My Encounter with the God of Love

I suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life. In addition to this disorder, I felt shame and unworthy of God’s love and grace even though I had been a Christian for almost 20 years. But now, I can’t deny I’m loved.

In September 2012, I found myself sitting in a prayer service thanks to the strong urging

Joy and freedom

of a good friend. I remember listening to the live praise music and other Christians around me worshiping God with a love and adoration I didn’t yet understand. I felt nothing. After months of crying and begging God to pull me out of a desperate situation that had only deepened my anxiety and depression, I was completely drained.

“I know you’re real and powerful God, but where are you?” I remember thinking.

The prayer service message that night was all about oppression, mental and physical bondage and how our spirits are affected by these things. As the prayer director spoke, I realized I was the person who needed to hear the message.

“What an odd coincidence,” I remember thinking. But now I know it was a divine appointment.

When the message concluded, there was an opportunity for prayer and worship before we were dismissed. That’s when I felt a tug on my heart as if God was saying, “Go ask for prayer” – so I went to the alter. As the prayer director began to pray over me, she motioned for an intercessor to join us. The girl who assisted didn’t know my story, but immediately said words I’ll never forget, “God wants you to know He hears your cries. You think He’s not listening; but He hears you, and He loves you. He calls you His precious daughter.”

After the young intercessor spoke, the prayer director placed her hand on my forehead and prayed for God to break the hold of spiritual oppression and restore my joy. Suddenly, I was overcome with an immediate feeling of immense love and joy. It struck me so hard and so fast that I felt like I might stagger backwards during the prayer, and that’s when the surprise giggles started — and I could stop, but I didn’t want it to end. During prayer, joy and happiness overpowered me, and the silly giggles increased into laughter. I felt the love of the Father completely engulf me, sweeping away the pain and the darkness I suffered for so many years.

When the prayer ended, I realized I was a different person. My anxiety disorder was gone and peace had replaced it. I undeniably know God loves me. I will never question His love for me again. For the first time in my life, I have learned to trust with my whole heart.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope it has encouraged you.

A Free Gift

Another great post written by a friend of mine:

One evening, my wife and I watched a video we borrowed from a friend called Finger of God.Finger of God is part of a trilogy of short films put out by Darren Wilson. The trilogy is a documentary where Mr. Wilson and company travel to meet people around the world in attempt to ask a simple question: who is God?

I was touched by one scene in Finger of God in particular. A group of Christian missionaries were visiting Turkey. One of the missionaries named Heidi Baker began talking to a Muslim woman through a local Christian pastor who was interpreting for her. The woman suffered from blindness in one eye which Heidi asked permission from the woman to pray for.  As the missionary and local pastor prayed, the woman was healed from her affliction. Afterwards, the woman praised Allah. In response, the local pastor tried to correct the woman by saying it was Jesus who had healed her, and he seemed quite annoyed the woman kept praising Allah. Finally, the missionary pulled him aside and asked him not to continue to correct her.  The point was the woman was healed.

As I watched the scene unfold, I thought, “Yes, the missionary is absolutely right.” The fact God loves all His children and He just healed one from her afflictions without any conditions attached was the point. The healing was a gift, no strings attached.  The local pastor was so focused on getting the old woman to acknowledge the healing was done through Jesus, he missed the most important part of it all. It is so obvious to me it’s like the 300lb gorilla in the room; yet he missed the point. With great sadness, I feel I can’t say it enough.

Sometimes, we miss the forest for the trees. We’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the details of something that impassions us that we lose focus on the big picture and what we were trying to accomplish; therefore, I will ask an important question.  Do we know what we want to accomplish? Maybe more importantly, what is it that God really wants us to do?

Written by Leslie Hardin

The Artist

The blog post below was written by a godly man and a good friend of mine.  It was inspired by a dream and provides perspective of how to understand the world through someone else’s eyes.  Enjoy!

– The In-Place Missionary

Perspectives

Once, I had a dream. There were two brothers. Both liked to paint. Both men were well regarded for their craft by their neighbors. One loved to create magnificent landscapes on large sheets of canvas. Using vivid colors, he always managed to capture the very essence of nature. The other brother preferred to do portraits of people and particularly enjoyed painting portraits of his friends and family. The images he created almost seemed alive and full of emotion.

Which brother is an artist?

The two brothers have an uncle. He has made a living painting buildings for others. He gets up early to gather and prepare the materials he needs. He then labors during the day as long as the sun is up and he can see. His customers are very happy with the quality of his work. The paint he uses is of the finest quality and provides the perfect balance between bright color and being long lasting. He never tarries or wastes time while on the job. He always completes his tasks within the timeframe he promised. His customers appreciate that fact that he minimizes disrupting their shops and households while he works.

Is he an artist?

