The BIG Bible Journey of 2018

I was so excited when Pastors Jude and Becky announced the BIG Journey Bible reading challenge for 2018, like SO excited. I’ve always loved my Bible. As a pre-teen I encountered Jesus in a truly powerful way and was so thankful to have people around who told me that the Bible is the greatest source of truth and direction I could find in this life. I have great parents, pastors and access to incredible books and podcasts but nothing has been there for me like the Bible. When I look back at the big decisions in my life, every moment has a scripture, a promise, the word of God confirming or guiding the way I should go. Some choices (like two cross-country moves) had an incredible amount of risk attached to them, but I had peace because of a word from God. Reading my Bible on a regular basis reminds me who God is, how much He loves me and how much He wants to work in my life. It creates a starting point for so many conversations with the Holy Spirit about the things that matter to me most: my marriage, my kids, my purpose in life. The Bible also gives me a clear head! Since the enemy’s greatest power is to deceive us, reading the Bible makes us so much less susceptible to the lies of discouragement, doubt and fear.

But…I’ll be honest, since giving birth to my three kids, I’ve struggled to make time to read my Bible like I used to and I miss it! I’ve started more YouVersion Bible reading plans than I care to admit, always clicking the “Catch Me Up” button three or four times before giving up all together. Sometimes when I sit down to read after being away for awhile, that nagging voice of condemnation tries to tell me it’s not worth it because I’ll never be as consistent as I “should.” BUT, when I open the pages (or the app) in that early morning when I manage to wake before my kids or late after everyone goes to bed, the word never fails to speak to me. It’s usually not complicated and it’s always encouraging or inspiring. This year, I’m filled with excitement to start anew because the only thing better than reading the Bible is reading the Bible TOGETHER with my amazing church community.

I’m excited to talk about what I’m reading with my family (we even bought this kid’s version of the One Year Bible for my seven year old) and with my City Group. Every week this year, Pastor Jude and the preaching team are going to share from what we’re reading. Maybe you’ve tried reading the Bible and have been discouraged by portions that were difficult to understand. I’ve been there too. That’s why it’s so cool that we don’t have to do this alone. We’ll be able to take time in our groups and on Sundays to ask the questions and get some answers. I know God will speak to us.

This year, we’re believing for BIG things as a church and my family and I are believing for some BIG things in our own lives. I have some questions for God about dreams and words and things He put in my heart and I believe He’s going to speak to me. Right now, we’re all asking ourselves how we can live our best life in 2018. I believe that the Bible is the answer! The Bible enables us to become like Jesus. The more we read his words, the better we know Him, the better we know ourselves, and we’re transformed (Romans 12:2). There’s plenty to be said about resolutions and weight loss plans but nothing truly changes us like the Bible does. There is no greater gift!

I know Christmas is over but I’m still thinking so much about the life of Mary. In my last post, I talked about her willingness to say “yes” to God. My family and I recently went and saw The Star, a kids movie about the birth of Jesus. I loved the way they depicted Mary in the film. She was kind and joyful and full of unwavering faith. My husband Tom, shared something about Mary with me that he read in Tim Keller’s book, Hidden Christmas. In Luke 2:19, after the world marveled at the story told by the shepherds, it says “But Mary treasured all these things in her heart and often pondered what they meant.” That scripture summarizes the attitude I want to have toward my Bible this year. It wasn’t about mental analysis, Mary was full of wonder and allowed the words to go deep into her and define her. She embraced the life God set in front of her and allowed His words to bring peace and confidence every step of the way.

I believe God wants us to experience His word in the same way. I hope you’ll join us on this journey of Bible reading in 2018. We’re going to talk about it a lot here on Beautiful Stories. You can purchase the One Year Bible we’re using (or get the one with lots of space for journaling and note-taking like I did) or you can simply download the plan for free on the Bible app. This is sure to be such a life-changing experience for all of us. We’ll be here to help and encourage all along the way. I can’t wait to hear how God speaks to each one of you.

