The Shadow-lands

Wandering alone in the shadow-lands. That’s how I described life and ministry to a friend almost two years ago. Darkness seemed endless and (to be honest) my faith felt unstable. I was afraid of my weakness and overconfident in my abilities. (I had no idea what lay ahead. It was far worse than I could have anticipated.)

My friend did not respond to the plea of my aching soul as I hoped. In fact I initially despised his words. He said, “My first matter of prayer for you is that you will see God in the shadow-lands; that even without the good times, good feeling, and showers of blessings you will be satisfied with just Him, Himself … for however long God purposes to be the sole encouragement you have.”

I like chocolate. I like coffee. I like rich worship, family fun, and walking with my wife. I do not like pain…hurt…loneliness or suffering, at all! The words of my “friend” stung with the reality of my having to walk through the valley of the shadow.

My perspective for months was suffocating in grief and uncertainty. My friends perspective was that we, “would never choose to go (to the shadow-lands). But that is precisely why God wisely and lovingly superintends our paths to bring us there.”

The exhortation of my friend, was to seek and to see God in the darkness. His prayer was for my success, not my relief. Life during that entire season was extremely unsettling; which I discovered, was the point.

God does not need me, I need Him.

Are you currently in the shadow-lands? I urge you to spend some time with God here: Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Nahum 1:7; Exodus 14:13; Psalm 46:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-11

“Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I am weak, but He is strong.

Advertisements

My Old Bible

old_bible“Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold
Is this Book worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.

This old Book is my guide,
’Tis a friend by my side,
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find
Soothes and gladdens the mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this Book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing Divine.”

~ Don Jennings

My prayer for Ukraine…

A week after 9/11 (2001) a small group of us spent two weeks in Kiev and Odessa Ukraine with Slavic Gospel Association.  It was… incredible.  (Though no-one prepared me for being greeted with “a holy kiss”…over and over and over…everywhere we went.)

The pastors we met were dedicated (and godly) men who love the Word, cherish the Son, exalt the Father and yearn for their friends and neighbors to come to Christ.  Whole communities came out for the 3-4 hour long services that often included 2-4 sermons.  People arrived early, quietly prepared their hearts before the service and tearfully sang with rapturous joy in their hearts.

We also visited orphanages full of children.  I will never forget the little boy Uri who approached me and in broken but clear English said, “My name is U-ri. Vhat is yours?”  I wish someone could have taken a picture of his expression when I said, “Clegguart” (pronounced clay-gert) … I was ready to adopt him on the spot (along with the rest of the children).

I often find myself praying for the pastors we met and the churches in which we ministered.  One in particular stands out in my mind. Outside of Odessa and down rough dirt roads (I’m being generous) and across several fields lay a tiny little village where church was held every week, in a garage.

Packed in like sardines and using a little Casio keyboard for accompaniment, we gathered for worship.  After the service we walked a short distance down the road to a pile of rocks (not finely crafted bricks – random rocks).  The enthusiasm and anticipation was almost unbelievable.  This was to be their new church building.  They were building, stone by stone, piece by piece, mostly with their bare hands, a church.

I don’t know the political ups and downs of the current situation in Ukraine.  I do know that God is still on His throne and the Gospel still saves.

My prayer for Ukraine: May God’s people be faithful, God’s Word be proclaimed, God’s Spirit be unleashed, God’s Son be exalted and God be glorified!

To my pastor friends in Ukraine… Remember: Preach the Word, love the people and trust the Lord!

Image

Lord, You are my everything

flat,550x550,075,fLord, You are my Comfort.
When hard times come my way,
Your presence never leaves me.
You are with me all the way.

Lord, You are my Strength.
When I grow weary in this land,
Never will I falter.
I’m upheld by Your right hand.

Lord, You are my Peace.
You are the calmer of my fears.
When worries overwhelm me,
Your love wipes away my tears.

Lord, You’re my Sustainer,
You hold me safely at Your side.
I will make it through the storms,
Because in You I will abide.

Lord, You are my Joy.
Amidst the trials and the pain,
I trust Your sovereign care.
I see the Son between the rain.

Lord, You are my Rock,
My firm foundation, solid ground.
You are mighty and unchanging,
You have no limits and no bounds.

Lord, You are my Everything,
Life with You is complete.
One day You’ll bring me home to You,
And I will worship at Your feet.

~ By Jackie Arnoldi

Praying for Pastors tonight…

pulpit_frontPraying tonight for those men who stand in the pulpit to give faithful exposition of the word of God… most of us will spend our lives in earthly anonymity.

That’s OK!

