The Hope of Moore, OK

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I am not one that boasts about the things that I do nor am I boasting now but I would like to share with you my experience of being in the mist of the devastation and tragedy of a place called Moore, OK.

Moore is a town of roughly 50,000 people. I do not know what the place looked like prior to May 20, 2013 but I know what it looked like a month later on the one month anniversary,June 20th.

I went with a team of 7 from my church. An amazing group of people. The time that we worked together was, in my opinion, not long enough. I did not want to leave but family and other responsibilities was calling each one of us back to our homes. I don’t think that I am speaking out of turn when I say that each one of us left a little piece of our hearts in Moore, OK.

One experience in particular was working for a home owner named Moreen. She was a beautiful African women who carried a British accent with such class and grace. I could listen to her talk for hours. We helped clear her property and clean out her possessions from within her home in preparation for demolition. Her house from the outside seemed to be salvageable but what was unseen was that the foundation had been compromised and her home was on a list to be taken down and discarded. She would not rebuild and was not sure if she was going to stay in that area. She was not bitter. In contrast her smile was contagious and the joy that she permeated from herself made you want to be around her. Through out the course of the day when she was among our group she said two of my favorite words, “But God!” “But God” she said, “He has a plan in all this.” Oh, what two beautiful words…But God… Our time with her was coming to an end and as we said our goodbyes and walking to our van she hollered these words, “Please do not forget me in your prayers.” This grips me to the core because I have not been diligent in my prayers for her. I go on with my own life tending to my own family. It is so easy for us to leave someone who has been affected by a devastating blow and quickly forget them days later.

Another day that we were there we drove around one of the neighborhoods that did not have one house left standing. We saw a lady going through some rubble where her brother-in-law’s house use to stand. We told her that we couldn’t do much but we had rakes and shovels and able bodies that where willing to help. She explained that her brother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer and that the cancer has spread to other parts of his body. The family was unable to pay someone to bull doze the pile of debri that use to be there home and move it to the curb in order for the city to pick it. She has been doing this labor intense work herself with some help from other ministries and neighbors. We were more than eager to jump right in and help. So we began with shovel in hand little by little putting what once use to be someone’s home to the curb for removal. In this process the sister showed us a video that the news did on her family and in that video there was a small child shoveling what use to be there home. I asked her who the small child was and her response gripped my heart! This young girl 8 or 9 years old came with her mother from Shawnee, OK. They too were hit by this devastating tornado. When asked why they came to more there response was “Shawnee is O.K. but Moore needed our help.” Can you believe that? A young girl leaving what she knew because there were people that was worse off then she was. Tears just fill my eyes when I think about that.

I observed multiple houses that declared “God is still good!”, “Jesus loves you”, “The tornado took our home but can’t take our heart.” These were sprayed painted on the houses that may have a wall left or half a roof. This is the cry of Moore, OK. These are the people that live here.

The memorial for the 7 young souls that lost there lives at the elementary school will be a sight that will forever be burned in my mind. A line of volunteers t-shirts have made a wall on the fence guarding the 7 precious cross’s that bare the name of each child. To be there…to be there…as tears fill my eyes I can’t fully explain what it is like to be there. It is an overwhelming feeling that captures the inner most part of your heart. Each cross has a plack and engraved is each child’s name. I cannot tell you how many times I read there precious little names and thought of my own children. Anguish for the reality of the terror that these children and the one’s that survived must have faced. That day many parents dropped there children off at school never to see them again. No more bedtime stories, or goodnight kisses, no more little faces staring at you in the morning waiting for you to open your eyes and wake up, no more play dates, and mommy dates, no more hugs and little whispers that say, “I love you mommy.”

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Moore, OK…Many lives there will never be the same…BUT GOD…is your strength, your comfort, your very present help in time of need. There is no other. God is the HOPE of Moore. The HOPE that they will rebuild, they will be restored, they will heal and that life does move forward. Jesus Christ is the HOPE of Moore and it is evident with the writing on the wall of many of the homes. Another one being “Jesus Saves”. I cannot think of a better way to end that with these words, “Jesus Saves, He is the HOPE of Moore, OK.”

You have one life. Do something.

