Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I've moved!

Hey friends I have moved to a new blog.. The address is www.angelarva.wordpress.com

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I have been in Richmond for almost 6 years now. The way God has transformed my life, my purpose, and my desires has been nothing short of a miracle. My deepest joy is spending my time witnessing to people, by speaking to them of how great a Savior Jesus is, or by inviting them into my home and showing the love of God through authentic Christian community.

I want to spend my time with people who have no hope, and I want to offer it to them. So often, I see people the way COULD be, if they would turn their hearts toward Jesus. If they would only turn from their sin (living life apart from God and in rebellion to His leadership) and enter a love relationship with their Heavenly Father, I just know He will give them a new heart, a new purpose, a new identity! He did it for me!

When I was in Haiti last year, I learned what it looked like to be a missionary..each day you get up and dedicate your time to the Lord, seeking Him first in prayer and in the Word, and then the day is spent laboring, meeting the physical needs of those around you but more importantly, sharing WHY you are doing it: because you desire that they would love Christ. Each day was for God, from sunup to sundown. I vowed not to lose this when I got back to the States.

It's been a year since Haiti. I have not forgotten how to live like a missionary, because that's what I am. It is who every Christian is, should they choose to obey the Great Commission.I have seen God moving here, through purposeful ministry. Though there are days where I would like to just pack it up and go work in a refugee camp in Africa, God has made it clear that I am to be in Richmond until He tells me otherwise. There is so much opportunity here; people from every tribe, tongue and nation right outside my door. Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, and nominal Christians. People I want to love on. People who could be transformed by the grace of God through faith in His son. I want them to see that it's not just saying "Yes I believe God loves me and He sent Jesus to die, and now I'm saved and I don't have to worry about eternity." That's just a mental assent. I want to see hearts that fall in love and lives that transform into conduits of Jesus' message and his love. I want to see new creations: miracles! I want to see people who know they are loved love others.I want to make disciples who make disciples.

There is nothing better than pouring our lives out for the sake of the Gospel. When it comes down to it, when you look back at your life will you be happy that you made money or had great stuff, or do you want to say "I rode that thing til' the wheels fell off! I did everything I could to show Christ..everyday was about Him and people coming out of death into life!"

Each day, commit yourself to Him and ask Him to do whatever He wants with your day. Be a missionary. It's who you are anyway.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On love and fear

In light of recent news about the death of Osama Bin Laden, I have been thinking. Alot. There have, throughout the centuries of recorded human history, ever since the Fall, been acts of violence and hate, perpetrated on the basis of one man/group thinking themselves in the right, or one man/group taking what they want (be it money, power, or anything that falls under a subheader) at the cost of another.

Satan himself wages war on our God, because he wants what is not his (God's GODNESS and subsequent worship). Cain killed Abel because he was jealous of him. Throughout the Bible there are stories of evil and murder and in our secular history books: regimes taken by force and genocide in the name of political or religious advancement. I think of the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi, and of the massacre of the Christians in Sudan in the 80's, leaving thousands of orphaned children and a tribe of emigrating "Lost Boys". I am ashamed as a follower of Jesus of the Crusades, a bloody war that was fought for the "sake of Christianity". Today, people live in fear all over the world. There are civil wars and little or no religious freedoms or human dignities in the majority of many civilizations. While we sit in our air conditioned homes, we shake our heads at the condition of the people around the world, and thank God that it's not us.

When 9/11 hit, we were saddened and outraged. We lost friends and loved ones, our bubble of security and the American dream were threatened and we felt more keenly the evil that existed in our world. We went to war and vowed to take out the man who was one of the masterminds behind the attacks.Ten years later, here we are. I am not sad that Bin Laden is dead. What makes me sad is seeing the invisible wall between many Americans and Middle Eastern people in the US. I remember seeing an older Arab woman being treated like a criminal in the airport at JFK, the shame and anger at having her things strewn about in front of hundreds of people, and her indignant scream as she was mishandled by the guards. It was humiliating, and very scary. It is horrifying to think that some people may have terrible intentions, murderous plans that they will carry out in the hope that they may be honored by their God. It is heartbreaking that many kind and decent people will be treated like terrorists just because they are wearing traditional clothing or speak Arabic. Such is our world.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that he is God, the second person of the Trinity, and that he came to earth as a man to live a sinless life and to willingly take the punishment I deserved for my sins by his death on the cross. I believe that he was buried to show that he was indeed dead, and raised again to prove that indeed, he was God! During his life, he forgave sins, and after his resurrection, he does the same to all that will call on him in repentance(sorrow for a life lived in denial of and rebellion against his Lordship) and faith (that by his grace, we can be forgiven and live eternally in heaven with God)! When we respond to Jesus in this way, the Holy Spirit makes his home inside of us and changes us into new creations, people who are not ruled any longer by the sin nature but whom have the capacity to live holy lives that are pleasing to God. We still mess up, of course, but with the Holy Spirit we will not be able to be the same as we were before we met Christ.God has given us his word, the Bible, to teach us more about himself, to renew our hope, and to give us instructions on how to live and treat one another. By his Spirit, we can live counter culturally, that is, live to obey and honor God, love him, and love others!