XO Bethany

 

Mary

Hey Beautiful,

It’s been the weirdest couple of weeks in our little town of Ventura. I have friends who are living in a hotel with their three children (two are preschoolers), friends who’ve lost everything, friends whose kids are unexpectedly out of school for a whole month (and can’t play outside because of the smoke). The smoke is thick and no one can tell us what’s going to happen next.

And it’s Christmas. Merry Christmas! Time to shop, to bake, to decorate, to send the cards, to go to the programs, to watch the films and have the parties. I keep going through the normal motions but nothing really feels that normal.

So I started to read about Mary. That’s what we do at Christmas. We talk about Mary, the virgin, teenage, refugee who was chosen by God to deliver the hope and savior of the world. Oh night divine!

Mary lived in a chaotic world where she did not belong, where racial and ethnic strife ran deep and had deadly consequences. When the angel came to her she pondered his words and hid them in her heart. She believed.

I wonder if she was in awe of Him. She lived such a life of devotion. She seemed to be there at every turn, steadfast, unwavering. She didn’t always seem to know exactly what was going on, which is comforting, meaning she was like us. Some things must have been so confusing. What would it be like to watch your child die of asphyxiation on a cross? But it didn’t seem to shake her. She was there at the cross and at Pentecost, in the upper room, praying and believing and waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit so they could go out and turn the world upside down.

She lived her best life, that’s for sure (great thoughts on that here) It sort of redefines what makes a life really great. What life is this that is available when we say, “yes” to God?! So much promise, probably some pain, but absolute purpose beyond the here and now. We really have no idea, this side of eternity, what our lives can be and do.

When tragedy strikes, it reminds us how precious and fragile life can be. We remember that there’s more than this and we actually don’t have as much control over all of it as we think we do. But He actually does.

The Almighty stepped into the finite, flesh and blood of fragile humanity so that He could really know us, so He could look over and say, “Hey! I get it. We’re in this together.” It’s okay to be shocked, to be overwhelmed, to mourn and weep when tragedy strikes. The Bible says He’s with us, feeling it all and actually praying for us, on our behalf. But we can also live with this hope, that the darkest of ages are done, for the savior of heaven has come.

In light of this, I pray that you and I will always encounter Christmas with the joy and wonder that Simeon experienced, when Mary brought her child to be dedicated at the temple. (Luke 2:28-31 TPT):

Simeon cradled the baby in his arms and praised God and prophesied, saying: “Lord and Master, I am your loving servant, and now I can die content, for your promise to me has been fulfilled. With my own eyes I have seen your Word, the Savior you sent into the world.”

Merry Christmas!

XO,

Bethany

 

 

Being Brave

Being Brave is Scary

Have you ever heard the song “You Make Me Brave” by Bethel? You may recognize it from its anthem bridge- “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shores into the waves.” Never have these lyrics become as real to me as when I was asked to lead others in singing them for our recent women’s event, Beautiful Stories.

When I was first asked to lead this song, I felt my heart drop to my stomach. I’ve never been in an elevator that shuts down and plummets ten stories, but I imagine it’s a similar feeling. “No way, God. My voice can’t hit those notes!” I found myself on my bedroom floor, explaining the situation to God, when suddenly, He brought to memory a request I’d made only a week beforehand for Him to stretch me in my worship.

I think that so often in my life, I wish the stretch could be comfortable. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could simply grow in our relationship with God from the safety of the shores? Venturing into the waves seem so uncharted and so unsure. And yet, I’ve found that it’s in these times that God grows our faith the most, because we can no longer rely on our own abilities. Suddenly, we just have to trust that God’s got us.

In Deuteronomy 31:7-8, Moses encourages a rising leader, Joshua, who also had to face daunting circumstances as he took on the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel: “Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (NIV).

Let these words wash over you today. Declare them. Pray them over yourself daily. Join me in making this your battle cry every time fear tries to hold you back from stepping out in faith, knowing that whatever your story might be, God is forever faithful!

