A Week Of Firsts

Turning 50

This last week has held two different firsts in my life. The first was that I turned 50. That did not really seem like that much to me. It is just a natural part of life. I have been bald on top since I was 17, so that did not mean much to me. And I have had some grey hair for several years already, nothing new either.

Getting older has never bothered me in any way. I guess having eight wonderful children has kept me young, even though I am getting older and slowing down. I can no longer run as fast, or as long as I used to be able to.

The other first for me this week did have a major impact on me. My oldest daughter got married and I had to be the one to give her away.

I am not one to cry very easy or at every little thing that comes my way. Although there have been movies that have brought tears to my eyes, and I am not ashamed or afraid to cry, when needed.

Over the last few months, since she got engaged, I have been ready for this wedding to happen. I never cried or was sad about it. I was very excited that she was getting married. It never bothered me that she would be leaving the house now, after 23 years.

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However, Saturday, when I began to walk my daughter down the aisle, the emotions started to overwhelm me. It was tears of joy, but tears none-the-less.

One of the things I had to do, as part of the ceremony, was to stand up in front of everyone and pray for her new marriage. She and her husband held hands, the pastor had his hands on them also, and I put my hands on top of hers when I prayed.

I have spoken in front of many people, many times over the years. I have also acted and sang in front of hundreds of people. I have even been the pastor over a wedding and over a funeral. Never once have I been afraid, or unable to speak, till that day.

As I was getting ready to speak, my mind went blank for the first time ever, another first in this past week. What I planned to say completely left me speechless. When I tried to speak, I had to really force the words to come out of my mouth. At that moment, my heart was overwhelmed at what was happening. It was overwhelmed with joy and pride. I also knew the value of the prayer that I was getting ready to pray. It was to be a blessing upon the new marriage.

I knew that the man she was marrying was the one God had for her. If I were to list everything that I would want in a man to marry her, he had it all, and then some. Over the last ten years, I have watched him grow up and become a great man of God. He has a heart to pray for and be a witness to anyone and everyone, anytime and every time. He has a servant’s heart to serve any person in need, no matter the cost to himself. He came from a family that serves God with all of their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths.

My daughter had desired to be married since before she graduated high school. She had continually prayed to God for the one that she was to marry. She constantly asked God where that man was and when would she get him. Although my daughter and her husband had grown up together, for most of that time, they were not together or even considering each other. God, however, was building both of them up to be who each one needed the other to be. They are the perfect helpmates for each other.

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As I prayed that prayer of blessing upon them, I knew that God is going to bless their marriage and ministry together. I am looking forward to the ministry that God will do through them, now that they are together in marriage. Both have great ministries of their own, but now together they will work together building God’s kingdom for His glory and honor.

I did pray a blessing over them. God filled me with His overwhelming peace of His Holy Spirit to say the words I prayed. As I prayed, I also had tears of joy welling up in my eyes. Afterwards, my wife was very surprised, because that is not something normal for me.

While I was watching the wedding, and watching it again on video, because it was recorded, I had the same feelings I had when I married my wife 25 years ago. I knew then that my wife was the one God had for me beyond any shadow of doubt. And I still know that to this day with no doubts. As I knew my wife was the one for me, I knew that this man was the one for my daughter. I also know that they will keep God at the center of their lives and their marriage.

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For those who are still single and want to get married, keep your eyes focused on God. He will bring the right person to you at the right time. Wait on His perfect timing.

For those of you who are married, also keep your eyes focused on God. Keep your marriage centered on pleasing God and He will do great things in and through your marriage.

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Staying in the center of God’s will, will always have many firsts in it, but God will strengthen you to do whatever comes your way or make it through whatever comes your way..

 

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Jeremiah 2:1-2 Do You Still Have First Love?

The word of the LORD came to me: “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem: “This is what the LORD says: “‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.'” Jeremiah 2:1-2

When a person is in love to the point of getting married, he is usually in head over heels in love with the bride. The bride is also madly in love with the groom at the point of getting married.

Both of them look at each other as the greatest in the world, that there can be no fault in the other. They desire to spend time together, doing anything and everything together. Often the things they do will include doing crazy little things together. All of this is because of love.

The first months together as a married couple will be seen as fully devoted to each other. They will follow each other everywhere one goes, regardless of how hard it is. This is first love devotion.

