No Child is a Mistake


I have prayed about this.  I have struggled with my thoughts about how to approach this subject.  To the best of my ability, I am trying to be more encouraging however, my thoughts toward this subject are solid and I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that they are correct.  I just pray that as you read further, you will understand that this subject matter is a “slap in the face” towards God and His message of Hope in Jesus Christ.

In the year 2000, the former video rental store, Blockbuster, was given an opportunity by another company to expand Blockbuster to online video renting.  Blockbuster laughed at the opportunity and a short time later, the company Netflix became one of the largest online video rental sources of our time.  I am sure that those within the Blockbuster management team didn’t laugh after their company closed and saw Netflix thrive in this new venture.  What a mistake by Blockbuster.

In life, we all make mistakes.  We say things we shouldn’t say.  We forget to do things we should do.  We do things we shouldn’t.  We make mistakes.  We don’t mean to make those mistakes but we do.  Throughout our entire lives, we will make mistakes.  Maybe not the same ones over and over again, but at the very least we will make mistakes one time to learn from them.

As a child, I was taught that even though we make mistakes, we still must suffer the consequences of our mistakes.  As I got older, I was taught that even though we may make mistakes, there is a God who loves us, who cares for us and who wants to forgive us of those mistakes.  However, even though I may be forgiven, I still will suffer the consequences to the decisions I have made, even if it was a mistake.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t believe that we need to suffer the consequences to our mistakes.  Our society has proven over and over again, that they believe we can make mistakes and bury them.  The current government shutdown is proof of that.  Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington D.C. have voiced their distain over each other’s position on border security.  Yet despite both sides not budging on what they want, over 800,000 people are either working without pay or have been asked to stay home.  Meanwhile, members of Congress (both House and Senate) continue to get paid because it is listed to do so in the Constitution.  Therefore, as our citizens suffer the consequences of Washington’s disagreements, those who are making the decisions continue to get paid and believe that they will not suffer consequences as well.  Why?  Because they continue to be re-elected.

Although I have friends and family that are majorly affected by the current government shutdown, there is another subject that needs more attention and the current liberal media refuses to give light to it and continually denies the consequences of it…abortion.

Recently, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have passed a revision to a law concerning women’s rights in relation to abortion and contraception.  I have read over the revised law and have concluded that the majority of this revision is mainly about abortion rights and little to do with contraception.  (You may want to read it for yourself and see if you come to the same conclusion.)

Why this is so important is not the fact that it was passed but the lack of recognition to the consequences of passing that law.  In the past, the law stated that an abortion could not be done once the baby was 24-weeks (in utero) or older.  It also stated that there were consequences, including jail time for those who were caught taking part in abortions once this time frame past.  Now, the revised law says that those who are qualified to do abortions (not just doctors) can do so past the 24-week deadline and no further timeframe was given.  This basically means that whomever, New York State deems worthy to do abortions can do so up to delivery.  As long as the baby is in utero, they can do their horrific and barbaric procedure.  And they can do this so long as they deem the mother and / or baby are at risk of death.  Hold that thought for a moment.

In addition, New York State Legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo also removed any and all reference to potential jail time to anyone who executes abortions.  All security a woman had in the decision making process has been taken away.  Here is why….

Let’s say a couple meets in a bar one night.  They have a few drinks and decide to get to know each other a little bit more.  One thing leads to another and viola…a one-night stand.  A couple of months later, the woman begins getting sick.  She goes to the doctor to find out she’s pregnant.  She breaks down in tears and wonders what her options are.  Her doctor says one option is to have an abortion.  However, she isn’t sure what she wants to do.  After a couple more months, the same woman gets into a car accident and enters a coma.  A week or so later, the woman wakes up and notices something is wrong, she no longer feels her baby moving.  She asks what happened and the doctor says that he had to abort the baby because her health was in danger.  Although, this is a made up story, the consequence of the revised abortion law would allow this to happen, even if the mother does not know about it.  The wording states…

§ 2599-BB. ABORTION.  1.  A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER LICENSED, CERTIFIED, OR AUTHORIZED UNDER TITLE EIGHT OF THE EDUCATION LAW, ACTING WITHIN HIS OR HER LAWFUL SCOPE OF PRACTICE, MAY PERFORM AN ABORTION WHEN, ACCORDING TO THE PRACTITIONER’S REASONABLE AND GOOD FAITH PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT BASED ON THE FACTS OF THE PATIENT’S CASE: THE PATIENT IS WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR WEEKS FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF PREGNANCY, OR THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY, OR THE ABORTION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THEPATIENT’S LIFE OR HEALTH.

Again, in most cases, the woman is making the decision on this, but now New York State has allowed others to make that decision for the woman if the “health care practitioner” deems it necessary.  Not only has the time-frame been removed but also the consequences of executing an abortion.

Now, I am not shocked by this decision, but I am obviously bothered by it.  I am not shocked because New York State government officials have proven their loyalty and devotion to sin.  They have openly and proudly displayed their satisfaction to rebelling against God.  In fact, the Empire State Building will be lit pink in order to commemorate this momentous evil occasion.  They are proudly wearing the badge of sin and shame.  They no longer hide their sin but place it in the open forum of daily living.  But why does this matter?  Why should we be concerned about this open display of sin?

First, God destroys those who are open and proud of their sin.  Sodom, Gomorrah, Babylon, Persians…all of these empires were proud to display their sin in the light.  History has taught us that each of these empires fell not because of economic problems or natural causes, rather they were destroyed because of their open display of sin.

Both Sodom and Gomorrah were known to be violent towards women and outsiders.  In Genesis 19, you can read about how the men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with “men” who came to tell Lot to leave or be destroyed.  Here is what the angels said to Lot…

“For we are about to destroy this city completely.  The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it.” – Genesis 19:13 (NLT)

 “God will turn the sins of evil people back on them.  He will destroy them for their sins.  The Lord our God will destroy them.” – Psalm 94:23

There will come a time when God decides that the sin of a nation is so great that He will send for something or someone to destroy it.  Fortunately for us, that time has not yet come.  For if that time had come, this article would not have been written.

Okay, now that we have an understanding of what God does to those who are open and proud of their sin, what does God also say about children?

“Children are a gift from the Lord; for they are a reward from Him.” – Psalm 127:3

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” – Matthew 19:14

And what about those children who are not yet born?

“You guided my conception and formed me in the womb.” – Job 10:10

When Mary’s cousin, who was pregnant with John the Baptist saw Mary, she said, “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.” – Luke 1:44

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13

God views life from the point of conception.  It is God who guides the man and woman to marriage.  It is God who guides the sperm to meet the egg.  It is God who personally molds and makes the baby into the image He chooses.  The baby, both in utero and after birth are a gift from God.  So let’s look at this from a slightly different viewpoint…

If God sees life beginning at conception, then abortion rebels against God by saying conception doesn’t matter.

If God forms the baby, then abortion must destroy the very creation God is actively doing, therefore, it is murder.

If God has declared that He is intimately involved in creating children, then abortion actively defies God by showing distain towards His creation.

You see, abortion is more than what the world is telling us.  The world says it’s about women’s rights.  God says it’s about life He creates.  The world says that a child is not a child until delivery.  God clearly says that life begins at conception.  The world says they are proud to do what they want, when they want and how they want and without consequences.  God says that He will one day get fed up with our sin and destroy us as He sees fit.

My plea with you today, is this…please, please, please, stop this madness and repent.  Vote for those who will stand for what God stands for.  Voice your distain towards openly sinful practices and flaunting but do it in the most loving way possible.

Continue to stand for what is right.  Continue to vote in the right way.  Continue to plea with God to hold off His judgement against those who openly defy Him.  Continue to pray for our leaders and especially those in New York for their salvation, for their minds to be opened to what God says about life and for them to see the coming judgement upon all of us, if this behavior continues.

I do not know how or when God will decide to say, “Enough is enough”.  All I know is that in the meantime, I will continue to share the love and hope of life in Jesus Christ as long as there is breath in my lungs.

