The last few nights my 4-year old daughter has woken up around 4am to go to the bathroom. Lucky me! I get out of bed, groggy, ready to get back under the covers. After putting my daughter back to bed, I try to get myself back to sleep, but can't. For the last several mornings, I have wrestled with what is going on in our world. I have laid in bed wondering, what should I say? What should I do? How can I help? How can my voice help make a difference? I have prayed and then prayed some more.
To be honest, there are a lot of great thoughts out there and I don't want to just add to the noise. I teach my kids, students and other leaders to respond and not to react. I teach them to weigh out decisions and to count the cost of the action. Whatever I say or do, I want to be proud of ten years from now. I want my kids to look at me and be proud of the man that I am and the one I am becoming.
Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything. A time to be silent and a time to speak. I have pondered things in my heart and now believe it is time to speak up. I don't think we always need to have the perfect thing to say for each situation that we face, but I do believe we always need to be wrestling for the right thing to say. What I say here may not be perfect and will likely have flaws. I am flawed for I am human. But I am willing to have a conversation. I am willing to listen. I am willing to look and not turn away. I am willing. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to love.
Black lives do matter.
I am white. I didn't have a choice in this matter and neither did anyone else from any other race or ethnicity. We tend to judge like this was up to us somehow. It wasn't.
Racism is wrong. It is being magnified in our culture now. I believe that this is the case so we can see it more clearly and fix it.
Sometimes things need to get messy before they can get better. My wife Amond has several Rubik's cubes. My brother-in-law showed her how to solve them a few years ago. Every once in a while she will get one out and solve it. She doesn't want to forget the steps and the order. As I watch, I am fascinated by the process. As she gets close to solving it, there is a moment where the cube seems perfect. With the exception of one or two squares, it looks finished and complete. Then she does the unthinkable: she messes it up! Before the cube can actually be perfect, it has to be moved, turned and twisted. In reality, it is closer to perfect when it looks a mess, than when it looks almost complete.
This is our world. Broken, hurting, lost and hopeless. For many years it looked "complete." Similar to being a kid and having your mom tell you to clean your room. You put things anywhere you can as fast as you can! You've seen it played out before. Your mom walks into the room to check on things and heads over to the closet. You try to stop her from opening the door, but it's too late. Toys and games come crashing down. The room had the appearance of being clean but in reality it wasn't. As is the Rubiks cube. As is our nation.
We can't hide from reality any longer. It is being recorded for all to see. It is time to speak, but please wrestle with your motives before you speak. It is time to act, but please wrestle with your motives before you act. We are to represent Christ in all that we do. This isn't about making a name. This isn't about politics. This is about sharing Christ to a broken world. This is about righting wrongs. This is about coming together in Unity.
We should strive to be bridges in this world. To bring together rather than tear apart. There should be an understanding of each person, each side and each situation. Unity doesn't mean mean agreement on everything. The word that the dictionary continually references when defining unity is 'whole.' It even goes as far as to reference it as a 'complex whole.' We are created in the image of God and said to be the body of Christ. We have to have differences for this body to make sense and to operate in the way it was designed. A bridge must be built so that we can be whole. Let's build a bridge! It likely starts with an apology, so let me say:
If I have ever offended anyone of color for any reason, I am sorry
If I have not listened or refused to learn, I am sorry.
To those who have lost loved ones unjustly, I am sorry.
If my lens gets in the way, I am sorry.
My heart is to see everything through the lens of the gospel. The gospel is Jesus. Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. Together, let's pray, seek and desire a change. Together, let's work through differences to bring true unity to this nation. Together, let's realize that things might need to get messy before they can get better. Let's believe and pray that all of this is working together for something beautiful on the other side.
Mother's Day is right around the corner. This will be a unique Mother's Day, such as many of us have not seen before. There may be a lot of you that won't be able to see your mother on Mother's Day for the first time this year. Other's may be dealing with loss of a mother. I wanted to share a few thoughts for all of you, wherever you may be and in whatever situation you may find yourself in this year.
Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the Are You My Mother? one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." I'm sure you have read it before. One of Dr. Seuss' great books that my family has enjoyed. A mother bird leaves an unhatched chick in the nest to go get food. The chick hatches before her mother comes back. The little chick goes on a journey to find out "who is my mother?" She sees a cat, dog, cow, horse and many others. None of them her mother. As she approaches each of them, she asks this very important question, "Are you my mother?" My youngest loves this book as did my older two when they were younger. When you finally arrive to the chicks mother, there is a sigh of relief, that the book is now over!
