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.

4th

20 Things For Which I Am Thankful

“Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.”
-Psalm 116:7

While driving to Mexico this weekend, I spent some time praying. We left at about 4:30 a.m. and it’s about a 7-8 hour drive to the Mexican border. As I prayed, I reflected on my life. In March of this year, I turned 40. 40 feels like a milestone, kind of a half way point in my journey. 40 is a good time to reflect, I think. I also took some time to thank God.

It’s not uncommon for me to complain about what I don’t have or complain about the struggles of life (ask my wife). It’s easy for me to see what I lack rather than to focus on the good things. As I drove and prayed, I started at the beginning of my life and thought of good things God has done for me. As I recounted my journey thus far, I thanked Him for each thing.

It’s good to be thankful. I have to remind my soul of the goodness of God when I feel frustrated. At age 40, there are certainly hopes and goals I thought I would have reached by now. And sometimes I feel weary in the waiting on God during the delays. On the other hand, God has given me things for which I did not necessarily ask but have been great blessings. Some of His gifts have surprised me. And some of my dreams have been delayed to a place of heartache. Dreams that have died have been resurrected.

With that, I offer you this list of things for which I am thankful…perhaps, as you read this, now would be a good time for you to write out things you are thankful for and take some time to give thanks to God for His goodness.

20 Things for which I am Thankful:

1. For Jesus. I am thankful that I belong to Him, that He has redeemed and saved me, that I have an eternal home in heaven and that He is proud of me, His son. Even in difficult times, I am so glad I am able to live for Him. I love following Jesus.

2. My wife, Leslie. Even in the difficult times of our marriage, I am so glad God brought Leslie into my life. I am thankful for how she shows love to me, through foot rubs and the detailed care she gives to Joseph and I on a daily basis, and how we are growing together in the Lord on our healing journey.

3. My son, Joseph. Joseph has brought such great joy to our lives. I am so proud to be his papa. When I look at him, my heart is filled with such love. I am looking forward to the years ahead of being his dad, his friend and guiding him into manhood.

4. My mom. She loves the Lord with all her heart. She hungered after God, set a godly example for me, led me to the Lord, and taught me how to live for Him. My mom’s impact on my life is eternal.

5. My dad. Dad provided for his family and was always at my ball games as a boy, and worked hard for his family. I am grateful that my dad was always present and faithful to his family.

6. My friend Mike. Mike was my best friend as a child and we are still friends to this day. When I was 9 through 11 years old, we had sleep overs and would be up late at night praying together. We called our prayer times, “prayer sessions” – our friendship was an incredible blessing to my life at a young age and centered around our love for the Lord.

7. Growing up in church. I am thankful that my parents raised me in church where I learned God’s word and had many wonderful experiences. Even despite some hurtful church situations, I am grateful that I had the privilege to grow up in the house of the Lord.

8. My friend Joel. Joel became my best friend within 3-4 years after my family moved to a different town just before I turned 12. We became friends in the 9th or 10th grade and were inseparable during our high school years. Joel is a true friend and we remain close to this day. Our times together are some of the happiest memories of my life.

9. I believe it was in 1996 when I attended a conference with members of my church and heard Bill Wilson speak. He spoke with such compassion regarding his ministry to children. At that service, I felt like God placed His hand on me and commissioned me to His service. It was a special moment in my life.

10. I am thankful that God allowed me to grow up in Michigan, my home state. Growing up around beautiful lakes, streams, the Great Lakes, forests, and waterfalls left an indelible mark upon my soul and gave me a love for the water and the outdoors.

11. In 2000, God spoke to me in a dream to move to “Dallas, Texas” – it was a clear leading of the Spirit. I’ve been privileged to have been given numerous dreams from the Lord. I love how God speaks to me in dreams.

12. My education. I am thankful that God has allowed me to further my education through excellent institutions, from going to Bible school to getting my law degree.

13. My siblings. I am thankful for the fun times I have had with my 3 sisters. We’ve had good times together.

14. I was privileged to be a member at Mountain Creek Church for about 15 years. Those 15 years were years of growth, healing, serving God, and being a part of God’s work. Although we recently moved on from Mt. Creek, I am grateful for all God did in my life at Mt. Creek. The church will always have a special place in my heart.

15. During much of the same time I was at Mt. Creek, I worked for a Christian family owned furniture business. I worked there for over 13 years. Some of these years were a time of real frustration and disappointment, but I am grateful for how God grew me through the experience and the relationships gained along the way.

16. I am grateful for the encounters I have had with God, how He has pulled me up out of the pit of depression and despair and visited me in special ways in my life.

17. I am thankful for the gifts He has given me, such as writing and singing. I am thankful that God has allowed me to use my abilities for His kingdom.

18. I am thankful for the opportunities God has given me to serve Him on mission trips. I’ve been on several trips in Central America and a few trips in the United States. This week I get to preach in Mexico!