To Lisa whose driving quickly enhanced my prayer life. Your heart to “help people” is amazing and I am so blessed to be able to call you my friend. To Genie whose gentle quiet spirit and love for things pure is to be admired. You and I are truly kindred spirits. To Tony who most of the time was quiet but when you spoke everyone listened. I enjoyed working with you my friend. To Jim who made me constantly laugh. To Carl whose child like faith is inspiring. May the Lord bless you with all wisdom as you continue to seek Him. Your faith is contagious. To Gordy who joined us while we were there. You quickly became one of us and it was a pleasure getting to know you. And last but certainly not least my precious daughter, Jamie. I am so very proud of you. Your heart to serve will take you many places as you seek your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Always follow after Him.

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My sheep listen to my voice…

John 10:26-28

New Living Translation (NLT)

“26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,” (emphasis mine)

Part of this verse rang loud in my mind one day a few months ago. Something happened that I have not been able to forget. I think of it often and I am ever so amazed at how God teaches me Truths every day. This particular teaching was more of a reminder, one that I desperately needed.

I started a new job a few months ago. I have been looking and applying for about a year.  Needless to say the new job was a blessing and a relief. This particular office is set up in such a way that once you walk through the front door you are standing in front a receptionist desk; I sit at a desk toward her left. Toward my right is an office that belongs to one of my boss’(let’s call him boss #1)  and directly across the hall is an office that belongs to another one of my boss’(let’s call him boss #2). Now if you can imagine the set up one day early in the work day and my first week on the job one of my boss’ called my name. I immediately rose from my desk and walk into boss #2’s office and asked, “Did you call me?” His reply was “No” and the other boss (boss #1) called out “I did.” I responded, “In time I will get to know the difference in your voices” and I have.

Later that day I thought about what took place earlier and how I sometimes, ok, MOST of the time struggle to discern the voice of God. How even now that I am working again I don’t seem to spend as much time with Him as I want to…as I NEED too! This is why many times I struggle hearing the voice of God. I hear a voice calling out to me (as my boss did) and I enter the wrong office. The problem with that is the person’s office I enter may not be as kind as boss #2 and say “It wasn’t me who called you.” I take this not as just a reminder but also a warning.

The more I spend time in this job that God gave me the more I recognize people’s voices, there character, and their personalities. It is part of spending time with people. It goes the same for spending time with God. I need for my soul’s sake to be able to discern the voice of my God because if I don’t recognize His voice that is when I can be led astray. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they FOLLOW me.” My favorite part of this is a threefold promise. If we know His voice and listen to His voice we have eternal life, will not perish and NOONE can snatch of from Him. NOONE! Praise God!

My question for you is a simple one…

Do you follow a voice that you do not recognize? You’re not sure? If we don’t spend time with God and learn to recognize His voice then most likely we won’t follow Him either. Beloved, spend time with God today, don’t delay. He will never lead you astray!

Not for one moment…

Sword_and_Shield_original_by_angelfire7508I don’t think that I have seen the sun in days. If  it has been sunny I haven’t noticed. All I see is a grey sky. I walk outside and take a deep breath the cold February air fills my lungs. I exhale slowly. Today will be full of many battles. Most of them are in my own mind. Most battles aren’t won over night. They take time, strategy and a commitment. Even when those things are in place there is something needed that is even more important. Let me rephrase that, there is someone that is needed.

Today is going to be grueling. I am so in tune to this particular battle because I seem to fight it so often. The enemy knows when I am wearing down. I am usually aware of his coming. I can hear him approaching. Most days when I hear him approaching I turn and run away; not today. Something inside me is telling me to holdfast and stand my ground. He is within range now I can see him waving his banner. Loneliness has waged war and he is not alone. Today he brought Rejection with him. I want to run but for some reason I cannot move. I am frozen in fear. I feel the wait of the two as they approach. It is almost more than I can bear. They mock and ridicule me. It is too much and I fall to my knees. My struggle is great and I cry out to my God. They laugh and they scorn, “Where is your God?”

“I am right here!” His voice was like thunder! Loneliness and Rejection trembled with fear. They knew they were finished.  They were quickly taken away by the power of His glory. With a gentle hand He lifted me up and wiped my tears. “I am always here for you.” He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. The battle is not yours but it is Mine.” He then wrapped His arms around me and filled my heart with His love. It was in that moment that I realized that throughout my whole entire life He has always been with me. He never left me…not for one moment.

