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We can’t live in the past!

Sunday, December 9th, 2012



man in red jacketFearful? Questioning? Reflecting on the past? or Pondering the future?

I will trust in Him.


Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him and He will make    your path’s straight.


The Message Bible says it this way:


Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.


Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.


I am often evaluating things in my life. The past, the future, they’re almost always on my mind. Did I make a mistake. Have I done something that has hurt someone? Where will this lead me to? Is my future going to be an improvement over the past? How can I make things better? And a lifetime of, “how can things be different?”


I have heard many times that we shouldn’t focus on the past and keep our eyes looking forward. Well, I agree with this to a point but I have learned a great lesson in evaluating life. Let me put it this way:


“The past isn’t the past until it is the past. The past isn’t the past if it’s still the present. The past won’t become the past until you put it in front of you.”


You can quote me on that one. When I think about the past there are times when memories come along with a little piercing in my heart. They can cause me to feel a pang of pain. It is those memories that seem to need some attention. I am tempted to just push them away, which is probably why some people tell us that we don’t need to dwell on the past. They don’t want to feel it either.


But, I have learned that when past wounds, unresolved conflicts, and hurts come to my mind I have to check to see if there is pain with them.  If there is and they are resolved with healing in my soul, they change. I think of it this way:


childhood-memories1

“When an emotional soul wound is healed it can change from being an emotional memory to an intellectual memory. That is when I know healing has taken place.”




You can quote me on that one too. Healing from past wounds doesn’t remove our memory of them, it can take the emotional sting out of them so we are free from the pain. But, if we are all honest, we don’t necessarily forget the times we have been hurt or disappointed. Rather we can move away from the present pain they bring up when we do remember them.


There was a childhood memory from when I was about 10 years old that was still painful to think about. The circumstances surrounding it were overwhelming and the exact situation was foreboding and it pulled on my heart each time it came up. And, it did come up. At times it came in prayer, other times when I would talk about that time in my life. When I was with my counselor one day, he asked me to pray with him about this situation. We found Jesus in the middle of it and there was a powerful healing time which brought a change of reference for that situation. A healing salve poured over the memory. Jesus had touched it with His hand.


Now when I think of that situation, my heart is emotionally neutral. I remember the situation, but even more, I remember what Jesus told me during the prayer time and how He changed my point of view. I no longer have a negative emotional tie to it, rather it is a memory that is purely an intellectual memory of the situation.


So, when I am fearful to face something from my past or questioning it with my soul, I seek to find out a solution through bringing Jesus into it with me. He knows my heart, he knows all of the details. And if there is someone else involved, He knows their heart too.


And when the healing seems to be far away and maybe even impossible, I continually learn more about trusting Him in the process. I have also learned that He will provide the right timing for my heart surgery. Now is not always the right time even though I may grow impatient for things to get better.


Sometimes God wants to bring someone else into the healing. Maybe He is working on their heart as well. In my selfishness I can say, “God – right now”, “I want it now!” But in the love that Christ wants me to walk in, I may need to be patient in waiting for His timing for all concerned. And in the process, God is not putting my life on “pause”, He is preparing me as well and growth continues all around.


black trust ring

I have a ring with a Hebrew inscription on it. I can’t read Hebrew but the paper that came with the ring says that it said, “Trust in the Lord”.



Boy, I need this ring every day in my life. I can easily get overwhelmed with impatience, fears, insecurities and the like. It is cool when someone asks to see the ring and wonders what it says, I am forced to say, “It says “Trust in the Lord”" and I can see that maybe He is using the person’s question to bring me to once again verbalize where my trust is at.


Take a deep breath – there, that’s it.


No matter what has come to your mind or your life today, make a decision. Where is your trust? Is it in Him? I often say, If I can’t trust Him today then who can I trust. If He isn’t trustworthy, that I just as well give up totally. But that is also a trustworthy place to be because I know He won’t let me go.


Heb. 13:5-6

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”


Funny how this passage connects the love of money and discontent in contrast with trusting in God’s ever present commitment to us. We do try to do it ourselves when we fear He isn’t with us. His exhortation is to know that He is our helper and to remember man can do nothing to me outside of God’s hand on us.


I can trust in Him.


Trust

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.


Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.


 

Life is an Adventure

Thursday, September 15th, 2011




bright_blueRiverOh, the rush of the adventure of this life.


The bright lights of the sky reflected in the highly motivated flowing water brings invigoration and desire for today!






Nehemiah 8:9-11

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.


Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”


The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve.”


It is “o” dark thirty and here I am already moving into my day.  Lots to do, things to think about, people to see, places to go and I am up and “atem”.  My life is an adventure and always has been but I haven’t always felt that way.


From July 31st, 1954 God had a plan for me. Well, actually, it was before the beginning of time!  As His plan has unfolded I can’t say I have always enjoyed it but it sure has been an adventure.


As you have reflected on your own life have you considered using the word “adventure” to describe it? I have not often thought of adventure when I have been down in a valley or wrestling with a struggle. I can picture myself with my arms swinging in front of me saying “no” I don’t want that right now. Or “leave me alone” when someone invades my space unwelcome at that moment.


climbing ladderClimbing a high peak, toiling over a difficult project, or working through a 20 year marriage all have their trials but they also have their joys and in the process we experience the adventure of discovery, highs, lows, and a sense of accomplishment.  As a follower of Christ, the way is always up!


In October of 1986 I received a phone call that changed my life forever. The ministry of Love In Action called me to ask me to consider a position with them managing one of their residential facilities. I had prayed desperately for God to allow me to work in a full time ministry. I laid out my plans but none of them came to fruition. But when this phone call came, I knew it was an opportunity from God and joyously welcomed it. After extensive plans were laid out in just two months I was on my way from Nebraska to California to discover what He had for me. Ecstatic and unprepared for what was ahead I accepted this as a huge answer to my heart’s desire.


I saw this as the beginning of an amazing adventure but now over 23 years later I can’t say I always saw it that way. Those years were some of the most joyous experiences and yet some of the most painful of my life. I have no regret about having made the decision to go and can see how God used all of those years to shape my own character. I often said I felt that working for Love in Action was more about what God was doing in me than anyone. It was like climbing the highest peak for me. Along the way the discovery of people, life, relationships and certainly my Lord brought great satisfaction to what I accomplished through God’s working in me and through me.


Three years ago, in May of 2008, I entered another adventure! “God,  Surprise Me”, was a little prayer that has brought another revolution to my life. (read the stories, click here) This new adventure is full of joy, and also its challenges as well. That is the way adventures are! Up, down, sideways, and sometimes a little rest in the middle.


A while back, I was asked by a friend to take him to the county jail so he could turn himself in for a warrant that has been issued for his arrest. Due to a violation of his parole he was to go back to the system for a parole revocation hearing and would have to spend time in jail until his hearing would take place. As I took deep breaths I pondered his life and what it has been like to be his friend. We met every week for over a year and I felt I knew him really well. As we drove downtown I was keenly aware of what he was about to walk into. He tried to process this with me and yet the angst on his face was obvious.


I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she said, John, your life always seems to go to curious and interesting places. I responded, “yep, that is the story of my life”. I never know what is in store for me but God has certainly had many unforeseen things up His sleeve to throw me off.  I look back and laugh at the crazy things I have been through. I can also look back and cry at the sadness I have felt or seen for others.  The mountain tops in my life have been very high. The valleys have been very low. But it sure has been a ride and I am not expecting it to stop any time soon.  I am thankful that God has allowed me to have a wife that is willing to ride alongside me!


As you have walked through career development or raising a family or maybe just relationships that have been a challenge, can you use the word “adventure”. I have found that when I change the word to describe the challenges it gives it a new frame to think through.


Adventures are discoveries. They are exciting because we never know what is next. Walking through an adventure has a certain exhilaration about it that gives us a little more energy to embrace it. But when we see things with heaviness or fear it seems to de-energize us and drag us down.


white water


A friend invited me to join a group to go white water rafting on the north fork of the American River in Northern California. I said yes and talked about how fun it would be. As we drove to the launching point I started to get really nervous and fearful. I could feel my heart pounding and the higher levels of anxiety inside me. The fear was taking away the joy of expectation and potential of the experience. As we started the ride down the river we had so much fun! It was 100 degrees and the cold water was wonderful. The rush of our yelling in the rapids was awesome. The calm of our resting point where we just laid back in the water was a welcomed break.


I wonder how many things I have missed out on in life because I was too afraid to embrace them? Far too many I’m afraid.


Luke 21: 34-35

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.


