Archives for September 2013

31 Days of the Gospel {Reminding Myself Daily to Live in Light of Jesus]

A simple gift.

The journey began when a friend gave me a book:  Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith.

On the cover:  365-days to a Gospel-Centered Faith

And my thought?  Well, duh, isn’t all faith gospel-centered?  Don’t we have to believe the gospel to have faith?

And my revelation since I began reading on February 5?  Well, duh, all faith isn’t gospel-centered.  Especially mine.

For faith to be gospel-centered, we must “think, see, and do all things in light of the person and work of Jesus.”

I thought I knew the gospel.  The good news. Jesus died on the cross for each of us and rose on the third day, bearing the burden for my sin and yours so we can live forever in heaven.

That is the gospel, but do I think, see, and do all things in light of that?  In light of the fact that Jesus DIED for ME – wow.  He died a painful death on a cross…for me.  And he defeated death for me…a sinner who deserves nothing but the wages of sin – death.

No, I am not thinking, seeing, and doing all things in light of that because I forget it so easily.  In the midst of my hustle and bustle – even in doing good in His name – I forget the heart of the gospel. I forget how much he loves me and how my response to such love should be a heart living in light of the cross.

I am not – we are never – beyond the gospel. The gospel- that moment on the cross over 2,000 years ago when Christ breathed his last breath. Jesus himself – that MUST be my center.  And for it to be my center, I must preach it to myself every day.

Every.  Day.

And while reading Everyday Prayers and reminding myself of His sacrifice and love daily has not been a magic wand that made my life fantastic and perfect, it has helped my heart keep perspective and keep loving in the midst of much hurt.

Preaching the gospel to yourself and remembering who HE is and what HE’S done daily, WILL help your heart.  I promise.

So, as I link up with fellow bloggers for 31 days of ________ in October, I felt God saying to focus on the gospel.  Each day I’ll share a quote, story, or scripture – something related to what God’s revealing to me about the good news.

Screen shot 2013-09-30 at 11.58.15 AM

I hope you’ll join me on this journey to a more Jesus-centered faith. Together, we will preach the gospel to ourselves everyday, growing closer to our Creator.

———————————————————————————-

Today’s quote:  Because the gospel is true, God cannot possibly delight in us more fully than he does in this very moment. Scotty Smith

He delights in you.  Today.  Tomorrow.  Always.

Returning to Honduras {for Revive} {Please Partner with Us}

Sitting on the cabin’s front porch, I watched them hug one another goodbye.  Old friends reunited.  New friends discovered.  Tears everywhere as each returned to her “corner” of Honduras.

Refueled.  Revived.

Ready to see family and friends and serve Jesus.

No words were or are adequate for the four days I spent last year in Honduras with Women of Purpose’s Revive team and 100 English-speaking missionaries.  I’d come along to blog and update. Jesus had sent me to be changed.

I listened to story after story.  Prayed prayer after prayer.  Embraced sister after sister.

Stories of hope and hopelessness.  Stories of faith and stories of tragedy.  Some stories had endings; others are still in progress.

Many different approaches to ministry from many different religious traditions.

All for Jesus.

Through these stories and diverse perspectives, I saw God.  I witnessed His love, His faithfulness, His redemption, His unity…all of Him.

It’s an understatement to say my faith was increased.  It was increased, solidified, and…well, there’s no words for the honor of serving the missionaries and what that does to a gal’s beliefs and heart.

On November 7, I’ll return to Honduras for Revive along with the Women of Purpose team. Once again, we will worship and pray and lean into Jesus. We will share stories of heartache and joy.  I will see old friends, and I hope to make new ones.

But, best of all, we will gather for four days to focus solely on our Creator – on the one who died for us and deserves all honor, praise, and glory  – for He is our King.

My prayer is that you’ll partner with us in serving those who serve.

Revive has become a connecting place for missionaries.  A place to share ministry mistakes and cultural concerns.  To sing glory to God, cry tears of hurt, share stories of victory, and love one another.

We all need such a place.  We all need such community and connection to live rescued.

If you’d like to partner with us, we appreciate any donation, any amount. Please email me (sarah.b.farish@gmail.com) to help.

May God be given all glory.

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15

I Am From {An Exercise We Should All Try for Better or Worse}

{An I Am From poem linked up on She Loves Magazine}

I am from books, from Strawberry Shortcake dolls, and penciled stories

I am from the split-level brick house with light green door and the trailer on wheels under which the wind whips and screeches

I am from the apple trees whose apples fall plop on my trailer’s tin roof and later fill my tummy

I am  from over-the-top holiday celebrations and stylish hair

I am from Allen and Diana

I am from belly laughs and unsolicited opinions and from having “voices that carry”

I am from “Do NOT let them talk to you that way” and “You’re special”

And “He’s got the whole world in His hands”

I am from loving each other deeply and defending one another staunchly

I am from a small town whose mascot is a Dot that boasts a corner supermarket where everybody knows your name

