I experienced God today!

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I heard a quote a while back that has stuck in my spirit ever since: “If you put everything in God’s hand, you will soon see God’s hand in everything.” Never was this truer than last night. I was on my way home from my son’s basketball game. I had all my kids in our 12 passenger van, we had just grabbed some pizza and were headed home down Highway 161 toward Graham. By the time we had crested Graham Hill, the entire road was a thick layer of wet slush from the crazy weather we had all day. I noticed up ahead of us that the cars had come to a complete stop in the only lane down the hill. As I began to press the brakes, they locked up and my car began to slide. I had only a moment to think and then respond. I had all my kids in the van and I knew if I continued to slide I would rear end the long line of cars stopped in traffic. I decided to let go of the brake and try to make a right hand turn onto a side street. As I turned the vehicle, I began to slide even more toward the irrigation ditch on the side of the road with no use of my brakes. At this point I told the kids to hold on and to pray. I hit an embankment stopping the momentum of the van abruptly. The van began to roll to its left side and I was sure we were going to topple but, incredibly, the van stopped tipping abruptly as if something grabbed the right side of the van and pushed it down. Everyone was okay except for a few bruises and a cut. I tried to put the van in reverse but it would not move. I jumped out of the van to survey the damage and when I got to the passenger side I realized that we had hit a steel pole and the van had actually suspended the entire passenger side up on the pole (see picture) at least 12 inches off the ground. I had all the kids jump out of the van and get to safety on the side of the road. The pole had positioned itself between the gas tank and the side of the frame (no damage to anything). Within just a few minutes a friend of ours from church and a completely other friend from the wrestling league who happened to be heading home pulled up to see how we were doing. Both who were had been just a few minutes behind us going in the same direction (coincidence? I think not). My kids were able to rest safely in our church friend’s car while I called a tow truck and dealt with insurance and, once traffic died down and the roads were clear, she was able to take them home while my other friend from wrestling helped get stranded cars to the side of the road and be sure everyone had made their phone calls. During the first ten minutes of being stranded, another truck skidded into a ditch and a young gal hit that truck then completely lost control and spun down the road three times before slamming into another truck waiting to turn into traffic from the street I had attempted to turn into before I hit the embankment and pole. The significance of this was the truck that the young gal slammed into was positioned in such a way that, had it not been there, she would have slammed into our van completely totaling it. The truck she hit had only a small dent and busted taillight. Everyone involved was completely safe and sound and walked away from the accident. I spent the next two hours speaking with fire department, state patrol, insurance agents and tow truck companies. I finally made it home safely with time for dinner and tea with my wife.

As I reflected on this event, I could help but be overwhelmed by God’s goodness. What are the chances in rush hour traffic to have an accident where not just one but two separate people I know where within minutes of us passing on the same road? What are the chances of hitting that pole in just the perfect spot saving our van from tipping over on its side? And furthermore, what are the chances of said pole positioning itself in such a way that no damage was done to exhaust system gas tank or anything else on the underside of the car? What are the chances that the damage was so minimal (considering) that I was able to drive it down to the local repair shop? What are the chances that said repair shop was able to get the van in that day and do the work for $400 dollars less than the original quote due to a vehicle waiting on parts? They were going to send employees home due to no work. What are the chances that we walked away virtually unharmed and I was able to assist in helping that poor young gal who slid out down the road get to safety? The list goes on.

I felt in this moment the protection, provision, grace and love of our great God. At first I was very upset with myself for the cost and inconvenience I caused our family, transportation and finances. But, as I stood back for a moment, I realized I had experienced God in a way that many people tend to miss due to circumstances. God is involved in everything; I mean EVERYTHING. Even when the circumstance isn’t ideal or there is pain or suffering, there he is in the middle of it. He is good, he is holy, he is caring and he is present. As the human race we need to open our eyes and look around at our life and I guarantee we will experience our God like we never have before.

