I’m an early riser and I love it. Most mornings I’m up hours before anyone else in my family. It gives me time to pray, study, read, write…and just be alone with God. Alone with God…what a joyful thought. Right now, I need some alone time with God! Because this is my first early morning in Elgin, IL as we start our new journey with Harvest. And more than ever before, I need His comforting presence. I need to unburden my heart to a listening, loving God. I need to spend some time thanking Him and praising Him for this blessing. Being alone with God is precious and I’m glad He built me to be an early riser.
To say I’m excited is an understatement. I’ve spent hours listening to James MacDonald as I’ve drove in my car, or cut the grass, or participated in some other activity that allowed my hands to move while my mind was engaged in something else (which, by the way, is a horrible way to drive. I don’t recommend driving with your mind on something other than the road in front of you…or the HOUSE in front of you, for that matter. But that’s a story for another time as the dent is still “yesterday-fresh” and my pride is still a little tender). I’ve identified with Pastor MacDonald’s passion and have been greatly impacted by his preaching. I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to meet him, let alone be a part of the Harvest Team! This is an honor. But much, much more than that I’m honored to be teaming with a group of people who are PASSIONATE about the same thing I am…building the Church for the GLORY of GOD! I’m going to learn and grow in these next four months in ways that will help me pastor with more effectiveness and fruitfulness. I’m going to build relationships with men with who are fired up about the same things I am and willing to give it all for His glory. This is a great privilege and I’m sure the excitement about what’s ahead is contributing to my wide-eyed morning.
As I look back on what’s led us here, I’m absolutely amazed by God. He’s opened this door wide for us, and it’s been no small task! He’s had to heal some parts of my heart that needed healed…and He has! He’s had to provide in BIG, GOD-SIZED ways…and He has! He’s had to do this in me and in my wife…and He has. All along the way He has shown us very clearly that He is leading us through this. And that is a truth I have greatly needed! I will be transparent enough to admit that for the first time in 15+ years of ministry, I’ve experienced something new through this transition. For the first time in my ministry I’ve experienced FEAR. I’ve never been afraid about the future…not like this. And I have to admit that there have been moments when the fear about what’s ahead has gripped my heart. And…I praise God for that.
Why? Why would I praise God for fear? There are several reasons. First, it’s going to make me a better pastor, counselor, husband, and friend. I’ll never forget being impacted by something Garrett Higbee said in a counseling workshop. He said that our personal struggles move us from being travel agents to tour guides. A travel agent says, “There a place over there and I hear it’s great! I’ve never been there, but people say it’s nice.” When it comes to personal struggles, a “travel agent” has only read about the struggle…or has listened to others talk about it. He’s not been there himself. However, a tour guide says, “I know this place. I’ve traveled these roads and I can show you how to get to where you need to go.” Without ever struggling with fear, I’m ignorant of what it’s really like to be there. I’m unable to be truly sympathetic or helpful to others who are dealing with fear. But having to face this head on I can now say, “I get it and it’s hard. I understand what you are going through. I’ve been there myself! But let me show you what God has shown me!”
And that brings me to he other reason I’m praising God for this struggle; it has greatly intensified my prayer life and Bible study. I’ve discovered that desperation will drive you to your knees for passionate petitioning of God like nothing else. Have you ever experienced times of DESPERATE prayer? Times when there is simply no other answer but GOD has show up and do something HUGE? I’m talking about intense, gut-wrenching, flat on your face kind of prayer. You need to experience fear to bring you to those moments. When you mix those moments with an equally intense passion for studying His Word, God will strengthen your faith like never before. Because what you will find in His Word is this simple fact…our God is a God of PROMISE! From the very beginning, He makes promises and He ALWAYS, ALWAYS keeps them!
Courtney read and recommended a book titled “Always True.” You probably won’t be be able to guess the author’s name, but I’ll give you a hint; it rhymes with Rames RacRonald. A part of my early morning today was spent reading it and being encouraged by the truth it revealed about God. From the very beginning, God has made promises. And all throughout Scripture we see Him promising to do things…and He ALWAYS came through! God didn’t have to function this way, but He chose to make promises to us. And that truth has a GREAT impact on you and I today. In fact, we are called “heirs of promise” (Heb. 6:17). Here’s what James had to say about that
“Your whole identify is tied up the promises He’s made to you. Isn’t time to start living that way?”
-James MacDonald; “Always True”
YES! He’s made promises an He WILL keep them. He’s promised to go with me (Matt. 28:19-20)…it’s time to start living like I believe that! He’s promised to provide for me (Matt. 6; Phil. 4)…it’s time to start trusting in that promise with no fear! He’s promised to fulfill His purpose for my life (Ps. 57:2; Phil. 1:6)…and it’s time to step out and FOLLOW Him on this journey fully trusting in HIM. HE will do this. He can do nothing else…because He IS a God of promise!
So on this early morning my heart is overflowing with thankfulness, joy, and excitement. But lingering somewhere in the dark corners of my wicked heart is fear. It’s the “what ifs” and the unknowns. But that’s what’s so GREAT about our God. He’s not a “what if” God..He’s an “I PROMISE” God. We don’t have to worry about the unknown because we can KNOW our God. And faith in the promises of our God will anchor our souls to Him and give us the courage we need to attempt great things for His GLORY!
Deut. 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”