What can I learn about me today Lord? What do You want to show me that may change my life forever? Lord, I am scared about what I am about to face but walk with me, take my hand, don’t let go!


I was at an amusement park standing in line for a huge turbulent roller coaster ride. I was anxious but excited. My friends were with me to help give me courage to go forth onto this mysterious and fearful thing. As I got strapped in and the ride started to climb the huge straight up ascent I began to pray fervently. God, help! Then as it got closer to the crest I said, “what am I doing asking God to help me, I did this myself”. As the coaster rolled over the top I screamed and down we went! Through the hoops, over the hills, under the trestles and in a few short minutes we were pulled to a stop. I laughed and with enthusiasm I said that was great fun. It seemed when I released the anxiety and just ran with it I could enjoy the experience.


Is that the way it is with life? If we release our anxiety and run with it will our lives become an adventure?


Ps. 55:22

Cast your cares on the LORD

and he will sustain you;

he will never let the righteous fall.


So, here I am again, it’s still “o” dark thirty. I don’t see the sun yet, but I am thinking differently already. I am up early because I had indigestion that just wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t up early today for any admirable reason. I wasn’t up to spend time with the Lord or to go exercise, It was just because I couldn’t lay there any more from the discomfort. So here I am starting out my day with pain in my chest. But writing these words gives me something else to think about.


What do you have for me today, Lord? Who will I see? What will happen that will challenge me? How does this day fit into the adventure of my life? I can trust that it will and that God will make good whatever happens today. I will learn something. I will grow just a little more today.


Something I know for sure, You love me and we’ll face this day with grace. Come on sun! Rise to welcome us with the Lord’s loving arms of embrace.


sunrisePsalm 113:2-4


Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore.


From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.


The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.




 

Rest

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011


boy_laying_by_riverI can’t imagine life without a moment of rest to feel the warmth of the sun. A time to lay our cares down and bask in the Grace of God.






Ps. 62:1,5

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.


Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.



I was just five years old. Our family had moved into a new home in the suburbs of Omaha. We had a back yard that connected with a corn field behind us. It was June of 1959 so the wonderful summers of the Nebraska climate had just opened up their warm cozy arms to anyone who would stop long enough to feel them.

John Kindergarten - 1960


Our yard wasn’t huge but there was plenty of room for slip-n-slides, tents, and a huge Sycamore tree. My dad had put a large tractor tire behind the garage for a sand box and filled it with enough sand to enjoy. I remember one moment in particular that has remained with me all of my life.


TractorTire

It was about 8 o’clock in the morning one bright sunny day. I was sitting in the sand box and the warm morning sun had already heated up the black rubber of the tire. I was leaning back on the rim of the tire with the sun in my face. My memory wasn’t from something I had done or anything anyone else had done for that matter. It was a feeling of rest that was embracing me.  The peace was so wonderful that it was embedded into my soul forever. For that one moment in time I had not one care in the world. Life was good!


I have often thought back upon that moment as a reference point for rest. In some ways I can measure restfulness by how I felt that special morning.


I have found many scriptures on rest. Far too many to quote them all here but I have selected some that might speak to your own need for rest. I find it very interesting that the Lord has given us so many passages that will point us to rest when we need it most.


Ex. 35:1-3

Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.”


From the words of the Lord to Moses it appears that God is very much as interested in our rest as He is our work.  It seems we often feel the need to prove something to ourselves, to others, or maybe even to God through our work.


In all of our performance, God is commanding us to rest. Our idols in life often involve work, energy consumption or busyness. Is there a temptation to fear that if we rest God may not be pleased with us? Do we fear slothfulness? Maybe so for some, but His word reminds us that we can rest secure in His presence.


Ps. 16:8-10

I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.


Do you ever have dreams that you can fly? I have had many dreams where I can soar above the ground with just a push of my feet. The feeling of freely flying is so amazing. There is such a relief in being untethered to the ground. True rest is like that. When I think back to the warm tractor tire I felt free, unburdened by life, almost like my dreams of flying. A warm smile comes to my face from the peace in my soul.


Ps. 55:5-7

Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest- I would flee far away and stay in the desert.


Or maybe our greater fears are of being devoured by life trials and pain. Our work life is going ok, maybe even our relationships are pretty good, but there is a pain inside of us that seems to plague us. Is there rest from the seemingly chronic pain of this life? Physical pain, emotional pain, or the overwhelming pain of living in an imperfect world may seem to weigh us down every day.


I think God was providing me with a special memory of His rest because He knew I was going to enter into a tumultuous family experience soon. My family was about to disintegrate into adultery, divorce, molestation, and other confusion. I needed to know there was a place of rest that I could go to and my loving God was preparing the way. What I didn’t know was how God was going to draw me back to the sand box as a tool for deeper healing prayer later in life.


Ps. 91:1-3

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.


It isn’t any wonder that my life verse is Psalm 116. It starts out with, “I love the Lord because He heard my voice…..” I really needed to know someone was listening as I cried out for help. The excerpt here from Psalm 116 reminds me all of the time that there is rest in God’s goodness for me that I can call upon when I need it.


in Jesus arms

Ps. 116:6-9

The LORD protects the simple hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the LORD in the land of the living.




As a child I really didn’t know to go to the Lord for rest or to find peace from the surrounding turmoil in my life. When I became an adult the trials of life were mostly from my own wrong decisions I finally was introduced to a God who would love me unconditionally. I found a Savior that was on my side, Jesus that would never condemn me and the Holy Spirit who was my greatest cheerleader. In a new relationship with the Lord Almighty, I found a God who would bring me peace, He provided rest for my soul.


Matt. 11:-28-29

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.


serenity


My very first heartfelt prayer to Him was out of intense anguish. I was in an extremely painful relationship situation and I just couldn’t find a way out of what I was feeling. I had just recently learned the Serenity Prayer and thought I’d give it a try. God… Grant me the serenity to accept….. and before long I found relief, I found rest in a very personal way. It was that day that God proved to me He cared about what I was going through. He gave me a new reference point for rest.




God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

(Although known most widely in its abbreviated form above, the entire prayer reads as follows…)

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;


Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;


Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;


That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen.


Heb. 4:1-2

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.


There is no rest without Faith. No serenity without Belief in the One who provides Peace. No good news without the Savior.


I believe the most succinct way to put it is in the Psalms.


Ps. 46:10

Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything. (Message)


Cease striving and know that I am God. (NAS)


Be still, and know that I am God. (NIV)



cat asleepOnce we understand the rest from our attempts to prove our worthiness through our own efforts, we can then learn how to rest from the turmoil around us.


He is our peace -  Jehovah Shalom.


Be at rest, oh my soul.




 

Grace, Grace – God’s Grace

Friday, June 10th, 2011


Clouds and forest in the valeyFrom up here it’s all beautiful.


What is the big picture of our life with God? It is a picture of all of life framed in grace. God’s design from the very beginning of creation was to show us His abundant love. His intent was to offer us forgiveness. Was it a surprise that Adam sinned? I think not. He had a plan that was to be revealed over time. After a season of allowing the human race to run amok he offered extravagant forgiveness through the cross. As I am thinking of His love I am reminded of a wonderful hymn:


Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.


Do you believe that His grace is greater than your worst sin? Your darkest shame? It’s not about being able to recite “I am forgiven”. What I am talking about here is do you KNOW and have EXPERIENCED His grace personally?


I am reading a book called “Connecting” by Larry Crabb. I am amazed to find that this book is written to convey so much of the same message I have been embracing for some time now. At times I feel very alone as I speak about the amazing nature of God’s grace. I have come to realize that many who know Christ have not truly experienced His transforming grace.


In Larry’s book he says “the most powerful thing we can do to help someone to change is to offer them a rich taste of God’s incredible goodness in the New Covenant. He looks at us with eyes of delight, with eyes that see goodness beneath the mess, with a heart that beats wildly with excitement over who we are and who we will become. Sometimes he exposes what we are convinced would make Him turn away in disgust in order to amaze us with His grace. That is connecting. When we connect like that, we can change people’s lives.”


Did you hear that? “Sometimes he exposes what we are convinced would make Him turn away in disgust in order to amaze us with His grace.”


The Pharisees exhibited the antithesis of this truth. This is why I believe Jesus was preaching so strongly to their legalism. This is why I have become so disenchanted with some organized churches that promote works oriented gospels. I often hear spoken the notion that Jesus will turn away from us when we need Him the most.


I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God’s kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won’t let anyone else in either. Matthew 23:12-14 (The Message)


Why did Jesus see their teaching as a roadblock to God’s kingdom?

