He Has A Dream

The following is an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech:

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

I’m guessing most of us are familiar with this speech. Earlier in that speech, he shares his dream that someday ALL men and women would be considered equal. This dream gave him hope for a better future and it compelled him to speak out and seek to make it happen.

Do we have a dream? Do we have a hope that compels us to take action? In 1 Corinthians 9:25-26 (TLB), Paul writes: “…An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step…”

Paul tells us here that we have an amazing hope, which fuels our dream. Our hope is not for just a ribbon or trophy, but eternal life with Jesus, for us and for everyone who comes to Him and asks. We should be striving for the kind of dreams that have eternal significance. The trophies and praises of this world will pass away, but the things of the Lord are forever. 

We need to dream dreams that will impact eternity. When we choose to seek out God’s dream for our lives, we realize our purpose. And God’s dreams lead us towards His goals: life-changing goals that bring glory and honor to the Lord and extend His kingdom both here and now, and also for eternity.

God has a dream and purpose for our lives. I encourage all of us to take some time this week to ask Him, “What are some dreams You have for our life? What are some ways we can partner with what You are already doing to extend Your love and grace to people around us and to share the hope that is only found in You, Jesus?” And then quiet our heart and listen for His voice. He promises that if we ask, He will answer.

Are we willing to grab hold of the dreams He has for us and run with purpose?!

Rest in Jesus

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”  -Isaiah 26:3 NLT

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.” –Psalm 91:1-2 NLT

Our home is in a season of upheaval and change. Like a snowball on a hill, this season started rolling last year and it’s gaining mass and momentum with each day that passes.

Over the course of the next 3 to 6 months: all three young adults in our home will change schools; one will graduate high school; one will get married; and all three will likely be moving out of the house (two for sure). There have been college applications, scholarship applications, decisions about where to live and where to go to school and what jobs to pursue…and all of these are alongside already full schedules with school, work, and extra curricular schedules. There are still many decisions and changes to come and some of these require waiting patiently…until it’s time to make a decision.

It’s easy to get caught up in the snowball. Last Saturday, one of our young adults learned they were accepted into a school they REALLY love in the morning and another was in a scary accident that same evening. It was a day with many emotions and a day when I felt caught up in all of it.

There’s a song that I listen to over and over these days—it’s titled “Rest” and it’s on TobyMac’s album LIFE AFTER DEATH. The chorus goes like this:

Rest, take a breath
Push aside the noise and feel the air inside your chest
Blessed, my child, you’re blessed
Fall into the arms of God and rest your weary head
Just rest…Rest

We have work to do…but we don’t need to do it all at once and we don’t need to be dragged into the snowball of chaos that sometimes surrounds it. Instead, we need to rest in Jesus: taking our every care to Him. And then we just take the next step. 

I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t know You
I’d probably fall off the edge
I don’t know where I’d go
if You ever let go
So keep me held in Your hands.
You’re my safe place
My hideaway
You’re my anchor
My saving grace
You’re my constant
My steadiness
You’re my shelter
My oxygen
I don’t know who I’d be 
if I didn’t know You
Thank God, I do

~from Lauren Daigle’s song “Thank God, I Do”

The Battle of the Mind

Mental health is a topic that most people don’t like to talk about. But our mental health is extremely important. The way we think and process things can affect our lives tremendously.

Every single action begins with a thought. If we don’t think it, then the reality is we won’t do it. This is why the battle of the mind is so important. It’s why God wants to renew our minds. Romans 12:2 tells us that the renewing of our mind is transformative. It transforms us and changes us.

The battle of the mind is a continuous challenge that we face every day. It’s important that we understand this and seek to give our thoughts to the Lord. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us: “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

As thoughts come into our head, we have to process them. Is this thought something that I should act on or not? Is it something that would please the Lord or is it something that goes against His character?

Romans 8: 6 says: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” An unmanaged mind leads to pain and conflict. While a managed mind leads to peace.

Pastor Rick Warren talks a lot about mental health and he gives this advice about cultivating a healthy mind:

1. Feed Your Mind with Truth – The Bible is our soul food. We don’t just read it to check off a box for the day. We read it to discover God’s truth and to apply it to our lives.

2. Free Your Mind of Destructive Thoughts – We can become prisoners of our own thoughts. We’ve been told all kinds of untrue things about ourselves. We have to give those things to the Lord and allow His truth to wash over us.

3. Focus on the Right Things – Philippians 4:8 tells us: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Often times we focus on the bad things in this world, but God is calling us to focus on Him.

This is some great advice. I’ve heard it said that we become what we think about most. And every day is a battle of the mind. As we learn to manage our minds, it opens the door for better mental health as we become transformed by the renewing of our minds.

God Has A Plan For Our Lives

We’ve all heard it said that God has a plan for our lives. And I’m learning more and more that He won’t just use our gifts to fulfill those plans, He’ll use our weaknesses and challenges as well.