It is time for us Christians to stand together.  It is time for us Christians to show our rulers that God’s law is much higher than their laws.  It is time for us Christians to get out from behind our church walls and meeting places and enter into the political realm.  As long as we keep God first in our lives and do what He calls us to do, we will not hear the trumpets of judgement, rather we will hear the soft voice of God say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Come and enter into my rest.”

That is what I desire to hear one day.  If God is for us, who cares who is against us.  He will protect us, He will save us and we will live with Him forever.  We need to stand for those who cannot.  We need to feed those who are hungry.  We are to clothe those who need clothing.  This is the action of the Christian which shows the world how loving and patient God is.  It is acting upon our faith that shows the world that God is in control and He desires to have a relationship with us.

I am praying for the New York Legislature and Governor.  I am praying that one day soon; God will touch their hearts so that they become His children and see life the way He sees it…beginning at conception, precious in this world, and eternal with Him.  Will you join me?  Will you act in a way that is worthy of our calling?  I pray that you do what God has called you to do.  Don’t delay.  God won’t delay His judgement forever.

God bless and encourage someone today.

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The Hiking Trail


Have you ever felt lost?  For a moment, pretend you are hiking in the woods.  You are on a trail and understand how to read the trail marks.  As you follow the trail, you notice several intriguing items, a bird perched on a branch of a tall oak tree, the river which flows continuously and feeds all plants and trees by it or even the chipmunks which scurry around.  Just as you are admiring God’s creation you realize something, you’re no longer on the trail.  To add to your worry, you can’t see the trail marks either.  As you wander in the dense foliage, you come across another hiker (or so you thought).

The “hiker” tells you to turn around go back about 100 feet and look for the small birch tree.  It has a marking on it.  You turn around, run to the small birch tree and see the mark, only it isn’t a hiking mark.  There are four markings, long deep lines, stacked upon another.  You look at the hiking book you have and realize those are not just marks, they are the residual of a bear scratching at the tree.  Your anxiety kicks in.  Not only are you lost but the “hiker” just sent you into bear territory.  You need to move and quickly.

You turn left and decide that going in a straight line is best.  You look up to see the sun, but cannot.  The forest is so dense that it cuts out almost all of the sunlight.  It is as if the canopy of foliage has swallowed up the heavens, hiding the glory of the Most High.  Your anxiety begins to heighten.  Thoughts of dying in the woods from starvation, getting eaten by a bear or mountain lion and even drowning begin to the thought process.  You begin to wonder what your family is thinking.  Are you okay?  Are you hurt?  Are you still alive?  It is then you look up to the sliver of light creeping through the foliage and cry out to God.  You say, “Oh Lord, I am lost!  Get me out of here!  I can’t do this!  Please Lord, help me.  I’ll do anything you want, if you get me out of here!”  As you sit in silence, you wait and listen.  No response.

After a moment’s rest, you get up and begin to journey further.  You come across another would be hiker.  You ask, “Can you please help me?  I am trying to find the hiking marker so I can get back on the trail.”  The hiker turns and says, “Turn left and go about ½ mile.  There you will find an old oak tree with one of the markers you are looking for.”  You thank the hiker and begin moving toward the place he pointed out to you.

As you approach the area the second hiker told you about, you remember the first “hiker”.  Would this hiker also send you into a den of horror and terror?  You begin to have second thoughts.  You stutter for a moment, but remember your family needs you, so you continue to approach the area.  You see the tree from a distance and run toward it.  At this moment, you see a marking on the tree.  It is a small hole.  As you look closer, you notice there are several small holes all over the tree.  At that moment, you take a look at your hiking book and realize those are woodpecker holes.  You read that woodpeckers create these holes when looking for bugs they can eat.  It is then you realize the old oak tree is not even alive.  It may look alive, but on the inside, it is as rotten as an apple sitting in the sun on a hot summer day.  Your anxiety peaks.  Your heart feels like it could come out of your chest.  Nausea enters your stomach, your hands begin to tremble and sweat drenches your shirt, your greatest fears become an alternate reality for you.  You cry out to God again.  “Lord!”, you scream.  “Please, please, please, get me out of here!  I’m sorry for going off the trail!  I’m sorry for whatever I did to get here!  Please Lord, get me home!.”  You again sit in silence, waiting for a reply, but none come.  Only the sound of the gentle breeze or an occasional chirping bird is all you hear.  You begin to doubt.  “Why won’t God answer?  Why has He left me here?”  You begin to cry in desperation.

As you sit and wonder what your death will be, you open your bag for a small snack and water to try and get rid of the nausea.  As you rummage through your bag, you grab a bag of trail mix and yank it out of the bag.  But something else came out with it, your hiking book.  It falls on the ground.  As you eat your snack you stare at the book.  Two thoughts come across your mind.  The first thought says, “Pick it up and read it.”  The second thought says, “It didn’t help you before.  What makes you think it can help now?”  You toy with each of these thoughts trying to make sense of each of them.  On one hand, if you read the hiking book, you’ll learn a lot, but will that help you in this predicament?  On the other hand, it only told you about what you see.  You don’t ever remember reading about trail markings.  Both thoughts seem hopeless.  Both thoughts have the same risk factor.  One thought may lead to safety, while the other one may lead to your demise.  But which thought was which?  Which one will lead you to safety?

The story isn’t quite finished, but I wanted to pause to ask you, as you read this story, how did it make you feel?  Did you begin to worry?  Did an actual situation come to mind?  Maybe you felt nauseas?  Maybe your hands began to tremble?  Did your heart race while you read this?  Did a panic attack begin?  Which thought do you feel is the correct one?  Should you look at the hiker’s book or should you discover another way?  Which would you choose?  Let’s get back with the story to find out.

Suddenly, there is a refreshing cool breeze.  The feeling of calmness begins to take root inside your mind.  You close your eyes and begin to count backwards from 10 to 1, taking slow deep breaths with every number counted.  The thoughts in your mind begin to have an order.  Instead of irrational thoughts leading to irrational behavior, you begin to put the pieces of this crazy puzzle together.  You look down and notice something odd, something you never noticed before.  There is a hand-written note on the inside cover.

You pick up the hiker’s book and read the inscription:

Dear Reader,

This book is based on what I found while hiking these trails.  It contains all you need to survive your journey, no matter what trail you are on.  This book contains which foods you can eat and which ones to avoid.  It will guide you from one trail to the next in order to ensure you avoid any potential threats, such as bear and mountain lion dens.  It will also guide you as an educator so that you will not be surprised at what surrounds you.  This book is my gift to you.  I have sent this book to other hikers as well.  If you come across another hiker but they do not have or listen to my words contained in this book, avoid their advice.  They do not have your best interest at heart, no matter how nice they may be.  I know these woods and trails, because I created them.  I paved the way for you to enjoy what God has created.

                                                                                                       With love and affection,

                                                                                                                     The Trailblazer

At that moment, you realize you had the answers all along.  You begin to study the book, rather than read it.  You notice chapters and notes that you had not seen before.  You read about the delicious fruit on one trail and the refreshing waters on another.  You read about the dense forest and its beauty but also recognize the warning of darkness on this trail.  It is then you realize, the trail you need is less than a mile away.  Now instead of anxiety and worry, you feel a peace you have not felt for some time.

You begin to remember how you received this book.  The older gentleman who passed it along to you, telling you to read and study the book before you journey into the forest.  He said he was like you and someone had passed this to him and now he would like to pass it to you.  You remember his joy and excitement to tell you what he had seen along his journey.  You remember his excitement easily flowed from his being to yours.

Upon graciously accepting this book, a joy and excitement about your journey came over you.  You couldn’t wait to prepare and begin.  Memories of the countless hours you spent preparing for this journey.  You remember what it felt like to be a kid again.  Never did you think your journey would end up like this, but now you remember the hope you once had.  It was because of this book that you were able to find your trail and continue on your journey.

Just like the Trailblazer’s hiking book, we too have a book that will guide us on our journey in this life.  It is called the Bible.  The Bible has everything we need to not just survive this life, but thrive.  It shows us where the nourishment is and what places, things or people to avoid.

