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.

God is Moving in the Earth

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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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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You are Valuable to God

cross-in-mexico-e1537670483673.jpgYou are valuable to God. He sees past your sins and struggles and sees a person of incredible worth and value. 1 Corinthians 6:20 states that “you were bought at a price.” That price was the precious blood of Jesus. God gave His best for you. Jesus gave His all for you. He gave His all so you can have eternal life with Him in heaven. God wants to spend forever with you, that’s how much He values you.

Imagine being imprisoned in a foreign country with no hope of release or escape. How would you feel if I traded my son to that country in exchange for your life so you could return to the United States? It would be hard for me to do that. In fact, I probably would not! I love my son so much, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He is precious and valuable to me. But this is exactly what God did for you and me. He exchanged His Son so we could be purchased from the enemy’s prison.

Several years ago, the Lord reminded me of a rummage sale that my mom and I went to when I was a boy. As I recall, we drove out of town to a small building that was filled with clothes and perhaps other sundry items. We rummaged through lots of clothes to find something worth purchasing. The stuff was discarded  by someone, but we hoped to find something that would be useful for us. When the Lord reminded me of this, I felt the Lord speak to me, “love her like you loved that rummage sale.” At that time, I was dating a girl while in Bible school (whom I did not end up marrying), but I believe God was actually speaking to me about my future wife.

When God brought Leslie and I together, she had some “junk” in her life (and I did too). We both brought hurts from the past and anger into our marriage. Marriage has been a healing journey for us, and we’re still on that journey. Yet, God has called me to see past her problems and see her heart, to value her because she is valuable to Him. Often Leslie has to look past my problems and see my heart as well.

God sees past the junk in our lives and sees that within us that is of value. God sees the heart. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). My wife has a heart of gold, a beautiful heart full of love and generosity. Will I love her on the basis of her problems or will I love her on the basis of the value God places upon her?

This is how God loves us. He doesn’t look at our problems, hurts, or bad attitudes. He looks at us through the lens of the blood of Jesus. He looks at us based on the value He has placed on us. He looks past the “junk” in our lives – the sins, mistakes, wounds, and failures – and sees a person of incredible value and worth. His love makes us valuable. His grace makes us beautiful. He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

I Peter 1:18-19 says,

“you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

God gave His best and Jesus gave His all for you – you are valuable to God!

Assignment:  Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and make a list of who you are in Christ. Spend 15-30 minutes this evening, before you go to bed, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.