Saturday, August 27, 2016

Jesus Brings Joy to My Soul

And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Romans 13:11-12

Things don't always work out the way we plan or the way we hope.  Sometimes life can be hard.  I know many who've been through much worse than us.  But we each have our own pain and carry our own burdens.  

This year we went through a miscarriage, a new experience for me and certainly for Leslie.  On top of that, I've had asthma problems that I've never really had before.  I went to the urgent care earlier this year because I thought I was having heart problems.  It turns out it was asthma.  We also both got the flu, which is unusual for me.  For the past month, I've had a bronchitis cough and wake up at night coughing.  It's annoying.  

And, on top of all of that, law school, which can be grueling and extremely demanding, but also very rewarding.  The Apostle Paul wrote, after describing much that he had been through, said, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches."  (II Cor. 11:28).  I would re-write the Scripture to say, "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of law school."  Although I try to keep a good but flexible schedule, it is hard to stay on top of everything.  This week, despite my intense planning for my 3rd and final year of school, something was wrong with my schedule and I had to make a change.  I worked so hard to get things right, only to find out I did something wrong.  That's life... no matter how hard we try to do right sometimes, we still make mistakes.    

Anyways, I'm not writing this to draw attention to myself.  I know some who are going through difficult things in their lives, probably more difficult than what I've experienced this year.  Nevertheless, God is working.  I believe the Lord is calling us to set all of this aside, fix our eyes on Him, and, in the words of a Casting Crowns song, "Just be held."  If we will take the time to truly seek Him, we can find all that we need in the arms of our Father.

Last night, in my dream, there was a song.  It went something like this:  "Jesus…Jesus… Jesus brings joy to my soul.  My rest is complete, when I sit at your feet, Jesus brings joy to my soul."  Despite everything going on, I keep hearing and feeling the call of God to lay everything aside and seek Him.  Sometimes that is hard to do when I'm under a school deadline.  I wake up in the morning knowing I need to make certain progress, and what gets cut out from life?  Time with Jesus.  Time with him, however, is much more important than all of this stuff of earth.  

I've posted a few pictures below from our camping trip earlier this year.  One of my favorite past times is swimming in waterfalls.  I love to immerse myself in the water.  It is so incredibly refreshing.  That's what time with Him is like.  When we get in His presence, He fills us with peace, with joy, with rest.  That's what I need to do right now, so I'm going to end this blog and do just that.  Good night, and God Bless!  May you be filled with His joy and peace!







Friday, August 5, 2016

Faith and Prayer: Thoughts from Our Experience at the Billy Graham Library

Recently Leslie and I visited the Billy Graham Library in North Carolina.  I was impressed by the simplicity of Billy Graham’s life and ministry.  I believe Billy Graham to be a man of genuine humility and purity.  He said, “My one purpose in life is to help people find a personal relationship with God, which I believe, comes through knowing Christ.”  Everything he has done seems to be centered around that simple goal.  As we moved through the library, two things struck me:  Faith and Prayer. 

At least 2-3 times in the library, as I recall, Billy expressed his simple faith in God’s Word.  He said, “I have had the privilege of preaching the Gospel on every continent of the world.  And I have found that when the Gospel of Jesus Christ is presented, with authority, quoting from the very Word of God – He takes that message and drives it supernaturally into the human heart.” 

Often I don’t understand a lot that is going on in my life, with my family and friends, or with the world around me.  And God is not obliged to explain everything to me.  But I have found that when I put my faith in God’s Word, even when I don’t understand it, it makes a real difference.  When I take His Word at face value and apply it to my life by study, meditation and declaring it over my life, it is effective. 

It seems to me that there are some of us who go through life as victims, and some as victors.  Often, I am guilty of playing the victim.  A victim mentality can be shown in an attitude of ungratefulness, anger, and resentment towards those around us.  A victor, however, has a grateful attitude despite setbacks and difficulties.  A victor does not deny problems or reality, but presses on with strong faith in God. 

Joyce Meyer, an excellent Bible teacher, stated that her father raped her at least 200 times (see here).  I can’t imagine the shame and emotional pain she endured.  Over the last year or so, my wife has been enjoying the ministry of Beth Moore.  Beth Moore was also a victim of sexual abuse (see here).  One thing I notice about these women is they don’t have a victim attitude, but the attitude of a victor.  They don’t have an attitude of ungratefulness and resentment, but an attitude of faith.  I’m sure their journey towards healing and victory was not easy, but I’m certain it involved faith. 

We all have pain to some degree or another.  The world is full of pain.  And God cares about your pain.  He has a pathway for healing for each of us, if we will embrace it.  “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).  That pathway involves faith in God’s Word.  His word “is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Ps. 119:105).  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."  It’s easy to complain; it takes courage and humility to express faith in God’s Word.  To lay a road for healing, we must humbly accept God’s word planted in us, which can save us (see James 1:21). 

Billy Graham said, “There are three elements to Crusade preparation:  Pray, pray, pray.”  And he said, “The secret is not me…The whole secret of the success of our meetings is spiritual - it’s God answering prayer.  I cannot take credit for any of it.”  It’s no surprise that the secret to success is prayer.  It was Jesus’ secret as well.  Luke 5:15-16 says of Jesus, “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

I don’t know about you, but when I’m not praying, I can feel it.  I’m more irritable (just ask my wife) and overall struggle with life more.  But when I pray, I feel God’s presence, His peace, and His love working in me and through me. 

The world is in desperate need of God’s love.  But how can we show that love without God’s love flowing through us?  Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).  Prayer is an act of humility, recognizing that we cannot do life on our own.  Billy Graham said, “People do not come to hear what I have to say.  They want to know what God has to say.”  That’s what it is all about, not seeking our own will, but seeking to do the will of our Father in heaven (see John 5:19).    