2 Timothy 3:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 (A)All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness…

This means that no matter our situation, no matter how struggle, no matter our mountain top experience, the Bible has everything that we need.  It contains encouragement during our times of struggle.  It contains praise during our time of flourishing.  It contains words of wisdom for advice and words of rebuke for our rebellion.  The Bible gives us the guidelines for a prosperous life and warnings of problematic one.

Just like in our story, we have a trailblazer as well.  His name is Jesus Christ.  He created this world, came to this world in order that He might trailblaze a way back to the Father.  It was His life, death and resurrection which allow us to live this life (and the next) with confidence, love and servitude.  It is only because of what He did that we can have eternal life with Him.

This Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.  It is a time where we reflect and rejoice on what Jesus Christ did.  We will hear about His sacrifice but rejoice in knowing that He lives!  Not only that but we can also rejoice because He will return and make all things new one day.

Revelation 22:12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

12 “Behold, (A)I am coming quickly, and My (B)reward is with Me, (C)to render to every man [a]according to what he has done.

Like the hiker in the story, all we need to do is open up the Bible, read and study its words and ask God to guide our hearts and minds into whatever He desires for us.  Everything we need for this life is contained in the Bible and the greatest part is that our “trailblazer” lives and wants us to know Him better.  Take time this week to open up the Bible and discover the greatest story ever written….  Jesus Christ is alive and well!  He has Risen!

God bless and encourage someone today.

Fiction Evidenced As Reality


What is your greatest fear?  How does it affect you?  Do you get a physical reaction or just a mental tornado upsetting the organization in your mind?  Is your greatest fear something you can control?  Is the lack of control your greatest fear?

Most times we fear because of the “unknown factors” which lie before us.  We look at our circumstances, calculate our steps and realize that there are factors which do not enter into the equation.  We begin to wonder what those factors are and how they will work out.  We then allow our minds to wander adding another unknown factor which exponentially increases our fears, until the point where we have no control, including control of our thoughts.

It was once said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself.  Although I understand the thought process behind this and the times in which it was said, I think that we need to go one step further with that statement.  I believe, there is nothing to fear.  This is not the same thing as being afraid.  There are times in our lives, when being afraid of something may save our lives.  When we are caught in a burning house, it is being afraid of dying that drives us to try and escape it.  When we are caught in the under tow, being sucked out into the middle of the ocean, it is being afraid that may keep us afloat.

Being afraid of something and fearing are very different.  Being afraid keeps us alive.  Having fear kills us slowly.  When we fear, we create an environment where our minds are no longer in control of our thoughts and many times a physical reaction occurs.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I woke up yesterday and felt very stressed out.  Over the last three weeks, my schedule has been, what some would call…INSANE!  Working a full time job, where we have been short staffed with more work coming in, helping a friend’s church stay afloat, spending time with my wife and kids and trying to spend more time with God has created an atomic explosion in my mind.  Yesterday was the fall out.

In previous blogs, I shared with you my struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  However, even though I suffer with this, there are days, like yesterday, where even medication won’t help.  Part of my therapy to combat this “fallout” is to spend time in prayer, read Scripture and write.  If any one of those components is missing, the fallout wins and depression begins to set itself into place.

Here is where fear takes root.  Depression is just one way that fear solidifies itself and it is very difficult to get rid of it.  Have you ever tried to take out a weed that was in the ground for a long time?  The weed spreads out its roots over a vast area.  This way, when the gardener comes, he/she struggles to pull it out of the ground.  Sometimes the week breaks at ground level and cannot be pulled any further.  The gardener then has two choices.  Choice #1 is to wait it out and then try to pull it out again with brut force.  However with this choice, the weed must grow again.  With fear, we may do things to pull it out by brut force but many times, the root of the issue is still there.  When we choose this method, we allow the fear to reinstate itself and take further root in our lives.  There is another choice.

Choice #2 is a bit more drastic but effective.  If the gardener chooses the wise choice, he/she will get a digging tool and begin the process of ensuring that all of the weed plant, with its roots, is permanently removed.  With this method, the gardener will disturb the entire area in an effort to find out the “root cause”.  The gardener will dig up as much as they can in order to ensure that the weed does not return.  When we deal with fear properly, we must disturb other areas of our lives.  The digging up of past issues, past hurts or past relationships causes us to shuffle ideas and question our motivations.  It forces us to rethink ideals and theologies we have learned.  It upsets all that we believe, the question is can we recover from that disturbance?

Just like the ground, healing takes time.  In the Old Testament, God tells Israel to plant and sow for 6 years.  On the 7th year, let the ground rest from its work.  There are many theologies concerning this but from a practical level, it gave the ground one year to heal.

Sometimes, we need to do the same thing.  There are times we need to step away from the busyness of life and allow ourselves to heal.  Maybe, we need to let go of horrible past relationships or forgive someone who has hurt us.  In some cases, it may be us that needs to ask for forgiveness from someone we hurt.  Whatever it is, don’t let fear dismantle the healing process.

Fear is nothing more than Fiction Evidenced As Reality.  It doesn’t exist.  It is a false representation of the reality of a hurting soul.  Fear is the tool Satan uses to keep us where we are so that we do not cry out to the loving Good Shepherd, who is ready to rescue us.  Fear is just as bad as quotes that people say is in Scripture.

Have you ever heard, “Time heals all wounds”?  It’s in the Bible, right?  There is nothing further from the truth.  This saying is a way for us, as human beings, to pull out the weed of fear and leave its roots in place.  Time does not heal, it just passes.

Many have tried to say it is a Psalm or Proverb.  It isn’t.  What the Scripture does say is in Psalm 147:

2The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel. 3He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.…

New American Standard Bible

It is the Lord who heals the brokenhearted.  It is the Lord who heals their wounds.  It is the Lord who counts the stars and names them all.  It is the Lord who can get rid of whatever is keeping you back from coming to Him.

If you are hurting, He knows.  If you are questioning, He has answers.  If you are crying, he is crying with you.  Two of the greatest words ever written were when Jesus approaches the grave of Lazarus.

John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.”  It was an incredible proclamation.  Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die.  Jesus knew He was going to raise him from the dead.  So why did Jesus weep?  Simply to show he was 100% human.  Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead to show He was 100% God.  Isn’t that an encouragement for us today?  Think about that for a moment.  Jesus felt what we feel.  He understood what it was like to lose someone.  He understands what it is like to hurt.  And in all of that experience, He never allowed fear to persuade him.  He never allowed the fiction that Satan feeds our minds to take root in His own.

If you are hurting, if you are living in fear, there is someone who understands.  Jesus Christ knows what you are going through, yet desires for you and I to tell Him.  It is Jesus Christ who can heal you.  He can remove the roots of the weed that so easily entangles you.  Only Jesus Christ can take all of our fear, all of our anxiety and use it for His glory and His purposes.

If you don’t know who Jesus Christ is, He is the One who left heaven to come to earth as a baby.  He lived a human life, while displaying His God nature.  He allowed Himself to be beaten and tortured.  He allowed Himself to be put on public display, naked and gave His life in the most horrific way of His time, by being crucified.  But it didn’t end there.  After He cried out in a voice, “It is finished”, he was buried and on the 3rd day, rose from the dead.  HE IS ALIVE!  He is calling out to you, desiring for you to let Him rescue you.

No matter your hurt.  No matter your pain.  Jesus Christ can take it from you.  Just cry out to Him and ask Him to rescue you.  He will.  Let Him into your life and give you the life He always wanted for you.  Believe in Him, cry out to Him and be healed by Him.  Don’t let fear stop you from meeting the only One who can save you, Jesus Christ.

God bless and encourage someone today.

What is Your Greatest Victory? – Greatest Life Series Pt. 3


Sounds like an odd question, doesn’t it?  Most times, when we look at the term “victory”, we equate it to war.  During WWII, on May 8, 1945, the Allies declared victory over the Nazi regime and declared that day to be known as VE Day.