Long before Dr. Seuss penned the words, "Are you my mother?" Jesus did! He asked an almost identical question. In Matthew 12:48 it states, "Jesus replied, 'Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?'" There is a lot we could dive into here, but the first thing that I notice is how much this may have hurt Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is looking for Him, the disciples reach out to Him, and this is His response! It causes me to pause and think. As should everything Jesus says or does. If He doesn't bother you on occasion, even on this sacred Mother's Day, you may not be doing Christianity right.
Listen to what Simeon, in Luke 2 tells Mary when Jesus is getting dedicated at the temple. "He said to Mary, the baby's mother, 'This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.'"
What was that?! I wonder if Mary pondered this in her heart, as she is well known for doing on many occasions? I wonder if Mary asked herself if she made the right choice? And I really want to start randomly singing, "Mary, Did You Know?" now! Finally, I wonder if Mary, at the end of this all, His death and His resurrection, thought that it was worth it?
I think in some way this is similar to what all mother's go through. There isn't a mother on earth now that is the mom to the Son of God. And I am not a mother, so I don't know how much I am allowed to speak to this, but hear me out. As I watch my wife raise our three kids, I see the great love she has for them. I watch her pour hours into their schooling. She makes meals, cleans rooms, bathes and dresses them. She has changed countless diapers and been there for them while they were sick. There is something so special about this mother's love.
Then, one day, they decide that they can grow up. We did not give them permission to do so, but they do it anyway! They grow up and they move out. And it hurts. I am thankful that we have not had to experience this yet with our kids, but we know it is coming. I turned 18 and went to college 8+ hours away from home. I came back for a summer, moved away again in November and never came back. We visit my parents often, but it had to be hard for my mom.
Even though our kids aren't going to a cross, there can still be a sword to pierce your soul. Jesus, by no means, was disrespecting His Mother in this passage. He was always sharing a greater truth that I want to journey to in just a moment. I'm allowed to think that this statement still stung. She knew what was required, but that doesn't mean it was easy.
In the next few verses Jesus states that his disciples and those around Him were His brothers and His mother. Jesus says that anyone who does the will of the Father in Heaven is His brother and His mother. If we allow the truth of this passage to get in us, it can be of great comfort to those who have ears to hear.
Your mother may not be with you today, but you still have a mother in the family of Christ. Mothers, you may be struggling with the loss of a loved son or daughter (physically or spiritually lost to you), but you have sons and daughters in His kingdom. No, it doesn't take away the sting. But it does give you hope. Hope that we can enjoy this life with the people God has given us. We are allowed enjoy the blessings in spite of the hurt and pain. Jesus is giving us permission to smile and laugh again. To embrace those who can be our Mothers, our brothers, our sons and our daughters and cherish the moments we have.
And one day...we will gather together where there are no more tears. No more crying. No more sorrow. Where death has completely lost its sting! Until then, celebrate this Mothers Day with rejoicing and a peace in your heart that can only come through Christ, who loves you deeply!
Happy Mother's Day!
I love to dream...about anything. I’m not picky, I always enjoy thinking of what could be! What could we do for our next vacation (I have a bit of wanderlust, and this time is killing that!)? How could we have a better house and yard? What could the youth ministry look like? What would be an incredible event that would impact lives?!
The list could go on and on. I believe that is why I have always been fascinated with Joseph in the Old Testament. The original dreamer, one might say! If you are a dreamer, this is for you. If you are not a dreamer, maybe it’s time to be one! God put a dream in your heart. Let’s go after it!
Genesis is the place where it all starts. Joseph has his first dream. A very literal dream. His brothers were going to bow down to him. A few days later he has another dream and his parents would even bow down to him. If you take the time to read this, you will notice that the dream itself almost takes on a character or persona all its own.
Dreams are important. God placed plans and visions, assignments and tasks, opportunities and purpose written on our heart. They are a part of who we are and what we are here for. Satan hates it. In this passage there are three things that he tries to take from Joseph, and in similar ways, from us. Let’s examine them together:
1. Satan tries to take our dreams.
Understand that Satan ‘tries’ to do this. These dreams are ours, and we don’t have to let him. Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams almost as much as they hated him. They were scheming to kill Joseph and said this: “Then we will see what becomes of his dreams.”
What is so offensive about dreaming? Is it because they could not make their own dreams a reality, so they try to kill his? I think Satan hates dreams because when we dream, we honor God. We think about what could be. This is called faith.
A word to the wise, don’t let your dreams die at the hand of those who can’t dream!