In light of this, how do we carry out this lifestyle in a world that is so messed up? I don't pretend to have all the answers, or to know much about anything. What I do know is that God has commanded (not suggested) that I love everyone, even my enemies. Loving them would mean..

Not burning the books they consider holy. I speak of a fundamentalist group in Florida who did this with the Quran. How can this bring anyone closer to God? This only shows that the love of Christ is not pouring out of you, HATE is.How about inviting people of different religions into your home and showing them love and sharing what Christ means to you and what he has done in your life? I have Muslim friends who are so dear to me. All it took was getting to know one personally (whom I call my little brother). I was able to see past the grouping of "them vs. us" and get to care for a person whom God died for and who is hilarious, smart, and so kind and loving. Through this I have developed a huge heart for Muslim people and I pray that they would know the overwhelming grace, the immeasurable love of Christ and the assurance of salvation. They are able to be around us often, and I hope that they see Jesus in us and through us.

Am I saying not to be angry at evil? Of course not! But God has said not to fight evil with evil, but with love!! (Romans 12:17-20). There is enough wrong in the world. We have to stick to the Bible's teachings and trust that God is working all things together for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28), and we are also called to fulfill the Great Comission, which means sharing the Good News of Jesus with people who may not have access to it in their own cultures! There is certainly room for wisdom, prayer, and caution in the life of the Christian, but fear and hate are not of God.

How can we ACT for Christ in a world that is so entrenched in evil? The answer is to speak the Gospel and to speak truth to the people around us..IN LOVE! To live a life satisfied and abiding in Christ. To be a people who are rejoicing always and patient in hope, praying without ceasing, because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us!(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This applies to how we interact with people of EVERY background..even if they are so different than us that we can't see how we could ever connect. People respond to love. The word of God does not return void, and if it is him working through us then things will happen. My heart was transformed by Christ, and I know that I am a different person because of it. I was up to my neck in sin, miserable but didn't know how to live any other way, and God came in and showed his great power. He truly raised this life up from the dead. I saw the love of Christ in others and I WANTED it.

How do we show love to people who are living so contrary to God, who seem to have no desire for him or his Lordship? We love them and we speak truth in love. What if, instead of calling names, or belittling, or picketing..what if we opened our homes and our lives..what if we considered others as more important than our comfort or rights, but so loved them and wanted them to know Jesus that we showed grace, mercy, and friendship- even when they don't love us back or show us grace- even when they hurt us? What if we loved the one in front of us, even when it is hard, and they open their heart to Christ because there is no earthly reason for us to love them? What if they don't see human reaction, but what if they see God in us?

Let them see Jesus.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prayer as a Way of Walking in Love

If you have an hour, you should definitely watch this! Francis Chan (author of the amazing book "Crazy Love"), takes us through his personal experiences with seeing how powerful prayer is and how much God delights in the everyday lives of His children!! Listen to it as you do the dishes, or finish up those taxes (whoops)! Be encouraged!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who, us?

1 Peter 2:9
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Ministry is funny(not haha but laugh til you cry, and then there are the days when you weep with either utter joy or out of complete heartbreak). It is being a servant; it is leading people to look upon Jesus as their ultimate satisfaction. It has been absolutely amazing to see the women in our Bible study grow and learn as we look at the Gospel and what it means in so many different aspects of our lives. Always, we strive to delight in God and to glorify Him..whether that be through how we work, how we relate to our neighbors, or how we examine our motives. I LOVE seeing the girls "get it", to see that light come on and to see them desire to follow more closely after Christ. A life changed by the Gospel is a literal miracle..and it is the most beautiful thing to witness.

