At year’s end, the Mississippi Delta is even more atmospheric than usual…
At year’s end, the Mississippi Delta is even more atmospheric than usual…
Endings can be hard. Beginnings can be harder.
We enter a new year often with fresh aspirations and new dreams. We plan. We make resolutions. We make promises to ourselves. Less dessert. More exercise. Better attitude.
Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we falter with the follow-through, and at other moments we just give up. Why do we stop short when we could succeed if we pressed ahead? The answer is simple: we don’t want it badly enough to continue. Someone once said that we only seek something different when the pain of remaining the same exceeds the pain of change.
God will sometimes lead us into a season change by the pain of a burden. He will give a desire to see His will accomplished and will fan the embers of that passion toward His mission.
Take Nehemiah for example. The walls of Jerusalem had been torn down over 140 years earlier at the time of the events recording in the beginning of the book of Nehemiah. He was serving as the cupbearer to the king and, when he asked someone about how things were in Jerusalem, he heard that the walls were still torn down. This was not exactly what one might call breaking news as they had been that way for some time. But the point is not how long the walls had been down, but how passionately Nehemiah responded: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (1:4).
It may have been old news, but it was a fresh burden.
So too, at this dawning of a new year, perhaps you need some divine sparks dropped into what seems like a cold hope. Maybe you have broken-down walls around you for which God wants to give you a burden for His change. And maybe you are facing old news, but a fresh burden from God will make you see things in a new light.
Nehemiah does return to Jerusalem, and he and the people rebuild the wall. Though they worked hard, faced opposition and pushed through difficulties, ultimately it was a divine mission favored by the Lord. In chapter 6 of the account, we find evidence of God’s hand at work in the rebuilding efforts: “So the wall was finished of the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly into their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (6:15-16).
A God-sized mission is only accomplished by God-given power.
As we begin this year, would you ask God to give you a fresh burden for what He wants to do in your life? Would you ask Him to break your heart for what breaks His? Would you ask Him to help you to see others as He sees them? Would you ask that He would give you a mission that you can only accomplish with His power so He is the only one who receives the glory?
Seek to fulfill His mission no matter the cost, because it is worth anything to make Him known.
It’s safe to say that there was time when you did not consider you would feel this way right now.
You didn’t expect to be grieving.
You didn’t expect to feel such loss.
You didn’t expect to have a big, empty space inside when everyone else seems so very full of cheer.
You have questions too – questions that you might not ask aloud, but they still haunt your heart…
“When will this ‘new normal’ they talk about begin?”
“Will I ever breathe without this lump in my throat and the ache in my chest?”
“Will I truly laugh again?”
I wish I could give you counsel and wisdom that would assuage all your pain and heal your heart, but I cannot offer such gifts. All I can give is a few things that I, a fellow traveler on a road of grief and loss, have learned over the last few years. These truths have not eliminated the hurt, but they have provided some clarity and perspective that make a bit more sense of the journey and bring some hope to a soul longing for the light.
Death, grief and pain are common, but not natural.
Being a lead pastor and having served on church staff for a number of years, I am often in the company of death and suffering. Many times, when someone tries to offer encouragement to others, these phrases are used…
“Death is a natural part of life.”
“Pain is just natural, so we must learn to deal with it.”
“It’s natural to experience suffering.”
Those all sound quite pat and are accepted adages, but they are not accurate statements. Suffering, hurt and the end of life are common, yes. These things occur regularly. They afflict all who draw breath at some point in time. That is part of living as a human. But they are not natural. In other words, just because it happens to all, does not mean it is supposed to happen at all.
The plan was for humanity to live in perfect relationship and fellowship with God himself for eternity. We were fashioned for that reality. When sin entered the world, death and suffering entered as well (Romans 5:12). As a result of the corruption of perfection, we know that something about human pain is not right at all. It is unnatural. That is one reason it hurts us so deeply: it is not the way it is supposed to be.
God, in his mercy, sent Adam and Eve from the Garden after sin came into the world thus ensuring their physical deaths. We can say rightly that this was an act of mercy, because had they remained in the sinful state and continued to eat of the Tree of Life, they would have lived forever separated from God (Genesis 3:21-22). Though unnatural, our physical death became a means by which God could reunite us with himself through the sacrifice of Christ. It’s common, and it’s a hard mercy, but it is not natural.
