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“…and the children of Judah prevailed because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.” – 2 Chronicles 13:18b

Abijah was David’s great-grandson. Despite this rich heritage, he followed in the ways of his father, Rehoboam. While David was a man after God’s own heart, check out Rehoboam’s testimony.

“And he did evil because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” – 2 Chronicles 12:14.

Everything David built, Rehoboam destroyed in a day. After he succeeded Solomon, leaders from the other tribes approached and asked him to lighten the load of Solomon’s oppression.

What did Rehoboam do? He tightened the noose.

And ten tribes broke off to form their own kingdom.

Due to this friction, there was constant tension between the kingdom of Israel in the north and Rehoboam’s kingdom of Judah in the south.

Upon taking the throne Abijah continued his belligerent policies toward the north, and it triggers a full-scale war where he’s outnumbered two to one.

While Abijah climbs a mountain and proceeds to lambaste the rebels, fathers and sons wonder below if they’ll see their families again.

I guess we’re not the only generation with a dearth of good leadership.

Well, the northern king, Jeroboam, uses the speech to lay an ambush from behind. And now it springs.

What does Abijah do? The text doesn’t say. But the people of Judah do something :)

“…and they cried unto the Lord, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to the pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.” – 2 Chronicles 13:14b-14.

I’m so thankful the Lord is there even when all I see around me is pain. That when the world looks darker and darker, He’s still at work. I’m so grateful He still uses surrendered lives to make an impact.

Have you taken time to today to yield everything to Jesus? Rest in His promise to never leave you or forsake you. Don’t give up the fight. The gates of Hell won’t prevail against His church!

All of the praise unto your name!

Be lifted higher!

Thankful for Hope

“I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

Hope.

That daring expectation of God’s goodness which enables me to pick my foot up and take the next step in this thing called life.

Despair.

The complete loss or absence of hope. That which rails at me to give up the fight, to lay down and wait until death claims me.

Both have been the experience of saints through the ages. David surely understood them.

Imagine being betrayed by your own father-in-law, a man afflicted by the hordes of hell whom you soothed with your sweet songs. Hunted like a dog, ripped from your closest friend, and slandered by those who should have supported you.

If that wasn’t bad enough, David had two opportunities to take Saul’s life and end this madness, yet he honored the Lord and spared him. And how was he rewarded? Further hunts for his life.

David eventually loses heart and flees his homeland to join the Philistines. To prove his loyalty, David claims his spoils come from raids on Israeli cities, when in reality he’s wiping out every living soul in the surrounding pagan cities to cover up his lie. In fleeing Saul, David becomes every bit the same monster.

The last vestige of hope falls while he and his men march to war against his own people. The Philistine leaders get cold feet and order David and his men to leave lest they turn traitor. But when David arrives at his city, he finds the women and children gone, taken captive by Amalekite raiders.

At this moment, not only had David lost everything. He’d cost his men everything. And now they want to stone him.

If ever there were a time to lay down and die, it was now. Why fight anymore? All his efforts, both righteous and wicked, had led to complete failure.

Yet, in that moment, David chose to reject everything his senses told him and laid hold of hope.

“…but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” – 1 Samuel 30:4.

Paul the apostle understood this battle. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he revealed his ministry team was so burdened with the weight of their difficulties that they “despaired even of life” .

Yet, he grasped hope. “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are confused, but not in despair. Persecuted but not forsaken. Struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8.

I’m so thankful there is hope when I’m weighted down. That when I’m confused by life or broken by my own failure, I don’t have to give up. That I can say with David in Psalm 42:5, “Why art thou cast down O my soul? Hope thou in God.”

If you’re struggling with despair today, lay hold of hope. Fight! Reject the lies of the enemy, for you are  not destroyed :)

And listen to this song. I think it will lift your spirits.

Find hope
When all the world seems lost
Behold
The triumph of the cross
His power
Has trampled death and grave
Our life found in His name
The greatest name of all….

 

Thankful for God’s Wisdom

Ever stared at a gargantuan task and wondered where to start?

I brought home a sub a few days ago from a nearby restaurant and had that feeling. With meat oozing from every inch of the bread, every choice promised disaster. But also potential reward.

I’m pretty sure Solomon faced a much taller challenge when he succeeded his father David.

Yeah. That David.