The sad part is that many marriages do not stay that way. Many, and often within the first year to two years, fall out of that first love for each other. They begin to get discontented with each other. Many begin to wonder what they ever saw in each other and why they loved each other.

God is looking at Israel in these verses and remembering their first love for Him. They started off dedicated to Him and following Him everywhere. Israel had forgotten their first love and dedication to God. The chose to not follow Him any more.

Take a good look at your life. Remember back to when you first chose to follow God. Think of the reasons why you chose to follow God. Think about how much love you had for God and what you would do for Him at that time.

Is that love for God still the same?

Or have you allowed your love for God to fall away?

Many people, like Israel, have chosen to let their crazy love for God to calm down. They are no longer madly in love with God and begin to not follow Him everywhere He goes.

Renew your first love and devotion to God. Make Him first and foremost in your life, and start following Him again through the wilderness of this life.

I pray today that you will remember your first love for God; that you will be dedicated to God; that you will follow God everywhere; and that you will tell others of your love for God.

Isaiah 62:5 God Rejoices Over You

As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:5

Isaiah is telling the people that God rejoices over the city of Jerusalem. Even though He had it destroyed for a time, God was in the process of rebuilding it. Jerusalem is portrayed as a bride, and God is seen as the bridegroom, even though God had built Jerusalem.

God was excited at the thought of marrying His bride–Jerusalem, just as a young man is excited and rejoices when he is about to marry his bride.

Jesus expanded the love of God and the term of bride to include more than just the Israelites and Jerusalem. Those terms now include every person who believes in Jesus, which is the church.

In life, many people do not believe that any person, much less God, could possibly love them enough to want to marry them. They see their own faults and cannot believe anyone would want them, including God. People in this world often see themselves as a dirty, worthless, un-loveable person.

Many women see themselves in that way, and often wonder or don’t even believe that someone can really love them, or would want to marry them. There are also many men who feel the same way about themselves. They go through life feeling as though no woman would ever love them enough to marry them.

While this happens in the physical world between men and women, it also happens in the spiritual world with God. People feel God cannot love them or want them because of all the bad things that they have done in their past.

This is not true. Israel had a lot of bad faults and had walked away from God, yet God still loved Israel.

Regardless of what you have done in the past, you can be made clean by the blood of Jesus. You are able to put on the spotless, white robe that He provides.

God made you and knows all your faults, even better than you do, yet, God wants you as His bride. He rejoices over the thought of having you as His bride, just as a young man rejoices over his bride when he is ready to get married.

Look forward to that wedding day in heaven. Rejoice with God as He rejoices with you. Get yourself ready for that wedding.

I pray today that you will allow Jesus to clean up your life; that you will be prepared to be married to God; that you will know God’s great love for you; and that you will rejoice with God in your relationship with Him.

Isaiah 26:9 Who Do You Desire?

My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9

When a man and woman are in love with each other, they want to spend all their time together. Their thoughts are continually on each other. If they are still in high school, they are often sending each other notes, texting, and talking on the phone at all hours of the day and night. Often they memorize each others words or notes.

The level of their desire for each other is often seen as silly by other people, because they do crazy things while thinking about each other.

Once a couple get married, however, the thoughts often start to drop over time. For the first year or so, their thoughts are constantly about each other in love. Later, all too often, one or both begin to look to others and desire someone else. Too often many marriages end up in divorce because of the desire for someone else.

Isaiah is talking about a desire for God. The spirit of a believer longs for God day and night. He wants to be in God’s presence at all times.

When a person has accepted the forgiveness of Jesus, he knows the peace that God brings him. He understands that God is no longer judging him for those sins. There is true love between the person and God.

In the process of yearning for God, there are many who begin to look to others, desiring the love of others, rather than that of God. They turn to things and ways of this world.

When you are laying on your bed at night, waiting for sleep to overtake you, who or what are you thinking about? What are the great dreams of this life do you have?

It is easy to think about the things of this world and get caught up in them. But the things of this world are temporary and never really fulfilling. They cannot bring you life.

Only God can give you true peace, contentment and life in this world. Make Him your hearts desire. Think about Him day and night. Meditate on His words and study them.

