Arise & Shine: A Message for Boston

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Above: Sunrise over the Charles River

Do you like watching the sunrise? I sure do.

Whether or not you prefer to wake up that early in the morning, we are in an amazing time where God is rising over this city, awakening hearts and calling people to the place of prayer.

Isaiah wrote this message to the city of Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and I believe it’s also a representation of what God wants to do in here in the city of Boston.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:1)

I want to specifically draw your attention to verse 3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” This is actually strikingly familiar to a sermon preached by John Winthrop on his way to America, where he spoke that the new community they would form would be “a city upon a hill, that the eyes of all people are on us…We shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world.”

You see, Boston’s destiny is to be a beacon of the nations.

Thus, the question becomes: what do we want to be known for?

Currently, Boston is one of the smallest world-class cities, known for its rich history and being an intellectual hub. With over 300,000 college students, Boston is a popular place to come to pursue high-class education.

But I believe that God has so much more for us – This is only the beginning.

What if Boston were to be known for the way the Christian community works together? As a city where people pray? As a place where love is displayed?

If you’re intrigued by this, I’d encourage you to listen to the short message that I shared on Easter at the first Awaken Winchester service.

We all cry out for revival but don’t realize that what brings revival is repentance. Two weeks ago, Dr. Paul Jehle gave a lecture on the spiritual history of Massachusetts – he said that the Great Awakening was a direct result of the repentance that happened after the Salem witch trials.

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Above: Pastors and leaders gathering to pray for Boston at the New England Regional Leaders meeting

I’m convinced that God wants to bring revival to Boston, we’re not ready for it. Our light shines brightest when we extinguish the darkness, so my prayer is for conviction and changed hearts, that we might be capable for the revival God seeks to pour out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may we arise and shine, so that the glory of the Lord can come upon us, that Boston might be awakened to its destiny as a city on a hill and a light to the nations.

Below: A photo of His Eminence Sean O’Malley of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and His Eminence Methodios of the Metropolitan of Boston of the Greek Orthodox Church joining together to light the first candle of Easter night. Photo taken by Alexander Mavradis.

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Don’t Sign Up for the World Race…

Jessica Fischbach is a current World Racer – she wrote this blog and it’s really great! Tons of us have been forwarding it along to one another and I thought you might appreciate hearing her perspective. You can follow Jessica’s blog at http://jessicafischbach.theworldrace.org

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It is possible that the World Race has become romanticized. As racers share stories of adventure, travel and incredible God moments… it is easy to sit at home wishing you were living this life as well. I know, because I was there once myself. Sitting at my desk (when I was supposed to be working/studying) reading blog after blog…sound familiar?

I am going to be honest, this race isn’t for everyone. Thus, I am going to give you a few reasons why you should reconsider signing up for The World Race.

1) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you like being clean and smelling nice. You may go an entire month with only one quick bath in a muddy creek. But God will give you a new picture of what it means to be beautiful.

2) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you love wearing fluffy dry clothes. In addition to smelling bad, you will probably go the entire year without a clothes dryer. In fact, sometimes a rusty fence, outside, in the middle of winter is your only option. But God will show you step-by-step what it means to sacrifice your comfort.

3) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you plan on calling a tow-truck at the first sign of car trouble. When you are in the middle of the African bush, you just have to get out and push. But God will teach you to depend on him, not on a list of numbers to call when a problem arises.

4) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you are adamant about wearing your seat-belt. Our philosophy is: if you squeeze people in tight enough, no one is going anywhere. Our record is 22 people in a pickup truck, 10 people in a 5 person car, and 8 on a 4 person trike in the Philippines (although this one may have flipped). But God will show you his divine protection and you will depend on prayer more than ever before.

5) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you hate snakes, spiders, mosquitos, and other strange bugs. They will soon be your housemates and chances are your bug net won’t keep them off you at night. But God will supply laughter as your team spends 30 minutes trying to find the softball sized spider that fell into a pile of backpacks.

6) Don’t sign up for The World race if you like drinking clean water. Our food budget is small and when bottled water is to expensive the only option is to haul buckets of water in and purify it yourself. We do our best, but sometimes a water-borne bacteria sneaks through and you end up puking 7 times on your travel day. But God will show you love and care, as numerous squadmates rally around you to provide juice, baby wipes, and clean buckets.

7) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you depend on clean bathrooms. I wish I could count how many times I have had to step over poop and plug my nose, while trying to balance myself in a squatty-potty. But God will give you compassion for the people who live in garbage dumps and the children who walk barefoot through sewage daily on their way to school.

8) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you would be embarrassed by a friend picking something out of your teeth. When you go months at a time without looking in a mirror, you grow to depend on your teammates’ honesty (and sometimes their teeth picking services). But God will give you the courage to open up to a group of strangers that become your family.

9) Don’t sign up for The World Race if it is your dream to be a fashion icon. Numerous times I have seen a cute guy checking me out, before realizing that he was actually staring at my socks with sandals or my coat over a sweater over a dress, with jeans and snow boots combination. But God will teach you that you don’t need a man to romance you, because there is a Divine romance already at work.

10) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you always want a hospital nearby. When the local clinic fails you, the next best option is to pull out a book called “Where there is no doctor.” But you will find dependence on prayer, and you will see the healing power of God over things you used to depend on medication for.

11) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you need a bed to sleep. This year I have slept on the floors of gas stations, with homeless people in Poland, numerous airports, and in every form of transportation possible. But God will give you rest and you will be grateful that you typically have a bed to call your own.

12) Don’t sign up for The World Race if you hate living in community and love your independence. For the past 8 months, I haven’t even gone to the bathroom in a restaurant by myself. You will be with your team 24/7 and an iPod/eye-mask combination only gives a temporary sense of being alone. But God will push you in these moments, he will challenge you through your teammates and they will call you into greatness.

13) Don’t sign up for The World Race If you are comfortable with who you are, because I can promise that this experience will change you. The journey is not easy, but if you are willing… God will take you on an adventure of love, service, abandonment, and surrended. YOU will never be the same.

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“Don’t Sign Up for the World Race” from http://jessicafischbach.theworldrace.org/?filename=dont-sign-up-for-the-world-race

Story of Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick was born in Wales in 385 AD. As a child, he identified as Pagan and his friends called him Maewyn.  When he was fourteen or so, he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and held as a slave.

In his captivity, he turned to God and wrote:

“The love of God and my fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

When Patrick was twenty, he escaped from captivity after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast – there he found some sailors who took him back to Britain. In Britain he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him: “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.” With this dream, he believed that God was sending him back to Ireland as a missionary.

Then, he began studying in a monestary to become a priest. For thirty years he traveled through Ireland preaching the Gospel, baptizing thousands, and establishing monasteries all over the country. Patrick died on March 17 in 461 AD at Saul, where he had built his first church.

Patrick incorporated Irish traditions into their practice of Christianity, so he superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross, which became a Celtic cross.

Patrick used the three-leaved clover as a tool to teach people about the Trinity. Each of the clover leaves represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because of this, the shamrock was adopted as a symbol of St Patricks Day.

(Source = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick
http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89
http://www.history.com/topics/who-was-saint-patrick)

When a Valentine was a Man: The Story of Saint Valentine

Most of the time people think of Valentine’s Day as a day where we tell people we love them, give and receive cards, and eat a lot of chocolate. It’s a day where nearly every man in line at Trader Joe’s is buying a bouquet of flowers.

Today I heard that Valentine’s Day is based on the life of a saint, so I decided to look up the story…and was pleasantly surprised to discover the story of the man behind Valentine’s Day, Saint Valentine.

In the early third century, Roman Emperor Claudius II was in the midst of fighting many wars, but he was having a difficult time finding men to join the army. In order to grow his military leagues, Claudius decided to cancel all marriages. He thought that this would make men ignore women and want to be soldiers (whoever thought that would work!)

During this time, Saint Valentine was a priest and believed that people should have the right to get married, so he married couples in secret places.