How do you live up to the sweet Psalmist of Israel and the man after God’s own heart?

Now add to that the responsibility of building the Temple. Talk about a big sub.

“Give me now wisdom and knowledge that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?” – 2 Cronicles 1:10

Instead of staring at the job facing him and trembling with inactivity, Solomon took it to the Lord. And here’s the beauty.

God answered :)

The Lord gave Solomon the wisdom he needed, and then added additional blessings because of his humility.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally…” – James 1:5a

I’m so thankful that whatever task I’m facing, I can confidently ask the Lord for wisdom, knowing that He’ll supply it. I’m so thankful that I never have to fear rejection or shame when I run to Him in faith.

Are you facing a big task? Is God asking you to step into the unknown? Run into His loving arms with confidence that He gives wisdom to those who trust in Him!

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus through all ages, world without end. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21.

I can’t think of a better verse that describes just how good God has been to me since my introduction as the new Senior Pastor at Calvary Chapel Orlando last Sunday.

Surrounded by friends, long-time and new, whose hearts were open to one another and all that God wanted to do.

Showered with love and welcome.

Fellowship that could have gone on for days if we didn’t need sleep.

If God would have asked me how my ideal day should be, I couldn’t have planned it to go as well as He did.

As I lay in bed Sunday night, I couldn’t rest. I longed to shout praises to my glorious God for His abounding goodness toward His people. For the kids sanity I settled for endless whispers of thanks until I drifted into the land of dreams :)

Unto Him be glory in the Church indeed!

I’m so thankful for my God’s abounding goodness. I’m so grateful to serve alongside brothers and sisters who hunger and thirst for more of Jesus.

Have you taken time today to thank God for how good He’s been to you? If not, stop what you’re doing, and sit at His feet for a moment. Remind yourself of His glorious character.

And worship.

Thankful for a Beautiful Day

With buying a house taking top priority with our finances, I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas as much this year. Admittedly, it was our smallest Christmas budget  in a long time. Paul quotes Jesus as saying in Acts 20:35,  “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” That’s never been more real to me than during Christmas. Watching the face of my wife and kids light up at surprise or unexpected gifts is one of the highlights of my year.  While my bride and I wrapped presents last night, we did a few special things for the kids that made me feel better about the coming morning. Yet, I was convinced it wouldn’t be the same.

Morning came quickly. The kids woke up with smiles galore. We read the Christmas story and prayed as is our tradition, then headed to the living room to exchange gifts. The morning unfolded full of smiles, cackles of delight, and the usual struggle getting our youngest to open all his gifts (because he’s playing with the ones he already opened). And at the end, as I sat on the couch, each child was enjoying something they received, their eyes full of wonder.

It’s a beautiful day.

Yes, some things were different. But there’s a song I love that has a line that grabs me every time it plays.

“What you don’t have, you don’t need it now.”

How true is that? We don’t have a house yet, but we do have a home. And while the morning was short a few of my signature surprises, I still have a great family who loves me and is together.

It’s a beautiful day. And I’m so thankful to my Savior that I get to enjoy it!

Have you thanked the Lord for today, regardless of how “good” your Christmas has been so far? Stop and take some time with Him to tell Him so! And if you like, enjoy a great song :)

Thankful for God Moments

I originally planned to post yesterday under the title “Thankful for Stretching Moments”.

That was until I snapped.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It destroys rational thought and eradicates spiritual thought. It simultaneously paralyses and drives a person to poor decisions. And I was gripped with it.

See, we put our house on the market a few weeks ago. We’ve believed for a while that God wanted us to sell our home and finally took a step of faith. I didn’t expect it to sell in nine days. We got an amazing offer which will net us way more money than we expected. There’s only one problem. We had to be out in three weeks. Where would we live in the meantime?

Get an apartment. Get a house. Easy right? It’s been so long since I’ve done that sort of thing, I forgot all about security deposits for said dwelling place. How on earth would we come up with the funds to move into one of these places before the sale of our home went through? No problem. God is our source, right? He’s just stretching us a bit and learning to trust him more is always good.

Then those numbers started rolling in. And I snapped.

I’m surprised Beverly didn’t kill me last night. There was so much flesh and so little Jesus in me because I had let fear get hold of me. When I woke up this morning, I felt more in my right mind, but I was still wrestling. So, on the way to pay the reserve on our new apartment, I tried to get my mind straight.

