Yeah, to every parent out there, you are welcome for that ear worm. If you don’t know what I am talking about…be grateful. It has been an interesting couple of weeks. My family and I just returned from a month in Virginia. It was the first time I had been back on my native soil in over fifteen years and while everything looked familiar, everything and everyone had definitely changed. For the months that proceeded our trip east I had struggled with whether or not to even go but every time I would say no, I felt God saying yes. Driving our rig through the West Virginia mountains and crossing the state line into the state that had been my home for most of my childhood felt like coming home even though I also felt that I no longer belonged there.
Over the next month I visited people and places that were close to my heart and at every step I heard God’s voice saying “Remember who you are.” Okay, okay I know someone out there is saying, “isn’t that what Mufasa said to Simba” and yes it is. About halfway through the month I looked up those words and that’s when I saw the scene from Lion King. Now that I am back home and sitting here typing those words I am hearing James Earl Jones voice in my memory. However, hand on the Bible, that is what I kept hearing. My wife and I sat at the table over a cup of coffee every night talking about what God was doing. Think of spending a month just having your past stirred up and God standing there continually telling you to look at it. The good, the bad, the painful and the joyful all mixed together giving you a view of who you were and who you have become. That was my month back home.
I think even my wife learned things about me because over those evening coffees I would tell her about the places that I had pointed out that day. Places where my life, to that point, was destroyed, moments where the trajectory of my life suddenly and sometimes painfully changed. But every place, every moment, every action and every decision led me to the life that I am living now. One of those places was a driveway in front of a home that my family lived in. As I looked at the house, that held a new family now, I could see myself standing in the middle of that old gravel driveway holding a rejection letter in one hand, wiping away tears with the other and believing my future was gone. The driveway that painfully closed the door on a future that I had prepared for my entire childhood opened the door to the life I now lead, the wife that I fall deeper in love with everyday, the children that are the lights of my life and the eyes that show me a world that I have forgotten, and the mentors that have taught me more than I could ever have imagined.
Another day I sat in my grandparents’ home that had been the only place that never changed. As my parents moved more than I ever did in the military, my grandparents’ home was a haven, a place that never changed and always felt like a second home. Even though the walls were now a different color and the furniture had changed it was still the same house, it was still the same home, the memories were there. As I sat in the den, I saw myself growing up and changing as my world changed around me. All of those years, all of those memories held in this one place and I heard every one of them telling me the same thing. Remember who you are.
So I did and I started by remembering a scripture that God had given me at a very young age. Over the years, I have called it my life scripture and it and has been on my heart every day since it was given to me.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as an [inspired man] to the nations.”
If you do not know already, the Holy Bible has been translated from primarily from Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) and one of the chief problems with translating is the language that is being translated into, in this case English, does not have enough words to properly convey what is being said. I bracketed “inspired man” in the scripture above because the word prophet is used there but it does not convey the proper sentiment in this scripture. In the original Hebrew there are three words generally used for the word prophet: Nabi, Roeh and Hozeh. As I understand it, the prophets that have the ability to see or perceive things that are to come are the Roeh and the Hozeh. The Hebrew word used for prophet in Jeremiah 1:5 is Nabi. Nabi quite literally translates “to bubble up” and one that the Spirit of God stirs up. A Nabi is an announcer and revealer of God that cannot help declaring the truth of the Lord.
As anyone who knows me can attest, when I get to talking about the Lord I get more and more excited and I begin to just speak the truth of the word. It gets me excited and I love finding and telling new truths found in the Word of God. When we were back home I would start speaking about God’s truth and I noticed that I would begin teaching and preaching. It was not intentional but it was that spirit that God put within me and calling that God put on my life all of those years ago. Even now I can feel my spirit bubbling up and my typing keeps speeding up as I get excited about what God has instore for the future.
One thing was very apparent as I took a journey through my past, we cannot see where God is taking us until we get there. Going home forced me to spend some time looking at where I came from, who I was, who I am and where God is taking me next. I started this by telling you that I didn’t want to go back home but now that I am home in Missouri I am so glad that I did. Virginia is where God first called me, it is where I took my first steps both physically and spiritually. This trip was a time to remember who God called me to be and to remember where I have been but now it is time to take those first few steps into the unknown. Wanna join me?
I thank anyone reading these words and I apologize for spending so much time away. I have spent the last year resting both my mind and my spirit. In this I spoke about how I went home and remembered who God made me to be and part of that was feeling the urging to get out there and start speaking the truth both through this media as well as to begin recording videos, podcasts, etc. talking about God’s truth and discipleship. As I have been alluding to over the past year I have been working on taking the Biblical Basics curriculum that I used in my Sunday School at South Fairbanks Assembly of God and translating it into a video series and podcast to go out and help others to learn the basic fundamental truths of Christianity. Thank you for your continued support and all blessings to you and yours.
Look to your left…look to your right…there seems to be danger everywhere. Whether it is a world wide pandemic, riots that are burning cities to the ground or human trafficking at the highest levels of our society it seems to have no end this year. The year 2020 has become a meme in that you are forbidden from saying that it “can’t get any worse” for fear that the year will prove you wrong. Then I saw a light, I saw Christians standing and speaking the truth of “Fear Not”. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
I saw God moving, I saw people becoming strengthened but then something happened that I did not expect. Governors of states in a country that was founded on the principle of religious liberty banned church gatherings using the covering of a pandemic. Now let me say, in the beginning of this pandemic I believed that it was a good practice for pastors to do as much as possible to protect their congregations. If they had the ability to move services online or have parking lot services then I thought that was a good thing. However, that is a pastor’s and congregation’s decision not a government official’s.
