Living an Adventure with God

Twenty years ago in August, I moved from northern Michigan to Dallas, Texas. To the casual observer, I was just a young college student moving across the country for school. For me, it felt like an adventure with God. In this article, I want to share my story of following God to Texas. I’ll follow up this article with 2 more parts about what it means to live an adventure for God and some of the lessons I’ve learned in my journey. I hope it will be an encouragement to you on your adventure.

Prior to moving to Texas, I attended a university/Bible school for 3 semesters in Minnesota. I desired to be a pastor. After completing those 3 semesters in May of 1999, I decided to move back to Michigan due to some personal failures. I was struggling personally and decided it was best just to leave. I spent the summer of 1999 working for my dad’s employer and living with my parents. That fall, I got a job at a local restaurant and rented a small apartment. I was 20 years old.

In October of that year, I fulfilled a dream and went to New York City for a week to volunteer at an inner-city ministry called Metro Ministries. The leader of the ministry had profoundly impacted my life while I was in high school and I thought perhaps I would become a part of the ministry’s discipleship school. I boarded a Greyhound bus and traveled for about 36 hours, including stops and layovers. I found my way to the ministry by New York’s subway system while also managing to accidentally hit a lady in the face when the subway lurched forward. It felt like quite an adventure for this small town midwestern kid. Nevertheless, after completing my week of volunteer work, I knew in my heart the discipleship school was not the place for me.

Sometimes in following God we know what we are not supposed to do, but we have to wait to hear from God about what we are supposed to do. That’s where I was after returning to Michigan from New York City. During that time, I had a real hunger for God in my heart. I recall that I had such a burning desire for God and His presence in my life. That Christmas, during a choir presentation at church, I recall weeping as I felt God’s presence come over us as we sang. Some months later, I had an encounter with God during a weekend where I had spent a couple of nights praying all night. God touched my life with His power and glory!

Despite my hunger for God, I had no clear direction for my future. I think probably after my personal failure in Minnesota, I wanted to be more certain God was leading me in my next step in life. Because of the influence of Metro Ministries, I believed God had called me to be an inner city pastor. One Sunday night, while praying at the altar at church, I asked the Lord, “If you’ve called me to the city, give me a city.” It was more of a prayer of exasperation. I didn’t necessarily expect God to answer it so specifically, but He did!

That very next Saturday evening, at the end of our worship team practice, my pastor prayed, “Lord, speak to us in our dreams tonight.” That night I dreamed I was driving around a city with my best friend but we didn’t know what city we were in. I asked a couple of people in the dream what city I was in, but they wouldn’t tell me. Then, from the sky I heard a voice say clearly, “Dallas, Texas.” I woke up with a sense of excitement. Texas was not on my radar as a place I might move, but God had a plan for me in Texas. This happened around April of 2000.

In June of 2000, I drove to Texas with a man from my church. There is a university near Dallas that is part of the church denomination I grew up in and I thought perhaps I would go to school there. I scheduled a visit at the university and wanted to spend some time “spying out the land” before I decided to move to Texas. If there were any giants in Texas, I was certainly ready to defeat them!

We drove south through Wisconsin, Illinois and into Missouri. As we drove through Missouri, I took a picture of my Bible, pictured here. I felt like I was following God on an adventure. Interestingly, as soon as we entered Texas, my friend became very negative. He couldn’t say one positive word about Texas. I recognized that the enemy was speaking through him which actually worked only to solidify my conviction that God was leading me to Texas. During our trip, my friend’s true nature was revealed in some other unpleasant ways.

I did not feel particularly drawn to attend the university I visited, but while visiting a church in Dallas, we drove past Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI), a ministry school. I vaguely remembered having heard about the school but I didn’t know much about it. We didn’t stop but when I returned to Michigan I called CFNI and asked a lot of questions about the school. It seemed like the place for me to be, so I enrolled, stepped out in faith and moved to Texas.