As for my story, I sang the song. I’m pretty sure that my voice cracked towards the end, but I sang the song. And you know what? God showed up. The Holy Spirit moved that night, and my faith was stretched.

So, here’s what I’ve determined- being brave can be scary, but the God who calls me out on the waters if faithful to help me walk on them.

xoxo Victoria

IMG_4649Victoria Baca grew up in northern California and is overjoyed to now call Ventura home! She graduated from California Coast Bible College in 2017 and is spending a third year as the college’s Resident and Housing Director. Victoria is passionate about worship, youth ministry, and missions. Find her small group for college girls here, and join to do life together!

Letting Go

A WILD Devotional

I remember when I was 18, it was 1984.  I wanted so badly to experience life and all God had for me and couldn’t even fathom it, though I tried.  I remember imagining myself in each decade to come, how old would I be? Who would I marry? How many kids might I have?  My desire was to always be pleasing in God’s sight and a valuable member of God’s family, always contributing to society.  Somewhere in my early childhood there was a tormenting voice that constantly told me I never would.  It was the liar’s voice, Satan’s.  I wasn’t aware there was a liar whose main role was to kill, steal, and destroy; I had no clue that I could or should give him a verbal tongue lashing with the truths found in the Bible.  Often I would cry out to God declaring what I wanted for my life, almost in a desperate plea, like a peasant begging a king for mercy.  And so, my focus became my own performance and that began to define my worth.

I am now 51, amazed at the journey, wiser, stronger, braver and secure in my hope because of my walk with the Spirit of God who is my comforter, shepherd, counselor, teacher, confidant, refuge and friend.  My ears are better receivers of his voice and I want to hear it more than ever before. At times I still wrestle with old lies.

For the last few days I have wrestled with anxiety over this blog. It would be public.  What should I say? Would my story impact the lives of others? What if my grammar is incorrect?  In sharing with a friend today, she “took me to church” as she reminded me that performance is not worship.  God is so good to use other believers as His gentle reminder to refocus.  Lord, forgive me for getting it twisted!  My highest calling is not in what I do. It’s about who I am becoming. His first commandment (Exodus 20)  is that I should have no other gods but him.  He loves me unselfishly, unconditionally and all he asks of me is to love him and believe Him.  If I’m in Him, nothing else can shake me. If He is my main obsession, everything else will fall into place.

Join me in this prayer:

Jesus, today I’m letting go of performance. Just as 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says, “I give all of my worries and cares to You, because You care about me.”

13A8B514-7562-4D8C-A9F4-79DD61A4BED8Sara is mom of three amazing, adult children, and one son-in-love,  Brooke, age 27 (and Zack), Moriah, 25 and Landon, 22.  Sara has been married to John for 31 adventurous and miraculous years.  It is their desire to use their history, milestones and miracles to encourage young adults and married couples in their journey with each other and Jesus. Sara grew up in a relatively conservative background as a pastor’s daughter.  In the last six years Jesus and the Spirit of God have blown her away with new revelations and surprises.  Look for Sara (and John) at the Agoura/Oak Park campus where you’ll usually find them greeting at the door.

The Outcome

“And we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan to bring something good into our lives, for we are his lovers who are invited to fulfill his designed purpose. ²⁹For he knew us and loved us before we were born and destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of his Son, making the Son the firstborn among many who will become just like him.”

Romans 8:28-29 TPT

Our church has been in the “Super 8” series this past few weeks. As we have been studying Romans 8,  I keep coming back to one of my favorite scriptures in this chapter, verse 28.  When I think back on many big breakthrough moments in my own journey, I can remember quoting this scripture after the fact.  It’s always easier to believe what God says about a situation after we’ve seen it work out in a positive way.

