Saturday, September 28, 2019

Before Church – Sunday September 29, 2019

How Do You Remember Who Your Backup Is?
by Erin Stone

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  - Jeremiah 29:11  ESV

This was a verse I heard so much in my youth. It was even the verse of our summer church camp the year after I attempted suicide. This had been my verse for a long time. It is a great way for me to ground myself when the weight of the world is ready to crush me.

In our current society, we are bombarded by so much information. What we should look like, how we should dress, what we should think, how we should speak; and it’s exhausting. It is easy to understand how all of these pressures along with work, school, bullies, kids, family and significant other dynamics can cause anyone to want to pull their hair out.

This is the moment. This is it. When I am teetering on the edge of the abyss of my mental and emotional sanity, I have an out. This is when I pull out one of my many verses (usually this one) and remind myself to Whom I belong. I am a child of the Most High God. In Him, I have HOPE and a FUTURE. Not only am I not walking this path alone, but I am walking it hand in hand with The Creator. The One that designed me to be exactly who I am. Anxiety, depression and all. Though a work in progress, I am unique and precious. Just like you. And though we are broken, God, the Great Designer, uses imperfect people for perfect purpose all the time!

You are so much more important than you can possibly realize. And while things are not always easy. While things often don’t go our way, there is more than this life. There is more than just this moment. And God has a plan for each of us. You just happen to only be in the middle of the journey right now.

Now I know that this verse may seem misleading because God never promised us an easy road. He didn’t promise luxury, wealth, or comfort in this life. He promises so much more. He knows what is to come for each and every one of His children. That is such a comfort to me. Knowing that the God of the Universe has a plan for me. And for you.

I have battled with depression and anxiety for many years now. The older I get, the easier the battle becomes because I’m ready for it. I have my armor, support system and action plan ready to go. I understand that many people are still in the most difficult parts of this battle or similar ones. I think that it’s important to understand that we are being held within the arms of the Almighty Savior. He is our Hope. He is our future. And what an amazing future it will be!

I would like to challenge you to find a verse that really speaks to your soul. That really breathes life and love into you. Something that reminds you that you are not alone and that you have the BEST backup imaginable in our Lord Jesus Christ. Memorize this verse. Rehearse this verse. Know it forwards and backwards and put it into your arsenal. Then, when this verse is a part of you, choose another. Pack your arsenal full of love and life. When the dark comes, you will have the light within you to withstand the storm. God bless you.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Before Church Blog

Sunday, September 15, 2019
Make Your Mark! by Elizabeth Stone

Matthew 4: When Jesus was tired and hungry, when He had been fasting and praying in the wilderness for 40 days, the devil comes to tempt the Savior. Satan doesn’t come when Christ is rested, strong, and satisfied with good food and drink; he comes when Jesus is physically vulnerable.  The devil attacks on three fronts: hunger, suicide, and power with glory.  Each time the devil is trying to get Jesus to obey him, rather than God. Most of all, the devil is trying to derail the plan of salvation. You see Satan knows that Jesus, well, He’s THE GUY.  So if he can get Jesus to sin – even once – then Jesus can no longer do the work of the Father.  And let’s not give the devil too much credit here; Satan cannot see the future and has no idea of the Father’s plan to save us. But when God steps out of eternity in the Person of the Son, Satan knows he has to stop Jesus, he has to stop THIS GUY. 

Round 1: make stones into bread.  Use divine power to satisfy personal need.  Jesus counters with Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Round 2: Jump off the pinnacle of the Temple. Jesus’ Scriptural response again: “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test”.  Round 3: worship Satan to get power with glory, but without the cross. Jesus responds: “You shall worship the LORD your God and Him only shall you serve.”  Every one of these temptations was designed to derail Christ’s mission to save the world. Today let’s focus on #2. 

