Mar 30, 2017

At the Right Place…

It was one of those mornings when I was wondering what my purpose was. I wanted God’s will for my life. I had spent the morning in an extended time seeking the Lord and reading, due to an illness that kept me away from church.

My soul had been seeking direction for the next steps in my life and my heart was being examined to deal with my sins of commission as well as omission. My spirit felt washed as I went through waves of responding to what the Holy Spirit was doing in my life.

Was I really doing what God had created me to do? Was I spending my days in ways that honored Him? These were the questions in my mind as I paced the floor in my home office.

I thought of a comment that someone recently said to me; he had called me a ‘man of God’. I may be a minister but I don’t see myself as a man of God.

I am a child of God and I am a sinner who is saved by His grace… “sola gratia” (through God’s favor or grace alone) which means that God loves, forgives, and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the work of Christ. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is received “sola fide” (through faith alone). 

I continued to read and pray and ponder and let the Holy Spirit continue to bring up the dross that had been lodged in my heart. I responded to sin that was brought to my attention by confessing, asking for, and receiving His forgiveness.

I asked how I got to place where I was at; physically, emotionally, occupationally, as well as my state of life.

I recalled all the dreams and thoughts that I had when I was in Bible School responding to the call on my life to preach. I recalled when hands were laid upon me in 1990 to be a deacon in our local church. And then, over the next few years I was ordained as an elder and then as a pastor.

What had happened to that passion that I had when I set out to respond to the Lord’s call?

Again, I asked how I got to place where I was at; physically, emotionally, occupationally, as well as my state of life.

Just then, I heard an unusual noise so I searched the room to find out where it was coming from.  I narrowed it down to the place where I had been literally standing. The noise was coming out of the place where our boiler tank is located.

I opened the cover to discover that the tank was making noise because water in the tank was low; almost empty

NOTE: We have an “open” water heater system and the open tank is located on the third floor of our home; which is the same location as my office. Each month water is manually added to the tank rather than automatically as in “closed” water heater system. Without adding water, the system will not have enough to fill the radiators and heating system will not heat properly and you get a cold house…so it is very important to keep the levels checked each month during the heating season

As I went and got some buckets of water to fill up the tank, I realized that I had been at the right place that I was supposed to be that day. In fact, I was literally at the exact place because if I had not been where I was at, then I wouldn’t have heard the noise, etc. etc…

Often, we pray for the Lord’s will in our lives but miss the forest for the trees. Meaning, we simply can’t believe that His purpose for our lives may be simpler that we think it is.

We, like His disciples, want to be used by Him and assume what that means; oftentimes jockeying for positions and titles as we seek His perfect will.

But the fact is, His will is much simpler than we understand even though He said it in plainly in His Word, the Bible. In John 6 I find at least two things that are the will of God for your life and mine.

First of all, This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:39)

Secondly, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

Once again, I had to admit that I was where I was supposed to be. That He was working all things together for good because I did love Him and because I was called according to His purpose, and that I was predestined to be conformed to His image (See Romans 8:28-29) according to His purpose. 

Once again, I had to admit and be grateful that He was doing a work to bring revival in my life and would be faithful to complete that which He started (See Philippians 1:6 and Jude 1:24).

Once again, I had to admit that I had been at the right place.

Once again, I surrendered as clay to the hands of the Potter.

Mar 23, 2017

Soldier of Life

by Larry Houghton

Today I was forced to look at life and how fragile all of us are. I really believe that all of us are the walking wounded.

My mind drifted to one of those old World War II scenes, where these soldiers are walking down the streets of some foreign town limping and supporting the man next to them who is struggling to walk on his own.

You can see the exhaustion on each of their faces. All of them are bloody with bandages covering wounds both minor and life threatening. The strongest of these men are carrying the stretchers that bear the empty shells of the least of us.

Sometimes we are fortunate enough to look upon this scene as an observer. Other times we discover our viewpoint is from the ranks of the wounded or the least desirable position of all, the view from the stretcher.

Today I discovered that I was emotionally limping. The injury went far deeper than I had originally thought. I knew that I was not walking as fast as the others around me, yet I pretended that all was well. The simplest of tasks has become an effort.

I don’t believe any of us pass through this battle of life without wounds that leave scars that run to our very core.  

So why is it that we avoid or leave behind the weakest among us. Is it because we feel we can’t be burdened with the clumsiness of bearing a wounded companion?

Quiet times are the worst because it gives my mind time to remember the fallen that I have stepped on or left behind in my self-gratifying wake. I ponder the heroes of war. The ones who do not think of their own pain, or loss, and scoop up the injured and dying. The people who set aside their own desires and they walk a little slower to assist or even carry the wounded and weary.

Eventually, I attempt to grasp the heroic act that Jesus acted out. Of voluntarily laying it all down to end the war. Knowing that one act of suffering could stop the barbaric meaningless slaughter of war. 

Jesus stepped into flesh and took the bullet for mankind.

This is what Christ did. Because of his act of mercy and love, I can draw strength from knowing he has fought this war that I am fighting. I now realize I must be diligent and run to the wounded to help them.

I now realize that the goal isn’t to be alive at the end of this battle. The goal is to be exhausted, burned up, burned out from the battle with nothing left but an inner peace and a voice that says “Well done my good and faithful servant". 

God Bless

© 2017 Larry Houghton Used With Permission

Mar 16, 2017

Adopted or Orphan?

The following is from a message that I heard in 2008 by Pastor Andrew Gross entitled; “From an Orphan Spirit to the Spirit of Adoption”

Do you ever feel . . .
  • A gnawing sense of insecurity about relationships?
  • It is only a matter of time before you are rejected?
  • A need to protect yourself when getting closer?
  • A basic instinct to flee from relationships?
  • The need to make “exit plans”?
  • The need to day-dream about “Plan B”?
  • The need to fight because others don’t have your best interest in mind?
  • The need to preemptively reject others?
  • An automatic suspicion of those in power?
  • The need to respond out of all proportion to unintentional snubs?
  • That disagreements, corrections, or constructive criticisms from others are really masks for disrespect, dismissal, or rejection?
This belief or feeling is an ‘Orphan Spirit’; a sneaking suspicion that you are rejected, you will be rejected, and you deserve to be rejected.

Am I talking to the right audience?

Imagine a community in which people believe . . .
  • I don’t belong here
  • I’m not wanted here
  • My contribution is under-appreciated here
  • People wouldn’t miss me if I disappeared today
  • I don’t feel valued here
  • I don’t feel safe in relationships here
  • I can’t really be myself here
  • If others saw the real me, they would reject me
  • People don’t accept me

But what is the “Spirit of Adoption?” 

It is a certainty that you are accepted
  • I belong
  • I am included
  • I am known
  • I am desired
  • I am wanted
  • I am cherished
  • I am treasured

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5)

With the Spirit of Adoption comes the certainty of
  • God’s goodness as your Daddy
  • Your security as His child
  • A wide, broad mindset of confidence

We need to make this shift, but HOW?

The Problem:  You don’t believe that God is good

The Solution: Fix your eyes on the character of God
Check the adoption papers
Rivet your thoughts and your imagination onto the Truth

 “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)

How much more does your heavenly Father know how to give good gifts.  (See Matthew 7:11-12)

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32)

 “For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.  Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:16-20)

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mar 9, 2017

A Bowl of Esteemed Rice

esteem: to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration,  to consider as of a certain value or of a certain type; regard with a favorable opinion or judgment; respect 

The request was simple from a young man one Sunday after church; “Could you and Cathy come with me to my apartment complex and pray for a woman who is ill?” He was new to our church and spoke ‘broken’ English and was standing with his parents (who spoke no English).

One look at the eyes of his parents and my heart was moved. There was something about the tenderness and kindness that seemed to radiate from their hearts and was made manifest in their faces.

They were Bhutanese refugees who came to the USA from Nepal and were trying to make a new life for themselves in Minnesota.

Bhutan is the smallest state in Asia and is located in the Eastern Himalayan mountain range; bordered by China in the north and India in the south. Bhutanese people were forcefully expelled from Bhutan and lived in Nepal.

It was obvious to me that this couple and their son had deep love and concern for this woman who we had not yet met. And, because our schedule was open, we said yes.

The trip from church was short and so we soon arrived at the apartment complex and were quickly ushered through a maze of hallways into an apartment to meet the woman in need of prayer. She, too, only spoke Nepali or the Bhutanese language, so prayer had to be totally relying on the Spirit of God.

We prayed for her, anointed her with oil, and stood up wondering what to do next. As quickly as we were ushered into her apartment, we were taken to another apartment where we met another person who also was requesting prayer; which we did again wondering what was next.

Once again, we were led to another apartment, which turned out to be the home of the family from church. In the kitchen were other friends of theirs who were cooking some food. They motioned for us to sit down at a small table for two. Their son asked if we would have something to eat; we said ‘yes’.

We sat down at the small table, our knees touched each other’s and almost immediately bowls of steamed rice and meat were placed before us. We thanked them for the food and started to eat.

I looked around and noticed that we were the only ones eating. We motioned for them to eat; they motioned for us to continue as though they were content with watching us eat, so we did, feeling awkward at our predicament.