They were legalists teaching a works oriented lifestyle. They were leading the lost into believing they had to follow laws to please God. Many of them were blind to see the message of Jesus as being valid. A message of God’s incredible grace.  I once saw Jesus’ messages in the gospels as seemingly harsh, even at times uncaring. But in further process I found that this was typically true when Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees.  To those who were willing to admit they needed help He was kind, gracious, and forgiving. He exhibited sharp direct responses to those who blocked others from His message of grace.


I was speaking to a group of business men about God being present with us in our worst sin. I said that God never leaves us, nor does he forsake us no matter where we are or what we are doing.  I talked about my own life experience when God and I had a very meaningful conversation as I was involved in something that was clearly wrong. It was in our conversation that I discovered a deeper level of relationship with Him.  I spoke of the loving reality that God’s presence is with us in the darkest part of our hearts and lives. One man stood and said, “John, you are preaching a gospel from the pit of hell!” “I’ll never agree that God is with us when we are in sin behavior!”


What?


Oh, my goodness. If I thought God abandoned me in my greatest hour of need then I would also think I had to do life all by myself. The thought that He somehow comes and goes from my life based on my behaviors reminds me of human conditional love that can’t handle my imperfections. God is certainly present at all times and in all situations even though He may feel grieved, His arms are always present and reaching out to me.  His first example of this was shown in the way he searched for Adam after he sinned. Think about it, Adam’s choice to disobey God cost all of humanity the garden of life that God established.  And yet, God was grieved and searched for Adam with His desire to connect.  God shows His never ending passion to be with us. We run from Him and attempt to hide while He desires us to acknowledge His presence when we are in sin.  How else can we deal with it?  Without Him we are left with our own inability to do anything to please Him.


Grace on the Streets


A good friend said that his church decided that on Good Friday two years ago they wanted to show God’s love to the gay community in the heart of a prominent city. They decided the best way they could do that was to set up a communion table on the street offering God’s grace through giving them communion to anyone who wanted to come.  They were shocked to find how many came to them and sobbed as they walked up to the table. They found a spiritual hunger that was great and they prayed for those who came seeking His grace. Tears were shed, lives were encouraged, and Jesus was lifted high in their display of acceptance and unconditional love.


Whoa!  In some circles that would be heretical!  Some would consider that unholy and potentially blasphemous!  I could imagine some churches, some pastors, some denominations that would never consider doing such a thing. They might be standing at the doors of their churches with invitation but what about an outward expression of love? Jesus went to the byways to seek those that needed His touch. But can you imagine what the people in that community might have thought?  I am sure the grace that was present in the presentation of communion for them was profound!


woman_at_the_wellWhen I heard this story, I wept.  I thought, that is exactly what Jesus would have done – actually, that is exactly what He did! On many occasions Jesus offered Himself to those that were seemingly, according the culture, not clean enough for His presence.  Well, none of us are.


I am just beginning to grasp His goodness, His love for me. It is my prayer and hope that I will continue to grow more and more in embracing Him this way. Knowing grace like this has been a freedom that I have never understood before. I have been freed from the practice of manipulating others into a conforming life because I no longer believe I need to conform to be accepted by Him. Rather, my deepest desire is to show the real Jesus to those that are struggling with life. The Jesus that loves us right where we are with a redeeming intensity and an overreaching cover that only He can provide.


I was speaking with a friend the other day and he said, “John, aren’t you speaking of a permissive religion?” As I thought of that word, “permissive” I realized that when we fear permissiveness, we attempt to apply the law to somehow control other’s lives into conformity. This kind of practice will never produce a transformed life. It is when we realize we are completely and totally free that we finally take responsibility for our own lives and understand what grace is really all about.


Larry’s book also says, “God’s method is neither to merely issue commands from the general’s tent (do what is right) nor to improve the functioning of diseased organs (fix what is wrong). Instead he becomes so intimately a part of us that we want to resist whatever he doesn’t like and release the good things he has aroused within us.”


This is the truth that I discovered over a year ago. When we grasp His love, our desires change quite naturally to conform to His, not as a cultural or social modification. This is done without someone standing over us with a stick warning us of the wrongs of our ways. In a conversation with someone about this they said, “don’t we have to teach people about what it right and wrong?” My reply was, “I think we already know, don’t we?” He has spoken to our hearts from His and I believe as followers of Christ we know what He wants from us.  He says His sheep hear His voice.


“Connecting” speaks about God exposing the wrong in our lives, not to slap us with them but rather “to reveal the grace that the difficult content of our hearts provides”. He says, God’s message (from Him to us) throughout the exposure process is “I’m that good, I still like you, I’m for you, I want you to know it. And what’s ahead for you is beyond description.”


Our flesh is exposed for the purpose of more fully revealing the depths of God’s kindness and then the intent of change is productive.


Romans 2:3-4

So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?


mighty crossSin and despair, like the sea waves cold,

Threaten the soul with infinite loss;

Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,

Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.


We all understand that sin has caused us incredible harm. As a Christian, I have certainly seen the destruction of sinful selfish behaviors in my own life and in the lives of those around me. At one time I was motivated to crush the actions of others that cause pain or problems. I may have even thought about crushing them! At times I think I may have crushed a part of the soul of those involved instead.


I used a prophetic gift to challenge people about their sin and negative choices. Now that same gift can attach itself to my passion about making sure people know of God’s love for them. I have become protective of this message and get prophetically riled when I hear of any teaching that would block His message of grace. As Paul often wrote, he was incensed at the thought of any new believers going back to the law and turning away from grace.


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Galatians 1:6-9


Amazing GraceGrace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.


The cleansing within that occurs comes from a transformational relationship with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, our greatest Cheerleader. (read my article on the Holy Spirit) When we understand the depth of His love for us a cleansing occurs that is beyond description! It is deep, thorough, and complete. The challenge is that our contemporary recovery movement has been couched in attempts to corral sin into safe boxes. It can be more about focusing on the sinful behaviors than it is on the glory of an amazing, radical God! We have therefore lived in the deception that this works. If I ask anyone who has struggled with patterns of negative behavior if the “seven questions of accountability” worked to transform their heart I think they would all say a resounding “NO”!


Some of our churches have become” behavior police” rather than ministries of the gospel of authentic grace. Programs have been developed to chase down counterproductive behavior rather than to offer God’s incredible love in the midst of failure. We have divorce recovery programs rather than leading men and women into how to live in grace with their struggling marriage. We have specialized programs to restore those who have lived in sin patterns that are separate from regular gatherings of Christians because we fear that the general body of believers will further wound them from criticism and sneering eyes. What?  Who are we and Who are we following?  Are we really a bunch of Pharisees? I know I have been and can still be like that when I am not careful of my own short comings.


The only way someone really changes is when they realize that they are free! I know, it sounds like an oxymoron but I have come to believe that it is absolutely correct. In knowing I am forgiven, free, totally in right standing with my Father regardless of what I do, I find I want to serve Him more and want to move towards what He wants for me. I realize that I am not commanded away from wrong choices, I am freely embraced by an abundant radically loving God.


Red20TideDark is the stain that we cannot hide.

What can we do to wash it away?

Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,

Brighter than snow you may be today.


Our sin shows up every day. We go through all kinds of antics in an attempt to hide our internal struggles but they come out. We are totally helpless to hide our sin. We see it. I am well aware of my bad choices. Others will see it and ultimately, God sees it. But, He loves us so much that he provided His present grace that is big enough to cover all of it and all of us.


grace cubesMarvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?


Freely bestowed – on ALL who believe? “Freely?”. Yes, “Freely”. Interesting that in this stanza those words are followed by “you that are longing to see his face”. I don’t want to see the Lord’s face when I am living in shame. It is only when I truly believe that I am free from shame that I can look up into His face with desire knowing of his incredible unconditional acceptance.


Do you need to know that you are free today? Does your heart sing with the knowledge that no matter what you do today, He still loves you? I used to think I knew that, but I found out it was an intellectual understanding that had not sunk into my spirit.


Today, I am often moved to tears when I know my Savior loves me that way. In the midst of my darkest sin, He is present, available, with arms stretched around my heart. Who else can understand me that way? No human, only a loving Creator who had planned all along to provide His “infinite grace” to me “freely”.


When we get this big picture, we will become world changers.


Now let’s go love us some people.


From up here is it all beautiful!





 

Love Your Enemy? But I don’t like you right now.

Thursday, September 16th, 2010


Crop-Shadowmanbyriver

Loving an enemy.  Hum. Who is our enemy?