Perspective: Genesis 3

This chapter is where humanity becomes aware of our need for salvation and a redeemer. Adam and Eve both willfully chose to eat of the fruit as they hoped, at least for a moment, it would give them something God had seemingly withheld from them. God was devastated and angry with all three participants. However, the punishment he hands down to each of the three have different effects on those being sentenced. To the serpent, he hands down another reminder of his hopeless state(verse 14-15) and the fact that he will lived a cursed existence and be crushed in the end.  To the woman, he gives pain in child bearing (verse 16), but he does not take away her joy of actually bearing children. Her life is still blessed.  To Adam, he curses the ground but not him (verse 17-19). Adam will now have to toil for food and to provide for his family but in this Adam can grow closer to God if he chooses. This chapter is truly a story of redemption that paints a picture of the coming messiah and his redemptive plan.  Although we often disobey God, and must live with the repercussions, our life can still thrive and be victorious- All because of the promise made by God to a fallen world.  Hallelujah!

DEATH IN THE NIGHT

“This is not what I signed up for.” You say to yourself in frustration as you frantically pull on your shirt while you race down the stairs. It is almost eleven o’clock and almost time for the Leno. “I am tired of having to be the hero all the time.”

But this is what you signed up for; to be the hero. Or as much of a hero that being the head of the neighborhood watch will allow you to be.

Of course, your real ambition was to be a state police officer: To protect and serve the community at the highest level. Unfortunately, you are always too afraid; too afraid to fail, too afraid to succeed, too afraid to raise a family.

That is why your wife left you;You were to afraid to be a man.

Your name is Bronson Pike: “Captain” of the neighborhood watch.

Almost tripping down the final few steps, and then stepping into the front entry, you open the drawer in the small coffee table beside the door. Inside is your bright bronze badge that you just got finished polishing that afternoon, a half pint of malt whiskey, a multi-colored glass pipe and a few other items. After grabbing the badge and pinning it to your jacket, you reach back for one of the other items but then pull back quickly.

“It’s been two months….” You remind yourself and then slam the drawer shut.

You grab the overcoat and fedora hat from the rack standing by the front door, fling your coat over your shoulders and slide the hat over your messy hair so the brim just slightly shades your eyes. That’s how you like your hat: shading you from the prying eyes of others. You open the front door and bolt out into the night.

A phone call just came in that there had been a car accident at the end of the street and all the neighbors seem to be relying on you to gain control of the apparently horrifying situation. Why they didn’t just call the paramedics was anyone’s guess, but this was no cat in a tree-this was for real.

The rain was just beginning to fall and the drops from the brim of your hat were trickling down the front of your shirt. Your overcoat rippled at your heels as you bolt down the street.

People were beginning to emerge from their homes and were standing in their doorways, bundled in their robes and blankets. Each one looking toward the end of the street, whispering to each other but not one person was stepping away from the security of their homes. You are alone in this; you and no one else.

You passed the old widow Gower‘s home. Her lights were not even on. Her house was charming in a way but not welcoming by any means. Next door to that was the bungalow house. Palm trees lined the path to the front door with the four foot bamboo rod fence running parallel to the sidewalk. This couple were outcasts of the neighborhood. The two of them were emerging onto their porch as well.

“Need some help out there, Bronson?” The tall thin man shouted.

“No, thanks. I think I got it.” You respond even though you defiantly don’t “got it”.

“How ’bout a flashlight, Mr. Pike?” The other man yelled after you.

“Nope!” You shouted breathlessly.

“I need to get more exercise,” you think aloud as you put as much distance between you and the bungalow house as possible. That couple makes your stomach turn every time you see them.

“Civil union, Hah!”

But you can’t think about that now. Only one goal in mind, and that is to get to that crash.

You can see the end of the street now as your now thirty yards from where it intersects with Milton Avenue. Passing more and more houses you begin to feel the sweat from under the trench coat. People are standing on their porches at almost every house heads turned in the direction of the accident. A few people have gone as far as to walk down their front steps and stand at the foot of the sidewalk. The rain begins to pick up now with the lukewarm drops falling harder and harder, soaking the back of your jacket-but you keep running.