Did you watch any of the World Series? Wow! What a nail-biter. Game 5 in Houston was particularly intense. The game went on for over five hours and every time the Dodgers scored, the Astros would come from behind. Finally, after midnight in the bottom of the 10th inning, Houston scored a run to beat the Dodgers 13-12. As a fan, this game was exhausting because no team seemed to have a clear lead. The outcome was never obvious. We just had to sit and wait to see what would happen!

When we are in the midst of tough chapters in our story, it’s easy to think that our lives are somehow like this baseball game, too close to rest, a bad thing right around the corner from every good thing, not knowing how it’s going to end up. Sometimes we can’t figure out how a circumstance could possibly come out for good. We can easily begin to feel anxious, stressed out and irritable.  

But the life of someone who believes in Jesus is not like a competitive game, not even close. God has shared with us the beginning AND the end. Jesus went to the cross, rose from the grave and defeated the power of sin and death in our lives once and for all. I love what this verse says in the Passion Translation above, that every detail of our lives is woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan and it is going to bring good no matter what!  He’s already won the game and we can rest in that fact. How? The key to all this is that we are His lovers!

When we are madly in love with someone, our default mode is to trust that they would never do anything to harm us. That is because we are designed to find our ultimate source of love in Jesus, the only perfect lover of our soul who will always be good to us even if things look bad.  When we search for this type of perfect love in other people, it can disappoint because we’re all so flawed. But, when we place our trust in His unfailing love, no matter what is happening in our life, and set our mind on Jesus and not our problem, we can have peace in the midst of any difficulty and trial.   I love what Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You will keep in perfect peace all you trust you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  TRUST IN THE LORD ALWAYS, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock!”

I want to encourage you today that you are loved by God and you will fulfill every purpose of your life.  What is the ultimate purpose of your life?  The ultimate purpose is to know Jesus and reflect who Jesus is!  If you don’t know Him yet, that’s okay! He knows you and is ready to talk as soon as you are. If you have questions about Jesus, we’re here to help answer them any way we can. Come to one of our gatherings on a Sunday or City Groups. Be encouraged that your story will show others in your life that God is bigger than anything they face.  

Just as you are blessed by the beautiful stories in this blog, know that God can bless others with your story just as much and more!

XO,

Becky

A New Story

The photograph above sits on my fireplace mantel. In it I am laughing, head back, delight and joy in every line across my face as I dance in my father’s arms. I love this photo. It was taken on my wedding day, nearly 7 years ago. It was a day filled with quiet confidence, pure love, overwhelming gratitude and confident expectation of the future.

My Father and I stood behind two large closed doors, waiting. Waiting for that song, a beautiful melody of piano and guitar that would beckon us to walk…his hand in mine…only to give me away. We look at each other smiling, nervously he squeezes my hand, tears welling in his eyes, his lip quivering, fighting back the tears he whispers, “I remember when you were just a little girl…” Deep breath in as if to pause time and stop the tears from falling… “I have always loved you”. I squeeze his hand tight, look into his big brown eyes and know it is true. He loves me. We stay still, waiting and I know I have to pray now…I have to thank God…I speak calmly and certain, declaring the faithful love of God for me, my dad, my husband to be, the joy that we have in Christ, the power to love well, forgive and find ourselves more grateful today then we ever could have imagined …and then the music fills the space, the doors open…we take another deep breath, look at each other one more time, the unspoken words linger between us, we smile… Yes, my father loves me.

That day in 2010, my wedding day, was a day of redemption. A day all about second chances and new beginnings, about grace and love, hope and fulfilled promises.

Eleven years prior to this day, I had walked down another aisle, wore a different white dress, dreamed of a different future and prayed a different prayer. My father would not walk me down that aisle. He would not hold my hand and give me away at that ceremony. I didn’t ask him to.

My heart was filled with hurt, anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. In my experiences and encounters with my father as a child, I was left longing. Longing for the affection, attention, and intimacy that any and every young girl desires. I wanted to be “daddy’s little girl”. In my mind, and in my feelings, I was not loved. I was not valued. I remember broken promises and in their wake I was left with a broken heart.

