Beautifully Broken

It always comes.

Another loss. Another sorrow. Another walk down another hard road. Once again your sovereign hand guides me into the valley of the shadow. The struggle intensifies and the road becomes hard but you are with me.

In the deepest and darkest depths the lessons from high are challenged. Will the ache to be faithful overcome the ache to give-up? You comfort me.

You gather fragments in your pierced hands. Jagged edges mar your flesh. Still, your grip tightens. You press in. You never let go. You restore my soul, for your namesake.

Piece by devastated piece you will build something new. You will build something that never would have been without the wounds that burrow even deeper into You. You prepare something good for me. 

Your love, your mercy, and your promise to restore makes the broken beautiful.

My cup overflows. You are my shepherd. I shall not want.

*from the archives

Vacation Bible School War

Like many other churches in our city, we are gearing up for a fun filled week of Vacation Bible School (sometimes called Vacation Bible Camp). Posters and signs blanket the community promising an action-filled, energetic, and faith-building week.

And the enemy prowls.

He would love to twist our desire to reach and teach the next generation into a contest between churches.

  • Who will draw the largest crowd?
  • Who will create the best backdrop?
  • Who will “out VBS” the rest of us?

But it’s not church against church. It is church beside church.

It is one line of multi-denominational believers linking arms together. It is a sea of voices louder than my church and louder than your church joining in one battle cry to wage war against the forces of darkness.

To all those bible teaching, Jesus-loving, faith-building churches in my community, I exhort you with Paul’s command:

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood. During the week of your bible camp, your biggest struggle will not be the child with ADD. It will not be the child who is homesick or even the child with the fiercest temper. Your biggest struggle is against the cosmic powers over this present darkness. The enemy wants you to believe that VBS is nothing more than glorified babysitting. Resist that slip toward apathy. Your Vacation Bible School needs YOU. This is war.

Fighting for Souls

You are picking up the sword and fighting for the soul of every child in your care. Do not be misled. Expect trials. Expect difficulty. Prepare yourself, as Paul commands. And then, pledge to pray for your brothers and sisters on battle lines drawn all across your city.

To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Make supplication for me, that words may be given so that I can boldly proclaim the mysteries of the gospel. Make supplication for the church next door that faithfully proclaims the Word of our Lord.

May the Word be declared boldly and God be glorified all across our cities.

Can I really be anxious for nothing?

He preached it on a Sunday. Do not be anxious. Then he confessed the irony of his growing apprehension as the Sunday deadline rushed closer. Even the preacher knows anxiety.

But he knows anxiousness is only a symptom of the deeper problem. The problem isn’t anxiety, he says. The problem is a distracted heart that strays from God and divides the mind. If you seek first God’s kingdom, the Spirit of God is able to refocus the heart on what matters because life is about more than what worries us. Seek first the things of God over the things of the world.

And now it’s my turn. It would be easy to spiral downward with these questions: Am I parenting right? Are the children learning everything they need to know? Do they know how desperately, whole heartedly, and unconditionally I love them?

Will we have enough money to retire? Should we be saving for college? Do we invest, pay down the mortgage, fix up the house, or just give it all away?

Will my third novel get picked up? Will the others continue to sell or tank? Should I write more or should I invest in more education?

God knows what my children need. He gave them to us. Therefore,  we are the right parents for these little ones. Will we parent perfectly? No! Can God work through our humble and sincere efforts to glorify Him and steer our children toward Him? Yes! How it is accomplished? Prioritize the things of the Lord.

When I consider the lilies of the field, how can I worry about our future needs? God cares for the sparrows, and He will care for me. Prioritize God and He promises to care for me.

And the book(s)? If my heart is truly in the proper place of desiring to glorify God with my ability, than WHATEVER He decides to do with my offering will be right and enough. Prioritize getting the message right, proclaiming His Word unashamedly and with boldness. God can take care of the rest.

Seek first the kingdom of God, and God not only provides what we need, He is delighted to give us the kingdom.

Seek Him first, in everything.

*from the archives

A Mechanic Named Jesus

We hit the road this week for a family holiday. We cross into another country. We spend the night at a hotel. On day two, a horrid sound grinds from the front right tire.

We exit. We find a garage. We get the estimate. We call our garage back home and might get some work covered under warranty.

We can be frustrated, or we can trust God.

Rewind.

We hit the road this week for a family holiday. We cross into another country. We spend the night at a hotel. On day two, a horrid sound grinds from under the front right tire.

We limp off the road and what do we see? A garage. They have time to see us immediately. We go out for lunch and wait. We receive the estimate and later learn some is covered under warranty. We wait in an air-conditioned, wifi-enabled area. Kevin naps. The kids watch Disney Channel (which is a real treat since we don’t have that channel). I finish my last lesson in Old Testament Narratives summer school. (I’m a 1/4 of the way through the course and it’s only June – whoo hoo!!).

We have dinner, get back on the road, and the song playing on the radio is “Blessings” by Laura Story. I sing along: “Maybe the trials in this life are (God’s) mercies in disguise.” We look over our invoice from the garage note that the garage manager, with whom we worked today, is named Jesus.

God’s fingerprints are all over this delay and just in case we missed it, he sends a mechanic named Jesus.

Paradox

Find by losing. Receive by giving.

Rule by serving. Lead by following. Live by dying.

Weakness is strength.

The first are last. The poor are the rich. The slaves are free.

We are saint and sinner, flesh and soul, old and new.

He lifts high the low. He exalts the humble.

God is one but three, fully God and fully man. He is far and near, beyond and within.

His Word is written by God, penned by man, and became flesh.

He was born to perish. He surrendered for victory. He died and yet lives.

Praise the Lord!

*from the archives

Dress for the life you want

My dad once offered me this advice. He said, “Don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want.”

I hit the work force dressed in attire that reflected who I wanted to become. This motivated me to act like the person I hoped to one day be. I went above and beyond entry-level responsibilities, working my way into a desired position.

This also applies to my life as a ministry partner and as child of God. READ MORE

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