For the last 20 years, I have lived in Texas, except for a 3-year stint in Virginia to attend law school. Over these years, I have seen God lead my life every step of the way, not always through dreams but always by His Spirit. Over the years, much of my family has followed me south. My parents and youngest sister live near Fort Worth and another sister lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her family.

God has led me faithfully in every aspect of my life, in finding the right church, in friendships, with employment, in my walk with Him, in ministry opportunities, and in marriage and children. My journey with God has involved unexpected surprises, seasons of agonizing waiting, times of frustration and deep disappointment, and also seasons of blessing and fulfillment. There have been some hurts and heartaches along the way, but in many ways I feel very blessed and full, especially when I look at my wife and 2 growing boys.

I think God has led me in part because I have so earnestly desired to follow Him and know Him. God has led me in the steps I have taken in life, but perhaps more importantly, I have grown in my knowledge of Him and with a greater confidence and assurance of His love. Now I’m 41 years old. It seems like a good time to pause and reflect back on my journey. In some ways, it seems like God has brought some things to a sense of completion in my life and now it is time to look forward to the next adventure with God. In some ways, it feels like I’m just getting started. What has happened to date has been training for greater things. Some of my dreams from God have been fulfilled, but there are many which have yet to come to pass. I’m excited for the next adventure.

What about you? How has God led you in your journey? In my next article, I will talk about what it means to live out an adventure for God. Stay tuned!

I Won’t Forget

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This poem is dedicated to my father-in-law who recently passed away. We know he is in heaven with Jesus and he is happy there. We hope to carry on his legacy in the Lord. I love you, Papa!

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” -John 11:25-26

I can hear your voice, saying my name
just like it was yesterday
I can hear you say, “Son, I’m proud of you”
and I don’t want to forget
I always want to remember
your love filled my life
your voice spoke healing to my soul
my heart is aching in every corner
I can run, but I cannot escape what I feel
as tears turn to rivers
and my soul cannot find peace
Papa, I miss you, I don’t want to say goodbye
I just want to be with you
and in your embrace I want to hide

as years turn to memories
every moment I remember I will cherish
I won’t forget
I won’t let go, no I won’t let go
of your heart, your hug, your smile
it will always be a part of me
we will carry you with our children
Joseph has your name
Jacob has your spirit
your legacy lives on and will never die

I know now you are shining
like the stars in the heavens
like Abraham’s descendants
you longed for a home, a better place
you lived a life of faith
a life I want to emulate
but I cannot go with you
for my work here is not done
I must carry on… and remember

I remember what you taught me
character, responsibility, decision
I remember three things, I remember everything
to put God first, to make daily time for prayer
to put my family first, for it’s the most important thing
to meditate on God’s word and always walk in peace
to pray until my soul is satisfied in Him

I will remember, I will not forget
and one day we will be together again
in heaven
I’ll watch you burst through the door
and say with a smile, “I’m happy”
I’m happy just to be with you
I’m happy for the times God gave us together
I’m happy that He brought you into my life
one of the greatest blessings for which I could have asked

I will remember, I won’t forget
I won’t forget you
though you sleep, we never really say goodbye
because death is swallowed up in victory
though we feel its sting
Jesus is the resurrection and the life
to live is Christ and to die is gain
and we know we will see you again
until then…

I won’t forget you
I will carry on your legacy
I will fight to see Christ revealed in me
for that is what you would want
now you are a soul set free
no longer chained to the bonds of earth
now you are a seed released
may your life produce many more seeds
may your generations rise up on the foundation you have laid
and expand His kingdom in every place

we release you now to the realms of glory
where one day we will be with you
we will sit in heaven and tell our stories
in the place where no one ever dies
because Jesus is the resurrection and the life
I love you, Papa
I won’t forget
I will always remember you
your work on this earth is finished
may you now dance in heaven and rest in His peace

He Has Come to Judge (Love) the World

COVID Pic“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” -Exodus 12:12-13

While God was judging Egypt, He was revealing His love to His people. For some it was a time of wailing and mourning, for others it was a time of redemption and revelation. For those with the blood of the Lamb on their doorposts, it was a time of safety and protection. The fact is, apart from Christ, we would all crumble under the mighty hand of God’s justice. God is a God of truth and justice, but also a God of mercy and love and grace. It is God’s desire that none perish, but that all people turn to Him. His mercy triumphs over judgment!

