Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Agonizing Defeats, Glorious Victories!

“…we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.  Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us…” II Corinthians 1:8-10

Have you experienced a defeat, failure, or burden in life that seemed beyond your ability to endure?  We all may walk through valleys of seeming agonizing defeat, where we feel the “sentence of death,” but I believe that God is able to raise us up to a place of glorious victory!

When I started out in Christ I don’t think I realized it would be so hard.  I wanted to be like Jesus.  I wanted to know Him.  I wanted to walk closely with the Lord and do great things for Him.  But praying to be close to the Lord and actually going through the valley of despair and utter discouragement, where you feel like you’re at risk of losing it all, that’s a whole other story. 

The fact is, there are valleys deep, dark places in life.  I would venture to say that those who purpose to walk closely with the Lord may go through some of the darkest valleys of all.  We cannot pray them away.  We can’t possess so much faith that we rebuke them till they disappear. 

Sometimes the best faith is the faith that bears down and perseveres.  How about the faith that, though bewildered, though questioning God at every turn, though shaken to its very core by the sheer weight of the agony, gets up another day and presses on?  How about the faith that says, “God, I don’t understand this, but I will follow You.”

We rise up again to face another day.  Tested?  Yes.  Tried?  Indeed.  Despairing of life?  Sometimes, yes.  Nights where we cry out to God in agony of soul?  Yes, we’ve been there.  “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (II Cor. 4:8-10) 

Thank God He has not assigned us to a life of perpetual failure and defeat.  We serve a God who raises the dead, who always causes us to triumph! (II Cor. 2:14)  The life of God flourishes in our deepest valleys, as we do walk closer with Him and we do become more like Him. 

As we press on in faith we are encouraged, and we encourage others.  We are ministers of the same life of God that raised us up from our darkest valley.  In fact, what we may see as a valley of defeat may be a pathway to greater and more glorious victory.  We need only look at the cross to see this truth.  You may have suffered what seemed like agonizing defeats, but God looks down on you and sees a glorious victory!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

January

the times I wish that you were here
you would know just what to do
now I am living in fear
and I just want to feel that peace which once surrounded me
I hold her close, and thank the Lord
looking back, wide-eyes with wonder
when I walked into the room I could feel the darkness
but when I saw you in the sanctuary
tears streaming down your face
I could feel the presence of God
and though the battle was fierce, I knew that He was real
I remember every moment, just like it was yesterday
I rode all over town, and back again
and how I wanted to please you
though I crashed, still, I brought the rose, unbroken
that was so long ago
now I face each day with fear
and I just want to feel that peace which once enveloped me
I hold her close, and thank the Lord
and she smiles and hugs me back
I wonder, will I ever, be free from the shackles and the chains
when I’ve cried out, and I still do and I still shout
and I’ve twirled around like a wild man
hoping to touch the face of heaven
dear Lord, will I ever
be free from fear and free from shame?
I rise up to greet you
but with every blow I’m taken back, to the ground
I am shaken, this giant unbeaten
I forget the days, when, like a child, I ran to the battle
that was before the long, cold journey
through the wilderness
and this desert has left its scar
and I wonder, if I’ll ever, be free from its shame
the heaviness laid upon my soul
ripped bare, I lift up my eyes
and wonder if I really have the strength
she places her hand in mine, and smiles
and I thank the Lord
Lord, come tonight and visit me
make the words that you have spoken real
let me see the day, when your word is not just memory
or a dream, of what might have been and all I hoped that it could be

but let it be alive in reality

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Days are Ahead

At times in my life I have looked back on what used to be and longed for those days.  Recently I was thinking of the house where I spent a good part of my childhood.  Those were great years, riding my bicycle all around town, exploring in the woods, going to my best friend’s house for sleepovers.  Those were the simple, carefree childhood days.  But those don’t have to be the best days.  The best days are ahead.

God wants us to have hope for the future, and, of course, joy for today. 

Someday I hope to take my wife back to the place of my childhood.  I want her to see where I grew up and be able to share those memories with her.  But I doubt I will ever live in that town again.  I can’t turn back the clock and relive those days.  And that’s okay. 

There have been times in recent years where I've struggled significantly with the direction of my life.  I felt stuck in my job, it seemed I couldn’t leave if I wanted to.  I think, at times, I was a bit frantic, thinking I had to figure out something to do with my life.  I wanted to do something of significance.  I felt like Joseph in the prison, the Lord was with me, but it seemed like little was changing for the good.  My discouragement, at times, and sense of disappointment was deep and debilitating.  It has clouded my whole view of life. 

But today is a new day.  God has brought about changes in my life in this last year that have given me a fresh hope for the future.  About a year ago I was promoted in my job.  The pay, though not super-great, is better than I’ve ever made.  I met my beautiful wife, Leslie, and now I have hope that we will start a family, that I will be a father, and that our family will serve God in ministry.  God has also given me a fresh sense of direction regarding my career and my calling.  Things are not perfect, but, things are better.    

The oft-quoted verse in Jeremiah says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (vs. 11)  No matter how good things were in the past, or how bad things may have been, we can believe that the best days are ahead.  My prayer for you today is that God will give you fresh vision for the future.  I pray that God will “give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…” (Ephesians 1:17-18)  

The best days are ahead!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Every Good and Perfect Gift

Thinking back on many Christmases, can you think of a gift that was especially meaningful to you?  As I’m thinking about this, I know I’ve received some nice gifts over the years, but, looking back, it’s much less about the gifts received and more about the memories shared with loved ones.  I’m thinking of the times around the holidays at the dining room table or in the living room playing games with the family.  Or how about the times spent singing carols and reading the Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2 on Christmas Eve?  You probably have similar memories.  Those memories are a gift.

