What I’ve Learned in My Adventure with God – Part 2

In a recent article, I shared four lessons I’ve learned as I have journeyed with the Lord. In this article I will share four more lessons learned. Let’s get started!

#5 – God Leads by His Spirit in Different Ways

I have previously shared how God led me to Texas through a dream, but not every major decision in my life has been prompted by a dream. I am grateful that God has spoken to me through dreams, but you don’t need a dream from God to be led by the Holy Spirit.

God certainly leads us through His written word, but sometimes we need more specific direction when it comes to specific decisions.

When it comes to making these decisions, God may lead us by speaking directly to our spirits through an impression or inner voice. I think this is an area where Christians sometimes struggle because we have to learn the difference between our emotions and the voice of the Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to desire to be led by the Spirit, but to be sure to test everything to ensure you are really hearing from God.

God will also speak to us through the counsel of a trusted friend or pastor who can help us confirm that we are being led by the Lord. God may also lead through circumstances, such as open or closed doors.

Entire books have been written on this subject, so I’ll not go into great detail except to say that God always leads through peace. However, it is important to note that spiritual peace is not the same as emotional peace. I have made decisions where I felt emotional turmoil yet God’s peace was evident. Emotions can be wonderful but our emotions are a part of our flesh which needs to be dedicated to God. We cannot always trust our emotions, but we can always trust God’s peace and the leading of His Spirit.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” -Romans 8:14

#6 – God’s Kingdom is of Greater Value than anything of this Earth

When I was a younger man, I had such a hunger for God’s presence in my life. I wanted God like The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price (see Matthew 13:44-46). There were times I would lie on my bed just crying out to God for more of Him. I also think I had an emotional void in my life that I wanted God to fill. As the years have gone by, I believe my hunger is still there but perhaps not with the same raw and deep emotional intensity I once had. Also, I can say that God has filled the void I once felt and, although there are areas where I still lack, I am a more full and complete man than I once was.

My desire to walk with the Lord has not changed. More than ever, I want my life to count for eternity. I want to be a man that walks with God. I want my sons to see their Papa as a man who seeks the Lord. The more I journey with God, the more I see that the value of the eternal is vastly more important than anything of this world. This world and everything in it is passing away. It is but a vapor, a brief moment in time. This life matters, but eternity matters so much more.

It saddens me when I see so many people who appear to be living for only this earth with little thought for eternity. We need to have an eternal perspective and live for God by investing in His Kingdom, seeking Him more than anything this world has to offer.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

#7 – God is More Concerned with My Character than My Success

When I was younger, I wanted to do something great for God. I remember reading David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade, and being inspired by how his commitment to prayer launched him into a powerful ministry. Yet, I have often found myself in places which seem so far away from my dreams. I worked for an employer for over 13 years and often felt like I was laboring in obscurity, unnoticed and underappreciated. Then I went to law school and now I’m a state of Texas employee and not in the ministry. Though I have served the Lord and have been involved in some form of ministry much of my life, I have yet to realize my big dream.

We named our first son Joseph in part because of the personal connection I feel to Joseph’s character in the Bible. Joseph displayed impeccable character in the face of great disappointments as he labored in obscurity until the day came for God to promote him. During that time, God proved Joseph’s character and proved His word true in Joseph’s life.

God wants us to face difficulties as opportunities to grow stronger in faith, love and character. As we grow stronger, we take further steps into our destiny in the Lord. The book of your life is not fully written. God has more.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” –James 1:2-4

#8 – God Loves Me and He is Proud of Me!

My Father really loves me, yes He does! There was a time where I struggled to believe that I am loved by God. Through the fires of adversity, God has given me a greater revelation of His love and my confidence has grown.

A few years ago, I graduated law school. Law school was tough, probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. I don’t think I always handled the pressure well. I often had to study and/or attend class from morning until evening, six days a week, and sometimes I had to do school work on Sundays. Leslie and I also struggled in our marriage during this time and had too much conflict.

Despite everything, during the graduation ceremony the Lord whispered to me, “You are my beloved son, I am pleased with you.” I sensed His pleasure. Leslie was sitting in the crowd and told me later that she felt God speaking the same thing to her around the same time He spoke to me. It was an affirming moment. Despite the difficulties, we had persevered in obedience to God’s call and had passed the test. I emerged from law school with a greater confidence in myself and in God. Now, I do not doubt God’s love for me. I am His son, His beloved son. My Father is proud of me!

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! -I John 3:1 (NIV)

