For the last several months I have been in a very in-depth study of the book of Exodus. One of the overall themes and lessons that I learned from the book is how God told His people to look back and remember what the Lord their God did for them. This wasn’t just something that He told them once, He told them this very thing many times throughout the whole book of Exodus. Many of these times it was because it seemed that the people forgotten what He had done for them and how He had provided with them. The people continually grumbled and complained hopelessly, forgetting what God had done for them.
He even created the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Passover to command His people to remember. They were to share the story of how the Lord their God brought them out of the midst of captivity and performed miracles and signs, setting them apart. They were commanded to tell their children the stories, to help them understand that they serve a God who has provided. This was to be so that the children would learn His ways and would continue to remember and pass them down throughout their generations. To keep their eyes focused on the One True God so that they would not resort to serving false gods.
Last weekend, I took the opportunity to have a one night retreat to get away to pray for direction and to focus on the Lord. He woke me up early Saturday morning with a word that goes as follows:
“You feel like there is something pressing in on you from every end. Remember, I am the Lord your God who will take you from out of the midst of it. Keep your eyes on Me with a pure heart.”
I wrote this word down to keep it in remembrance because at the time, it didn’t have but so much meaning. I came back from the retreat encouraged and hopeful from what I had gleaned. Monday morning, I had a beautiful time with the Lord as I studied His word and actually began to dream again.
But how the enemy comes, quickly, to steal what the Lord has planted (thank God my soil is cultivated). Work that day became very tense and then we received bad news upon bad news. I was simply devastated. All I could think was that I would never allow myself to dream again. Why dream? Dreams were only made to be broken and shattered – come back to reality. I was also fearful of what the future might hold. I was a mess.
But, mercy comes in the morning, praise God. Still hurting, as I began to cry out to the Lord, asking Him why? I cried out that I felt this incredible pressure and could barely breathe. He told me that everything was going to be all right and to trust Him. I cried out help me to see that and help me to trust You. Then He put me in remembrance of the word He had just given me 3 days earlier.
Now I remember all of those other times that I felt like there was no hope. That I felt like my world was caving in around me. When we struggled with infertility, but yet my God provided. When we were told not once, but twice that we would lose our first baby Addison to miscarriage, but yet He held her in there and provided a beautiful child. When I took a job that I realized that I was hardly qualified for, He showed me how to rely upon Him to provide the knowledge and skills I needed. When the potential horrors were told to us of how everything in a triplet pregnancy can go wrong but yet we now have 3 more beautiful children that are healthy and developmentally sound. That caring for 3 babies and another would be financially devastating, but yet He provided. That with mounting medical bills and debt, still, He has provided. That when we were to pay both rent and mortgage that was well above 50% of my salary, He still provided. The list can go on and on.
My point is, I am to look back and remember how my God carried us through these difficult times. That I can trust Him because He is good. And that I am to proclaim His goodness to all. To proclaim it especially to my children so that they will know the Lord their God who they will serve one day as well. Then they in turn will pass it on throughout the generations. My friends, I am encouraged. I am hopeful. I am blessed.
Today I was at the playground with my four year old daughter. As she was climbing up the monkey bars, I started to tense up as I was fearing that she might fall or hurt herself. She was able to climb them just fine and it was the first time I had actually seen her do it. She would climb up a short distance and jump down, then climb up a little higher and jump down. Then she climbed up yet again, a little higher than the previous time and lined herself up to get ready to jump.
I could sense that she was thinking it over, the height, the distance and whether she wanted to attempt it from this level. She turns to me and says, I want to jump from here. Going against my initial instinct, I said to go for it. The words made me cringe as I said them. Again, she pauses to calculate, her mind spinning. Then she tells me she is scared.
