Thursday, January 1, 2015

Morning Star

I see the morning star rising in the east
the darkness is over and love is in the air
with the breaking of the dawn
my heart is breaking
the pain is fleeing
the fountain is flowing deep and wide within my soul
my hope is in heaven
the home which awaits me there
though I long for that place, where all pain will flee away
I know I must be here

I see people sitting and waiting
and wonder what thoughts are being pondered
what feelings are swimming in their souls
I can hear their cries, rising, rising
rising up to heaven
and with a tear I ponder
what hope they have and if each one knows

the lustrous colors of the city
jump out and swirl in anxious seeking
each color cries…
don’t leave me to wander in demitint obscurity
don’t leave me alone
please don’t abandon me, without a home
but let me fly to heaven
let me break forth in freedom
let my spirit flutter like a butterfly in the wind
soar like an eagle in the firmament

break me Lord, break my heart
break my heart for what breaks yours

mi amor
may we find peace and solace
with every fervent sunset
with every morning that, with passion, breaks forth
may there always be a fire burning in the evening
may there always be a glowing of the heart
may every morning bring glory
and when the journey ends
we will have known Him
and made Him known
in every way we can

bright and morning Star
offspring of David
You’ve given us a prophetic word so sure
yet darkness covers us
and sometimes we cannot see
You said, the night was over
but sometimes we wonder if we’ll ever pass into the light
confirm Your promise with Holy manifestation
make the morning star arise in our hearts
we want to see You
we long to see You
to see Your bright and shining face
replace our shadows and make us free
burst forth from our hearts
mighty wind, remove the clouds
so we can see the Morning Star

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Way of the Master

In my experience, sometimes God’s voice is clear but His leading does not always make complete sense.  At times I look back on God’s leading in my life and wonder why He has led as He has.  Yet, I cannot say that His leading has ever been bad.  Circumstances have not always been the way I wanted them to be, but God has been good.  Following the Master is worth it.
Sure, God has led me into some difficult situations which tested my faith.  I’ve not always had the best attitude.  But, I have followed and God has been faithful.  Some things have not always turned out the way that I thought they would or the way I would have liked them to.  Nevertheless, today, I believe I am in the place God ordained for me to be. 
Isaiah 55, verses 8 & 9, says,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

In 2006 God began to stir my heart for missions.  Four years earlier, in 2002, I had graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI), certainly a school that, among other things, has a focus on missions.  Yet, during my time at CFNI, I cannot say that God significantly stirred my heart for missions.  He waited until 2006.  Between 2006 & 2008 I went on 4 different trips to Central America with a wonderful ministry, Light of Life International.  Those were great times, both challenging and exciting.  God gave me a passion for missions.  It became something that I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I even had hopes of going into full-time ministry with a mission organization.  I hoped, perhaps, that it would be with Light of Life. 
God had made it clear to me that part of His plan for my life was to travel overseas, preaching the gospel.  I wanted to go on the next trip.  But things didn’t seem to be working out for me to go.  I was certainly ready, so I thought, to go all-out for God.  I wanted to travel for Jesus however He wanted to make that happen.  But, for some reason, God drew me back. 
That same year a guest minister at our church gave me a prophetic word.  Part of his message to me was that God was restraining me from going out on the mission field.  That was not what I wanted to hear!  (There were some other goods parts that I did want to hear).  I knew God had spoken to me about missions.  I knew that was part of God’s plan for my life.  Yet, at that time, God was restraining me. 
After the trip in 2008, until 2011, I didn’t go on any trips.  God simply would not allow me to go.  There was nothing I could do about it.  I could have tried to go, but, I wouldn’t have been following God.  It wasn’t that God’s plan for my life had changed.  His plan was still the same; His timing was just not my timing.  His ways were not my ways. 
And then, in 2011, my church decided to take a group on a mission trip with Light of Life.  Lord, is it okay if I go now?   I felt the Lord say it was okay for me to go.  So for the next 3 years I went on 3 more trips.  The last trip was a very fulfilling experience for me because I got to lead one of the outreach teams. 
I can’t really explain why sometimes God directs us in the ways that He does.  But I have learned that the best thing to do is to follow Him.  When we follow Him we will be tested, we will be stretched.  It may not always make sense.  But it is good. 
When you have big dreams for God, of course, you want to fulfill those dreams.  You want to get in the game.  It’s hard sometimes to sit on the sidelines, or on the bench, and wait your turn.  Sometimes it’s hard to watch others when they seem to be walking more fully in their calling.  Though you may be doing some things for the Lord, it feels like you’re waiting to really live your dreams. 
At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is to love God and follow Him.  When you love God, of course, it’s natural to want to do something great for Him.  Sometimes we have to wait on our ideas of doing those “great” things and simply be faithful in the place God has called us to be.
Certainly, I think a big part in following God is fulfilling His purpose for our lives.  And, there is always something God has called us to do.  He hasn’t called us to just sit on the sofa and watch TV all day long (though I certainly enjoy watching TV).  
If God has promised us something, I believe He is faithful to His word and He will do what He says He will do, in His time.  If He has called us to do something, given us a vision for our lives, He will not ultimately restrain us from following His purpose.  But we need to walk in step with the Lord.  We don’t want to fall behind, but we also don’t want to run ahead.  We want to be bold and courageous, yet, steadfast and patient.
I am reminded of the passage in John Chapter 21.  Jesus had just had a special moment with Peter.  Peter was forgiven, restored, and his sense of calling renewed (“Feed my sheep”).  Peter sees the disciple John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the one who “had leaned on His [Jesus] breast at the supper...”  Peter asks Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (see vs. 20-22)
No one can run our race for us.  And we each have our own individual, unique race to run.  We have to follow God ourselves.  Every day.  As we obey God’s voice, following the leading of us Spirit, and living our lives by His word, we will reach our destination.  We’ll reach every destination God has for us along the way.  Sometimes we have to move forward confidently in faith.  And sometimes we have to wait patiently.  In all things we walk before our Master, sensitive to the Master’s voice.  He is our Captain.  We live for Him.  And He knows what He is doing.  In His time, we will fulfill our purpose and destiny.  And one day we’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Following the Lord