The two brothers have a younger sister. She is a child and loves to finger paint. She dips her tiny hands in small jars of paint provided by her brothers. She giggles happily while she applies it to whatever her mother will allow. Sometimes the shapes are unrecognizable; but she would tell you it is a bird or sunflower. Watching her warms the hearts of all who see her.

Is she an artist?

The brothers have a friend. He struggles every day with addictions; and, as a result, he is unable to hold down a regular job. This friend occasionally draws on whatever paper he can find at a nearby dump. The pictures consist of dark creatures that are frightening and nightmarish.

Is he an artist?

What if I tell you that his renderings help him cope with his addictions? Through his work, he is able to recognize the demons that haunt him and it helps fend off their attempts to lead him down to the abyss.

While skills and focus of the work varies, isn’t each person an artist in his or her own way?

Today there are over six billion souls on this world, and each person views the world around him with different eyes. The lenses he uses to see through are colored by life experiences. What he has been taught, sees, and hears helps to make him who he is today and tailors his understanding of the world around him. If each person was to paint a picture of life and his world as he sees it; each picture would be different; and if each person present his understanding of eternity, heaven, or God in some form of artistic rendering, each would be different.

You can’t explain the unexplainable, and you can’t describe the indescribable because no one can see the whole picture. No one can comprehend the nature of the question, much less the magnitude of the answer. Just understand you can find joy in what you DO see. And revel in it!

Written by Leslie Hardin

Be an Ambassador

It happened again.  This week, I sat in front of the television, watching the news and found myself angry, ashamed, and saddened.  It wasn’t the violence, desperation, or human condition, usually flooding media these days.  Instead, it was the realization of society’s view of Christianity today and how in some ways it’s our fault the world views us the way it does.

As I listened to a news anchor calls the values of my Father “outdated”, “backwards”, and “self righteous”, I felt the breaking of my heart for people who will never know His love because they don’t know the truth about Him or His Son based on how we represent Him.

Now don’t get my wrong, there are plenty of God fearing, completely sold-out-for-Him followers of Christ out there, but those representations don’t appear to be what the world sees.  They see a body of people who judge the world, live in excess but withhold giving abundantly to those in need, fight among themselves, and who speak love but do not appear to know how to love themselves.  They see people who confine themselves to a building of four walls where they go to upstage each other on supposed holiness and get their “Jesus fill for the week.”  They see a lot of fakes, and a lot of rules (Luke 11:35-44).  Would you want to follow a god that appears to condone such actions from His people?  Whether this is truth or not, this is how many people perceive us.  If you don’t believe me, try typing “christianity is outdated” into Google.

How do we change the world’s view of us?  We go back to His model.  We start loving people.  We live like we have a love worth dying for.  We start showing people the type of unconditional love Jesus died for, and we believe it and strive for it with ever fiber of our souls (John 3:16).  We build relationships among each other and among people in the world who may be wandering hopelessly seeking a love they’ve never known.  We build each other up instead of tearing each other down.  We always speak truth; but we speak it with grace, love, and peace.  We pray for each other.  We speak with the authority we’ve been given even when it scares us.  We do not only what’s right, but sometimes we even do what’s hard.  We speak to nations.  We become servants of one another (Matthew 23:11). As my pastor stated profoundly this morning, we should be obedient in carrying out what He tells us to do because “It may not even be about you.  It may be God getting you in a place to touch others around you…We need to start acting like who we are.”  We need to remember who we stand for even when we’re having a bad day because “God still speaks through you even when you’re having a bad day.”

I am just as guilty as anyone else, and I don’t mean to come across as preachy or condemning.  But as western world culture turns farther and farther from God, we should feel an urgency, not an apathy, for affecting those around us.  We should attempt to share His goodness and blessings in a positive, unmistakably different way every day.  We should be ambassadors and represent Him well (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Act:*

  • Act as a new man/woman.
  • Act declaring (declare truth and His goodness).
  • Act as a conqueror instead of a prisoner.
  • Act as a blessed man/woman instead of a pauper (no matter how much or how little you have).
  • Act righteous and not as a sinner (He has made you worthy!) – Romans 6:11
  • Act free, not bound (He has freed you from the chains.  Go tell the world!)
  • Act as a son and an heir (let to world know how good your Father is).
  • Act forgiven (and forgive others).

* Wise words from Pastor Richard Marcello.