Grief is a personal process.
Often someone will say to the grieving person, “I know exactly how you feel.”
That is a wonderful sentiment, usually offered as a statement to show empathy on the part of the speaker, but even then, the statement is not truly accurate. A person may know the same type of feeling and may have experienced something very similar, but no one knows exactly how you feel in your pain. It is impossible to do so.
You hold specific memories and enjoyed experiences with your departed loved one that no one else had, so your loss is highly specific to you.
There were moments of your lost relationship or ended marriage that are burned into your heart and mind that you sort through personally.
Your secret pain belongs to you; no matter how many have walked similar roads, the individual twists and bends are unique to your journey.
The Psalmist was no stranger to personal pain. “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:16-18). Notice how pointedly individualistic the suffering is for him: “my heart,” “my distresses,” “my affliction” and “my trouble.” Might I remind you that this is recorded in the Bible itself and evidence that the people of God are not immune from pain.
Grief is common, but not natural; grief is not general, but personal.
It is also a process. You don’t get better overnight. Jeremiah penned the raw words, “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?” (Jeremiah 15:18). It’s personal (‘my pain,” “my wound”), but also a process that he feels has no end. There indeed is a “time to mourn” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). The process of grief is a process of healing. To rush along is to rob oneself of the wholeness built along the way.
Like you, I have heard people at times say, “Cheer up! You have so many things going for you! Stop grieving; you should just have your hope in Jesus!” Every time I hear someone say things like that to me or others, I think of the proverb, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Proverbs 25:20). It’s foolish to take off a coat on a cold day, irritating or even painful to take the coat from someone else and leave them freezing, and vinegar poured on baking soda fizzes and bubbles but accomplishes little. Essentially, when we encourage someone to ignore genuine grief, we leave the person chilled with meaningless words.
Grief. Takes. Time. Give it the time it takes.
God is not indifferent.
Psalm 77 has been my default passage when I feel forgotten by God. The raw and unabashed honesty of the writer in his state of grief stands as a minor monument to the reality of suffering in our lives. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9). In your suffering, it is easy to believe that God has misplaced you or overlooked your plight, or worse still, that he sees you in your pain and has decided to remain inactive.
But God is not indifferent to human suffering. I am reminded of John 11. When Jesus visits the tomb of Lazarus, he weeps. Now why did he weep, knowing that he planned to raise his friend from the dead? Certainly, given the earlier conversations with his disciples, it was in his plan to allow the death of Lazarus in order to show his power over the grave. But weeping? The reality of hope does not erase the sting of grief. Even God understands that.
God knows where you are.
God loves you.
And God offers genuine concern when his children hurt, just as any good father would. Scripture points to the hard reality that we mourn, and shows us that comfort will come (Matthew 5:4), and God will bring that comfort.
Perhaps the hardest part of grief, regardless of the season, is the next hour. Each day seems to be unending. Grief nearly suspends time, slowing it to a crawl, and then extracts a moment-by-moment toll.
“Those who sow in tears, shall reap with shouts of joy” (Psalm 126:5). That is the difficult thing: sowing in tears. You sow to reap; you reap to eat. No sowing means no survival.
Despite your grief, you go shopping, buy groceries, clean your home, wash your clothes, go to work, make dinner and do the hundreds of different things that you must do in life. These are things that may have never seemed to be burdens before, but now, in the pain, they seem like Herculean tasks.
You sow in tears.
And those around you carry on with their own lives, busy with their own trouble and seemingly oblivious to your hurt. You might want cry out, “Don’t you know that things are not OK? Can’t you see the pain?” Suffering is an isolating experience. Psalm 88:18 reads, “Darkness has become my only companion.” The closest thing to you in hurt is the darkness, yet you want to articulate the grief to someone.
You just keep sowing. And keep crying.
But the promise for a time of reaping remains.
A time will come when things are better. All things will be set right on the day that Jesus removes all our pain for good. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). That will be a time of the greatest harvest of all.