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
Luke 9:23-24

Jesus says that if we desire to come after Him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily.  A cross is a place of death and dying is not easy.  By nature, we have God-given instinct to survive and preserve our lives.  However, in Christ, true life is found through a process of dying; not a physical death, but through denial of self.  This means that we place our lives completely in His hands, surrendering our hearts and lives fully to His will and purpose.   

Am I willing to give up my desires to follow God’s desires for my life?  Am I willing to surrender my plan to embrace God’s plan?  Am I willing to go wherever God calls me?  When everything in me wants to cut and run, am I willing to humble myself and stay where God has called me to stay? 

When we surrender our lives to the Lord there may be times we have to make a decision to be faithful to Him in a difficult situation.  That difficult situation may not appear to have an immediate resolution.  We can fight against it if we like, but God may be forming His character in our lives.  He may have us where we are for a purpose.  He will move us when He’s ready. 

There was nothing easy about Jesus walking the road to Calvary.  But after he had offered up his life, he experienced Resurrection.  Isaiah 53 (NIV) reads, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied...”  In a similar way, when we deny ourselves, we will experience resurrection life in Christ.    

God may ask us to give things up, but it is never without reward.  In Matthew 19 Peter said to Jesus, “…we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”  Jesus does not rebuke him for his question and I like that.  He promises Peter that he will sit on one of the 12 thrones in Jesus’ glory, with the other disciples.  And then he says,

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (vs. 29) 

Mark, in Chapter 10, expands upon these words from Jesus:

“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” (vs. 29-30)

To truly follow Jesus, with all of our hearts, may involve great sacrifice.  Through it all, God blesses us and enriches our lives in many ways.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be blessed or seeking reward.  But what kind of reward are we seeking?  Are we seeking eternal reward?  Are we storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven or selfishly seeking more treasure on this earth? 

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against prosperity or blessing.  I believe God delights in giving good gifts to His children.  Nevertheless, I think sometimes we need to look at our motives for following the Lord.  What is the real reward we are seeking?  Where does our true treasure lie?  If everything were taken from us, would we still follow Him?  If every dream we dreamed with the Lord died, would we still love Him?  If God called us to lay our Isaac on the altar and surrender it to Him, would we still walk in the obedience of faith?

