What Does It Mean to Live an Adventure with God?

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” -Hebrews 11:8

Perhaps to the casual observer Abraham looked like only a wandering traveler in the ancient Middle East. He may not have looked like anything special to the naked eye or the undiscerning. Yet his life was marked by God for a special purpose. God called him out of his family’s house to embark on a journey to a land that was new to him, where God would begin to implement His plan for the salvation of the human race. God promised Abraham, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). That promise has come true as Abraham’s lineage gave birth to the Messiah Jesus Christ who is still saving people from their sins from all nations and races of this earth.

Often our lives are marked by the ordinary rather than what we might think of as remarkable. We go to work, punch a time clock, clock out at the end of the day, go home, eat dinner, spend time with family, and repeat the next day. We are bankers, truck drivers, nurses, lawyers, fathers and mothers, pastors, construction workers, and cashiers. We are concerned about paying bills, keeping the house clean, putting food on the table, and attending our child’s baseball game or dance performance. Yet, God can transform the ordinary when He infuses our otherwise ordinary lives with His presence and power. A tiny spark ignited in our hearts can cause us to burn with a holy flame and love for Him and for others. Like Jesus’ disciples, who were common and uneducated, we can impact the world for Jesus (see Acts 4:13).

I’m not an adrenaline junkie. I have no desire to bungee-jump or climb the sheer face of a 1,000 foot granite cliff. I am fascinated by mountain-climbers who scale Mount Everest at great personal risk, but I know I’ll never give that a try and my wife is not keen on the idea. The most adventurous thing I have probably done is a few short backpacking camping trips as well as several mission trips to Central America. I have rappelled down the side of a few smaller cliffs. However, when I talk about adventurous living, I’m not talking about seeking thrills, climbing mountains or even about the great explorers of history, such as Christopher Columbus or the astronauts who landed on the moon. What I’m talking about is a life of faith lived for Jesus that is marked by a willingness to obey, sacrifice and doing the works that God has called us to do.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

-Ephesians 2:10

I am talking about an attitude that views everyday life, no matter how ordinary, as an adventure to live rather than a drudgery or a problem to be solved.

When I think of adventure, I think of something exciting and also a sense of the unknown, a sense of risk. From our perspective, much of life involves risk. Sometimes the faith walk seems to teeter on the edge of devastating failures and soaring victories. Imagine Abraham about to plunge the knife in his son Isaac before the angel of the Lord stayed his hand. That could have ended badly. Instead, God’s test of Abraham resulted in a glorious shout from heaven affirming Abraham’s faith (see Genesis 22:1-19). When we walk in faith there is always a sense of the unknown because God seldom gives us the whole picture, meaning we have to trust Him for each step and grow in the journey.

If you get married, your marriage could be miserable or boring. On the other hand, it could be an incredibly satisfying experience filled with friendship and intimacy. That’s the risk. If you have children, they could end up being rebellious and disobedient and cause great heartache. Or, they could bring great joy to your life as you watch them grow and pursue their own adventures. That’s the risk. Everything in life, even walking out the door in the morning, involves risk because we live in a world that is subject to trouble. It’s the attitude we choose that determines whether we embrace challenges with joyful determination or a sour disposition.

I think that it’s better to die with an unfulfilled dream than to live without one. My father-in-law, who recently passed away, was still dreaming when he passed. I know he had ideas and plans for the future, things he wanted to do for the Lord. Now he’s with the Lord but we get to carry on his legacy. Are you dreaming a dream that will live beyond you? In God, there is no dream too big or too small, as long as it’s a God-given dream. What matters is that you are fulfilling the purpose God placed you on this earth to do. Whether it’s driving a truck across lonely highways or hammering away at a keyboard as an assistant, do whatever you do with all your might as unto the Lord.

Life is challenging, with setbacks and disappointments, cherished memories, smiles and laughter, sorrow and pain, and wonderful accomplishments and blessings. Few of us will walk on the moon and not many of us are the next Apostle Paul, but that does not mean we lack significance. Each of us can impact another with the love of Jesus Christ. When we get to heaven, God will not ask us if we accomplished great things in the eyes of the world, He will ask if we were faithful with what He gave us.

I believe some of us need to restore a sense of wonder to our lives. For my 2-year old, Joseph, going to the park with me for a walk is a great adventure. He loves to explore, pick up sticks and be hoisted onto my shoulders as we walk together. I love it. When a plane flies overhead, he points to the sky. We recently returned from a trip to Colorado where we saw beautiful mountains and some rainbows. Since we got back, Joseph will say “bow” for rainbow. May we never cease to be amazed. We can curse the sky when it rains or we can embrace life with child-like wonder and adventure.

Jesus said that he came that we may have life and have life more abundantly (John 10:10). The abundant life is not foremost an accumulation of possessions or experiences, but it is an inward fullness of life in Jesus, a life filled with His joy, His peace and His love. His presence can transform the mundane into a glorious adventure with Him. In Christ, we embrace the adventure of life, the adventure of daily work, the adventure of marriage and children, the adventure of the kingdom of God, and even the adventure of pain and death. The last frontier is crossing over to the other side. We know the certainty of what we believe and our hope of heaven, but even death is a step of faith as we step from this life into the arms of God.