You can see the crash scene now. It looks as if two cars in opposite lanes of traffic collided head on. There is glass scattered over the entire road and you can see two figures standing outside what looks like a four-door Dodge Neon. The figures are rubbing the backs of their necks and seem to be disoriented.

Now at the scene you can hear the crunch of the glass under your boots and the rain is absolutely pouring now. In no time flat the entire roadway is covered with a thin sheet of water being ruptured with descending raindrops. The sound alone was enough to deafen even the sharpest ears.

“Hey! You there!” Shouted one of the disoriented passengers, “Can you help here?”

You stop with a skid just short of the second car. It was lying on its roof and the windshield was smashed and the tires are still spinning slightly. You can smell the gasoline and see the colorful stream it makes as it mixes with the water. The rain has completely soaked through your trench coat and has mixed with the sweat on your back. The scene in front of you is a mangled abstract mess of glass and metal. You become mesmerized by what you see, what could be, what is…..

“Hey! Are you awake?” shouted one of the men still rubbing his neck. He was in his early forties and a bit pudgy around his mid-section, “ That woman needs help.”

You snap back to reality and assess the situation. The Car is a Lincoln Town car and is upside down while the seatbelts hold the passengers captive. The driver, a woman who is in her mid twenties, is screaming. She upside-down while twisting and turning, attempting frantically to reach into the back where you see a booster seat with a small child hanging upside down. You can see the child’s curly blonde hair hanging and twisting in the silence of the Towncar. All this is a bit too much to process in one moment as instinct takes over. You know you need to act.

Dropping to your knees, sliding through the shattered rear drivers side
Window, you slowly pull yourself towards the motionless child you can hear the
Mother’s pleading while the other two crash victims are kneeling outside of the
Town car, peering anxiously inside.

“Is Nathan okay? Please sir, is my baby okay?” She whimpers as she continues to struggles to unfasten her seat belt, “ We hit a slick patch in the road and I lost control.” She then turned to her child, “Nathan, honey, Mommy’s here.”

You finally reach the child and roll to your back on the roof of the car.
Directly above you is the blonde haired child no older that three. You reach up and push your first two fingers against his neck. Your heart begins to pound in your chest as you run your fingers up and down his neck hoping that this won’t be tomorrow’s tragic front page story.

You look at the child, into his innocent face slightly covered by his dangling hair and see something that you have never had: peace and serenity. Time seems to stop at this moment and all the sounds and voices go silent. It seems as if a giant helicopter is pounding its wings in your ears. Your heart beat is pulsating through the skin on your throat. The tips of your fingers running up and down the boy’s neck, and you find no pulse. A voice rings inside your head from your past, surfacing in your mind at this of all moments: “Unless you become like little children……”

Why this voice now echoed in your head was a mystery. But this child was innocent, not worthy of death in the night, upside-down with his mother screaming. He had so much to live for, to discover, to become…..

“I got a pulse Ma’am.” You shout to the woman who immediately starts weeping. You reach up and unbuckle the child from his car seat. You help slide him onto your chest and you hear the most unexpected sound:snoring. He slept the whole time.

At that moment the woman in the front wriggles free from her seat belt and scrambles out of the car. You pass the child forward and then are helped out by the passengers of the Dodge Neon. You stand up and wipe yourself off.
Down the road you see the flashing lights of a fire truck. You can still see people standing on their porches. You’re not sure what to do now, better wait for a while.

“Sir?” Nathan’s mother spoke timidly holding her sleeping child, “I don’t know how to thank you for helping us. We were upside down for three minutes and I could see people standing on their front porches and no one came to help.”
You can see tears streaming down her cheeks as the paramedics arrive on the scene. She turned to walk away and glanced again over her shoulder “ I wasn’t supposed to be able to have children,” she blurted out as she was met by two paramedics. And that was the last you heard from her.

The highway patrol arrived a few minutes later. No one was seriously injured and after answering the patrolman’s questions, you started back up the street toward your house: your empty house.