Tomorrow is Sunday. The Lord’s Day. The gathering of the brethren in order to feed on the word, to hear from the Lord, and to commune with one another. Most important of all they will gather in order to engage the heart, ready the mind, and prostrate the soul in worship of the living God.

Brothers: Preach so as to please God, not men!

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober- minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Additional Food For Thought:

Isaiah 6:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:1-7; 15; Revelation 4:10-11; 5:8-10; 7:11

A Poem for Difficult Days

3053Lord, Just today I read
That Paul and Silas were
Stripped and beaten
With wooden whips.
“Again and again the rods
Slashed across their bared backs”
But in their desolate dungeon
Their feet clamped in stocks
They prayed.
They sang.
They praised.
In this musty midnight of my life
Imprisoned in the dungeon of confusion
Bound by chains of anguish
Help me, please help me
To pray
To sing
To praise
Until the foundation shakes
Until the gates fling open
Until the chains fall off
Until I am free
To share the Good News
With other chain-bound prisoners.

—Ruth Harms Calkin,
Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget

I am a minister.

preacher-black-and-white-silhouetteMy challenge is big.  My vision is clear.  My desire is strong.  My influence is eternal.  My impact is critical.  My values are solid.  My faith is tough.  My mission is urgent.  My purpose is unmistakable.  My direction is forward.  My heart is genuine.  My strength is supernatural.  My reward is promised.

And my God is real.

I refuse to be dismayed, disengaged, disgruntled, discouraged, or distracted.  Neither will I look back, stand back, fall back, go back or sit back.  I do not need applause, flattery, adulation, prestige, stature or veneration.  I have no time for business as usual, mediocre standards, small thinking, normal expectations, average results, ordinary ideas, petty disputes or low vision.  I will not give up, give in, bail out, lie down, turn over, quit or surrender.

I am a minister.  That is what I do.

 Author Unknown

The Race

MarathonPart 1:
“Quit! Give up! You’re beaten!”
They shout out and plead.
“There’s just too much against you now,
This time you can’t succeed!”

And as I start to hang my head
In front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by
The memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will
As I recall that scene;
For just the thought of that short race
Rejuvenates by being.

Part 2:
A children’s race – young boys, young men
How I remember well.
Excitement, sure, but also fear;
It wasn’t’ hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope;
Each thought to win the race,
Or tie for first, or if not that,
At least take second place.

And fathers watched from off the side,
Each cheering for his son,
And each boy hoped to show his dad
That he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went,
Young hearts and hopes afire!
To win, to be the hero there,
Was each young boy’s desire.

And one boy in particular
Whose dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead and thought
“My dad will be so proud!”

But as he sped down the field
Across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win,
Lost his step and slipped.

Trying hard to catch himself
His hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd,
He fell flat on is face.

But as he fell, his dad stoop up
And showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said,
“Get up and win the race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done,
Behind a bit, that’s all –
And ran with all his mind and might
To make up for his fall.

So anxious to restore himself
To catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than he legs;
He slipped and fell again!

He wished that he had quit before
With only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now;
I shouldn’t try to race.”

But in the laughing crowd he searched
And found his father’s face,
That steady look which said again,
“Get up and win the race!”

So he jumped up to try again,
Ten yards behind the last –
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought,
“I’ve got to move real fast.”

Exerting everything he had
He gained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead,
He slipped and fell again!

Defeat! He lay there silently
A tear dropped from his eye
“There’s no sense running anymore;
Three strikes, I’m out, why try?”

The will to try had disappeared
All hope had fled away;
So far behind, so error prone,
A loser all the way.

“I’ve lost; so what’s the use,” he thought.
“I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad
Whom soon he’d have to face.

“Get up!” an echo sounded low.
“Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here.
Get up and win the race!”

With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said,
“You haven’t lost at all.
For winning is not more than this –
To rise each time you fall.”

So up he rose to win once more,
And with new commit,
He resolved that win or lose,
At least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now
The most he’d ever been
Still he gave it all he had
And ran as though to win.

Three times he’d fallen stumbling,
Three times he’d rose again,
Too far behind to hope to win
He still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner
As he crossed first place,
Head high, proud and happy,
No falling, no disgrace.

But when the fallen youngster
Crossed the line, last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer
For finishing the race.

And even though he came in last
With head bowed low, un-proud,
You would have thought he won the race
Just listening to the crowd.

And to his dad he sadly said,
“I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won,” his father said.
“You rose each time you fell!”

(Not sure who wrote this poem.  It has been attributed to different people.  For the sake of this post we’ll just say, “Author Uncertain.” – For our son Jordan, in his second year of Jr. High Cross-country!)