I believe the greatest reward is Christ Himself, to know Him and be close to Him.  Paul prayed, “… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings...” (Philippians 3:10)  The greatest treasure is His presence.  What if this current pathway, which sometimes involves pain, hardship, persecution and/or suffering is storing up for us treasure and glory in heaven that far outweighs any difficulty on this earth? 

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:17-18

Sunday, August 31, 2014

He Delivers!

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.”
Psalm 34:1

In December of 2005, I was struggling with a heaviness on me, so much that I didn’t think I could take much more.  I prayed Psalm 34 on a Wednesday night and cried out to God with all of my heart.  Nevertheless, the next day was just as bad.  I went to bed feeling frustrated.  That night, however, I had a dream.  In the dream I was worshipping the Lord.  While worshipping a lady from my church came up and laid her hands on me and I fell to the floor, touched by God’s presence.

I woke up the next morning feeling much better.  God had touched me.  It’s not that He completely removed my struggle, but He gave me the strength that I needed.  God’s grace was sufficient for me; His power made perfect in my weakness. (see II Corinthians 12:9) 

Sometimes we may go through difficult experiences and perhaps the only explanation is that we are simply being attacked by the enemy.  We have an enemy and he hates us.  I know, from my own experience, that the weight of oppression and heaviness can be crushing and debilitating.  We need the presence of God.

I have known depression and I’ve known despair.  But I’ve also known God’s presence lifting me up, giving me the strength to carry on.

I believe God has used these times in my life to help me draw closer to Him.  When we seek God during difficult experiences, our walk with Him is deepened.  God also uses the hard times to grow our faith and to form His character in us.  Through it all, He is closer to us than we realize. 

Difficult times in our lives can be because of our own sin or disobedience.  However, very likely that is not the case.  We cannot make the mistake of assuming that just because life is difficult that it means we have failed God or are living in sin.  It may simple be an attack from the enemy. 

Consider these excerpts from Psalm 34:

I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice. (vs. 2)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them. (vs. 4-7)

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are attentive to their cry … (vs. 15)

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all
... (vs. 17-19)

There are some difficult words in these verses: 
  • afflicted
  •  fears
  •  shame
  •  poor
  •  troubles
  •  brokenhearted
  • crushed
Yet, there is more in these verses that show us we do not have to stay in a place of defeat. 
  • God answers
  • God delivers
  • God hears
  • God saves
  • Angels encamp around those who fear Him
  • God’s eyes are on us
  • God is attentive to our cries
  • God is close to the brokenhearted
King David, who wrote this Psalm, sinned and made mistakes in his life.  But he was a man after God’s own heart; a man who loved God.  Nevertheless, he experienced trouble in life.  He testifies, 4 separate times in the verses I quoted, that God delivers us out of our troubles.  We may go through times where we feel very much attacked by the enemy, but with the Lord there is DELIVERANCE.  We can move on to a place of victory.   

Another word in these verses is RIGHTEOUS.  Life is not easy, perhaps even especially for the righteous.  We need God’s help to overcome our flesh and we also contend with demonic powers bent on our destruction.  We may struggle with fear, heaviness, anxiety, shame, etc.  Yet, God is faithful.  A few moments in God’s presence can change our perspective on life and the circumstances that hedge us in. 

A Scripture that holds special meaning for me is Isaiah 54:10.  It says,

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (vs. 10)   

God’s love for you will never change.  His unfailing love will never be shaken.  His covenant of peace will never be removed from your life. 

Do you feel afflicted, overwhelmed by fear, clouded by shame, troubled, poor, brokenhearted, or crushed in spirit?  Please believe me, I do not want to minimize anyone’s struggles.  I know what it is like to struggle in life.  But I know that Jesus is the answer; God has the answers.  Rejoice in the Lord, seek His face, worship Him, cry out to Him, draw close to Him.  He will deliver you!

Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together. (Ps. 34:3)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

All Things New!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
II Corinthians 5:17

The fall of 2012 was a time of transition in my life.  I met Leslie at that time and then we were married in June of 2013.  The season of transition was not just in the sense of going from the single life to the married life, but also of receiving a promotion from the Lord.  During that time, the Lord spoke to me several times, communicating His heart towards me and confirming His will for my life.  One of the things I believe the Lord told me was that I’d been through a long test, I passed the test, and I’d been promoted.  He also showed me that I was coming out of sorrow and into the Promised Land.  It was, in many ways, like transitioning from an old life to a new life, or at least God cleansing me and setting me free from things of the past.    