My dad had his fair share of hurt, anger and disappointment as well. I now know more about his story…and yet, at that time, I only had eyes and ears for my own story. I did not know the depth of his pain. His longing. His story. And it is not mine to tell here. All I know is that I spent my life, over 30 years, carrying around the weight of the pain and I had to blame someone…so I blamed him. With an unrelenting spirit to defend my brokenness and in an effort to find restitution, I made him pay for his brokenness. The brokenness that ripped into my heart and created in me a defensive, disrespectful, spiteful attitude. An attitude that cut into his broken heart and deeply wounded both of us in the process.

So, that day, in 1999, I decided he had not earned the right to walk me down the aisle. He had failed me. He had hurt me. He had not loved me the way I longed to be loved. So I put up my walls. I chose to hate. I gave ultimatums and spoke harsh words. I did not care about his feelings, only my own.

The reception was no different. I don’t know if I said 2 words to my father. Not sure if I looked him in his eyes. I certainly did not dance with him. As we prepared to leave that evening for the honeymoon, I saw him. Waiting to the side, his body tense and uncertain, I knew he wanted to say goodbye, maybe even hug me. I avoided his gaze and slipped into the car leaving him there, wanting him to know, “You don’t deserve my love.”

Writing a New Story

In order to hear new words and write new chapters in my story I had to be willing to let go of the stories I was clinging to, the stories and the words they spoke that were defining me. In letting go and telling the truth about where I had been, what I had done, what I had believed, and ultimately confessing that these stories were defining me…only then could I be carried away to a new truth. To a new story.

Being swept away in the river that was my story was frightening. My irrational fears told me that if I let go of my “truths”, those branches on the side of the river that I was clinging to for dear life, I would surely drown. The truth is, by holding on to those branches, those faulty thoughts and twisted truths, I was slowly drowning myself. And the fight was exhausting.

These “truths”, as faulty as they were, were my identity. As broken as I was, it was all I knew. And I just knew that if I let go, I’d die. The familiarity of those stories and my feelings about them were my reality. In them I found a strange sort of comfort, an unrealistic sense of control and a certain responsibility to hold them close. I felt unloved. I felt rejected. I felt unknown. I felt alone. And if I let go, the massive weight of these words and their perceived power were sure to drag me under and suck the life out of me. So I clung to the shore, grasping for air, fighting the current, my strength to hold on being challenged with every wave that washed over me. My will to live, slowly eroding.

I called out to God. Over and over. I called out, “Save me! Rescue me! Help me!” All the while clinging to those little branches. It never occurred to me to let go.  It never crossed my mind that if I let go of the story I was telling myself I would be carried away to a different place. That maybe the river of His grace, like my story, could hold more than turbulent waters and crashing waves. That maybe the river, like my story, could carry me to calm waters and resting places.

His promises came to me. Timely words in the middle of my mess. Words that would redefine the story I was telling myself about my future, my worth, my purpose.

I will lead you beside quiet waters and when you pass through the waters I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. Psalm 23:2 and Isaiah 43:2

In the midst of my hurt and brokenness I was not going anywhere. I was stuck. I wasn’t moving. I was clinging, holding tight to the truths that I had named, blaming God for not rescuing me. Blaming God for the pain, the hurt and the haunting words that filled my mind. And as I wrestled those waves, he was patiently waiting for me to let go. Through his word He reminded me that when I pass through the rivers I will not be swept away but rather I will be held and led to quiet waters, calm waters, restoring waters.

Letting go, it’s more than just loosening your grasp. It’s trusting that when you do, God’s going to hold fast to you because of who He is. Usually when we hold on to our past, it’s stories and voices, it is because we are not really sure about the character of God. We are not altogether certain He is good, loving, kind, and forgiving.

