Saturday, October 17, 2015

Leave No Page Unturned

Have you ever started a book and not finished it?  So have I.  I have finished many good books.  Finishing a book provides a sense of accomplishment.  But what if you got to the end of your life, but didn’t really finish it?

Psalm 139:16 says,
“Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”

It’s a pretty awesome thought - God saw all your days before you did.  He saw the good days and the bad days.  He saw the moments of joy and the seasons of heartache.  He saw every hurt and every happiness.

God foresees, but I believe we have to walk into His purpose by faith.  In other words, we don’t fulfill God’s plan for our lives passively.  We fulfill God’s purpose by actively pursuing it.

I am determined to finish my life.  I don’t want to leave anything undone that God has called me to do.  I don’t want to leave a page unturned or not read.  I don’t want to miss out on anything God has for me.  I want my life to count for eternity.    

In 2011 I was in a missions trip in Honduras.  During one of our prayer times, my friend Daniel Harmsen gave me a prophetic word.  He said, “You’re a writer and you turn pages.  The Lord is turning a new page in your life.  The page he’s turning is not a blank page.  It’s already scripted.  You need to let go of the past.  All is new in Christ.  God is doing a new thing.”

Sometimes we go through seasons where we question God’s purpose.  We’re may feel stuck, or feel like God is not leading, or have no clear direction for the future.  He may have us in a season of waiting like Joseph in the dungeon; He is preparing us for greater things.  But when God says move, it’s time to move forward.  God does have a clear direction.  He has a definitive purpose.  It is well-scripted.  It may begin with a step of obedience, a step into the unknown.  But the story is good if we will step out into it.

A little over a year after Daniel gave me that word God began to make some major changes in my life (in November, 2012).  It began with a promotion, a marriage, and a move to a different state.  My story has not been easy, but it has been good.  I’m exciting about the great things that God has in store for us in the future.

You can possess all that God has for you, but you must enter into it by faith.  You may need to let go of some things from the past, but you can do it!  As you seek Him, He will bring healing.  He makes all things new in Christ.  God wants to lead you into a new day in Him.  Leave no page unturned!    

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Violent Take it By Force

God has a door of hope that He wants us to walk through by faith.  If we will walk by faith in the things He has spoken to us, we can possess all He has promised us.  What has God promised you?  Healing?  Deliverance?  Provision?  Peace?  Joy?  All of God’s promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ Jesus (see II Corinthians 1:20).  All the promises of the Word belong to us.  What is the vision God has given you for the future?  You can possess it, by faith.  What battle are you facing today?  You can overcome it, by faith!

Jesus said, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).  The pasture represents all of the blessings that are ours in Christ.  The pasture is like the Promised Land.  It is ours, but we must go in and possess it.  We possess it by exercising our faith.  Faith requires action.  We have to declare our faith, speaking life.

Everything you need in this life is found in Jesus, the door.  He promises life, abundant life!  But there is also a thief, who comes to steal, kill and destroy (see John 10:10).  Abundant life is not an unconditional promise.  It is something we possess by faith.

Jesus has given us the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).  The keys represent authority in heaven and on earth.  What great privilege God has given to us!  Upon the revelation of Christ, Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).  Have you ever felt like the gates of hell have opened wide against you?  Sometimes I feel like the hordes of Satan assail me with ferocious fury.  But, Jesus says Satan will not prevail.  Jesus has given me authority, both in heaven and upon earth, to walk in victory.

There is the ever-present reality of two kingdoms - the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of darkness.  Darkness wants to secure a beach head in our souls, make camp, and continue to advance.  Darkness wants to rule and reign in our personal lives, our families, our cities and our nations.  The enemy’s kingdom is ruthless, deceitful and under-handed.  Sometimes it seems unfair.  But we can rule in the midst of our enemies (see Psalm 110:2).  God will fight for us.  But God wants us to take up our authority in Him.  If we will do our part, God will do what we cannot do.  

The nature of God’s kingdom is that it must be entered into.  We must possess it by faith.  II Timothy 6:12 says, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (emphasis mine).  Jesus has provided everything we need through his life, death, and resurrection.  We must walk in His blessing by faith.

Jesus said, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  This verse stirs me up.  The kingdom of heaven is not for the faint of heart.  In Luke 16:16, Jesus said it this way, “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”  God is calling us to a radical commitment to His kingdom.  

Did you sign up for this fight?  Perhaps not!  But you were drafted into God’s army when you accepted His request to become His child.  Welcome to the fight.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.  When we feel the kingdom of darkness trying to impose its way upon us, something ought to rise up inside of us.  We have the power within us that is greater than he who is in this world (I John 4:4).  You can do this, you can be victorious!

What is your fight?  What enemies are coming against you?  Rise up and take your place of authority.  Fight for your family, your children, your marriage, your city.  Stand at the doorway of your home and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord.  In the words of Nehemiah, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Friday, August 28, 2015

He Loves You!

I think this is one of the most important prayers in the Bible, that God would give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we can know Him.  God loves you so much and wants a real relationship with you.  It is possible, you can know God and He can know you.  You can be alive in His Spirit, know His love in your life, and be filled with the Hope of eternal life.  God Bless!

"Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe..."
-Ephesians 1:15-19

Friday, August 21, 2015

Has the Message Changed You?

“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”
-Philippians 3:18-21

As we drove through the West Virginia countryside last week, I saw a sign in front of a church that read, “We don’t change the message, the message changes us.”  That prompted me to think of how many people in our culture want to change God’s message by conforming it to their sinful lifestyle.  But Jesus didn’t die so we could remain in our sins.  He died to free us from our sins, to free us from the power of sin.  My question for you today is this:  Has the message changed your life? 

I grew up in church.  As a young boy, I was taught God’s word.  And I had a wonderful example of a praying mother.  I’m grateful for the foundation that was laid in my life.  I believe it has carried me through some hard times.  In many ways, the message formed my character.  Yet, I have still struggled with some things that have not been easy to change.  Sometimes the lack of change can be discouraging. 

It’s great when God changes us instantly.  There was a time in my life, where sometimes I would get so down on myself that I would literally look in the mirror and curse myself.  One night I was walking by my church in Texas, singing quietly.  I wasn’t really focusing on the Lord, just enjoying the peaceful evening.  Suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon me.  I couldn’t get low enough to the ground.  I was on my knees in the gravel, convicted by the Spirit.  In that moment, God made it clear to me that I was not going to curse myself anymore.  I didn’t feel the least bit condemned.  I felt loved by God.  I walked away free, a changed person. 

A week or two after my experience I felt that spirit, what I believe was a spirit of self-hatred, try to come back into my life.  I recognized it immediately and stopped it.  Since that day, I haven’t stood in front of the mirror and cursed myself.  Even though I still get down on myself sometimes, I know God set me free.  In His presence I was changed.    

There are other things in our lives that do not change as quickly or easily.  It is a process.  But we can change.  We are changed “from glory to glory.”  We change by beholding His glory.  II Corinthians 3:17-18 says, 
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 
I have a tendency to focus on my problems.  I get discouraged with my own lack of progress.  Or I feel like a failure because I want to change, but struggle to do so.  However, focusing on our problems is not the answer.  Focusing on Jesus is the answer.  We are changed into His image by looking at Him.  We become more like Him, when we fix our eyes on Him.  By faith in Him, we can speak to the mountains in our lives, and see them move!  Thank God, we can be changed by the power of His Holy Spirit!  Today, the message is still powerful.  It still changes ordinary people.  Has the message changed you?

“I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
-Matthew 17:20

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fountains of Living Water

Here's a short video we recorded during our recent backpacking trip in West Virginia:

Revelation 7:9-17

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Friday, July 17, 2015

Look Upward, Look Outward

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:2-4

I believe that this is not a time for the church to wallow in negativity.  We need to be positive!  Though things around us may seem bad, I believe that this is the church’s finest hour. 

There’s so much going on in the world today that seems so disturbing.  Has it always been this bad?  Sometimes I wonder if it’s not so much that the world is getting worse, but the fact that we know so much.  At any moment, at our very fingertips, is a plethora of information.  We have 24-hour news broadcasts.  We have greater access into each other’s lives via things like Facebook and Twitter.  On one hand, we have access to a lot of cool information and the world is more connected.  On the other hand, I wonder if we really have better and more quality relationships.  And there’s a lot going on in the world that sometimes I’d rather just not know about. 

The prophet Daniel spoke of a future time when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)  We are certainly living in those times.  Despite our knowledge, I am inclined to believe that things are getting worse.  Speaking regarding the end of the age, Jesus said that “lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12)  He also said that “many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (vs. 10) 

But Jesus also said this:  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (vs. 14)  This part gets me excited!  No matter how bad things get, there’s going to be some people who are burning bright for Jesus, filled with holy passion to see God’s kingdom established on earth. 

I think we need to really focus our eyes on God’s kingdom.  Our purpose is to experience His presence and to expand His kingdom on earth.  Our mission has not changed.  No matter what is going on around us, the Great Commission has not changed.  God is still a miracle-working God, a God of power who can do the impossible through us.  He can work miracles through your life, through my life, and touch others with the power of His love. 

Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”  I am disturbed just as much as you are regarding things going on in this world today.  I don’t think God expects us to live in a la-la dream world out of touch with the realities of what’s going on.  We should be concerned and we should pray.  But our prayers and compassion should move us to take positive action.

One of my favorite verses is in Matthew 9.  Verse 36 (NIV) says that when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Jesus’ compassion motivated him action, to touch hurting and broken humanity.    “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.’”  Look upward, my friends, our redemption is drawing near.  And look outward, my friends, the fields are ripe for harvest.  May we all take our place and do our part.  May our hearts burn with fire and passion for Jesus!    

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Holy, Dark Clouds of Thunder

holy, dark clouds of thunder
between the billowing smoke and the fire
is the gap between you and me
though I long for You, I cannot see Your face
still, You write Your words upon my heart
and I can hear Your song
as it reverberates through my soul
I sing into the darkness
crying out, that I may know You, that I may see Your face
that I may feel Your touch 
O Lord, would You hear me?
would you know me?
show me, show me, show me Your face
holy, dark clouds of thunder
You live in unapproachable light
beyond the gray, behind the veil
the journey from me to You is one of faith
O how You hide Yourself from me
I search the city streets
I search the forest deep
I scower every corner, every recess of my heart
hoping that I might find You
praying that somewhere I might see You
I search the mountain high
examine every stream
to find a glimpse of You
because I can see You hidden in everything
why do You hide Yourself from me
when I long to see You face to face?
holy, dark clouds of thunder
Your breath is like lightning
Your arms are like a vapor
Your face is a storm
but I will push through the rain to behold You
I will push through the night to see Your face
I will stand on the precipice and cry out
now, show me Your glory
may You and all Your goodness pass before my eyes
I will not proceed without Your presence
for Your presence is the day for me
the darkness is light to You
and the night is bright as day

Saturday, July 4, 2015

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

Beautiful Array

She’s waiting for her moment to arrive
She’s praying to break through to the sky
To soar in that place
Where the world and all the devils of hell
Cannot damper the radiance that ignites the world around her
She is dancing
In the wondrous, glorious wonder of Father
Like the stars she shines
Fragrance arises from all that once was suffering
Beauty comes alive
like flowers blooming from that which once was a field of ashes
She is clothed in a garment, the applause of heaven
And the alabaster jar is broken at his feet
In that place where she weeps
Love beats, pulsates, like the deep pumping of the heart
And from the depths of her brokenness
The healing balm of Gilead flows
All that oozes from her is like perfume
The scent of heaven
She lights up the world and the sky in beautiful array

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

This post will perhaps not be typical, but more of a pondering of some thoughts.  But I’ll try to frame this in a way that I hope will be encouraging for you.  Perhaps challenging as well.  Tonight, as Leslie and I were talking while eating dessert at a frozen yogurt place, the Scripture in Hebrews 11 came up:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises… And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” (vs. 13, 39-40)

There are some things that I truly believe God has called me to do, but I have not yet walked fully into that calling.  These things I want to do.  I want to accomplish something significant for God’s kingdom.  I want my life to count for eternity.  When I get to heaven, I want to receive a great reward. 
One of the things I believe God has called Leslie and I to do is to preach the gospel in other countries.  That is a big desire of mine, a dream I believe is from God.  I want to see God move through our lives in power and compassion.  But what if it never happens?  What if I never preach in another country again in my lifetime?  What if Jesus comes back before the dream is fulfilled?  In fact, what if my reward in heaven is not tied to the fulfillment of that purpose?  What if my reward in heaven has nothing to do with how many people I lead to Jesus or how many sermons I preach?  What if my reward is tied to how well my life is a reflection of the character of Christ?  What if my reward is tied to how well I love my wife? 
In this season of my life, I'm focused mostly on getting through law school, building our marriage, and, I hope, on spending time with the Lord.  In addition, since I'm not taking classes this summer and I have to work only 20 hours a week, I have time to enjoy some other things.  I'm able to do things perhaps I’d not be able to do if I were working full time or taking classes. 
In Texas, prior to moving to Virginia, I was working full time, commuting in Dallas traffic, and I was involved at church.  We miss Texas and our friends there.  Sometimes I feel a little lonely.  I miss being involved at our church.  I especially miss singing in the choir and on the worship team.  I think serving at church helped me feel like I was doing something for the Lord.  It was part of my identity.  At our church I felt like I was part of something significant for God’s kingdom.  That said, I’m thankful for this new season, despite its challenges.  I’m thankful this summer has given me a chance to slow down. 
In Luke 10 Jesus said,

“Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (vs. 19-20, emphasis mine).

Tonight I feel a contentment in my spirit.  My identity is not tied to what I’m accomplishing for the Lord.  My identity is in Him, in my relationship with Him.  My identity is in knowing that He loves me and that I love Him.  It feels good to feel loved.  Things in life are not easy; sometimes they are very difficult, very challenging.  But, tonight… tonight I feel good. 
Please don’t get me wrong.  I believe God wants us to do great things for Him.  I believe that God has specific things for us to accomplish (see Ephesians 2:10).  God wants us to serve others and love our neighbors.  He is very concerned about the harvest.  He says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matt 9:38-39)  I want to be part of His end-time harvest!  We all have an important part to play in it.  But at the end of the day, God wants us to be faithful where He has placed us right now, wherever that may be – whether it’s working in Dallas, in Virginia at law school, or in Africa preaching the gospel.
I think the most important thing in life is to spend time with the Lord, in His presence.  When we set our hearts towards loving Him, knowing Him, and seeking Him, He sets everything else in our lives in the right place.  We get our marching orders from Him.  When He says “Go,” we go.  And sometimes He says “stay,” and so we stay and rest in Him.  Even if we never accomplish for God what we may think is something significant, we can rejoice in the most important thing – that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Our eternity is secure.  That’s a great place to be.
We can look forward to the day when we’ll hear Him say those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” (Matt. 25:21).  

Friday, June 19, 2015

Perfect Love

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, 
because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not 
been made perfect in love."
-I John 4:18

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Journey of Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
Hebrews 1:1

In 2000, I was living in Michigan and earnestly seeking God’s direction for my life.  At church one Sunday night I uttered a prayer of exasperation.  “God, if you’ve called me to the city then give me a city.”  I did not expect my prayer would be answered so quickly.
The next Saturday evening, during worship practice, my Pastor prayed, “Lord, speak to us in our dreams tonight.”  At the moment I didn’t realize the significance of his prayer.  But that night I dreamed I was driving around a city with my best friend.  For some reason we didn’t know what city we were in.  The people we asked wouldn’t tell us.  Suddenly a voice from the sky said clearly, “Dallas, Texas.” 
The next morning I awoke with an excitement inside of me.  I opened my Road Atlas and looked for Dallas.  After praying about it, talking with my parents, and visiting Texas for a week, I knew Texas was where God wanted me to be.  By August of the same year I was living in Dallas, attending Christ for the Nations Institute.  It was a step of faith for me, and also a beginning, of sorts, of a journey of faith I’ve been walking now for the approximately 15 years since then.
Hebrews 11:8 (the “Faith” chapter) says,  

“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.”

Abraham simply heard God and obeyed Him.  In some ways, hearing from God and stepping out in faith on His Word is the easy part.  The hard part is enduring through the trials, setbacks and disappointments which will inevitably occur on the journey.  However, if we don’t first respond to God’s call, we won’t know the opportunities to grow in character that come when His word tests us.
The Scripture says Abraham, “went out, not knowing where he was going.”  That comforts me.  Sometimes I don’t feel like I know where I am going.  Sometimes I feel like a man in the dark attempting to follow the invisible hand of God.  Sometimes I feel like I’m just along for the ride.  God is in the driver seat, and He’s only telling me what I need to know (but not everything I’d like to know).  Sometimes it’s a strange feeling, knowing I’m not in control, but often I want to feel like I have a firm grip on things.  Can you relate with that?
With His word as a foundation, and the voice of His Spirit as a guide, we keep moving forward step by step into His purpose for us.
God doesn’t show us all of His purpose at once.  That’s part of the incredible, exciting adventure of following God.  He leads us step by step in a quest of faith.
Still, at times this journey of faith can be unnerving.  Divine moments of destiny may be preceded by a season of searching and suffering.  And waiting and wondering.  We may feel like crying out, “Would somebody please let me know what’s going on here?!” 
In the mean time, much of life is spent in the seeming triviality of the mundane.  We simply maintain.  Thankfully, our calling is much more significant than the mundane.  But real faith is gutted out in the trenches.  Even the mundane can be saturated by His glorious presence.    
During the seasons of waiting God is building His character in our lives.  Waiting on God in the school of character can be hard.  It’s only natural to want to spread your wings and soar into what you know God has called you to do.  However, the time of preparation is of vital importance.  The journey can seem long.  It will try your soul.  You’ll be tempted to quit.  It’s easy to become weary, impatient, frustrated, even discouraged. 
Thankfully, I’ve found that God injects into our seasons of waiting sovereign visitations of His Spirit.  I’ve had some divine encounters with God that have marked my life forever.  These experiences have helped me to carry on during the dry seasons, when it seems like nothing is happening.
God’s promises carry within them His character and the substance of His life.  The moment we receive a promise we possess it by faith.  However, in the realm of the natural it may take some time for the fullness of the promise to be realized.  That does not make the promise less real.  God has a perfect time for all things.  Our times are in His hands. (Psalm 31:15)  While we wait we can judge Him faithful who has promised. (see Heb. 11:11)  

Friday, May 29, 2015


“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Not too long ago a lady that I went on several mission trips with died.  She was such a wonderful person.  She loved Jesus and was on fire for the Lord.  And she was always so nice to me.  I considered her my friend.  Her death was hard to understand.  Why would God take someone that seemed to be so effective for His kingdom here on earth? 
In my dream last night my friend was with a few other women.  One of the women, I believe, stated that my friend could be healed.  But I stepped forward and said something like this:  “No, sometimes God allows us to go through a special suffering to reveal Christ in our lives.”  As I was about to walk away I said to my friend, “The only thing that matters is Jesus!”  I said it so loud that I think I surprised myself and embarrassed myself a little.  Then I woke up. 
The Scripture says that there is a suffering that is according to the will of God (I Peter 4:19).  “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.”  The Scripture says, “…rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (vs. 12, 13) 
Why does God allow us to go through suffering?  God’s purpose is to perfect His children through suffering.  Not a fun topic, I know.  Not a topic to jump up and down about.  But God reveals Himself through our suffering.  God is forming Christ within us.  He is making us more like Jesus.  When we press up against the cross, embracing the death that Jesus died, we are truly in a place where we can become like Christ.  But the story does not end here.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17).  After Jesus’ suffering came a resurrection!  God’s purpose is not that we suffer on and on, forever and ever.  His purpose is that we also experience His resurrection life.  Things that need to change in our lives can be changed.
I believe in divine healing.  I believe with all my heart that God can, does, and will heal.  But I also believe that sometimes God calls us to through things that are difficult.  This difficulty could come in the form of persecution.  It could also come in the form of some other difficulty.  He does not always remove our problems.  We cannot pray away every problem.  If we suffer according to God’s will we need to submit ourselves to our Faithful Creator and realize that God has a purpose in it (see I Peter 4:19).      
Last night, after going back to sleep, I dreamt more.  When I woke up again the song was in my heart, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”  Beloved, God loves you.  The suffering you may be enduring is not a sign of rejection.  It may, in fact, be a sign of God’s approval on your life.  You are His child, His son or His daughter.  He is at work in you, forming you into the man or woman of God He wants you to be.  You may not see the progress you are making, but you are getting stronger!     

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” – I Peter 5:10

Monday, May 25, 2015

Spirit and Truth - Video

Leslie and I recording some short devotional videos during our trip to Shenandoah National Park.  The video below is about 2 1/2 minutes.  Hope you enjoy!

Jesus said, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 
- John 4:23-24

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Adventure of Living for God

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” 
-Romans 8:14

Living for God is an exciting adventure!  When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they probably didn’t realize all they were getting themselves into.  At the end of their lives I doubt any of them said, “That was boring.”  They saw Jesus perform incredible miracles, walk on water, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, frustrate the religious establishment, and teach with great authority.  They were challenged, instructed, rebuked and inspired.  In the end, they changed the world.  For sure, it was a great adventure.

Following Christ can be wonderful and challenging, and at times difficult and painful, but never boring.

Several years ago a friend and I went on a trip to Florida.  I was looking forward to a nice vacation.  Most of my thoughts were not on doing the work of the Lord, but my friend was focused on being an evangelist.  Before leaving, a couple different people said something to me about our trip plans or prayed for me.  There was something about what they prayed or said that made me feel like God was up to something, something more than us just having a fun vacation.  I had a sense in my spirit that God wanted to do something.

On the fourth day of the trip we arrived in Hollywood, Florida, in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area.  We visited the apartment where my friend had lived a few years prior.  A girl named Shay was living in his old apartment.  For about 1 ½ hours we sat by the pool and talked with her about the Lord.  I say “we,” but, really, I didn’t do much talking, if any at all.  I sat quietly while my friend talked with her.  As we got up to leave I felt God wanted me to say something to her.

I wasn’t sure if this “word” was from God or not.  But I felt like I had to say it, so I did.  The Lord told me that she had been abused by a man and that God wanted to heal her heart and be a father to her.  It was actually pretty simple.  God said it was a “man,” and I assumed it was her father, but she said it had actually been her uncle.  As I shared the “word” with her, it was obvious that the Lord was genuinely touching her.

After talking with her we visited another apartment where a man named Tony lived.  He had recently suffered a stroke.  We felt led to pray for his healing.  As we prayed I felt the Holy Spirit rise up in me in a strong way.  It was so strong, I couldn’t stay in the apartment.  I went out into the street and began to pray loudly, interceding over the apartment complex and declaring salvation to the city.  I’d never had an experience like this before, to this intensity.  My hands and arms seemed to be full of electricity.  God’s anointing was all over me.  I knew there had to be people around who could hear me, but I could not hold back.  I felt fear, but, at the same time, I felt the power of God rising up strong inside of me.  It was an awesome moment.

The trip to Florida was a learning experience for me.  God got me out of my comfort zone.  He showed me that He wanted to do great things through me despite how I sometimes felt about myself.  He gave me greater confidence in being led by Him; that I can be led by Him.  I can do great things for the Lord!  He can speak through me and use my prayers to bring change in the heavenly realms.  Despite my times of discouragement, my struggles with sin, my battles with the enemy, and all the times I feel like I fail, God still wanted to use me.

After our experience in Hollywood we drove to the Florida Keys and set up our tent at a state park.  The next day we took a sailboat ride and went snorkeling miles out in the Atlantic Ocean by a coral reef.  The next morning, my friend and I both remember waking up feeling this amazing supernatural peace over us.  It was like the bottom of our tent was a pool of peace.  God seemed to be saying to us, “You did what I brought you here to do, you obeyed me, I’m pleased with you, now have fun and enjoy my peace.”  We felt God’s pleasure. 

Serving God can be a lot of fun, an exciting adventure!  I believe very strongly in being led by the Spirit.  This doesn’t mean that we need to get a word from God regarding what we should wear every morning, what to make for dinner, or what gas station we should stop at when we need gas.  It means being open to the leading of His Spirit every day, sensitive to His voice.  Every day is not a Florida adventure.  Sometimes we simply need to hear from Him for strength to carry on through the day.  He is always with us and He speaks to His children.  You can be led by God’s Spirit.  You can hear His voice.  Take a leap of faith and watch God lead you on a great adventure.  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

To Be With Him

“Then He appointed twelve,that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach...” – Mark 3:14 (emphasis mine)

The first priority of the Christian is “to be with Him.”  In Acts Chapter 4, Peter and John were recognized as men who “had been with Jesus.” (vs. 13)  I hope people can say that of my life.  Here is a man that walks with Jesus.  When we spend time with the Lord it shows.  When I spend time with the Lord, I can sense His Love, His peace, His Spirit flowing more freely in my life.  That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, or that I don’t still get frustrated or angry sometimes, struggle with temptation, get discouraged, or say things I shouldn’t say.  Nevertheless I can sense God’s Spirit in my life, and I hope others can see Jesus through me too.

I think it is important to spend quality time with the Lord.  Some people may talk to the Lord as they go through the day or as they commute to work.  Of course, that is great!  I don’t want to take away from that.  God certainly speaks to us as we go through out our day. We can worship Him at all times and in every place.  Yet, I also think that quality time alone with the Lord is important.  We need time alone with Him (or as alone as is possible), in a room, or perhaps in the living room, in worship, in the Word, and seeking His face.  I know that often the busyness of life threatens our ability to seek the Lord.  Sometimes it’s a challenge for me to make time with the Lord a priority, and we don’t have kids yet!

Perhaps the greatest impact on my life, as a child, was seeing my mom worshiping and seeking the Lord in our house.  It was common to hear her seeking God.  She was not quiet about it.  I believe mom’s relationship with God impacted me profoundly.  She was a woman who was hungry for God.  She also had some intense struggles in life, and I think she was often crying out to God for help.  But I believe I grew up knowing God's presence because mom prayed.

I want to challenge you (and myself) to spend more time with God, to “be with Him.”  Maybe it’s getting up 15 minutes early with coffee and your Bible at the breakfast table.  Or maybe it’s an hour in the morning or evening, seeking Him.  Prayer is life-changing.  God is powerful in us when we pray.  He changes us, and gives us His power to change the world. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Come Forth!

Have you ever felt like you were wrapped up in grave clothes, unable to break free?  You’ve walked a hard, disappointing path.  The life has left your body; your spirit feels crushed.  You get up and do what you need to do, but without energy.  Today Jesus wants to breathe His life into you.  He says, “It’s time to come forth!”  It’s time lay aside the grave clothes of doubt, discouragement and despair, and come alive.  It’s time to be free from the bondage that has held you captive for so long. 

The enemy has wrapped his grave clothes around you.  Negative thoughts swirl around your mind.  You feel suffocated by a demonic cloud of confusion.  You feel stuck inside yourself, banging on the outer wall of your own soul, but unable to break free.  These wounds may be rooted in your childhood, no fault of your own.  You feel trapped, but you can be free!  God has not called you to remain in this tomb.  It is for freedom that He sets you free! (Gal. 5:1)    

In John Chapter 11, Jesus knew that Lazarus, the one he loved, was sick.  He had within His power to go to him and immediately heal him.  But he chose instead to wait.  His reason?  So He would be glorified.  When Jesus finally arrived Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (vs. 21)    

Sometimes it seems that God waits and delays.  We pray, fast, cry out to Him.  We live in expectation of His deliverance.  We persist, longing for the freedom we know that He offers.  Yet, the enemy seems all the more persistent in keeping us in our grave clothes.  Lord, if you would just do something, I wouldn’t be stuck here.  But Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  (vs. 25)  Jesus weeps over our condition.  He is moved with compassion.  He steps up to our tomb.  He says, “Take away the stone.”  (vs. 39)  Yes, the odor of our condition is bad.  But Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  (vs. 40)

“When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (vs. 43-44)

I know that the journey towards freedom can be difficult.  The struggle towards freedom can seem unending, but it is not impossible.  Often it is a process of walking with God and trusting Him.  Sometimes freedom is hard-won, but victory is yours!  You can be free.  You can be whole.  You can be delivered.  Reach out to God today and believe that His glory will be revealed in your life.  It’s time to come forth!          

Friday, March 13, 2015

Church of Broken People

What does home mean to you?  When I think of what a home should be, I think of a place of belonging, security, identity, unconditional love, acceptance, and rest.  Isn’t that what we long for?  And isn’t that exactly what the gospel offers?  Adopted as children of God, we belong to the family of Christ.  Safe in our Father’s arms, we find rest for our souls.  Forgiven by God, we are accepted and loved.  Although we are broken people, He has chosen us.  In Him we have identity and purpose.    

Though God created earth as our home, something is wrong with our home.  We know there is a better home.  We know we are not yet really home, but someday we will be home, when the City of God descends from the sky and God dwells with us for eternity. (Revelation 21:1-4)

When I look at the church I see broken people.  All of us have experienced pain in life.  We’ve experienced betrayal, abandonment, sickness, or abuse.  We know the pain of children gone astray.  We have known the shame of moral failures.  We’ve known the heartache of divorce.  We’ve struggled in marriage.  We’ve known depression, anxiety, worry, and stress.  We’ve experienced the death of loved ones.  We’ve endured the long-term illness of a family member.  We’ve fought the persistent pressure of temptation.  We’ve felt “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)

In a world tumultuous, we long for a safe place to call home.  We long for a place where, despite our brokenness, we are loved.  We long for the holy presence of God.  We long to hear Him say, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

I think that even the most healed person among us carries some pain through life.  God does not promise to free us from all pain.  He does promise to work all things for the good.  (Rom. 8:28)  He promises to be strong in our weakness.  (II Cor. 12:9)  His glory shines through our broken, earthen vessels, in which we possess a treasure of immeasurable value and wonder.  (II Cor. 4:7)  What goes unhealed in this life will be fully healed in heaven.  (Revelation 21:1-4)

I do not think we should be discouraged by our brokenness.  As I’m writing this, to my left is the loose cover of a book by Charles Stanley entitled, “The Blessings of Brokenness.”  Often our brokenness keeps us from God, because we feel rejected.  Yet, when we receive a revelation of God’s unconditional love for us, our brokenness can propel us into His arms.  We are incomplete, but He is whole.  We lack, but He is all sufficient.  We are weak, but He is oh so strong.  We come to Him knowing He can make us whole.

In the Parable of the Great Banquet, as told by Jesus, all of the invited guests made excuses as to why they could not come.  So “the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’” (Luke 14:21)  Sometimes we may feel like this – poor, crippled, blind and lame.  But our brokenness does not define us.  God defines who we are. 

We may be a church of broken people, but we will dine eternally with the King.

We may be wounded, but we are a mighty army.  We may be hurt, but we are victorious.  We may be imperfect, but we are accepted.  Above all, we are loved.  We are not rejected.  We belong.  We are the family of Christ, marching on to victory.  We will not be defeated, because the gates of hell will not prevail against us.  (Matt. 16:18)  We can offer the world a safe place, a healing place.  We are a church of broken people, but we are loved and redeemed.  This church is our home. 

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Scaling Mountains

Imagine yourself the side of a mountain.  You’ve come with a group of guys (and gals) to do some hiking and camping in the mountains.  You get dropped off overlooking a valley.  Above is the snowy, rocky summit.  But then your party disperses.  One guy heads off down the valley by himself.  Another heads in a different direction down into the valley.  Your friend stays with you and you have a choice to make.  Do you ascend the summit?  Or do you descend into the green valley?

The summit would be an extreme challenge but the valley would be a much easier.  Much more smooth and peaceful.  But, the summit.  Going up would be hard, but the reward would be great.      

In the Bible, a mountain can symbolize a challenge or obstacle that needs to be overcome by faith (Matt. 17:20, 21:21).  It is a symbol of the eternal kingdom of God, Mt. Zion (Heb. 12:22).  Mountains are also places of great significance.  In Psalm 24, it says, “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?... The one who has clean hands and a pure heart” (vs. 3, 4).

Sometimes, I think, we want an easy Christianity.  But walking with God is not easy.  God never said it would.  It is challenging, sometimes difficult.  Sometimes, to walk with God is to be stretched, baffled, bewildered, and strained beyond what we may have felt we could ever possibly handle.  But the reward is great!  I Peter 1:4 says we have an inheritance kept for us in heaven, which “never perish, spoil or fade.”  Hebrews 10:35 says we should not throw away our confidence, “it will be richly rewarded.”  We know that Jesus has promised that he is preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:2-3).

In 2008, Alex and Bret Harris wrote a book called, “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.”  I’ve never read the book, and don’t know much about it.  Nevertheless, I like the idea.  God hasn’t called us to do easy things.  Walking with God, like scaling a summit, can be an extreme challenge.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But God does promise us strength for the journey.  He promises to walk with us. 

Is there a problem in your life you need to overcome?  Be strong in the Lord (Eph. 6:10).  You can do it!  Is there something you believe God has called you to?  Walk by faith and embrace the challenge!  With God’s help, you can scale that mountain!  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Learning to Love Like God

When I was a kid my mom and I visited a rummage sale.  My memory is sketchy, but most likely mom was looking for used clothing for us.  Several years ago I felt the Lord reminded me of the rummage sale to instruct me regarding love in marriage.  I felt the Lord say to me, “Love her like you loved that rummage sale.” 
Mom rummaged through the clothes searching for something of value, something worth her children wearing.  Likewise, in marriage, sometimes we have to look past the “junk” in our spouse and see the eternal value of the person God created.   
We all bring a certain amount of problems into marriage.  We bring sin issues, weaknesses, and fears.  We may have brought deep pain from childhood wounds into the relationship.  We may bring in problems like anger, deep insecurity, unresolved bitterness, or sinful attitudes.  Things we may have thought had been resolved rear their ugly heads. 
Marriage is a great opportunity to learn unconditional love.  I am certainly very far from perfect.  Leslie has imperfections too.  But we love each other and we are committed to each other no matter what.  I am thankful that Leslie sees past my “junk” and sees my potential in Christ. 
Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  When we were lost in sin, God loved us.  Even now, when we are hurting, broken, or in sin, He sees that within us that is of eternal value.  And He redeems our pain, He heals the brokenhearted.  He sees our potential.  He draws the best out of us.  He does not look at us based on what we are; He looks at us based on the spirit inside of us that Jesus died to redeem. 
Likewise, in marriage, it is my responsibility as a husband to draw out the best in my wife.  It’s my job to look at her and see her potential.  I’m called to love her as Christ loved the church, to love her unconditionally.  When I look at her, I must see her eternal value, God’s eternal purpose for her life.  God is expanding the capacity of my heart to love as He loves.  I’m not there yet, but I am learning.
Will you take the challenge, to look past any “junk” in your spouse (or any other person) and, with God’s help to learn to love as He does? 

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her…”
Ephesians 5:25-26

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

God is Your Judge

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “He’s his own worst critic.”  There are those of us who tend to judge ourselves too harshly.  We’re hard on ourselves!  We know it.  But it’s so hard to change it.  Some people don’t feel good unless they feel bad, know what I mean?  On the flip side, there are those who, perhaps, don’t judge themselves enough.  It’s not that I think they should inflict harsh condemnation upon themselves; it’s just they ought to give a little more thought to how they treat others or the words they speak.  At the end, ultimately, God is our judge.  He is the one we have to stand before some day and give account.  

There have been times in my life where I have beaten up on myself for nothing.  I’m thankful for good friends, and my pastor, who help lift that weight off of my shoulders. 

The Apostle Paul writes, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (I Cor. 4:2)  As Christians, we want to do right.  We want to be faithful.  We want to honor and please God.  Yet, we’re also all too aware of our sin, our failures, and our struggles.  But we want to prove faithful.  We want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

Paul goes on to writes, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (vs. 3-4)

I am aware that my conscience can be clear, yet, I may have done something wrong.  Perhaps I really hurt someone, but I don’t even know it.  Even when I think I’m walking right, I know I may not be completely innocent.  On the other hand, it’s an incredible burden to bear if you walk around in life constantly thinking you’ve done something wrong. 

There are things in my life I have to leave in God’s hands.  God is my judge.  There is freedom in this, when I free myself from the opinions of others, and live my life to please the Master.  His opinion is the opinion which matters the most.  And, often, when He speaks to me, I hear that He thinks much better of me than I often think of myself.      

Paul says, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” (vs. 5)

God sees past our mistakes and sees our hearts.  Certainly, He cares about our behavior, our attitudes, our thoughts, and our character, and is in the process of working on these things.  At the same time, He sees our potential.  We may see the person of the flesh, but God sees the person of the Spirit (Remember Gideon?).  He sees beyond the season of life we are in right now, even if this season is hard.  He sees not just what we are, but what we can be in Him.  So, don’t be too hard on yourself!  Keep pressing on.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Simple, Pure Devotion

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
-II Cor. 11:3

After graduating from high school, I moved out on my own.  I rented a room in a house with some college guys, but I had my own, private room.  During the fall of that year, I worked at Burger King, the night shift.  I’d come home around 5 o’clock in the morning.  There were mornings I’d spend with the Lord, praying, worshiping, being quiet.  I earnestly wanted to hear His voice and know His direction for my life.  The world was dark and quiet, and it was just God and me.  I look back at that time in my life and remember such sweet fellowship with the Lord. 

Since those days I have had some awesome moments with God.  The Lord has touched my life in profound ways.  God has promoted me spiritually, I believe, elevating me to greater levels in Him.  At times I’ve stepped out in faith and seen Him use my life for His kingdom.  And He’s taken me through some severe testing (or at least it feels that way to me!).  Dark valleys have tried my faith, and hopefully refined my character too.  My prayer life has rarely been as consistent as I’d like it to be.  Yet, at the end of the day, I want to walk closely with the Lord. 

In a dream I had several years ago, a pastor of mine was standing on the platform at the church I attended in Michigan.  All of a sudden, he completely disappeared.  I was standing in the back of the church.  While everyone sat in the pews, I walked to the front.  I picked up the microphone and declared to the congregation, “Enoch walked with God, and he was no more.”  That pastor was a man I had really admired, someone who, in my view, walked closely with the Lord.  When I think of that dream, I feel challenged to walk closely with God. 

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “to know Him and make Him known.”  That about sums it up at the pearl of simplicity, doesn’t it?  Or, as Jesus put it, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39, quoting the Old Testament).  When we walk with Him, we’re able to love others better.  When we love Him first, in purity and simplicity of devotion, His love, grace and peace beings to flow.

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...