“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”Proverbs 18:22
My wife and I celebrated 9 years of marriage this past Thursday. And today, we’re blessed to be able to have a night getaway at an AirBNB in a nearby town while family takes care of our two boys.
And as I reflect on our relationship together, I am so thankful that Alesha is in my life. We have been through so many life stages and ups and downs together, and I can’t imagine where my life would be right now had she not been part of all of it.
I’ve been asked by many people how we make our marriage work.
Our marriage is not perfect by any means, but I can truly say that, by the grace of God, I think we have one of the best marriages I know of.
When I’ve been asked by others, there have been many different things I point to and have suggested to help a rocky relationship or to help avoid future hardship.
But there is one thing that stands out above the rest:
I am so thankful that my wife and I have chosen to put Jesus first in our lives and marriage.
I’m not saying we’re perfect in any means, but here’s how it has played out in our marriage:
When we decide life priorities… we have the same baseline of putting Jesus and His Kingdom first
When we have difficult life decisions to make… we pray to Jesus and ask for guidance and wisdom
When we argue, have misunderstandings or get upset at each other… we turn to Jesus to give us the grace to repent and forgive and work through things together
When one of us is going through a hard time… we are able to love and support each other with the grace Jesus provides
When we go through difficult external situations that press down on us… we both separately and together trust in Jesus to get us through
Through the ups and downs of life,
Through the internal struggles between us,
And the external issues around us,
We are able to turn to Jesus together,
And He holds us both close to Him,
Individually and together.
As I mentioned above, there are many relationship “tips and tricks” that we’ve picked up from others over the years, but the baseline of our marriage is founded on Jesus – and that has made all the difference.
Whether you’re married, engaged, dating or single;
Jesus is the One Who promises to be with you through every storm of life,
To guide you in the bright of day and the darkness of night,
And I cannot emphasize enough how having Him in your life and in your relationships will make all the difference.
Our lives and our marriage is not perfect,
But our God is,
And He is our foundation for both.
And so, out of all the things I am thankful for about my wife,
I am most thankful that she has given her life to Jesus,
And has determined to love Him with all her life.
And so in a world where divorce and unhappy marriages are the norm,
I am so thankful for God’s grace giving us 9 amazing years of marriage,
And I look forward to every day I get to spend with my wife until death do us part.
And even then, death won’t truly end our lives together, as we will both be in heaven enjoying and worshiping Jesus together and with all who trust in His name.
For all eternity, just like we’ve been practicing here on earth.
As you may have seen on Facebook last week:
From Florida to Washington State.
What many of you might not know is that we made the opposite move (Washington State to Florida) in 2012 to help start a church.
And ever since we moved to Florida we’ve had people ask when/if we’re going to move back to Washington.
And our response has always been the same: “God called us to move here, and we don’t know for how long. He may call us somewhere else in two months, two years, two decades, or never.”
And throughout our time here, we’ve continued to pray that God would show us where/when He wants us to move if He wants us to be somewhere else or to be doing something else.
And 7.5 years later, He has told us to move to Washington State.
As we began sharing this with others we were met with a mix of sorrow and celebration and also with people recognizing that they also feel God is moving us that direction.
I don’t know what God has for us next, but we know that God is moving us towards something.
Some family and friends have even mentioned that God might move us somewhere else shortly after we get to Washington.
We don’t know.
But here’s what we do know:
God has a plan,
And God promises to lead us,
As long as we look to Him and keep following.
There are several things in this move to Washington that don’t make sense to us (yet) but we are trusting that God has plans and reasons that He hasn’t revealed yet – and He is doing that on purpose to keep us trusting Him.
Following God doesn’t always make sense or follow a specific pattern, but it always involves looking to Him for guidance and to godly counsel and Scripture for confirmation.
A Relationship, Not A Formula
Throughout Scripture, we see that God doesn’t want us to simply copy and paste a formula for life, but instead He wants us dependent on an individual relationship with Him, lived out together with others in His Church.
This is because God wants us to live by a relationship based off of faith instead of a calculated impersonal “check the right boxes” kind of life.