There is also heartache and stress as you see the girls turn away from Jesus, or go back and forth..to share the Gospel and think it is taking root only to see no fruit at all. You see the battle over their hearts and minds..sin vs. holiness, the world vs. Christ, and all you can do is keep speaking truth and pray..pray that this new girl who has been coming and is not yet a Christian will not have an abortion even though the father has abandoned her and her mother is not supportive of her having a baby..trust that God has placed her in our lives for such a time as this..pray that she will see Christ's love for her and turn to him and be made whole. Pray that this girl who has been coming for a while will finally let go of her old lifestyle completely and let Christ do amazing things in her life and through it..I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of being entrusted with the care of these girls and must constantly remember that they are ultimately in the Lord's hands, not mine.

Through all the ups and downs of leadership, God is faithful and He will accomplish His good purposes. He is the one that provides the opportunities for ministry in the first place! May we be reminded of that each day as we serve Him!! There is rest in Christ, even in our work, because it is not about US or OUR ability, but about His finished work on the cross! We are to "declare His praises" and tell of how He has called us out of darkness and into His light! We are called to speak the Gospel, and to be obedient, and then the rest is in His hands! It is definitely not easy when you like to be in "control", especially when you don't see the results of your efforts or prayers right away or even EVER, but there is such freedom and relief in knowing that He is the one who holds everything together..the salvation of our lost loved ones, the outcome of our labor, all of it. Sigh of relief.

This is why HE gets the glory. He DESERVES it. Every bit of it. He is so good, and so faithful. I am amazed at how He loves us so much, even when we don't love Him back. We can trust Him to work everything together in His perfect plans, in His impeccable timing. He's pretty much the best boss ever. =)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are you feelin' it?

May God glorify Himself through this post because it's one of the times where I have a lot to say but don't know how to say it or where to start.

First of all, my faith is so small. It bugs me to no end, because I really don't necessarily FEEL like God is there ALL the time. I can't imagine heaven, and sometimes I don't feel like my prayers are heard. I share the Gospel with people and I think about how crazy it sounds..


I KNOW IT IS TRUE!! I have often thought about how the Israelites built a monument to God to remember how He had delivered them (Joshua 4), and how I could do the same thing..set up a physical reminder of each time I have personally seen answered prayer, or the hand of God unmistakably at work in my life. I have heard God speak to me, I have seen Him do things that could ONLY be Him, and I know that I am a new creation. I am not the same girl AT ALL. I desire the things of God, and that is IMPOSSIBLE to do without the Holy Spirit living inside of me.(2 Corinthians 5:17)Crazy, right? So, I have to go through the process of breaking down WHY I can be so sure about God, and how I know that Jesus is that God, because of the historicity of his life, death, and resurrection, and the lives that were changed by meeting Him back then and the ones that are changed every day all over the world. =)

So I am trying to live by FAITH, small as it is, because I realize that my FEELINGS are not going to steer me in the right direction!! The Bible says that the heart is DECEITFUL(Jeremiah 17:9) and desperately sick. It's true. My heart wants it all to be about ME sometimes, ok, a LOT of the time, and it's just not! Once I put my focus back on Christ, I realize that if I am doing what Matthew 6:33 tells me to do, to SEEK first God's kingdom (i.e. not MY OWN), then everything I need will be mine.

During times of struggle, and what I am fairly certain is spiritual warfare, I get so off kilter because I am focusing on why I am not feeling like I think I should. I don't WANT to read my Bible, I don't WANT to take time out of my day to pour into other women..when in TRUTH these are the very things that give me peace and joy like nothing else can. My feelings contradict what I know with all my heart is truth: the words of the Bible.

Lately I have not been so on fire for the Lord, although He is still doing amazing things all around me. I have to fight not to just stay in bed,or putt around the house until it's time for work (I work evenings much of the time) because sleep feels so amazing and I can take "a break" for a day, which becomes two days, and then a week. I'm wasting time, self-indulgently. I know that's not ok. I just wish I cared more right now. What makes it worse is that I have women around me who look to me as a spiritual leader. I know I am in Christ, I know that I TRULY desire to lead them in paths of righteousness. I just feel like someone zapped my strength..kinda like a dim lightbulb. I do, thankfully, have a great community around me, and I have asked for prayer about this. I am just being plain rebellious to a degree. I don't FEEL like loving on people unless I FEEL like it. I am so stubborn sometimes, but I just need to stay in prayer and in the Word.

