Monthly Archives: November 2015

Why We Are and Continue to be Thankful!

A dear friend sent this to Emily and I last year. I posted it a year ago, but felt compelled to post it again today. The lady who wrote this had a daughter who died 6 years ago. Her words aptly describe exactly how Emily and I feel. As I went through it, I adjusted her comments and some things in a few places to personalize it for our situation. We are thankful for so many things today…grieving, yet rejoicing! As we have said: “Life is less sweet, death is less bitter, and heaven is more real.”
“What is there to be thankful for on this day?

We are thankful to be Trey’s mom and dad. It was an honor and a privilege and a blessing beyond measure.

We are thankful for the people that we met along the way–doctors, nurses, and other parents of people that we would never have met if we hadn’t entered their world.

We are thankful for Trey’s incredible laugh and beautiful smile…two things burned in our hearts forever.

We are thankful for superheroes, action figures, coloring books, cartoons, wrestlers, video games, and so many other things Trey loved.

We are thankful for the lives that were and continue to be changed through our story.

We are thankful that on September 1, 2013, Trey didn’t die, he began to “really live!”

We are thankful for a little 7 year old boy named Ben who asked Jesus to be the “boss of his life,” just like Trey!

We are thankful for the wisdom we are gaining through suffering.

We are thankful that we have received comfort that we can use to comfort others.

We are thankful for a marriage that will survive the death of a child.

We are thankful for our other children whose lives were forever impacted, but not defined, by their brother’s death. We are thankful for the incredible courage they show every single day of their lives.

We are thankful for tested faith that is more precious than gold.

We are thankful for an eternal perspective. What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal…2 Corinthians 4:18.

We are thankful that we are learning to trust God deeply, even though we can’t always understand him.

We are thankful for the ‘missing feeling’ that reminds us that this world is not our home.

We are thankful for a reunion to look forward to.

We are thankful that Trey taught us to make every breath count and to live life even when we feel don’t like it.

We are thankful for good friends who walked through the valley with us and who remember.

We are thankful for new friends whose encouragement has meant more to us than we could ever say. 

We are thankful that God can make beauty from ashes and change mourning to dancing.

We will always be sorry that Trey died, but we will never be sorry that he lived.

We are thankful that because of Jesus and Jesus alone…we will see our son again and worship the one true God together around His throne!

Just Do the Next Right Thing

I recently spent some time with an individual who feels stuck in their life. This particular person battles depression and anxiety, and often gets so low he cannot even function in the daily routines of life. He takes medications and sees a therapist, but nothing seems to be helping.

As we talked, I found myself thinking back to the days when our son, Trey, was in the hospital. As I have stated before, he was in the hospital for over 280 days throughout 2012-2013. It was overwhelming that he was in the hospital so long, but to make matters more challenging, he was also in a hospital in Dallas. This hospital was over three hours away from our home in Newcastle. My wife and I spent countless hours taking turns, driving back and forth for nearly a year. Of course the hardest part was watching our son struggle. We would have driven to the moon to be with him and make him better if it would have helped. All of it put together was an incredibly difficult season of life.

During that time, my wife and I had a motto that helped us keep perspective. The motto was, “One day at a time.” During all those months of difficulty, we tried not to think too far ahead. We would often say, “One day at a time.” The Bible tells us in Matthew 6 not to worry about tomorrow, for each day had enough trouble of its own. A great discipline in life is simply to focus on the day that is right before you.

After our son passed away, we tried to carry on with that same motto, but it was even harder. There were, and still are days, when the grief is so overwhelming it is hard to function. To help us, we tweaked our motto just a little bit, and it has helped us be able to keep moving at times when we feel stuck. Our new motto is, “Just do the next right thing.” On those mornings we do not want to get out of bed, we do not focus on what we need to do at 3pm that day, but what we need to do in that moment. The next right thing is to get out of bed, and then get ready, and then get in the car, and then go to wherever it is we need to go. I know it sounds simple, but it has been very helpful to us.

Sometimes in life, we need to be reminded of what is obvious, and the most obvious and helpful thing to do when you feel stuck and overwhelmed is simply to do the next right thing. Do not think of all the other things you have to do, just think of the next thing you need to do. As we begin to do the little things, and just keep going, we soon find that we have accomplished more in that day than we ever imagined.

Today, you might be in a place of serious struggle. Your heart and mind might be overwhelmed to the point of extreme stress. Perhaps you are battling feelings of depression and anxiety. I tell you what I told the gentleman I recently spoke with, “Just do the next right thing.” If you do not know what that thing is, stop, take a moment and pray, and whatever God brings to your mind, do that very thing. It is simple, but profoundly helpful, when we simply do the next right thing.

