all the while knowing his precious gift of salvation would be mocked and rejected by the people He came to save… we find him once again humbly serving the men who recently deserted him in the Garden of Gethsemane, even loving and commissioning the one who denied that he ever knew him.

The Last Breakfast -Painting by Shelley Kardos

When you read God’s Word it becomes evident that God enjoys working with people who don’t have it all together. It has never been about our goodness or our faithfulness. Thankfully, it is all about who He is!

He comes to the broken… to the one who knows they don’t deserve forgiveness… to the one who has nowhere else to turn… to the one who has no confidence in their ability to walk on their own… to the one content to be carried by their Rescuer and willing to give their life in joyful gratitude to their Great Physician.

To an onlooker who sees the storms in a their life, it may seem as though they are putting on a face to mask their sad reality. When, in fact, rather than a putting on a face, they have chosen to walk in God’s gift of grace… They have decided to be held in His embrace… an embrace of light so bright that shadows flee and the darkness of the storm that swirls around them no longer has the ability to destroy them.

Even as the tempest continues to rage, their perception is changed.   They know their Anchor is sure… their Strong Tower is secure.

While some are content to simply be safe, others come to realize that the real storm is a holy war for the souls of mankind… they understand that this life is a choosing place, a valley of decision before entering eternity and they are willing to go anywhere to let the world know that there is a Redeemer… Not because they have it all together, they know they don’t… Not because they’re perfect, but because they know their Redeemer is!

Some of them are asked to take this Good News to places far away, to leave behind the homes they know and the people they love.  They understand that the enemy of our soul is holding many captive… Some in an illusion that this life is all there is…  Others are held in the deception that their own strength and goodness will save them.

To some this assignment may seem ludicrous, pretentious, and reckless, to others it may seem glamorous and adventurous, but to the sent one, it is merely obedience.

Sometimes these sent ones are called “missionaries,” a term derived from the Latin word, missionem, meaning, “to send”…  a term that should define everyone who calls on the name of the LORD, because we were not redeemed only to be safe. We were redeemed to join our Lord in His mission to set other captives free!

We’re excited about an opportunity God has given us to serve His missionaries this winter! We’ll have the privilege of cooking breakfast, washing sheets and scrubbing toilets as we serve as substitute hosts at the Oaks, a bed and breakfast in Italy that was established by Life Impact Ministries to give tired missionaries a place to rest and be refreshed. Our short time as overseas missionaries made us acutely aware of the intense spiritual warfare that missionaries and ministry leaders face on a daily basis. Missionaries serving away from home also face a barrage of language and cultural differences, as well as the separation from their loved ones and their church family back home. All this adds up to make their ministry uniquely challenging and exhausting.

We would really appreciate prayer, because the truth is, our enemy really hates these sent ones who understand that being a Christian means being on mission with Christ. Our enemy doesn’t want God’s sent ones to be refreshed so they can return to their assignments rested and better equipped in the battle of setting the captives free!

Will you join us in praying for…

  • travel mercies, connections, and divine appointments
  • protection from the enemy for our entire family
  • relaxation and refreshment for each of God’s sent ones who will be staying at the Oaks
  • sweet rest and reflection for the Oaks regular hostess, Celeste, as she is on her sabbatical

 

 

 

“And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”.. This morning I was reading through Luke when these words leaped off the page and their simple reminder woke me up! They made me smile and chased away the tension that had settled in my soul. The stress from the drama of our messed up world mingled with the anxiety of wondering what God is doing in our life was beginning to take its toll. Thankfully, a walk with Jesus through His word reminded me that all is well! The One who loved me enough to step into this crazy world to rescue me has put all my puny cares into perspective with this good news that forever changes everything! If He can do that for me, I think I can trust Him with my life! (Even with all the unexpected twists and turns!) He is, after all, the Master of the unexpected, as we can see in His birth, life, death, and resurrection!