God Says:
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Hebrews 6:12) Help me, Lord.

I know that God will pull me out of this slump, because He always does. He is faithful even when I'm the kid who is supposed to be running the mile who goes and sits down in the grass and pulls out a Twinkie. I know that God will come and sit with me, and love on me until I see that I DO have strength enough to finish. He will be with me each step, each time I feel like I can't go even one more minute. Stopping is not an option. There is nothing for me apart from Christ.

Do you go through patches like this? What has God done to bring you through?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A boy named Su

Okay, he hasn't been a boy for maybe 50 years or so. I don't know exactly how old he is, but I first met Su in June of last year. My church takes dinner now and then to a place similar to the R*nald McDonald House here in our city. This is a charity organization that supplies a free place to live for people with critical illnesses that require long-term, in-patient treatment.

That night, we served the food, and then spread out to sit and get to talk with the patients and their families. Most are out-of-towners, in a hospital in a strange town, with no friends to speak of as they go through this hard time. I sat at the table with Su and his wife, Eejie, along with two other people from my church and a younger Korean lady. Su and Eejie are originally from Shanghai,China, but have lived in New York for quite some time. Su has terminal liver cancer. We learned that the couple was Buddhist, though I suspected it was more cultural than faith-based. During our time together, we shared our hope for eternal life through Jesus' death on the cross. Eejie had many questions as we shared the gospel and we answered them to the best of our ability. The Korean lady at our table was critically ill herself, but a believer! She was able to speak of her peace and joy, even through great pain and hardship. Eejie was very inquisitive, but there was a barrier of unbelief there. We could only pray that a seed would take root in her heart. We were able to pray with Eejie for both her and her husband, whom had been told he had maybe two weeks to live.

Fast forward to early November. We are back at the hospital, me leading a small group of women this time. There are only 8 of us, and I can only pray that God will show up in a big way because I'm not even sure that we will have enough food to go around. I prayed a LOT that day, just that God would show up and bless our time there. We serve the food (just enough!) and I send the girls out to sit among the patients and their families. I have seen during the times that we have gone, that as much as they appreciate the different churches and organizations bringing food to them (and they truly are SO thankful), that what really blesses them is having someone take the time to sit down and talk to them: to laugh, and just have a time of fellowship. They need to be loved on and to have someone care about what they are going through!

The last table without one of our girls was an older Asian couple. I asked if I could sit down, and they said "Sure". It took me about thirty seconds to realize that it was Eejie and Su!! He was still alive and kicking! They remembered me and we ate together, making small talk. Su eventually excused himself and went up to his room. Eejie stayed, and again I got the opportunity to share Jesus with her. Another girl from my church, Tina, joined us and we just continued to talk about how good God is and how Jesus is the only way to the Father; the only One who rose from the dead, showing power over death and therefore proving that He could deliver US from death as well! Eejie asked many questions, and we got to share how God had changed us and how we saw Him moving in us and those around us. It was a good time and a good talk. We prayed with her, for her husband, and I was so, so grateful for one, the fact that Su was still alive, and two, that we got another chance to tell them about salvation through Christ! I asked Eejie if I could have her phone number, and maybe we could go get coffee sometime. I told her I would call her soon. I thought it would be nice to get her out of that place for a little fresh air.

My friend Hannah has such an amazing heart for lost people, and she jumped on the chance to come pick up Eejie with me. We went to a little local coffee place, and then walked around some of the gorgeous neighborhood of Church Hill. We talked about many things, but although we did mention the Lord in regard to our lives, I didn't want to "push" Jesus on her as hard as I had been the two previous times. Hannah had other ideas, and we had an hour long conversation on the corner. Eejie had many more questions, but she didn't tire of talking about "the Jesus". She sincerely wanted to know if we had truly been changed by God. She recognized that sometimes she had negative emotions and reactions that she had absolutely no control over, and she didn't like that. We said that, yes, Jesus could really change her, and though even as Christians we still get upset, we lean on Christ and continually repent of our bad thoughts, habits, and behaviors. We grow more like Him and the sin nature is lessened. She was interested, and she even thumbed through Hannah's Bible. She was amazed that we read it so much.