So I thought for a moment about it, what do I tell her? At first I wanted to tell her not to because I was afraid she might get hurt. But inside I knew that I needed to encourage her. Encourage her to stand up and face her fears. To try things despite being afraid. It’s not like the distance was really that far. If she fell from the fall, she was going to fall into sand. There really was nothing to be afraid of. She lined up and jumped. I wish I could say that it all ended with a high five. It didn’t. She fell forward and her face landed in the sand. So instead, I wound up brushing the sand off her face and helping her up. The good thing, she wasn’t afraid to get back up and go again.
My initial fear was because I wanted to protect her and keep her safe. While that kind of parenting might be wise in some situations, the truth is that it is harmful in many others. I don’t want to raise a child that is afraid to try. I want to raise a child that grows up not fearing risk and takes chances. I want to raise a child that is not afraid to fail.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses and the burning bush. God told Moses that He wanted him to go to Egypt and deliver His people from the hand of Pharoah. First Moses made an excuse about the people not believing him or listening to him but yet God provided him not just one powerful sign, but two. But in Exodus 4:10 Moses came back with yet another excuse…”Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”
God rebukes Moses reminding him who it is that made man’s mouth. He tells him to go and that He will be with his mouth and teach him what to speak. But again, Moses asks God to send someone else. God then provides Moses brother Aaron as a helper.
While many of us are very familiar with that part of the story, most of us don’t think about Stephen’s speech just before he was stoned to death. In that speech (Acts 7:22), he spoke of Moses and said – “And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.”
So we learn here that Moses was actually mighty in not only his deeds but his words too! But Moses said that he was not Could it be that Moses could have actually done his task without the help of Aaron?
How many times does God tell us to do something, but yet we make excuses as to why we can’t? Could it be that when God tells us to do something that He has already made the provision necessary? Could it be that He already knows the end from the beginning? Or could it be that God sees us in a much different light than we see ourselves and our abilities?
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the birth of McKenna, Josiah and Ryleigh. I remember that I couldn’t imagine what my life was going to be like after the birth of three babies at one time. How would we manage? Where would we get the money? Will they be healthy? What are we getting into?
After the initial shock and rough nights early on, it actually took me about three or four months before I actually fell in love with them. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. I was blaming them for the amount of debt we inherited. I was blaming them for the sleepless nights. I was blaming them for being stuck at home. I was blaming them for many things.
We learned to adapt. We learned how to manage. We saw the Lord provide. The babies stayed healthy and developed normally. They were evaluated by early steps and actually didn’t qualify for any programs because they were just like any other singleton baby. God was doing a work in my heart, as He began to break selfishness, pride and fear. Now I can’t imagine my life without them. Wherever we go out in public, we are an attraction. People come up to look and ask questions. They give us an opportunity to talk to strangers and share our story. Now we don’t have to think of some sort of way to break the ice and make conversation.
Now at the age of one, they are all mobile, crawling and getting into everything. They each have distinctively different personalities. It’s amazing to watch three grow up at the same exact time and see the differences.
Ryleigh, who was the smallest at birth is very active and is typically the first to do anything physical. She was the first to crawl and now the first to stand. She is so active that it’s sometimes hard to get her to just stop and cuddle but she has a very fun personality. She moves around quickly and we have to keep a constant eye on her. She’s generally weary of strangers, almost like she is skeptical of their intentions. But once she gets to know you and warms up, she will be the first to greet you verbally. She is also the loudest of the three.
Josiah, the only boy, is usually the first to smile at a stranger and loves people. When you enter a room, he will crawl right up to your feet to greet you. Some of the things Josiah loves is eating, sleeping, eating, being held, eating, jumping and eating. Did I mention that the boy likes to eat? He loves to cuddle and will flirt with other girls. I strum my finger across his lips, which he seems to find comforting. Whenever one of his sisters cries, he will try to strum his finger across their lips to comfort them. He’s a little more needy than the girls, but he’s simply all boy. Have fun growing up with three sisters.
