Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Week 2

The first candle was the prophecy candle. It reminds us that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do.

This week we look to the second candle. The second candle on the Advent Wreath is called the Bethlehem candle. It is a symbol of the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child.

Luke 2:1-7

“the census comes at the exact time to get a virgin to Bethlehem to fulfill prophecy with her delivery.” -John Piper

As we look at the preparations God made in sending His son to redeem us, we have to see that these preparations didn't end in the manger, or on the cross but He is continuing to bring things in preparation for others who will come to know Him personally!

2Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:28, Philippians 1:6

These verses reveal to us that God sent His son as the sacrifice for our sin, but they also show us that the work God does in our life to redeem us and restore us and prepare the way for His Son does not stop at the moment of salvation. These verses are a reminder that God uses everything in our lives for a purpose - to make Himself known among the nations - and that what he begins in us, He will be faithful to complete.
“The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do.” -John Piper

God could have sent His son in all his glory, but chose to send Him in humility. As we look at the Bethlehem candle we are reminded of this. We are reminded that God has a plan and it is far better than anything we could come up with, but it is also far beyond our ability to comprehend!

Matthew 3:1-12 allows us to see John the Baptist preparing the way of the coming Messiah. In the same way that God used John the Baptist to prepare the way for Christ, He uses us to prepare the way for what He will do in those around us.

As we get closer to Christmas we should look expectantly toward what God will do, but also look back gratefully at what He has already done. He has shown up in our lives in amazing ways, in circumstances we could never have pieced together no matter how hard we tried.

As we watch these candles burning we are reminded that not only is God who He says He is and does what He says he will do, but He has a perfect plan for our lives. He is the one making the preparations we must simply follow after Him!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Today begins the Advent Season! I am so excited about this! Zeke and I are doing our own Advent family worship times and I just wanted to share what we did tonight for the first night. I am hoping to share what we do for each Advent Sunday, maybe some in between too! The whole purpose for this season is to focus our attention and affection on Jesus Christ our Savior. That is my prayer in posting this.

"Lighting a candle is a simple yet profound act. It is a testimony to the power of light over darkness. Even the light of one candle can reveal our faces as we stand near the candle. As we light the candle, we begin our journey to Christmas, a day of joy and celebration. 
The first candle on the Advent wreath is called the Prophecy candle, it opens the period that anticipates Christmas and remembers those who first spoke the promise of the coming Christ child."

For 400 years the people had no one who came to them bringing a message from God. Think back through all the prophets God had sent to them over the years, then for 400 years He seemed to be silent! 
Then, just like lighting even the smallest flame expels darkness, Jesus came and through the cry of an infant, they heard from God once again. And this time not through another man, but from God in the flesh.
Just as with the prophets, there would be some who would reject what He said, but others who would believe and follow. 
The first candle is a reminder to us that God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do! 
Prophecies had been made about this great King who would come one day, but then silence fell, and with silence, probably some hopelessness, but praise God He always keeps His promises! So on that dark night, just as He had spoken through the prophets, the Savior King came! 
One light. It may not seem like much. Just like one infant crying doesn't seem like much, but with God all things are possible, and we can have confidence that He will complete what He has started.
So as we look back, we also look forward. One day, that infant, our Savior King, will come again, but this time as our conquering King! We may not know all the details surrounding His return, but we know that just as sure as He aid He would come before and He did, He will do it again! We can celebrate with Hope! Not wishful thinking hope as our society knows it to be, but absolute certainty Hope, based solely in the fact the God is who He says He is and does what He says He will do!

"But there will be no  gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he  brought into contempt the land of  Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he  has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people  who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of  deep darkness, on them has light shined. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with  joy at the harvest, as they  are glad  when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as  on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us  a son is given; and the government shall be  upon  his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful  Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting  Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the  Lord  of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV)


Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts on Moving

Well, as I sit here our moving truck is completely packed - in one day, thanks to some amazing friends - and we are set to leave Tennessee on Wednesday headed to Las Vegas for one year of church planting training then on to Hawaii.
I am so amazed at how God moves! I remember when we first got to Carthage. I remember when our house here was as bare as it is now. I remember knowing very few people, and starting out on this new journey God had called us to. Now, as I look back I am thankful for all He taught us. It hasn't been easy. We have been through, and will go through again, some rough seasons in ministry, but God is faithful!
Right now I am sitting in the basement of a house that God provided for us! Ministry has taken place within the walls of this home! I am so thankful for the lessons learned in hearing my mom say over and over again "This house isn't ours, it's His! It is a tool for ministry." I have been able to see that in this home! I am listening to the sounds of a washer and dryer run. The first appliances Zeke and I ever bought as a couple! I remember thinking "I cannot believe we bought this!" But God provided! I hear the dishwasher running upstairs - this will be hard to part with (: - that was a Valentine's gift from Zeke because we had gone almost 2 years without one! But God provided for that! He has absolutely blessed us beyond what we can comprehend!