But maybe you don’t have to wait until then. Perhaps you will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13). In God’s perfect timing, little by little, you’ll find your smile again, even if it seems hopelessly lost right now. Joy will come, even after great darkness. That wound you have may never be erased permanently here, but even the scar will speak of the grace given to you.
Will you ever be the same again?
No. You’ll be different. The loss will always be there in some way.
Your memories will still be bittersweet, but maybe just a bit sweeter with each passing season.
Keep sowing, even in your tears, and wait for the joy of the harvest.
(For those mourning the loss of a loved one at this time of year, this video offers some heartfelt encouragement: click here)
A few years ago, at The Living Christmas Tree in Knoxville, TN, I brought along my camera and took some shots behind the scenes. There is an energy backstage among cast and crew that can only be appreciated truly by being there, but I did my best to capture a glimpse of it.
“What do you have planned for Christmas?”
That was the message from a friend of mine waiting in my inbox recently. Perhaps others have asked you the same question, and maybe your traditions or your schedule have already determined which relatives’ homes will be visited, what meals will be eaten and when gifts will be opened. We all make plans, and Christmas can be a season of loading the calendar to the brim with activities and logistics.
But in our planning, we mustn’t forget that God has plans too. In fact, the first Christmas was His perfect plan played out on a cosmic stage. He knew what He was doing then, and He still does now. Some moments regarding the birth of Christ are clear and dramatic evidence of divine action, like the angels appearing to the shepherds, but other moments threaded through the narrative reveal God’s hand and His plan, but only after delving a little deeper.
The moment that usually comes to my mind is Bethlehem. Why were Mary and Joseph going to that particular town anyway? In a word: Rome. A bit of history may be in order to give the cultural context of the world at the time of Jesus’ birth…
A man by the name of Gaius Octavius took control of Rome in 31 BC, and three years later the Roman Senate declared Octavius to be the official emperor. Two years after that, they gave him the title “Augustus” or “exalted one.” This title was one that symbolized great authority, a power so mighty that the bearer was believed to hold sway over all humanity and even nature itself. That title has come down to us in the word “august,” which is not only the name of a month on our calendar, but is also used to describe someone or something that is impressive or respected.
This is the same Caesar Augustus mentioned in Luke chapter 2…
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (vs. 1-7).
Under Augustus, a large number of reforms took place. Massive building projects improved the city of Rome’s physical appearance and practical functionality while the extensive system of roads stretching throughout the empire was expanded. The ever-present military and firm rule over would-be rebellions and conflicts ushered in a 200-year span of great peace known as Pax Romana, or the “Roman Peace.” In addition to these changes, Augustus instituted sweeping tax reforms resulting in a systematic and direct form of taxation in all the provinces governed by Rome.
The registration (or census) decreed as described by Luke served three purposes: to identity the number of people under the control of Rome, to establish the number of young men qualified to serve in the military and to calculate taxes to be collected. None of these sat well with the Jewish population. Rome was a conquering, yet pagan, empire ruling over the subjects with an iron fist of military might and occupying the traditional homelands of others, that forced the Jews (as well as all the other nations in the area) to bend to plans of domination and taxation.
These political-financial motivations moved Augustus to make the decree, and Joseph and Mary made their way back to the hometown of their ancestor (David) to register: Bethlehem. But since “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will,” we can trust there is more going on than may first meet the eye (Proverbs 21:1).
There were two Bethlehem’s in the Holy Land; one was to the north and the other was in the south. God left nothing to guesswork about the location of the Messiah’s birthplace because He specified the southern of the two towns in a prophecy found in the book of Micah…
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days (v. 5:2).
As we zoom out and view the whole of history, we see that Augustus, the “exalted one,” in expanding an empire, issued a decree that moved the Messiah, the Annointed One, to the exact prophesied place of birth where He was born the King of Kings. Not only that, the long peace brought by Augustus’ reign and the massive network of Roman roads later allowed for the rapid spread of the gospel of Jesus throughout the known world. Only God’s hand could stitch such a pattern.
If God can orchestrate the birth of His Son at the right time in the right place, despite what may seem like harsh conditions or unfair circumstances, He can do the same in all our lesser, everyday moments of concern.
So this Christmas, when your plans are disrupted or delayed, when unfair and hard moments arise or when you find yourself unhappily trudging to your own Bethlehem, remember that God has a plan in mind, and that plan is good.
