Friday, December 31, 2010

A garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…

Tonight when I put my son to bed he said, "I wish you and daddy were on the plane going to get them now"… I said, “Oh, me too son.” This adoption journey has truly been quite a journey for all six of us. It seems this road of international adoption really isn’t a road at all… it’s much more like a ROLLER COASTER! (and all those who have walked it before us and with us say “AMEN”!!)

You see, Clint and I were supposed to fly out today on flight # 6504 @ 11:48am to go pick up our kids, but yet another “set back” occurred. Early Wednesday morning, Kathy from CHI called. I answered the phone so excited because I was expecting her to tell us the embassy gave the “okay” for us to fly for our assigned tentative date, but very quickly tears were streaming down my face and I could hardly speak. I just couldn't believe it.... I so stunned at the news that it took me a bit to accept what she was saying to me on the phone. We were all being told that we would have to wait until the next tentative date. I ran upstairs to tell Clint that all 6 of us families were denied the “okay” to come for our appointments, and that the embassy was asking for more paperwork for every one of our files.

Even though we both knew this could happen, being the chronic optimists that we are, tickets had been bought, reservations made, and we had been counting down the days all week till we would see our kids! So as you can imagine, we were both completely stunned with disbelief at the news. It was a huge blow for both of us... we really felt crushed... so shocked we didn't get to go, so let down and overcome with sadness…. So we prayed… actually Clint prayed while I bawled like a baby.

Anyway, I had to get the dog to an appointment at the vet, so I was crying and rushing around to get out the door. I'm so thankful that our kids were still not awake yet. As I drove, I cried out before the Lord. On my way home I was such a mess that I determined that today I would thank the Lord OUT LOUD with every wave of sadness and disappointment I felt. So out of my mouth ALL morning came the spoken words, "Thank you Lord", with tears filling my eyes.. over and over… “Thank you Lord” and declaring to Him, "I trust you"… because the alternative was really not a alternative. And that’s when I noticed it, by noon it felt so powerful over my emotions each time I said THANK YOU LORD. It was as if I could feel the momentum building every time I declared it out loud. It was kind of amazing me, and actually by the time I went to bed, I was deeply impacted in my heart. I was so held in His arms... His peace was so resting on me... it was so tangible it was almost weird. I have never done that before to that extent, and I felt a bit stunned by it all as I lay in bed pondering it all after we prayed.

The Word commands us..."In EVERYTHING give thanks" and I so clearly realized that I had just experienced the reason WHY He must tell us to do something so simple, so do-able, so practical in a very tangible way. Gratitude literally lifts us... it so changes our perspective... it even changed my emotions!!! By the end of the day with the "Thank you Lord” still being spoken every time I felt sad about it…. Along with it was coming waves of thanksgiving and praise accompanied by such a feeling of safety and His presence.

There is a song I learned as a child that is based on a verse in the Bible that says, "He gives us beauty for ashes... the oil of joy for mourning... a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness… I am a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that Jesus be glorified."
It was as if the more I spoke out loud "Thank you Lord", that the actual spirit of heaviness lifted and He truly gave me a garment of praise! I was thrilled at what I had just witnessed within myself that day… it was a total “lightbulb” moment... and I've been so profoundly impacted because of Wednesday.

If I could choose all over, I know I wouldn't change it because I've just experienced something amazing, do-able, and powerful! What we speak out of our mouths is powerful over our thoughts and our emotions! Our words are seeds... they have the power of life and death... they can edify and build up...they are effective. I’m thankful that our endurance muscle has really had to grow through this adoption process, it has been so long and even painful at times, but we would do it all over again because the Holy Spirit is so faithful to teach us and grow us through it! And because our children are so worth it!!