On this special Thanksgiving week, just do the next right thing. Try it out, and watch how it helps you and blesses others. Happy Thanksgiving!

Good News or Bad News: Which do you want first?

Have you ever had someone say to you, “I’ve got good and bad news, which do you want first?”  I would venture to say that most people pick the bad news first, not because they are a “glass is half-empty” kind of person, but rather because hearing the bad news first always seems to make the good news that much better.  Imagine your doctor coming to you and saying, “Good news, I have a cure for your problem” (without you even knowing you have a problem).  You might respond by saying, “Well, that’s great, but I didn’t know I was sick.”  Turn that scenario around and imagine your doctor coming to you and delivering you bad news, like you have a condition that is causing you to die. Then he says, “But I have good news, I have found a cure!” The bad news remains bad, but gets completely overshadowed by the great news you just received.

One of the biggest problems in our world today is that most people do not understand the exact nature of their spiritual condition before the Holy God of all creation. They simply have not been told the bad news. Many know about Jesus, but do not know how much they truly need Him. Most people are simply seeking to “add God” to their already very full lives, instead of giving Him their whole life. I am convinced this is because many people have not heard the bad news first.

The Bible tells us very clearly in Romans 3:23 that all human beings are sinners. Ephesians 2:1-3 speaks of all humanity being children of wrath, dead in sin, and left without any hope of redemption.  The Scripture is crystal clear that, because of sin, every human being stands to bear the wrath and judgment of God.  Our sinfulness leaves us condemned before a holy God and reveals we have no hope of salvation on our own. This is really bad news, but it is the truth.

It is important to understand such bad news. The bad news must be told if the good news is to be fully embraced. Without the bad news, the good news just becomes okay news. Humanity cannot understand their need for Jesus, for a Savior, if they do not understand the depth of their sinfulness. To say it another way, a person cannot be saved, if they do not first understand they are lost. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is bad news and good news, and both must be heard and understood. Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (bad news) and are justified (saved) by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (good news).”  The Gospel tells us that we are sinners, but that God did something about it. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The full redemptive plan and message of God centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is great news!

Ephesians 2:4 says, “BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, for by grace you have been saved.”  Hallelujah for God’s grace! Without Jesus, we stand condemned, but with Jesus, we are redeemed. When a person hears and understands the Gospel, they first feel helpless, leaving them to look to something beyond themselves, but then as they look to Jesus, they find all that they need. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “When man gets to the end of himself, that is when he gets to the beginning of God.” The problem is that most people never get to the end of themselves. If they do, that is when they understand the good news and find the hope, forgiveness, and salvation that Jesus alone brings. But, to receive those things, you must realize you need them.

Jesus Christ redeems and rescues us from the wrath to come!  Through Him we no longer stand condemned and helpless! Jesus becomes our righteousness and defense, and gives us the ability to stand forgiven and fully justified in the presence of God! I recently heard someone say, “Hell will be full of people who think they deserved Heaven, and Heaven will be full of people who know they deserved Hell.” In order to find God, you must understand what you deserve apart from Him. Look to Jesus today. He is your only hope.

Having a Passion for What Matters Most

I am a very passionate person. I put my entire heart into most everything I do. I believe that you either need to be “all in,” or “all out” in life, but never anywhere in between. We need to take the life God has given to us, and live it with passion.

What is passion? The Random House College Dictionary defines it as having a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for something. Passion is also something that energizes you to the point that simply doing it is your reward. As my friend says, “Passion is what gets you out of bed in the morning. It is what drives and motivates you.”  The question is, “Do you have passion, or what are you passionate about?”

It is important to determine the things in life we should be most passionate about. If you have read my blog at all, you would know that I am most about passionate about living for eternal things and living life with an eternal perspective. There is nothing that should motivate or drive a Christian more than eternal things.  For the Christian, life is not about “living it up,” but rather about “storing it up.”  Christians are living in this life with their mind set on the life to come.  We are to be passionate about eternal things because those are the things that last forever.  My all-time favorite Scripture is 2 Corinthians 4:18 which says, “So we fix our eyes, not on what we can see, but on what we cannot see; for what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” A Christian’s passion and focus needs to be on eternal things.

In the world in which we live, it is very easy to be passionate about things that have no eternal consequence. For example, football season is in full force and is a great example. For many, there will be more passion expressed about a football game on Saturday, than the things of the Lord on Sunday. Likewise, hunting season is here and is another example. Again, for many, great passion, energy, resources, and time will be given to hunting and killing an animal, than to telling someone about Christ, helping someone in need, or being a part of God’s Kingdom work. I could give many more examples, but the reality is, many people in this world give their time and energy to things that do not matter. Again, most people are seeking to “live it up,” rather than “store it up.”