This time in history is likely to kill many dreams. Don’t let it. Hold on. Don’t lose heart! Be like Abraham who was praised for his faith by seeing things that weren’t as if they were!
2. Satan tries to steal our coat.
To understand the words of the Bible, we must understand the world of the Bible. A coat was significant. When Daniel was elevated to a high position he was given a coat (outer garment) and a ring. This coat symbolizes authority and position. Elisha asks for Elijah’s mantle. This is where the anointing rested.
In this text with Joseph, he was given a coat from his father. Again, his brothers hated him over it. The coat was his favor. It was ripped from him.
He was then given a coat from Potiphar. This too was authority and position. What happens? Enter Potiphar’s wife! She takes it from him.
Satan will do the same. He may take your coat, but he can’t take your position in Christ. Nothing can snatch you from His hands! And don’t forget, these coats weren’t the dream. God has a coat waiting for him. He needed Joseph to mature and grow into it!
He goes to Pharaoh, interprets a dream and is given a coat. One that can save his family and fulfill his dream! If you have had something taken from you during this time, don’t lose all hope. God has a coat waiting for you. Do everything you can right now, so that you are ready for it!
3. Satan tries to steal our future.
Joseph finds himself in jail. I’m sure he wondered many nights, “how did I get here?” Joseph, like many of us, start with a dream of what our future could look like.
“Surely, it’s in Canaan.”
“Maybe it’s in Potiphar’s house?”
“It can’t be in prison!”
Until you find peace in the prison, you won’t have peace in the palace.
Until you find joy in the jail, you won’t have joy in the jubilee.
Jubilee, in Bible terms, is a time when all is restored to you. This is similar to what Joseph is going through. This tradition wasn’t established until much later, but God’s principles are eternal.
Again, this could be the way you feel right now. Satan stole your future. He stole your senior year. He stole your retirement. He stole your social connections and friendships. If we hold on to God during this time, He will hold on to our future!
Sometimes, the only way to understand someone is to step into their shoes for a time. During this time in history, it is important for us to do this. We do not know what others are going through right now. Yes, it is all inconvenient and out of our control. It reminds me of a movie that came out a few years ago called Freaky Friday.
The original movie came out in 1976 and then was remade in 2003. I guess it was more than a few years ago! How time flies! The premise of this movie is: a mother and daughter, as opposite as could be, switch places to better understand one another. They were frustrated and out of control. There was no switching back until they actually understood what the other was going through.
This sounds very familiar to our relationship with God before Christ. As you look through the Old Testament you see a number of familiar faces: Abraham, Moses, Job and many others. They all know ‘of’ God, and even Abraham was called a friend of God. But they could not ‘know’ God like we can today. Read what Job said about this:
“God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial. If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together. The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.”
Job 9:32-35 NLT
On the other end of the spectrum, God only ‘knew’ of man. Yes, He fashioned and formed us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. But where He was once intimate with man, walking in the garden, He was no longer. He could never be the groom. We could never be the bride.
So, God came and traded places to know us intimately. He made himself less, by adding human to himself. He was still divine, yet now fully human. Nothing was taken away, but flesh was still added. In this way, as Paul puts it, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
It’s as if God heard Job’s prayer and responded in kind. In fact He did. He does hear. He does understand. This is how we can have relationship with God once again. He took our place on a “freaky” Friday two thousand years ago and died for you and for me. The culmination of this entire experience was the cross. It wasn’t until this moment that we could really understand each other. Now, we can be “seated with Him in heavenly places!”
We once heard that He loved us, and now we know that He does. And today, you may have heard this same thing. Does God really love me? You have the opportunity to know for sure that He does. You can be in right relationship with Him even now. You can know that God, the creator of everything, loves you and loves me!
"I see a plague coming on the world, and the bars, churches and government will shut down. The plague will hit New York City and shake it like it has never been shaken. The plague is going to force prayerless believers into radical prayer and into their Bibles, and repentance will be the cry from them and of God in the pulpit. And out of it will come a third Great Awakening that will sweep America and the world."
- David Wilkerson, 1986
The last few days I have seen this prophetic word posted on social media. Apparently, it is not a factual quote, but I can see why it spread so quickly! David Wilkerson did share some amazing messages, founded Teen Challenge, wrote the Cross and the Switchblade, and shared many prophetic words that still ring true in our lives. Just because this is not necessarily true, does not mean that God didn't know exactly what would take place in our lives and nation at this point in history.
