Monday, August 29, 2011

FaithWalk - Part II

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”
Hebrews 11:8, NKJV

Most likely Abraham had no idea the challenges that lay ahead of him in the land of Canaan.  Had he known perhaps he would never have left his father’s house.  He had no idea he would wait 25 years, until he was 100 years old, for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son.  Yet, despite all of this, Abraham followed the invisible hand of God into an unknown land.

A step of faith comes with both challenges and blessings.

In the Spring of 2000 I turned 21 and was seeking God’s direction for my life.  Having grown up in small towns, and for reasons I won’t get into here, I felt God had called me to the city.  One night, at the church altar, I prayed, “God, if you’ve called me to the city, then give me a city.”  I think it was more of a prayer of exasperation.  I was searching for some kind of direction from God.

That next Saturday night, during our church worship practice, my pastor prayed, “Lord, speak to us in our dreams tonight.”  Up till that point in my life I may have had a dream or two from the Lord, but no dream as life-altering as the one I was about to have.

That night I had a dream.  In the dream I was driving around a city with my friend Joel.  We asked a person or two what city we were in, but no one would tell us.  And then, from the sky, a voice said, “Dallas, TX.”

I woke up the next morning with an excitement inside of me.  I got out my Road Atlas and looked for Dallas on the map.  The idea of living in Texas had been no where on the radar screen of my life.  But that dream was the beginning of an incredible journey of faith for me.  By that August I had moved to Texas and was attending Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas.

Looking back now, over these last 11 years, coming to Texas has brought many blessings and challenges.  I’ve had some awesome experiences with God.  And I’ve endured seasons of intense testing, spiritual warfare, disappointment and frustration.  But I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.  I know I am where I am supposed to be.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dance With Me

dance with me and  my broken heart
with the wind
you make all things new
from your box of treasures
you open up
the perfect heart for me
dance with me and my aching spirit
with the wind
you weep with me
from your love so pure and sweet
you give
a brand new heart to me
dance with me and my wounded soul
with the wind
you father me
in your swaying embrace
you whisper
you impart
the perfect heart to me

Saturday, August 27, 2011

FaithWalk - Part I

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Hebrews 11:1, NIV
It’s easy to admire someone stepping out in faith to accomplish something great for God.  It’s a completely other thing to do it yourself.  Faith, true faith, is a journey which requires action.  It’s also a marathon that requires staying power.  We use the faith we have to step out of the boat and walk on water.  And we need faith to endure the long, dry seasons where it may seem like nothing good is happening.
At times, faith requires a step into the unknown.  God never gives us the whole picture.  He doesn’t tell us the entire story.  He gives us a picture of the possible.  We take a step in the direction of our calling and trust God for what, to us, may seem impossible.

Consider Abraham.  The Lord said to him,
“Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”  (Genesis 12:1-3, NIV)

What an awesome, incredible promise!  In this simple, yet profound word, there is much to be found.  Because you and I are tucked away in there.  Likewise, the promises God gives us, the dreams He places in our hearts, contain blessings which will affect many people.

Just like Abraham, God may have given you a dream, a promise in your spirit.  He provided you with a glimpse into the realm of the possible.  Now may be a time of stepping out in faith into the unknown.  Or, it may be a time where your dream is being tested and your character refined.  Either way, it is an incredible journey of walking with God!

I Will Lift My Eyes

Monday, August 22, 2011

God Brings Glory

I read this quote in a book tonight.  It's from Charles Colson:

"The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure - that I was an ex-convict.  My great humiliation - being sent to prison - was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life; He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory."

Have you ever been in a situation in which you simply could not glory?  Despite the Lord's encouragement to rejoice in the Lord always, you simply could not see any good in what you were going through.

God, why am I going through this?  What is the point?  Whatever good you intended to do in me through this... I feel like I'm just getting worse.  Whatever changes you were trying to work in me through this... Yes, I'm changing, but it doesn't appear to be for the better.  I've disappointed You and myself.  And now I feel like such a failure.  

Yet, God says, "I will bring glory from this."  He will take what in your eyes seems to be a failure and He bring glory through it.  In the very place from which you could find no glory, God says, I will bring glory.  He uses your greatest failure for His great glory.  What God does in your pain becomes a message of healing and redemption to the world.  

From your darkest hour of despair shines a light of God's glory that can never be extinguished.  From your deepest failure, your place of most agonizing pain, God brings glory.  From the depths of suffering, the light of His glory pulsates with eternal strength.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
Romans 8:18

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your Labor is Not in Vain

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
Galatians 6:9

Today Rod Butler, "Bongo Rod" of KCBI radio, spoke at our church.  He did some impressive puppet performances, showed a couple of video clips on some cartoon stuff he is working on, and spoke for 10-15 minutes to the congregation.  In our world of media consumption he said it is important to meet kids where they are at:  In the world of technology, things such as the internet and television.  

I was thinking of some of the programs that touched my life as a child.  I grew up watching cartoons such as Duck Tales, Chip-n'-Dales Rescue Rangers, Tale Spin, Garfield, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Looney Tunes, Winnie the Pooh, and more.  But there were also some Christian programs that impacted my life:  Superbook, The Gospel Bill Show.  Those are two that I can remember right now.  

One of the biggest programs that touched my life is the radio program from Focus on the Family called "Adventures in Odyssey."  To this day I still sometimes go to bed listening to an Adventures in Odyssey tape or CD.  It's a great show.  It's entertaining and communicates spiritual truth through radio drama.    

Many other things impacted my life as a younger person.  I was influenced by Sunday School and Children's Church workers, and, as I got older, youth leaders.  I was part of church drama groups and a program for boys called Royal Rangers.  I also participated in JBQ (Junior Bible Quiz) for a period of time.  In the summers I went to Bible camp.  Our youth group also took us to Youth Conventions where we were inspired and encouraged in our walk with Christ.  

All of these, in one way or another, contributed to my spiritual growth as a young person.  The helped to lay a foundation in my life on the solid rock of God's word.  I am thankful for all these things.  

That said, more than anything else, I believe the reason I am serving the Lord today is because of the strong influence of my mother.  I was taught much at church, I received from those who invested their time in church ministries.  However, with my mother, I saw firsthand what a relationship with God was like.  She had a real relationship with God.  She endured some difficult battles, but she was an intercessor who cried out to God.  She had a deep hunger for God's presence.  She was a worshiper.  

So, whether you are raising children to serve the Lord, or working in some kind of church ministry, nothing you do for the Lord is in vain.  We all have influence on those around us.  The work that we do for the Lord, the time we spend investing in the children and young people around us, has an eternal impact.  We do not always see the fruit of our labors.  Sometimes the work can be discouraging.  I believe that one day we will see the full scope of what God did through us when we get to heaven.  Don't grow weary in doing good!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Ways of God

Sometimes, in the difficult places of life, it seems like God does not care.  It seems He does not see.  We complain to God.  We know, in our hearts, that God cares for us.  But we question His care and concern in our lives.  He does not seem to hear our prayers.  He does not respond to our pleas in the way in which we would like Him to.  We question His love and faithfulness.

The Scripture says that as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are God’s thoughts from our own (Isaiah 55:9).  If you’ve walked with the Lord you know that God’s ways are not our ways.  Sometimes His ways seems strange.  Sometimes they are downright confusing.  I believe we will never fully understand the ways of God.  We have to walk by faith.  Yet, the Scripture goes on to say that God’s word, as it proceeds from His mouth, will accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it. (Is. 55:11)

Despite our questions, our doubts, our confusions, and our bewilderment, God has a plan.  He has a purpose.  He has a reason behind it all.  God has a clear and distinct purpose for all that we go through in life.  This life is not a series of unfortunate events void of rhyme and reason.  God’s ways are not aimless.  They are purposeful.  They are intentional.  And they are good.

“You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.”
(Isaiah 55:12)

Friday, August 12, 2011

All My Days Are Dreams

all my days are visions
faint dreams and shifting shadows
vanishing spirits cross the threshold of my life
and I am left grasping for wind
I open my hands to the air
hoping to catch something complete
praying to drink deep
something real
something concrete
all my days are dreams
dark sayings of night
my life is a vapor
a burning flax, bruised reed
a flickering candle no longer snuffed out
I dream in hope
hope is my prison bars and Your light is my window
I hold on to hope 
of what can be and will be
and wonder if what I dream will ever be real
my life is anxious feelings
lying on my bed in the morning
caught up in this whirlwind of motion
my mind swirls in confusion
my heart does toss and turn
my soul lifted up in questioning
and the light before me is dim
I'm reaching the end of my hope
and wonder if I will be left here
panting after the wind
chasing dreams which never seem real
hoping beyond all hope
I reckon my life as good as dead
that when I have reached the end
all will have culminated in fulfillment
a tree of life
a desire fulfilled
my life has become a dream
and I am lost in it
I cannot find my bearings
I cannot grasp where I belong
I search but cannot find the floor
in this blackest of night
so I am left here calling Your name
with the wind, I call out Your name
in the silence, I whisper
praying you will not forget me
when I feel so alone
praying You will remember me
when I feel so far from home
Lord, don't let me fade into night
an endless chasing of dreams
but may my wings spread and find flight
in all the good things planned for me

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Isle Royale Pictures

Sadly, my camera stopped working by the 2nd day of the trip and I was unable to take photos of the most beautiful places that we saw.  Here are a few from the first day:

In Need of Water

"I stretch out my hands to You; 
My soul longs for You, as a parched land. Selah."
Psalm 143:6 (NASB)

Last week my friend Joel and I took a backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park.  We cruised out to the island on the Ranger III, the largest ship owned and operated by the National Park Service.  The ride across Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, took about 6 hours; about 1 hour down the Portage Canal and 5 hours across the big lake.

The first day we hiked just a bit less than 7 miles to Lane Cove.  At that point, we already knew we had forgotten our water filter.  That meant in order to have clean drinking water we had to boil it.  No problem!  I brought my backpacking stove and fuel.  Well, unfortunately, when I got up the next morning and put my stove together I realized I also forgot to bring matches to light the stove.

So we hiked another 4 and a quarter miles down to the Threemile campground.  We left our backpacks there and trekked all the way back to the main harbor to get water and matches, another 5+ miles round trip.  Even though we were hiking mere feet from Lake Superior, technically we were not supposed to drink the water.  We were exhausted from all the hiking and probably dehydrated from lack of water.  We had finished off the last of our water just before leaving Threemile.  

When we got back to the harbor the first thing we did, of course, was drink water!  Then we sat at a table in the Grille, drank more water and Cherry Coke, shared a pizza, and played cards.  We hiked all that way for one sole purpose:  WATER.  We needed it.  We didn't want to go a whole day without it.  We were revived and rejuvenated, though still physically tired from all the hiking.

That's how God's presence is for our spiritual lives.  We cannot live without His presence.  We need Him daily.  We need His word for sustenance.  We need His Spirit for strength.  He gives us the strength we need to carry on. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Obedient to the Call

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”
Philippians 3:7-9

Do you find that your only true longing is for eternal things?  While others may be investing their time in earthly pleasures, chasing after earthly possessions and earthly rewards, your only real longing is to know Christ.  The thought of knowing Him consumes you and your every breath.  Knowing Him is your life.  The things that perhaps once consumed your time just don’t satisfy anymore.  Your only real longing is to be close to Jesus.

I think it is important to have a balanced life.  Earthly dreams and rewards are not necessarily bad.  Someday, Lord willing, I think it would be nice to own a house, maybe have a swing on a porch, and maybe plant a garden.  I like that the Lord has blessed me with a pretty nice car.  I think it is good to have hobbies.  I enjoy camping and hiking.  I love watching football and baseball.  I enjoy a good novel from time to time.  I think it is important to take vacations and have time to rest and relax.

Nevertheless, none of these things really, truly satisfy.  

Today, as my dad was driving me to the airport to head back to Texas from my summer vacation, I saw a house with a porch and a swing.  I told him that it would be nice to someday have a house with a porch and swing.  And then I mentioned something about letting God know what we’d like to have when we get to heaven.  After all, Jesus said that he is going to prepare a place for us.  I think the place he is making for me will fulfill desires I had on this earth. (see John 14:2-3)

For the time being, however, I’m willing to set aside those desires.  I want my treasure to be in heaven.  I’m not trying to sound super-spiritual, it’s just that I find, more and more, that I want the all-consuming passion of my life to be in knowing Christ and serving Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.  I truly believe that my real treasure, my real reward, is not in this earth.

Recently a visiting preaching at my church was sharing how they have basically given up on the American dream.  They sold their house in the States and have given themselves full time to the work of the Lord overseas.  They have given up some earthly pleasures to respond to the Spirit’s call, to the upward call of destiny on their lives.

In contrast, I have another friend who was ready to give himself full time to the work of the Lord overseas.  However, while preaching in the Caribbean, God told him to go back to Dallas and build a house.  The call of the Spirit was clear - “Go back to Dallas and build a house.”  So, the important thing is not how much we’ve given up or the amount or lack of earthy possessions.  The important thing is whether we are obedient.

Each of our callings is unique.  The burdens that come with God’s call can be different for different people.  One may be called to give their life full time on the mission field.  Another may be called to be successful in business and be a great giver to the kingdom.  God gives grace for wherever He has called us.  Even more, the greatest call is to know Him.  There is no more worthy pursuit than the pursuit of knowing Christ and being found in Him.

Are you obedient to the Spirit’s call?  Are you faithful to the place God has called you?  Are you seeking to know Him with all your heart?

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...