Fear isn’t from God, so this fear that we made a mistake in selling our home can’t be from him. God’s thoughts toward me are good, so He’s not going to bless us with the sale of our home to leave us homeless. I concluded that my fear that I’d led my family into a homeless wasteland wasn’t from God. Ingenious, eh? So where did that leave me.

My devotion this morning was in Judges 6 – The story of Gideon. I’ve always given Gideon a hard time because God does so much to show Gideon that He’s on his side and that its His will for Gideon to lead Israel against the Midianites. Gideon asks for a sign from the angel who initially visits him. Then he asks God for two signs with the fleece. Come on dude. Are you gonna trust God or not?

But Gideon was afraid. His fear is mentioned on numerous occasions in Judges 6. I figured God was trying to tell me not to be afraid. Boy was I wrong.

When I stopped at the bank to get the money order to reserve the apartment, they told me it was five dollars to do money orders. Well, Amscot does it for free so I decided to do a withdrawal. But a question came to mind. What about that Freedom card we got a few months ago? We were supposed to get a hundred dollars just for signing up. The bank attendant told me that we were given it in points and he could send that money to our account if I’d like. Woah, free money. Thanks Jesus!

And then I got in the car. Have you ever been blubbering so hard you couldn’t talk? The next two songs that came on were two of my favorite worship songs and they were very appropriate to my situation.

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are
You’re beautiful

And …

The sun comes up
It’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
Bless the Lord, oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I’ll worship your holy name

Oh yeah. I was a mess. To top it off, the Amscot attendant’s name was Jesus and they had Tootsie Rolls (my favorite candy).

God wasn’t just trying to tell me to not be afraid. He was telling me that despite all my fears (like Gideon), He loved me. I see Judges 6 a little differently now and I’m a lot more understanding of Gideon. God doesn’t promise that He’ll give us moments like this. We do need to learn to trust Him even when we don’t see Him. But sometimes, He knows we’re at the point of snapping (or already broken) and He steps in with a compassionate reminder that He sees, He knows, and He cares.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:18

I’m so thankful my God loves me and never gets tired of my weaknesses. I’m so thankful He takes an active interest in my life, even when I can’t see. I’m so thankful He helps me see His amazing compassion. I’m so thankful He’s giving me a better understanding in His love each day so I never have to be afraid.

Are you dealing with fear right now? Do you know that God loves you and is there whether you can see Him or not? Take some time today to thank Him for His love and then rest in His everlasting arms!

Thankful God knows what He’s doing

God knows what He’s doing. That’s a pretty simple theological statement.

So, why is it that we sometimes have a problem trusting Him?

I’m at the ACFW Conference this weekend, and a small part of me was wondering why in the world I was here. Oh, the fellowship is awesome. It’s the only time each year I get to see some of my writer friends. The teaching is excellent. But, for an author who writes speculative fiction, it didn’t seem like there was a lot for me. Speculative fiction feels like the black sheep of the Christian market at times. We’re part of the family, but for the most part our stories are accepted rather than embraced. Often I’ve had agents hear the word “fantasy” and immediately say, “I can’t sell this in the Christian market”. For all purposes, the meeting is over at that point.

As I’m struggling with my place in the market, we had Michael Hyatt share that this was the greatest time to be a writer. He talked about his own struggles in the publishing industry as well as his personal struggles as a writer. Then, the gal who gave the devotion talked about daring to trust God to do what we can’t do. All this time, I’m sensing the Lord reeling me back in like a skilled fisherman.

I’m a passionate person. Give me a vision and I’ll bleed for it. But when things don’t click right, passionate people tend to wonder if the bleeding is a waste of time. I’m no different. As the Lord reeled me in, I found myself remembering  how much my writing career is in His handsd and how much I’ve been putting it in my own hands. Yes, I need to work hard. Yes, I need to invest my time and energy. But like everything we do for the Lord, the results are up to Him.

So, I recommitted myself to trusting Jesus with my writing career and took a deep breath. An hour later I had an amazing meeting with a wonderful agent. It wasn’t just amazing because she requested to see the full manuscript of Soul Yearning. It was amazing because she seemed to get what I was about and showed excitement about my writing career. As a Pastor, I constantly preach about how we need one another. I want the same thing for my writing career. I want to be part of a team. And the Lord showed me that He wants the same thing for me.