Hannah and I both just loved this spunky little Chinese lady, and prayed for her and her husband often. The next time we went back to see her, Hannah brought her gifts: a Mandarin Bible and a book called "We would see Jesus", also in Eejie's heart language! We stayed at the hospital this time and went through the book of John, and also Phillipians with her, trying to continue to answer questions as they came up through the words in the Scripture. It was awesome! We told her to read it to Su every day, and she said she would.

The next week when we went back to visit, taking our Malaysian brother Julian. Eejie was quoting the Bible to us, saying "It says if there are two or three gathered, He will be here! Is He here right now?" What a joy it was to see her so engaged and captivated by the words in the Bible! We settled in to study John 9, and she really listened, taking it all in and again, asking truly relevant and insightful questions. She understood! Julian was able to translate deeper meanings in Mandarin, and I think that was very helpful. Hannah asked her what was keeping her from believing that Jesus was the true God, and she said "Not yet, I need to learn more", because the Bible is big and she has only read bits and pieces. I told her that in the five years I've been a Christian, I still don't know it all! What is important is believing that Christ's death was sufficient payment for our sins, and then turning from our own ways as we love God and seek to serve Him with our lives. The rest you have a lifetime to learn! She was still noncommittal, which was disappointing, because for some reason I had a feeling that TODAY was when she would be saved. Julian prayed as our time drew to a close, and when he was done, we sat up straight, and then Eejie said "I say couple words." She bowed her head and said " God, thank you for these friends. Please save my soul and forgive for ..(Chinese word, Julian translates "sins"). Please help Su. Amen." Hannah and I looked up at each other with tears in our eyes, and as soon as we got into the bathroom we exclaimed "Did she just say the sinners' prayer?? On her own? Unprompted?" She had. As crazy as it was, as little as she knew, she asked Jesus to save her and He says when you believe in Him and ask Him to save you , He will! I know that we gained a new sister that day!

We went to a Christmas party later that week at the hospital thrown by another church. We got to eat with both Eejie and Su, and at one point Su told us that we were "God's messengers". I knew that Eejie had been faithfully reading the Bible to Su each day, but he was still a Buddhist, and even told me that night that his mother had been a very sincere Buddhist, and was very nice and kind to people, and "is it not the same as Christian"? I told him gently that though there are definitely good moral aspects to different religions, because Jesus proved He was God, and says there is no other way, than Buddhism could not be true. He nodded and looked thoughtful. Before we left, we made plans to go to the Chinese church on the coming Sunday morning. Both Eejie and Su agreed to come.

Hannah and I didn't understand anything(other than the English phrases "Jack-in-the-box" and what sounded like "strategic meetings") because the whole service was Mandarin. It was a Christmas message, and Su listened intently while Eejie fidgeted. The pastor at Chinese church was very kind and got their contact information, offering to pick them up for Bible Study on Friday nights. As we drove to lunch afterwards, we were talking about their departure from Richmond at the end of the year, and how much we would miss them. They planned to go back to New York, and then to Shanghai for a couple weeks before returning to Virginia. Su told us from the back seat that he would never forget "Angel and Haynah" because now he is not afraid to die and he has God in his heart. WHAT? Hannah and I looked at each other, again with tears in our eyes. Had God been so gracious as to allow us to see both of them saved?

We dropped them off, and I promised to come back to the hospital that night for yet another Christmas party (those people eat like kings, I tell you!). I was tired, but I wanted to make SURE that Su understood the gospel. After sharing with him one last time, and hearing his responses (knowing that Jesus has to be first in our lives! That Holy Spirit has been so busy!)I believe that he does. Hallelujah is the only phrase that fits!

God had answered my prayers to see conversions like they did in the early church, where the message of Christ changes lives and hearts! I have dealt so long with witnessing to cultural Christians, who don't understand what following Christ looks like, and may come to church once in a while but see no need to let Him actually be Lord in their lives. The power of the Word of God pulling this beautiful couple from death into everlasting life has rocked my world, and I have a feeling I am going to be a bit of an evangelism junkie from now on. It is beautiful to live like Christ, but what saves people is knowing that without Him they will be in Hell, and through His death He has made a way for us to be right before God. Jesus saves! Praise God He let me see that when He moves, big things happen!

Be encouraged as you share with your friends and family! He is able to soften even the hardest heart! Keep praying and keep loving and keep speaking truth! He is able!