As you walk up the street the rain stops but the clouds are still dark. Your feet continue to splash in the streams of water flowing toward the storm drains.
People are still standing on their porches watching the flashing lights and Paramedics. You pass the bungalow house and Mrs. Gower’s home. All of the houses seem like silhouettes of real humanity, but, you know that’s not true.

As you reach your concrete stoop you stop and gaze at your boots. They used to be nice, new and clean. Now they are darkened by the moisture soaked inside them. You take them off as well as your socks and throw open your front door. You’re dripping wet but don’t bother to remove your hat or coat. The house is silent. No wife, no children. Maybe if you weren’t such a coward; but…….. you are.

As you step inside you open up the small drawer of the coffee table in your front entry way. Inside is the glass pipe and the bottle of malt whiskey. Also a Gideon’s Bible and a map of Florida. You stand there for a moment and think about what is before you. You know where the answers lie. You think about that small child and how pure his face was. Maybe you were destined to meet that young boy tonight. That could have been your child. That could have been your wife, and life could have been different- but you let destiny pass you by.

You feel your face heating up from behind your eyes and you fight back the tears of your empty life. The drawer is open, it’s calling to you as you reach out your hand and make your choice…….

Midnight Conversations

Deuteronomy 6:10-12-“When the Lord your God brings you into the land he promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you – a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant – then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

stock-photo-2559338-silhouette-of-man-and-woman-sitting-by-various-candlesMy favorite part of the day usually comes after my   children are tucked away in their beds. The house is quiet, my tea is poured and I can just sit down, exhale, and spend time with my wife. We will sit and talk, sometimes for hours, about our day, the next day’s plans, our children and their many activities and ministry. But the conversations I love the most are talking about the depths of God, the word, theology and our role to play in all of it. It is these conversations, late at night where the Holy Spirit spends time shaping me. I am challenged as a husband, a father, a friend and a pastor. And although our children are asleep during these moments, the fruit of this time with Naomi can be seen the following day; and the following week; and the following month and so on. What we have learned is that in the quiet moments, we are building a culture for our home that will create a Holy Spirit heritage for years to come.
In Deuteronomy 6:10-12, God is reminding the people of Israel that there is a promise for them that they did not have to work for. They will enjoy the fruit of someone else’s labor, efforts and insight. Although this passage is referring a promised land taken from an enemy of Israel, I believe the same principal can apply to us in creating a family legacy. You see, it is Naomi and my hard work in creating culture, heritage and a godly marriage that our children will benefit from. I believe that they will live in homes, drink from spiritual wells and have lives filled with good things because we paid a price to set a standard. Not only that, but also sharing hardships and mistakes and taking nothing for granted will help shape our family line. Just like the Lord warned the Israelite’s not to forget the days in Egypt, we cannot forget the hardships of life and hide them from the next generation. We need to, with wisdom, share the rough spots to dispel false expectations in life. I believe that following the Lord’s pattern in this entire chapter will create a spiritual lineage that will bear fruit for many generations, even after we are long gone. Is all this guaranteed? Nope! But making the effort and burning the midnight oil actually builds the stage of history for those that come after us.