However, as I ask this question, what is your greatest victory, I am not asking if you served in the military and had victories over the physical enemy.  I am asking, what is your greatest victory, in reference to the internal battles and struggles you and I face every day.

How many times have you attempted to overcome something in your life that is controlling?  For some it is reoccurring sinful behavior.  For others it may be eating based purely on emotion.  Yet for some it may be fighting a depression battle inside you.  No matter the internal struggle, we all face some sort of daily battle that we need to overcome.

One day, I was looking in the mirror and didn’t like what I was seeing.  I saw a person that didn’t look anything like I remember.  In my younger days, I was thin, physically fit and had a risk-taking attitude.  Now, I saw an overweight, out of shape (other than round) and defeated man.  No more pep in my step.  No risk taking.  I had become exactly what I swore I wouldn’t become.

As time went by, depression set in and my walk with the Lord suffered, greatly.  I stopped reading and seeking out the Lord daily.  I ate over 3,000 calories a day and most of it was junk.  No vegetables or fruits for weeks at a time.  This cycle continued for some time.  My old sinful behavior began to creep back into my life.  Now I really hated what I had become.

My wife and kids could see the changes.  Regularly, I would be asked if I was alright.  My answer was always “yes” but internally I wanted to scream, “Hell no!  I’m not okay!  Leave me to be alone!!!!”  One evening, my wife asked me if the gym at work was open.  I told her yes and then she said, “You were happier when you were exercising.  Go to the gym at work and start.”  I was very hesitant.  We had a new baby in the house and we weren’t sleeping.  She continued to gently remind me of how I was when we were younger when I was weight lifting.

I didn’t know what to do.  I knew I needed to do something.  One night, my youngest son looked at me with his big beautiful eyes, smiled and cooed at me.  As I looked into his eyes, I saw life.  Not just him being alive, but real life.  Bright eyed, risk taking and eternal life eyes.  His eyes told me a story that I had forgotten.  Children are risk takers.  They don’t care what others think.  They’ll ask, “Hey why are you so fat?”  Mainly out of curiosity, but we correct them because we feel it’s rude to ask that.

When I was young, I loved climbing.  I would climb garage roofs, high fences and trees.  At around 5 years old, I had climbed one of the trees in front of our apartment.  The top of the tree was higher than the two-story complex.  (I only know that because I wanted to see over the buildings and climbed to the top).  One afternoon, my dad came home from work.  I saw him pull up and as he started to walk to the door, I shouted out, “Hi dad!”

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Up here.  Look”, I exclaimed.

As my father looked up all he could see was my little hand sticking out, waving at him.  Later he told me how scared he was that I was going to slip off and plummet violently to my death.  However, for me, this was normal.  I had done this several times before.  Even on windy days, I climbed to the top and swayed along with the tree.

This reminder that came from my baby boy’s eyes, allowed the voice of God to ask me a simple question, “Are you happy?”  Immediately, I answered, “No.”  Then I heard, “Then give up trying and start being mine again.”  A profound reminder that I wasn’t my own.  Jesus Christ had purchased my life with a price, his life.

I made a conscience decision that night to change.  I wasn’t going to try and become someone else.  I wanted to be me, the one who God designed with His own hands.  For too long was I trying to become someone I am not meant to be.

Since then, changes have been made to accommodate a renewed life.  Exercise, daily prayer and Scripture reading are now part of my regular routine.  Do I still miss a day here or there?  Sure.  But instead of allowing that to bring depression back into my life, I learn from it and make the necessary changes.

Was I victorious?  Some may say I was, but I believe that the victory doesn’t belong to me.  I have learned that the battle I face is not mine, yet I still face it.  So what are we to do?

Psalm 44:5-7

Through you we push back our enemies;

Through your name we trample our foes.

I put no trust in my bow,

my sword does not give me victory;

But you give us victory over our enemies,

you put our adversaries to shame.

This psalm shows us exactly what we are to do in the various battles we face.  First, we act as God leads.  If He tells us to do something, we do it.  Second, we go into situations with the full understanding and acceptance that He is battling for us, even though we are doing the work.  We need not struggle in our battles.  Our battles are fought by the Creator of the Universe, God Himself!  Third, we are not to take pride in our earthly abilities.  We are not to trust any device or skill.  We may be good at what we do, but He gave us that ability.  We didn’t earn it.  He gave it.  Lastly, victory is right around the corner and when it happens, you will see God overcome.

Too many times, did I try to be victorious over things that I could not control.  Too many times, did I promise not to do what I should not, only to fall flat on my face.  Too many times, did I work and work and work only to find my abilities were insufficient to overcome the surrounding circumstances.  For too long, did I think, “I can do this” only to realize that I can’t.

As Christians in the United States, we are told that we can do anything.  We can’t.  We are taught to go after our dreams and goals and they will succeed, yet to find only disappointment and depression knocking at our door.

Don’t be upset with this concept.  It goes against everything that I heard growing up.  I even find myself telling my boys, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”  Unfortunately, this is not true.  Many times we hear the following bible verse:

”I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13

We equate this verse many times to success in this life.  But what is the real context here?

Paul is thanking the Philippian church for their gifts to his ministry.  He mentions that he has lived with “plenty” and “in want”.  Paul saw times of physical wealth and times of poverty.  He knew what both were like.  In this context, he states that he can do all things through Christ.  This means that no matter the situation, whether good or bad, we can handle it through Christ.

I want to be sure that you are encouraged.  Remember when I spoke about all the struggles we face daily and how when we act to change them, we face depression and disappointment many times?  Well, if we are in God’s will for our lives, no matter the circumstance, He will give us what we need to get through it.  He will be the victor and we will benefit from His victories.

You and I are His.  John 10:29 says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”  Isn’t that reassuring?  Because you and I are God’s no circumstance, no person, no spiritual being can take us away from God.  We are special because God says we are.  Our salvation is secure in Him.

Our greatest victory really isn’t ours.  It is God’s.  So to answer the original question “What is your greatest victory?”  My answer would be this, “My greatest victory doesn’t matter.  I benefit from the One who is the victor in every situation and circumstance.  God is my victor.”

God bless and encourage someone today.

 

From the Depths


As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  It was then he began to remember happier times.

Six years earlier, Ron and his wife, Barbara, had been surprised by the news that she was pregnant.  Although the child was unplanned by them, they understood God had bigger plans for this child.  They began to adjust their lives anticipating the arrival of their little baby.  Ron worked feverishly to ensure that most of the necessary construction on his house was completed, while Barbara picked out colors and cribs.

After the arrival of their baby boy, things went well for them.  He began to grow as most children do, making up words, playing with their toys and learning to say, “No.”  For the first five years of his life, David appeared to develop normally.  It wasn’t until the elementary school called indicating that David failed a hearing test.

David had experienced ear infections for most of his life.  Sometimes medication didn’t work, sometimes it did.  In all cases, it appeared that he was healed every time.  There were no “red flags’ that entered the mind of Ron or Barbara.  Now their biggest fear became a reality.  David had a tumor that needed to be removed, otherwise he could die.

The doctor called it cholesteatoma tumor, a non-cancerous tumor inside the ear that eats away at bones and cartilage.  Normally, it wasn’t fatal, but in David’s case, they feared that due to the size of the tumor, it would begin to eat at the base of the skull.  It was the worst news they had ever heard.  Never did either of them understand how or why this happened.  The doctor speculated David may have been born with it, while another possibility was one of his earlier infections created the tumor.  In either case, no one knew how or where this tumor came from.

Ron had sat with his son in the waiting room of the hospital.  He watched his son play with various toys as if there was nothing wrong.  The anesthesiologist entered the room with a smile on his face.  He carried a small cup of clear liquid and called David over to him.  David gladly took the drink and within minutes began to feel sleepy.  Ron and Barbara knew the time had come for doctors to attempt to remove the tumor.

