I will always need you more than ever before

the lord is nearEver since I was quite young, hot tubs have been one of my sanctuaries. It’s kind of weird, but true nonetheless. Tonight, while thinking in the hot tub, I uttered a simple prayer to the Lord, “I need you more than ever before” and then I was immediately struck by the humor in that prayer.

I have ALWAYS needed God more than ever before.

As a drifting, disillusioned young college student, I needed God more than ever before.

As a newlywed husband I realized that I would need Him more than ever before if I was going to be a husband worthy of Jessica.

When my three daughters were born, I was keenly aware that I needed His help more than ever before.

In other seasons of success, failure, victory, and trauma I uttered those same words. And then tonight I prayed it again. I guess I’m just always going to need Him more than ever before.

I think that’s a good thing. King David felt that way. So did Paul. I can relate to a little bit of their stories. I’ve had moments of such exhilaration in the Lord’s presence that I was certain that heaven had come to earth, and I’ve had other moments where I didn’t know if I could go on living. The one constant has been Him. Jesus has been, is, and ever will be faithful.

If you’re on a mountaintop tonight, enjoy it. If you’re crawling through a valley, keep crawling. You’re not alone, and the Lord will meet you there.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him…” (King David, Psalm 145:18).

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The Gift Nobody Wants

painSeveral years ago a doctor wrote a small book entitled Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. Understandably, the publishing company balked at the title, asserting that no one would purchase a book that hailed pain as a gift. Consequently, after a brief run, the word “pain” was dropped and the book was simply published as The Gift Nobody Wants.

The doctor, Paul Brand, had worked extensively with leprosy patients and was among the first to realize that leprosy did not specifically cause the sufferer’s extremities to rot away, but rather the disease caused the sufferer to lose the ability to sense pain.

This inability to discern pain caused men and women with leprosy to live boundary-less lives, wherein they routinely hurt themselves and didn’t even realize it. The essence of Dr. Brand’s message (along with his co-author Philip Yancey) was that pain is actually a gift that protects us.

Rather than an unpleasant sensation to despise at all costs, pain is a gift that lets us know when we’ve crossed certain boundaries. It allows us to discern when we’re at the end of our limits, and when we need to retract or regroup.

I hate pain. I wish that I and my loved ones would never have to touch another moment of it as long as we live, but I also know that it is indeed a gift. It’s a boundary former and a protector that forces us to live within healthier limits than we might otherwise choose.

If you’re hurting I pray that you would heal. But I also pray that the pain would draw you ever closer to God’s ultimate good will for your life, and reposition you for a lifetime of greater fruitfulness.

Knight’s Code of Honor

knight in armor

In our recent men’s retreat there was much talk of honor, gallantry, and living as noble, courageous men of God. It got me thinking of the literal knights’ code of honor from the Middle Ages. This code continues to stir my own soul so I wanted to pass it on to all of you. Enjoy!

  • To never do outrage or murder
  • Always to flee treason
  • To by no means be cruel but to give mercy unto him who asks for mercy
  • To always do ladies, gentlewomen, and widows succor
  • To never force ladies, gentlewomen, or widows
  • Not to take up battles in wrongful quarrels or for love of worldly goods
  • To never lay down arms
  • To seek after wonders
  • When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all of one’s strength
  • To injure no one
  • Not to attack on another
  • To fight for the safety of one’s country
  • To give one’s life for one’s country
  • To seek nothing before honor
  • Never to lose faith for any reason
  • To practice religion most diligently
  • To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability

Don’t Forget Pastor Saeed

pastor saeedToday’s constant barrage of crisis-fueled news reports combined with the mind-numbing effects that statistics can have on the human brain can sometimes make us forget some things that need to be remembered. Pastor Saeed Abedini is one of them.

It is likely that you’re familiar with the story of this Iranian-American Christian pastor who was arrested for planting Christian house churches in Iran. He was arrested for propagating the Christian religion, not for being involved in any other sort of criminal activities, and he has been held in prison for approximately eighteen months, separated from his wife and children.