Then I saw a group…Now let me define what I mean by a group. I call them just a group because I believe that they are made up of many groups that all have the same agenda of “submit or else” or in other words “bend the knee to us”. That being said, I saw a group come on the scene and begin to attack everything that did not conform to their worldview and idea of utopia. Churches across the United States have been vandalized and burned. Recently, the Bible has become the target of their ire and scenes of Bibles being burned are seen on social media and news stations.
So what do we do now. Honestly, it is time for some peaceful protesting like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But be ready for the consequences that go with that. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is told in Daniel 3 and I encourage you to go and read the account even if you remember the story. It is one of those “Wow Stories” of the Bible. In short, three men of God refuse to bow to political pressure and are thrown into the fire, literally, only to walk out of the fire untouched because of the protection of God around them.
A few days ago, I saw a video of a person running up to people and yelling at them to apologize and bow to their ideology. I saw people at a church yelling at the congregation and cursing the God we serve. I see politicians closing churches and synagogues in different cities across the nation. I could go on but I think you can get the point that the choice is once again being given to the people of God to bow to the pressure of this world or stand for God. In Ephesians 6:13, the Scriptures tell us that “after you have done everything, to stand.”
In the story that has become known as “Daniel and the Lions’ Den” that is in Daniel 6. Daniel is confronted by a law that says that if he prays to anything other than the King Darius then he will be thrown in a den of lions. Unlike before this is a law that other politicians have drafted up with a punishment attached. Undeterred Daniel continues to pray to God and God alone three times a day. When Daniel is reported on the king is left no choice but to follow through and follow the punishment prescribed by law. Again, like in Daniel 3 with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God’s protection is at work and Daniel is kept safe even in an extremely dangerous place and situation.
I do not expect things to get better. As I said in the beginning, 2020 is a meme of how bad things can get but God is more powerful. God’s protection has been surrounding His people since the very beginning. Empires have risen and fallen and political views shift but God and His truth remain steadfast. ““In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).
“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Remember who you are. Remember that God goes with you, that His truth lights your way. In these times of darkness we are to declare His truth and proclaim the Gospel. When they command us to stop praying, we pray more fervently. When they command us to stop singing and praising Him we worship that much louder. When they tell us to bow to them, we stand for God and proclaim God’s love through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.
P.S. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Peter 3:9 and I always try to remember it. Every time hate or unforgiveness try to rise up within me I quote this scripture, over and over, and remember that God does not anyone, not one, not a single one person, ever, to perish but He wants everyone to come to repentance. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
When I went to Florida recently my wife and I listened to Mike Rowe’s new book “The Way I Heard It“. Apart from it being a great book in the style of Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story…” I walked away from the book with a concept rattling around in my head that I can’t shake…You fail at 100% of the things that you never try. It’s a simple concept that I have heard all my life and I am sure you have heard it too. How many times have we been told that you miss 100% of the pitches that you never swing at? Growing up I had a pastor that would preach about needing to get into the batter’s box instead of sitting on the sidelines.
One of my favorite encounters in the Bible is between Moses and God at the burning bush found in Exodus chapter 3&4. Many of us like to think of Moses as the hero of the story that just went to Egypt stood before Pharaoh and exclaimed “Let my people go.” That did happen eventually but the encounter at the burning bush shows a man that did not want to do what God wanted him to. Moses kept coming up with excuse after excuse why he was the wrong choice trying to convince God, you know the creator all knowing God, that he knew better. Moses starts with asking who he was to do this great task to which God tells him that He will be with him, essentially telling Moses, “Trust me, I know what I am doing.” Moses then goes through a list of what ifs and hypotheticals that God patiently answers by giving Moses both answers and showing him signs and wonders that God will use to convince the people and Pharaoh. Finally Moses points out his flaws in an attempt to get out of his calling. Once again God answers Moses’ concerns.
I know I have looked at this encounter and chuckled a few times both because it hits close to home. For the past two years I have been asking many of the same questions and I know that God has been patiently answering every concern. Like Moses I am quick to point out all of my flaws to try and get God to move to the next person down the line. I will admit that I am afraid of failure but I just as afraid of success. Like Moses, if I succeed I know that many people will begin to look to me for guidance and think that I have everything together. I can assure you that I am not a perfect man and I will never be one. I am merely a man that is trying to point everyone to God and His son, Jesus.
Yesterday, I was dealing with a massive migraine. For those that have never experienced a migraine the easiest way I can describe them is that the world hurts. Light hurts, sound hurts, movement hurts, everything hurts. As I tried to sleep tonight the pain woke me up and I was lying awake in bed feeling the pain that seems to have no end and in my head I cried out, how can I do this? How can I teach a generation, how can I lead, how can I do any of what you are asking me to do? Look at me God, I can’t even sleep. That’s when I heard the words that I started this post with. You fail at 100% of the things you never try. So I got out of bed, stumbled down to the living room, sat down, grabbed my laptop and started typing. I remembered the book that I recently listened to which led me to one of my favorite passages in the Bible about a man that also struggled with believing he could do the thing that God had called him to do, that God had created him for, that God had prepared him for.
I hope some of this makes sense. If you are reading these words and saying, that this doesn’t apply to me, I can’t do that thing that I have been thinking, nay obsessing, about. Give it a try. Normally I would follow up that with, “what have you got to lose” but that is cliche. There is definitely a chance we will both fail, and in all honesty I am sure I will fail a few times along the way and I am sure you will too but I think at this point we both know we will fail 100 percent of the things we never try. May God bless and keep you as you move forward because I trust He will do the same for me.