Ron dressed in the suit provided by the hospital.  Dressed in white from head to toe, Ron didn’t cry.  In his mind, he didn’t have time for that.  This time was for David.  His son needed him more than ever.  Fully dressed, Ron picked up his son and carried him down the hallway.  As Ron looked back, he could see Barbara place her head on her mother’s shoulder and cry like the world was lost.  Not being able to bear the sight, Ron turned his head and followed the nurse.

They approached a small room, where every electronic contraption could be found.  Large lights were overhead, a heart rate monitor was to his right and the operating table was straight ahead.  Behind the table was where the anesthesiologist stood waiting for David to ensure he was fully asleep.  Looking around, the doctor stood there encouraging Ron with a smile as if to indicate that all would be okay.  Ron doubting the situation wanted to run with his son in his arms, but knew that wouldn’t be the best decision.  David had this foreign tumor and it needed to be removed.

Ron carefully placed David on the table before him.  The doctor placed a mask on David’s face and asked Ron to leave.  Ron leaned over his son, kissed his head and whispered, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.  Jesus is with you.”  It was then that faith turned into a reality.  Did Ron really believe this?  Was what he read really true?  Was God really with his son through this?  Ron lifted his head, nodded at the doctor to say, “He is in your hands now”, turned and walked away.

The poor nurse assigned to escort Ron back to the waiting area, placed her hand on his back and said, “Everything will be okay.  Your son is in the best hands.”  Not desiring to listen to anyone or hear any words of encouragement, Ron just turned to the nurse and crudely stated, “Please be quiet.  I don’t want to talk with you right now.”  The nurse, having wisdom, just smiled and continued the silent walk back to the waiting area.

After checking on his wife, Ron decided it was time for him to get some air.  He told Barbara that he was going outside.  Barbara didn’t acknowledge Ron, but Ron understood that she heard him but didn’t care because her baby boy was undergoing surgery.  Ron slowly turned toward the door and walked outside picking up his cell phone.

As Ron stood in the sun he decided to call one of his friends, Bobby.  Bobby had helped Ron understand many different situations in life.  Bobby was a temporary pastor at his church and had walked with him through the process, thus far.  Now Ron needed to work through this so Bobby was his best choice.  The phone rang and Ron heard the comforting voice of his dear friend.

“Ron, how are you?  How is everything with David?” asked Bobby.

“He’s in surgery right now”, stated Ron with an exacting voice.

“So then the question is… how are you?”

With tears in his eyes and a fluttering voice Ron shared, “Bobby, I don’t understand.  God gave us this child.  Why did He allow this to happen?  David didn’t do anything to deserve this.  Why is this happening?”

With the wisdom of God on his mind and sympathy in his voice, Bobby said, “I wish I could understand, but I cannot.  Have you cried out to God and ask Him?”

“No.  Right now I am angry with God and don’t want him to be angry with me.”

“Bobby, didn’t Job cry out to God?  Don’t you think he was angry?  He lost everything, his home, his worldly wealth, his health and even all of his children.  Even King David cried out to God in his time in need.  In fact, on the cross, Jesus cried out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’ Cry out to Him.  He will answer”, encouraged Bobby.

Ron thanked him for his time and comfort and agreed that crying out to God directly was the best way to understand the situation.  Although, Ron didn’t feel like talking with God, he understood that was the only way to possibly get answers to his questions.

As he sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor’s word on his son, Ron pondered every conceivable question.  Why is this happening?  What did my son do to deserve this type of treatment?  What is the purpose in all of this?  As questions continued to arise, he placed his tear-filled eyes into his hands and wept like all was lost.  He cried out to God and said, “Why?  Why is this happening?  What has David done to deserve this?  There are so many others out there who have done worse, so why can’t you punish them?”

No answer came.  As Ron continued to cry out to God but over the course of the next few hours, the questions became demands.  “God, why aren’t you answering me?!  I demand an answer.  I can’t handle this situation.  You said you wouldn’t give me anything I can’t handle.  God, where are you?!”

Again, no answer came.  Just as Ron was giving up on his prayers, the doctor came out, still clothed in hospital scrubs.  As she approached, she told them, “Ron, Barbara.  I want to let you know that David is doing okay.  He is currently resting but unfortunately, he will have to do this again in six months.  We attempted to get all of it but we cannot do any more until then.  I know it has been over five hours, but the next surgery shouldn’t be long.  After David wakes up, you can take him home.”

Another surgery?  Ron and Barbara didn’t fully understand why their precious little boy needed anther surgery but trusted the doctor for her experience and knowledge.  Questions flooded Ron’s mind once again.  What was happening?  Why to his little boy?  All he could do is get his son, take him home and give him the care he needed.

Six months later, the second surgery came.  Once again, they found themselves in the waiting room with their son.  Again, the questions flooded Ron’s mind.  As they waited for the doctor, their son was in the play area putting together some puzzles.  Not far from David, was another little boy who appeared to be crying and whimpering in his mother’s arms.  Curious about the situation David approached the little boy and asked, “Why are you crying?”

The boy’s mother replied, “He has to go into surgery.”

Overhearing David’s conversation, Barbara asked the crying boy’s mother, “Oh, what kind of surgery?”

“Tubes.  It’s a pretty long surgery, about an one and a half hours.”

Barbara just smiled and said, “I understand.  Our son needs surgery in his ears too.”

The boy’s mother responded, “Tubes?”

Barbara mustered all of the strength she could find and replied, “No.  I wish it was.  My son is having another surgery to remove a cholesteatoma tumor.”

“Oh I’m sorry.  Here I am crying over this silly procedure, while your son has a more serious situation”, the boy’s mother stated while wiping tears from her eyes.

Barbara responded, “Don’t worry about it.  Our son already had one surgery, so this should be his last.”

“How long is your son’s surgery?” asked the mother.

“The first one was about six hours but this one should only be two or three hours.”

The other mother appeared shocked and the look on her face resembled that of a statue with the expression of shock and disbelief.  Barbara and the boy’s mother continued their conversation when something incredible happened.  David turned toward the boy and said, “Let’s play a game” and took the boy by the hand and led him to the video game console.

“What just happened?” asked the boy’s mother.

Ron realized that something special was happening.  He had seen God work before, but never like this.  God was working through his son in order to bring comfort and compassion.  Before the mother could ask the question a second time, Ron responded, “God is working through my son to reach your son.”

It was about that time that the anesthesiologist came forward and called David’s name.  Once again, David was given a small drink which made him “sleepy”.  Ron then picked up his son and carried him back to the same operating table they had visited six months prior.  He laid his little boy down, kissed him once again and smiled at the doctor to acknowledge his approval of her skills.

A couple of hours passed and Ron and Barbara waited patiently for the doctor’s good word.  No one came.  They inquired from the front desk, who called for the doctor, but no response came.  “What’s happening?  Why is it taking it so long?” were questions that raced through their minds.  Another hour passes, no word from the doctor.  After another six hour surgery, the doctor emerged with a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier, but there were minor complications.  The tumor had grown back so we needed to remove the tumor again and continue with the second stage of surgery.  Your son is resting now but all is well.  I believe we got it totally this time”, said the doctor with confidence.

Ron and Barbara finally felt relief.  Their son had been healed.  Ron still questioned God, but realized that the battle was over.  Their son would completely recover from his ailment.  He may not be able to hear but at least he would live.  Satisfied with the doctor’s results, they took David home and cared for him.

A few years went by and there was no sign of the tumor.  Only the scar behind his ear became the evidence of a prior complication.  One afternoon, Barbara took David to the doctor for a routine checkup.  It was there, the world was turned upside down once again.  The doctor warned, “I am sorry but the tumor grew back.”

Devastated by the news, Barbara asked, “Is it fatal?”

The doctor turned and said, “No.  It is operable, but I recommend a full ear canal wall down.”

Seeing the confused look on Barbara’s face, the doctor continued, “It means that he will no longer have an ear canal.  We will remove it completely, so that if this ever happens in the future, we can take care of it right here.”

This news brought a sense of relief to Barbara, but how would she tell Ron?  He had been questioning God since the last two surgeries.  Would he completely flip out and turn away from God or would he respond by going to God?  This, unfortunately, was a risk she was going to have to take.  No matter the outcome, she would stand by Ron and pray that he would respond properly.