Sometimes it seems unreal that anything could be predicted or forecasted before it happens. Not even our weather in Memphis can be predicted accurately a few days in advance! We serve a God who knows the future. In fact, He holds the future! Take a glance throughout scripture and you will see prophecy after prophecy fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Nothing takes God by surprise.
What we are going through today is not making God wring His hands in worry. This is one of my favorite attributes of David Wilkerson, his faith in God. He had an incredible trust in the God that he served.
A few years ago I read his biography that Gary Wilkerson, his son, wrote in 2014. If you ever have a chance to pick it up, I would highly suggest it. It takes you on the incredible journey of the Cross and the Switchblade and so much more. If anything stood out to me about David Wilkerson, it was his prayer life. The actions that he took, leaving his rural church in Pennsylvania to a courtroom in New York, would not have happened without prayer. The boldness that he had in confronting members of gangs, living out of his car for weeks at a time, and potentially laying down his life, does not happen without an intimate relationship with God.
The only way to trust God is to know Him. The only way to know Him is to spend time with Him. We don't have a trust issue as much as we have an intimacy issue. If anything sticks out to me about David Wilkerson's life, it is that prayer is of the utmost importance in our lives. There is a passage in his biography that says this, "Yet something profound was indeed happening in (David's) prayer life. He no longer prayed only in the afternoons; he now prayed late at night, when his family was asleep. He had stopped watching late-night movies out of conviction, to avail himself to God, and that's when the change began tohappen."
Prayer is what will change our lives. Prayer is the agent of change in our nation. Prayer is what delivers people. Prayer is what will cure the sick. Prayer is what causes God to bend down and listen. Prayer.
Even at that, it is still not for our benefit only. This whole thing is wrapped up in a Great Commission to go and tell others that they as well, can know God intimately. I cannot wait for the church to come back together in worship to God. More than anything, I miss worshipping with other believers. But this can't be only for ourselves. We cannot bury this hope, truth and life in the ground. The purpose in coming together is to then go out. David Wilkerson said this, "We're Christians who seek Pentecost only for ourselves. Can that really be Pentecost?"
I am praying and believing alongside so many believers for a Third Great Awakening in our nation and around the world. I want to see God move in a new and powerful way. I want Him to revive our hearts, bring prodigals home, and see sinner's come to repentance. The question remains, are we willing to do what it takes for this to happen? Are we willing to pray and seek His face? Are we willing to humble ourselves and love our neighbors?
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)
David Wilkerson said, "send me." I am saying, "send me." Will you?
It's that time of year again! My red truck is now orange because of the amount of pollen falling from the trees. According to a Newsweek article in 2019, Memphis is the 4th worst city in America for spring allergies. That is a comforting thought, isn't it? Especially for someone like me, who has dealt with allergies his whole life! Runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing and much more. Add this to what we are dealing with in the world today with Covid-19, and you are set up for a mess. If I sniff or cough at all, will everyone think that I am infected?!
To help offset this problem in my own life, I decided to cut down a few trees in my backyard. For perspective, the largest one I was going to cut down is around 6-8 inches in diameter. Before I was full-time at First Assembly Memphis, I worked for a company contracted by the electric company. We worked out of bucket trucks with climbing gear to cut trees away from power lines. Not a very safe line of work to say the least. When God calls you to ministry, you do ministry and whatever else you can to pay the bills! There is no such thing as a part-time pastor.
With the help of my very trusting wife, we cut down every small tree that we intended. The only thing left was a rather large vine hanging from one of the trees. Being the safe person that I am, I got out my ladder, thinking I could reach it from there! I could reach, so now to pull it down! I didn’t want it to fall and hurt anyone outside later. As I pulled, I heard a crack. At the same time, I heard my wife tell me to stop pulling! I didn't. Little did I know, the tree that this vine was attached to was dead. Really dead! I pulled half of the tree down with the vine.
Somehow, in God's sovereignty and grace, the tree missed me, missed the window to our house and barely hit our gutter. There is no damage to our roof! My kids were not around, and my wife was far away. We both stood there for a moment, shocked at what had just happened. Here we were, hoping to get a few trees down before they budded out and dropped pollen. Now, we have half of a dead tree in our yard! What a mess it made. You never know what a day or activity may bring about in your life.
1 Peter 5:8 is very familiar to most of us. Here is how the New International Reader's Version puts it:
"Control yourselves. Be on guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow."
I wonder how often spiritually we do this. We see something hanging out in front of us. Perhaps it is like the forbidden fruit on the tree in the garden. Or sometimes it can be like the carrot hanging in front of the donkey. We say things like:
"It's completely harmless."