19. My in-laws, Victor and Bertha. When I married Leslie, I was given the added bonus of the most wonderful, genuinely loving and generous in-laws a son-in-law could ask for. As I write this, we’re enjoying a week at their home in Mexico. I love being with them.

20. Lastly, I am thankful for the promises God has given me that are yet fulfilled. Yes, I have had some disappointments. I’ve been angry with God. But, I believe the best is yet to come. Even though I’ve endured some dark days, days where I thought I would not make it, I can see how God has added blessing upon blessing to my life. He has restored joy to me, given me identity and purpose, and given me promises to look forward to. The best promise is the promise of a place in heaven, reserved for me. Thank you Jesus for all you’ve done!

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A Promise on a Promise

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What do you do when you are waiting on a promise?

There was a time in my life where I seriously questioned God’s faithfulness. I felt like He was not coming through for me. One evening in my apartment, I made an impassioned declaration of God’s faithfulness. Through tears, doubts and questions, I affirmed my faith in God. As I remember, it was not long after that that God’s promises began to manifest in my life.

It is the nature of God to call things into being before they happen. God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17).

So, what do you do when you are waiting on a promise? You need a pr

omise on a promise. The promise on the promise is this: “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

The first promise is that God is faithful. God promises to be faithful. It’s a promise, a guarantee, a promise on a promise. We need to have faith in the overall promise that is greater than the specific promises yet fulfilled. This faith is in the absolute faithfulness of God.

When faced with delay, we need to declare God’s faithfulness. Then, we need to step into all He has for us, by faith. Don’t hold back. Jump out of the boat and walk on the water. The wait may be long, but when He says go, go!

“[Abraham] contrary to hope, in hope believed

, so that he became the father of many nations…And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” -Romans 4:18-21

Abraham stumbled (i.e., Hagar and Ishmael), but he did not waver in his faith.

We tend to see what we don’t have rather than focusing on who He is.

For me, God’s promises have come gradually. I hop

ed for marriage and a family, but waited until I was age 34 to be married. Waiting on that promise was difficult, but God was faithful. Then, we waited on children and God promised us a little boy. We endured 2 miscarriages, but God was faithful. Now we have a little son. I didn’t plan to be a first time father at age 39. I had hoped for marriage, a large family and a fruitful ministry earlier in life, but God’s plan was different than mine. Nevertheless, He has been faithful. The waiting has enriched my life with greater treasures found in the darkness of dreaming.

Now, we hope for a house of our own, we desire

 more children. I have career and ministry goals that burn within me but are yet to be realized. All of these things are tied to promises God has given me.

With each step, we sometimes stumble, but we do not waver in our faith as we press towards the goal of the high call in Christ Jesus. Though we long for the fulfillment of our dreams, we fix our eyes on what is eternal, our home in heaven, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10).

God is faithful and He will do it (I Thessalonians 5:14). He will do all He has promised. That’s a promise. When you’re waiting on a promise, you have to rest in the Promise that He is faithful. It’s a promise on a promise.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” -II Corinthians 5:7

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In All Things

“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

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God is good and He gives us perfect gifts. God gives gifts because He loves us and wants to bless us. He is a good Father (see Matthew 7:7-11)!

Sometimes good gifts come in unexpected packages. God surprises us with His gifts and we stand amazed at His goodness. And sometimes His gifts come in unwelcome packages. These gifts are good for us but may come in a package that we don’t think we want. But what may seem like an unwelcome gift contains a priceless treasure. It’s our job to discover that treasure and allow it to transform us in the process.

How do we respond when God gives us something that seems not good? At this point, we need to realize that God uses ALL things for His good in our lives. He has a purpose and a reason.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” God has a high calling and a high purpose for us as sons and daughters of God, to walk in the power of His glory.

If we love God and are pursuing His purpose, ALL things work for our good. What is God’s purpose? God’s primary purpose is our redemption and the transformation of our character for His glory. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” God’s wants us to share in the glory of His Son and there is no greater gift than the glory of Jesus.

God’s plan includes trouble, but God uses trouble for His purpose. The key to Romans 8:28 is Romans 8:29 – God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. God uses ALL things to make us like Jesus.

Romans 8:31-32 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

We need to remember that in ALL things God is for us – He is not against us. He has given us ALL things in Christ. He has given us everything we need. He wants to see us succeed in every area of life. He has given us many gifts to help us on this journey, if we will tap into the gift of His presence and the gift of His word. “[H]umbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (James 1:21).

No matter the situation, you are more than a conqueror. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). In ALL things, you are a conqueror. In ALL things, you are victorious! No matter the trouble, in Christ, God has given you the ability to triumph in every situation.

ALL for Jesus!