I’ve realized in my life that during difficult seasons my concept of God has sometimes been wrong. Testing reveals our concept of God. If I see God as a loving Father who cares for me and loves me unconditionally, I can rest in intimate trust of my loving Heavenly Father. I feel secure. I am not afraid. But if I see Him as an angry judge waiting to find a reason to pour out wrath upon me, I fear.

The truth is, there is an element of truth in each concept of God. God is love, but He is also judge. Jesus came “full of grace and truth” and He also came to reveal the Father. At times, Jesus was stern and demanding. At times He was intensely narrow as He called His disciples to walk a narrow road, to forsake all to follow Him. He sternly rebuked the religious leaders and rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith. Truth.

On the other hand, He was moved with great compassion for people, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He was willing to quickly forgive and welcome repentant sinners into His kingdom. Grace.

God’s qualities are not opposing forces but demonstrations of the fullness of His character.

With my son, Joseph, sometimes I have to be stern and sometimes I have to correct him. He’s still working on the obedience part! My motive is always love. My motive is to protect Him because I want what is best for him. Sometimes my motive is to protect what is precious to me. For example, Joseph likes my journals, but these journals are important to me. I know if he gets his hands on them he might tear them. He doesn’t yet know how to handle these kind of things. More importantly, I would never allow him to mistreat Leslie because she is precious to me. It’s important to me that he treats her with respect. At Joseph’s age, he doesn’t completely understand why I don’t permit him to do certain things or to have certain things, but my motive is always what is best for Him.

At other times (most of the time I hope), I show Joseph my love. I hold him, hug him, kiss him, play with him, and take care of him. He’s my beloved son and I am very proud of him. More than anything else, I want him to know how much I love him. I want him to feel safe. I want to enjoy him. But I cannot tolerate disobedience; I am bound to discipline him for his own good. I prefer not to discipline him, in fact, I often hesitate to discipline him because I don’t want to be too harsh and I don’t want to wound his emotions. I would rather enjoy him, but sometimes discipline is necessary. My discipline of him is not in opposition to my love for him.

Likewise, God, whose motives are always pure, sometimes acts with zeal, even anger, to protect His children. Sometimes He acts to punish wrongdoing, as any good judge should. Sometimes He disciplines us to draw us back to Himself, but He always does so in love. As I may act to protect my journal or to require that Joseph honor Leslie, sometimes God acts to protect His own glory. All that He does, He does in love. His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime. He is slow to anger and long-suffering, but abounding in love and faithfulness. God is love. God is holy. He is holy love. He is never one without the other.

Right now the world is being shaken to its core by COVID-19. For all of this, on some level, we feel the weight of testing. But for those who are in Christ this can be a time of drawing nearer to the love of the Father, a time of knowing Him deeper and experiencing His arms of protection. God is a judge and I believe He is judging the world right now. His judgment is not for the purpose of inflicting pain or punishment, but for the purpose of drawing people to Himself. God’s judgment always is motivated to redeem. God wants to heal, but we must turn to Him for healing. We must turn towards His love.

The Father’s Protection

O39n April 15, 2019, I dreamed that I was on a stage with a microphone and I began to prophecy. The prophecy was like a short rhyme, I don’t remember all the words, but I remember saying something like, “Jesus, Jesus, seek Him with all your heart.” In general, the message was to seek the Lord, to be close to Him. Then I heard clearly, “Evil days are coming, walk closely to me so I can protect you.” Then I saw a picture of vision of the Father. He was gathering His children close to Him with large, long arms. He was big, in order to protect them.

In these evil days, it is important that we stay close to the Father, not legalistically, but in relationship with our Abba Father. He wants to protect His children.