Prior to that time, I had gone through a season of real disappointment and discouragement, even, at times, depression and despair.  During that difficult season, I became angry and bitter towards the Lord.  It seemed like His promises for my life were not coming to pass.  I was definitely questioning God’s faithfulness.  But then everything started to change. 

Psalm 105:19, referring to Joseph, says, “Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the Lord tested him.”  I lived that Scripture.  I waited many years on a promise I believed God has given me.  Part of that promise was marriage.  At age 33, and not seeing God move on my behalf in this area of my life, was disappointing and discouraging.  There were other disappointments too.  The Scripture says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Proverbs 13:12).  That’s how I felt, sick in my heart.

Nevertheless, and regardless of my feelings, God was faithful to His Word.  That said, moving forward from the old things of my life and into the new things has not been easy.  The enemy puts up a fight; he does not give up easily.

God’s word has, in many ways, come to pass in my life, yet, I have still struggled, and I still struggle today.  God may say, in essence, “It’s time to enter into your Promised Land,” but we don’t enter into it in one day.  In my experience, it is a process.

Satan certainly does not want to see us move into all that God has for us.  Some of the enemies in my life, such as anger, disappointment, bitterness, do not want to let go.  Even while entering into my “Promised Land,” I’m still struggling to overcome in these, and other, areas of my life.  Moving past these feelings is not easy.  Also, perhaps because of the depth of past disappointments, I have not obeyed, or I’ve at least struggled to obey, instructions from the Lord.  Nevertheless, despite the struggles, God keeps moving me forward into His plan and purpose.

Last November (2013), after getting married in June of 2013, I was cleaning out my old apartment.  Unfortunately I had to keep paying the rent on my old apartment because of the lease, even though Leslie and I were not living there.  So, there I was cleaning out my old apartment.  When I threw out the trash, I threw out the entire wastebasket, not just the trash bag. I realized that was the last place I would live as a single man, and I believe God was showing me that it was time to get rid of old stuff in my life.  There are things I used as a single man that served a purpose, but God was showing me that it was now time to get new things, things that are not just mine, but things that are ours (Leslie's and mine).

There are some things in our lives that are precious and we'll never get rid of them.  Other things need to be discarded.  It's time to be clean and free from all of the old things of the past. 

As I write this, it’s August of 2014, and there are still struggles.  It’s still a process.  There are still these old things I want to be free from.  I wonder how much farther along I might be if I had fully obeyed all God has told me to do.  Yet, God keeps moving us forward into His plan and purpose.

Now that we’re in Virginia, we have our own place (our own apartment), and Leslie is working on decorating the walls with pictures from our wedding.  We were able to spend the gifts cards we received from the wedding on new things for our new place.  We have a new mattress set, with new sheets, a new comforter, and new pillow and pillowcases.  Leslie has lots of new stuff, like pots and pans and knives, to use in the kitchen.  We have a new coffee maker that I picked out.

After living in Texas for almost 14 years and working for the same employer for most of that time, we are now in a new place (Virginia) on a new adventure (law school) and we believe there are new doors God is going to open to allow us have a part in building His kingdom.

We can appreciate and hold on to things from the past that are good.  Hopefully you have many things for which to be thankful.  But there are also some old things that we need to get rid of.  We may have collected junk and garbage in our hearts and spirits.  God wants to cleanse us from those things, and make us new.  He wants to wash away these things in our lives and fill us up afresh and anew with the things of His Spirit.