She picked up her cell phone and dialed Ron at work.

“Hello”, said Ron.

“Hi honey”, Barbara stated with hesitancy.

“What’s wrong Barb?”

“David needs another surgery.”

The news was crushing.  It was as if his heart had been ripped out of his chest and placed into a trash compactor.  Everything hurt.  His body, mind and soul ached with pain beyond comparison.  It was then Barbara interrupted his self pity session, “Ron.  It’s operable.  The doctor will remove his ear canal and remove the tumor once again.  Once completed, they will be able to do it in the office so that David doesn’t have to go through this again.”

There was some sense of comfort to that news, even though his life felt crushed.  At least David would only have to go through this one more time.  Ron, however, knew that he needed to carry his little boy once again and place him onto the operating table.  The toughest of tasks he ever encountered was once again upon him.  Would he be able to do it again?  Would he loose his mind?  As he contemplated each of these questions, he remembered his first thought, ‘At least David would only have to go through this one more time.’

Weeks went by as Barbara and Ron prepared David for the final surgery.  Day after day they would answer David’s questions.  “Why is this happening to me?  Is God really there?  What will happen after this surgery?  Will I get sick again from the ‘sleepy medicine’?”  David has a number of significant and relevant questions.  After the first two surgeries, David had gotten very sick and didn’t want to leave the hospital.  Although the doctors and nurses gave him an anti-nausea shot, David’s body continued to react negatively.  Vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and pain surrounded David after every surgery.  For David, the nightmare was going to continue.  Was this going to ever end?

On one occasion, David asked Ron, “Daddy, is Jesus really with me during my surgery?”

Understanding the fear in David’s mind, Ron responded, “Absolutely.  Jesus is always with you.  He never leaves us alone.”

“How do we know?” asked David.

Holding back the tears, Ron responded, “Jesus told us this in the Bible”.  It was then Ron waited for the response he thought he would get.  However, David was to respond in a different manner.

“Well, Daddy.  If you believe that, then so do I.  I love you, Daddy”.

No longer could Ron hold back his feelings.  Tears began streaming down his cheeks.  He opened his arms and David gladly embraced his father giving comfort and relief.  Attempting to control his composure, Ron looked into David’s eyes and said, “Thank you.  You helped Daddy today.”

“How?” asked David with a curious look.

“You helped me believe what God has told me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“He told me that this wasn’t about me.  It was about you.  God told me He was going to use these problems for your life.  I don’t know exactly what this means, but I do trust Him to complete the work He has started.”

David smiled.  He didn’t quite understand what Ron meant, but he knew if his daddy was happy then so was he.

The day of the final surgery came.  Once again, the anesthesiologist gave David the “sleepy medicine” but this time asked him a question.

“David, now that you are older.  Do you want to walk in on your own or would you like a wheelchair?”

David thought for a moment and looked up at Ron as if to ask for his approval.

“Would you like for me to carry you in again?” asked Ron.

David then looked at the anesthesiologist and with a sense of confidence and said, “I think I will walk in.  Can my daddy come too?”

With a smile on his face the anesthesiologist looked at Ron while bending down to David’s height and said, “Sure.  He can come too.”

David then grabbed Ron’s hand and walked down the hospital corridors to the operating room.  This was the first time David had seen it with his own eyes.  The other two times, David remembered falling asleep while waiting.  Fear began to encompass the young boy’s mind and body.  He knew he couldn’t turn back but he was scared.  David turned to Ron and asked, “Daddy, can you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

Ron smiled and said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

They entered the operating room and Ron picked up David and placed him on the table.  While the doctors prepared the anesthesia machine, David held Ron’s hand.  Recognizing David’s fear, Ron bent over to kiss David.  He then assisted the doctors in placing the mask over David’s nose and mouth.  Ron then told David, “Remember, Jesus is with you and I’ll be right here when you wake up.”

David continued to hold Ron’s hand, gripping Ron tighter and tighter to let him know that David didn’t want his daddy to leave.  A few seconds later, David’s eyes drew heavy and his hand slowly released Ron’s hand.  Ron then knew it was the doctor’s moment.  Ron turned to the doctor and said, “This is my boy.  Please take care of him.”

The doctor acknowledged Ron and said, “As a parent, you have my word.”

Ron turned around and met the nurse in the hallway who was to assist him in getting back to the waiting area.  As Ron met up with Barbara, he embraced his wife and comforted her once again.  Both knew this was the last surgery, but it still didn’t make it any easier.  Emotions flared from one extreme to the next, from happiness to sadness, from smiling to depression.  Each moment was different from the next.  As they once again waited for the doctor to say she was done, Ron decided to take a walk outside.

Once there, Ron decided it was time to do business with God.  He hated the random thoughts that flooded his mind and wanted help to get them in order.  Standing by the ledge, Ron gripped it with both hands, looked up toward the sky and said, “Lord.  I know you are in control of all things.  You have shown me how faithful you are.  Even when I am not faithful, you are.  Please let me know if this is truly the last surgery.  I know you won’t give your children anything they can’t handle, but I am not sure if Barbara, David or I can go through this again.”

Ron then patiently waited for a response.  Almost immediately, his random thoughts became order.  Where there was disorder in his mind, now had a sense of organization.  As Ron searched his thoughts, he was reminded something Jesus told his disciples.  He remembered that during his final meal with his disciples, after his resurrection, Jesus told them to “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.  Teaching them everything I command to you.”

Although Ron didn’t believe in trusting his thoughts normally, nor did he believe in numerology, Ron believed that this portion of God’s work was going to be complete.  He thought to himself, “The first surgery was for the Father, the second for the Son and this one for the Holy Spirit.  All of these surgeries were so that each member of the God-head could take part in working in David’s life.  Each one desired to do a work but each work was with one purpose, to bring David closer to God.”

Excited to hear this word from God, Ron immediately shared it with Barbara.  Although they would not have confirmation for years to come, Ron believed that God was done with teaching David this way.  It was God’s special way of reaching out to David and carrying him through the dark times of his life.  It was in their darkest moment, that God revealed Himself to their hurting souls.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “ – Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

Terror Chains


My life was spent on a ship.  For as long as I could remember, the life on this ship was hard, very hard.  The requirements of our lives encompassed continuous movement.  Constantly moving.  Never stopping.  Every moment of our lives was spent rowing the ship.  No matter how tired we may have been or how sick we felt, rowing the ship was the orders given by the captain.

No one had ever seen the captain.  We had heard he was a ruthless fellow, beating those who question and killing those who rebelled.  Rumors had been spread that the captain was once good and pure.  The story surrounding the captain was mysterious and questionable.  How could this man once be good and pure and yet be so evil.  No one knew for sure, except that if we didn’t continue to row, the whip would make our back bleed.

Every moment of every day, the faceless beings walked up and down, cracking their whips crying, “Row you meaningless dogs!  Row!”  Those who were too weak were beaten until unconscious.  Others who refused to do their task, were first beaten and then placed into the brig, where blood curdling screams could be heard.  We heard rumors about that as well.  Death was assumed, torture guaranteed.  Some would eventually return to their task of rowing with us, while others were never to be heard from again.  Only those who had been there knew, but no one ever spoke about what they experienced down their in the chambers of death.

Those with me were family.  My father was to my right, my mother to my left.  Father was hunched over his section of the oar handle, sick and exhausted.  Mother and I continued to row hoping the faceless crew didn’t notice.  Suddenly the air behind me snapped with authority.  “Row, you meaningless dogs”, exclaimed the faceless beast.  I could then feel the air suddenly retract and then snap with the same authority.  “I said row!  What is this a sleeper?  If you don’t row, I’ll make an example out of you!” shouted the faceless beast.

Each member of the crew was faceless.  No one ever knew how they spoke or how they breathed.  No nose, no mouth, no eyes, yet they saw our every move.  Their body was that of a man, but their voice was lower pitched, raspy and toned with evil, like a serpent that could speak mans native languages.  Their whip was always drawn, their hatred always present.  They stood about seven feet tall.  They wore a simple vest and torn shorts.  Never did they wear shoes for that was a sign of inferiority.