As we close out 2010 tonight realizing that we were supposed to fly out today, I honestly feel so thankful because God has taught me a powerful lesson through this whole thing that I know it's going to affect the rest of my life. Although I’ve spoken His Word out loud before as I’ve faced trials, or a bit here and there with challenges, I’ve never THANKED HIM out loud so consistently as I did on Wednesday with so many waves of sadness hitting me… it proved mood altering and life changing! THANKS BE TO GOD WHO ALWAYS LEADS US IN TRIUMPH!!!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TENTATIVE - January 4th visa appointment date

When I opened my email today and read that statement on the memo line, I think my heart skipped a beat!! WE ARE GOING TO GET OUR KIDS!! I’m so overcome with emotion and thanksgiving to our God.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough?"
~Psalm 106:1-2

The agency said that they won’t have confirmation of our appointment until the end of next week… possibly only a day or two before we will need to travel. The email said that our case was filed at the Embassy TODAY for the next visa appointment date, so please KEEP PRAYING that every document and detail would be there, and that they will confirm this January 4th appointment so we can book our tickets!!

AND for some icing on the cake… Clint’s birthday just happens to be Jan. 2nd, which is the day they would want us to arrive in Ethiopia. Can you think of any gift more memorable than to get to travel to get our kids on Clint’s 42nd birthday?!!! It will have been 53 days since we were there…. 53 days of “absence making the heart grow fonder”… 53 days of praying and longing to hold them again when we will finally get to see their faces again… THANK YOU LORD for YOUR steadfast love and faithfulness EVERY SINGLE DAY of our lives. How could we ever praise you enough!
~ Mary

Finishing Touches on the Adoption Puzzle

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Prayer not Passivity… “keep on asking”

Matt. 7:7 Amplified says, “Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened.”

Daniel was such a good example as he consistently was faithful to pray 3 times a day. Prayer shows our dependence on God. I’ve felt challenged by the Holy Spirit that I’m to FIGHT in the place of prayer for my kids…. That I’m not to slip into passivity, but to step up in the place of being intentional in interceding for each of them…. And even praying specifically over the seemly slowed “red tape” of this whole adoption process.

I think it’s easy for me to get passive by just thinking God’s will is done WITHOUT praying…. To forget that the Word tells us that we are engaged in spiritual battle every day of our lives… that our adversary prowls about like a roaring lion, SEEKING whom he may devour….I have to remind myself that we’ve been given dominion and authority on this earth and I daily choose to step up and walk in that authority. His Word shows us continually that prayer moves the hand of God!

The past week I’ve been pondering some of what Word tells us about prayer…. I’m commanded to pray without ceasing…. To pray His Kingdom to come and HIS WILL to BE DONE…. He tells us in His Word that the effectual prayer of a righteous man avails much”…. Do I truly believe God’s Word…. Do my actions (or my daily prayer life) reflect my belief?

If you believe Matthew 18:19, please pray the following in agreement with me today… and everyday:
Father, we ask that you would thwart every attack of the enemy today concerning the details of our adoption. We rebuke every principality and power that would stand in the way of our children coming home, and we ask YOUR WILL to be done on behalf of our children TODAY!! We ask for favor with all the governmental offices that are processing our paper work, that your hand would oversee the entire process, and that YOUR NAME would be honored and glorified. We SUBMIT our lives and our children to you completely today. Thank you that Your Word says… “Submit to God, resist the devil, and he WILL FLEE.” We rebuke you devil in the Name of JESUS, you have NO authority in our lives or the lives of our children… we are bought and covered by the precious blood of Jesus! No weapon formed against us shall prosper! Surround our children with a hedge of protection and pour out your peace and presence upon their lives today. We ask and keep on asking in the Name of Jesus, AMEN!!! (So be it!!)

I John 5:14 & 15 amplified
And this is the confidence (the assurance, the privilege of boldness) which we have IN HIM: [we are sure] that IF WE ASK anything (make any request) according to His will (in agreement with His own plan), He listens to and hears us. And if (since) WE KNOW that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that WE HAVE [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him.”
~ Mary Sprague

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Goal is Exceeded!!

Our Adoption Puzzle pieces are all sponsored and there is extra to give toward other’s adoptions!! Is God just so amazing…. Exceedingly, abundantly, above all we could think or ask. If you feel called to adopt, but are letting finances stop you….. DON’T! Now is the time to consider God’s ability! He is beyond ABLE, and where He guides HE PROVIDES!!!

We had a wonderful time with family in Texas for Thanksgiving. We had the adoption puzzle shipped there straight from the maker…. And it never arrived. So our desire on Thanksgiving Day to put it together and label the pieces with every ones names was not able to happen… yet! There is another puzzle being re-made and shipped to Kansas now which will make for a very exciting family night really soon. We will post pics of the completed project, but for now we will re-post the art work of what it will look like.

