Friday, April 22, 2011


Sunday is a banner day for Christians.  Sunday we celebrate Easter.  We celebrate the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead. We celebrate a faith that centers around life and hope rather than death and despair.

Let's not get caught up in the pagan easter bunny/easter egg/Ishtar stuff.  Let's not get caught up in a discussion about the evidences pointing the truth of the resurrection.

Rather, let's just celebrate that we serve a risen savior.  Can we do that?

I believe that Jesus is alive.  I believe that He died on a cross to not only pay the price for sin but to become sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  I believe that He arose from the dead victoriously with power over death, Hell, and the grave. I believe that because He is alive we have hope.

Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps a person going - the hope of something better, something greater.  Sometimes it's the only reason to keep moving forward - the hope that there's actually something worth hoping for.
Sometimes it's the only reason to keep your head up - the hope that this valley will open up into wide open spaces.

Without the resurrection there is no hope.  Without the resurrection there is only a man who taught some things worth living by.  Without the resurrection the death on the cross is just another death. Without the resurrection we have nothing to look forward to beyond this present world.

I have to believe that Jesus is alive.  I have to believe that He is sitting even now at the right hand of the father making intercession for me.  I have to believe that in the midst of personal heartache, He is alive and well and cares for me.

This is why I celebrate Easter.  

From the time that Jesus was arrested until the morning when the stone was rolled away must have been a dark, hopeless time for His disciples.  Imagine the hope that must have swelled in their hearts as they began to hear reports of that He lived again.  Thomas doubted, surely a defense mechanism to keep from being disappointed again.  Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.  Imagine the joy that must have filled their hearts as Jesus stood among them and said simply, "Peace."  Imagine the rapture of Mary's heart as she heard Him speak her name in the garden.

How does scripture put it? "Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

The resurrection morning was a morning filled with joy, hope, and the washing away of the pain of the days leading up to it.

We all need a resurrection morning sometimes.  We all need to come to the end of weeping and experience joy.  This is why I celebrate Easter.  Because even if I have nothing else to rejoice in....even if I am blinded to anything else worthy of rejoicing in by pain, heartbreak, or circumstances...the fact remains Jesus is alive if my rejoicing can only begin at an empty tomb, then let it begin and grow from there.

He is risen...He is risen indeed!.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Disclaimer: I am not feeling like this today, rather I am claiming what I know to be true even though I don't feel it at all. Sometimes we have to claim His promises to make them real in our lives.  I have to claim and believe this today, even though I don't feel it.

We've all heard the phrase "alone in a crowd."  That phrase carries no greater meaning for me than when I am  experiencing hurt, fear, frustration, or I am  just confused by things that life may throw at me.  

Pain and heartache have a way of doing that to everyone.  (If I use "we" or "us" please understand that I mean ME as much as anyone else - probably moreso.)  We feel isolated in whatever we are facing even if we are facing similar circumstances to others around us.  

God tells us through Paul though, "That no temptation has befallen us except that which is common to man..."  I understand that temptation is different from trials and tribulation, but the principal is the same.  The common thread among humanity is that we have all at one time or another experienced loss, heartbreak, pain, or confusion.  The other common thread among us is that we normally feel like no one in this world can understand how we feel, or in my case, doesn't want to have to put up with us when we are down.  

It's easy to feel alone, and in feeling alone it's easy to get stuck in feeling forsaken by everyone...even God.  

One of the first commentaries that God made about humanity is that it is "not good that man should be alone."  God didn't create us to be creatures of complete solitude.  He made us with a need for companionship, family, and friendship.  As sin blasted its way into creation, everything got broken.  Humanity was broken, creation was broken, and our relationship with God was broken.  

In His infinite love and mercy though, God declared to us that He would NEVER leave us or forsake us.  

I am a child of God.  He is my Heavenly Father, and I can approach the throne of grace boldly.  He has told us time and time again throughout His word that He loves us and cares about us. He also promises to provide for our every need.  

So many times we limit our needs to the physical things of this world.  We need food, shelter, clothing, and we may very well to trust God with those things.  What about the emotional and spiritual side of our being?  Don't we have real needs to be met in those areas as well?  If we trust God for food and shelter, why not trust Him for peace and comfort?  Why not trust God for fulfillment and to truly bind up a broken heart?  

Maybe it's because we want to be ok RIGHT NOW.  Maybe it's because I want to be ok RIGHT NOW.  Pain hurts.  It's not fun.  A broken heart will suck the life out of a person.  Confusion will stop us in our tracks and fill us with fear on what step to take next.  