Earlier this month, as I was thinking about this most miraculous event we call the advent, I tried to put my astonishment on a canvas and into words. Of all the miracles in the bible, this one… God incarnate… The Creator of the universe in an infant… confined in the womb of a peasant girl… this is the miracle that amazes me the most!

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A Gift to send

How far would Heaven’s love extend

To bring the shadow to an end

The veil to rend, my heart to mend

Awaken hope and grace begin

To buy me back, the Word is penned

Transformed, His Majesty Divine

In tiny flesh of frail design

His hands that hung the stars – confined

Eyes that painted sunsets – blind

Master of wisdom in a fetal mind

So curious, this given Son

This Holy unexpected One

Turning the tables to make darkness run

Defining love as He said it’s done

Victoriously my heart He won

Lord, I ask, please be my guide

As kingdoms shake and worlds collide

In gratitude an ocean wide

Make this wandering heart abide

In joy forever by your side

I pray that as you celebrate the birth of Jesus this week, that you’ll set aside time to walk with Him through His word and give Him the opportunity to awaken hope as He whispers His love into your soul!

As this crazy year comes to a close, we want to express our sincere gratitude for all of you who have prayed for us! Mike is doing great and getting stronger every day!  Please join us in asking the Lord to show us just what He has in mind for us in 2017! We don’t believe He’s finished with us in Italy, and yet, even with the miraculous news that Mike is showing no sign of cancer, his doctors still want to keep a close eye on him, so we’re praying about the possibility of serving in Italy for 2-3 months in the spring and then again next fall. We’ll keep you posted as the Lord leads.

God bless you all & Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Let Your Unfailing Love Surround Us

Today we received the results from the biopsies that were taken from Mike’s pancreas during his surgery two weeks ago. They indicate that he has pancreatic adenocarcinoma (the most common type of pancreatic cancer that accounts for about 85% of all cases). This isn’t the news that we were hoping for. It means we have a very tough road ahead of us, unless God provides a miraculous healing. Fifteen years ago He did just that, so we have no doubt He can do that again, if that’s His plan.

We so appreciate your continued prayers, now more than ever!

“Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD,
for our hope is in you alone.” ~ Psalm 33:22

The Scarlet Thread of God’s Rescue Plan

As we serve in Rome, one of my favorite jobs is working on Children’s Ministry curriculum.  This year our Children’s Ministry team will be taking our kids through a survey of God’s Word, tracing His Scarlet Thread of Redemption from Genesis through Revelation.  I thought it would be fun to share a little of it, so you can be praying for us as we write the lessons, as well as for the translation, for the teachers and for the kids who will be learning. When everything is finished… lessons, crafts, games, color sheets, puzzles, etc., we will be putting this curriculum online to be available for other Italian Children’s Ministries.  For now, here’s a sample of the teacher notes from a couple of the lessons…

Lesson 1: And God Saw That It Was Good

NOTES FOR THE TEACHER *The “Notes for the Teacher” section is intended for the teacher and assistant’s advance preparation of the lesson. It is not written for children or expressed in language they would understand.

This curriculum is designed to teach our children that the Bible is more than a bunch of unrelated, disconnected stories. As you read through God’s Word it becomes obvious that the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is one message with one central theme: the story of God’s amazing plan to rescue mankind and bring us into His family. Our goal in each lesson will be to trace this scarlet thread of redemption that is woven into the tapestry of various characters and settings to create one beautiful compelling picture of God’s sacrificial, redeeming love for us!

Jesus is clearly the central character of God’s story and it is only through Him that this picture makes sense. Jesus and His scarlet thread of redemption ties the entire Bible together so we can see its message: the Messiah had to suffer and die in our place in order to redeem us from the penalty of our sin.