On this earth, may we not hide in the darkness of fear, but may we march on boldly in the light of God’s glorious presence. May we launch out into the deep of His Spirit and embrace all the fullness of life in Him.

May you be blessed in your adventure!

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!

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.

Love is Patient

“Love suffers long”
-I Corinthians 13:4

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Love is patient. It’s not uncommon for my wife to ask me to be more patient. I tend to get impatient with things that don’t work right, even little things like a website password that I’m certain I wrote down correctly. I get impatient with myself when I don’t work right!

Age has some advantages. I’m not old (only 40), but one thing I have learned through the years is God’s unending patience and longsuffering. The longer I live, the more mistakes I make. The more mistakes I make, the more I get to see God’s patience with me. The more God shows love to me in my failings, the more I realize how longsuffering He is. The more I see how my sins and weaknesses do not separate me from His love, the more I am able to extend that same love to others.

Psalm 103:12 says,
“As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

East and west meet at one point in the universe and extend from there in opposite directions, never to meet again. That point is the cross. At the place of the cross all sins are forgiven and washed away, removed from us as far as the east is from the west. This extension of God’s forgiveness demonstrates the wideness of His longsuffering. His patience is never-ending.

God is eternally patient with us as we work things out in our lives, as we press forward to be more like Him.

To walk in character includes walking in patience. Jesus said, “By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19). Our natural tendency is to be anxious about daily life, to worry about the future or be terrified by current events. But to walk in the Spirit is to walk in peace regardless of the circumstances. Patience of soul is something that must be possessed, it must be worked out. We need to learn to quiet our souls in Him and speak God’s word over our situations. As we do, we also get to grow in greater patience with those we love (and those we struggle to love).

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” -1 Thessalonians 5:14

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient…” -II Timothy 2:24

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” -James 5:7-8

“Love is patient” -I Cor. 13:4, NIV

*all Scriptures are NKJV unless otherwise noted

Treasures in Darkness

IMG_4985“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.”
-Isaiah 45:3, NKJV

If we’re not careful, we can miss the treasures found in the difficult places of our lives. The truth is, though life is wonderful, it is full of tests and trials. If we’re not careful, we may curse the darkness and miss the light. Though Jesus died to give us abundant life, the abundance of His life is experienced in the situations of real life. Real life contains disappointments, hardships and pain. The darkness can be dank and uncomfortable, but it can be the place where God is forming beauty.

Though God is our provider, we sometimes experience seasons of lack. Though we have the fellowship of the Spirit, we may endure times of loneliness. Though God has good plans for us, we sometimes pass through the wilderness of waiting.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 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…” (II Corinthians 4:7-9, NKJV).

During the last couple of years, my wife and I have lived in the home of a church family and mostly in a small one-bedroom apartment. Our apartment has insufficient space for our growing family, as the Lord added Joseph to us about a year ago. We had to rent a small storage unit to clear some things out to make room for our little boy. As I’ve struggled to create space, I’ve complained. God, why did You put us in this small apartment when You knew we were going to have a baby? Yet, here in our small space, God has provided.

During this season, I’ve also struggled to learn a new job. At times, my work has left me feeling mentally drained and inadequate. It’s hardly my dream job and certainly we’re not living in our dream home. Although we’ve not experienced financial abundance, our bills are paid, credit cards paid off and we have not missed a meal. God has provided as we hope for better things.

There are treasures to be found in seasons of waiting. We may complain about the circumstances, but God is using those very circumstances to form within us something of beauty and substance, the holy character of God.

The baby is formed in the darkness of the womb. The seed settles into the dirt until the light draws forth a bountiful harvest. It was into a dark, void and formless earth that God said, “Let there be light.” In the darkness of slumber, God formed Eve for Adam. When he awoke from the blackness of sleep, he beheld the beauty. Indeed, beloved, God gives beauty for ashes.

In the night of my own waiting, I look around and see God. I see His hand on everything.

“even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
-Psalm 139:12, NIV

I see Him in the loyalty and support of my wife. I see Him in the faces of my family members. I see Him in the help of a friend. I see God in my son’s laughter. As I hold Joseph to my chest and he lays his head on my shoulder, I feel the faithfulness of God. I thank God for our priceless gift. What an incredible joy he has brought to our lives. As I write this sentence, he’s pulling on my shirt, just wanting to be held.

Though I struggle and complain, I can feel the weight of God’s glory as I see Him at work in my life. He makes all things beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He gives us treasures in darkness. Even in darkness, He spreads His glory everywhere.

“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6, NKJV).

God rarely shows up at ideal times or under ideal circumstances. He reveals Himself in the dark places of life. As we pursue goals, chase dreams and live life, may we not forget to pause and drink deep the treasure of the moment. In your times of darkness, may you see His light.

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