McKenna is the most laid back of the group. She didn’t start crawling until just a couple weeks ago. She’s content just to sit and play or cuddle. She’s the most verbal of the three and is often the first to learn things like drinking from a cup. McKenna is the only one who has developed a vocabulary of more than momma or da-da. She says doggy, Addie (her sister), Grandma, and Ram (VCU Ram that is). She will also beat her chest every time I say King Kong! She’s the most empathetic of them all and will typically put her hand on her brother’s shoulder while he’s fussing. She’s the only one to give a kiss too. She’s just so happy most of the time and will often give the cutest little giggle for no reason at all. She’s the one that most everyone outside of our family gravitates to because she’s just so sweet.
Remembering back to the day we found out we were expecting triplets. The doctor had advised us to pursue selective reduction of at least one if not two to give the other(s) a chance at a normal life. How much more could he have been wrong? Each of these beautiful babies were meant to be here.
I never thought there was such thing as love at first sight until my first child was born. I can remember the emotions and seeing her for the first time, I didn’t want to take my eyes off of her. As she was being cleaned up, she was screaming and they called me over to her. I made my way over and said, “Shhh, it’s all right Addie-Boo.” I remember how she stopped crying as if she recognized my voice and looked over to me and just stared at me. My heart melted as I thought, this is my little girl, my baby girl. Emotions overcame me as it was so hard to hold back the tears.
She was quite a blessing and a miracle at that. After 8 years of experiencing the heartache of infertility, our prayers were finally answered on October 1, 2009 at 1:22PM. This after years of struggling with no answers medically. A stint of foster to adopt that ended after 9 months when the child was given to another family. After my wife had experienced a major hemorrhage and having been told we lost her only to find out days later that she was still there. Then weeks later to be told that there was too much blood still left in the uterus and that there was an 85% chance of miscarriage.
But then a spark of hope! The doctor said, if you are praying people, that might be the only thing that saves this pregnancy. We are/were praying people. And there were many that came together to pray for Addison. See, the day she was born, was a reminder of God’s faithfulness. Of the fact that we can trust Him with the impossible. When the odds are not in our favor, we can get on our knees and lean on the One who cares.
That day was one of the greatest days of my life and always will be remembered as such. Today, my little princess is now 4 years old. I’m amazed at her growth, her intelligence, her beauty and her charm. She is so tender hearted and loves to help her mommy. When the babies cry, she will often go lay her hand on them and pray over them (she’s only mimicking what she sees, we are still waiting for that glorious day). I’m amazed at the vocabulary that she has built as my wife and I sometimes wonder, where in the world did she learn that word. I love the sense of humor that she has had since her early days. I love how she will often times sing, making up lyrics about anything and everything. I love her sensitivity and her desire to please us (Lord help me to be careful with that quality). I love how one of her favorite things is that she looks forward to the flurry of kisses that I pour on her each night before bed.
I can only imagine how difficult it is to be the first born who got all of the attention only to have triplets be born after. But she’s a trooper and despite the lack of attention she might receive at times or from others, she takes it in stride. She is so special.
To this day, my heart still melts when I look at or think about her. Emotions well up inside me as I remember. I praise and thank my God daily for her. She is a perfect gift that He entrusted to our care.
Addison, your life is destined for greatness. You are destined for greatness. I can’t wait to continue to see the story unfold as she grows into the purpose that God has destined for her.
With so many churches out there, you would think it would be easy to find the right church to be a part of. But for my family, this has proven to be a difficult task. We realize that there is no perfect church, but we have to find somewhere that we fit as a family.
After our move to Jacksonville, FL, we were part of a church for about 8 months before we realized that it wasn’t really where we should be. While many people leave churches to find a program that fits their family, or maybe the next best thing, for us, it had more to do with what we actually value.
We’ve decided, this time around, not to jump too quickly, but to observe for a season and see what a church is really about. Dig deep into what they value and where their heart is. There was nothing wrong with the church we left and the other we recently tried for a month. These churches are good churches and people’s lives are being changed, but they didn’t really fit our values.