In Jesus’ time, the Temple of the LORD stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the highest place in the city.  Built on a foundation of immovable stone that still stands today, it rose 135 feet above the plane.  When the devil took Jesus here, it was to have a high enough position to ensure death if He caved, if He would throw Himself off the Temple to see if the angels would rescue Him.  Crafty little demon even uses Scripture to convince Jesus that this is okay.  But Jesus knows it is a trick, and knows that if He completes suicide, if He dies like this, the plan of salvation dies too.  Christ’s mission, His contribution to the world, is to die for our sins, at the right time, in the right way.  So Jesus passes; He chooses, as He does so many times in His lifetime, to fulfill His mission in God’s way and in God’s time.

Are we any different?  Does Satan wait until we are strong to tempt us? No, never.  And when he comes to us with the temptation to end it all, to complete suicide, it is so that we won’t do our mission for God either, it is so we will never make our contribution for God’s Kingdom.  The devil wants us to cut our lives short so that we never share the love of Christ, never share the good news of salvation, never find our calling and use our gifts, never live our lives out in grace.  Because Christ died for us, we have the blessing of living for Him.  So if the devil comes at you with this particular temptation – to complete suicide – remember two things: Satan wouldn’t be trying this on with you if you weren’t vulnerable, so get some help to find your strength; secondly, Satan wants to stop your mission too, so don’t deny the world the awesome contribution of your mission in Christ.

At her recent book signing, author and speaker Cathy Fyock signed her book to me: “Make your mark!”  This is what we are called to do, to live our lives out fully and make our mark for Christ. After all, He made His mark for us, on the palms of His hands.  Can we do any less for Him?  
Notes: Matthew 4:1-11; Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13; Photo credit: Greg Stone, Jerusalem, model of the Second Temple.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Before Church Blog

Sunday, September 8, 2019
Because this week (September 8-14 2019) is National Suicide Prevention Week, I am hosting a guest blog by my daughter and co-author, Erin Stone. 
We All Know Where We Have Been. Do You Know Where You’re Going?
by Erin Stone

As Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week approaches, I am hit with overwhelming feelings. Anyone that knows my history will understand because I attempted suicide when I was 17.

At 29 years old now, I can’t believe how amazing my journey has been. 12 years seems like a long time and quite a bit of separation. As they say, hind sight is 20/20. If 17 year-old me could have looked into the future and seen what my life would look like now, I’m not sure I could have gone through with my attempt.

I am so thankful that I am still living in this world. I have so many opportunities to change the direction of my life. When I was 17, I couldn’t image a life like this. A life where I am so happy to be alive. A life where I have people that I can feel their love and acceptance like a weighted blanket (in case you didn’t notice, I want one!). A life where even when everything at work is going wrong, I’m stressed, I’m tired, the dogs pooped everywhere and the cats threw up on the bed, I’m good. I may have a moment of freaking out. Who wouldn’t? But then I just have to laugh at the absurdity of the entire situation.

Why do I say any of this? Well, I want everyone to know that there is an end. It may take some time, but the pain and suffering ends. It has to. You have to let it end. My attempted suicide is such a small part of my life now. It is barely a blip on the scale of my life. I refuse to be defined by the bad things in my life. We go through bad things in this world. We go through terrible, heart breaking things in this life. The key is to not let any of those things define you.
Here’s the point though, this isn’t about me. It’s not about my history. This is about you. This is about the people that you love. If this week means as much to you as it does to me, then you have been touched by suicide or something just as difficult. It is such a difficult thing to put your head around. Someone feeling so low that they couldn’t imagine another moment on this earth.

This is why this week is so important: to let people know that they are not alone. That they have so much to offer this world. And knowing that we were each preciously and fearfully made by the most loving and all-powerful God, doesn’t hurt at all.

The more you rely and grow in Him, the easier this all becomes. Be the light to the world, as God is our Light. Share that love with others and let it GROW! When everything is dark and the walls are caving in, remember, Jesus went before us and showed us the path.

I am NOT a victim. I am THRIVING! You are NOT a victim. You are THRIVING! We have so much power, because we have God. Use this week as a reminder that through God all things are possible. He specializes in impossible. It’s really His sweet spot of operations.

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” - Philippians 4:13 -ESV