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.  Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and He knows everything.” – 1 John 3:18-20

In love and peace,
The In-Place Missionary

He is Worthy to be Trusted: My Story of Hope during Financial Crisis

If I told you I’ve been through some hard times, you’d probably not be surprised or even overly sympathetic because most of us have been there.  Many of us have faced tragedy and devastation at some point during our lifetimes.  Life is hard.  People can be cruel and disappoint us.  But God is worthy to be trusted.  He is always good.  Period.  Below is a story about His complete peace and goodness during financial crisis:

Early in our marriage, my husband and I suffered what should have been a debilitating financial meltdown due to greed and power surrounding my father-in-law’s business which was taken from him by key people in the company.  My brand new husband, who was part of the company, lost his job which was most of our income.  Also, we had foolishly financed our honeymoon which compounded our troubles.  My husband’s father lost not only his business but his primary source of income.  Close friends who were involved with the business venture either lost their money, jobs, or turned on my father-in-law who was the CEO and founder of the company.  Times were dark.  I can still remember getting the phone call that literally brought me to my knees in tears as my husband told me that we had lost everything.  But we didn’t lose everything.  Our hope, marriage, and dependence was on Jesus, our firm foundation.

I’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t easy to trust God or anyone else during those times.  I am the ultimate distruster.  If I can’t do it all myself, I whine a lot.  Hey, I’m just being honest!  I’m a control freak, but in the situation with my husband’s job, I had to be dependent.  I had no choice.  We could barely pay our bills.  Each month looked bleak, but He is always faithful.  He is sovereign and He provides exactly what we need.

We never missed a meal.  He always supplied us with food — even from people who didn’t know we needed it!  They simply felt compelled to make a casserole for our family and would knock on the door and say, “We don’t know what you’re going through, but God put it on our hearts that you might need a couple of meals.”  Also, we never missed paying our bills.  When we’d pray, asking God for help, with complete dependency on Him to supply, He always did.  If we needed $500 to pay bills, it was miraculously supplied to us by the time the bill was due.  Again, many times the people closest to us didn’t even know we were in need, but the exact amount of money or food needed to get from month to month was supplied.

Eventually, we recovered financially.  The whole situation taught us how to be better stewards of our money and grow together as a married couple.  It also taught us how to be more dependent on Him overall — something I’ve never been able to do well!  We look back now, and I think the most amazing thing about the entire situation is God gave us peace beyond all understanding through the crisis.  We knew He would supply and He always did.  Just as a father looks after the welfare of his children, God the Father — the Ultimate Father — wraps us in His protective arms if we rely on Him.  He always wants the very best for His children.

Matthew 6:27-28

New International Version (NIV)

27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.”

What is an “in-place missionary”?

A Definition:

Google defines the term “in-place” as something that is “established” and “not traveling any distance.”

The Start of a Beautiful Journey:

Map

At the tender age of twelve years old, I felt God calling me to become a missionary when I became an adult. At the time, I didn’t understand where I was being called to go, how I would minister to others, or what purpose He wanted me to serve. I just knew He wanted me to impact others positively for His glory and to share His love with the world.

I have always felt a strong connection with Asia and thought for many years I would go to China, Japan, Korea or another Asian country; however, God had other plans — bigger and better plans — as He often does. During 2000 and 2001, I was thinking of leaving the United States for Japan to become a console game artist. I studied the Japanese language and culture and practiced drawing every day after my Junior and Senior high school classes. In many ways, I also thought going to Japan might begin the first steps towards becoming a missionary, but I dragged my feet about making any major decisions about college or jobs due to academic burnout. I was tired of school and wasn’t sure where to go next.

In 2002, my grandfather passed away after many long months in a hospital and nursing home. The need to be with my family through that difficult period of my life temporarily kept me grounded in my home town for another year. I may have been confused and reeling from my grandfather’s death, but God knew what He was doing when He used that year to strengthen the bond with my family and keep me at home for a while longer. I never would have guessed what would happen next!

Late in the summer of 2002, I went university hunting to seek a college with a great technology school. In the mountains of North Carolina, I found a wonderful university with a beautiful campus with an advanced techology school. Finally, I was ready to “leave the nest” — or so I thought. A week after I returned home from the university tour with my family, I met my very best friend who eventually became my husband.

A few years have passed since my husband and I began our grand journey together. Occasionally, I wondered if perhaps the still, small voice I heard that tugged at my heart and stirred the passion in my soul to become a missionary was my imagination not God the Father.

In recent years, life has taken me through several more twists and turns, as it often does. The great journey of life truly is I’ve heard others describe it — a rollercoaster or highs and lows and detours along the way, and guess what? I’m still in the same home town I grew up in; however, now I understand God’s vision for the missionary work He wants me to pursue. He wants me to reach, encourage, and love people around me and share His incredible, unfailing love across the globe through the power of the Internet and technology. This revelation was perhaps the most surprising and fulfilling when I realized what He had promised to me so many years ago, and now I want to share with you.

Welcome to my blog and journey with God. I hope this blog will encourage and inspire you to seek His love and truth in your own life.

Love,
The In-Place Missionary