gospel

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Easter: A Reason to Rejoice

Published December 15, 2013 by joypatton

Easter LilyHave you ever had one of those seasons in life where  “the hits keep coming?”  It feels like lately every time we turn around, it’s something else.  A kid that needs eye therapy or an expensive car repair.  Employees that leave and clients who decide not to be clients any more.  Rejections from publishers or, even worse, being rejected by friends.  Having to decide whether to pay your taxes or pay your mortgage.  Days when you don’t feel good at any of your jobs, and you feel like a failure.  Sometimes the hits just keep on coming.

But even when everything falls apart, I am reminded that my greatest affliction, my biggest problem, has already been taken care of.  All of the other problems are small compared to my biggest problem.  Sure, those other issues make life difficult and very uncomfortable, but because my greatest affliction has been removed, I have hope that it won’t always be like this.  I can know for sure that things will change; I will experience peace and rest.  My greatest affliction, the problem I can not solve on my own, is my sin.

When I approach God with my list of all the things that I think I need…better health, more money, more time with friends, more wisdom in parenting…I am reminded that my greatest need, the thing I need the most to make it through this life, has already been provided for.  My greatest need, the deepest ache of my soul, is peace with God.

This Easter I remember that my greatest affliction has been removed…permanently.  That my greatest need has been fulfilled…once and for all.  Because of the work of Christ on the cross, my sins can be forgiven.  I don’t have to be good enough to be in a right relationship with God.  Because Jesus chose to be the sacrifice that would atone for the sins of the world, I can be at peace with God.  He loved us so much that He made a way for us to be with Him forever.

So when I stand in worship, singing of his love, I will look at all of this week’s “hits” from a different perspective.  I will remember that my greatest affliction and my greatest need have been provided for.  If He is big enough and loving enough to take care of those great problems, then surely He is able to take care of all the “hits” that come my way.  I will be grateful for his love; I will rejoice in his provision; I will know that he is with me; I will trust Him more.

A Love Story Worth Telling

Published October 11, 2013 by joypatton

I recently read a story about gospel artist Bryan Popin and how he and his wife met.

Bryan&SusanPopin-30 CROPPED AND EDITED copyPrior to the release of his latest album “You Can Make It,” gospel artist Bryan Popin experienced many difficult moments through which he learned to persevere.  Perhaps none was more life-changing than when performing at a conference just outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After playing his first song, he scanned the audience and his eyes were instantly drawn to a girl named Susan.

“She just glowed,” Popin says. “I was stunned. Watching her worship with her hands lifted to God was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen—at least to a 16-year old boy that was in ministry.”Immediately following service, Popin proclaimed to his mother that this was the girl he was going to marry. 

Two years later, he returned to that church in Indiana, but Susan wasn’t there. Instead, her father informed Popin that she was now living in Los Angeles. Another two years later, Popin visited a different church in the Fort Wayne area and amazingly saw Susan’s parents again. This time, the 20-year old musician took decisive action. He asked the father for her phone number.

 “I called her the very next morning,” Popin says. “In fact for four days, she didn’t even call me back. So then I started sending her flowers every day. By the seventh day, she called me and asked me to please stop sending flowers because she wasn’t in a good place. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting, but at least I’d gotten Susan to talk to me.”

Popin then poured out his heart. He told her how he had missed his opportunity four years earlier and how desperately he wanted the chance to pursue a relationship with her. But then Susan had something important to say.

 “Eight months earlier, Susan had gotten married and was now pregnant,” Popin explains. “When her husband found out, he closed their joint bank account and left her. She was moving home to Indiana to be back with her family.”

Over the next several months, Popin consistently traveled to Indiana to visit Susan. “When I finally got to hold the newly-born Isabella Grace in my arms and look into her big beautiful brown eyes, I fell deeply in love for a second time,” Popin says.

 About 18 months later, Popin married Susan and they have been together ever since.  Popin and his wife Susan now have four beautiful children.

 “I wasn’t planning on getting married and having an immediate family, but I loved Susan and fell in love with Isabella,” Popin says. “She has totally changed my world. She showed me what true love was. When you’re a dad with a little girl, it’s pure, innocent love. But as much as I love my four children and my wife, even more than that, God loves us. It’s just mind-boggling.”

I loved this story, and thought it was such a beautiful picture of God’s persistent, pursuing love for us.  There’s part of us that says, “I wish someone would love me that way.”  Whether you are a teenager, a single woman or a married woman with an imperfect husband (I think that covers everyone), the heart of a woman wants to be pursued and valued and chosen.  You may look at their story and want what they have, but the good news is that you already have it.

Jesus has chosen you.  He saw you across time and picked you to be his.  He is sending you flowers every day all around you to let you know he wants a relationship with you.  The problem is that many of us feel like Susan probably did when Bryan called her in L.A.  We feel like we have messed things up and that no one could possibly choose to love us again.  We believe we are damaged goods because we are “not in a good place.”

This is me.  I reject the good news of God’s everlasting love because I know that I don’t deserve it.  I reject his love, not because of who he is, but because of who I am.  I put him off and tell myself we will get back together when I’m in a better place.  Do you see how the story would have changed if Susan would have done this?  Do you see all the love she would have missed had she refused to let Bryan in?

Jesus is standing there telling you that he loves you with arms full of flowers even in your “bad place.”  Often we act like the gospel story begins with “Because we were such great sinners and made such a big mess, God sent His Son into the world.”  I hear this version preached from the pulpit very often.  And while it is true, it is not the beginning of the story.  The story really begins with “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Don’t leave the love out of the gospel.  Don’t forget that you have already been loved, chosen and pursued by God.  Do not reject his advances toward you and his voice that gently calls you to love him.  Instead return his call and receive his love.  You don’t have to be in a “good place” to be in a relationship with him.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16)

Popin’s album “You Can Make It” will be released October 22 through a partnership with eOne Music and will be the first national debut for this piano player who is dedicated to bringing his listeners closer to the heart of God. Check it out here: http://bryanpopin.com/

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