"What bad could come of this."
"I can stop anytime I want."
Our yard was completely clean before I took down this large, dead branch from our tree. We had worked hard up to this point. Everything was done in an orderly fashion. We cleaned as we cut, and things were looking good. This is the way it can be with our lives before everything comes crashing down. Sometimes, it is not even of our own doing (mine obviously was!). Pastor Lindberg has referenced Ephesians 5:17 frequently during this time in our country. "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is." I really like the verses that precede it as well:
"Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. "
Be careful. All it takes is to say one hurtful thing, and you may have a mess in your yard that you did not want or need. All it takes is one act of disobedience and the consequence, again, may be a big mess in your yard. There is always forgiveness for these mistakes, but there are still consequences. There are some consequences that will not simply go away because you repent. Trust may have to be built again. Love may need to be restored in a relationship.
During this time, and at all times for that matter, I urge you to live at peace, if possible. Control your tongue as the book of James says. Watch what you say and do. Be gracious and kind. Be full of the fruits of the Spirit. They should be ripe and ready to be picked. Let's have clean yards in our lives!
It’s funny how things that used to bother us can somehow be missed later in life. For instance, I can’t tell you how many times this past winter I have wished for summer to come. “I won’t complain about the heat!” Last summer though, when it was 145 degrees with 100% humidity, I was wishing for winter!
This leads me to traffic. No, I don’t think that I would ever miss traffic, especially in Memphis. Can we agree that it is a bit strange though, to drive to the store with fewer vehicles on the road each day. Just yesterday we heard that bars and gyms need to close and restaurants are only able to do delivery and take-out. These are definitely strange days we live in and change is happening often. I am praying for those struggling with the virus, and also those who are out of work at this time.
It wasn’t but a few weeks ago and traffic on 240 was as crazy as ever! In fact, it was about two weeks ago that I had to wait in traffic on my way to work. For reference, I only live 3-4 minutes from my work...on purpose! I was frustrated and couldn’t wait for whatever it was holding us up to move on. As we merged, not so neatly into one lane, I saw what the delay was. They were fixing potholes!
Here I am, complaining about people who are fixing the very things all of us complain about. Potholes are just as bad as construction on the freeway. They finally get to the potholes that I drive over every day and I have the audacity to complain about that!
Have you been there?! Maybe you are there now. People are sick. Lives are being changed. Jobs are lost and small businesses are being shut down. And if I were honest, I have complained about having to stay at my house over my spring break. My house that still has air conditioning and heat, because in Memphis you never know which one you will need on each day! My house that has plenty of food and drink. My house that has beds, tv that works and plenty of toilet paper!
Why do we do this? Why do we complain like Israelites who grumbled so quickly after they left Egypt? Why do we resent the work God is doing in our lives because it isn’t happening the way we think it should? Don’t we know that all things work together for good? Don’t we know that every miracle starts as a problem? Don’t we know that pruning hurts but is necessary for growth?
We see a giant in this Covid-19 like the one David fought as a boy, but David saw an opportunity. We as the church have an opportunity to show the world that the church was never about a building.
The solution to our problem is inconvenient. So was the cross. Because of the cross the potholes in our heart can be filled. Because of it, we can find a new way to share the hope that we have. Don’t let what’s wrong keep you from doing what you know is right during this time.
I am not a health care professional or a doctor. I cannot speak to the virus itself or to anything medically related to it. I have researched as much as google will tell me!
What I am, is a minister. Not always the greatest one. But I love the Lord, I fear Him and I try to obey His commands. I also have a deep love for His Church and His Word.
May I share with you a few thoughts that have helped give me healthy perspective during this time and any difficult time. (Remember, it is often hard to gain perspective while in the maze. Thus, we look to the One who is far above the maze!)
To those who are affected in any way by this virus, my prayers are for you. You don’t have to live in fear, you can find peace in Christ Jesus. He is the author of life and hope. May you find Him during this time of unrest in the world.
“Nothing fails like success.”
“Failure is not final.”
I hear these phrases a lot. I appreciate the men and women who share things like this. Regardless of how many times we hear that success isn’t everything we still are inadvertently giving success a definition. The same for failure. No it’s not final, but you are still saying it was failure.
There is a great article by Carley Sime in Forbes magazine about Failure and Success. They define them as this:
Success, noun. The state of living and working according to our values
Failure, noun. The state of living and working in a way that isn’t aligned with our values
I can get behind this, and I think you can too. I would only change one thing: instead of our values I would put God’s values or values we see in the Word of God.