Jesus completes the picture that is sketched out in the Old Testament. He said in Matthew 5:17,“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

During His ministry, Jesus told the religious leaders that the scriptures were all about Him. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39)

After His resurrection, Jesus clarified the message of God’s Word while walking along the road to Emmaus, And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.“ (Luke 24:27)

God, the Creator of the Universe, the author of the Bible and the Master Weaver of this picture had a bigger purpose than merely giving us a list of rules or a bunch of heroic stories to teach us good morals. His primary purpose was to show us the mess that we are in, how we got in this mess and how He planned to rescue us through the sacrificial life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

God’s story of redemption begins with His creation. The main point we want to make in this lesson is the fact that in the beginning God created everything and His creation was perfect. Each day of creation we read this repeated statement, “and God saw that it was good”. This should make everyone wonder what changed to take us from the perfection of God’s original creation, to the pain and suffering that we see in the world today. This lesson sets the stage for the chain of events that are set in motion when sin enters the world.

Read Genesis 1 asking the Lord to teach you as you prepare to teach our students.

Lesson 3: Paradise Broken

NOTES FOR THE TEACHER

Read Genesis 3 and pray for God’s leading as you prepare to teach His children.

All our lessons about the Scarlet Thread of Redemption will hinge on this lesson, because without an understanding of how everything changed when sin entered the world, we would have no comprehension of our great need for a Savior.

In chapter three of Genesis we are confronted with the biggest problem known to man – SIN. This chapter shows us that sin is a much bigger problem than just “making mistakes” or “breaking a rule”. At its core it is an issue of wanting to make our own rules, independent of God (in essence, to be our own god – the lord of our own life). This prideful desire for the position that belongs only to God is the origin of all sin. We also see the devastating consequences of sin, resulting in the fallen world we live in today.

The devil is often presented as God’s counterpart, equal to, but the opposite of God. Nothing could be further from the truth! Satan is merely a created being who is subject to God’s authority. Lucifer was created to be the most beautiful worship leader in heaven, but like us, he was created with free will. He chose to use his freedom to rebel against God’s authority. He was jealous of God’s position and wanted to be like God. Satan is powerful only because that’s how God made him, but in no way as powerful as God! When he chose to rebel against God, he was sentenced to separation from God and a final destination of eternal punishment in the lake of fire. He knows his destiny and to spite his creator and judge, he is determined to take as many of us down with him as possible. He wants us to be jealous of God’s authority, just as he is, so he tries to convince us that God is holding out on us. He whispers to us that we can decide what’s best for ourselves and that we don’t need God’s guidance. In the Garden, Satan tempted Eve by saying, “Did God really say…?” That is still one of his main strategies. He wants us to question God’s word, God’s authority and God’s love for us. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

In this lesson, we see that God gave Adam and Eve one rule in the garden. They were not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because if they did, they would die. So, why didn’t Adam and Eve die immediately when they ate the forbidden fruit? Adam and Eve died spiritually when they disobeyed God. Their disobedience also started the process of physical death for every living thing on earth. Yet, the biggest problem was that their relationship with God was severed, causing immediate Spiritual death. This condition would be passed on to every member of the human race like a lethal virus. When they chose to turn from God and disobey Him, they made the choice to follow the path of Satan (as well as his judgment – eternal separation from God and punishment in hell).

Immediately, their innocence was shattered and the shame of their new sin nature took hold. They tried to cover their guilt by sewing fig leaves together and hiding from God. This is a crucial point in this lesson. There is nothing that we can do about our sin problem, only God can. To show that mankind cannot do anything to make itself acceptable to Him, God rejected their attempt to cover their own nakedness and instead, He provided animal skins as a covering. That meant that an innocent animal had to die! From the very beginning, God wanted them (and us) to understand that sin has severe consequences. He wants us to have a clear picture of His justice, mercy and grace, because all three of these important concepts will come together in His plan for our redemption. God also wanted them to understand the idea of sacrifice. This realization, that their sin had caused the suffering and death of an innocent life, would have left quite an impression on Adam and Eve. Especially since this was their very first experience with death.

Thankfully, in this chapter, we also see our first glimmer of hope in the scarlet thread of God’s redemptive plan when God hints (in Genesis 3:15) that an offspring of woman will come to our rescue and God announced this judgment to Satan, “he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”