Father God, I come to you in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ. I praise You for who You are. No matter who rejects me, mocks me, ridicules or spreads lies about me You hold me close. You speak Your truth to me. You vindicate me. You rescue me out of all my troubles. It is for Your name sake that You would think of me. It is Your loving kindness that You brought me out of a dark place. It is because of Your heart that You would send Your Son to die for the whole world so that each one of us could have a relationship with You because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It Is so the whole world may know that You are God. The One and only! Amen.

How precious is the gift?

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” 2 Peter 1:1-2 (NIV)

Conversation with God….
I was talking with the Lord one day when I suddenly realized that I do not remember what it was like not to have Him with me. What I mean is the moment you are saved your body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit. I was saved at the tender age of 6, so, since then I have had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit living on the inside of me.

When I walked away….
Don’t misunderstand me. I know what it is like to walk away from God but HE NEVER LEFT ME! Like I said, I was saved when I was 6 years old. A marvelous day it was and I will never forget it. Unfortunately, as I grew up, the experiences of life and the pain it brought started to lure me away from my love of God. I questioned the character of God. I started to question if there even was a God. When I turned my back from the Truth of who God was and what His Word said I opened the door for more pain than I could ever imagine. I walked into a lifestyle that I thought would help stop the pain but it did just the opposite.

The Holy Spirit was with me….
The Holy Spirit was there every step I took; urging me to turn back to God. “Urging” is too light a word. The pain of my sin before me was so great but instead of repenting I tried to mask that pain as well. Hide it! As if anyone can hide from God. It was an ugly, vicious cycle I found myself in.

Those who bear witness….
When I would be dragged to church (yes, I mean literally dragged) the hand of the Lord was so heavy upon me that I wanted to run. I felt discomfort like I had never felt before. So, what did I do? I would like to say at this point I turned from my sin but I didn’t. I did the what a lot of us do. I avoided church.
Whenever I was around Christians who lived a godly life there was the hand upon me….pressing. I wish I could tell you that I learned from their example and repented. I didn’t. I determined in my own heart that I hated Christians.
I do want to make this one thing known. At this point in my life I had many people around me who called themselves Christians. These Christians lived the same as I did and I never felt the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin when I was around them.

Repentance equals Freedom….
Fifteen years I played this cat and mouse game with God until I could play no longer. I was tired and there was no more fight in me. I collapse on my face before my Savior and poured all the garbage before Him. All those years I was searching for freedom from all the years of pain and I found it in those few precious moments. God is so patient with us. He was so patient with me. The very thing I was running from should have been the thing I was running to. I was free.

Our faith is precious….
That decision I made so long ago was the best decision I will ever make in my lifetime. Although, at the time I did not know it. I did not value my salvation, my relationship with Christ as something to be valued; precious!
As the realization fully came to me I was in awe. I have never NOT had Jesus with me. The Holy Spirit constantly convicting me of my sin because He knew God’s plan for me and it was so much better than the way I was living.
Oh, precious ones, how I have to rejoice and praise the Lord for the gift of my salvation. It is so very precious!

Digging Deeper….
There is a spiritual lesson to learn here.
Why do you think it was so easy for me to walk away from God?
Dig into the Scripture and see what it says about “falling away”. Hint: Look up Hebrews 3:12-13. See what the Scriptures say about “soil” in Mark 4.

Application….
Do you see yourself in any of these passages of Scripture? How about when you read about the soil? Are there any changes that you need to make in your life? Any sin to confess? Maybe, beloved, it is you that have turned from God and desperately want to be whole again. Turn my friend. Don’t wait as I have done. I wasted so many years. Jesus has His arms wide open waiting for You. He can wash you clean. Run to Jesus. His gift of salvation is precious.

Happy Independence Day!

“I believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed, a democracy in a republic, a sovereign Nation of many sovereign States; a perfect union, one and inseparable; establish upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice, and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes.
I therefore believe it is my duty to my country to love it, to support its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.
-Written 1917, accepted by the Unites States House of Representatives on April 3 1918.

“-that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
-excerpt from President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, The Gettysburg Address.