But pain helps us grow, broken hearts teach us how to love others, confusion causes us to seek the right answers and from them become all the wiser.   

So while the pain and heartbreak and confusion may not be immediately taken away from us by God, He promises to be right there in the midst of it with us. 

Consider Elijah the prophet.  Here's a guy who called fire down from Heaven, killed the prophets of Baal, by his word the skies refused to rain, and by his word rain fell again.  In a moment of fear, he ran for his life.   Even while he was on the run God did not forsake him.  He sent a meal in the wilderness and spoke softly in the mountain.  

Then there's Peter.  Peter who denied having any association with Jesus while Jesus was going through the hardest time in his life.  After Jesus rose from the dead he stood on a beach with Peter and confirmed that he wasn't done with Peter.  He hadn't forsaken Peter. 

What an amazing truth that even when we aren't faithful to God, He is still so faithful to us! 

Jesus cried from the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  Jesus, in agony, experienced God turning away from Him so that we would never have to experience the hopeless despair of loneliness apart from God.  Christ was forsaken so that we would never be.  

I don't always feel it.  I don't always walk in it. But I have to always believe that I am unforsaken.  God has not forgotten me.  God has not abandoned me.  God has not finished with me.  

I am unforsaken. I am never alone.  I have a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  I have a father who holds me in His arms when I am wounded and weary.  

Alone in a crowd? I know what that feels like.  Completely alone?  I will never have to experience that because God will never leave me nor forsake me.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011


In Genesis, God provided Adam and Eve with a more perfect covering than they could provide for themselves.
Then, He provided safety and deliverance for Noah and his family.
Later, He provided Himself a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice.
In Exodus, He provided for the children of Israel manna from Heaven, water from a rock, and shoes that didn't wear out.
He provided David with victory over the giant.
He provided Solomon with wisdom to rule.
He provided Elijah the sustenance the go on, and a remnant that hadn't bowed to Baal for encouragement.
He provided Nehemiah a vision.
He provided Jonah a big fish, and shade.
He provided Job restoration.
He provided Mary and Joseph a stable.
He provided the fishermen a great catch.
He provided thousands a meal.
He provided Peter forgiveness.
At the cross, He provided perfect atonement for sin.
At the tomb, He provided victory of Death and Hell.
In the Upper Room He provided the promised Holy Spirit.
To countless saints He has provided the courage to stand in the midst of great persecution.
He provides peace to the troubled heart, love to the lonely, peace to the troubled, comfort to the hurting, joy to the sorrowful, grace to the unworthy, mercy to the sinner, wisdom to the unwise, understanding to the simple, and more and more and more.

He is Jehovah Jireh (the Lord provides).

In the midst of trouble, sorrow, trials, or pain, it's hard to see God as our provider.  So often we give credit to God only for allowing things in life to go the way we DON'T want them to go.  It is so easy to allow the flesh to focus on what we feel is not being provided.

Let me rephrase:

It is so easy FOR ME to allow MY flesh to focus on what I feel is not being provided. It is so easy to for me to feel overwhelmed.  It is so easy to slip into despair over all the weight of ministry to kids that I truly love.  It is so easy to feel helpless when they are hurting.  It is so easy to want to the throw the towel in.

We live in a broken world.  When sin entered the world, man turned his right of dominion over to the enemy.  Sin affected creation as much as it has affected humanity.  So there is suffering, brokeness, and hard times.  When these things come upon us, the temptation is to drop our head in defeat and give in to the pressures of life.

I don't mind admitting that halfway through this week things have felt pretty overwhelming from a ministry standpoint.  Two different families.  Two very similar tragedies.  And in the midst of it all kids who look to those of us who minister for answers.

I am ashamed to admit that, as I heard about the second tragedy today, I felt so overwhelmed and completely not up to the task of ministry before me that I considered, for the first time in over a decade of ministry, dropping out.  What can I do?  How can I help?  I am unable to be effective in these times.

In the darkness He provides light.
In despair He provides hope.

"...afflicted in every way, BUT NOT CRUSHED, perplexed, BUT NO DESPAIRING, persecuted, BUT NOT FORSAKEN, struck down, BUT NOT DESTROYED..."

Jehovah Jireh.  The Lord is my provider.