I pray today that God will be the center of your life; that you will desire no one or anything else but God; that your thoughts will always be upon God and His word; and that you will not turn from God to the things of this world.

Spiritual And Physical Storms

Last month my wife and I had made it to our 25th anniversary. As a couple the journey has been great! However, during that journey there have been many challenges along that way, though not with each other. As we hit that anniversary date, we wanted to celebrate it in some special way. We did not want to just go out for a dinner date and a movie. It needed to be a get away for at least two or three days.

Our children pulled their money together and gave us a gift of a 3 day, 2 night getaway of our choice. With a lot of searching my wife and I finally chose a location to go to and things to do that would be relaxing and new for us. It would be several weeks after our anniversary, but at a time when we could both be gone. This time would allow us to be away when our older children could be home to watch the younger ones, and at a time we would not miss any church. It would also be the first time we have been away for a vacation alone in several years.

As we prepared to go on this trip, things started to rise up that threatened to prevent the trip from occurring. The Sunday night before the trip was to begin, our house had two trees fall on it, doing a significant amount of damage to the house. You can read about that here: God’s Protection And Favor. At the time this occurred, we seriously considered canceling the trip, much against our desires.

Along with this disaster that had occurred, I also found out that the job I had planned to work at during the summer would most likely not happen. I work during the school year as a teacher and so I do get paid during the summer, but it is not very much. I wanted to work a another job just to help boost the pay some. It was a job I have worked at the last three summers. Now I did not have that job and it did not look like I would get it.

Our house had a huge hole in the ceiling and a wall was missing, and I did not have a summer job yet. Do we leave or not? With a lot of prayer, we chose to continue with the trip, though somewhat nervous for the sake of the children at home.

On the morning of the trip, we had loaded our vehicle and proceeded to leave. As I started to drive down the road, immediately after leaving our driveway, I noticed the suburban was pulling fairly hard to the right. This was new and unusual.

I drove for about two miles and the pull kept up. There was some wind, but not enough to push the vehicle like that. I chose to pull over and see what might be the problem. It was the front passenger tire that was causing the problem, it was flat.

We live about 15 miles from town and did not have a working jack to be able to change the tire ourselves. I prayed that God would give me favor in driving into town to the tire shop we use. The tire was still under warranty. He did give us favor and we made it all the way there safely. In about 45 minutes our vehicle had been brought in and the tire was repaired. All that was wrong was a screw had somehow lodged into the tire. The shop pulled it out and put a plug in place.

We were back on the road for our trip, though about one hour later than expected.

On this trip a lot of what we were planning to do was located outside. The weather was supposed to be fairly nice with only a slight chance of rain.

As we got closer to our location we were headed to, the sky had some dark storm clouds that had formed. The thing that I caught as interesting was that the dark clouds were on one side of the highway, while the other side was nearly completely cloudless.

My wife, in her great wisdom, looked at the sky and saw something about them. She saw it as a visual representation of what was going on in the spiritual realm of life. The spiritual forces of this world was trying to attack us and discourage us. God had a plan for us, and the forces of the world wanted to stop it. Satan wanted to get us to lose faith in God and complain.

It would have been easy to complain to God about what had been happening. It would have been easy to say that God was against us. It would have been easy to give in and give up.

However, that is not what God wants to have happen. He wants us to trust Him and lean on Him in times of trouble.

Looking at the sky, there was clear sky on one side, and dark clouds on the other. It appeared to be a spiritual sign of what was going on. The dark forces fighting against the forces of God.

We continued on the trip and had a great time. During those few days, we did not get one drop of rain on us at all, though it appeared several times as though it may rain. Neither did it drop any rain on our house at that time.

Although it was a bit scary to leave our children home alone after such a great disaster, God did take care of them and blessed all of us. They were also able to get out and have some fun and relaxation.

God had blessed all of my family during this time. He had overcome the dark forces that work against us. He overcame our fears and strengthened us.

My wife and I are looking forward to the next 25 years of our great marriage!

I remember the verse in the Bible: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

I want to encourage you that when you are going through struggles in this life, remember that the dark spiritual realm is against you. That is who you are fighting against. God is on your side and has already won the battle. Trust Him. Do not be discouraged.

Just as the weather was fighting for either clear skies or for a storm, so there is a battle going on for your life. God and His angels are fighting for you, not against you.