Eventually, the Emperor heard about Saint Valentine and had him arrested. In the court, the Emperor was impressed with Valentine’s speaking skills, but told him to stop being a Christian and become a loyal Roman. Valentine wouldn’t deny his beliefs, and even tried to tell the Emperor Claudius about the love found in Jesus Christ. Because of this, the Emperor sent Valentine to prison to be executed. It is said that when in prison, Saint Valentine sent letters to his friends and asked if they would pray for him by writing, “Remember Your Valentine.”

While he was in jail, it is said that Valentine prayed for the blind daughter of his jailer and she was healed. A few days later, Valentine was killed by Roman officials, a martyr (Greek for “witness”) to the Christian faith.

The date that Valentine was killed was thought to be the 14th of February in the year 269 or 270 AD, and that is why we celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14.

It is also believed that there was a second Saint Valentine, a bishop from Terni in A.D. 197, who wrote letters to his community to express his love for the people he was pastoring. Like the first Saint Valentine, this man was also was martyred for his faith.

(source: wikipedia.com)

I’m not sure how much of this is true, and how much is folklore that has been built over the years, but regardless it is inspirational to me to see how people are willing to stand up for Christ and the Church, at all costs. It’s amazing to see how people were so transformed by Christ’s love that they were willing to lose their lives for Him.

Whether through cards, chocolates, or simply kind words, be sure to take time today to tell people you love how much you care about them!

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13:13

Devotional Idea for the New Year

Don Whitney has written a series of questions for us to ask prayerfully in the presence of God each day for a month – these questions are designed to guide us in living a life more in accordance with His will. He writes, “Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It’s so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we’re going and where we should be going.”

My friend Joel modified this devotional, and passed it along to a group of friends – suggesting that “maybe we can take it one more step. Let’s answer these questions ourselves first (we can write the answers on paper) and then take them to the Lord in prayer, asking HIM to answer them. In doing so, we might begin to understand where our priorities lie and how they might be very disconnected from His will. Once we submit to the reality that is God’s sovereign power (my goals, resolutions, and actions can never screw up God’s plan for me), we can genuinely and fully open up to him about our challenges, our struggles, and our heart’s desires.”

As I looked over the questions, I realized what an incredible tool this is for each of us as we reflect and think ahead about what the new year will bring:

1. What’s one thing I can do this year to enjoy you more?
2. What humanly impossible thing should I ask you to do in my life this year?
3. What’s the single most important thing I can do to improve the quality of my family life this year?
4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want me to make progress this year?
5. What is the single biggest time-waster in my life?
6. What should I be doing to strengthen your church locally?
7. For whose salvation should I pray most fervently this year?
8. What should I do this year, by your will and grace, different from last year?
9. How can I improve my prayer life this year?
10. What can I do this year for your heavenly, eternal kingdom?
11. What’s the most important decision I need to make this year?
12. How can I simplify my life to bring you better into focus?
13. Will you meet X need for me this year?
14. What habit would you like me to establish this year?
15. Who do you want me to encourage this year?
16. I have X financial goal that I would like to achieve this year. Is this goal worth pursuing?
17. How can I be a blessing to those at my work this year?
18. How can I be a blessing to my pastor (or to another who ministers to me) this year?
19. What should I do about my biggest regret this past year?
20. Will you bless me with X this year?
21. What area of my spiritual life needs growth?
22. Will you help me learn and improve on X skill this year?
23. What need can I meet and/or what ministry should I dedicate an unprecedented amount of my time on this year?
24. I don’t understand X biblical doctrine very well. How can I understand it better, and will you help me understand it better?
25. What parts of my life need to change, Lord?

Whitney finishes his devotional: “So let’s evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, ‘The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage’ (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let’s also remember our dependence on our King who said, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).”

Yes, the bible says, “Without vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). What is your vision for 2012? What do you want God to do in your life this year?

He came like a Winter Snow – A song by Audrey Assad

I heard this song on the radio the other day…Audrey Assad is my newest favorite artist – she writes Christian music that is fresh and with great harmonies. This song emphasizes the fact that Jesus didn’t come as a king, He came as a little baby, born in a stable. It’s quite humbling when you think about it – that the creator of the universe, would choose to enter our world this way.

The lyrics include: “You came like a winter snow. Quiet and soft and slow. Falling from a sky in the night to the earth below.” A beautiful poem that is put to music. Enjoy!