It seemed to me as though each time we would eat something, our bowls were once again filled back up. In short time, I realized that the food that they were feeding us was all that they had and that if I continued to eat, there would be none for them to eat.

I pressed my knees into Cathy and whispered to her my observation stating that I wasn’t comfortable with what was going on and that I wasn’t going to eat anymore because it wouldn’t be right.

Cathy had already realized the same thing and whispered to me that to NOT eat would be worse than to eat all their food. It was a matter of honoring their desire to esteem us by serving us their steamed rice and meat.

We continued to eat; they continued to fill our bowls as tears filled my eyes as I pondered this culture of honor that was being shown to us.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV)

They eventually let us stop and then they ate; and yes, all were fed. We said our goodbyes and made our way back home as I pondered what it felt like to be the recipients of being esteemed above someone else as I remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said; “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (see Acts 20:35)
So, who is God calling you to esteem today?  Who is He asking you to reach out today and regard highly or favorably with respect and admiration.

Mar 2, 2017

A Cup of Coffee from My Dad

It was a cold Sunday evening in December. The year was 2004 and I was lying in bed in my bedroom on the second floor of the house recovering from ankle surgery. My left foot had been damaged during a trip to the mountains the summer before.

This was one of those LONG nights when the boredom and restlessness of lying around on bedrest was starting to get to me.  And, because Cathy would soon be leaving for church for the evening classes, it would be another LONG evening alone with my thoughts as the children were also at church with the Youth Group.

Because I had reconstruction surgery without screws or any mechanical device, I had to be in a cast up to my knee from October thru March until my ankle was fully healed. A portion of that time was spent lying in bed with my leg propped up.

I passed the time on bedrest by playing guitar; which can be a challenge to do while propped up in bed. Some of my time was spent watching TV or movies. I remember one day when Cathy came home to find me watching a “Little House on the Prairie” miniseries and asked me why…

I told her that I appreciated the “Miracle on Ice” movie that she picked up for me; BUT it was producing too much testosterone. “Little House on the Prairie” had a calming effect on me.

Before Cathy left for church she asked me if she could get me anything. I looked around the room at responded with; “No, thank you.” So, she kissed me good-bye and headed out the door.

No sooner had she pulled out of the driveway, when the thought came to me that I should have asked her to make some coffee. Without really thinking, I said to God; “Dad, I really want coffee…I should have asked Cathy to make some before she left” and let out a sigh and flipped through the channels on the TV…

About twenty minutes later, I heard someone come in the rear door and start walking on the first floor of our house! I stretched my body to listen for who it might be and realized that both Cathy and the children were at church.

Thinking that perhaps one of them had come back for something, I laid back on the pillow. Immediately, I heard the person starting to walk up the wooden staircase to the second floor!

Normally I don’t get afraid of things that go bump in the dark but in my situation, I felt very vulnerable knowing that I couldn’t really defend myself or flee.

As I tried to calm myself down, a friend of one of my daughters poked her head in my bedroom. She was carrying a tall cup of coffee and handed it to me saying; “My dad said to bring it to you because you wanted it”.

I asked her what she meant and she said; “My dad said the bring this to you; he’s waiting in the car for me.” and left the room, went down the stairs, and slammed the rear door as she made her way outside to join her parents.

Many thoughts rushed my mind, including how did she get inside of a locked house? (It turns out that she got a key from one of my children)

I grabbed the directory to look up her parent’s phone number and called them. Her mom answered the phone and told me that they had been on their way to church and her husband stopped the car and said that he needed to pick up a cup of coffee for me. When asked why he said that he didn’t know for sure.

I shared what I had “prayed” to my Heavenly Father regarding wanting a cup of coffee and to her it made sense; especially since the time her husband turned the car around was roughly twenty minutes ago, somewhere around the same time that I had “prayed” for a cup of coffee.

I will admit that situations like this don’t prove that God exists or that He cares for minor issues like me wanting a cup of coffee. After all, some skeptics would argue, He has much bigger items to deal with than getting me a cup of coffee.

Some might feel as though I am foolish for believing that there is someone behind of this; who made all of this. Someone who cares deeply for me and cares deeply for even (seemly) insignificant items like getting me a cup of coffee.

Ok, I will also admit that I would not make a great atheist; because I don’t have enough faith. I think that it takes too much faith for me to believe that ALL of this came from nowhere.

But what if He did answer me? Perhaps God had heard and had answered my prayer. Perhaps her husband had heard God speak to him since he instructed his daughter to say; “My dad said to bring it to you because you wanted it”.

Either way I had a good cup of coffee.

Either way I thanked Him (and the family who sent the coffee over).

Either way I was a little bit warmer on that cold Sunday evening in December.

“…those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.” -Psalm 34:10