Along the way, though, we’ve learned, just because a church says they value something doesn’t necessarily mean the people that make up the church do. An organization may create a vision or mission statement, but are they actually tangibly living it out? Do the people that make up the organization actually know and buy into the vision?
I’ve grown to appreciate what Hugh Halter says in his book “And: The Gathered and Scattered Church”. Summarized, their membership process takes place over 4 phases – Observance – Preparation – Participation – Partnership. They want newcomers to observe them for a time hearing their story. At the same time, they make it a point to observe the newcomers and hear their story as well. The preparation phase orients the potential members to the church’s way of missional living. The participation phase gets the people actually trying and doing the things that the church values.
Then it’s membership time. This whole process takes months, giving the potential members an opportunity to learn what his church, Adullam is all about. When it comes to the membership part, he basically tells people, are you willing to “die”with us on this mission. It’s not just Hugh Halter’s mission, it has to be theirs as well.
Why do I appreciate that? I appreciate it because it seems like today, many churches have become more like a country club or social club. Many churches today also grow at the expense of their people actually growing in a deeper relationship with Jesus. Come and die. I’m sure that probably turns away more people, but isn’t this the same approach that Jesus took?
To come and die, you need to know what the values are. You need to know exactly what the mission is. It’s a thing of saying, are you actually “All-In” or are you just saying that half-heartedly.
To top it off, you need to know what you as a family value as well. What do we value? Some of those things are:
We value a gospel-centered church – this is most important.
We value a missional context – not one that is church promotion, but promotes Jesus in a relational way. One that digs deep and will take the time to make an impact outside of the four walls, even if it doesn’t lead to filling the seats inside the four walls.
We value relationships – we desire something deeper than the shallowness that much of suburban church presents. Where people are willing to spend time in the trenches with someone, sharing in times of joy and sadness. Where people are willing to truly share their lives and grow in relation with Jesus together.
We value simple church – nothing flashy, not a show, not built on programs. Some people might like fog machines and lights and performances, but we prefer simple. Jesus is more than enough.
We value discipleship for the whole family – something needs to be taught to the children, they shouldn’t just be entertained. But at the same time, it’s not the church’s responsibility to train up our children, it’s ours. We’d value a program that would share with the parents what was taught so that we can help reinforce and teach throughout the week. We also value discipleship for ourselves which is done in a relational context.
We value a church planting methodology – it’s not about building a mega church and competing with other churches in the area. It’s about sharing the gospel and bringing more people to saving faith. Rather than building “your” kingdom, it’s about building “His” kingdom.
These are just a few things, but I believe it’s a good start. Please pray for us on this journey as we search for a church in this area.
I recently came across a non-profit organization that I believe has a lot of merit. It’s called 12×12 Love Project. Basically, they help to build houses in Guatemala for the poor and try to find single mothers. The houses are very modest, maybe the size of a garage here in the USA, however, they are a huge step up for these families who often live in mud and filth. Another great thing about this non-profit is that the funds raised are used to promote the local economy there in Guatemala. They buy materials from local Guatemalan businesses and use local construction crews as well.
The cost to build a home…$3,000. That’s it. I’d like to challenge anyone and everyone to help build a home. Please message me if you are interested in donating. If you’d like to check out the website:
Is it me or are we completely missing it when it comes to church these days? Before I continue, please realize, I believe church is important and we as followers must be part of a local church. We should never just not go or become a lone ranger.
As I look for a church, it just seems that everything is a cookie cutter blue-print from one to the next. It doesn’t matter whether its denominational, non-denominational or what have you…the truth is, we are not producing what we should. We claim to be changing lives, and that might be true to some degree, however, is the change as a result of the Gospel being proclaimed?
When talking to many church members, you will often find they worship their church more so than the creator. They talk of how their church has changed their lives but Jesus is often left out of the conversation. When you try to talk about what Jesus is doing in their lives, the conversation will always go back to something church focused.
We often label outreach as something that involves wearing our church t-shirts while passing out invitations to attend our church. Or maybe we are part of a feeding ministry that feeds the poor but never shares the gospel. Instead, it just makes the person feel good about themselves because they’ve done what they think is a good deed.
We’ve made service into something that we do within the four walls. Because our church has so many programs, they need workers to meet all of the needs within the multiple services. While this might be service of some form, I find that we are often burning out many people because we try to do way too much that we are not really equipped to do.
I’ve also seen where we will put on some event within the community, like a concert, VBS or whatever else there might be. But the reality of these things is that they are often attended mostly by members of the church or people that already attend church somewhere else. What impact are we really making?
I think part of the problem is that churches are more focused on things that we can quickly quantify. The number of people attending our services, the number of services we have, the numbers we have in each of our children’s/student ministries, etc, etc. Are these things really an indication of our church health? Just because our student ministry is growing doesn’t necessarily mean that the students are truly growing in a relationship with Jesus.
We’ve also made church into something where we want everyone to feel comfortable. This ultimately produces people that will never go outside of their comfort-zone at the risk of offending. How is the gospel truly being proclaimed? By handing out an invitation to attend my church?
We make discipleship into a program that can be check marked and quantified. We leave the relational context out of it because we don’t have the time, energy or resources to make it happen. This happens because we are too busy playing church and we haven’t really produced enough mature believers that can disciple others.
So what is the answer to these things and many other things that aren’t even listed? How do you change a culture that has evolved over so many years? The answer is probably something that most church planting organizations and church planters don’t want to hear. Why? Because you’re not going to have quick results that can be quantified. We don’t have the patience to make the changes that are necessary. We want results and quickly. Instead, we will continue to produce very little for our efforts. Sadly, many people will be shocked at the day when Jesus tells them depart from me, I never knew you.
We often hear a lot of praise reports when something good happens to someone. Of course, we should give God the glory and He does make incredible things happen for us. But sometimes its difficult to see the Lord’s hand at work when we are going through difficult times.
I’ve recently been going through a quite stressful time as I’ve been trying to sell my house in Richmond, VA while I live in Jacksonville, FL. We’ve been renting the house out for the last 3 years but now the tenants are moving away and rather than renting out again, I thought we’d try selling. So beginning next month, my housing will increase to over 60% of our total income.
I’ve saved for this moment and have 6 months of emergency funds stored up – but it is still quite stressful. During this time, I’ve had to learn to rest in the Lord – don’t ask me how it’s done, I don’t really know and I feel like some days, I fail miserably, especially when things get really stressful at work. But other days, I just have this confidence and assurance that the Lord is my Provider. During this time, I’ve also prayed for wisdom. And, maybe most importantly, I’ve finally come to the realization that if I do lose everything, it’s ok. I’m not sure it will come to that, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are much more important things.
It just so happens that the church we are attending started a very practical series on finances – quite timely, I would certainly say. I’ve been examining my life and have seen just how much excess we live in and how we have a problem with materialism. I’ve often thought I did better than others in this area, however, when you begin to look at the things that you “have” but you really don’t “need” – it opens your eyes.
I see how the Lord is refining us in this process by getting us to cut out the waste. Also, we were hoping to buy a house here in FL before our lease is up where we are currently renting. But I’m starting to think the Lord doesn’t want us to buy a house at this time. For what reason, I’m not sure. We’ve always been open to the Lord moving us for ministry purposes.
I’ve also come up with a plan, where I believe the Lord gave me the wisdom, that we might be able to cut things and actually make it with the 60% housing without hitting our savings way too much. Time will tell. But I also see the benefits of all of this cutting back, even if we do sell or at some point re-evaluate and rent the house again. I just feel like the Lord is getting our focus off of things and getting us to think more along the lines of living on as little as we can – eliminating all debt. All for the purpose of living more for the Kingdom.
While I haven’t enjoyed this very much, I’m still praising the Lord through it. He shouldn’t just get glory when things happen quickly, easily and on our own time table. He is always at work, even when it doesn’t fit our timeline. We just have to open our hearts, examine ourselves and listen for His direction.
Life sometimes can be difficult, especially as we enter particular seasons. For many of us, we have so much going on that we run ourselves ragged and let other things, sometimes the things that are more important in our lives slip. I’ve seen many who are constantly on the go so much that they neglect their family. For many of us, it could be a job where we try to climb the corporate ladder or it may be a hobby because we need some sort of enjoyment in our life. Even many in the church think that their service should be put foremost – but at what cost? Is your family worth the cost?
I recently came across some great teaching from a pastor that I respect – Matt Jensen at the Image Church (http://imagejesus.com/) in Jacksonville, FL. I hope I can do justice to the teaching he gave – I’m loosely sharing what I learned as it has really changed the focus on my life. We should prioritize things in our life so that we don’t let the important things slip. Depending on where we are in our lives, this could be different based on if we are married or not, have children or not or even where we might be employed. Here is what I learned:
1. Jesus – for anyone that calls their self a Christian, Jesus should always be at the top of the list. This isn’t service, church or works, this is a personal relationship. We should set aside part of our day to spend alone in prayer and reading the Bible. From this, we then spend the rest of our day communing with Jesus, relying upon His guidance and strength. I have to make this the number one priority because everything else in my life will flow out of that. From this, I will receive direction on how to lead my family and gain strength and ability to do the things that He has called me to do.
2. My wife – my wife should be my next priority. We were brought together in a covenant relationship and we are to serve one another. She is my helper and for us, we have chosen for her to stay at home and raise our children. We need to be in agreement as we raise our children and image Jesus. I am to be the leader of our home and am to serve her so that she can willingly submit. Without having my first priority of being connected with Jesus, I will likely fail this second priority. A good basis for this is Ephesians 5.
3. My children – my children should be my next priority. I am the pastor of my home and I am to create an environment where my children will learn about and come to know Jesus. I am to raise them in a Gospel-centered home. I can’t let other things get in the way of my duties to them. Many of us don’t believe that we have a ministry because we think we aren’t doing something that matters. The truth is our family is our main ministry! This is where we will have the most influence and where we can sow Gospel-centered seeds.
4. Work – this is a difficult one. For some, they often will put this first, however, for me, I’ve had to learn to make this more of a priority than I did before. My place of work is where I spend A LOT of my time. Therefore, this should be where I look to image Jesus as much as possible. Now that I don’t work for a Christian organization, this is where I will come in contact with more people who don’t follow Jesus. Also, I need to work to provide for my family – especially since we have chosen to go the path of a one income family.
5. Ministry/Church – this was also a difficult one. Many of us who call ourselves Christians may put this much higher on the priority list. For many of us, we might think that we are doing good, however are we letting other things slip to do this? In my example, I was wanting to serve in the church but this was putting a great strain on my wife of trying to get 3 babies and a toddler ready, loaded and brought to church by herself. It actually made her resent going to church because it became such a task. Seeing that my wife is number 2 on my priority list, I had to stop serving. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t serve in church — I’m saying that we need to make Jesus our #1 priority and be connected to Him. From this, I was able to hear the Lord tell me that for the season I am in right now, service in church needs to take a back door. This is hard for some to hear and many might not agree with me, however, I believe this is where the Lord has led me. After we come out of this particular season, service in church will definitely come back.
At one time in my life, I had a hobby that took precedence over the 5 things I had listed. After much prayer, I’ve made the decision to stick to this list, even at the expense of disappointing others outside of my list. I hope to share more on each of these five areas in other blog posts, possibly taking each of the priorities and digging deeper into each.