I am not saying we cannot enjoy the things of this world to some degree, but they cannot be the focus of our lives. We should not be more passionate about trivial temporal things than we are the Lord. 1 Timothy 6:7 says, “We brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” In other words, there will be no U-Hauls attached to your hearse. As someone has said, “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.”

This is why you must live with an eternal perspective. Yes, you cannot take anything from this world with you when you die, but you can make an eternal investment by living your life for the right things on earth. I love this quote from a man named Randy Alcorn. He says, “May my perspective today be the perspective I will have one minute after I die.” That is how we need to live because it is God we will stand before one day. Eternal things should inspire, motivate, and create passion in us. Today, live with passion for what matters most. Do not live it up, instead, store it up!

Following God on the Journey to Glory

I am currently preaching through the book of Exodus at our church. Most people are familiar with the Exodus story and know about Moses, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Ten Commandments, etc. It is a very familiar book of the Bible.  What most people may not know is what happens to God’s people after all the “major events” happen in the book of Exodus. This is where we currently are in our study.

After God’s people miraculously walk through the middle of the Red Sea, they enter the wilderness. This is where they would spend forty years wandering before they enter the Promised Land. FORTY YEARS!!!  That is a long time to wait for a promise that had been given to them. In these years of wandering, God was preparing them for what they would need to do when they entered the Promised Land. He would grow, strengthen, test, and mature them during these years. They would need to follow God and God alone on their journey to glory.

As Christians, we are on a journey to glory as well. We are just passing through this world because this place is not our final destination. Believers will one day be a part of what God calls the “New Heaven and the New Earth” in Revelation 21.  As Christians, we long to be with God and all our brothers and sisters in Christ in this place. In the New Heaven and New Earth, there will be no sorrow, no pain, no suffering, no sickness, no evil, no sin, and no death. We will be in the presence of God and will worship and serve him alongside all other believers for all of eternity. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Until we get there though, we, like the Israelites, are on a journey, and on our journey, we must learn how to follow God. As I have been teaching through Exodus, here are a few things that I have learned about what it means to follow God:

First, we must listen to God carefully! If we are to follow God, we need to know what He has said. God does not just want us to entertain His words, He wants us to hear them and receive them deeply. On our journey to glory, we must pay careful attention to ALL that God has said.

Second, we must obey God completely! God is not interested in partial obedience. He demands, and more importantly, deserves, complete obedience. God is worthy of being followed because He is God and He knows what is best. When it comes to following God, we must listen to and put into practice all that He has said.

Third, we must worship and serve God exclusively! In the story of Exodus, when God’s people went into the Promised Land, they were to demolish the idols of the false gods and not worship anyone or anything other than the one true God. In other words, God did not want worship to be shared. He deserves all of our worship because He is God and there is no other. When it comes to following God today, we must not allow other gods into our life. We are to love the Lord our God with ALL of heart, soul, mind, and strength and worship Him exclusively.

Finally, we must trust God explicitly. If there was anything the Israelites needed to learn on their journey, and that Christians must learn on their journey, it is that God can be and must be trusted. God told Israel He would give them great victory, but it would come little by little and not all at once. Likewise, in our Christian life, God does not always give us the whole victory all at one time. He often gives victory little by little. He does this so that we will learn to trust Him. In our journey to glory, the road is sometimes very difficult. The journey can seem long and hard. We must remember that God is with us and will never leave or forsake us. He is our Guide, Protector, Deliverer, and Savior. As we follow Him, He will lead us all the way home to our final destination, and then we will see that the journey to glory was well worth it. Until then, hang on and keep trusting Him. As I have said before, God doesn’t always give us what we want, but He does always give us Himself…and that is enough!

God’s Plans Are Better Than Our Dreams

My life has not turned out to be what I expected. For the last 20 years, I have watched God crush my dreams, in order to build something far better than I could have ever imagined. I am 38 years old, and have one older brother. I grew up in a small family of four. I always imagined getting married and having one boy and one girl. I envisioned a nice, quiet, organized, and very controlled life. My wife and I got married my senior year and her junior year in college. We were married in February of 1999, Emily got pregnant in September, and we had our first child, a little girl, on May 31, 2000. Guess what? 364 days later, we had our second child, a little boy, on May 30, 2001. At this point, although life was crazy with two children being so close together, we had our daughter and son, and our family was complete…or so I thought. We left the size of our family up to the Lord, and He had other plans :-).

A little time went by, and Emily got pregnant with our third child, which we had on January 15, 2003. This child was born with some very serious medical complications, and spent the first seven months of his life in the hospital. He received chemotherapy as a baby and a bone marrow transplant for an immune deficiency that had plagued him since birth. Our family was living in Arkansas at the time, but had to uproot and live in Los Angeles, CA for seven months so our son could receive treatment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. It was a highly difficult and chaotic time to say the least.

At this time in our lives, my wife and I felt we were done having children. We had always left the size our family up to the Lord, but felt we needed to do what we could to not have any more children. In 2003, we had three children three years of age and under, one of which had serious medical issues. We felt our quiver was full, but God had other plans. Despite our efforts to not have any more children, Emily got pregnant again, and in April of 2006, our fourth child, another boy, was born to us. This was Trey, and we called him our miracle baby.  it was clear God wanted him here. Trey, like our son that was born in 2003, had serious medical issues at birth. He had a rough start, and was hospitalized for the first four months of his life in Dallas, TX. He, too, received a bone marrow transplant for his immune deficiency, but responded well initially and was able to live a fairly normal life for six years.

As difficult as it was having another child with significant medical issues, Trey stole our hearts and God used him to open Emily and I up to wanting to have another child. We both wanted another girl and felt the Lord leading us to try. The Lord continued to bless us, and provided another daughter in January of 2009. This little girl was, and remains, a tremendous blessing to our family. Little would we know how much we would need her later on when we would endure such difficult things with Trey. In 2009, we were a family of seven, and everything, for the first time seemed to appear settled. Our lives were crazy busy, but things were finally “under control,” or so I thought.

As you know, our son, Trey, lived a normal life for six strong years until some serious complications arose with his health. In 2012 and 2013, he was hospitalized for nearly 300 days fighting for his life against a very rare form of cancer. On September 1, 2013, the Lord called him to his eternal home in heaven. This day crushed our family. It was a day none of us ever envisioned. From that day forth, we set out on a new journey as a family, a journey of grief and healing…a journey we will be on until the Lord returns or calls us home. Little did we know though that God had more blessings planned for our lives.

Emily and I have always talked about adoption. We envisioned adopting a child or two internationally at some point in our lives. We were not sure when we would do that, but it was always in our heart. To make a long story short, after Trey went to be with the Lord, God put a little boy in our lives, who was being fostered by a woman in our church. God used this little boy to begin to open our hearts up to fostering/adopting. Emily and I prayed about it and went through the process of approval with the Department of Human Services (DHS). We wanted to get involved in the orphan crisis right here in Oklahoma and open ourselves up to providing a home for a child in need.

In December of 2014, my wife and I received a call from DHS, and were asked if we would be willing to take in a foster son who was three months old. This little boy was related to the other little boy in our church that God had used to get us involved in orphan care. We prayed about it, and decided to take him into our home. For almost a year now, our little foster son has been with us, and has been a huge part of our healing. Our hope and prayer is to adopt him and make him a permanent part of our family. We are not sure this will happen, but are very hopeful it will. Again, this was not anything we saw coming, but was something God had planned for us from before the foundation of the world. Our family dynamic had changed, and life, once again, although chaotic, appeared to be settled. But, God still had something more.

A little over a week ago, I was sitting in my office on a regular Monday. My phone rang and I answered it. It was a caseworker from DHS. She informed me that our foster son’s birth mother had recently had another a baby that was just a few days old, and wanted to know if we would be willing to take the child into our home. My initial reaction was “yes,” but I needed to talk to my wife first. I called Emily, she of course said yes, so we jumped into the car, headed immediately to the hospital, and picked up a five-day-old precious little girl…just two hours after we were called. Just like that, our family had grown once again.

Although we do not know what God’s plans are for these children, our plans are to adopt them and make them a permanent part of our family. I have learned not to presume anything, but simply to remain open to whatever God has for us. God is the only One who has a way of taking difficult things and turning them around for our good and for His glory. Yes, my life has not turned out as I expected. I wish every day that was Trey was still here, but God has used him to touch countless lives for eternity, and to open our hearts up to fostering/adopting. Again, this is never what I envisioned for my life. Many of my dreams have been crushed to dust, but God has been building something out of the rubble of my life that I pray brings Him immense glory. Life is not about the fulfillment of our dreams, but rather doing God’s will and letting Him accomplish His plans through us. I would have never imagined my family would look like it currently does, but God’s plans are always better than our dreams.

We currently have seven children, one of which is with the Lord. Will we take in more children? Will our family dynamic change again? I have no idea, but I do know this: “He, Jesus, is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and HE UPHOLDS THE UNIVERSE BY THE WORD OF HIS POWER (Hebrews 1:3).” I also know that”And He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER (Colossians 1:17).” As the Casting Crowns song, Just Be Held, says, “My world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.” I just have to remember that every single day, and although I see through a glass darkly shaded now, one day I will see face to face! Even so come Lord Jesus!!!

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