It’s Going to be Okay

004_2_0002This September, we stopped at Bucee’s on our way to Mexico. Bucee’s is a very large gas station; it was also rather crowded. I took Joseph into the bathroom to change his diaper. Carrying Joseph, the diaper bag and then trying to get Joseph on the changing table was a bit challenging. A gentleman approached me and offered his help. By that time, I was handling it okay, so I declined. Then he said, “you’re doing good.” He had a real sweet, encouraging spirit.

Hearing those words, “you’re doing good,” touched my heart. Too often we tend to criticize and judge or analyze what a person is doing wrong. Sometimes we just need to stop and offer to help. It’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback. It’s another thing to get in the game and call the signals and throw the ball.

Several years ago, I was at a church altar in Minnesota. I was going through some emotional turmoil, partially due to some poor choices I had made. A sweet man of God in the church must have seen the anguish on my face. He came up, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “you’re going to be okay.” With those few simple words, relief flooded my soul. The situation was hard, but I was okay. Eventually I was able to move on and move further into God’s purpose for my life. It was hard, but I was okay. I was okay.

When we’re in a struggle, sometimes we just need to hear, “you’re doing good” or “it’s going to be okay.”

About 7 years ago, I was frustrated and vented my complaint to the Lord. As I prayed, it seemed as if God Himself stood before me. Though not audibly, I felt Him say, “I know…I know…And it’s going to be okay.” It felt like God placed His hand upon me and was comforting me. My complaint faded as the presence of the Lord soothed me.

Maybe you need to hear these words today, “it’s going to be okay.” Whatever you’re going through, as the song below says, “Hold on, don’t let go. Just take one step closer. Put one foot in front of the other. You’ll get through this. Just follow the light in the darkness… You’re going to be okay.”

Proverbs 3:4-5 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”

The longer we live, the more we can look back and see God’s faithfulness and guidance in our lives. Things that seemed so difficult at the time don’t seem so difficult anymore. The pain fades in the light of God’s purpose and countenance. We got through it and we will get through this. Whatever you are going through now, it’s going to be okay! Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, know Him. He will direct your paths. You can trust Him. It’s going to be okay!

Power in Weakness

Dead River FallsThere was a time in my life where I was so weak, so broken and so despondent that I got down on my face in my bedroom and cried out to God for help. That night I had a dream. In the dream, I was in a worship service with my hands raised. A lady from church laid her hands on me and I blacked out and fell backwards. Then I woke up. Something had changed, God had touched me.

Immediately upon waking up, my phone rang. It was my mom; she was calling me at about 6 in the morning, something she rarely did, if ever. Something had changed in the spiritual atmosphere. I could sense the presence of God. My problems did not magically go away in that moment, but God gave me the strength to carry on when I desperately needed it.

Psalm 143:8 says,

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you” (NIV).

Sometimes God allows us to come to the end of ourselves. He stretches us beyond what we may think we can endure, “beyond measure” (see II Corinthians 1:8-11, NKJV). But He always shows Himself faithful if we will place our trust in Him.

There is a power that God releases in our lives through our places of brokenness. Our deep place of brokenness becomes a source of great power. That power is a life-changing force which flows through us to bless others.

Sometimes God does not completely remove a problem from our lives, but He gives us the strength we need to carry on in it. At times, I have experienced a heavy weight of oppression in my life. It used to be quite crushing, to the point I questioned whether I could hold up under it. I praise God that today I do not struggle nearly as much as I used to. God has given me victory. It has been a slow victory as I have learned to walk with God and take ground from the enemy “little by little” (see Exodus 23:30 and Deuteronomy 7:22, NKJV).

It is reassuring to know that Jesus faced attacks from the enemy until the day he died. In fact, in God’s divine plan, He actually uses the enemy to strengthen and perfect our faith. We learn to “rule in the midst” of our enemies (Psalm 110:2, NKJV).

God has used the weaknesses of my life and the assaults of the enemy to refine my character and perfect my faith. I have experienced some instantaneous deliverance in my life, on a few occasions, but usually breakthrough is a gradual process.

The Apostle Paul states,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV).

The Bible does not define Paul’s thorn, only that God used it as a tool to keep him humble. Perhaps this is significant for us? What might your thorn be? Just to be clear, a thorn could never be a sin because the Bible is clear that God has called us to live and walk in holiness. Whatever your thorn might be, God’s grace is sufficient for you to walk in victory.

Our deepest places of brokenness can become the place from which emanates the sweet fragrance of Christ. Indeed, He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV). Suffering is not fun, but it draws us closer to the heart of God. The cross is where our Christianity becomes most real. Pressed up against the cross, will we run and hide or will we press in and surrender? As we embrace the cross, His love becomes more real in us and our brokenness becomes a place of power.

God’s grace is sufficient for us in the midst of trials and difficult circumstances. Those circumstances may not change immediately, but as we press on through them, we will press through to the other side. He does not always deliver us from the difficulty, but He delivers us through the difficulty. He uses trials to make us strong. His power is perfect in your weakness.

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that 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, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.”

-2 Corinthians 1:8-11, NKJV