As much as I love my son, Joseph, I can protect Him best when he is close to me. If he strays from my side, it is harder for me to protect him. Likewise, we need to walk closely with our Father, close to His everlasting arms. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

In the book of Genesis, Joseph called for his father, Jacob, to come to the land of Egypt due to the severe famine that was in the land. Joseph said,

“You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute” (Genesis 45:10-11, emphasis mine).

Jacob’s obedience to the Father, and to his own son, created a place of protection and provision for the people of Israel. Jacob and his household drew “near” to Joseph, a picture of both intimate relationship and a place of security and protection.

In these evil days, God wants to be our Goshen, our protection and provision. Let’s draw near to the Father, under His wings we will find refuge (Psalm 91:4).

God is Moving in the Earth

 

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I want to share a dream I had which I believe is from the Lord. When it comes to dreams from the Lord, some dreams are very clear while some have an element of fuzziness or haziness. I always try to do my best to recount the dream as best I remember it. With that, here’s the dream…

Recently, I dreamed that I was in a house and I was beckoned to go outside to the porch. From the porch, I looked into the horizon, into the sky just above the earth. What I saw from the earth was the earth itself. The earth appeared to me in the sky as a large planet, not too different than the picture in this post. It appeared much closer and much larger than how the moon appears in a normal night sky.

Then, it was as if the cover of the earth was peeled back and I saw inside the earth. Inside I saw at least two large golden rings. The rings were as wide as the earth, like three-dimensional wedding bands. The backdrop of the rings was heavenly in nature. The rings were spinning and turning in motion but not in the same direction. The picture was bright and shining. That’s the dream.

I believe the interpretation of the dream is this: When we look at the earth, we see it in its normal state. From a distance, the earth does not appear to be moving, it generally appears still. Also, the earth in its normal, sinful state, has so many things that are wrong with it. Up close, we see wars and rumors of wars. We see pain and violence. We see mass shootings and destruction from cataclysmic weather events. We see protests, political bickering and scandals. We see government corruption, greed, dishonesty, and deception. We see intense persecution of Christians. We see so much anger and hate. Things are much as Jesus described they would be in Matthew 24. These are the obvious things.

What we may miss, if we are not careful, is what is going on beneath the surface. Despite what we see on the surface, which unfortunately is normal for our planet, God is moving. Underneath the surface, God in His glory is at work. He is not still. He is bring forth His royal purpose. He is moving in power, wonder, and magnificence. However, what God is doing is not always obvious to the naked eye. It’s rarely reported in the news.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. -Matthew 24:14

I recently read a book entitled DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World? by Tom Doyle. In the book, Mr. Doyle shares beautiful stories of how Jesus is visiting Muslims in their dreams, drawing them to the Father. On the surface, much of the Muslim world may seem in turmoil. We are confronted most with the ugly side of the Muslim religion. Yet, behind the surface, God is moving in the hearts of individual Muslims whom He loves.

I don’t know exactly what the rings mean, but here’s my thought. God is at work in two ways. First, He is working to prepare His bride for His return. The other ring could represent God calling many who are not saved to a covenant relationship with Him. A ring symbolizes the covenant relationship we have with God. It also may symbolize the authority we have on this earth as ambassadors of His kingdom. We have a part to play in bringing forth God’s purpose on the earth.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. -2 Corinthians 5:20

It would be short-sighted for us to be so focused on earthly things that we miss out on what God is doing. It would also be short-sighted for us to become so discouraged by the painful things we see that we miss what God is doing. We need to step back and see the big picture, the real picture. The real news is that God is on the move! Satan is author of the fake news – the messages that bring anxiety and fear. Despite what we see on the earth, God is at work. He is moving in the earth!

Lord, gives us eyes of the Spirit to see as You see. Open the eyes of our understanding that we may see that what You are doing is much greater than what we see in the world around us. Although Your work may seem hidden, it is a work of eternal value. Help us to build our lives on Your kingdom, seeking You first and Your righteousness.

He’s got the whole world in His hands!

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