Once again, the enemy went to far.  He attempted to deceive me beyond what I was willing to believe.  Give up ministry?  Not on your life.  I don't do ministry out of a sense of duty.  I don't do ministry because there's nothing else I can do.  I don't even minister based on a calling.  I minister to students because I love them.

The Lord provided me determination.  Determination to stand against the pain, to stand against the confusion, to stand for my kids and the kids of my community.

If the Lord Himself will encourage me in the midst of discouragement, how much more will He provide what I need.

I confess in recent weeks my focus shifted in the wrong direction. In dealing not only spiritually, but I truly believe psychologically with different things that I chose to ignore or put to the side, my heart was once again burdened with the weight of despair.

BUT MY GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS CHILDREN. He has not forsaken me, He has not dismissed me, He has not finished with me.  Jesus Christ is my advocate.

While I must still be willing to properly deal with things that I never truly dealt with, I must start with casting my cares on God, because He cares for me, and He will provide ALL that I need.

He has proven Himself faithful time and time again, and as the song says, "He'll do it again."

When situations, circumstances, failures, and mistakes seem to overwhelm....He will provide.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


How did I get back to this spot?  How have I wound up back to a place where I started?  I was winning. I was experiencing victory over my past, my self, and the schemes of the enemy.


Attrition is the constant wearing away at something. In war, to win by attrition means that while it may appear the battle is won, and that you are superior to your adversary, your adversary was persistent enough and did enough damage that in the aftermath of the battle it is hard to recover if you can recover at all due to all the damage.

Our enemy, Satan, has been around for a long time, and will be here after we are gone from this Earth. He is skilled at the art of winning by attrition.  I never really considered this.

James tells us, "Submit, therefore, to God.  Resist the Devil and he will flee from you."

Have I relied too much on my self?  Have I forgotten so quickly that God's grace is sufficient?  Have I forgotten just how much I need to daily rely on God?  Am I really that...gullible?  Am I really that fleshly?  Am I really that human?

One of the unexpected things about the journey I've taken over the past few months is the psychological side of things. There's a lot that I never dealt with in my life.  I look back through the years and rather than deal with problems, failures, mistakes, or hurts, I kind of swept them over to the side and kept moving forward...that's what you're supposed to do right?  In a way, I guess you are.  But truly moving forward means dealing with things as they happen. Letting yourself grieve a broken heart properly, stopping to deal with a sin problem, evaluating failure and learning from it properly, even celebrating success and putting it in the right context, all need to be done in the right way.  Otherwise, it all comes back to you when you're at your weakest.

There's a lot of things in my life that I never properly dealt with.  Where there was failure I ran or made excuses.  Where there was hurt, I shrugged it off and pretended nto to be bothered...and even convinced myself I was ok.  Where there was success, I shined it up real nice and held it up for everyone to see and tell me how great I am.  Where there was sin...I swept it under the rug and acted like it didn't exist...ignore it and it will go away.  Right?

So, in the aftermath of my chaotic experience with grace, in the joy that came with a pretty substantial spiritual victory, with the openess and honesty that came with finally trusting my family in Christ to bear my burdens as I helped bear theirs, came an unexpected flood of things that I had never properly dealt with.


Coupled with my current state of mind, I feel like I am worn down to (as we say in the south) a nub.  If it's not my current situation of my own doing, I'm reminded of all that I haven't accomplished.  If it's not being reminded of all I haven't accomplished, I find myself focusing on a deep cut that I never really let myself deal with before.  If it's not that, it's church stuff.  If it's not that, it's my current situation.

Then, as if out of nowhere, I suddenly know what Paul meant when he said (and I paraphrase from Romans) "the things I want to do I don't do, and the things I don't want to do I do."

He goes on to exclaim:

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The answer is the same as it has been all along.  Jesus.  His grace is sufficient.  When the enemy comes in like a flood...God's grace is sufficient.   When the enemy stalks like a lion ready for the kill...God's grace is sufficient.  When the enemy chips away at our joy, our spirit, and steadily wears us down...God's grace is sufficient.

So, yeah, I'm still trying to find my smile and leave it firmly in place.  I know where I need to look..."I lift my eyes up to the hills, and where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord which made the Heavens and the Earth."  

I was suprised when the dust began to settle and the smoke cleared and I was a little more battered than I thought.  But, I also know that when, in God's timing, I stand to fight, it is truly His joy that will be my strength.  It is His grace that will sustain me.  

So my prayer is that He helps me to daily understand this.