With this as our starting point, let’s look at Success and Failure, newly defined, in our lives.
1. Failure is not final but can be fatal. Forgive me Winston Churchill, but just ask Samson. Ask David. Ask Abraham. Should I go on?! Let me scream it from the top of the mountain: Failure is NOT FINAL! You do not have to be defined by your past or your mistakes. But...
...there are consequences to those actions. Pictures can resurface 20 years later. Things that you say, post, text and share don’t always disappear. This is your life, protect it. No one else will. It’s up to you.
These things can be fatal. They can and will destroy you. Satan is already trying to kill, steal and destroy, why are we making his job easy?!
2. Success is not certain and looks like surrender. Let me explain. Some things in life are certain. 2 + 2 = 4. The sky is blue, the grass is green. Most of life does not look that way though. If success was certain, everyone would be successful. Again, I am not saying success in previous definitions of it. Living out God’s values and plans for our life is not always certain.
This is where surrender comes in. We cannot live our lives our own way on our own terms. That is not success...even if you make millions. Our job is surrender. Our job is to live according to God’s values. This is going to look a lot like work. It’s going to look a lot like sacrifice. It’s going to be worth it.
When we stand before the throne of God and He smiles at you and says, “Well done,” you will know success because you learned surrender.
There is value in self-help and 5-step programs. Remember, they are not certain. They worked for someone, but may not work for everyone. We must be diligent.
“Don’t grow weary...”
“Study to show yourself approved...”
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:3-4 NLT
Failure is lurking in the other side of success, just as success is not too far behind failure.
Follow the decrees of God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to direct your steps and thoughts. Work hard. Get back up. Stand for something. Believe in Someone. Success is yours, go get it!
Last week I was sitting in several ministry meetings in San Antonio, TX. There are some very exciting things happening with our Foundry School of Discipleship. As I was driving through the city I reminisced of other times I had been to San Antonio. I have always glamorized the city since my childhood and my love for the Spurs. Growing up in Nebraska didn’t give us many options for sports teams. My youth pastor was a Rockets fan and I would always root against him. It just so happened that they played the Spurs a lot! From David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, they were my team!
I was a Junior in High School the first time I was in San Antonio. It was exciting to go somewhere new. When we left I remember thinking, “until next time.” Four years ago, I was able to take 20 of our students on a state-side missions trip back to San Antonio. I still love the city and thought as we were leaving, “until next time!”
Last week I was sitting in the same building in that same city that we ministered in four years ago. God is beginning some exciting things for us to bring back to Memphis. When I left this time I once again said, “until next time.”
I hope you know what I am talking about. We say this phrase when we talk about places but also about people. When I was dating my wife, it started as a long-distance relationship. Every time I had to leave after a visit I had the same thought...that’s right, “until next time!” I’m glad I don’t have to say that anymore!
Occasionally, there are times that I say, “I hope there isn’t a next time!” Maybe I say that more than occasionally! This would entail times that hurt. Moments that broke us. People who abused or misused us. An event or moment that didn’t go well.
When I was younger I was very shy. I had to take speech as part of my English class. I hated every part of it. Funny that standing in front of people and speaking is now what I do several times a week. After every speech I had to give I remember thinking, “I hope there is never a next time!” Have you been there?!
Jesus had a moment like that! In fact, He probably had several. Don’t forget that although He was fully God He was also fully man. He understood everything we have been through.
There was a time right after His water baptism that the Spirit took Him to the wilderness. He fasted for 40 days. That alone would make me say, I hope there isn’t a next time! At the end of that time Satan came and tempted Jesus. He tempted Him with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. What an encounter! Jesus and Satan, head-to-head. Satan found Jesus at His most vulnerable state. Not only hungry and tired, but human. I would venture to say that Jesus walked away with the thought, “I hope there isn’t a next time!”
Satan had another thought. We see it in Luke 4, “When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.”
This wasn’t it for Jesus. He wasn’t free from some test to then live out His perfect life without pushback. No! “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
He would disappear at night to pray. He would send people away to spend time with His Father. He knew that Satan was waiting “until next time.”
And we should do the same. Get away. Find a quiet place. Learn how to fight. There will be a next time! Don’t get caught unaware. Don’t let your guard down. Be vigilant. For our enemy is like a lion, seeking to devour us. He won’t quit and neither should we!
Let’s be ready for next time. I want to be able to say back to the devil, with no fear or timidity, “until next time!”