If God always worked in a specific way, then we could simply do the “right” things and get specific results in a way that is just as personal as putting money into a vending machine.
But God wants more than a vending machine relationship.
He wants a real and personal relationship.
Here’s some examples in Scripture that show how God rarely worked in the same way twice:
God parted the Red Sea before they stepped in the water for Israel to cross,
Then He required the priests to step halfway into the Jordan before stopping the water for them to cross.
God gave the children of Israel victory over their enemies by having them march around a wall,
And also by having them strategically fight in classic warfare.
God provided mana from Heaven,
And later provided fields and vineyards for Israel to work for their food.
Jesus healed many by touching them or speaking to them,
And He also healed the Centurion’s servant from across town without ever seeing him.
Following And Obeying Jesus
Part of having a real relationship with God is seeking His will on a daily basis not just checking off all the “boxes” in life.
It can be as simple as speaking words of truth and life to someone,
Giving to someone in need,
Choosing to read His Word,
Spending time with Him,
Even taking a different job or moving across the country.
God has made clear many things in Scripture and He has called us to obey Him each step of the way.
Sometimes we don’t know what that next step is (as I wrote about recently in a blog post titled: “God’s Will For Your Life When You Don’t Know What To Do“).
Other times, we hear clearly from God, are confirmed by Scripture and godly counsel, and have direct steps to take.
The most important thing is that we seek Jesus in everything, and follow Him wherever He leads.
Whether in the unique and exciting or the mundane and normal.
So, wherever your life is right now,
And follow Him.
You may have seen my Facebook post last week about how we have begun setting aside Tuesday nights to pray. I posted about it to see if anyone had something they would like us to specifically pray for and to also invite anyone who would like to come pray with us.
It may have seemed out of the blue, but there is a backstory that led to us starting this weekly prayer night that I wanted to share.
Almost two years ago, some friends of ours initiated for a few of us to get together to pray for the new year and to keep each other in prayer throughout the year. We each shared something specific for the others to be praying about throughout the upcoming year.
During that first year, we only got together to pray about those things a couple of times, but we specifically met up near the end of the year to followup on what God had done during that past year. This also gave us a chance to update each other on our next year’s prayer requests and to pray for the year that was coming up.
Although it sounds simple, I am so thankful these friends reached out.
God’s timing was incredible as (unknowingly to us at the time), we began this two year journey with them walking into what was going to be the most difficult year of our lives… and then the second year got to be a year of celebration as we moved through that difficult year and into one of new beginnings and renewed hope.
I’m not sure what our lives would be like today if we hadn’t had that group of friends praying.
For all I know, it might have ended up exactly the same.
But, even if it would have, there is something special about reaching out to God, surrendering to His will together with friends, and leaning on Him throughout the process.
What really hit home for me was after that first year of heavy difficulty, one of our friends pulled out her notecard with all the prayer requests from the beginning of the year.
As a heavy tech user, I had immediately written the prayer requests down in my phone,
But there was something special seeing prayer requests that had been physically written down a year prior.
The edges were worn,
The words were starting to fade,
The year had taken a toll on the paper.
It showed the time that had passed,
And the prayers that had been answered.
It was such good reminder for me as we started this year reflecting on last year’s prayers and how God had worked. And it helped me be even more excited to see what God would do in this next year.
But then I realized, I want more people to experience this as well.
Which leads us to now.
Alesha and I are setting aside a weekly time to pray together about our lives, the lives of others, and whatever God puts on our hearts. We started last Tuesday opening it up to others to send in prayer requests, and we’re also happy to have others come and join us in person or wherever you may be.
I don’t know where it will go exactly,
But I hope that we (and many others) will get to experience a nearness to Jesus and each other from our weekly prayer time like the one that we got to experience with these friends.
So, if you have something you want prayer for,
Or you want to join us in praying together,
Simply reach out, we’re happy to pray for you and with you too.
Have you ever felt like you closed a big chapter of your life,
And the next one hasn’t started?
Although some of us may experience this more than others,
I think most of us have had this feeling at some point.
