The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991 (part 2)

June 24, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | 4 Comments

On Monday, January 7, 1991, I wrote these words in my journal:  “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  (To see part one of this post, click here)  Little did I know the ride was just beginning!  About one week after I wrote that entry everything in our little mission’s mother church began to unravel.  The United States went to war in Iraq on January 16, but it seemed in my soul that the biggest war was in our mother church, and I was drug into it.

There were many complaints about the leadership brewing, and that week many of them were brought to me.  The complaints were valid, but regretfully, I didn’t send those people to the source of their complaint.  When the church called a meeting to voice concerns and to explore possible solutions, I was asked by people on both sides of the issues to come as a “neutral observer.”  Due to the complaints I received, I may not have been neutral, but I did attend anyway.  Some suggestions involving me were put on the table, but in reality the meeting didn’t accomplish anything, and as the weeks progressed, I was thrust into the middle of the storm.  I was considered by some to be the problem and by others to be the solution.  I had recently read Frank Peretti’s Darkness books, which were very popular at the time, and at one point I wrote in my journal:  “I feel like a character in Piercing the Darkness.  I can’t see what’s going on in the spiritual realm, but am caught in the middle of it.  It appears that my destiny and ministry are in the hands of other people, and some, maybe even all, of them are not seeking the Lord.  My sight is limited, but God is sovereign; this is my confidence through this unsettling experience.”

The situation got ugly at times, and though I usually wasn’t in on the ugly meetings, I was lied to and lied about on some occasions, even by those considered to be spiritual leaders.  Looking back, it is easy to see how people believed what they did.  It was certainly unintentional lies, like bad assumptions or rumors thought to be true, but it hurt nonetheless.  I probably didn’t know the entire truth either, and I’m sure I also spoke more than I should have.  The director of the college ministry we eventually became a part of gave a talk about that time on patience.  Two points he made had quite an impression on me, and I also recorded those in my journal.  First, he said, patience is not a blind resignation to circumstances but a quiet confidence in him who controls those circumstances.  And, two, the best thing God can give us is not changed circumstances but a better relationship with him.  In spite of the pain, God was especially close in those days.  I was reading through First Samuel at the time, and many of my notes reflect encouragement from David’s waiting in confidence and trust for God to open the right doors.

In time, the situation became such that I felt compelled to resign my position at the mission.  In May we left there and stepped into student ministry in Laramie; that was a great fit for Cathy and a learning experience for me.  In all this, I was learning that God made me to be a Bible preacher and teacher, a fact that was confirmed even more through three years on campus.  Though I liked what I was doing, it became clear that God had other plans for me, that I was wired for a different ministry.  Another journal entry from those days is interesting in this regard:  “Last night I was reading No Compromise, the life story of Keith Green.  At one point he quit playing music in public because he wasn’t sure that’s what God wanted him to do.  A few months later while doing a benefit concert, God moved among the audience, and Keith realized God made him to play music for people.”  I too had wondered if what I was doing came from pride, and the entry goes on, “Last night, after reading the book, I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that expositing scripture is what God created me to do.”

Though those first five months of 1991 seemed like a desert in terms of ministry; God was working in our lives, conforming us to him, teaching us his will, and bringing about his desired ends in ministry.  That was one of the most formative times in my life.  And looking back, we see the incredible faithfulness of God.  Such a reminder has been needed in recent days.  God is faithful; God knows the end from the beginning; God is in control!  In his amazing grace God has an amazing way to use sins against us, and even our own sins, to bring us where he desires in character, place and ministry.  “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”  Amen.

The Lord Will Keep Your Life: Memories of 1990 and 1991

June 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, Personal Testimony | Leave a comment

This morning I read Psalm 121 in my devotions.  It was appropriate because Cathy and I have been talking about how God watched over our lives through a particularly trying time of ministry and emotions in 1991.  The encouragement is that God is watching over our lives during the trying time we are in now as well.  This hasn’t yet been as trying as that period was.  Here is the text of Psalm 121 followed by the first installment of the story about that year.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”   –Psalm 121 (ESV)

It had been over a year since Cathy and I discovered we couldn’t have children, and we had been jumping through the hoops of the adoption process ever since.  Probably in November of 1990 we heard about an adoption situation through the Cheyenne Crisis Pregnancy Center that we would pursue.  There were many emotional ups and downs before we learned that the mother had chosen another family.  The emotions settled, and life seemed to return to normal, until the middle of December arrived.  The first bump in the road was the death of my aunt.  Though not particularly shaking for me, it was the second of my mother’s siblings to die that year and was hard on everybody in the extended family.  We went to Fort Collins, Colorado so I could be a pallbearer in the funeral.

The day after the funeral, I had a temperature of 101°F.  I was down with the flu for three days, including a Sunday where I missed preaching – still the only time I’ve missed a Sunday in my 26 years of ministry.  In our little mission church, in a rural area, there wasn’t another preaching option, so Cathy led some songs and a prayer time, and everybody went home.

About the time I started feeling better, the extreme cold weather hit.  As I recall, it was below zero Fahrenheit for a week straight with lows colder than 20 below for many days.  This was extreme, even by Laramie, Wyoming standards.  We had to take our batteries into the house every night so the cars, especially the old truck, would start the next day, but even then it took some work and special attention to get them going in that weather.  We lived in a rural setting and getting to town, a normal 40 minute trek was taking an hour and a half.

I was to perform a wedding in Laramie on December 21st, so the rehearsal was on the 20th, a day when the high temperature was about 20 below zero.  The rehearsal was fine, but the next morning our thermometer read -47°F!  (We took a picture of the thermometer which was already catching the morning sun!)  We told the groom we knew he wasn’t going to marry until hell froze over –which appeared to have happened over night!  While getting ready for the ceremony, the door of the church fell off its hinges, so we worked that old, and already stressed, furnace way too much.  In that environment, it’s no wonder that one of the bridesmaids passed out during the ceremony!December 21, 1990 Thermometer

That evening, we picked up my two nephews to spend the Christmas holiday at our mountain home, where a white Christmas was almost always guaranteed.  The boys’ parents were to join them in a few days.  We really had to bundle them up for the cold ride in the old truck.  But we got home fine, company came, and, even though we had to do everything indoors, Christmas went off without a hitch, and the weather began to warm up.   But that’s when things got really crazy.

The next week is just a blur in my mind, but, according to some old journal notes, here is what happened.  My best friend’s younger sister passed away from a genetic disease.  We received the news the night we arrived home from the cold wedding with two frozen kids in tow.  On Thursday, December 27, we drove to Cheyenne for our second funeral in two weeks.  It was particularly hard, because their brother had died from the same disease just a few months prior.

We arrived home that night to learn that the adoption situation had changed dramatically, and we were now to be adoptive parents.  On Friday we again drove to Cheyenne to meet with the CPC counselor, the birth mother and the lawyer.  The child was to be delivered by C-section on Sunday.  After preaching two services, because I was also filling the pulpit in our mission’s mother church that day, we drove to Cheyenne, a third time in four days, where the mother placed a little boy in our arms and announced that he was our baby and we should raise him well.  However, on Monday we received word, from the lawyer, that the birth mother was refusing to sign the papers; she had decided to keep the baby.  That was a tough blow.  Since we were in Cheyenne, we went to my best friend’s daughters’ birthday celebration.  After all they’d been through, that family needed a reason to celebrate something positive, and so we joined them in the party.

The next day was New Year’s Day, 1991, and we returned to Cheyenne because the New Year’s party was at my sister’s house and because the next day, Wednesday, January 2, my mom was scheduled to have surgery.   She checked in early and had all the preoperational tests and medications, some of which made her sick, only to discover that the hospital had so many dire emergencies that her surgery was postponed.  We were all in the hospital, waiting from early morning until late afternoon, and then she was released.  On Friday, she was in the hospital again, and this time the operation went as planned.  We made our fifth trip in nine days over that familiar road.  We got home that night to a message that the pastor of our mother church had cut his wrist, was in the hospital, and unable to preach on Sunday, so I was requested to fill in.  It turns out he was fine and just needed time to heal, but that brought us half way to Cheyenne anyway, so that afternoon we drove over to check on my mom.  Everything turned out fine for her as well.  I didn’t get done preparing my sermon for that Sunday (surprise!), so I told the story of our last ten days of life, with a reminder from Psalm 46 that God is our refuge and strength, even if the earth seems to give way.  I was preaching to myself!

On Monday, January 7, I wrote these words in my journal: “Maybe the emotional roller coaster ride is over for a little while anyway.  The foreseeable future looks ‘normal’ as far as I can see.”  Little did I know it was just beginning!  But that has to wait for the second installment of this post, which is now available here.

Confidence in Him Who Sees the End from the Beginning

June 4, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love | Leave a comment

It has been a tough few months for me and a particularly tough week.  But God has reminded me over and over of his sovereign control, of his faithfulness, and of his steadfast love for his people.

Two things in particular have ministered to me this past week.  The first is the verse I decided  to have our congregation memorize as I teach a series of messages called “Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness.”  Though I thought it was for the congregation, God has already used it’s truths to encourage me.

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.   –Romans 15:13 (ESV)

The second thing that has touched me numerous times this week is a quote I came across in preparing my Sunday School lesson.  We are watching a PBS television series called “God in America.”  Though a secular-made film, there is so much to discuss from a biblical perspective; it has been a very interesting class.  This week we looked at Abraham Lincoln’s spiritual journey during the civil war and loss of his son Willie.  The pastor who gave the eulogy for Willie had a huge impact on President Lincoln, especially this section about trusting a sovereign God.  It has had a positive impact on me as well.

What we need in the hour of trial, and what we should seek by earnest prayer, is confidence in Him who sees the end from the beginning and doeth all things well.  Only let us bow in His presence with a humble and teachable spirit; only let us be still and know that He is God; only let us acknowledge His hand, and hear His voice, and inquire after His will, and seek His Holy Spirit as our counselor and guide.  And all, in the end will be well.     — Phineas Gurley

We need confidence in him who sees the end from the beginning and does all things well.  That is certainly what we need.  May God grant it!

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