You can only trust God as much as you know you are loved by God. -Brennan Manning

The journey of letting go of your old stories must be accompanied with a new reality. A new truth. A new journey.  The journey of embracing and becoming your truest self is directly linked to your response to God’s offer of grace. The gift of life with Him. He took the first step by sending His son, Jesus, to the cross and accepting you exactly as you are. He is good and can be trusted with the decisions of your life. He is loving. He will sustain you, hold you, help you, protect you, grow and empower you. He will never leave you. You can let go now. His plans are for your good. When you trust Him, He fills, satisfies, leads and provides.

And the hard stuff, He will use it for your good.

And the voices of shame and condemnation, He will replace them with words of kindness, compassion and love.

And the determination to protect yourself, He will be your rear guard and your front guard, protecting you with his mighty hand.

And the uncertainty of the future, He will lead you and guide you in all your ways.

But we have to let go.

Once we determine that we are going to let go, we are also admitting that we are not in control. The future is unknown. The twists, bends, and turns on the river ahead are uncharted territory. To us. But not to God.

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. -Corrie ten Boom

There is no need to be afraid. We have a guide, a captain, Jesus.

His promises are certain. A solid place for us to land. Bedrock under our feet. Steady and sure.

He will never leave us or forsake us. He will lead us by his righteous right hand and no matter where we turn, whether to the right or the left, we will hear a voice behind us, saying this is the way, walk in it.

IMG_0662Nicole Edgmond is a mother to two daughters, and a wife to Jason. She has counseling experience working in both the church and clinical setting. She holds a Master’s in Education (Southwest Baptist University) and a Master’s in Clinical Counseling (Liberty University). She is the director of Embraced Ministries and has worked with clients in her private practice since 2011. Her passion is to meet individual needs for authentic connection, intimacy with Christ, emotional healing & to help people in the pursuit of their God-given purpose. Nicole leads a City Group on Tuesday nights called, Stories, and hosts “Gather,” a time for women to come together and grow together in Jesus. To find out more about her City Group and many others, click here. 

You Were on Purpose, I Make no Mistakes

Inspired by Psalm 139:1-18

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

A masterpiece, I took my time to create

Your name I knew before time began

Everything about you, intentional, and perfectly planned

I have seen you, walked with you, every step you haven taken

When you thought you were alone, greatly, you were mistaken

You are the apple of my eye, my most prized possession

My child. My daughter. My greatest obsession.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

I’m always with you, whether asleep or awake.

I formed you. I made you. In my image you stand

How precious are my thoughts for you, so sweet and so grand.

My workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it.

You are my prize, my treasure, my absolute favorite.

So wonderfully complex, yes believe, it is true

Deliberately unique, there is no one like you.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes

You, my sweetheart, I will never forsake

I made you to laugh, to be YOU, can’t you see?

It was all my idea, so run and be free

In the storms of your life, you have always prevailed

For I was with you. I was there. I was your anchor and sail.

I heard when you called, so sad and dismayed

Remember I answered, “Daddy’s here. Don’t be afraid”.

You were on purpose. I make no mistakes.

I will never leave you. A promise I won’t break.

I was not counting the times you fell in shame

Have you forgotten? It was I who took your blame

I saw you being formed in your mothers womb

You were worth it all. For you I went to that tomb

Isn’t it obvious? Can’t you see this is true?

That you were on purpose. Not a mistake. So beautifully you.

Bethany Taylor

Bethany Taylor is mother to two amazing boys and wife to Simon. She is an actress and comedian. She and Simon are active leaders at The City Church Ventura campus. For more of her stories and plenty of laughs, you can check out her youtube channel, Honestly Bethany.

Top Photo by Meiying Ng on Unsplash

 

Be Still

 

A WILD Devotional by Monica Martin

We move at such rapid speeds: a text here, an email there, social media everywhere. Not to mention, trying to keep up with our “to-do” lists. It leaves us thinking “how will I ever get this done?” It’s counter-cultural to JUST BE STILL!