From pinto beans, fried potatoes, and grain-fed on our farm beef

From Mr. Touchdown and the junior class homecoming representative

From the summer my dad was jobless in which we twirled batons and broke Home Interior

From naming cars and trucks – Old Blue and the Little Gray Ghost

From the fake Christmas tree with impatiently-drilled holes to make assembly quicker

All stored safely in my heart

I am from the quiet, conservative Methodist church in town with service order and blue-stained glass windows and from the overachievers

I am from people who love deeply and forgive sparingly

I am from weekends camping, roasting marshmallows, and family get-togethers

I am from “treat others the way you want to be treated”

And so I try

Screen shot 2013-09-24 at 1.52.13 PM

Weak Together {When Your Life is Messy}

I alternate between the clock and ceiling.  Sometimes I study shadows on the walls or windows.

Sleep simply won’t come.

Life is messy and pondering all the what if’s and why’s and why not’s has me looking at everything except the backs of my eyelids.

I don’t know who to tell or even what to say.  I am reminded that life in living rooms is often so different than façades on Facebook.  Not that I’ve intentionally portrayed myself or my family untruthfully.  But, social media only gets the smiles, not the tears.

I send a message to a good friend who lives in New York.  I’ve never met her in person.  We’ve Skyped and chatted on the phone.  We’ve emailed and collaborated.  Undoubtedly, we are kindred spirits and would be BFF’s if only miles didn’t separate us.

As part of her ministry team, I feel compelled to update her on my life – struggles and all.  I lead other woman on her behalf, and before we embark on a new session, I want her to hear my heart about my….well, heart.

I spill my guts in a Facebook message, preparing myself for her response.  Trusting she knows best for me and for her ministry.

Whatever her response, I will trust.  She is as authentic and loving as anyone I know.

Minutes later, she responds.

Hidden in the midst of her response were these words:

You know, with this ministry, I have this “grace place” feeling. We serve from our overflow. Sometimes there’s a lot. Sometimes there’s nothing. That’s okay because it’s not our ministry. It’s God’s. He’s got it covered even in our weakness and failings. I’m learning so much about this, for myself and as I witness the struggles others feel.

When we are weak, He is strong…strongest…always. So let’s be weak together and celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

So let’s be weak together and celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

resue you isaiah 46 4

I wept.

THAT is a true friend offering immeasurable GRACE.

I don’t have to sit all alone in my weakness.  In my mess.  My friend sits with me.   In humility, she is weak with me.  She offers no fixes. No easy answers to my struggles.  She offers herself.  Her time. Her heart.

To be weak with me.

And best of all?

TOGETHER we will celebrate God’s strength at work in our mess.

How had I forgotten that God is at work in the mess?  My friend isn’t leaving me. But, even better, GOD hasn’t left me and isn’t leaving me.

EVER.

And in my weakness HE is strong. 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

I will celebrate His strength as I see Him working in my mess – in my weakness.

Extending grace to a struggling friend.  Becoming weak with another.  Celebrating God’s strength at work in our mess.

That’s living rescued. That’s living free.

I Remember {We All Know Where We Were}

She’s sitting in her high chair, gold hair curling around her face.  Smile as big as her face.  There’s a constant drumming on the chair’s tray.  She delights in making her spoon an instrument.

I can hear her giggle.

Her chair is positioned between the living room and dining room as only a change from tile to carpet separates the two.  I am in the kitchen warming her food; she is in the high chair (mostly) so I can contain her.

I am frazzled.  Worn out.  I have realized long before this moment that stay-at-home life isn’t for me.  But I love this little girl something fierce, and I am determined to parent her with all the strength God provides.

As I settle in the chair to feed her, I flip through the channels.

No.  More.  Kids.  Shows. Really.

By 8 am, I have had all I can take of prancing puppets and dancing Doras.

I stop on Channel 3 – the Today Show – just minutes before the first plane slams in the North Tower.

Matt Lauer speculates – Accidental?  Intentional?  Others chime in.

The reporters are bewildered.  There’s no time for prepared stories or planned reactions.  Planes are crashing into buildings.  Victims are jumping from windows.  Burning buildings are falling.

Ash spilling from the sky.  People running from debris.  Reporters scrambling to find words.  More planes crashing to the ground.  Sirens blaring toward danger.  Men and women running to the rescue.

To the rescue.

 

First responders  – police, firemen, ambulance drivers, and bystanders – rushing into flaming buildings to rescue their fellow man.  Risking and losing life for the sake of another.

Wow.

They went to rescue twelve years ago.  Many losing life in hopes of saving another.

To the loved ones of those who lost their lives – regardless of nationality – I stand with you today, praying and remembering.

He came to rescue thousands of years ago.  Him losing his life in order to save you and me.

To those who do and don’t know Him as their Rescuer – regardless of nationality – I stand with you today, praying and loving.

I can ask question after question about 9/11.  Why?  How?  Still, I’m often left with more questions than answers.

I can ask question after question about our Rescuer – our rescue.  Why?  How?  Still, I’m often left with more questions than answers.