I think back to today and how we went to pick up our rental truck, and because they didn't have the car dolly ready, they gave us a discount on the whole rental! Which pretty much covers one of the many fill-ups we will have to do between here and there! I think about how packing the truck started a little slow, but within minutes we had so many people in our house packing, loading, and cleaning. How even the lunch that we were going to provide for those who helped ended up being provided to us! He is so faithful! I think about the fact that clothes that didn't need to be packed on the truck, got packed on the truck, but in a couple loads of laundry I had kinda slacked on we have what we need to make it there! The same goes for towels and blankets! He is so faithful!

It is easy at a time like this to get overwhelmed with all that will be missed - and please don't misunderstand me, there is a cost involved for those who are Christ followers! There are birthdays we will miss, but there are also birthdays we will get to celebrate! There are big life events we will miss, but there are also big life events we will get to be part of. There are people, places, and things that will be missed, but we have been called by a faithful God to go, so we will go. We could think about all these things we will miss, or we could count the ways He has been overly faithful to us during this time!

There is a verse that is on our living room wall here at the house that says "What then shall we say to these things? If GOD is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 This has been a reminder to us through seasons of blessings and seasons of difficulty that if God is for us, if He is leading us and we are following after him living out of the relationship we have with Him, who can be against us! Who can come against our God? Who can be victorious over Him? And if He is the one that is guiding us, leading us where He wants us, who can come against that? Oh yes, there will be difficult circumstances we face, but we can face those knowing that our God has the victory! I think about 1 Thessalonians 5:24 that says "He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it." He will accomplish His purpose! I am so thankful that as believers we get to be part of that! I am so thankful that I cannot stop what I did not start! He started this! He has called us, and He will complete it, because He is so faithful!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do We Really Believe It?

  There are a lot of thoughts that are running through my head tonight. It has been a busy day, more than that a busy last few weeks! Today was our first day of Teen Music Camp. This is an annual event in our community where teens come for a weekend and learn skits and music that they perform in a worship service at the end of the weekend. I say perform, but perform isn't the right word. They use these songs and skits to lead the community in worship at the end of the weekend. It was amazing to see 40+ teens singing together and enjoying fellowship with one another all day today.
  The whole focus of today was worship. The thought that worship is all about God and it is a lifestyle, not just something we participate in for an hour a week. This is such a foundational truth that we all need to be reminded of, almost daily! It is so easy for us to make things about ourselves, and we do it without even realizing!
  While thinking about this, God brought this thought to my mind, do we really believe God's Word? I mean more than do we know His word, but do we really believe His Word? Because this flows out into every area of our lives. What we believe about God reaches into every area of our lives. Matthew 12:34 says, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." If we say we believe in God's Word and we truly trust it, then our lives will reflect that! No question about it! What is in our hearts will come out in our lives! We can't trick people by trying to live a life that looks good like we believe a Christian's life should, when in reality our hearts are dead to Him. Unless he gives us a new heart, all that will flow out of us will be death because our heart is dead! But when He gives us a new heart, life will flow out of us! It will be evident! I love the illustration David Platt uses for this. He compares the change that Christ brings in our life to being hit by a Mack truck - there is going to be a difference! You don't get hit by a Mack truck and walk away looking the same as you did beforehand. You walk away looking drastically different!
  We cannot say that Christ has changed our lives if our lives look exactly the same as they did before! it simply isn't Biblical! What is in our hearts will come out! So if what is coming out looks nothing like Christ, the issue lies in the heart! Proverbs 4:23 says "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." Another version says 'for from it flow the issues of life." Everything about our lives begins in our heart. If we have issues with anything in life, we must move past simply treating the symptoms and realize it is a heart issue!
   I am not however saying that as believers we do not sin. We absolutely sin! We struggle daily with the flesh. However, the difference is in the lifestyle. If the pattern of my life is sinful, that doesn't look like Christ! Remember, if you get hit by a Mack truck, you will look like it! As believers we do sin, but the Holy Spirit of God that dwells within us opens our eyes to the fact that we have sinned and just like Romans 2:4 says "God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." This does not happen in the life of the non-believer. It happens in the lives of those who have been hit head on by the extravagant grace of an awesome, holy God, and they are never the same because of it! This same God, Takes away our dead heart of stone and gives us a new heart! "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh." Ezekiel 32:26.
   If this awesome, holy God has hit us head on with His extravagant grace, we can no longer live like we lived before. We cannot make excuses! If this has taken place in our lives, the result will be the life of Christ flowing out of the new heart He has given us!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Launch Update