Personally, I feel like I’ve had many of these “in-between” phases.
In fact, the past 15 months have felt like that.
A massive 15 month gap in my (and my family’s) life where it feels like we’re just… waiting.
Waiting to see what God wants next.
Waiting to push forward in and into whatever He has.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re still doing everything God tells us to do:
Working hard at our jobs and business
Serving at church
Raising our kids
Taking every opportunity to use our giftings, treasures and talents that God has given us to serve Him and love others
And sharing Jesus’ Gospel whoever we go
But life still feels… stalled.
Like we’re in-between “missions” in a sense.
God has obviously given all of us plenty to do,
But sometimes it can feel like you’re not moving “forward.”
That you’re simply serving and obeying Him while patiently treading water.
If that’s you too, then I want to encourage you that it’s perfectly fine to be in that situation.
It can feel wasted and useless at times,
But if it’s where God wants you,
Then you shouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Again, for the people in the back
If you are in a season of feeling wasted and useless,
but it is where God wants you,
Then you shouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Waiting In Scripture
We see many examples throughout scripture of people who had to “wait” on God in their lives.
And, interestingly enough, we read that God’s purposes and plans often depended on these transition times for the purposes He had planned.
Joseph had to wait about 22 years to see his first dream come to reality (after becoming a slave, wrongfully thrown in prison, etc)
Abraham had to wait about 25 years from his first calling to actually seeing his “son of the promise” to be born
Moses waited 40 years in the wilderness before returning to Egypt to rescue the Children of Israel
David waited about 15-20 years after being anointed to become king before his actual coronation and finally becoming king (and dealt with a lot of grief from the ruling king Saul during that time)
Elijah had to wait through a 3 year drought with a widow in the middle of nowhere in the middle/end of his prophetic ministry
Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to wait 9 months after the angel’s visit to see Jesus born… and then another 33 difficult years to then experience the most difficult day of her life, and then another 3 days to know that the last 34 years were all worth it
Jesus waited 30 years before beginning his public ministry. Can you imagine being God in the flesh and having to generally “keep quiet” and live a normal life when all you really want to do is share the good news and free everyone from their sin? Instead, Jesus waited for what The Father had deemed the precise time for Jesus to enter the public scene.
The Beauty Of Contentment In Waiting
One of the false assumptions we have is that if you’re not doing something big for God, or in direct process of doing something big, that you’re doing something wrong.
But as we see in all of the examples above, God has His plan and purpose (and it is often very different from the plans we make for ourselves).
In a book I recently read (and shared some quotes at this link: “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment”), Jeremiah Burroughs shares an interesting idea:
If God wills for us to be “in the game” and doing “big things” for Him, that’s great.
And if He chooses to “bench” us for a time, for no apparent reason, that’s great too.
And, we can actually glorify God in our waiting just as much as in our doing.
To have contentment in God just doing the small things,
While being on the sidelines,
Shows where our priorities are.
Being content in the times of waiting shows that God, and our relationship with Him, is enough.
The times of “doing” and “moving forward” are great.
But they can also cloud our priorities and our heart.
And it’s in the times of waiting that our faith and relationship with God really has to be tried.
If God wants me, or you, to wait,
Then enjoy Him in the waiting.
If God wants me, or you, to move forward,
Then enjoy Him in the moving forward.
Thriving In The Transition
One of the best things you can do in the “waiting” is to simply enjoy God (as mentioned above) and to also prepare for what’s next.
I’ve known many people who felt called to lead different ministries, move to different places, or even pastor or start a church…
But not yet.
And you knew what they did in those times of quiet?
Got out of financial debt.
Instilled good habits.
Built lasting friendships and support systems.
They prepared themselves for whatever God has next.
Because although waiting is good,
God always has something “next”.
And you need to be ready when He shows you what that is.
Preparing For God’s “Next”
The best example I have of people who properly prepared in their time of waiting is found in Daniel 1:8-21.
After Jerusalem fell and the king of Babylon brought many into his kingdom. Daniel and his friends were faced with eating food God had made clear for them not to eat.