I remember when I was in Elementary School I had to memorize The Gettysburg Address. It was a daunting task and I hated every minute of it. Little did I know that I was reciting one of the most important address’ in our nation’s history. As we celebrate this 4th of July we must remember the men and women that came before us to ensure our freedom. I think maybe the reason we are losing our freedom and this great country is changing so drastically is because we don’t take the time to remember. Not only that, how can we remember something that we don’t know? Many of us do not know basic US History.
I am no exception. I was given, not too long ago, a list of questions that every American should be able to answer. I wish I could tell you that I knew even half of them. I wish that I could be so proud of myself and say that I knew a quarter of them. I maybe could with confidence answer five! I am embarrassed to say, but yes, five.
The state of our country reminds me of a great nation in the bible. Particularly, the nation of Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, oppressed beyond what any human should be and cried out to God for a deliverer. God through His mercy and grace sent them Moses. Moses went up against the evils of the government with His God at His side directing all of his steps. God spoke, Moses listened, Moses obeyed. The Pharaoh did not listen. His heart was hardened along with his servants and those around him. Why would God allow the top leader of this country to have a hard heart? Why would He allow His people to be under such oppression? In Exodus chapter 10 I believe we have the answer.
“…that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” (vv1b-2).
He says the same thing in verse 9. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
God did these things and allowed certain situations to take place so that they would know that He is the LORD. Scripture also tells us that the mockery of the Egyptians was supposed to be told to the next generation and the generation after that. This they did not do.
Let us look at Judges chapter 2 verse 10. “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel.” I think this is one of the saddest verses in the bible.
I think we can easily draw a comparison from the Israelites to our present day in America.
“It is my duty to my country to love it”
It is hard to love a country that we don’t really know or understand the very fabric that it was founded on. The Israelites children cannot know a God that they are never told about.
“To support its Constitution”
Many people would say, “What is that?” Many of our politicians and justices would say the same thing. For the Israelites God’s Word is Truth and the way that they would pass down that Truth would mostly be from oral communication. Bottom line is that they weren’t passing on the message of God.
“To obey its laws”
This is why it is important to put people in power that believe in the biblical truths of the bible so that the law does not become corrupted. The Israelites were told over and over again to love the LORD there God with all their hearts, mind, soul and strength and to obey His commandments. If they didn’t know the LORD how can they obey Him. They were given the law so they would recognize there sin and their need for a Savior. He gave us Jesus. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, He came to fulfill the law.
“To respect its flag”
I remember after 911 seeing all of the flags on everyone’s vehicle. There wasn’t any place you went that did not have the flag proudly displayed. Did you know that if there is no wind and the American flag cannot fly freely in the wind you are to take it down? It is a symbol of freedom! God’s Word to the Israelite was there freedom. It was instruction and guidance to right living. He would warn do not turn to the right or to the left. Why would He say that? So, that they would not turn their hearts away from Him. It was freedom He was trying to show them but they chose bondage.
“Defend it from all enemies”
The flag, freedom or both? I’d say both. Enemies can penetrate the United States by the people not having knowledge of the foundation this country was founded on, the sacrifice that was made for us, the laws that are supposed to govern and protect the people, and the symbol that represents who we are. If we don’t know or respect any of these things we may end up sleeping with the enemy. Like the Israelites who allowed an enemy into their camp so have the United States. It is the root of Pride.
Let us go back to Judges and look at the 17th chapter. I believe that this makes things very clear concerning our own situation in America. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (v6).
Our standard should not be “what is right in his own eyes” but what is right in the eyes of God. God’s Word. God should be our standard. His principal, His gospel, His Son. The gospel is so valuable that many men and women have died so that you and I can have the opportunity to know the One that wrote it. Jesus is our standard. He is the Word of Truth. He is the one that died for our sins so that the enemy of our souls does not rain victorious over our lives. That is unless we allow him to. Men and women have died for this country so that you and I can experience the freedom of worshiping our God, the only true God, without government interference, without being told that when we pray do not use the name Jesus. There were two precious men who were told that in the book of Acts. The first martyr of our faith, Stephen. He would not keep quiet about Jesus and either should we.
So, as you are roasting hot dogs, grilling hamburgers, hanging out with friends and family and shooting off fireworks, please remember this. We cannot forget what this country was founded on, biblical truths. We cannot forget the lives lost for our nations freedom and our spiritual freedom. We must not allow our children to grow up in a United States that once was.