As you go into the battle for your soul be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10.

A Great Journey Still Fresh As New

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A word of warning, this post is much longer than my normal posts. Even longer than my extra posts that I do every so often. May you be blessed as you read it.

I have been on a great journey in this life that started twenty-five years ago today. It was May 16, 1992 that my wife and I said “I do” to each other and were married. It has been an amazing journey that many stated would never survive.

I was a young man who went to Trinity Bible college, a small bible college in a very small town in North Dakota. The college made up nearly half of the town’s population. The town only had one stoplight in town.

At the end of the Fall Semester of 1989, I felt God lead me to drop out of college for a time. I was a member of the ND National Guard at the time. The very next year, the war in Kuwait came up. I had volunteered to go over in the battle. I returned home in July 1991 and returned back to my job as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home.

In August, my boss asked me to help train in a new worker on a shift I normally did not work. I met this new worker and noticed that I liked something about her, but was not sure. As I trained her in and worked with her, I started to get to know her.

The more I knew her, the more I liked her. Without telling anyone that I liked her, I proceeded to get to know who she was by talking with her and others who knew her.

On October 10, which just happened to be my birthday, she went with me to a Christian comedian concert. There were supposed to be three other friends going that night, but the night before the concert each one had to back out for various reasons. She was still willing to go.

We spent a good portion of the day together. Everywhere we went people thought we were a couple already. This even included some of my own friends who knew me. Yet, at this point we were not going together.

At the end of the day, I knew that I really liked, no loved her. I prayed very hard all that night. I did not want to just date another girl. If I went into a relationship, I wanted it to be for marriage and for life. I needed to know if she was the lady God wanted me to marry. I felt in my spirit that she was the one, but I needed God to confirm it.

The following morning as I was walking on campus of the college, God chose to confirm it. He did it through three different friends of mine, none of whom knew that I was even interested in her. They had no clue what they were saying or talking about when they told me what they felt God wanted them to tell me, but I knew what it was about.

At that point I went to the campus bookstore and purchased a card that basically asked her to go with me for life. Indirectly it was a proposal. Amazingly, she said yes!

Over the next two months we started dating each other. By the middle of November, we knew that we would get married, but I did not want to officially propose to her until I talked with her father. Right before Christmas break I proposed and made it known to everyone. We set a wedding date for May 16, 1992, six months later.

During the time of engagement, my wife-to-be got very sick. Doctors could not determine what was wrong. We went to many doctors building up a very large medical debt. My small paying job was not enough to really cover the expenses of two houses. I had chosen to provide for all of her needs, besides I was going to be marrying her.

Many people were trying to tell us that the marriage would not work out. This included people in and out of the church. It was a difficult time because we both knew that God had called us together.

Right before the wedding, her health had returned, unexplained. God had blessed us with a very beautiful wedding and a two week honeymoon.

After a year of extreme financial hardship, in a town with no economy or jobs at all, I decided to join the army to get a better paying job. This moved us to Colorado. While there our first daughter was born. Shortly after the Army moved us to Germany. We stayed there for four and half years, and two of our boys were born there.

While in Germany God had blessed my wife with many Godly women to help and guide her in her life. She made several friends there that she is still friends with to this day.

The Army then chose to move us to Texas. We did not want to go there at all, and fought it hard, but God had His reasons. We finally gave in to God’s will and went. Before getting out of the Army, one more son was born.

During the time in Texas I had to be gone for several weeks to a month at a time, many times for trainings. It was a difficult time being separated. God held us together and kept us going forward despite all the challenges. God opened the door for me to get my ministerial certification shortly after getting to Texas.

In 2001, right before the 9-1-1 incident, God allowed me to get out of the army. God had blessed us with getting out, since a month later our country was under war again.

In our church I had become the children’s pastor shortly after getting out of the Army. It was a fun time, though there were some difficulties. The hardest part was financial stress. I could not seem to get a job that paid very well. Somehow God helped us survive and blessed us with two more children.

Later I felt God lead me to become a full pastor of a small church in Central Texas. It was a very difficult move for my wife because she had made a lot of friends where we were and did not want to leave them again. Leaving friends was something that seemed to keep happening in our life.