THANK YOU to everyone who gave to this puzzle fundraiser through Lifesong for Orphans. You have been a vital piece in bringing home our two children, and because we exceeded our goal… you are even playing a part in helping others you’ve never met with their adoption.

Monday, November 22, 2010

New pics today…

Here are a few new pics of the kids that we received through email from our adoption agency today. Aren’t they so precious!! We are sooooooooooooo BLESSED!! So many people have told us that our adoptive kids are blessed to come into our family, but we know that it’s really our family that is SO BLESSED to be entrusted with such incredible gifts from the Lord.

We have so much to be thankful for… God has provided every step of the way in this adoption journey. Our puzzle fundraiser is done and was an amazing success! We stand in awe of our Awesome God who is able to do exceedingly, above and beyond what we think or ask.

“Oh Give Thanks to the Lord for He is GOOD!”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sad News Today…

Started the day off @ the mayor’s prayer breakfast this morning, hearing a 12 year old girl loudly proclaim through song that God IS our life…our hope, our peace, our JOY. We know this to be true.

Throughout this adoption journey we’ve been on, we always seem to jump with joy at any phone call with news from Children’s House International (CHI), but today the call only brought tears and some real physical aching to my heart. If you’ve known us long, you know that Clint and I are extreme optimists…. so when CHI told us that it would take 4-8weeks to get our Embassy date… we had great expectation that our kids would surely be home by Christmas!!
We already knew of the two embassy date slots CHI had been assigned for December (Dec. 7th and 21st), but on the phone today was when we learned some additional news that changed our expectations. We were informed that CHI is only allowed 10 families per Embassy date. The Dec. 21st embassy date we were so hoping to get assigned is ALREADY full because of their limit. There are now already 10 families (12 children) booked for it… leaving no open slot for us. I quickly began to ask questions until she said, “Mary I’m sorry to tell you that realistically there isn’t even a 1% chance that you will get to bring them home in December”. So even if all of our paper work (birth certificates, passports, and visas) were complete today, we would NOT be able to travel to pick the kids up until a January embassy date because of this 10 family limit that is placed on CHI.

Although the news from the phone call was sad and not what we wanted to hear…. the blanket of PEACE that surrounds us is very real. Even as our hearts feel real longing to hold our kids in our arms again… we know that our ever-present God is holding them until we are given permission to return to Ethiopia. Our God is amazing… His presence is tangible… He comforts me by reminding me that He is holding Justus and baby Mercy right now…. @ the very same time He is holding me… There is truly none so capable and so faithful like our Abba, Father God… so thankful to be His.
He is our hope, our peace, our strength, our joy… today. None can compare to the King of Kings. So I’m thanking the Lord for our precious kids today and looking forward to the day we will hold them again!

“I will bless the Lord at ALL times; HIS PRAISE shall continually be in my mouth.”

We’re almost there…only 30 pieces left to be sponsored!

Our adoption fundraising puzzle has now been ordered. A big THANK YOU to Isaac Alongi Studios for taking the family picture and doing the artwork, as well as a big thanks to the Precthl family for letting us borrow Kendi and Tristen as “stand ins” for our family picture to represent Justus and Hannah Mercy who are still in Ethiopia.

We can’t wait for this to be framed and hung in our house as a constant reminder of all who were part of the puzzle to bring our kids home from Ethiopia. We will be putting the puzzle together over the Thanksgiving holiday and writing each of the names of those who sponsored pieces on the back of the puzzle. We will post pics once it is completed, but until then, the picture above is what it will look like.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arrived safely home on Friday…but part of our hearts are still in Ethiopia

– Mary's update Nov. 13, 2010

We both woke up very early today… I’m sure it will take a few days to re-adjust, but we just seized the moment before the sun came up to give thanks again and just praise the Lord for the “it’s final” verdict given to us by the judge in Ethiopia. We are so blessed and are longing to return and bring them home. They say it usually takes anywhere from 4-8weeks to be given your embassy date (6 wks is the average and most realistic). Although, we did meet one family on the plane on their way back to Ethiopia to pick up their daughter less than a month after their court date! They were so shocked that they were given an embassy date so quickly, and we were encouraged that it is possible… that would be amazing. Our hope is in the Lord… Join us in praying for all the paperwork for both kids (birth certificates, passports, and visas) to go smoothly… Pray that HIS timing and HIS way would be done in bringing our kids home.