I will never know all the answers to why and how. But I can know who.  I can know the Who of the Bible – Jesus – my Rescuer.  The one who died on the cross for my sins  – your sins – so we could live eternally.

I pray as you remember the tragedy of 9/11/01 today, you also remember that in the end – Jesus wins. He conquers death.  Terrorism. Injustice.  All of it.

The Good News {37 Years Figuring It Out and Still Not Done}

Brown, fabric pews.  I remember the pews were cushy, but the fabric itchy.  Often, I’d twitch during the service if my bare leg brushed the edge.

Piano on the right.  Organ on the left.  Baptistry, lectern, and choir loft, front and center.  The pastor a sweet man who would mop his brow with a white handkerchief during his sermon.  He dressed in a suit and would step from the “stage” to the altar while preaching.

As a teen I used to think…. Heavens!  Who steps on and walks on the altar? Isn’t that bad or something?  As an adult, I love that he felt free to close in, making his point.

My friends and I would sit on the right side, halfway back each Wednesday and Sunday, listening as Pastor Delbert explicated God’s word, holding his Bible high in his hand.  It was in those brown itchy pews as he mopped his brow that I first heard these two words:

The Gospel. 

Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 4.54.51 PM

I was either 13 or 14.  I associated the words with “gospel” music, so I knew it had something to do with Jesus or singing about Him.

Good News.  

That’s the definition Pastor Delbert gave; the definition stuck in my head and heart for many years.

Over time, the gospel became the good news that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and rose again on the third day, overcoming death.

This is truly the gospel and became (more or less) my standard operating definition for “the gospel.”

Then, I joined a women’s ministry team:  Women of Purpose.  We began to reflect on and define the gospel in preparation for the annual WOP conference on October 5.  Because our theme is Rescued, meaning we were rescued the day Jesus died for us on the cross thousands of years ago, this year’s conference will focus on…the Gospel.

The story of our rescue.

As I searched my heart and my Bible, the gospel continued to be the Good News of Jesus’ defeat of death, but it also became so much more to me.  Previously held beliefs and ideas began to change as I read the Bible with a gospel perspective – looking for the gospel, looking for Jesus on every page.

During this “quest” to understand and internalize the gospel message, I happened upon more than one (ok, hundreds of) books about the gospel.  I’d read Gospel by JD Greer.  The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. And, Suburbianity by Byron Forrest Yawn.  All books focused on explaining the gospel.

One of my favorite gospel explanations came from Suburbianity:

The good news, the gospel, is a declaration of what God has accomplished in Christ for sinners.  It is comprised of the set of historic facts surrounding the righteous incarnate life, innocent death, and resurrection of the person Jesus Christ.  It is the declaration that this Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth in order to willingly offer His life as a substitutionary sacrifice in the place of sinners to atone for our sin and its tragic consequences before a holy God.  (It’s actually the message from Acts 2:21-24)

Whew.

Information overload.  As I talked with a pastor about the gospel, he said, “It’s so simple, yet so complex.”

To which I said, “Amen, brother!”  Double whew!

Finally, I happened upon a book in a used bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee, that would connect my prayer, study time, and experiences.  I think of this moment and this book as “divine intervention.”

The book?  The Divine Rescue by Edward Williams Fudge.  You should know…I’ve never fully agreed with a book in my life.  The same goes for this one.  But, this book walks the reader through the entire Bible – through God’s relentless pursuit of those He created and rescued.

Me. And You.

Wow.  The entire Bible.  God relentlessly pursuing and redeeming His people whom He loves.

Calming yet overwhelming.  Simple yet complex.

And with these paragraphs, something “clicked” in my head and heart…

Jesus taught his disciples a special way to close their prayers: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”  Each time they repeat this phrase, the Rescued community acknowledges Jesus’ agenda and agrees to put it into practice beginning now.

By using the closing phrase, the Rescued also affirm three defining marks of their relationship with the Creator.  They solemnly pledge that in their own lives and within the life of their community the Creator will set the agenda (“yours is the kingdom”); he will provide the strength necessary to carry it out (“and the power”); and all the applause and accolades will go to him for the results that follow (“and the glory”). 

If you’ve been in church or at a sporting event or any number of places, you probably recognize these closing words from the Lord’s Prayer. (Matthew 6)

Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. 

While I realize this is one man’s interpretation of this Scripture, I couldn’t help but think…

If my life is about His kingdom, meaning I have surrendered to Him and His plan; and it’s through His power  – His Spirit in me – that I live and accomplish and grow and learn; and I give Him all glory for my life – failures and accomplishments – come what may….

Then…

I am living rescued. 

I know. This is an unattainable notion.  To live completely surrendered through His power, giving Him all the glory every second of every day.

But, being intentional about surrendering, calling upon Him, and giving Him all the credit?  Totally doable.

You won’t get it right or perfect.  That’s heaven.  But, you can cling to Him, surrendering your will for His, asking the Holy Spirit to guide, and giving Him praise for it all.