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

The Mystery of Love

For Leslie50

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
-Ephesians 5:31-32

three things are a mystery to me
four things, indeed
the way of the snake on the rock
the ship on the sea
the eagle that glides on the wind
and the man with the lady
two imperfect hearts
perfectly bound as one
two intrepid souls combined
a fierce bond not easily broken
forever entwined
in the mystery called love

oh, how she drives me crazy
how she moves, she glides in my arms
she twists and she twirls
and sways unsteady in my embrace
this delicate pleasure
this inestimable treasure
how she delights me with soft touch
tender grasping, intimacy aroused
souls laid bare, wide open
she is joy and tantalizing delight
Oh, my sweet, I chase hard after you
in this mystery of love

you are exalted above all maidens of the earth
with fondness, you have my admiration
you are the fairest of them all
Snow White, Cinderella
we dance like a ship on the sea
my heart flies like the eagle
a lump in my throat
as I, mere man, behold the beauty
your tanned body
I am weak in my knees
as I am in awe of who you are
inside and out
it will take a lifetime to mine your treasures
study your complexities
ponder your mystery
captured and enraptured by your love
the beauty of the bride
I am lost for words
in this mystery of love

we are a word picture on display
revealing Christ and His church
I love you as my own body
washing you in the water of His word
your form is so lovely
your spirit lovelier still
I delight in your purity
lean on the strength of your character
you are steady like a rock
you flow softly like a stream
you are pure as the dove from heaven
and I find such sweet comfort
in your embrace
I find my home, in this mystery of love

Image of the Father

 

 

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Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1

Holding my newborn son in my arms, I can see how important my role is in shaping his image of Father God. In the Bible, God primarily reveals Himself as Father. When my son Joseph sees me and how I live my life, will he see Father God? Will I give him the proper image of the Father?

I think this reality is a reason that Satan’s attack on men seems particularly fierce – because earthly fathers reflect the Father image of God to their children. Of course, both mom and dad play a vital role in reflecting God’s image to their children. This is not meant to undermine the role of mom or say that mom doesn’t get attacked. My mom was the paramount spiritual influence in my life and I personally saw her get attacked by the enemy.

That said, a father wound is a profound wound. If dad was an angry man, criticized you or rejected you, chances are you struggle to see Father God differently. To move past this wound, it is important to see God for who He really is.

There have been times in my life where I felt like God had rejected me. I felt unwanted by God. It seemed like God had rejected the prayers of love I had offered to Him. The sting of rejection hurts, even if it is perceived rejection and not based in reality. One time I complained that I felt like God had not fathered me the way I wanted Him to. That very next day, I woke up sensing God’s love and presence and I heard a song in my spirit. The song is called Father’s Eyes, sung by Mark Schultz.

Part of the song says this:

He’s on the edge of giving up tonight

Feeling like he’s wasted the best days of his life

Afraid he’ll never be the man he thought that he could be

And when he looks inside he’s so ashamed of who he sees

But in his Father’s eyes

He is a son of glory

The image of a strong and mighty King

In his Father’s eyes

There’s more left in the story

And he’s fighting hard to hold back tears of pride

If only he could see himself tonight

In his Father’s eyes

In my perception, I doubted myself and I doubted my Father. But He sees me as a son of glory, a strong and mighty man of God. The seasons of disappointment I have experienced were not rejection, but spiritual training in sonship.

This is where the tension lies. We may have a perception of God that is, in fact, not reality. Our perception is based on the fallenness of our earthly experience. We see God through the filter of our hurts and wounds. To combat these lies, we have to renew our minds with truth. We have to embrace the reality of who He is and who we are in Him.

There have been many times where God has shown His love to me. Looking back, I see how hard it was for me to truly embrace that love. It wasn’t until I began to take the truth of God’s word and speak it over my life, meditate on it, declare it and confess it, that something began to change inside of me. God was showing me His love, but I had to internalize it through the power of His word. In doing this, transformation took place.

Israel had this same problem. Due to so many years in bondage, they saw themselves as less than they really were. Despite God’s mighty acts on their behalf, they saw their God through eyes of bondage rather than freedom. God had to take them through a wilderness experience to show them who He was and to raise them up according to who they really were in Him. He transformed them from a slave-minded, faithless bunch to a mighty army able to go in and conquer giants and possess the Promised Land.

My wife and I attended church in Virginia for a couple of years while I was in law school. We helped out at the Welcome booth, serving drinks and snacks to the people. One Sunday, I sang to myself while I walked to get some supplies from the supply room. I’m not a professional, but I have a pretty good singing voice. One of the guys said to me something like, “don’t quit your day job.” Of course, it was meant as a joke. I responded to him by looking him the face and continuing to sing. He said to me, “you’ve had a lot of rejection in your life, haven’t you?” I said, “yes, sir” and kept moving.

I thought it was interesting for him to say that, but I think it made me realize how God has actually used rejection to form me spiritually. It has forced me to listen to the voice of my Father, to walk according to what He says about me and to follow the leading of His Spirit regardless of the opinions of others.

I may have experienced rejection in my life, but I know that I am accepted by my Father in heaven. I am His beloved son. I am not perfect, but I know that He is well-pleased with me (see Mark 1:11). I know that God’s hand of blessing is on my life. I know that He is proud of me. I have had to learn to just keep singing, no matter what others say about me. What God says is the only thing that really matters.

What is your image of the Father? Others may have rejected you, but God loves you and He accepts you just the way you are. He is proud of you, not because you are perfect, but because you are His child.

I am proud of my son, Joseph. He’s only 4 weeks old and has accomplished basically nothing in life except poopy diapers and lots of eating and sleeping. But he’s gained about 1 pound and grown about a 1/4 inch. I’m proud of that 1 pound and 1/4 inch. I’m proud of him simply because he is my son. He doesn’t have to do anything for me to smile down on him and feel such love for him. It is the same with our Father in heaven. He is looking down on you now with love, pride and joy because you are His child.