I hope this article has been a blessing, challenge and encouragement to you.  God loves you very much.  With Christ, all things are possible.  And all things are possible when we pray and move in faith.    


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Don't Reject God in Your Pain

It’s easy to allow the pain of life to make us bitter.  Disappointment can run deep, and we may find ourselves nursing a wound that just seems to fester and never get healed.  Nevertheless, for every hurt, every difficulty, and every wound of the past, God has the answer.  He has provided a way for us to move into healing and wholeness.

Though God delivered Israel out of the bondage of Egypt, I believe the healing of Israel’s soul was a process that took time.  Certainly the many years bondage had a profound emotional affect.  After crossing through the Red Sea, the Bible says that Israel journeyed 3 days into the wilderness.  At Marah, they came upon bitter waters.  There they complained against Moses.  Moses “cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” (see Exodus 15:22-27)  Likewise, no matter how bitter our experience in life has been, if we will apply the cross (the tree) to our situation, God can make even the most bitter pain an oasis of sweetness.

If your past has been painful, it’s easy to respond with a bitter complaint when coming upon hardships.  God, however, wants us to respond to hardships with faith in His Word.  The Lord told Israel, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Ex. 15:26).

No matter how deep the pain of the past may be, we can overcome it!  He is the Lord who heals.  He heals physically, but He also heals emotionally.  But how do we receive His healing?

Certainly God can heal in a moment.  In a moment’s time, He could descend upon us and whisk away all the hurt, pain and disappointment.  I’ve experienced at least a couple of times in my life where God has done exactly that.  But most of the time healing is a process.  We gain much more from the journey than we would if God instantaneously healed every wound.

God wants to do more than simply heal us.  He wants us to grow and mature in the character of Christ.  In order to grow, we have to do our part.  Hebrews 12:12-13 says, “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”  How do we make “straight paths” for our feet?  We do so by walking according to God’s Word.

God’s Word has power to heal!  Jesus healed by the spoken Word of God.  This year I’ve made an effort to begin speaking God’s Word over my life.  Some nights I’ll sit on my bed or stand by my bed in the evening and declare God’s Word out loud.  Though I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be, I believe doing this has made a difference in my character.

Part of God’s healing process is to begin replacing negative thinking with God’s Word.  As we speak His Word, it begins to work down deep within our character, into our souls, and where there was once darkness and shame, light and healing begin to emerge.  Jimmy Evans, one of my favorite preachers, says that the pain of life is not as much the problem as the message in the pain.  In other words, if you were wounded deeply as a child, it certainly hurt, but the devil also came along and spoke a lie to you.  That lie may have followed you all of your life.  Whatever the message was, it may have formed into a stronghold that needs to be broken by the power of God’s word.  

What message of the pain have you believed?  What’s your predominant thought about yourself?  Perhaps it’s one of these:  “I’m a failure.”  “No one will ever love me.”  “God is not good.”  “If God were so good, how could he allow that to happen?”  “God has forsaken me.”  “I guess I’m just stupid!”  “I’ll never be good enough.”  "I'll never be happy."  "I guess I'm just permanently flawed."  Whatever the message is, you can begin a journey towards freedom today by grabbing a hold of God’s truth and beginning to declare it over your life.

Hebrews 12:15 encourages us to look “carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”  What is the root of bitterness?  I believe the root of bitterness is bitterness which causes us to turn away from God.  When the Scripture says “fall short of the grace of God” it’s not talking about doing enough to be saved.  If you’ve accepted Christ, you’re saved!  You don’t have to earn your salvation.  But falling short of God’s grace means rejecting the very one who longs to heal you.

When we become bitter due to life’s pain we may turn away from God instead of running to Him.  We stop praying.  We stop going to church.  We withdraw from fellowship with other believers.  We become angry with God and reject Him.  We may engage in rebellious behavior.  Rebellion is often simply the fruit of a heart that is in pain.  Yet, God holds out His arms, always ready to receive us back and heal us.  

Is life hard?  Yes.  But all that we’ve been through will work for the good if we turn to God and trust Him with our pain.  Instead of getting angry with God, we need to learn to submit to Him in our pain.  Don’t reject God in your pain.  He loves you!

We all, to varying degrees, have experienced pain and heartache.  Often, the pain was not our fault.  Much of that pain may have occurred in the innocence of childhood.  It wasn’t your fault.  The message from childhood pain may have laid upon you a lifetime of shame.  But today, by the power of God’s love, you can walk towards healing, wholeness and freedom.  God's heart yearns to see you free.  He looks upon you with great love and compassion.  I believe that His heart aches for you.  And He sent Jesus, on that cross, to die so that you can be saved, healed and delivered.  Through His resurrection power you can experience abundant life!

Jesus said that in the last days, “many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another… And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:10, 12-13).  This is the age we are living in.  Many are offended.  But we have a choice.  Our hearts can be soured by the hardness of bitterness and cold love or our hearts can be free in the forgiveness, love and grace of God.  In turn, we can warm the hearts of others with the goodness of God’s love.

God wants us to walk in an opposite spirit of this world, regardless of how painful life has been.  Instead of reacting in bitterness, hatred or revenge, allow God’s Word to transform your soul.  James 1:21 says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”  The NIV says, “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”  God’s word has the power to renovate your soul.  He loves you so very much.  He can make the years to come much greater than the years that you’ve left behind.  Humble yourself.  Turn to Him.  He’s a good God.  He longs to heal and restore you, to repair all that has been broken.  Don’t reject God in your pain.