Last night, my brother, his girlfriend and I had a little meal together. Dubbed “Supper Club,” we enjoyed fresh Maine lobster courtesy of Huckberry (for winning their caption contest on Instagram), bacon-wrapped shrimp, steamed asparagus and homemade mac and cheese. And, of course, plenty of sweet tea.
I retrieved my grandparents’ old kitchen table from storage and set it out in the field where my brother and I played often as kids. That worn table has been host to countless breakfasts of cinnamon toast, biscuits and grits, lunches of fried chicken and black-eyed peas, and now, I suppose we can add lobster to the long list of meals that have graced that simple wood surface.
The meal was one to remember: full of laughter, reminders from our childhood to “sit up straight,” and nature’s own light show. The crickets chimed along as the sky lit up like county fair cotton-candy as summer slipped away once again.
Had someone taken the context of the painting away, shown me only the face and asked me to guess who it might be, Jesus would have been low on my list. In all honesty, there was a part of me that felt slightly offended by the way he looked.
There were no chiseled features.
No perfect beard.
No piercing, yet warm, eyes.
He just looked so…regular.
My view of Jesus can be too glamorous.
Certainly he is the King of the universe.
Yes, he is the unique God-man.
And all creation hinges upon him.
But then, I tend to forget about a passage in Isaiah…
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground;he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (53:2-3).
Jesus, in his humanity, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”
In his appearance, he was unremarkable.
There was nothing attractive about him.
Why does that unsettle us?
Maybe it is because we have seen so many depictions of Jesus as a beautiful human, and a plain-looking Savior clashes with the artistic precedent in our minds. The expectation of a carefully-tended Messiah was popularized largely by the mass spread of religious artwork in the mid-1900’s and standardized by Warner Sallman’s work, “Head of Christ.” The painting even looks like a celebrity headshot from the 1940’s. But a not-so-handsome Jesus? That idea pushes back against our collective, media-influenced preconception.
Maybe we forget that a God who came as a baby, was born in humble surroundings and labored as a common workman is the same God who would move among the masses for years, unknown and without fanfare, until beginning his redemptive work. And even then, his own family members did not see him as being a candidate for Messiah (Mark 3:21, John 7:5).
But perhaps the deeper reason for the distaste toward an average-looking Jesus lies in Isaiah 53:3…
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…”
Do I want my Jesus to be a regal human?
Yes, I want the human Jesus to be attractive to and accepted by society because he calls me to live as he did, and I don’t want to follow in the footsteps of rejection.
One does not aspire to rise to the example of Jesus, but must die to self and stoop to his example.
Would I have followed Jesus back then?
Would I have dismissed him?
Would I have been put off by his appearance instead of receiving the beauty of his message?
But a more pressing question is this…
Do I avoid following Jesus as closely as I should because I know rejection follows that kind of faithfulness?
“Position before submission.”
Those were the words spoken to me by an instructor in a martial arts class as I steadily ratcheted the force on my opponent in an attempt to make him tap out and thus end the match. The problem was not in a lack of force, but in the subtle details of the placement of the force. A corrective nudge with my elbow, a shift in my body posture and then a slight angle change caused a sharp cry of pain followed by the frantic slapping of my leg by my opponent’s hand. The submission followed the position.
What is true in physical combat is also true in spiritual battle.
To the church at Ephesus, Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We wrestle against evil. We grapple with it. We do not participate in sterile, long-distance attack but heated, hand-to-hand, close-quarter combat. Satan works to position us for our fall. He is both sneaky and strategic. We are warned to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). He has wiles and deceitful plots fabricated for humanity as a whole, but also personalized for you.
Those crafty, evil plans executed with patience are designed to lead us astray, not only in the moment of submission, but in the time of positioning. We expect a frontal assault, not a systematic reduction of our defenses.
We make the mistake of believing Satan will always come as a roaring lion instead of an angel of light (1 Peter 5:8, 2 Corinthians 11:14).
Sometimes the subtlety is astounding.
James 1:17 shows us that every good and perfect gift comes from God (an idea I have expounded upon more here), but Satan would love for us to turn a good gift bad and cause us to stumble over the good thing God has given.
