Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moved with Compassion

Sometimes it has been struggle for me to truly and deeply receive God’s love for myself.  Nevertheless, when I spend time in His presence I sense His love and compassion for others.   I know that He is a God of love with everlasting concern for fallen humanity.  His Spirit is the Spirit of love.  His love is big enough for me and wide enough to wrap the whole world in His arms.    

One of my favorite Scriptures says that when Jesus saw the crowds he had compassion on them.  He saw that they were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)  His compassion motivated him.  He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (vs. 37-38)

We are all called, in one way or another, to be a laborer in God’s harvest field.  We all have a gift to present, a talent to offer, or a skill to use through which the Lord shines the light of His love to a hurting world.  More importantly, we each possess inside a treasure of immeasurable value – the Spirit and character of Christ.  The compassion of God’s heart beats boldly inside of us by the Holy Spirit.  Because He lives in us we too are moved with a depth of compassion.

It is ultimately God’s Spirit that draws others, through us, to Himself.  The radiance of His love shines through the brokenness of our lives.  Through us the world sees that Jesus is real.  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (II Cor. 4:7, NKJV)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Longing for Intimacy

afraid of intimacy
I hide under a garment of shame
afraid of the sunlight
I hide in the shadows and cover my face
afraid of my own brokenness
I sit in the back and never ask no one their name
in a perfect world, a perfect place, a perfect time
we’d all surrender to the moment
unafraid of the backlash of ridicule
of hanging in the balance on every word that is spoken
I’m no stranger to the darkness
though I’ve tried so hard to live in the light
still living in a world that I do not know
and does not know me
values I do not understand
caring for things that seem unimportant
can I ask for a piece of bread
a drink of water
a pillow and a bed
a quiet room filled with songs and laughter
sharing stories and love
filled with dancing and weeping
holding every thought and heart as a prized possession
captured in this realm of intimacy

Monday, June 27, 2011

He Breaks the Chains

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe..."
Psalm 107:1-2

Next week I am going to Honduras on a missions trip.  The group from my church will be performing a human video called Set Me Free (a Casting Crowns song).  It is a powerful song that portrays the power of Christ to set us free from the chains of bondage to sin.  Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin... if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:34, 36)

I was thinking of a time in my life where God set me free....

There was a time when I would get so angry with myself that I would literally look in the mirror and curse myself.  I don't think it was a regular habit, but, there were times I'd get so down on myself that I would curse myself this way.  One evening, while walking near my church, I was quietly singing.  I wasn't intently focused on the Lord.  Nonetheless, as I sang the presence of God came over me.  On the gravel road I got down on my face, low to the ground.  It seemed I couldn’t get low enough.

God lovingly and gently convicted me.  He made it clear to me that I was not going to curse myself anymore.  I knew it was not pleasing to Him.  It was a wonderful moment!  I did not feel condemned.  I felt loved.  It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.  I was set free.  There have been a couple times since that experience where that spirit of self hatred has tried to come back.  But even though I still get down on myself too much, I have not cursed myself like I used to since that day.  Thank God for His power to set the captives free!

"Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,
and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he breaks down gates of bronze
and cuts through bars of iron."
Psalm 107:10-16

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Becoming Like Jesus

"For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son..." (Romans 8:29)

I recall, while in college several years ago, after a time of prayer, the Lord led me to this Scripture.  He showed me how He was using the struggles of my life to make me more like Jesus.  That gave deeper meaning and purpose to the things I was going through.  

Now, several years later, as I look back on the struggles of life, I realize that the process of become more like Jesus is a never-ending.  Sometimes I get discouraged with the process.   

II Corinthians 3:18 says, "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

The process of becoming like Jesus need not be a never-ending drudgery, but a glorious experience.  Yes, in His presence we are changed.  Yes, God uses uncomfortable circumstances to refine our character.  And, yes, sometimes in our struggles and sufferings we feel like we're going through the refiner's fire and it is painful.  However, at the deepest place of this process is a place of tremendous and glorious joy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

About Dreams

I Thessalonians 5:19-22 says, "Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil."