As tragic events unfold before our eyes, and with such division at every corner, I find myself asking God, “What is happening?” “Why is this happening?” and “What can I do?” With so many important issues at hand, it’s difficult for me to imagine making an impact. When the loudest voices get heard the most, there’s a tendency to want to shout louder.  However, when we shout, there is so much noise in the atmosphere that we can’t hear clearly. When the chaos of this world starts to encroach on my world; my home, my church, my family, my work, I want to  take control, to do something. Yet, His voice says to me,

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 NKJV) 

…and suddenly I know that even if the chaos around me comes close to home, there is a peace and a stillness available in Jesus and I can enter into His rest.

My knowing that He is God does not remove my responsibility to act or speak. It does, however, give me the proper perspective to begin with: Him. His will. His power. His love. Through prayer and the application of His truth to guide my words and actions, I become his hands and feet to affect this hurting world, even if it’s only in my sphere of influence. Just because I can’t do everything doesn’t mean I can’t do something. Jesus said,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV).

Join me in this prayer:

Father, I trust in your goodness, I pray for Your peace on earth and in our lives. Make me like Jesus, who did the works He saw You do and said the words He heard You speak. May I be ready and willing to say “yes!” to You at every opportunity. May I be quick to love and forgive. In Jesus name, amen.

xo Monica

Monica Martin and her husband Brandon have been married just one year and have an adorable dog named Luey. Together they own Martin Welding & Fabrication Inc, an ornamental and structural metal company. They are active members of The City Church and serve in the Guest Experience, City Kids and Grow ministries. Monica and Brandon are passionate about prayer and will soon be leading a City Group. To connect with a City Group, sign up here.

Monica and Brandon Martin (2)

By Faith She

The book of Hebrews is one of my favorites in the Bible. It was written to the Jewish people by an unknown author, explaining how Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of centuries of God’s promises to His people. One of my Bible college professors was convinced that it could have been written by Priscilla, Aquila’s wife who was a prominent figure in the early church. Whether he was correct in his belief, we won’t know until we get to eternity, but it’s always fun to remember that there were women, active in the early church, telling their own beautiful stories about Jesus.

As I began to pray about about the idea for this Beautiful Stories blog, which I believe to be a “God idea,” I was reminded of Hebrews, chapter 11, the Great Faith Chapter. In verse 2 (MSG paraphrase), the author of Hebrews describes faith, “By faith, we see the world called into existence by God’s word, what we see created by what we don’t see.” Faith is what gives us a perspective of history, of this life and everything that it means beyond our physical senses. The author gives examples from Abel (Adam’s son) to King David (the author of the Psalms) of many “great faith” moments of the Old Testament. The incredible history lesson is summarized with these statements: 

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again…

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. (Hebrews 1132-35a, 39-40 MSG Paraphrase):

Their stories and my story are inseparable. I am undone by the fact that God’s work in history includes millions of people around the world over thousands of years and yet is not complete without me. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves! When I see my life in light of this greater perspective, I am inspired to live bigger, with greater passion to do everything God asks me to do. The author tells us how:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Heb. 12:1-2 MSG Paraphrase)

Wow! That does shoot adrenaline into my soul! It makes me want to get to work encouraging others and telling people how good He is! It makes me want to say, “yes,” when I feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to do something. Faith enables us to keep perspective of our story in the great context of His story, of His grace, of His love and His sacrifice for us. Our gaze is held steady on His face, knowing His gaze was steady on the joy of saving us even as He suffered a torturous crucifixion. We can walk confidently in the truth that this life is just a moment on the journey. We are indeed Heaven-bound, where every one of His promises will be perfectly fulfilled.

It is my desire that every post on this blog would be an extension of Hebrews chapter 11. I hope, as you read the stories here, you will believe that Jesus loved you so much that He died for you. I hope you will allow Him to transform you to become the person He created you to be. I hope that you will be reminded that you are not alone on your journey with Jesus, that you are surrounded by a great community of people who are being built together into a place where God lives. Paul describes it this way in Ephesians 2:19-22 (msg):

That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.

So, welcome home! I can’t wait to hear your story.

Xoxo

Bethany

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