Matthew 5:43-47

“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”



Thank goodness at the dusk of nightfall we can put the day to rest. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Thank you Lord for a fresh start.


Nighttime can be a time of great evaluation, it can be painful. It can also be a truth experience that leaves us unresolved. Each day has it’s own pain, joy, and journey.  I have often said that when my head hits the pillow at night is when the greatest honesty comes out.  I might think I am hiding my head in the pillow but really, when I am in the pillow is when I am most alone with myself that my life.


Today I am pondering some unforgiveness in my heart.  I have heard “love your enemies” in Scripture all of my Christian life and maybe even before.  I have often thought about the call on the Christian’s life to heed this concept. But I never really understood many of the implications that God brings with His challenge for us to love one another, yes even our enemies.


I recently experienced a situation where this passage was illuminated brighter than I could have imagined. It was one of those “aha” moments that blew my mind away.


In 2005 I encountered a group of people that upset my entire world. They interrupted the foundation of my life. Their actions brought about huge consequences that were very difficult to overcome. To some degree there was a lasting impact that is not even completely resolved today. This group was led by a man whom at the time I referred to as my “Enemy”. From what I went through it appeared he was seemingly trying to destroy my very soul.


A few months after the main thrust of this attack my enemy requested a meeting with me. I very reluctantly agreed to the meeting figuring this may get him off of my back. With a second person for support we met in my office for about an hour. I found the meeting to be quite surprising because I saw something in this man that I had not seen previously. I saw a human being who had a heart and a soul. He shared some very vulnerable things about his life which were surprising to me. I responded with an open heart towards him since he seemed to be so open and honest himself.


From this meeting something inside of me began so shift. Several months later he came back into my world through attending a ministry meeting I was leading. He was kind, and socially friendly. I found it easier to be around him this time.


Through his coming to another ministry meeting and a series of casual meetings with him it became clear that there was a connection being built between us that didn’t seem so negative. Feeling caught off guard, I was growing from my interaction with him. He was teaching me things that were interesting and valuable to me.


Now, over five years later, we are working on projects and enjoying the time we spend together. He and I were sitting in my office the other day and we were talking about the events in 2005. I described him using the term “enemy” and something blew through my brain like it came from heaven! The scripture above, “love your enemies” ran around my head. I looked at my friend in the middle of my amazing revelation and directly and said:


“I can’t imagine using the term “enemy” in describing you anymore. You are my friend”


He smiled and nodded in agreement. I think it might have been a little uncomfortable for him to hear that. This was his response to our meeting:


“Hey John. Had a good time yesterday. I am continually excited and feel more and more enriched as more of the evolution of our friendship becomes clear in the ways we’ve affected one another. So cool!”


After our meeting I pondered the concept of loving your enemies and found that God had led me through an amazing life lesson. I wondered if what God had in store for us is that if we can learn to love our enemies, we may find new friends who will teach us things growing lessons of life. I also thought about another scriptural principle that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities in the heavens. When I looked back at that day so long ago, I started out thinking I was fighting against a man who was leading a group. I didn’t want to talk to him and wished he would just vacate my life. He was my enemy.


My convictions haven’t changed about the issues that brought us into a battle. I am not sure his have either. We haven’t lived with an agenda to try to change one another. We haven’t made a project of one another  out of our time together. I have tried most of all to seek to know him and what he finds important about life.


Today, I really like this guy. He is gracious, kind, thoughtful and faithful. He is a servant, a giver, and loves people. He thinks deeply, he is intensely creative, loves his family and follows convictions that are significant to his life values. Ultimately, no matter what his qualities are, he is human and loved by God. It is my responsibility to battle with spiritual principalities in a heavenly way and to learn to love people, even if they appear to be enemies. I have a new name for the seeming enemy of my life years ago, it is Friend.


“This sounds great John, but I am still holding onto resentments and some remain as an enemy to me.”


unforgivenessI completely understand. I can’t let this article go without being honest about the process.  Last night I had a dream that centered on unforgiveness that I am holding onto.  I was fraught with turmoil as I held someone at bay with my hurt and disappointment.  I wanted them to pay for what they had done to hurt me. My dream  included a situation and people that I haven’t been able to love as yet. I still view them with hurt and self protection.  I feel a need to be vindicated.  At times I want to get them back for the way I have felt hurt by them.   I see them as enemies. I certainly can’t feel the “love” between us.


There are some enemies that are more on the periphery of our lives. They may have just offended our standards, or crossed over a line with something that is important to us. They can be a little easier to transition from attack to respect. But what about those who have wounded our soul, invaded our hearts in such a way as to leave torn places. I believe these are hardest to learn to love.


And yet, God is big enough to love us through it and to love them in the midst of whatever may be going on in their lives. So, even in the most painful places, I can trust that God loves them even when I can’t.  He forgives them when I am holding unforgiveness in my heart towards them.


What a wonderful thing to trust in a Savior who can love in ways I can’t, who can forgive when I can’t. I am so thankful for a Savior that loves me even in my bitter soul.  He is at work in me in the deepest parts of my life. He is restoring my soul and I trust Him in that.


shepherd-petting-sheep-in-flock

Psalm 23:2-4


He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.


He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.




 

Miracle of Miracles!

Friday, September 3rd, 2010



man_hands_raised_praising

Yes! He has done it!



Done what? And by whom? And what is there to be so excited about?





As I have gone through these pictures to write this series I have skipped over this one every week thinking I would write something when I had experienced some wonderful answer to prayer or some awesome miracle that I heard about or experienced. I keep looking for something that “He” has done that would warrant me writing anything with such enthusiasm.  I have so many things that I keep praying about that I would love to lift my hands up in the air and celebrate their exciting answer. But many of them remain in the hoping place rather than the “He’s done it” place. Maybe you can relate to me. Are there many things that you keep asking God to do and would like to say- He’s done it? Well, I am sure there are, but while we wait what can we celebrate?


John 14:12

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.


Earlier in my walk with Christ I wondered what the “greater” things would be that Jesus spoke about here. Would I see wonderful healing? Maybe I would see a miracle that would show His great power. What would be “greater” than the division of the Red Sea? How would I respond if I saw a man with a withered hand that turned healthy? What would be greater than that?


heart of stoneThen one day, it occurred to me that there was one miracle that no one had seen before Jesus’ death and resurrection. That would be the miracle of a changed human heart. I realized that what I was looking for was more of a physical or practical miracle on the outside of a man’s existence. The healed hand of the man would eventually turn to dust. So I wondered if that was really the Miracle of all Miracles. Then as I thought of the seas that split I realized they would see a regeneration of a new heaven’s and a new earth so even that was temporary. Is it true what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”


Not now!  Because our lives have been renewed! The regeneration of the heart is eternal. The man whose life was made new by the sacrifice of Jesus life is truly the Miracle of all Miracles! So, was Jesus referring to the greater things we would see as being a result of the fulfillment of the gospel? I think that may be the case.


Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?


So many times I have either said myself, or heard from another Christian that my heart is of no good, it is deceitful. I have distrusted my own thinking process negating it as being broken and out of sync with what Jesus would want. I have often thought of my life as being worthless, deceived, broken and often responded to today as though it had little meaning because of the false belief’s I held to.


But, when I reflect on the miracle of Jesus bringing a new heart into my old broken one I can see that new life began here!


The words I spoke were wrong.


They spoke death to a new life instead of encouraging the new heart growth to continue. I wish I could go back and speak life to those I told that they had deceived hearts. I also needed to hear about my new heart. I realize that my new heart is no longer a deceived broken place, but a brand new place to operate out of. My heart is no longer deceitful! It is renewed and full of life!


Yes, He’s done it!


Ezekiel 11:19

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.


heart with crossJesus has renewed my heart. He has brought me into new eternal life with Him and it began when the gospel was imparted into my dead soul! The Miracle of all Miracles has occurred in me! It may have occurred in you too! And maybe it will occur in those you love, are praying for, or haven’t even met yet! Now that is something to get really excited about!


Now that I have a new life, a new pure heart from Him, than I have to consider what He may want to do in me, or through me as a result of Him breathing new life into me. Boy, these miracles can be troublesome to our patterns of life, troublesome to our old value system. They can sure upset the “apple cart” of my comforts.


How about you? Does your new heart cause you trouble. I can no longer live in the excuse that I have a deceitful heart – because I don’t. I now have a conscience that comes from the pure heart that Jesus put inside of me.


too far awayJesus has asked me to use my new heart like He does. That means He wants me to live like He did. Using the tissue in my new heart for loving others sacrificially is hard and requires me to exercise that muscle to maturity. Dying to myself so that others may have life.


So, what does this look like for me today? As I listen to others I have to train myself to hear their heart beat, to hear their needs and desires and respond to them as I feel led to do so.


I was in a room full of some friends of ours and heard a man talk about moving some furniture into a trailer for his daughter. I knew this was hard work and it was 100 degrees outside. “Wow, that would be really hard to do by yourself”, I thought. And the day he had to do this was a day of rest for me. He lived about 45 minutes from me and my first thought was, oh, he can do it. He is strong and after all, he wasn’t actually asking for help. Then my new heart kicked into gear. The purity that God had placed there rose up and spoke out, “I’ll be there when you begin. What time will you load the trailer?” ” Oh, no problem, I can do that.”


When the day came and I went to his house and helped load the trailer. My wife met us there soon afterwards and we all went out to have some dinner and talked about life, hurts, needs, and joys with each other. This is life on life, this is community, this is connecting as Jesus did. New life came out of a new heart.


Deuteronomy 30:19

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.


We are given the opportunity to choose life! Many years ago I learned that our modern technology of the computer system was based on a series of on and off switches. The pattern of the up or down in the series would designate the action that the computer should make. This would bring the desired outcome of the project.


In our lives, we have choices. Our new heart tells us to choose life but our flesh has had the pattern of choosing death. That is where a tremendous battle lies. So, we move into life then take a step back into death and therefore we develop the outcome of our choices. As God renews us and we exercise our “heart” muscle, we will hopefully make more life choices and in the end we will have a better outcome.


Luke 7:36-50 (The Message)

One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”


Jesus workingI wonder if the meals that we saw in scripture were attached to Jesus helping with practical needs. Do you think Jesus helped people with their practical needs which ended up with a gathering at their homes? Did he help someone with their crops, their livestock? Do you think he responded to someone needing a favor? We don’t really know from Scripture, but one thing we see here is Jesus doing “life on life” with those around him. The town harlot made a life choice to show her love to Jesus and in the end, she received life from Him. The Pharisee was all caught up in his own laws that kill rather than learning to live in the Spirit that brings life.




2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.


We must stop telling each other that we are broken, heartless and deceived. We must start affirming in one another, as fellow believers in Jesus Christ, that He has brought His goodness into our brokenness and that we really do have something wonderful growing within us. In Larry Crabb’s book, Connecting, he asks us to consider, “What do I have to give to someone else?” He also asks us to consider, “What do I need within me in order to receive from someone else?” I would say we have the goodness of the truth of the love of God within us to share with others. I would also say, we need to consider nurturing the humility of our new heart so that we can humbly receive goodness from others.


Have you rejected someone’s offer of kindness because you felt that you couldn’t accept it? Have you turned away from someone’s hospitality because you didn’t believe you deserved it? Has someone offered you a message of hope and in your heart you deflected it because you thought you were intrinsically bad?


Well, it’s time for a change! Connect, receive, give, and embrace the Miracle of Miracles has come!


Has God entered your soul? Do you have a new heart planted in your being? Can you truly celebrate the miracle that is greater than all of the others? Can we who have found His new life within us throw up our hands and say with confidence and excitement:


He’s Done It!



Psalm 33 (Paraphrase)


Now that is worth celebrating. God will take care of the temporary struggles, pain, trials – in His time, in His way. We can continue to celebrate in the midst of these circumstances.


And God continues to create and to renew the world about us.


He does this through those who relate to Him, who rely on His ever-present love.


He delivers his children from the fear of death and through them gives life to this world.


God’s love is sure and everlasting.


The hearts that are open to His love are filled with joy.


They truly find cause for celebration.


(by Leslie F. Brandt. God is Here, Let’s Celebrate! (c) 1969)


 

Free From Prison, Yet Still Afraid

Thursday, August 26th, 2010


crop-yellow_jacket_hands_raised


As I watch the future approach, I can trust in His presence to guide me there. I can scream with fear, breathe in peace or I can just rest. From some angles they all look the same.


Gen. 3:8-10

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”


On Easter Sunday 2010, we lost our little Spencer doggie. He was killed by a car and  His death was a tragic reality of life here on earth.  We are but a mist, our lives are not guaranteed one more breathing second but God’s goodness remains. As we put his little body to rest, due to the pain of the empty void from his absence, we were very timid about investing in another dog. After 13 years of having him there was a gaping hole in our home, our lives, and our hearts but we weren’t sure we were up to going through it again. (You can read the story by clicking here.)


After a month or two I felt a desire to have a little puppy around again, but my wife Vileen wasn’t ready. A couple of months later she came to me and said she was ready to think about getting another dog. I was too, so we called the breeder where we had gotten Spencer and found that the prices had gone up exponentially in the last 13 years on purebred poodles! So we searched other places. We also began to search online for what was available.


One day I opened up the morning paper and found that there was a “puppy mill” that had been seized by the  animal protection authorities. This particular operation was breeding smaller dogs and I wondered if we might find God’s provision for us through this terrible situation. I tried to find out where we could locate the animals that had been removed, but nothing seemed to bring any answers.


We continued to search online and found some little poodles at “Sunny Meadows Safe Haven For Pets” a local animal rescue agency. So, we went to see one of them and found it was a 6 month old puppy that we just didn’t feel was the right one for us at this time. So we moved on slowly to look for another one.


Last week I happened to be in the area of Sunny Meadows. I stopped by just to see what they had and they told me they had a 2 1/2 year old female that seemed to have a real sweet temperament. So I went with the lady back to their running pen. As she handed the little one to me I held her in my arms for the longest time. She seemed to relax there even though she was extremely distrustful and fearful of humans.


DSC01459



Proverbs 29:25

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe





Her little life was spent in a cage for over two years. She was considered “breeding stock” to the owners. As we talked I was told that she had come from the puppy mill in Arkansas! Wow, this is interesting. That is what I was originally looking for. I found out that all of those dogs had been dispersed around the area to see if they could be adopted.


My heart immediately connected to this little girl. I went home and told my wife and we went back the next day to see her again. We both felt that this was the one we should take home with us. We found out that she had also contracted “heart worm” and would need special medical attention for some time to try to eradicate the worms from her little body.


I didn’t know much about this problem so I contacted a friend who is a veterinarian to ask some questions about what we would need to do. As I spoke with her I found out that she always refers her adoption inquiries to Sunny Meadows because she likes that agency and actually was their vet for a season.  I felt more secure in our selection process for sure.


At the end of the conversation I felt somewhat overwhelmed about the prognosis of her heart worm. She told me that the treatment may work well, but there are some that die within the process of treatment because of the difficulty of healing from this problem. I thought, “Well, Lord, we will at least give her a good loving home while she is alive, and maybe she’ll heal”. We realized we could lose her but it is worth pouring ourselves into her little life anyway.


We named her Mollie. I call her “Mollie Bear”. I wanted to give her an endearing name since her life had been so inhumane. As we talked with the adoption staff further we began the process of learning how to rehabilitate a puppy mill dog. They told us this would require patience and it could be a long process. They assured us that trust needs to be built since she had never been socialized. She hadn’t had any human interaction so she has a deep fear of humans that needs to be overcome.


We brought her home and held her for long periods of time. She was not eating, drinking, or releasing any body fluids. The first night we kept her by our bed in a safe place. She slept all night without moving.


The next day we tried to feed her again. Nope, she wouldn’t eat or drink. She calmed down at times then she would get all worked up again. Quick movements were startling to her so we tried as best we could to be ever so careful. Her endearing sweet temperament was working its way into our hearts.


The second night, once again, she was put in her bed next to our bed. She quickly went to sleep. I the middle of the night I awoke hearing her little feet clicking on our wooden floors. I turned on the light and saw she had taken care of her eliminating needs. Actually, we were both so excited to see she is functioning! Sure it was a little bit of a mess but we were glad to see the improvement.


As I got up she ran into our closet into a dark corner all hunkered down in fear. I knew this wasn’t because she was ashamed for what she had done. She didn’t know any better since she had only been in a cage. Rather, she was scared to death of our large human bodies. But a ray of hope was present as she began to progress into some sense of normality. We held her for some time, calmed her down and put her back in bed.


I woke up and wondered, “What in the world are we doing?” Why would we spend the time and energy with a troubled dog when we could have chosen not to? We could just take her back  and stop the process that was becoming quite an investment. We knew that this wouldn’t be over soon and I had second thoughts about taking on the burden of all the things that would become necessary. Later that morning my wife and I talked between my appointments. She told me that Mollie had eaten some food and that she had some water. Wow! Another ray of hope, she is eating! OK, lets keep on moving forward with her.