Even if things don’t work out with this agent, the Lord reminded me that He sees the end from the beginning and makes no mistakes. He knew about this appointment before it happened, and He knows about everything that will happen in my future.

Even when I can’t see it.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t war according to the flesh (2 Cor 10:3). My attitude about life is never to be based on what I can see, hear, or feel. It’s to be based on God’s character and His written Word. And He’s said that He doesn’t fail, He doesn’t lie, and He never lets me go.

I’m so thankful God’s love’s me perfectly. I’m so thankful He doesn’t make any mistakes. I’m so thankful He knows what He’d doing!

What obstacle do you see right now that’s frustrating your attitude? Tell Him you’ll trust what He says rather than what you see today :) And then thank Him for His perfect love for you!

When I first became serious about my writing career, I stumbled across a website called The New Author’s Fellowship. It’s a collaborative blog by Christian speculative fiction authors to promote our genre in the Christian community. I thought, “Man it would be so cool to be a part of something like that!”

A year and a half later, I am :)

My friend and fellow writer, Kristen Stieffel, recommended me to the group and I very excitedly accepted their invitation a few weeks ago.

Starting on July 8th, I will be blogging every Sunday about my writing journey. I will still maintain Rejoice Evermore as its emphasis is on thankfulness. But you’ll find all my writing updates on New Author’s Fellowship from now on.

I encourage you to hop on over and follow me as well as the other wonderful authors who are chronicling their writing journey.

Thanks again for all your support and check out my blog post on Sunday!

The Bible stopped me in my tracks today. You know how it works. You’re reading a familiar passage and then…wham! The Lord allows you to see something that never caught your attention before. And it changes your life.

I’ve always struggled with Israel’s invasion of Canaan. Not that I doubted God’s character, but sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around God ordained genocide. Oh, we can get all theological and explain why it was necessary, etc, etc.

But the actual doing of it.

Would you be able to obey God if the sword was in your hand?

Enter Joshua 11:18-20. After cataloging Joshua’s complete victory over the Canaanite nations, it mentions that Israel didn’t wipe out everyone they came across. They made peace with the Gibeonites. God very clearly instructed Israel in Deuteronomy 20:16 not to offer peace to any of the Canaanites nations. So, why did He allow them to do so with the Gibeonites? Joshua 11:20 holds the key.

Concerning all those other nations, God said, “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

That word harden means “to strengthen or make firm”. There are two Hebrew words for harden. When we harden our hearts it means “to make oneself unresponsive or dull”. According to Genesis 15:16, God reached out to the Canaanite people for 400 years. But the majority of them pushed away that conviction and refused to respond. When the last hour struck, only one group finally responded. The Gibeonites. While all the other kings formed an alliance against Israel after Jericho fell, Gibeon threw themselves on God’s mercy.

And God showed them mercy. See, God never intended all the Canaanites to be destroyed. God was reaching out one last time through judgement. And to those who threw themselves on God’s mercy, He forgave. If you think I’m off the wall, Just ask Rahab the harlot, another Canaanite who’s in heaven today.

Ezekiel 22:30 says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it ... ” God is looking for an excuse to show mercy because judgement is His “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21), not His heart. If we make ourselves unresponsive to Him, then He’ll come alongside and confirm that decision. But if we throw ourselves on His mercy, He is ready to forgive.

I’m so thankful my God loves to show mercy! That when I cry with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone”, His heart is to cleanse and restore me to Himself.

Have you thanked the Lord lately for His merciful nature? Don’t harden your heart toward Him! You’ll only be hurting yourself.

I just want to thank Jesus for His grace and kindness toward me. I’ve been part of ACFW now for a year and a half. This is my second year entering their Genesis contest for unpublished authors. I was pretty much a newbie last year and squeaked in as a semi-finalist.

This year, I entered two books into the contest and both of them made it to the next round! Out of 70 entries, both of mine placed in the top twenty percent to move on to round two. At the end of May, another round of judges will decide the top three from the remaining 14 entries. I’ve got a double chance of moving on this year :)

Thank you to everyone who has stood beside me and encouraged me to keep working at this. My heart is to please my most important reader – My Jesus. He’s so faithful and deserves nothing less than the same from me!

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