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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Risking Prison in China

The article below tells of an American pastor’s visit to China. The pastor is Wayne Cordeiro. I am not familiar with Pastor Cordeiro or his church, New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii, but his visit to China sheds some light on the challenges that Christians face in this communist nation. 22 Christians traveled 13 hours by train to attend his leadership training, risking prison. 18 of whom had already been imprisoned for their faith.

You can read the article here.

Hebrews 13:1-3 says, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.”

God Bless!

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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Stay Close to the Father

I recently dreamed that I was prophesying from a church platform. I stood next to a pastor, his identity was unknown to me. I had a microphone in my hand and prophesied from the stage. The prophecy was like a short rhyme, but I don’t recall all the words. It was something like, “Jesus, Jesus, seek Him with all your heart.” The general message of the prophecy was to seek the Lord, to be close to Him.Head on Chest

Then I heard clearly, “Evil days are coming, walk closely to me so I can protect you.”

Next, I saw a silhouette of the Father. In this vision, He was gathering His children close to Him with large and long arms. He was big, but gently reaching out His arms to bring His children close to Him. It was a picture of strength and tenderness.

Psalm 91:1 says,
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Now is the time to seek God and draw close to the Father. For Him to protect us the way that He wants to, we must remain close to Him.

Proverbs 22:3 says,
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.

God has not called us to be in hiding, but to hide ourselves in Him. If we will take the time to seek God in the secret place, He will protect us in the open spaces of this world. Stay close to the Father!

Blessings,

Jon