This Scripture does not specifically speak about dreams, but, I believe there is a general principle here.  For one, we ought not limit how the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.  Secondly, any dream, vision, prophecy or supernatural experience needs to line up with the truth of God's Word.  That should be a given.  Thirdly, not every dream is from God and not every dream has some supernatural meaning.

In 2006 I attended a youth convention here in Dallas called Acquire the Fire.  I actually served as the church bus driver for the youth.  During the convention, as they promoted their mission trips, the Holy Spirit began to stir my heart with a desire to get involved with missions.  Around that same time (after the convention, I believe) I had a dream.  In my dream I was at a church service.  I believe I was laid out on the floor, on my face seeking God.  A lady prophesied to me in the dream.  She said, in essence, "Stop focusing on Lake Superior, God is sending you to the nations.  He's sending you to Norway, Africa, and the Middle East."  Not long after the dream God opened up the opportunity for me to go to Honduras with Light of Life International Ministries.  In less than 2 weeks I'll be going on my 5th trip with Light of Life.

I think that dream is a good example of a true dream from the Lord.  Clearly it lines up with Scripture.  Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  I didn't try to conjure it up.  It also confirmed something God was already speaking to me.  He stirred my heart concerning missions and then confirmed His purpose through the dream.  I had an inward witness of the Holy Spirit that it was indeed from the Lord.

Not every dream or vision will work out exactly this way.  But, if it is truly from the Lord, it should line up with these general principles I have outlined here.  The end result should be peace.  I Thessalonians 5 goes on to say, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (vs. 23-24)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Dream from the Lord

 “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16)

When I first graduated from high school, in 1997, I did not have a clear direction for my life.  It would have been nice if God had laid out everything plain for me.  But life doesn’t work that way.  As we seek God and walk by faith we discover His plan and purpose for our lives. 
Unsure about what to do, I decided not to go to college right away.  Ultimately, after seeking God, and with the encouragement of my pastor, I took a step of faith and went to North Central University in Minnesota to pursue a ministry degree. 
After three semesters of college I left due to the turmoil caused by a dysfunctional relationship with a girl and some personal failures.  I was once again at the place of seeking God’s direction for my life.
Despite my failures God was at work.  He was up to something.  The process of discovering His will and purpose was just that, a process.  Recently a man preached at our church and said, in essence, that the reason finding God's will is hard is because God wants us to seek Him, and in seeking Him we find His will.  
During the next fall I took a greyhound bus to a ministry in New York City.  I spent about a week ministering to children in the inner city of New York.  I thought perhaps I would join their internship program.  Though my time in New York was one of the greatest experiences of my life, after returning to Michigan, it became clear in my heart that New York City was not the place I was supposed to be. 
Though New York was not the place for me, I believed God had called me to a city.  One night, several months after returning from New York, I was at church praying at the altar on a Sunday night.  I prayed a prayer of exasperation:  “God, if you’ve called me to the city then give me a city.”  It wasn’t necessarily a prayer I expected God to answer. 
The next Saturday night, during our worship band practice, my pastor prayed, “Lord speak to us in our dreams tonight.”  That night I had a dream.  In the dream I was driving around a city with my friend Joel.  We didn’t know what city we were in.  We asked a person or two but they wouldn’t tell us.  And then, out of the sky, a voice clearly said, “Dallas, Texas.” 
I woke up the next morning with an excitement inside of me.  I got out my Road Atlas and found Dallas on the map.  Living in Texas had never been on the radar screen of my life.  I tested the dream, talked with my parents, and even took a trip to Texas to spy out the land.  The more I proceeded the more I knew Texas was where I was supposed to be.  In many ways, it was an exciting time in my life.  I was following God by faith on a great adventure. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Missions Trip

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Matthew 9:37-38

I will be a part of a ministry team of youth and adults to the country of Honduras.  My home church, Mountain Creek Church, is partnering with Light of Life International Ministries in reaching out with the good news of Jesus in Cofradia, Honduras.  Our summer outreach will be from July 4th - 10th, about 2 weeks away as I write this e-mail! 