As I was thinking about this, there were a couple people in the Bible that came to mind—Joseph and Esther. Joseph was bound and sold by his brothers into slavery. Then when he started to make a name for himself as a servant in a new land, he was wrongly accused and sent to prison. Through all these hardships and challenges, God used him to save the people of Israel and his family: the very brothers that sold him off in the first place.

Esther was an orphan that was adopted by a man named Mordecai. She was a a Jew living in a Persian country and she was an unmarried woman with no children. As a single woman in a male-dominated society in these days, she had zero rights. But God used all of these things to help her fulfill her destiny. The King found Esther more beautiful to him than any of the other women and he made her his queen. And in her role as queen, she was able to save the Jews from death.

When you look at both of their lives in the beginning, they look like they have little hope or future. But God used them in amazing ways to make a huge difference in the lives of those around them. 

Many of us may look at our own lives and wonder how God could ever use us. But we have to realize that God uses the unpleasant challenges and struggles in our lives to create God-ordained opportunities that can make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

The key in both Joseph’s and Esther’s lives is that they continued to trust in the Lord. Yes, they struggled and I’m sure they had moments where they wondered if God had forgotten about them. But through it all, they continued to seek God and trust in Him.

When we look at our own lives, do we trust in the Lord? Do we believe that He can work through the disfunction and challenges in our own lives? We serve a God of miracles and I believe He has a plan for each of our lives. And I trust that He will use the good and bad in our lives to accomplish it!

Learning to Listen and Obey

A few weeks ago in church, I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone. I was praying and seeking the Lord during worship like I always do. And then, suddenly, I felt this weird pain in my left ankle. It wasn’t anything I had ever felt before.

I tried to ignore it and continue to worship, but it was something I couldn’t seem to get out of my head. So, I began to pray and ask the Lord about it. It was during that time that I sensed the Lord say to me, “Maybe there’s someone here experiencing an issue in their left ankle that I want to heal.” 

I hate to admit it, but my first thought was NO, I’m not going down that road. It terrified me to think about getting up in front of the congregation and sharing what I was sensing. I mean, people might think I’m crazy. And what if no one has an ankle issue? I might look like a fool. Besides, was that really God!?

I spent the next worship song wrestling with what was stirring inside of me. And I decided to throw out “a fleece” like Gideon did (Judges 6:36-40). I said, “Ok Lord, if this is You and You want me to get up and share this with the congregation, then send another pain through my left ankle.” Immediately a pain shot through my ankle. And tears began to stream down my cheeks, because I knew I needed to be obedient and stand up in front of the church in faith.

So when worship ended, I stood before the congregation and shared about my experience. I said that I believed that someone there was dealing with issues in their left ankle and that God wanted to heal them. And then I prayed that God would heal their ankle.

During our meet and greet time after worship, one of the ladies came up and told me that her husband shattered his left ankle years ago and that he had experienced pain in it ever since. She told me that she had turned to her husband and said, “Do you believe God can heal your ankle?” And he responded, saying, “I know He can….”—but with a tone of uncertainty that we all experience in these moments as to whether God actually would. I simply told her to keep me posted.

The next morning I got a text from her husband that said, “Good morning, I just wanted to let you know I had a good night’s sleep for the first time in a long time. Praise the Lord my left ankle was not hurting!” 

On this side of it, it baffles my mind to think that I could have missed out on this miracle because I was afraid of what people might think. I’m learning more and more the importance of listening and obeying: taking time to allow the Lord to speak to us and then being willing to obey whatever it is He is saying. 

My prayer is that we would all learn from this experience—and that we would be people who seek to listen for God’s voice more and more…and then faithfully walk in obedience. Because it’s not enough to just listen—We have to learn to listen and obey!

God is For Us

In Romans 8, there’s an interesting scripture that asks a compelling question: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31

Think about that for a moment: If the God of the universe—who knows all things and created all things—is for us, then WHO can be against us? When we truly grasp this truth, it changes our whole life. Knowing that God is for us changes EVERYTHING!

So many of us see God as this distant being that is looking down from heaven just trying to catch us doing something wrong. So we walk on pins and needles just trying not to mess up, not to make a mistake. I know that this is not the way God desires us to live our lives.

God’s desire is that we would live abundant, fruitful lives. We were created for a purpose and God’s desire is to see us fulfill that purpose. If we think of God as this rule miser marking down every sin and every failure we ever make, then we will end up spending our whole lives in fear. 

In John 12:47, Jesus tells us: “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” Jesus is for us! The world may look at us funny, people may criticize us and talk about us behind our backs, but God is for us. And if God is for us, who can be against us? 

My prayer is that we realize the amazing blessing behind this truth. God wants to see us succeed. He’s rooting for us. So let’s go live life to the fullest!

Greater Love

Last week, I had the honor of officiating my grandfather’s graveside service at Willamette National Cemetery. He was a 98-year-old veteran who served in the Navy during World War 2.

It was fascinating to me as a kid to hear the stories of my grandpa firing guns off the ships at enemy planes. At the time, though, I didn’t really understand the realities of war and all that my grandpa experienced in combat. It wasn’t until I was older and was in the service myself that I realized the sacrifice that my grandpa had made for his country.

I’m extremely proud of my grandpa and the time that he served in the Navy. He chose to go and fight for his country, hoping to make the world a better place for the generations to follow.

And I think it’s important that we don’t forget the sacrifices that he and so many others have made over the years. They put their lives on the line so that we might be able to experience freedom.

As I think of Grandpa’s sacrifice and the sacrifice others made, it reminds me of someone else who sacrificed His life for others. It reminds me of our Savior—Jesus Christ. In John 15:13 it tells us: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Now, my family was very fortunate that the sacrifices my grandpa made didn’t end up costing him his life. Because the truth is that, if they had, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m thankful that God’s hand protected my grandpa as he served and sacrificed all those years ago.

The sacrifice of Jesus, however, did cost Him His life. He came to lay down His life for the sake of others. Jesus showed us the Great Love that John wrote about, as He laid down His life for all of us. 

As we head into 2023, my prayer for ALL OF US is that we truly understand Jesus’ love for EACH OF US. And I pray that we would seek to love Him and to love others in the same way.

New Every Morning

For many, the new year is a fresh start. They make their New Year’s resolutions hoping that this next year will be better than the last. The cool thing for those that follow Jesus is that we don’t have to wait until the next year for a fresh start.

In Lamentations 3, we’re told that the Lord’s love never ceases and that His mercies for us are new every morning. Every morning is the chance for a fresh start. We don’t have to wait for a New Year.

God’s desire is that we live every day to the fullest: that each day we receive His mercies and strive to make a difference in the world around us. My prayer for each of us is that this new year will be amazing but, more importantly, that every day will be amazing as we receive His mercies and live the lives He’s called us to live.

I want to end this week’s blog with a benediction found in Numbers 6:24-26, which says: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

I pray that we will experience His blessings and peace today and every day in this New Year as we seek to follow Him and allow His mercies to make us new every morning.

The Season of Love

In our service on Sunday, we lit the fourth advent candle, which represents Love. And when we stop and think about that first Christmas, we realize that LOVE is what Christmas is all about. It’s about the sacrificial love of Jesus. 

At Christmas, it’s so easy to focus on the world’s idea of Jesus. This cute little baby that was born in this cute little manger. But our nice, sterile nativity scenes are far from how it really was.

If we think about it, a baby was born and it’s not like today where we can take the baby into the next room and get it all cleaned up while they change the linens on the hospital bed and get mom into a new gown. And I’m guessing the stable area was pretty dirty. I mean, who knows the last time it had been shoveled out. Which means it was probably pretty smelly too.

This was a huge sacrifice for Jesus to give up the glories of heaven for a scene like that….But He did. And not only did He come to this earth and limit Himself in the form of a man, we know that He did all this so that he could then die on a cross for OUR sins.

In 1 John 3:16 it says: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” He showed us the greatest Love that the Bible talks about because He is Love. And the thing we have to remember is that He came to this earth for all of us—He died on the cross for you and me and anyone willing to call on His name.

Christmas is the story of God’s love for us: The story of the God of this universe who sent His Son into our world to meet us in our mess; The story of His Son looking beyond the surface of all our lives and seeing something worthy of His Love; The story of Jesus limiting Himself to human flesh and eventually allowing that flesh to be crucified for our sins.

So as we open our gifts this Christmas, maybe hoping for that special gift—that gift that we’ve been wanting and waiting for—my prayer is that we don’t forget the perfect gift of Love that has been given to each of us—the gift of Jesus—the gift of eternal life.

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

A Season of Joy

This week at church, we continued lighting the advent candles with the candle that represents Joy. In Luke 2:10, the Angels proclaim: “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

That word Joy is an interesting word. Often times we treat joy and happiness as if they were the same. But the truth is these are two completely different things. Happiness is an emotion we feel when we experience something good or pleasing. It’s a feeling that’s based upon the circumstances around us.

Joy however goes beyond circumstances. Joy is supernatural. Joy is a gift from God. It’s something that we experience through the power of the Holy Spirit. I love what Dwight L. Moody once said about joy:

“Happiness is caused by things that happen around me, and circumstances will mar it; but joy flows right on through trouble; joy flows on through the dark; joy flows in the night as well as in the day; joy flows all through persecution and opposition. It is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret spring the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about. The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they walk in obedience to Him.”

We can experience this joy because of Christmas. We can experience this joy because of a Savior who came to this earth and made a way for us to have life in and through Him. That’s what Christmas is all about and that’s why we can experience the Joy of Christmas.

And something I’ve learned over the years is that JOY was meant to be shared. This past Sunday I referenced an old song titled “Go Tell it On the Mountain”. This song is a reminder that we get to go into the world and share with others the Joy that we’ve experienced through Christ—in hopes that they too will experience His Joy.

My prayer is that all of us will experience the Joy of Christmas this year and that we’ll take time to share that joy with others.