Last night my wife and I spent the evening with my sister, Becky, and my brother-in-law Jason.  I read a book and relaxed while Leslie and Becky baked in the kitchen.  Then we sat at the dining room table and played a board game.  Later that night, at home, Leslie and I read from the Scriptures and then prayed as we took Christmas communion together as a couple.  I wrapped a couple of gifts, we tidied up around the house, and we got to bed about 4:30 in the morning.

I woke up today excited about watching my wife open the gifts I bought for her and about opening mine as well.  Before opening the gifts we read the Christmas story from Luke and Matthew.  We opened the gifts and then, for the the remainder of the day I’ve been able to just relax.  The day has been a gift that I’ve been able to share with my lovely wife.   

The Scripture says that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)  God brings perfect gifts into our imperfect lives, and in the midst of our own imperfections, He blesses us.  I realize how much I don't deserve God's gifts, yet, as I write this, I look over in the kitchen, and there my wife is, a great blessing in my life.    

Though we did not deserve him, God gave us His Son, Jesus, His good and perfect gift from above.  He came into our lives and blesses us, though we are imperfect.  Through Him we can sense how greatly blessed we are.

This Christmas I am thankful for the gifts God has given me and how much He has blessed me.  And, I am thankful that He sent His Son, Jesus, as a baby in a manger, to ultimately die on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"
II Corinthians 9:15  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Commissioned!

“…that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19

The following is a dream I had last year, on Sunday, October 28th.  I will explain the dream as best as I remember it, from what I wrote in my journal, adding my thoughts and impressions from the dream.

I arrived from work, feeling somewhat detached from what was going on.  There were people sitting, watching some kind of conference or event that was taking place.  We were in some kind of cafeteria or auditorium.  There was an event taking place with my church; I believe people from my church were there.  I think they were looking through glass to the auditorium, and on the other side of the glass there was a stage, and I know Jan Crouch from TBN was there. 

Then I walked down a hall of some sorts, and sat down by a small wooden door.  Inside the door Creflo Dollar was speaking.  It may have just been an audio recording of him.  I believe he was speaking on the primary mission of the church.  Maybe he had 3 points about the church’s primary mission. 

Then I looked up and saw Paul Nelson’s face, broken, like he was weeping.  Paul and his wife are the youth pastor’s at my church, and the directors of our World Prayer Center.  It was as if he was longing for all of what God has to be realized, a deep cry of the heart for the fullness of all that God has.  I believe that desire could be for me personally, for my home church, and even for the church at large.

Then my pastor came and laid his hands on me.  I believe he stood behind me with his hands on my head.  The sense and impression of his prayer was that of GRACE, BLESSING, and COMMISSIONING, and even DELIVERANCE too.  He was praying a blessing of grace for me, I believe for my deliverance, and commissioning me to fulfill the Great Commission.  I believe I heard the words, “Go, go, go!”  There was a sense of commissioning and sending.  For me, personally, perhaps a sense that I will be delivered in my heart, and sent out to fulfill the Great Commission. 

When Pastor laid his hands on my head there was an earnestness in his prayer, I believe, that spoke to something deep in my heart.  As I awoke I was weeping – not really shedding tears, but weeping.  I was being touched by the Lord. 

I think much of the dream is self-explanatory.  However, when I shared my dream at my church’s Sunday evening equipping service I believe one of my friends pointed out that the dream speaks of a generational transfer taking placing between one generation and the next.  Jan Crouch, Creflo Dollar, and my pastor all speak of the former generation.  Jan and Creflo, despite their imperfections, may speak that God will use us even though we are far from perfect.  I believe there is a deep desire of God for the church to walk in the fullness of all He has called us to do, both corporately and personally. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

There Is a River

there is healing in the pain
there is healing in the river
rushing river wide
I can see you but I cannot hear you
the only sound I hear is that of singing
the song of healing
there is rest in the river
though it rages
it rages with peace
it rages release
release from the striving
freedom from the struggle
fear is banished
anxiety must go away
sorrow and mourning must be no more
with the rush of the river
all is swept away
“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return,
and come with singing unto Zion;
and everlasting joy shall be upon their head:
they shall obtain gladness and joy;
and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.
there is a river
for the healing of the nations
there is a river
which flows from within
there is a river
that wells up to eternal life
spring up O well, spring up within my soul
there is a river
which makes glad the city of God
there is a river
let me dance, let me dance
rejoice and sing
and spin around and around
in that holy river
in the river of God

(Scripture from Isaiah 51:11)


Thursday, April 18, 2013

There Is a Place

I recently finished the book Heaven Is for Real, the story of a 4 year-old boy's visit to heaven.  It was such an encouragement.  You can read more about it at heavenisforreal.net if you'd like.  I wrote this poem about heaven:

There Is a Place

this world is full of striving and struggle
but there is a place
the world heaves with heartache
but there is a place
this world is worn by fighting and war
but there is a place
this world is tossed and weary
harassed and helpless
but 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 joy
in this world you will be persecuted and hated
but look beyond
I go to prepare a place
in this world you may have heaviness
but gaze out at the night sky
look up at the sliver of the moon
look out across fields of wheat
and let your eyes stretch out across horizons
because somewhere, far beyond the sky
I am there
preparing for you a room in heaven
where sorrow will be no more
where no one will grow old
where never you’ll meet a stranger
and everything broken will be restored
no more sighing
pain
fear
torment
no more crying there
there will be no night
look up my friends, and take heart
there is a place

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”.”
John 16:33