His mistreatment has been significant and his physical condition has deteriorated accordingly. Please be praying for a divine intervention on his behalf.

The annual Bible reading schedule that we follow here at Grace Church currently has us in the book of Acts, which contains multiple stories of angel-led jail breaks. Both Peter and Paul were the beneficiaries of this angelic activity and were miraculously rescued from their bonds. (Acts 5:17-20; 12:5-7; 16:25-27)

Whether Saeed’s angel takes the form of Iranian government officials, prayerful Christians, or literal angels from heaven, let’s remember him and his family and stake ourselves to their need in prayer.

“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” (Acts 12:5).

“Resist him (Satan), standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9b).

Praying for the 5.0

This week in a police ride along I observed the most inspiring blend of professional excellence and spiritual power.police car

Officer Mike Scranton, a friend from Grace Church, and I were talking in his patrol car when a kidnapping call sounded, and for the next two hours I observed first-rate police work combined with a prayerful appeal for divine intervention. By the time I left to go home, the police’s leads were coming up dry and they were feeling the increasing pressure of the ominous passage of time.

When I woke up the next morning, a text  message awaited me, informing me that the kidnapped victim had been recovered. The text from the officer ended with the words, “God answered my prayers. She is safe with no injuries.”

This experience marked me in several ways. It reminded me that we should pray daily for our law enforcement officers and their families, asking God to protect them as they protect us. It inspired me to know that there are praying police, patrolling our neighborhoods. And it challenged and inspired me to pray for both the suppression of evil in our communities, and the resolution of currently unsolved crimes.

This week’s kidnapping ended well; however, others are still in process. Let’s routinely assault heaven with prayers for the establishment of God’s righteous kingdom and the overthrow of every alternate kingdom

As a child of a police officer, I have always had a profound love and respect for law enforcement, and this week’s ridealong has most definitely fueled that sentiment.  May God abundantly bless the 5.0!

Where was God at the Boston Marathon?

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

Where was Jesus when multiple bombs exploded along this year’s Boston Marathon route, shattering loved ones’ hearts and instilling fear into an already anxious culture?

Where was He ten days earlier when Pastor Rick Warren’s son took his life into his own hands?

Where was He during recent tsunamis, natural disasters, and cruel expressions of man’s inhumanity to man?

Where was He during your darkest hours?

Fortunately, the Bible is not silent on this desperate, all-important question. Two thousand years ago one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, died of an illness, and when Jesus arrived at the grave site Lazarus’ sister, Martha, greeted Him with the indictment: “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

Martha’s bitter words were an ancient re-phrasing of our modern question: “where was God.” When Jesus responded to Martha He revealed how He might respond to us. When confronted with the question “where were you when we needed you most” Jesus responded in three ways.

First, He assured Martha that natural death and tragedy are not the ultimate trump cards. In John 11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Second, He wept. He entered Martha’s pain and cried beside her at her brother’s tomb.

Third, He released God’s life-giving power, raising Lazarus from the dead and calling him out of the grave as a timeless picture of God’s final victory over death.

It’s impossible to adequately explain why God would allow so many senseless tragedies. However, through Jesus we know that God is neither indifferent nor inactive to our plight. He sees, He cares, and He offers an eternal life that is able to heal even the greatest of our earthly traumas. So while we ache, weep, question, and serve we also hold out hope for Jesus’ promised life.

Kept

Kept: past tense of keep, verb.

  1. Held or retained in one’s possession; held as one’s own.
  2. Held or used for a set period of time.
  3. Held or reserved in a given place; stored.
  4. Maintained, especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise kept or watched.
  5. Reinforced in a given position, state, course, or action.

Do you know that you are being “kept” today and that your “keeper” is the one who holds the universe together?

“He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word…” (Hebrews 1:3)

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:1)

In the middle of today’s fragile existence with its harried pace and endless demands, please remember Jude’s words: you have been called, loved, and kept by the power of Jesus Christ. He loves you. He is for you. And nothing can take you out of His hand.