Desperately Dependent

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
While living in Zambia I was invited to preach at a crusade in a place called dark city. It was known as dark city because of all the witchcraft alcohol and drug abuse that took place in this part of the town. You could truly feel the presence of darkness and evil in this place. Moments before I was to preach, I walked down the hill and stood on the banks of the Zambezi floodplain to pray. As I looked into the complete darkness, I began asking God why. “Why me? I don’t have a degree in Theology, I have never attended seminary, what am I doing here? I am just an ordinary guy in way over my head.” Then God brought these verses to my mind and said , “Yep, you’re the perfect guy for the job” I walked back up the hill and stood before the crowd that had gathered and said, “To the powers and principalities of darkness and evil, consider this your eviction notice! The children of the Lord Most High have come to set the captives free. You are no longer welcome here.” Before I could even finish my message, people began coming forward and surrendering their charms and witchcraft items, bags of drugs, some were set free from demons and many came broken, but all giving their lives to Christ.
So, you think you are not qualified to do the seemingly impossible task that God has call you to do? Perfect! God has a way of keeping us desperately dependent upon Him so there will be know doubt that it is Him working and He is glorified. Stay desperate my friends.

Honorably Wounded

Jesus spoke these word about Himself as He quoted Isaiah. Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;”

Heal the brokenhearted. They say time heals all wounds, but I think there are some wound that run so deep that only Jesus can heal them. Sometimes those wounds are self inflicted, sometimes they come at the hands of others, and sometimes they come from serving Him. Yes that’s right. They come from serving Him. I have experienced all three and I confess the latter has been the toughest. Not a day passes that I don’t long to be back in Zambia making disciples who make disciples. Don’t take that as not being grateful for the life and place God has me in now. The amazing things He has done in our lives since returning to the U.S. are nothing short of miraculous. But I was wounded. From 2007 til 2015, I had a clear vision and purpose. I knew that at some point We would be serving full time on the mission field. We went through classes and training and made wonderful relationships with incredible people who were being sent around the world as missionaries. We sold our house and possessions. We raised support and built a solid ministry team to join us and share in the joy, blessings, and eternal reward of being the expression of Christ to the people of Zambia. We  resigned from our jobs and began saying our goodbyes. Then there was the day we said goodbye to our 18 year old son and boarded a plane to move halfway around the world, every step seeing the hand of God as we walked in obedience to Him. Then came the daily struggle of living in a different culture in an environment that was a struggle for us. The ministry was unbelievable and more than we could have ever imagined (Eph 3:20). The Lord gave us favor with the Zambian people and we developed relationships with people we love and cheris deeply. At the same time we faced relationship issues with others that didn’t share our vision for ministry. I will spare the details, but it wounded us. Add in the times when your child is struggling or your family back home is dealing with tragedies and you can’t be there for them. Wounds. Then the day you pack everything you own back into six suitcases and board a plane on medical leave, exhausted and drained physically, emotionally, and spiritually and head back to the U.S. We were wounded. We knew we needed time to rest and regain strength and were in no condition to make a decision, but I think we both knew at that point we would not be going back. Huge wound. A couple of months passed and we sent out the update I never dreamed I would have to write, “We will not be returning to the mission field.” I knew that if God brought us back, He would have full-time ministry for us stateside and we had people who would walk through this difficult transition with us. Months passed with no jobs and nobody checking on us. I was wounded, alone, and depressed. I remember thinking for the first time in years, I felt like I had no vision and no purpose. Now mix that in with knowing and I mean knowing that in all this was the will of God. Confident that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t change a thing and would do it all again in a heartbeat if God asked you to. It’s a strange place to be. It’s a hard place to be. But Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted and He has and is doing just that. I had experienced so many losses and each one left a scar. Loss of identity, loss of purpose, loss of vision, loss of relationships, loss of career, the list goes on. Then there are my two of my favorite words in the Bible, “But God”. Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. He said blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. I had to learn to mourn those losses. It didn’t mean failure, it didn’t mean we had mistaken a call, it meant that in the service of our Lord, we were wounded. But here is the thing. We knew, and know God is good. We have learned to take Him at His word. We have grown to rest in who He says we are. There is a song called, “ Do it Again” By Elevation Worship that says, “Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet. I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again“

God lead the children of Isreal to the shore of a sea and trapped them between it and an army. God lead me back to the US with no job, no home, no ministry…but I had seen Him move mountains and I had to believe I would see Him do it again. Tonight I sit in our house, the same house we sold to move to Zambia, tomorrow I will go to work at my job back in the retirement system I was in when I resigned to go to Zambia, and in the days to come, I will help train short term mission teams and missionaries as the prepare and serve on the mission field.  And Lord willing, we hope to return occasionally to work with and encourage our Zambian brothers and sisters as they take the Gospel to where it is not known or understood.

So if you are wounded, if you have experienced losses, His promises still stand, great is a His faithfulness. Sit with Him for a while. Allow Him to restore you. He is our loving Father and He wants to heal our wounds, even the ones received honorably in Service to Him. After all, Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted.