I am excited about the opportunities to distribute items such as food, flip flops and stuffed animals to the needy people in Cofradia.  We will share the love of Jesus with those we meet, minister in local churches, participate in a children’s crusade, and be a part of huge area-wide crusade services (among other things).  Thousands of people will attend the weekend crusades.  

Would you be willing to mark your calendar to pray for me and our team during the week of July 4th – 10th?    

Thank you for joining me in prayer for a harvest of souls in Honduras!

For more information about Light of Life International:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Let My Heart Be Known

"But whoever loves God is known by God."
I Corinthians 8:3

this voice resounds across time and space
searching, longing, hoping
to connect with one far off, but not forgotten
I see you there
on a distant shore
depicted in haunting color
in my vivid imagination
but now my heart is far away
and though I visit you in my dreams
you are a vapor
I am a wanderer
and I cannot find you though I long for you and your embrace
with all my heart I long for you
with all my strength I yearn
with all my hope I search for you
I pray now, not in vain
with all my might poured out for you
and all my soul laid bare
with all my passion on the altar for you
and none of me held back
I lift up my soul and place it in your hands
hoping, praying, believing
that you will give it wings and make it fly
that you will go to depths for me as I have gone for you
that you will search me out as I have searched out you
that the prayers I have prayed will not have been in vain
that they would echo in the chambers of heaven
the song I sing, heard around the throne
give my voice wings and make it fly
let this cry be heard around your throne
let my heart be known

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Release the Deep

how deep is the river
the river that I long for
where doubt and confusion
darkness and shame
are washed away
in the stream of Your love
fill me up till I’m complete
fill me up, satisfy my longing deep
how strong is my craving
that I cannot express in words
that You would reduce me to love
destroy the yoke, release the bondage
make me whole and complete in agape love
I’ve been crying out and crying out
for You to silence the voice of cursing
that You would strike all my enemies
turn their accusations into blessings
turn their taunts into sounds of laughter
make my praise rise from the depths
to drown out the sounds of my enemies
hear the sound, release the deep
release the worship inside of me

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

I've been drinking in this song the last few days.  So simple, so profound, so powerful.  Enjoy.

Power in Weakness

"...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
-Ephesians 3:17-19

There is a cry from brokenness that longs to be filled to the whole measure of the fullness of God.  In my brokenness I know that Christ is the cure.  When His Spirit occupies the broken places of my life I am made whole.  I am made complete in Him.  This process of healing is just that, a process.  It is from "glory to glory" (II Corinthians 3:18) 

We all have areas of our lives that need to be filled with God.  Wounds from our past long to be healed in the presence of Christ.  We present to God our brokenness because it is all we have to offer.  None of us come to Christ complete.  We come to Him imperfect, marred, tattered, and bruised.

As God makes us whole we become ambassadors of His healing love to a broken world.  Christ's love compels us (II Corinthians 5:14).  Where we have been wounded, Christ empowers us to heal others.  Just as the wounds of Christ became a source of great power, Christ's power in our weakness becomes a world-changing force.  His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Five or six years ago I went through a time of discouragement and depression and, at the moment, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it.  I thought I was at the end of what I could handle and cried out to God for help and mercy.  In my low place God lifted me up.  I had a dream where I was in a worship service.  A lady from my church laid hands on me and I fell backwards, touched by the Holy Spirit.  When I woke up I knew something had changed.  The Lord had touched me.  Though all my problems were not instantly resolved, there was a joy and a peace in my spirit that was unmistakable.