The move became even more difficult when half the church left right after I took it over. I found out that the church was not doing as well as they had appeared on the outside. After struggling to help it grow and keep the doors open for two years we closed the doors and left the ministry. I could not find another position at all. I felt like God closed the doors on us. I believe that maybe someday God will re-open those doors.

My wife struggled with that because she wanted to be a pastor’s wife. She was also struggling hard to raise our six children, at that time.

After working at it for twenty years, God allowed me to finally graduate college with a General Church Ministries degree from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Texas. It was a long, at times difficult road, but God had blessed it.

I started working several different jobs and kept getting laid off. Finances were extremely difficult to manage. Somehow God provided for our needs and kept us going. The one thing that was always very strong for us, was our love for each other. My wife supported me in whatever I felt God was leading me or us to do. I supported her in homeschooling our children.

Although my wife has never really worked a job for pay since we have been married (with exception to a couple of short time work jobs), she has worked very hard. The process of taking children to different events or trainings on a regular basis. The work of determining meals for a large family, that half will choose not to eat. The work of ensuring chores are done. And many other things keep her busy and working extremely hard.

Since then God has blessed us with two more wonderful children and a house with some land. We still have some struggles financially, but God has been amazing in providing for our needs. We have had vehicle breakdowns, sickness too numerous to count, injuries, loss of jobs, death in extended family members, false accusations, and many other challenges. The two things that gives sense to why we have survived is love and God, and both of those are one and the same. God is described as love. When we have God, we will have love. When we have love, we will have God.

We have kept a strong love and commitment to each other and to God. Both of us are constantly talking about each other and about God. Our relationship with God comes first, then our relationship together, and finally our relationship with our children.

God has blessed us with our children. Three of them are now adults but are active in the church and in ministry. The next three down are old enough now to be active in ministry in our church also.  The youngest two, I expect, will be active some day in ministry when they get old enough.

As I look back on this journey that started twenty-five years ago today, it often seems as if it just started yesterday or at least just a few days ago. My love for my wife has grown over the years. It has not diminished as many claimed it would. We have never entertained the thought that we should not be together or that someone else would be better. My wife, nor I have ever thought it was better when the other was gone away.

I want to encourage you, that if you are in a relationship or already in a marriage, keep that commitment to love each other and God as God loves you. Do not entertain thoughts of being with someone else. When you say, “I do,” say it for life, no matter what comes up or what happens.

God is with you and will never leave you. With God all things are possible. A marriage that lasts for a lifetime, though uncommon in this world, is not impossible with God at the center.

I can say with Solomon: He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD. Proverbs 18:22

God has given me what is good and I have found favor with Him in my wonderful marriage of twenty-five years and counting!

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I have been blessed with these twenty-five years and will be blessed for the next hundred and twenty-five on this great journey of marriage and family.

 

Ezra 9:12 Do Not Marry The World

Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance. Ezra 9:12

As the Israelites were rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem, some of them started marrying the people of the land. The Law of Moses had stated that they were not to marry any of the foreign people. Ezra bowed before God in repentance for the people and then told them not to marry or seek any treaty with the foreign people. They were to serve God alone.

Until about the 1990’s, interracial marriage was frowned upon as a whole in America. Although it did happen prior to that time, many did not agree with it. Today, as a whole it is acceptable by most people.

Even though there is nothing wrong with interracial marriage, there is a type of marriage that many people have that goes against God. It is the marrying oneself to the world and its ways.

There are believers who have chosen to live in sin while claiming to love Jesus. They choose to act and speak the way that the world acts and speaks. They have given in to the ways that the world does things and not followed the ways of God.

Every believer in Jesus is to be married to Jesus and Jesus alone. As a believer you are the bride of Jesus. Some day in heaven there will be a marriage supper for you and Jesus.

Since you are married to Jesus, you must not go and marry the world also. Do not seek to have a treaty with the world. You are separate from the world. This world is not your home or your heritage.

Consecrate your marriage to Jesus. Allow Jesus to remove the sin in your life. Seek God and His ways and have an abundant life, rather than seeking the world and finding death. Remain married to Jesus alone.

I pray today that you will dedicate your life to Jesus; that you will turn away from the ways of this world; that you will not seek friendship with the world; that you will find all of your value in Jesus alone; and that you will be a witness for Jesus.