We took her out into the back yard to give her more exposure to her outside space. I placed her on the grass and stood beside her to see if she would follow me a little. With lots of loving words and a little attention she walked a couple of steps. It was very clear that her muscles are not toned and she is very weak. But, she followed me a few steps and I tried it again and she followed a little further.


She seemed pretty tired and still burdened with the affects of the stress. So she spent some time laying beside me in my office quietly.


We are both wondering about her future. Will she survive the heart worm? Will she be fearful forever? Will she ever romp or play with us? There are no guarantees about any of these questions coming out positive. She may, or she may not ever, be a friendly little expressive doggie. But, we have given her a home and are trying to love her tenderly with hope that she will make it to all of these goals.


As I begin to walk alongside one of God’s wounded creatures I am asking my Father for clarity. What do you see in little Mollie Bear? What do you see in me, Lord? Was it the same way with me when you freed me from the cage I had lived in for so long? Is this what You see in all of your new children after the ravages of the pain of this world create fear in our hearts? Is this what it is like for You to treat us tenderly while we learn to trust you?


glory to god

Psalm 145:8-10 (The Message)

God is all mercy and grace— not quick to anger, is rich in love. God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you. They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor.



This last couple of years I have seen a new side to my own spiritual walk with Jesus. I am beginning to understand that for some of us, the ways we have lived may require a long rehabilitation. It may require a safe, trust building exercise with you as our eternal adoptive Father. Yes, intellectually, I know you are a tremendously loving father but this doesn’t mean we are ready to receive what You have for us right away. You are so BIG! You are more than I can handle sometimes. I often struggle with trusting in Your kindness?


How about you?  Have you felt timid, fearful, or distrusting of God?  I have often thought, atheism is a deception.  I don’t think  anyone would turn away from God if they truly knew what His love and grace really is and could impart it to their own life.  I think a large part of our spiritual growth for us is that of growing to learn of God’s unconditional love more and more every day.


One of the greatest steps of growth I have experienced this last couple of years is that of knowing more about grace.  While I was in the middle of a willful act against what I know about God’s desire for us, He showed me a side of Himself that was life transforming.  I knew what I was doing was not giving Him glory and once I accepted my own responsibility for the willful choice I decided to impart something I have said many times; “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1)!  So, I proclaimed this and found God began to speak with me in a very loving and yet challenging way.


towerProverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.


We may have come to Him with our own heart worms. These little parasites invade the circulatory system preventing a healthy blood flow and at times affecting breathing and overall body health. I think when I came to Jesus I had emotional heart worm and He is still ridding my life of these things. I was not ready at the beginning for what He had for me. I had “heart disease” that needed some careful treatment. His blood flows through my veins but sometimes my own sin sickness can block the arteries.


Will we become all that He hopes we will be? I don’t think we will experience all of our potential here in this life. But He is rehabilitating us over time. As Christians we can call this the “sanctification” process. Moving from a wounded, fearful, distrustful child into His care takes time and all of us are on different schedule. Our unique circumstances require His prescriptive care. In the process we can trust in his promise to complete the work He has begun.


Proverbs 1:33

But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm


We’ve taken Mollie outside several times each day to acclimate her to our yard.  She is nervous and obviously fearful of the open space and the strange smells.  One day we thought we’d try to see if she would come to us if we walked away from her a few feet. With great trepidation on her face she actually ran away from us looking for a safer place in the flower garden.  A couple of days later we tried again and she was more willing and actually came to us seemingly more aware that we are safe for her.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they didn’t run to their Father, rather they ran and hid in the garden just like Mollie.  God searched for them calling them to Himself.  Our natural state of being is that of being afraid.  Unless someone takes that time with us to show us how to trust and not be afraid we will remain fearful.  I think at some level, we are all afraid.  Fear of being alone, fear of rejection, fear of being disliked, fear of failing – and the list goes on. Fear is at the root of many of our uncomfortable life situations.


Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.


Mollie is learning more about trust and the next day, when she was in the yard, she actually ran to us.  Day by day, I also trust in my Lord more.  I hope I run to Him more quickly when I am afraid.

I am so thankful that He is careful with me. I am also grateful that He is taking me through things that may cause me some angst, but they are for my good. He will continue to expose me to things that I may not ask for but he is loving me through them. His kind hands of guidance are really scary at times and I may run from them. He knows, and doesn’t mind. He just keeps trying with me until we make further progress. And when I need to be held, or calmed down, He will do that too.


sleep

Psalm 4:8

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.


Little Mollie Bear is safe where she is. She is loved, and we will care for her the very best way we can. But we sure look forward to her growing more secure. I look forward to the day when she smiles! Yes, dogs smile. She may even laugh a little. I remember our little Spencer doggie running around in circles as though he was laughing, or experiencing joy. I sure hope she will get there. Maybe soon she’ll follow me further than just a few steps. She might even get to the place where she walks alongside me with ease.


walk with laughing jesus“Jesus, it’s like you and me isn’t it?


I’ll bet you can’t wait for me to experience more joy, more freedom, and to walk alongside you with ease.


Hosea 2:18

In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.




 

Comforted To Comfort Others – Love One Another

Friday, August 20th, 2010


Flowing Stream

Smooth and yet powerful, the rolling of life is like a massage of our aches and yet there is evidence of a wearing away that deepens our experience.



As I looked at this picture it appeared to me to be strong, consistent, mighty and yet it was soothing and not turbulent. I thought, this is what life is like from a distance. If I look up close there is a movement that is powerful. Craggy rocks are worn away by the little brook, the edges of a sharp shell is honed away by the tides coming and going on the shoreline. But from far away, it seems a lot of the rough edges are smoothed out. But why? Why would the Lord want to wear away our rough edges?


pruning grapes

John 15:1-17

1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.


It appears that the way of the Lord in our life is definitely to prune, to sand off those things that would hinder us from being our very best. Our best can only be achieved when we are grafted into Jesus’ vine and taken care of by the Master Gardner. This will require us to go through the chastening process. Wounds and healing are a natural part of our life. When we are pruned there is pain, there may be some bleeding, but when we are willing to be in communion with our Lord there will be healing too.


4″Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.


Go and bear fruit! What is the fruit of a fulfilling life? Good relationships? When we live a life of loving others sacrificially, we will show forth the fruit that our Father desires from us. Jesus said that this is the way our Father shows us who He is. He does this by loving us, unconditionally, without shame for our mistakes or shortcomings.


5-8″I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.


dos and donts

This next verse has often troubled me. “Keep My Commands”, scares me sometimes because I know how often I fail in daily life. What are His commands? Do they consist of a list of “do’s and don’ts”. If I read the new covenant correctly, I know that we have been freed from the law and brought into the life of grace. So, what is Jesus talking about here when He says in order to remain in Him, we must obey His commands?


9-10 “I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.


11-15″I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.


grapes-redleaves

16″You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.


17″But remember the root command: Love one another.”



The message I hear in this reading is that we are ultimately called to love one another. To remain in Jesus is to continue to allow His chastening, His cleansing, so that we can follow in his model of relationship in loving each other with a selfless love.


clingy signWhen I was in my mid thirties I was hungry for friends. I looked all around for a friend that would meet my needs. I felt very alone and relationally starved. I met a man that paid attention to me. He was kind, affirming, very gifted and seemed to want to spend time with me. As we began to build a relationship we had lots of fun, we spent time together and even went on a couple of weekend trips together. I thought I had found the best friend in the world. I felt special and significant because of this friendship.


After a short time things started to get uncomfortable but I was unwilling to be honest about what I was feeling. When I saw him with someone else I was jealous.  If he didn’t have time to do something with me I felt rejected.  When these feelings would surface, I would begin to manipulate him with carefully chosen words to hopefully produce my desired outcome.  I had begun to make this man an idol in my life. I was far too focused on his life, his opinions, his affirmation of me.  I had become extremely enmeshed in the relationship. I didn’t want to be hungry and lonely again like I was. So I was clingy and desperate to keep what I had with this friendship.


In our own ways, each of us started hurting one another with words, actions, and an attempt to pull away from something that was beginning to hurt us. But I ignored the pain thinking surely this could be solved without giving up the friendship.  I thought, if only he would change or if I would do just the right thing, it would all be better.


After about two years, the pain became so great that I felt I had no option but to let go. I contacted him and said that it was not healthy for us to remain in contact with each other. I was unwilling to endure further pain and I also took responsibility for my negative impact on his life from being so clingy and controlling. In a phone call I released him. I realized that I was not loving him, but rather in my selfishness I “needed” him to meet my desires for connection.


It was shortly after our last conversation that God began to speak to me about relationships. It was the words in John chapter15, that changed my life forever.


First of all I learned that there was a model of relationship that Jesus gave us to follow. Second, I learned that Jesus was the “friend” that I had looked for all of my life. He was the friend that unconditionally loved me, He would never leave me nor forsake me, and He knew everything about me from the beginning to the end. It seemed that this knowledge pierced my heart deeply and showed me I never had to be alone again.


john 15 ringThe three points of healthy relationship I learned from Jesus’ model of relationship are these:

1. To be honest with each other. Jesus told us everything His Father told Him to tell us, holding nothing back.


I was living dishonestly in numerous ways with my friend.  In my dishonesty he didn’t know how to connect with me so there were many mistakes and mis-communications along the way.


2. To make choices in our relationships. The choice to pursue, the choices needed in healthy relationships, the choice to give sacrificially. Without making choices in relationships we will fall prey to the enemy’s fleshly distractions which actually harm good relationships.


I didn’t implement healthy boundaries where they were necessary. I was willing to drop commitments, other friends, and my own priorities in exchange for time with my friend.


3. To always keep in mind the purpose of relationship is to bear fruit for the kingdom.


There was a drain from my life and my energy which limited the potential fruit that could have come through our relationship with each other.  Our selfishness and idolatry was certainly not based on kingdom values – rather it was based on temporal human desires.


From the time my friendship was given to the Lord through today, my friends are additions to my life, not the center of my life. I really have not since that time felt anxious about friendships like I did before. I felt the deep pain of the cutting away of that friendship but in the end, it was the very best thing for me – and for him. The lessons I have learned about healthy relationships have benefited me and others tremendously.  The pruning was worth it for sure.


I also learned that Jesus’ model of relationship fails if we are not in the care of the Master Gardener. If we are resistant to being pruned or we are bitter when His discipline comes into our lives, we will miss the mark in our relationships. We will not live in his commandment to love each other. It doesn’t work to control relationships into our lonely nests rooted in neediness.


If we do not remain in Him, we will become self sustaijohn 15 familyning which will lead us to selfishness and again separation from the source of our relationship provision.


As the strong, powerful “smoothing” water in our lives rolls over us it is with purpose. It will round off our rough edges so that we will not cut one another with our sharp sides. It will bring a fresh new growth into places we have desired but were too sharp to enjoy.


I can feel the warmth and care of His honing of my life. I trust His motives are always from a pure love.  He is asking us to do the same.  Love One Another, this is His command.  Maybe we need some smoothing out before we can do that.  Are we willing to ask Him to work in us so that is possible?


Prov. 3:1-2

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.


Prov. 3:11-12

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he love, as a father the son he delights in.


Job 5:17-18

“Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.




 

Transitions in Life – Guide me Lord!

Friday, August 13th, 2010


two_kids_runningacrossriver


Sometimes after we cross over there is still a hill to climb.


He’ll give us what we need to make it.





When we are born, we pass through the birth canal into a life that is bright, loud, and extremely foreign. The transition must occur or else we will die in our mother’s womb.


This won’t be the last time we cross over from familiarity to a foreign place! Life transitions occur all through life. Toddler to Kindergarten, childhood to puberty, high school to college and the dramatic life adjustments continue.


There are the natural seasons of life but in retrospect, some of the most challenging transitions are those we didn’t necessarily ask for. When a loved one dies, a spouse leaves us in divorce, we are laid off from our job, or serious illness takes us away from our independence. What are we to do now? How can I make it through this? Will life ever be “normal” again.


We are crossing over seemingly at times with no road map to find our way. Or maybe the hill seems just too steep to climb. How can we possibly make it through?


seasons of lifeAre you going through a life season change? What transition have you been “thrown” into lately? Or did something impact you a while ago and it just seems you can’t get out of the quicksand of your circumstances? As I am searching the scriptures for answers to those questions I find there are a tremendous number of passages that remind me that He is there! The Comforter, the Counselor, the Savior of my soul is able to provide me with what I need to make it.


Today is the second day of school for my grandson. I told him when he turned 10 that it is time for more responsibility in his life. Walking to school is one of those new privileges that have come with his age. As I watched him go out the door to walk to school for the first time, by himself, I felt fear in my heart. Will he make it? Is he safe? Does he feel alone as he makes his trek four blocks to the school doors?


I watched him through the window since I didn’t want him to think I was checking up on him. I gave him a few minutes and then I quietly went out onto the porch peering through the bushes to see him walk down the street. A few minutes later I went out onto the porch to see if I could see him across the street as he moved towards a place out of my sight.


I felt the Lord prompting me, “John, I got this one. He is making a transition into his own independence.” Sure, I realized he might feel alone, He may fall and skin his knees and no one will be there to say it’s ok. But the Lord reminded me that we all have to learn to live life outside of our physical covering and to be placed into the hands of our loving God.


One of my favorite passages that speaks to me very personally about life and its challenges is in Romans.


Rom. 5:3-5

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.


I was praying for a friend the other day who is going through a terrible battle right now. As I prayed, I was reminded that there may not be a feeling of hope when we are in the midst of a trial. Paul tells us that the hope comes after we persevere some and develop our character along the way. I don’t like that truth because I’d rather have the hope up front, I think you would too. But really, the hope we need is much larger than just believing we will make it through our current trials.


James 1:2-5

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.


The joy is not a denial of our pain. It also isn’t false covering of our authentic feelings. Rather, it is realizing that we have joy from the bigger picture of redemption, salvation and eternity. I find it interesting that James follows up with encouraging us to ask for help from our loving God.


mosesOur forefathers, the Israelites went through another kind of transition. They hungered for freedom from their bondage to slavery. They cried out for help over and over and finally, God bought them a deliverer in Moses. So, with excitement and joy they began their trek away from Egypt. He began the journey giving glory to the real deliverer, the LORD.


Exodus 13:3

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand.




Then he made plans for them that seemed curious but again, the Lord was concerned about the potential that they would become discouraged.


Exodus 13:17-18

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.


He guided them with the cloud and the pillar of fire. He always had one or the other in place, never leaving them without direction.


pillar of fireExodus 13:20-22

After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.


Exodus 15:13

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.


Psalm 43:3

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.


He had a destination in mind that wasn’t a physical location, it didn’t have an address. You wouldn’t find it on Google Maps! We are going to His House! It’s a spiritual destination of eternity with Him. Of course, if you are like me I’d rather have something a little more tangible than that.


God, can’t you take away the pain I am feeling? Can’t you provide a new job for me today? I want to feel better and this illness just seems to linger on and on. God, restore my broken marriage, I can’t imagine living life alone but it is so painful right now, and what about my kids. Surely this isn’t your will. Take them out of my life, God. They are creating havoc for me and others! Free me from this terrible situation.


But the truth is, when we do receive freedom, and we have in many ways, we find ourselves in our own deserts of confusion, personal blindness, and grumbling spirits. If we don’t keep our minds on the real goals then the short sighted ones are disappointing for sure.


Isaiah 49:10

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.


So, ask. Ask Him for what you need.


Psalm 25:4-5

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.


Psalm 48:14

For this God is our God forever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.


Psalm 73:24

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory


Psalm 4:11

I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths


And the list goes on! He has promised us that He is the one we must trust in after we cross over to a new experience. He is the Counselor who will provide wisdom and insights. He will bring us peace.


Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


bride-and-groom

Even in the transitions we ask for, such as getting a new job that we really wanted, or, walking down the aisle with our new bride or groom, there is an unknown experience to face. What about that brand new little baby that seems so sweet? There is a hill to climb after every life transition no matter how it comes about. It isn’t easy and there will be a wall of challenge that we’ll have to face. Transition always means we are entering into uncharted territories.


Isaiah 42:16

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.


When I left my position at Love In Action in 2008 I felt relieved to be free from the intense turmoil. I remember praying, “God, I am in your hands. I do not want to contrive my future or just settle into something that is familiar. Surprise me with your goodness in a plan that comes from you.” I dreamed of what those surprises might look like.


My wife and I were on a cruise in the Caribbean Islands. I saw such poverty and struggle on one of the islands as they were trying to start over after a military base closed up taking away many of their jobs and their ability to survive. I thought for a moment, I wonder if God would bring us here. What a great opportunity to show the love of God to a struggling people. Hum, what would it be like living on this island? If the cruise lines see potential here surely You do too!