“Father, wake up”, I whispered.

“Silence, you little puppy!  Let your father speak for himself”, exclaimed the faceless beast.

Father didn’t respond, nor did he move.  All that could be seen was a beaten man, hunched over lightly breathing.  “Father, wake up”, I screamed shaking his shoulder.

A slap was heard across the ship, but I felt the impact.  The faceless beast drew his closed hand and struck me on the back of the head.  All I could hear were the muffled cries of my mother as she screamed for help.  A ringing had interrupted all other sound and my sight was blurry and faded.  A few moments later I came to.

“Are you alright honey?” my mother asked with tear filled eyes.

I nodded acknowledging my mother’s question and subsiding here fears.  looked to my right to see where my father was.  Father was still there.  Barely rowing, sweat dripped down his body.  His clothes were drenched in sweat and blood.  He had mustered all of the strength he could find in order to stay out of the brig.  Father had been there once, but like the others, he never spoke about it.  Knowing he was here relieved my fears and nightmares.  I wanted to reach over and give him a hug but could not due to the chains we all bore.

Every slave on the ship had rusted shackles on their wrists and ankles.  Each one was connected to the other.  As I looked down, I could see my feet dirtied with soot, blood and slime.  My wrists were swollen from the incessant rowing.  No matter how much they hurt, I knew I could never stop.

Suddenly, my shackles fell.  What just happened?  I looked around and others had shackles that had fallen.  The chains that held us to the ship had fallen off and no one understood how or why. What if the faceless crew noticed the shackles had fallen?  Would we end up in the brig, the chamber of death?  Questions arose in my mind, but no answer could be held.

“Get up and leave”, whispered the voice inside my head.  Was I to move?  “Get up and leave”, the voice said a second time.  I leaned over to my father and noticed his shackles had fallen off as well.  My mother whispered, “Did you just hear that?  I was just told to get up and leave.”  She had heard the same inner voice that I just experienced.

In an instant, my father regained his strength and grabbed my shoulder.  “Let’s go”, he said to my mother and I.  We stopped rowing and stood up.  The faceless beasts continued to whip the others around us, but seemed to leave us alone.  As we left the benches we were previously chained to, a few observances came to mind.  First, there was darkness all around us.  Never had the daylight breached the thickness of night.  No stars were in the sky, no water beneath the ship.  How were we floating?  Where were we rowing to?  Nothingness appeared to be everywhere.  Hopelessness, despair, fear and trembling surrounded those still chained to the oars.

“Come toward me”, whispered the voice.  All of us looked at each other.  We all had heard it.  Where was it coming from?  “Come toward me.”

As I looked around, I saw a distant beam of white.  It was like a black canvas that had a single bead of white paint.  “There!  The voice is coming from there!” I shouted to the others.  Many others whose chains had fallen began to walk toward the white dot.  I just stood there observing my surroundings, wondering what was happening.

“If you want to live, then come to me”, exclaimed the soft voice.

What did it mean?  Of course I wanted to live.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive for so long.  Each moment that I rowed, I thought of what the possibilities were had I not been on the ship.  I desired to run with other boys my age.  I longed for a time where my mother and father smiled as I played in the park, happy and free.  Life was the very thing that kept me alive.

“If you want to live, come toward me and never look back”, said the voice.

I began to walk with my father and mother toward the dot and then realized we had left the ship.  Desiring for others to join us, I decided to turn back and see if others could be freed.  As I turned my shoulders, my father grabbed me and said, “You heard the voice, son.  Never look back.”

It was then I remembered a story that my father had told me when I was younger.  It was a story about a man and his wife who were told to leave the City of Sin.  The city had been so evil that destruction had crept toward them.  In order for them to survive, they needed to leave.  Unfortunately, the wife desired to return to the City of Sin.  She turned back and took one step when she froze into a pillar of salt.  I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that.  I acknowledged my father’s words and turned toward the white dot.

It had grown into a brilliant light, that was more beautiful than anything I had ever seen.  Peace and joy exuded from the light.  I then noticed that we no longer wore the torn, bloody clothes we had left the ship with.  We now wore robes of white, brilliant white with clean cushioned sandals.

As we walked forward, I could hear the screams of torture and death.  My curiosity desired to see what was happening, but my desire to live outweighed that option.  As the blood curdling screams continued, we entered the light until the screams could no longer be heard.  Now the brilliance, peace and joy surrounded our very being.  Finally, we had entered the promised land, happy and free.

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,and broke away their chains.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” – Psalm 107:13-15 (NIV)

The Shadow of Death


He awoke with sudden shock which made his hands shake, his heart race and nausea filled his stomach.  As he tried to gain his composure, his mind raced with possibilities.  Where was he?  What happened?  How did he get here?  With every possible answer, came another question and with every question, fear entered his mind.

In order to attempt composure, he remembered songs that his mother had sung when he was a little boy.  Every night, his mother would sit at his bedside and make up songs about the day.  She sang soft and sweet.  Every song, a lullaby.  Every note, a soothing agent.  No matter how bad or good his day went, she always sang with her gentle, soothing voice.  Even the angriest of animals would be lulled to sleep when she sang.

Once he was ready to sleep, she would sing her last note and say, “Goodnight my David.  Remember, Jesus never sleeps.”

“Jesus never sleeps”, David thought.  Unfortunately, this gave no consolation to his current predicament.  He knew his eyes were open, but nothing could be seen.  Neither height, nor depth, nor width of his surroundings were known to him.  Darkness enveloped his very being.  All he knew, was when he stretched out his hands, no walls or ceiling were present.  Only the floor was detected, a dirt floor with some small rocks.  Again, the thoughts raced, “Where am I?  How did I get here?  Am I blind?”  The unknown became the messenger of fear.  The more his realization of the unknown, the more he feared.

“Hello!” David cried.  “Is anyone out there?  Help!”

No answer came.  Only the echo of his own voice.  Again David cried out, “HELP!  I can’t see!  Anyone, please help me.”

Frozen with fear, David felt he couldn’t move because he couldn’t see.  If he moved, how would he know where to go?  Would he fall?  What if something attacked him?  How would he defend himself without sight?  His fears became so great that his mind tortured his soul with such force that his body responded with paralysis.

Moments later, he heard a voice, “David.  Are you there?”

David thought to himself, “I must be hearing things.”

The voice came a second time, “David.  Are you there?”

Knowing, beyond doubt, David cried out, “Yes! I’m here!  Help me!”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way!”

David thought, “How can I follow a voice?  What if they bring me deeper into this place?  What if this is a trap?”  Gaining some composure, David yelled, “How can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said a second time.

“But how can I trust you?”

“Follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

Although David knew he didn’t have many options, he also understood that following this voice may be the only way to survive.  With extreme caution, David bent down on his hands and knees and began his journey crawling in the direction he thought the voice was coming from.

“That’s it David, crawl toward me”, the voice exclaimed.

While David continued his crawl, he realized the voice had exclaimed something extraordinary.  The voice knew he was crawling.  He couldn’t see anything or anyone, so how did the voice know he was on his hands and knees?  David began to fear again.  What if this voice was leading him away from the exit?  Would there be enough air for him to breathe?  Suddenly, David stopped and sat with his legs crossed, as he didn’t know what was around him.

“Why did you stop, David?”

“How did you know I stopped?”

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way.”

David didn’t know what to do.  Was he to continue his journey or sit there and wonder how he would survive this ordeal?  Almost instantaneously, David remembered something else his mother had done with him as a child; she held his hand until he fell asleep.  Every night she sang, his mother would also hold his hand as if to reassure him that everything was going to be okay.   Her tender touch would bring his mind to ease and his heart to calm.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice said again and again.  Every few minutes the voice would reach out and call to David to start his journey again.  Over and over, the voice called to him, sometimes loud, sometimes soft.  It was then David began to analyze the voice.  It was a soothing, soft man’s voice.  It was as if the voice understood his feelings and gently called out to David.  The times which were louder, David felt that the voice wanted a response.  The softer times, the voice just wanted to let him know it was still there.