We have just finished the first day of the Launch Assessment Retreat & it has been a long, good day! It is exciting to be surrounded by couples who are in a similar place as us. Hearing all the stories of how God has called these couples has been refreshing and God has used it in a great way to reaffirm what he is doing in and through Zeke and I.
Along with the blessing of the assessment retreat, it has also been wonderful to see our Vegas faith family and get to see their new facility! I am so humbled to see all that God has done over the last 11 years! It is just like God to move in the way he has moved in our lives through this assessment! For us to be able to go through this with part of our faith family that has guided us through many other major life events is a huge blessing!

Please continue to pray for us! Tomorrow will be a day of more assessment and instruction.
- Pray for wisdom and understanding as we are assessed.
- Pray for clarity as we share the vision God has given us for Hawaii.
- Pray for the relationships and partnerships we are building through this retreat.
- Pray for restful sleep tonight as we are both dealing with some jet lag (Zeke more so than me).

Thank you for your faithfulness to pray for us and your support of us through this season of our lives! We greatly appreciate it!

Zeke and Layne

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prayer Needs

As most of you already know, God has made clear to Zeke and I the calling to plant a church in his hometown in Hawaii. God has allowed us to connect with a program called Launch to help us through this process of church planting. Through this program, there are various assessments to determine where we fall in our readiness to church plant. Zeke has already competed many of these assessment online. This Sunday we will fly out to Las Vegas for 2 days of church planting training/assessment. I am writing this blog to ask you to be praying for us during this time. Zeke will be coming back from Italy Sunday afternoon and we will turn right around and fly out to Las Vegas, so there are a lot of logistics involved. So with that said, here is how you can be praying for us:
-Pray for Zeke and the team in Italy as they spend their last few days in Italy and begin their trip home.
-Pray for flight connections to be on time.
-Pray for Zeke as he deals with jet lag returning from Italy & preparing for this training.
-Pray for wisdom and understanding as we learn more about church planting.

Thank you in advance for your prayers! We truly appreciate them! We cannot wait to see all that God is going to do!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Lessons

This is a random blog post, but it is just some things God has been showing me. And honestly, I need to do something to occupy my time because as I write, it is another Monday under Tornado watch here in Smith County! These are definitely my least favorite days of Spring, but they make you appreciate so much more the days that come after. I am learning that for me, this is one of those times where God tests me. Do I truly believe that He holds everything in His hands? Because if I truly believe that, then why do I worry so much about storms that I cannot control when I know the one who holds not only the storm, but the world in His hands! Too many times I find myself forgetting that He is the only one deserving of my fear. I fear too many things that have absolutely no power over me, & too often find myself completely ignoring the fact that He is all-powerful, almighty, and absolutely the only one I should fear!

This weekend, our church family participated in a prayer walk throughout our community. Zeke and I chose to select our neighborhood and the areas immediately surrounding us. The first thing that hit is was how many people live in this area that I honestly considered to be one of the less populated areas of our town. We counted around 80 homes that are in this area! A reminder to us that there are so many people who still need to hear the gospel of Christ!

As we were walking, it became a little more intense of a walk than we originally expected. (I later found out that there was a special weather statement saying that it was a record heat day!) So as we were walking I looked down in the grass and saw something moving. It looked kind of like a worm, but then when I looked a little closer I saw that it was an ant carrying a piece of bark. And it reminded me of the Proverbs 6:6 where is says:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard;consider her ways, and be wise."

I thought about that as I was watching this ant. All the random facts that you learn about ants in school came to my mind and I realized how amazing a thing it was for this tiny ant to be carrying this piece of bark. I also thought about how in doing this, the ant was bringing praise to God. The ant was doing exactly what God had created it to do, and because of that God gets the praise. The same is true for us. When we do what God has created and called us to do, He gets the praise for it, not us!

As I think about these things I am overwhelmed by a God who holds everything in His hands and love us with a love that is so undeserved and absolutely unconditional. The only response to this amazing, mighty God is to fear Him and serve Him with all that I have.