I thought about it for a moment as I enjoyed the bright blue water, the amazing climate and dreamed of the glamour of living in the Caribbean. Then I realized all of their drinking water had to be brought in, everything they needed had to be special ordered and the loneliness of island living was a likely reality. But, even as I considered the potential as I pondered the idea, I felt strongly that there would be great joy in seeing Christ love these people and I would love to be a part of something like that. Of course, my wife wasn’t ready to pack up and move to the Caribbean.


Even now every time I see shows on island living I still think about that day and wonder, God might you end up sending us into this mission? What was that all about? I think at the very least, it was God asking me I were willing to cross over the water into whatever He might put into place for me.


In order for God to guide us in our new experiences it is really important for us to follow His direction. Sometimes, like the Israelites must have thought, it will not make sense. It didn’t make sense to take the long way around through the desert, but their loving deliverer had a plan for them that was good. He has a plan for us too, a great one, if we will learn to follow His ways. He then provides the wisdom and counsel needed to succeed.


John 14:15-17

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”


Devin made it to school and I don’t think I will worry so much tomorrow. He is stronger now for his challenge. It will become old hat soon and there will be other transitions for him to grow through. I am sure I will still be the fretting grandpa each step of the way. I trust the Father to provide much better than I can, what Devin needs. I am so thankful I know Him.


cross-and-water1One of the most significant transitions we will ever make is to cross over from death to life in Christ! Talk about a transition! I remember becoming a Christian when I was about 28 years old. I was changed from the inside out and boy was I clumsy about it all. I felt stupid, impatient, confused, and blown away about what I was experiencing. It was as though my eyes had been opened for the first time. But over the years since 1982 I have learned lessons over and over about God’s faithfulness to provide for me what I needed to make it through the rivers I had crossed. The Gospel transition is the greatest miracle of all time and for most of us, one of the most challenging transitions as we cross over.


 

Steps of Life

Thursday, July 29th, 2010


girl_stepping_stones_river

As she steps across the stones-

she finds that there is a way to cross the water.



Prov. 17:4-5

I’m not trying to get my way in the world’s way. I’m trying to get your way, your Word’s way. I’m staying on your trail; I’m putting one foot In front of the other. I’m not giving up. (Message)


I don’t think there is a question more asked in our lives then “what am I supposed to do?” There are hundreds of books that attempt to answer the quest for God’s will in our lives. I also find there are many discussions and at times arguments on whether or not God has a perfect will for our lives or is the road wide for us to walk in peace with God. Living in the “right” way, walking on the right path is a pursuit that I have attempted to stay close to my whole Christian life. I want nothing more than to follow the will of God. The problem is that I am not sure there is “one” will of God for me or any of us for that matter. I really don’t think any of us has the definitive answer on that one. I can’t think of a topic more intimidating for me to write on than finding God’s will for anyone’s life.


In 2008 I made a decision aftSandInShoeer many months of prayer and counsel. It was a life altering decision to leave a ministry that I had invested my whole heart into for 22 years. I sensed there was a change coming and wrestled with God and with man to find out what I was supposed to do. I had become disenchanted with something that was at the core of my being for most of my adult life. But, what now?


There have been times in my life when I had the proverbial “sand in my shoes” that brought enough discomfort for me to change something. I tend to be a “loyalist” and really I don’t change easily. This method of moving me towards change was probably necessary and had worked many times in my life. In leaving the ministry there was no doubt that something needed to change. What had been the greatest blessing had become one of the most painful things I had experienced.


Once I walked out the door into a seemingly empty place I found myself telling the Lord, “Lord, whatever you want for me is fine. I do not want to contrive my future out of familiarity or personal desire. I want to turn this season over to you for whatever you want to do with me.” Then I added, “surprise me!” At that time I just worked on building a home office over my garage for a place to work. This would give me a place to search, to pray, to find out just what God had for me to do.


Ps. 37:23-24

Stalwart walks in step with God; his path blazed by God, he’s happy. If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand. (Message)


I began trying new things. I wrestled with my flesh. I started, stopped and sorted through my packagesheart with others. It was a very random place to be but it was certainly interesting. As I looked for my surprises he was faithful to bring them. Each week it seemed He threw in some new idea, a new concept, or added a new person to help me search. I began to describe it as packages under the Christmas tree. I didn’t know what was in them, but I knew they were going to be good. I unwrapped package after package to find He was leading me one step at a time. If I went the wrong direction or failed in some way it seemed even in that, He was leading me forward with the lessons learned or with His abundant grace to fill in the gaps.



Prov. 16:9

We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it. (Message)


One of the most interesting things I found from the Lord was a leading for me to get a job at local car dealership. I believed with all of my heart that I was being obedient, even though it was off the path I had desired, I was willing to go where He led me. I was there only two weeks but those were very significant weeks of learning about God, learning about others, and finding my heart to be alive and well. I also found some amazing opportunities to minister to others there. I wrote more on this story if you’d like to read it from my blog archive on our website.


Surprise after surprise, God led me along the way into some amazing things and some very interesting opportunities. Step by step He is still working and surprising.


Looking back on your own life can you see an order to things? Can you see how God has used your decisions, your experience, and yes, your mistakes; to reveal to you Himself? I’d bet you can see Him through it all if you look for Him in it.


Are you in a pickle? HaveTakingA Step you changed paths lately? Do you feel as though you’ll never find His will for you? Maybe you are right in the middle of it and are trying to look elsewhere. Does it seem you are in a place that appears to not fit what you had thought to be God’s will? Are you crying out to Him for direction?


Prov. 20:24

The very steps we take come from God; otherwise how would we know where we’re going? (Message)



I remember times when I had absolutely no idea where God was leading me. My only option was to take a step. No matter whether it was a good one or not, it was as step. I had to trust in the goodness of God to work it out. He will bring others around you, resources to you, and if a detour is necessary that will come also.


Prov. 4:10-15

Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or wasting time making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well—your life is at stake! Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. (Message)


As I grow older I think what I am finding is the truth in the many scriptures that speak to God’s leading in our life. I find that it is a life that is built, step by step. As I cross over strange places, familiar spaces, and the rivers of life there are stepping stones that are quite ordained by God to lead me. I am not as afraid of losing my way anymore because I trust Him more. I am not so afraid of a stumble here and there because I know that I will stumble. He doesn’t need to find me laying in a ditch somewhere because He never left my side and has exactly what I need at the moment. Though I may not understand it, I trust it is for my good.


Jer. 10:23

I know, God, that mere mortals can’t run their own lives, that men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life. So correct us, God, as you see best. (Message)


We had sensed there was a change coming for my wife Vileen but we didn’t know what it would be. In our hearts we had been in prayer for a long time seeking God’s direction for her personal vocation. Our marriage had always surrounded my heart’s desire for ministry but we hadn’t discovered what Vileen had wanted. She began to talk about serving others in helping them manage their homes. Vileen has a strong administrative gift in her personality and is very talented in bringing order to disorder. She also has a strong servant’s heart. As she prayed she talked about wanting to move towards a home organizing vocation.


We were far too fearful and needy to make the decision for Vileen to leave her job. It was a steady source of income for us and frankly, just easier to let things remain. But, low and behold, some sand crept into Vileen’s shoes. Hum, what was God up to and what are we to do?


As Vileen prayed I felt more and more uneasy about her prayers. I was fearful about losing even more income and taking that risk by our own initiative. God, in His redemptive love, once again moved us off of neutral. Vileen lost her job in April. She called me when I was at lunch with a good friend. I hung up and looked at my friend and said, “my wife just lost her job”. The blood rushed out of my body with fear and yet I also had some excitement somewhere in there. “Oh, boy, now what are we going to do?”


God amazingly showed up and Vileen has had the wonderful opportunity to start her home organizing business. Day by day, step by step doors began to open that gave us both a peace and a joy about beginning a new endeavor. A fresh start for Vileen was just what God had up His sleeve.


He truly has provided as we have engaged His leading. I have seen the little things each day that have built into the bigger picture. From a meeting to a referral, then to some advice and so on, minute by minute God was at work. He has provided answers to many prayers that were not prayed in faith, rather they were prayed in fear and desires out of the fears and yet, our loving Father heard her heart.


What is your heart crying out for? Do you have unfulfilled dreams? Does it seem you are in a dead end job or vocation? Or, are you experiencing the sand in your shoes? Well, maybe God is ready to move in your life too. Open up the doors of your heart to Him and see if He just might be getting you ready for your own fresh start. If you are praying that way, ready or not, He may move a mountain for you. He may just slip in a little surprise to let you know He is listening.



seekYourDesire

Ps. 37:4

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.