“As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” ~ Ps 18:30

Okay, here is a quick sneak peak of the treasure God is entrusting to our care. We will post more in the days ahead….

Justus Clinton Sprague

Justus playing with his new car

Hannah Mercy Sprague getting some lovin' from Daddy

Momma and Mercy in the car on the way to the Thomas Center

Court Date!!!

(Mary's update from 11-11-10)

Nov. 11, 2010

For some reason we aren’t able to access Clint’s blog here in Ethiopia, but I will go ahead and give a report and we will post this update to facebook at least before we fly out tonight. Today is the much awaited court date!!

We arrived to our court appointment this morning along with five other families that are adopting through CHI. After walking up several sets of stairs, we arrived to a very crowded waiting room area feeling much anticipation and wondering how long this process would take. We’ve heard from other’s experiences it can take anywhere from 2 minutes to 5 hours, let’s just say that we were all really hoping for the best. Not too long after we had arrived, our group was notified that we were to leave and come back in the afternoon. Everyone felt a bit bummed, but at least we were able to go straight over to the Thomas Center to spend time with our kids until we were to return to court. We returned to the court at 2pm and were so happy to begin the wait for our names to be called. One family at a time was called in before the judge. Out of our 6 families, only 2 of families received the report: “it’s final”…. And PRAISE to the King of Kings we were so blessed to be one of those families!!!!!!!!!!! It’s FINAL!!!!!!!!! The Sprague family is legally a family of 8 now!!! Please be praying for the other families who were given a Nov. 19th date of waiting for a final approval letter from the MOWA.

All I can say is that it feels too good to be true…. I’m amazed! We are rejoicing and excited to board the plane tonight and start the journey back to Kansas. Our daughter is doing wonderful… we so enjoyed our time with her again today and got more video and pictures to mark this special day. Our son is still at the orphanage in Adama, but he will be transferred to the Thomas Center tomorrow along with another boy. Wish we could have stayed here just one more day to be there when he arrived, but know that very soon we will get to return to pick him up for good. Please be praying for him during this transition, that he would have favor with the nannies and other children at the Thomas Center. Pray for our safety in our flights home as well.

Once back in Kansas we will post some pics…. But for now, you’ll just have to wait a few more days to see the wonderful gifts the Father has just blessed our family with. We are overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord. May our lives always tell of the faithfulness of our God and bring HIM the honor and glory due His Name! His works are wonderful, we know that full well!!

Psalm 89:1 “I will sing of the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness from generation to generation.”

Orphan Sunday

We were amazed at God’s timing once again… He opened the door for us to fly to Ethiopia the weekend of Orphan Sunday at church, I shared my message on video to be played for the weekend services. We recieved great feedback about weekend at Life Church and we are excited about what God is doing in our midst to challenge us as a church body. If you missed the message at Life Church you can click the link to cacth it and learn more about the Crisis, the Call, and the Cause and be encouraged and inspired by the heart of God for orphans.

Update from Ethiopia – Nov.10, 2010

We started at KCI @ 9:30am Sunday morning and arrived to Addis Ababa Monday night and were picked up from the airport around 10:30pm. Tuesday morning we were up early and so excited to go to YWAM’s Widow and Orphan Home in Adama to meet our kids…but first we had the privilege to travel with a group of missionaries and people from the states that were helping to begin a Maternity Home here in Ethiopia. It just happened to be the day for the dedication and ribbon cutting, so we shared in witnessing that celebration, had lunch together with everyone, and met the 6 young women that had already come to be a part of the program. We were also blessed to see the new construction of the new Widow and Orphan’s home going on. It will be a much better facility and they are on target to hopefully have it completed by January…If any artists want to be a part of painting some murals on the nursery walls, I’m sure Joy would love to have you come on a painting missions trip.