Letting Go to Receive What is Best

There is a story of a young girl whose prized possession was a fake pearl necklace. She wore it everyday. She played in it, she slept in it, she never took it off. Every night He father would come in to tuck her in bed and every night he would ask her, “ Do you love me?” The little girl always replied, “Yes Daddy, you know I do.” Then the father would ask, “Do you love me enough to give me your pearl necklace?”
“No Daddy. it’s my favorite thing in the whole world. Please don’t ask me to give it to you.” The girl would reply.
The Father would kiss her, tuck her in and tell her goodnight. This went on every night for a long time. Then one night when the father asked if she would give him the necklace, with tears in her eyes, she said, “ Okay Daddy, if you want my necklace , I will give it to you” She took off the necklace and placed it in her Father’s hand. The Father took the necklace and put it in his pocket. Then he reached in his other pocket and pulled out the most beautiful genuine pearl necklace the girl had ever seen and he placed it around her neck.
Are there things in your life that you are clinging on to that God wants you to give to Him? Things that are fake? Things that we think are important but really only occupy a place in our heart that only God is deserving of? He wants you to place those things in His hands and in return give you something so much more valuable, something priceless …Himself

Even Greater

John 14:12
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Over the years,I have heard theologians that I respect and who know far more about God’s word than I do, give in depth explanations of this passage. Some say that Jesus was talking specifically to His disciples and that they would be able to perform the miraculous things He did In order to start the church and spread the Gospel to the known world and that those things died out with the Apostles. Others say it speaks to us in that we will be able to perform miracles through the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus did. I have often asked myself, “ Why would God include something in His word that was not meant for me?” So, what do I do with this verse in my life? I need a God who can do the impossible. I need a God who can heal the lame, give sight to the blind, restore health to the sick. I need a God who can part the sea when I am trapped, who can calm the storms that rage around me. I need a God who can help me forgive when I feel like I need revenge. I need a God who can help me unconditionally love others. I need a God who can satisfy justice, dispensing grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy on a cross 2000 years ago so that I may know Him and have eternal life. I need a God that gives me….Hope. That’s what those verses in John 14 give me. If Jesus did all those things we read about in the Gospels and He was doing the Father’s will, then if Holy Spirit lives in Me, I can do even greater things if it is the Father’s will.  I have seen God do great things in my life, things I would have never thought possible. I may never heal a blind person or walk on water, but I choose to believe that if God wanted me to I could. That is the God I need. That is the God who gives me hope. That is the God I serve.

Here’s Your Sign

Velda and I had applied with SIM and were in the very early stages of the process when one day she told me she felt like God was telling us to sell our house. I thought she was crazy. We hadn’t even been accepted by a mission yet. This was the house we built. This was the house God gave us. She said that so far, we had not taken any steps of faith and that God was saying to take a huge one and sell the house. I agreed to pray but truthfully I didn’t like the idea. But over the next couple of weeks God began to change my heart and I knew He was saying trust me. Velda asked a coworker who had recently sold a house what the process was like and how much did the pay the realtor. The friend said that cost it them about $8000 in commission but they didn’t really miss it. Velda came home and asked me if we could sell our house without a realtor, could we use the money that would have gone to commission to drill a well for someone without clean water. I said absolutely. We sold our house by making 3 phone calls and in a month, we were moving out and the new owner was moving in. The day we sold our house, I was watching the news and the story was on the how it was the worst housing market in U.S. history. A few days later, we were able to fully fund the drilling of a well that now provides clean water to entire villages.
I was waiting on some sign from God to tell me when to sell the house. Velda was listening to what God had already told us, that He was sending us to the mission field and to trust Him. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” and God replied, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain”
That’s pretty funny to me. You want a sign? When you trust me and obey me and things work out like I told you they would, that will be your sign. If God has told you He is going to do something, He is going to do it. But sometimes he asks us to act on it in faith, Trusting with certainty that He will do what He said He would do
would, that will be your sign. If God has told you He is going to do something, He is going to do it. But sometimes he asks us to act on it in faith, Trusting with certainty that He will do what He said He would do

Be Multiplied

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
I have done a significant amount of searching over the years on what discipleship really is. There are as many different opinions as there are stars in the sky. I believe the reason for that, is it can take on so many different forms, methodologies, strategies, and definitions. We are all uniquely made by God and we are unique in how we learn, communicate, develop, and relate to Him. It is the same Holy Spirit within each believer, but how He has to go about sanctification, expressions of gifts, conviction of sin is tailored to your uniqueness I think it is important that Peter kicks off his second epistle with a blessing that we may have Grace and Peace multiplied to us in the knowledge of God. And on the most basic level but most profound level, discipleship is growing in the knowledge of God. Is that the ultimate? Isn’t that what we can spend all eternity doing and it never grow old, literally? Isn’t that the purpose of prayer, reading the word, fasting, silence and solitude, meditation? The more my knowledge of God the more I love Him. The more I love Him, the more I will obey His commands and they won’t be burdensome. Isn’t that fuel for fervency and worship? Isn’t it cool that Grace and peace are multiplied to us in our knowledge of God? Don’t miss that. There is no other all encompassing attribute of God than Grace and no more benefit of knowing Him than peace. How we make or become disciples may look different but the hope is that our knowledge of an incomprehensible God grows and as a result we are conformed to the image of Jesus our Lord.

Focusing on What You Already Know

You will not know the hidden will of God until you obey the revealed word of God. About 10 years ago, I had an overwhelming sense that God was preparing me for something specific. My daily prayer was, God what are you up to, what is your will for me? I sought Him in prayer, in His word, in the wise counsel of others, but I was not hearing Him. Then one day I heard the statement I began this with. I began to realize that there was so much that God had already given me in His word that I wasn’t really doing. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Proverbs 3:5-6Trust 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.
Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase;
Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.
Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:3-4 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
The list went on and on. As I began to ask myself, “Am I really living these things? Do I take them serious?” Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commands. Did my life look like I loved Jesus? As I focused on just living by His revealed will for me, I began to clearly see His hidden will for me. Paul sums it up nicely in Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Ask yourself today, “Am I truly living by God’s revealed word to me?” Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you the things in your life that are hindering you from the perfect will of God.