After thinking of his mother, he decided to continue his journey on all fours once again.  David propped himself to the awkward position and began to travel toward the voice once more.  It was then David noticed his hands and knees began to hurt.  Rawness started to encroach on his flesh.  Movement led to pain and pain to fear.  Suddenly, David felt moisture on his hands and knees.  He didn’t hear water so could only assume the crawl had taken a toll on him.  He feared he was starting to bleed.  David didn’t understand why this was happening to him or why.

The voice cried out, “David.  Get up and walk.  It’s the only way.”

David got up as if to say, “I trust you”.  Although attempting to stand bore more pain, a different kind of pain, he knew the voice was right.  From his crawl position, he was able to get to his feet.  After a moment of stretching his muscles into proper position, he started to take his first steps.

Each step was more daunting than the next.  He wasn’t sure how to walk in the dark as like most people, rely on sight to accomplish this task.  With each step he stumbled.  Left in front of right and right in front of left was the mantra he repeated to himself.  Every so often, he would fall from a loose rock or dizziness.  He would then hear the voice and get back up and continue the journey step by step.

Without warning, he saw a white dot in the distance.  What was it?  Could it be?  A sliver of light appeared in front of him.  When he saw the light, it changed his mentality and attitude.  He realized that fear was gone and pain was diminishing.  It was then he heard, “David, continue toward the light.  It’s the only way.”

David wanted to run and even tried.  However, when he ran, he would fall causing pain and fear to reenter into his body, mind and soul.  He decided that walking was the better of choices.  At least he would only stumble occasionally.  With every step, the light grew and when the light grew, so did hope.  David knew the end of his journey was in sight, or so he thought.

Suddenly, David took one wrong step and fell.  His fall was not like the others.  He fell on his back and slid hard and fast.  As he slid, he tried to stop but could not.  Finally, he slowed down and came to a stop.  As he rolled over to prop himself up, he looked around and didn’t see the light.  What had happened?  Did he slide that far back?  Fear and pain began to grow while he felt hope was lost.  He sat down once again and cried.

“David, follow my voice.  It’s the only way”, the voice called out.

Like before, the voice called out over and over again as if to motivate David to continue his journey.  This time, David did not wallow in fear and pain.  He called back, “Okay, I’ll try again.”

The voice said, “When I tell you, reach to your left.”

David didn’t understand what the voice meant, but since the voice brought him to the light, he figured the voice knew something he didn’t.  David continued his slow journey step by step.  This time he didn’t stumble as much.  He barely tripped or fell.  After what seemed like hours, David heard the voice call to him once again, “Reach to your left”.

Trusting the voice, David reached out with this left hand and slowly moved it toward his left, circling up and down attempting to grasp at whatever may have been there.   At that moment, it felt like, something brushed his fingers.  He wasn’t sure, got on his knees and reached out with both hands.  After a few minutes of flailing his arms in front of him, David gripped the object that brushed his hand.  To his surprise, the object felt braided and course.  It was a rope.  He gripped the rope with both hands and raised himself to his feet.

As he held the rope, he looked up and saw the light again.  This time, it was bigger than ever.  It appeared to be almost the size of a full moon on a clear summer night.  David then realized his journey was going to end.  Once again, fear and pain seemed to be swept away by the freedom of hope.

David started to reflect on this journey and realized one question remained, how did he get there to begin with?  He remembered hiking in the woods and pitching his tent.  He remembered the fire he created to keep warn and cook some food.  He remembered falling asleep and waking up to a noise outside of his tent.  He remembered wanting to fall back asleep but kept tossing and turning due to the anxiety he felt from the forest noises.

As he continued to climb, he thought to himself, “Maybe this is a dream?  Maybe this isn’t real.”  He continued to rummage through various thoughts and scenarios in an effort to answer his questions.  However, just as before, no answer came.  It was then David realized that he hadn’t heard the voice in a while.  He stopped climbing to rest and catch his breath.  David then shouted, “Voice, are you still there?”

No answer came.

“Voice”, he said a second time, “Are you still there?”

Again, no answer came.

David mumbled, “I knew you would leave me.  Everyone else has.”  As David wallowed in his state of loneliness, he realized that the light was not only peering but also exposing his surroundings.  David looked around and noticed he was surrounded by dirt and rocks.  David realized he was in a cave.  He also noticed that a small, shallow body of water was within reach.  It was then David realized how thirsty he was.  As the feeling of thirst grew, David willed himself to his feet and began to walk toward the body of water.  Then David heard something strange, it was running water.

Bending down, he dipped his hands into the body of water and took a long drink.  He had hoped the water was not contaminated but without thinking, he drank the water until his thirst was satisfied.  After a few more minutes of rest, David felt that he needed to continue to leave this place, this cave of fear and pain.  He rose from his spot, walked over to the rope and continued his climb.

What seemed like days later, David was able to let go of the rope.  The incline became flat.  David realized his journey was about to end.  He could now see the outside world.  Hope then became belief.  David now knew he was about to leave this cave of fear and pain.  As David reached the opening to the cave, he heard the voice once again, “David.  Welcome to my fields.”

David looked around but didn’t see anyone.  He responded, “Where are you?”

“I am here, but you cannot see me right now”, the voice exclaimed.  “Listen to my words and obey my commands.”

David wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen or obey but decided to respond rather harshly, “You left me!  I was alone in there and you left me.  I cried out to you but you did not respond.  Why?”

The voice responded, “Who was it that led you to the light?  Who was it that led you to the rope?  Who was it that placed you there?  Who was it that subdued your fear and pain?”

David couldn’t respond.  He lowered his head feeling weakness and shame.  David then recognized, the voice had been with him the entire journey.  While David sulked with shame and disbelief, the voice said, “My son, don’t feel shame or disbelief.  You followed my voice.  You followed my light.  Well done.  Now I have something else for you to do.  Look behind you.”

David lifted his head and slowly turned around.  He saw a torch, some food and a container to hold water on a large boulder.  As he walked toward the items on the boulder, the voice said to him, “Take those items and go back into the cave.  There search the cave and look for others who have heard my voice or seen my light.  Help them on their journey.  Encourage them that the end is near.  Teach them about the rope, how to trust in the voice and light and not to worry about the ‘what if’ thoughts.  Lead them out of the cave and into this field.”

David looked up and asked, “But how will I know who they are?  How many are there?  Why did you place us there?”  Questions ravaged his mind.  He was confused as to what had really happened.

“David”, the voice said, “Do you remember last night when you cried out to me?  When you asked me to help you out of your problems?”

Suddenly, David remembered that just before he fell asleep, he cried out to God asking him for help.  He didn’t want to waste his life and wanted a new direction.  It was then David realized who he was talking to.

“Lord, forgive my doubt”, David responded.

With a sense of compassion, the voice said to David, “Do not worry about how many or why.  All I ask is that you do what I commanded you.  Others need you.  I need you.  Therefore, go and enter the cave.  Help others believe.”

David gripped the items on the boulder.  He approached the opening to the cave and lit the torch.  One last question plagued his mind, “How will I know when my task is done?”

The voice responded, “When you see Me, then you will be finished.”

“When will I see you?” asked David.

“When you are finished”, the voice responded.

David realized every answer had a question, but not every question deserved an answer.              As he entered the mouth of the cave, he saw an inscription on the wall.  The inscription said, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.”  David then remembered the words of his mother, “Jesus never sleeps.”  With comfort on his mind and with a sigh of anticipation, David entered the cave and searched for others that were like him.  Those that are afraid.  Those that are hurting.  Those who have no hope.  As David found others, he would tell them about his journey, his struggles and his discoveries.  He would remind them about the voice and show them the light.  David now lived the journey that once overtook him with fear and pain.  Finally, David understood that this life was not about him.  It was about finding and helping others to see the Light and hear the voice of God.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Jesus Christ.  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)

God Bless and encourage someone today.