At times I have cried out to God to take away this "thorn in my flesh."  Yet God reminds me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9)  I have heard a quote that goes something like this:  "No matter how deep the trouble, God is deeper still."  In the depths of my brokenness God has reached down and lifted me up out of the miry pit.  He has set my feet firmly upon the rock.  I still struggle with this thorn, but, I believe, God has used it to work in me something deep.  He uses it as a source of His power in my life to minister to others.

Monday, June 13, 2011

God is Doing a New Thing

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:  “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel.  But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him."
Jeremiah 18:1-4

God has been doing something new in my life lately.  Some of it has been difficult.  I have felt like I've been on the potter's wheel.  Even more accurately, I have felt like I'm in the fire.  Through it all, I feel like God is birthing something new and significant in my life.  He has also been speaking to me about my calling.  Through this process some things have come to the surface of my heart that are not easy to deal with.  Yet God is purifying me for a greater purpose.

One thing that has been a big issue in my life is fear.  I know this verse is true:  "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." (II Timothy 1:7, NKJV)  Still, fear seems to plague my life in so many ways.

About four years ago I received a prophetic word which said, in part, that a baptism of love was coming to me to set me free from the fear that keeps from from moving forward in God's call on my life.  Of course, in my natural mind, I imagine a dramatic, instantaneous deliverance where God delivers me from fear.  What seems more likely is that it is a process.  I have experienced instant deliverance in the past and I thank God for those experiences.  But often God uses a process of deliverance to perfect faith and refine character in our lives.

At times the process is frustrating.  Sometimes I get angry.  Sometimes I vent to the Lord.  Recently, I was venting to God about something and I was pretty upset.  I was fervently making my complaint to Him in my apartment when I felt the hand of God upon me.  It was as if God Himself was standing before me, calming me down.  As He calmed me and comforted me it was hard to continue to be upset.  How do you stay upset when someone is soothing you with their presence?  The Lord said to me, "I know, I know... and it's going to be okay."  It was as if He was saying to me, "I know it's been hard.  I know it hasn't been easy.  But it's going to be okay."  I felt so much better after He said that.

On the surface of  my life, nothing has really changed.  But, God is at work.  I don't know how it's all going to turn out.  I don't know exactly what He is going to do.  Sometimes it doesn't seem like things will be okay.  But I have to trust that if He says things will be okay, then things will be okay.  And, in my spirit, I know He is using all of this to do something new and significant that will ultimately bring Him glory through my life.    

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Fellowship of Suffering

"I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings..." -Philippians 3:10

I was thinking this morning, as I drove to church, about a friend who is going through a difficult time with their newborn daughter.  She has a heart problem and may eventually need a transplant.  We are praying a transplant will be unnecessary.  I was reflecting on some of the sufferings of life I have been through.  Of course, I've never had to deal with the possibility of losing a child.  Nonetheless, on more than one occasion I have prayed the prayer of the Apostle Paul, that I may know Christ and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Sometimes I think, "Lord, why do I pray such prayers!?"

The knowing Christ part, I want that.  The suffering part - the reality of suffering - that is the hard part.  God could give me a problem free life is ease.  Some people, on the surface, seem to have such a life.  For most of us, however, life is not that easy.

If God could make life wonderfully easy all of the time that might be nice.  But I think there are things we learn through suffering we would never know otherwise.  God does a deep work in our lives through suffering that is of immeasurable value.  It is something we would never experience if things were always easy.

So, in a sense, the hardships of life are a gift of God to us.

Romans 8:18 says, "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."  Now this glory Paul speaks of is certainly an eternal, heavenly glory.  It is a glory that will one day be when we trade our frail, mortal, and sick bodies in for an incorruptible heavenly body.  However, I also see a present application.  God reveals His glory in us, on this earth, through the suffering we endure.  What He does in our suffering becomes a message that burns in our hearts.  We have a testimony to share with the world of God's love and faithfulness.  Our lives become a picture of the demonstration of His power as His healing is revealed.

Prayer Equals Peace

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow...