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)  

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...