After arriving to the current home, they brought us our daughter first. She was a precious delight from the first moment they put her in our arms. We enjoyed spending time with her and can’t wait to show pics. After we lavished her with hugs and kisses, I changed her wet diaper, her clothes, fed her a bottle, and she was fast asleep in my arms. We were blessed to meet our son next and spend some time giving the toys we had brought for him. He was more reserved just like our son Levi was at that age with complete strangers, but I showed him the book we made him with his picture in it… as well as the rest of the family. Clint then got down on the ground with him and showed him how his toys worked…. And then spent time rolling a little soccer ball back and forth to him until it was time for us to start the long drive back. We look forward to the days ahead where he will someday know us as mommy and daddy.

We opted to only transport our daughter that night to the Thomas Center in Addis, feeling it best for our new son to be transported by one of his nannies since it will be his 3rd move since May. Our new daughter is too young to know since she isn’t yet 8 months old. It was just Clint and I now in the van with the driver for the wonderful 2 and a half hour drive back. We enjoyed taking turns holding her, and were able to put her in her bed sound asleep.

Today we returned to the Thomas Center to spend time with our new daughter. The Thomas Center is the transitionary home where both the kids will stay until we can get an Embassy date and will be able to come bring them home to Kansas. Tomorrow (Thursday) they will pick us up in the morning for court. We will let you know how it all goes, but are praying for favor and all to go smoothly. It’s late and time for bed. Thanks for all your prayers!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Less than 2 days till we fly!!

Wow, this week has been a whirlwind… but so filled with joy and anticipation. We can’t wait to meet our kids on Nov. 9th for the first time… we continue to feel such a overwhelming sense of God’s destiny… just so blessed to share in Father’s great love story for these two precious children.

We are in mid-stream of the packing extravaganza. Buying a $23 luggage scale at Target was our best move yet in getting all this formula to fit in our bags without going over weight limits. It’s a good thing we get to check 2 pieces of luggage each. We are so thankful for Heritage House and so many friends from Life Church who donated so much formula for us to deliver to YWAM’s Widow and Orphan Homes in Ethiopia. You can check out their blog by going to

Just 15 days ago we launched our puzzle fundraiser to invite others to partner with us in bringing our kids home from Ethiopia. When completed, our 500 piece puzzle will hang framed in our home to remind us of this journey, and of all the people who believed God with us. There are only 89 pieces left!!! Scroll down to the blog from Oct. 21st to find out how to join with us and get your name on a piece of the puzzle.

A special thanks to the YWAM Wisconsin DTS who bought 21 puzzle pieces!! We’ve never met you, but we are so excited for the faith journey you are each on. We both did our DTS 22 years ago… with Papa Wick as one of our favorite teachers… and it set us on a course of reckless abandon in following Jesus…wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

5 Days until we fly to Ethiopia!

We have to make two trips to Ethiopia in the next two months. The first one will be for our court date Nov. 11th and to meet our kids for our 1st time. The second trip will hopefully be before Christmas for our Embassy date and to bring our kids home!! (C.H.I. says it usually takes 6 weeks to get your embassy date once you’ve passed court.) We’ve had 356 pieces of the puzzle sponsored so far… so 144 pieces still available! The response has been amazing! Thanks to everyone who has already been a part of bringing our kids home!!!
Please feel free to share this with others on your face book or blog in hopes that others will join us in bringing our kids home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bringing Home 2 New Sprague's!

We are adopting two children from an orphanage in Ethiopia and there is only a few more weeks until our court date!!

In order to cover all of our travel expenses, we are doing a puzzle fundraiser to help with the last leg of our adoption journey. If you want to help us and be a vital piece of bringing our kids home, here’s how this fundraiser will work: Each puzzle piece will be a $25 donation to our adoption fund. 500 pieces @ $25 a piece= $12,500 raised (if fully completed)

Just by making a $25 donation to our adoption fund, you will have invested in one piece of our adoption puzzle, and more importantly in the future of our two children. We will write the name of each person who sponsors a piece (or pieces) on the back of the piece. When completed, we will frame the puzzle in a double glass frame. So on one side you will see the puzzle picture, and on the back you will see the names of those who helped us in this adoption journey. It will be a constant reminder hung in our home of those who came together to help bring the Sprague kids home!!

You have 2 options to join with us:
Option #1 –
1. Click on the Lifesong for Orphans link and then click on the "Donate" button.
2. When you make your donation you must put our family name & code number (Sprague #1318) on the "purpose" line that is provided.
3. Be sure to let us know so we can write your name on your piece or pieces and keep everyone updated on how much progress we have made with completing our adoption puzzle.
Option #2 –If you would rather not give online you can just write a check payable to "Lifesong for Orphans", put Sprague #1318 in the memo and get the check to us.

We have a court date on November 11th, which means we could potentially be bringing them home by Christmas!!! Thank you for considering being a part of this journey.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lee Strobel at Life Church!

It was such an honor to host Lee Strobel at Life Church! He shared his story and the details of his journey of finding truth, freedom, and new life in Jesus. He started out as an Atheist who sought to prove that our faith is a fantasy, but ended up finding faith in Jesus instaed! What an awesome story, and what a great guy! We will certainly have him back at Life Church in the future!

For more information about Lee Strobel and his amazing journey go to

You can see his message at Life Church online on the media page of
Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 7, 2010

Road Trip #1

Below you will find the notes from my recent message called:
"Road Trip #1 – Repentance”

I feel like I need to issue a bit of a disclaimer. These notes were never really designed to be read. They are my preaching notes, and I don't put much detail into my notes. Some people write out their notes word for word, but I am really more of a headlines guy. I rarely give my notes out because they are really just designed to be a guide to keep me on track during a message. But, I had several people ask me for these notes, so here you go. I think the most important thing is that you can go back over the scripture that I used after hearing the message. My prayer is that we will all pray the prayer found in Psalms 139:23-24, and invite God to lead us on His journey for us. If you haven't heard the message, these notes may not mean much to you, so I recommend that you go to and go to the “media” section and listen to the message.

Road Trip

Road Trips are usually about Vacation, Relaxation, Exploration, & some times just simple Evacuation…This Road Trip is about Transformation!

Transformation: (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary)
- A change of heart in men, by which his disposition and temper are conformed to the divine image.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NKJV
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

= To be “transformed into the same image” means that we begin to have the same values, and begin to be like Jesus.

In this series we’re looking at 4 words we need to understand to be truly transformed…

1. Repentance
= This is not a popular word today, but it’s vital part of Transformation…

2 Peter 3:9 NKJV
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Repentance is motor that gets you moving, and we must be willing to look under the hood…

The Biblical word for “Repent” is the Greek word…
Metanoeo: (Strong’s 3340)
- to change one’s mind, purpose, or direction

“Repentance is = a Change of Heart & Direction!”

= This word 1st appears in Matthew chapter 3…

Matt 3:1-2 NKJV
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"

Matt 4:17 NKJV
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

= This is how Jesus began His earthly ministry!

Luke 24:44-48 NKJV
44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

= Jesus began & ended His earthly ministry with Repentance!

"There are many today who preach faith without repentance. We have filled our churches with people who claim to know Jesus Christ in power and full salvation, and yet there is no sign of repentance in their lives."
~ Dr. Don M. Boone

“Repentance” on
- to recognize the wrong in something you have done and be sorry about it
- to feel regret about a sin or past actions and change your ways or habits

= Think about a U-Turn…

= Until you’re going the right direction, it really doesn’t matter how nice your ride is, what you accomplish, or even how hard you try…

= Once you make the U-Turn, there are places that you would have gone, that you will no longer go…

= There are places that you’ve been to that you may need to pass back by…
...Places that require things Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Restitution, etc

Matt 3:8 NKJV
‘Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…”

= Fruit is what is produced when certain seeds are planted, watered, they begin to grow…
…eventually it produces fruit!

= Repentance is like a seed…It will produce fruit!

How do we know if we have truly Repented?
= Look at the fruit in our lives…

= If you don’t like the fruit in your life, change direction…

Remember…“Repentance is = a Change of Heart & Direction!”

“Repentance means turning around from our evil ways in order to look to Jesus. The person who will not repent still has his or her back turned on God. Repentance is a condition we meet in order that God, already wanting to be good to us, can be good to us, forgiving and cleansing us. In that sense then, the man who loves his sin and hangs on to it cannot reasonably expect the goodness and the grace of God.” ~ A.W. Tozer

= When you’re looking to Jesus, you will no longer be looking to other things!