In this time of “waiting,” they could have easily turned away from God, but they instead continued to prepare for what was next.
They sought to obey God fully and nurture their relationship with Him.
By the end of the chapter, we see that God had begun raising them up as leaders in the kingdom because of their steadfastness.
And we see throughout the book how they held onto God’s will for their lives even when nothing important seemed to happen for years on end.
And when God had something planned for them,
They were ready.
Daniel’s friends faced the fiery furnace in a godly way,
Daniel was rescued from the lion’s den,
Daniel was given interpretations of many dreams,
And God continued to be able to use them though-out many years.
Because they remained faithful and prepared during their times of waiting.
Good And Faithful Servant
I don’t know if you’re in a season of waiting.
I don’t know what’s next, but I know God does.
And in the meantime, I’m going to continue preparing and serving and drawing near to God in any way I can.
Because today I am waiting.
And I need to enjoy the stillness and the ability to prepare that waiting allows for.
But I don’t know what tomorrow brings.
Only God does.
I pray that when my life is over, that God would look at my times of “moving forward” and my times of “waiting” and would say: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
May we seek to receive that commendation from Him.
In our doing.
And in our waiting.
This last Wednesday was the birthday of a friend of mine.
He was one of many recovering drug addicts and homeless who my wife and I invited into our lives when we very first moved down to Florida to help start a church.
For a time, we had a small group of people that met in our apartment. There were a few consistent people and many who would pass through over time. We would also end up spending Christmas mornings and other holidays with them as so few of them had family who live down here.
This friend is one of the first of many who we got to lead to Jesus and help in their recovery and homelessness.
He was the first of those friends to die.
And last Wednesday would have been his birthday.
We’ve thankfully only had one other close friend die from overdose, but for some reason (I don’t know if it’s time of life or something else) I have experienced more family and friend death in the past 7 years than ever before.
He was one of the first.
And when he died, I made a decision to keep his birthday in my calendar, and I’ve chosen to keep this habit with everyone ever since.
Simply Loving People
His birthday held special memories for me, which led to this new habit.
He, like many of the addicts we met down here, rarely got to celebrate his birthday with close friends or family because of his addiction. As we held a small group at our apartment, we held many birthdays and it never ceased to amaze me how much people appreciated it, addicts and non-addicts alike.
In a world where everyone gets well-wishes on Facebook, the simple text or phone call means so much more. And, to actually sit in a room around simple cupcakes and sing ‘happy birthday’, is almost unheard of.
These small birthday celebrations and times together in our home led to many experiencing God’s love and hope in a way I couldn’t have replicated in any other way.
And God used simple moments like these to save multiple people in our very living room, and I’ll never forget them.
The Importance Of Remembering
Part of the reason I keep people’s birthdays in my calendar, even after they have passed, is it helps me remember them, and more importantly, the things I learned from them.
Specifically: many of the people in my calendar remind me that God is not done. So many of them seemed like “lost causes” yet many of them experienced massive life and heart change by the grace of Jesus, and I never want to forget that.
Whether homeless and drug addicted,
“Old” and “Set in their ways,”
Argumentative and seemingly impossible to reason with…
Many of them found Jesus before their last breath.
And it reminds me of the many birthdays in my calendar who are not long gone, but may one day turn to Jesus as well.
Life Is Short
The 3rd and final reason I keep friends’ birthdays in my calendar, even after they’ve passed, is simply this:
It reminds me that tomorrow is not promised.
One day, you and I will breathe our last and will stand before God and eternity. And as David wrote in Psalms:
“So teach us to number our daysPsalm 90:12
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Every month, as I look at the people who used to celebrate birthdays in that month, I am reminded that the things I do today will have an eternal impact, and I don’t know when my story here on earth will end.
And I want my days to count.
You might find my habit weird, but I’m happy I started it. And if nothing else, I hope this reminds you…
To simply love people today,
To keep hope that God can work in even the most desperate situations and people
And to live life to the fullest of God’s calling on your life, because you don’t know when you will meet Him face-to-face.