According to the note in my Bible*, the word for new means, “..unused, fresh, novel… new in regard to form or quality, rather than new in reference to time...”  Through Christ, God makes ALL THINGS new.  We are in the process of being revitalized, restored, healed, delivered, set free, and becoming more like Christ.  As we walk in the New Man of the Spirit, we can be renewed more and more every day.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
II Corinthians 4:16

*New Spirit Filled Life Bible

Monday, August 11, 2014

There is a Place

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
John 14:1-4

this world is full of striving and struggle
but there is a place
this world is heavy with heartache
but there is a place
this world is worn by fighting and war
but there is a place
this world… it is tossed and it is weary
but there is a compassion
and there is a place
in this world you will have trouble, He said
but take heart
I have overcome
in this world you will have tribulation
but look up
I give you peace
in this world you will be hated
and you will be persecuted
but look up and look beyond
I go to prepare a place
in this world you may be weary
weighed down and heavy
gaze out upon the night sky
at the sliver of the moon
there is hope
look across the fields of golden wheat
there is a harvest
yes, let your eyes stretch out across horizons
somewhere, beyond the sky
I am preparing a place
and right here, where you stand
I am there
I am here and I am there
preparing a place, a room in heaven
where sorrow will be no more
where no one will ever again grow old
where never you’ll meet a stranger
and everything broken will be restored
no more sighing
no more pain
no fear, no torment, no suffering
there will be no night there
look up, my friends, and take heart
there is a place

Saturday, May 17, 2014

That's the Kingdom of God

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.”
-Genesis 1:1-3

God is a God of order, but also creativity.  When He spoke into the darkness and said, “Let there be light” He began the process of creation, transforming the earth from a dark, void, formless place, to something of incredible beauty.  I love how the gospel is right there in those first few verses.  Our lives were dark and void, but God’s Spirit was hovering.  When God’s voice of truth came into our lives His light illuminated our darkness and we were saved.  Thus began God’s work of transformation in our lives.

My wife is very creative.  Among her culinary delights, she paints and draws and designs.  I have a painting on my wall at work, a hand-made calendar she made for my office, cards she has made for me as tokens of her love, and more!  To all these creative things there is an order.  A painter covers a canvas, a writer constructs sentences to weave together a story, an actor uses expression and words to convey emotion, and a good sermon has some structure to it.  Order and structure are conduits for creativity and beauty.

Creation has order to it.  Water and land and sky have boundaries.  Rivers have banks.  Plants, trees, and animals are made “according to their kind.”  God created male and female, similar, yet distinct, different (and let me add, though a subject for another time, that regardless of what our culture says, homosexuality is out of order).

Order, however, is not rigid.  God is not a perfectionist.  He is not a legalist.  Sometimes we take creative license to express something a certain way.  Order then should foster life and creativity, not stifle it.  It is a channel by which things can reach their full and glorious expression.  Sometimes we have to give ourselves permission to lighten up!  Relax.  It’s nice to come home to a clean home, but the floors don’t have to be polished to perfection every day and a bit of dust on the coffee table isn’t the end of the world.

The Scripture says that, “…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)  I would equate righteousness with having God’s order in our lives.  But is righteousness perfection?  I don’t think so.  First of all, we have received righteousness from God; it’s not something we attain in our own efforts.  God sees us as righteous because of what Jesus did on the cross.  Secondly, righteousness is a heart attitude, a desire to want to live pleasing to God.  Thirdly, righteousness will show in right-living.  When we live in righteousness, we will have order in our lives.

We are also a work in progress.  Sometimes creativity looks messy at first, but, that’s because it’s a work in progress.  You may feel like a mess, but, God’s still working on you.  You may appear to have everything in its perfect place, but feel empty inside, void of joy.  Righteousness is not the enemy of joy.  Order and structure should and ought to allow for life, vitality and freedom.  You’ve probably been in a church where there was a lot of structure and “order,” but no LIFE.  It could be a church bound up in tradition and religiosity, or it could be a church severely wounded.  God’s Spirit, hovering, wants to breathe life into that which is dead and bring healing to that which is crushed, so His church can live in the fullness of joy, full of life, creativity, and peace.

Sin causes things to get out of order.  When our lives are out of order we tend towards dysfunction and strife.  When we get back into alignment with God and His purpose, we experience the fruits of peace, love and joy.  When God’s Spirit moves, it may not always seem orderly as we might think of order.  Sometimes it may seem a bit messy.  But, God is bringing order into people’s lives, because what God is doing on the inside of a person is infinitely more important that outward appearances.  If a person is dancing wildly in front of the congregation, perhaps God’s Spirit is moving on him in a powerful way, setting Him free from chains of the past.  Who are we to say he’s out of order?  That’s the kingdom of God.

Here's creative card my wife, Leslie, made for my birthday this year: