Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It Was All About A Cross

Atoning sacrifice for sin
“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. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

Do you believe in destiny? I do—to the extent that God has predestined His children for Kingdom work.

Jesus’ destiny was the cross. His earthly life and ministry culminated on the cross for our salvation. He loves us that much! This was the central focus of everything He did. Yet, in order for His death to mean anything, He had to choose it.

God created us with free will to choose our own path. Once we encountered the cross and became Christians, we were no longer our own. Every decision we make reflects Christ to the world.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Christianity means living much deeper than ourselves. It’s an awesome and enormous responsibility to carry the name of Jesus.

The cross was costly. When Jesus was resurrected, an enormous price had been exacted on Him. He bore the wages for our sin. This Sunday, when we celebrate His resurrection, take a moment to consider that cost. It’s too easy to become complacent in the politically correct society we live and forget the price of our redemption.

Are we willing to take up the cross of Christ and the cost it encompasses? Consider these thoughts from Jim Elliot, a martyred missionary.

“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the twentieth century does not reckon with. But we are "harmless," and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are "sideliners" -- coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” 

When you analyze your life, does it resemble the world or the cross? For Jesus, it was all about the cross. As we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior on Easter morning, can we say the same?

It was all about a man
It was all about a cross
It was all about the blood that was shed
so I would not be lost
It was all about the love
That was bigger than a life
It was all about a freedom that was given
through your sacrifice
'Cause you would rather die
than to ever live without me
(by Jody McBrayer)

If you have a prayer request, I’d love to hear from you. Would you take a moment to lift up those on our prayer list and Sgt. Jesse McCart, who continues in rehab? All this information is at the top of the blog.

We’ve been praying for a beautiful young mother, Courtney, who’s battling a cancerous brain tumor. Would you take a moment to lift her up in prayer? This is from her FB page Tuesday afternoon:

Asking for prayers today. We are on our way to Duke as we speak for my MRI tonight at 8:15 and for PET scan tomorrow morning at 9:45. We will get results of both scans tomorrow at 11 AM. This will determine if the gray spot that they've been watching for several months is just scar tissue or actual tumor. Prayers would certainly be appreciated. Also, for the first time in a long time, I had a seizure last night that lasted about ten minutes. I feel very drained and have a duller sensation in my right arm and leg...more than I normally do. Always scary going through one. Just asking for prayers for safe travels, get back to 100% from my seizure and 2 excellent reports from the PET scan and MRI. The nerves are certainly kicking in. I thank you in advance!

I pray you all have a beautiful Resurrection Sunday.

God bless,
Laura J

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

©Laura Hodges Poole

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Worth More Than Sparrows

the precious sparrow
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

It has turned out to be one of those kind of weeks, and it’s only Wednesday! If dropping a gallon of milk on the floor this morning then discovering two dresses I put in the washing machine Sunday night is any indication of how the rest of my week will go, perhaps I should just go back to bed. J

Oh well. Milk can be mopped up. Dresses can be rewashed. Thank God mildew hadn’t set in. On a larger scale, my mother is very sick with a respiratory ailment, and my niece is struggling with severe mental illness problems. Other extended family issues weigh on my mind this morning, and as always, I turn to God for answers and comfort.

He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground. He knows when I spill milk or stress over a family member. He knows when I’m faced with major decisions and can’t figure out which fork in the road to take. But more importantly…

He cares!

My Savior cares.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Oh, what blessed assurance that is!

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.

What are you burdened by today? I’d love to share your burden in prayer. Please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. If you have a moment, would you consider praying for those on our prayer list at the top of the blog? And I appreciate any prayers lifted up for my family and me. Thanks!

Much love to you all,
Laura J


©Laura Hodges Poole

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

With the Carpenter's Help

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a situation that you felt alone or forgot for a moment that God’s hand was right there guiding you? My sister Teresa faced years of hardship after her husband Sal died from pancreatic cancer. After selling her house in the city, she downsized to a fixer-upper nicknamed “the ranch” in a more rural area. In today’s devotion, she shares a glimpse into her journey the summer she and her son Jeremy tackled “the ranch.” Thanks, Teresa, for sharing!

With tears of frustration, I left the ranch for the first time in all these months, discouraged. The negative thoughts began. “Two steps forward, three steps back.” The muttering continued, not bad words, just having a pity party with myself. Heading down Archer Road to the back road I regularly travel, I passed an old church. There was a sign out front that read: “When you have done all you can, God will do what you can’t.”

Now, I am fully aware that God is not going to come down and do construction for me. But, in that moment, I needed some words of encouragement. I know I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. However, it’s difficult to accomplish much in this extreme heat, hot mostly because the windows won’t open, air conditioners aren’t working or haven't been installed yet, and the three ceiling fans just stir the hot air (or so it seems).

Teresa on a mission trip
Every time we begin a project, we are met with another situation to fix. Each project has taken us three times longer to complete than anticipated. I found a leak a couple days ago and spent my morning yesterday sealing the roof. I will put another coat on tomorrow. Hot on the roof? Yes, but equally as hot inside.

I do feel grateful for all the help we had yesterday. Several of Jeremy’s friends arrived, to do yard work and cleaning, in this 100 degree weather. These friends, committed to helping in this project, mowed for 5½ hours, completing the front yard. The scraping of the kitchen floor was completed at 3:00 this morning. I’m grateful we reached our deadline for finishing the kitchen floor.

Now, sitting in my cool apartment, with the television on, my level of frustration has diminished. I repeat again my ongoing mantra: “We can do this.” I know that tomorrow is a new day. It will indeed be another scorcher! But, I also know there is a Carpenter up there keeping an eye on our crew, keeping us out of harm’s way, and lifting me up when I feel discouraged.


If you have a prayer request, please feel free to share in the comments section or e-mail me confidential requests. New requests this week include:
      ·         A friend who’s having trouble concentrating. She feels as if she’s in a fog. Please pray for clarity and peace of mind.
      ·         Same friend's daughter is struggling with 2-year-old twin girls and a 3-month old baby. She’s moved to a new town with very little support. She’s battling depression. Please pray that she’ll make new friends and gain a local support system within the church she has began attending. Pray that she will feel God’s presence and comfort during this difficult time of transition and motherhood.

      This is one of my all-time favorite renditions of “How Great Thou Art.” I hope you’re as blessed by it as I am. 

The most up-to-date prayer list is on a separate page at the top of the blog, along with information on Sgt. Jesse McCart. He and his family appreciate all the prayer support they’ve received from so many folks since he was injured in Afghanistan last summer.

God bless,
Laura J

© Laura Hodges Poole

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Full Measure of Joy

Overflowing with Joy
"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.  I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one… Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified." ~Jesus (John 17:13-19)

Have you noticed after a natural disaster like a tornado, hurricane, or even a simple house fire, survivors make statements like, “Thank God we survived. Nothing else really matters.”

In the midst of total loss, people often find the silver lining. Jesus prayed the above prayer shortly before being arrested and crucified. Yet, in the midst of asking God to remove the cup of crucifixion from him, he also speaks of his joy. He longs for his disciples to have the full measure of his joy within them.

I’ve known many discontented people in my life, as well as a few contented folks. The stark contrast is those with little are unencumbered by this earthly life. They’re more likely to praise God for the little they have than to whine about the things they don’t have. Even when faced with more loss, or possible death, they find the words and joy to praise God.

Maybe the key is found in Jesus’ words. “…for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.”

Striving to live by the world’s definition of success will rob you of Christ’s joy. Acquiring more “stuff” won’t fill the empty space intended to be filled with Christ. Embracing the cross of Christ means being able to praise God even when life circumstances scream at you not to.

A book I read many years ago, These Strange Ashes, by missionary Elisabeth Elliot, records her first missionary journey as a young single woman in 1952 into the jungles of Ecuador. Her work included devising a written alphabet so a written language could be established for the Colorado Indians. She spent nine months living among them in a primitive lifestyle. She entrusted a fellow missionary to return to the city with her work and then went to another part of the jungle to study the Quichua. A short time later, Elisabeth received a letter from the missionary informing her that the suitcase carrying all of her work had been stolen. This is an excerpt from the book:

I read the letter again and again. The filebox, the notebooks, the charts—all of it gone. All of it, of course, in my own handwriting. There were no copies of anything.
It was, after Maruja’s and Macario’s deaths, Lesson Three for me. Another experience of stripping. The tenth Psalm came to mind: “Why dost thou hide thyself in times of trouble?” And, as before, I heard no reply to that and other questions. There was no light, no echo, no possible explanation. All the questions as to the validity of my calling, or much more fundamental, God’s interest in the Colorados’ salvation, in any mission work—Bible translation or any other kind—all these questions came again to the fore.
To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the Cross. And the Cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact…There is a certain reticence to infer that our little troubles may actually be the vehicles to bring us to God. Most of us simply grin and bear them, knowing they are the lot of all human beings, and our memories being marvelously selective, we simply cancel them out, none the better for the lessons we might have learned...
But there was nothing to be done about it at all, no hope of recovery, and that was that…It was only gradually during the months that followed that I saw that to God nothing is finally lost…Loss and death are only the preludes to gain and life…Faith, prayer, and obedience are our requirements. We are not offered in exchange immunity and exemption from the world’s woes. What we are offered has to do with another world altogether. (These Strange Ashes, 129-132) 
Elisabeth married Jim Elliot in 1953, and moved deeper into the jungles to establish contact with the Auca Indians who’d never successfully mingled with outsiders. Jim and four other missionaries were killed by this tribe in 1956. Elisabeth, along with her toddler daughter and a few other wives, chose to stay and continue the work started by their husbands. They eventually succeeded in bringing Christianity to the Auca Indians.

It’s our choice to give into despair or choose joy when faced with hardship. Joy tells you, no matter what, God is there. He cares. He will provide.

What bitter trial are you experiencing? If you’d like prayer, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. If you’ve walked through a trial and would like to offer encouragement for others, please feel free to share that, as well. I’d love to hear from you.

The permanent prayer list is at the top of the page, along with information on Sgt. Jesse McCart, an American soldier injured in an IED attack in Afghanistan last summer. Would you take a moment to lift them up in prayer? Thanks!

Our worship song is performed by MercyMe, "You Are I Am." It's a beautiful song! I hope you're blessed by their message. 

Laura J

©Laura Hodges Poole