1 John 2:15 NKJV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

= Paul certainly understood what Repentance was!

Acts 9:1-6 NLT
1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?" 5 "Who are you, lord?" Saul asked. and the voice replied, "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

= The rest of the story…
= God reveals Himself to Saul in dramatic fashion…
= Saul commits his life to Jesus!
= God changes Saul’s name to Paul…
= Paul goes on his own journey of personal transformation…
= Paul becomes the greatest missionary who ever lived!

…Check out what Paul wrote several years later…
Gal 2:20 NKJV

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

= Jesus was not just an “addition” to Paul’s life, Jesus became his life!

True Repentance puts us on the Road to Transformation!

Romans 12:2 NKJV
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

= Repentance begins with changing your thinking.

= Repentance begins with seeing sin as God sees sin.

= Repentance is making a U-turn how you do life.
= Repentance is all about following Jesus!

How do we know if we need to Repent?

Ps 139:23-24 NLT
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

How do we Repent?

= “God, Forgive me.”

= “God, Cleanse me.”

= “God, Change me.”

= “God, Lead me.”

Great example of this in Psalms 51…

“Repentance is = a Change of Heart & Direction!”

Friday, April 30, 2010

"How Comprehensive is the Love of Jesus!"

“How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of His people's interests which He does not consider, and there is nothing which concerns their welfare which is not important to Him.”
~ Charles Spurgeon

I read this recently and just sat and thought about it for a little while. Think about the implications of this truth! The God is the universe is interested in every aspect of our lives! He is interested in how I coach my son’s soccer team, how I treat his momma, how I drive, how I tip the waiter at Red Robin, how I spend my “free” time, and how I view others. He is interested in how I feel about my relationship to my earthly father, my friends, and even those who oppose me. God is interested in all of me. There is no part of me that Jesus just wants the headlines on. He is interested in all of me! Think about that! We are so valuable to God that there is nothing about our lives of which God is not interested. Can that be true?

Ps 139:1-3
1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.

Spurgeon said, “How comprehensive is the love of Jesus!”
This wasn’t a question, it was a statement! He was declaring what he had experienced. He was revealing what he knew to be true. Have you experienced this to be true?

I think most of us like the idea that Jesus’ love for us and interest in us is “Comprehensive”. At least we like it in theory, but we tend to live more like it is “Compartmental”.

“Comprehensive” means:
- including everything, so as to be complete

“Compartmentalized” means:
- to divide something into separate areas, categories, or compartments

I think for many of us our faith is “Compartmentalized”. We invite Jesus into certain areas of our lives, but close the door on others. This is an exercise in futility. God cannot be shut out. He knows us completely, and desires to be involved in every area of our lives.

Ps 37:23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.

Not only does He desire to be invited into every area, but He promises to help us in every area! He will give us wisdom when we need it, strength when we need it, and warnings when we need them.
Why wouldn’t we throw open every door, every window, and knock down every wall in our hearts for the lover of our souls to come into every area of our lives? He loves us!

Look at Spurgeon’s quote again…
“How comprehensive is the love of Jesus! There is no part of His people's interests which He does not consider, and there is nothing which concerns their welfare which is not important to Him.”

~ Charles Spurgeon

Is your faith in Jesus “Comprehensive” or “Compartmental”?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another interesting take from Chuck Colson