“But wait,” some would object. “But every good gift is from God, and Satan always works against the things of God! How could those things be used that way?”
Some things we view as good may not be truly from God, and some good things from God can be used by our flesh (the habits of who you are before you know Christ or that unredeemed part of our humanity) and used by Satan to work against us. But the thing we must remember is this: Satan will allow us to enjoy a short-term victory in order to lead us to a long-term failure.
That is a “blessing from below.” You undertake a cause, begin a relationship or move in a direction, and Satan might fight you at every step…or he just might allow you to have success in that particular area, and you move forward unimpeded not realizing that his plan is a push toward destruction made easy by your forward momentum.
When I learned to drive, my father taught me that, at night, I could accelerate beyond my speed to react to the limited amount of road I could see in the headlights. I could “outrun my light.” In the same way, Satan sometimes removes constraints so you can run freely, only to outrun your ability to slow down and careen out of control.
Sometimes the victory is used as part of the attack.
There is an old Japanese proverb: “After victory, tighten your helmet cords.” Success does not always eliminate the threat entirely. Dropping one’s guard can result in a renewed assault. The best course of action is vigilance in victory – tightening the helmet cords. When you win a spiritual battle, you are vulnerable to attacks because the tendency is to relax and strip off your armor. A win can be as deadly as a loss.
Few things will embitter you as quickly as someone else’s success, and few things will blind you as quickly as your own. The ease of success is not always from God. Satan will allow you to set yourself up for a fall by permitting success while knowing your flesh will seek to betray you. Your flesh will never be satisfied with spiritual wins, but will seek self-destructive gains. The ever-present traitor waits and works to destroy your spiritual well-being. Your flesh is loyal to the old you. Your flesh resists the regime change.
The blessing from below comes not only in the form of fighting the reception of the good thing, but in allowing you to pursue that good thing in the wrong way. Evil does not always come knocking at our front door in an attempt to cause us to hate God in an outright fashion; often it slips in the back door and distracts us with other, lesser things.
We might not hate God, but it is just as destructive to love other things more than Him.
So how do ready ourselves?
Set you mind and be on guard against the blessings from below (1 Peter 1:13).
Test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Walk with care (Ephesians 5:15-16).
Your enemy will help water your garden knowing that it can grow to the point where it blocks out your view of the sun.
Sweet Pea, one of my mom’s horses, looked on with a placid stare as I growled, hissed and spat in the moments after a large, mahogany-colored paper wasp rammed its stinger into my lower eyelid. I was cleaning out the horse’s trough so I could feed her when the dive-bomb attack occurred. It was sudden, unprovoked and, all things considered, a dirty, sucker punch orchestrated in a brain the size of a pinhead. Continue reading
“The Chick-fil-A Rap,” the latest offering in the video pantheon of Emily Powell, sings the praises of the humble yardbird and elevates the ubiquitous food to a near-divine pedestal of ambrosial satisfaction. The understated opening begins with a tracking shot of the rapper Diggle-Wiggle walking across the parking lot of a popular Chick-fil-A (a specific location, I might add, that has been the source of a couple of deeply meaningful meals for this reviewer). As he enters, the revelatory shift comes: he is no mere customer, but a poultry evangelist. With the confident swagger and pleading earnestness of a tent revivalist, Wiggle warms to his theme of the desire for, or more accurately, the necessity of, menu item #7 (the biblical number of perfection). As his testimony builds, a robe-clad choir punctuates and encapsulates the message with the refrain: “Ain’t got nothing if I ain’t got Chick-fil-A.” Clearly, this is serious, life-or-death business. Only great providence meets the most desperate of needs.
The mood takes a somber and contemplative turn as P-Nasty makes her entrance. Stealing in under the cover of darkness, she confesses to falling away from the way of the Baptist bird. We are left to draw our own conclusions as to where her wayward path might have taken her. She may have succumbed to burgers sold by a clown, been lured by border foods wrapped in border foods held together with cheese, or perhaps she listened to the siren’s song of a purveyor of promised 11 secret herbs and spices (a number symbolizing disorder, something far from perfection). Whatever her transgressions, she knows that no other eatery offers the fellowship and membership under the beacon of the red-lettered sign. But to receive the invitation, she must make the journey; she must cross the road.
As she enters, the darkness dissipates as choir members welcome P-Nasty back to the flock. She spreads her arms in wing-like fashion as her hard-core street attire is enrobed in the dress of the faithful. Her sins are covered, and she is lifted up.
The prodigal has returned.
The party begins.
The fatted calf is feasted upon. (Or in this case, sweet tea is lavishly poured out as a drink offering.)
Ultimately, “The Chick-fil-A Rap” is not about chicken at all, but the grand themes of life. Wherever you may have fallen, mercy is available under the caring wings. The call goes out for all. Celebration follows reconciliation. Straying, redemption and returning home–it’s all there, distilled into 3 minutes and 21 seconds (3 being the number of divine unity and 21 being a multiple of 7 and 3…make of it what you will).
This work of art demonstrates definitively that P-Nasty’s words ring true: “I’m not finished; I’m just beginning.”
Click here for video.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. – Ephesians 2:4-7
I forget all too easily.
I am His kid. In His presence. Before His throne.
Not only that, He has other children.
People I forget to see that way at times.
People I forget are standing in His light just as I am.
People He calls His beloved.
People in His very presence, vessels of His Spirit.
My seat mates in the heavenly places.
And when I forget that…
I stop acting like His child.
I forget I am His son,
Step away from the light and into my own darkness.
And I treat others like people they are not.
I needed to be reminded of the throne room.
And who I am.
And who others are.
And Who He is.
She named the dog “Mercedes.”
It’s an unlikely name, given the way he looked and where he was found. But I suppose that the name itself reflects the nature of the gift given. True mercy often runs contrary to the expected, and the greatest acts of grace always smell of scandal.
But then, I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading
By most standards, he blew it.
He seems to have been a bold one — charging ahead, seemingly without concern, the proverbial bull-in-the-china-shop with his own foot firmly in his mouth. Misspeaking was common, his overstepping of bounds was likely expected, and if one knew him, it seems that his generally-brash demeanor would come as no big surprise. Peter was quick to say exactly what was on his mind at any given moment. But then he went too far, even for himself. Continue reading
(Originally published in 2016.)
Blind Willie Johnson seemed to know early on that his future lay at the crossroads of two vocations. He built a cigar box guitar for himself when he was only five and told his father that proclaiming the things of God to the masses was his desire. He grew to become a preacher, and yes, a bluesman too. The story goes that, when he was seven, his father beat Willie’s unfaithful stepmother; she took bitter revenge by throwing lye in the young boy’s face, permanently blinding him.
You will face a series of tests in your walk with Christ. There is no way to avoid it. How you view the tests will be determined by how you view God. If you see Him in the wrong way, you will see your trial in the wrong way. The life of Joseph reveals some of the tests you might face.
To all of you who have followed, commented and taken the time to read these posts since this blog began. Your support means more to me than I can express. I wish I could sit down with you over a cup of coffee and hear your story. Maybe one day… Continue reading
A while ago, I wrote the post “How To Pray for Your Future Wife” here on my blog. What started as my own prayer list turned into something more. The response was overwhelming at the time, and it still stands as the most-viewed and most-shared post on the site. Since the original posting, I have received emails from numerous countries and have partnered in prayer with others across the globe who connected with me because of how God used that single post. I am deeply humbled by the encouragement, the stories and the prayers that you, the readers, have shared with me.
In my original post, I encouraged men to remain sensitive to God’s leading when He gave new prayer topics personally applicable to each individual situation. Taking my own advice, I began praying in new ways in addition to those mentioned in the first “How To Pray for Your Future Wife” post. Most of these 31 “new” prayer points were the result of the prompting of God during reading the Bible, some came from listening to the struggles and concerns voiced by women I know, and some arose during my own prayer times. So, in the same vein as the post that started this journey with the readers, I invite you to step into the deeper waters of prayer for your own “Miss Pending.”
But before we begin, can I ask you a personal question? It is a question that has been pressed upon my heart as of late… Continue reading
If God said “yes” to all your prayers, would your character be able to bear it?
Could you treat His gifts to you as treasures?
Or would pride and selfishness be the result?