Guts and Principles Just War and Assassination
April 13, 2010
The Obama administration has targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric, for assassination. Al-Awlaki has been linked to both the “underpants bomber” and the shootings at Fort Hood.
There’s no doubt that Americans would be safer in a world without al-Awlaki, but that’s not the only question we should be asking ourselves.
Al-Awlaki was placed on the “kill or capture” list after the White House concluded that he had gone beyond inciting attacks to actually participating in them.
Since al-Awlaki is currently in Yemen, the “kill” option is the most likely. And the most likely way of killing him is using a Predator drone, the kind used in Pakistan and Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets.
As one official told the New York Times, “None of this should surprise anyone.”
Well, my gut reaction is to applaud this resolution—kill the bad guys. But my gut instincts, like everyone else’s, are fallen. That’s why we need to ask what principles are involved in this kind of assassination.
For starters, al-Awlaki is an American citizen. We’re talking about executing an American citizen on the basis of evidence that has never been presented in open court, or any court for that matter.
Killing him would be satisfying, and it may make us safer, but it also sets a troubling precedent about the due process every citizen is guaranteed. There’s nothing in the reasoning being employed here that limits extra-judicial executions to people outside the United States—the next time those suspected of participating in alleged terrorist activities might be in Michigan or Idaho.
Then there are the just war implications of targeting al-Awlaki. The legal justification for the assassination is the September 12, 2001, congressional authorization of force against al Qaeda. This makes going after him an act of war and, to Christians at least, something that must be judged by just war criteria.
While this case clearly meets the “just cause” requirement, there are other considerations. Historically, the just war tradition has looked askance on assassination. Among other things, it has viewed assassination as treacherous and even cowardly because it doesn’t give the target a chance to defend himself.
It has also been concerned about what today is called the “collateral damage.” Drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have not only killed the bad guys but also their families and neighbors, a violation of non-combatant immunity.
Then there’s the way that assassinations can devolve into a kind of “tit-for-tat” that undermines order. A world where warfare is increasingly irregular is a world without meaningful limits on the way we conduct war.
Apart from some voices on the left, coverage of this story seems to assume the legality and rightness of the policy. But I make no such assumption, nor should you.
I don’t really know how I come out on this. The “kill or capture” decision may pass muster or it might not. But I do know that the rule of law and the just war tradition are two of Christianity’s great contributions to Western civilization. And I know also that, in a fallen world, a ruthless leader might rely on this precedent to kill Americans for the wrong reasons.
This is a tough—yes, dubious—call. No matter what our gut tells us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Roots of Basketball

I read this short piece by Chuck Colson and wanted to share it with you:

The Roots of Basketball
April 7, 2010
It was the basketball game for the ages. On Monday night, the Duke University Blue Devils survived a desperate, last-second shot by the underdog Butler University Bulldogs to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship.
It was a great game—a classic “David and Goliath” matchup, given that Duke has appeared in eight championship games under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and that Butler had never even made it to the Final Four.
You may hear folks talking about the game for some time. When you do, you can add to the conversation by revealing an interesting fact: Basketball was invented more than 100 years ago by a Christian theologian as an evangelical outreach tool.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, one of our Centurions, John Murray, recalled the story of the game’s founding. The inventor of basketball, James Naismith, became convinced that he stood a better chance of exemplifying the Christian life through sports rather than through preaching. So he took a job as a physical education instructor at the YMCA’s International Training School for Christian Workers in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith’s vision was “to win men for the Master through the gym.”
In 1891, Naismith set out to invent a new indoor game that students could play during winter. He spent weeks testing various games, including versions of soccer, football, and lacrosse, to no avail. “Finally,” Murray writes, “Naismith decided to draw from all of these sports: with a ball that could be easily handled, play that involved running and passing with no tackling, and a goal at each end of the floor.” In short, he came up with basketball.
From the beginning, Naismith and his athletic director, Luther Gulick, held the players to a high standard. As Gulick wrote in 1897, “The game must be kept clean.” A Christian college cannot tolerate “not merely ungentlemanly treatment of guests, but slugging and that which violates the elementary principles of morals.” He recommended that a coach should “excuse for the rest of the year any player who is not clean in his play.”
Basketball served as an important evangelical tool during the next 50 years, Murray noted. In 1941, Naismith wrote that “whenever I witness games in a church league, I feel that my vision, almost half a century ago, of the time when the Christian people would recognize the true value of athletics, has become a reality.”
In the last 100 years, we’ve seen no shortage of Christian athletes who use their skill, self-discipline, and sportsmanship as a witness to Christ—from Olympic runner Eric Liddel in the 1920s, to football player Tim Tebow in our own generation.
In fact, so many athletes give the glory to God after a game that sportswriters sometimes get irritated with them. To which I respond: Which would you prefer—players known for their faith and good sportsmanship, or players who are arrested for assault or drug use?
If you have a young basketball fan in your family, tell him or her the story of how basketball was invented. And pray for Christian players who can use the public’s love of sports the way Naismith envisioned when he invented basketball—as a witnessing tool to “win men for the Master through the gym.”
- Chuck colson