Supernatural Gate Keeper

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Deuteronomy 6:6-9-“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”
It was a spring night in 2014 that my wife, Naomi, awoke with a start from a dead sleep. She was woken up by the sound of screaming. At first, she thought it was one of the kids waking up with a bad dream, but as she continued to regain her consciousness, she realized it was not the kids – in fact the screams were not human at all. You see, we had been in a season of taking ground as a family and securing the calling and destiny that God had for us. As we began to seek God as parents and call out the destiny in our children, the forces of darkness that had been assigned to destroy our family had been driven back and out of our lives and calling. The screams Naomi heard was spiritual confirmation that the enemy had been defeated and was drug away from our lives kicking and screaming. It was such a victorious spiritual moment that it could actually be heard in the natural.
Our home is our fortress and our house is a stronghold. The style and build of your home is irrelevant when you consider the spiritual safety that your place of residence provides, or lacks. As humans, we draw boundary lines around our property and throughout our homes. We build fences to keep us safe and give us privacy. We have walls inside to give us space and privacy from those we live with. However, what I believe this passage is referring to is marking our doors with the covenant and spiritual safety under God’s covering. We are the guard at the gate of our home; we decide who comes in and who goes out. Spiritually speaking, we decide if the enemy is allowed in or not and we decide what rooms in our house, or in our lives, he is allowed access to.
When our homes and places of residence become the house and temple of God, we have the spiritual authority to chase unwanted guests out. We have an enemy, known as the devil, prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 6). If he finds a home, or a life, that is not guarded and the love of God is not what secures the doors and gates, he has free access to come inside and do what he pleases. He can bring with him much destruction and pain. But as we create strong gates of authority in Christ, he has no access points into our lives. Even if he crept in when we were unaware, we have the right and authority to kick him to the curb. Do an evaluation of your home and life. Are your gates secure and your doorways guarded? If not, it may be time to do some house cleaning!

Mat-Side Worship

Deuteronomy 6:6-8: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

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The sport of wrestling has been a family tradition on my wife’s side of the family for three generations. My two sons learned to wrestle before they could read or write so, you could say, it is a bit of a passion for us. Wrestling is a HIGHLY competitive sport, with much of its emphasis on winning. It is hard to attend tournaments and see fathers (and mothers) lose their ever loving minds over points on a scoreboard! Kids are crushed, fathers become enemies and coaches become drill sergeants – all for the sake of a win. Naomi and I have worked very hard to instill a mentality in our boys that the focus needs to be on fun, exercise and sportsmanship. Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome when our boys get the win, but it is not the measure of success. In fact, we have felt compelled to teach our kids that wrestling can be a form of worship. Our boys know that when they step out onto the mat, they are ultimately wrestling for an audience of One – the one who wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:22-32) long before it was an official sport. Worship is our expression of God’s worth and holiness in our life. How our boys compete shows God His worth in their lives, and shows their opponent, their team, their coaches and all spectators that their abilities, regardless of the scoreboard, come from God and he is worthy of the very best effort and witness they can give Him.
The picture that this passage from Deuteronomy illustrates is that our love and reverence for God needs to be seen by others. If we have a piece of fabric tied to our hands or a scarf around our heads others will see it. In the same way we need to wear our passion for God out loud where others can see and know who we live our life for. In everything we do, in all we put our hands to, in the direction our eyes cast their gaze, and in the conversations we have, others need to be able to look at us and know that all we do, we do for Jesus.
The challenge that we face is that this lifestyle is contrary to the culture we live in. Our culture drives us to be so competitive with each other – have the nicest material possessions, take exquisite vacations, be the best at all we pursue and be sure our children are on the front row of all their activities. As Jesus followers, we need to be okay with living on the margins of our world and culture and being content with living a lifestyle of worship to the King. If we keep his love tied around our hands and bound around our thoughts and mind, people will begin to take notice and the margins of culture will become the norm. Let’s live our lives as worship to our God and allow His love to be tied as symbols on our hands and keep them bound around our foreheads for others to see and as a constant reminder for us that we have a higher calling and divine destiny.

Drive By Prayer

Deuteronomy 6:6-7-“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

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A few months ago, I was in a local mini mart purchasing some fuel. As I waited in line, I noticed a gal behind me just about my age. She was digging deep into her pockets, pulling out small handfuls of coins to pay for her purchase. In that moment, I felt compelled to ask her if I could put a few dollars on her gas pump. She politely denied at first but I continued to feel prompted, so I asked again as politely as I could if I could bless her and she could then just “pay it forward” as the saying goes. At that moment an emotional wall broke down, and she gladly accepted and even began to share with me some of the troubles she had been having with her son – she being a single mother. I added ten dollars to her pile of coins, wished her a blessed day, and walked out to my car. As I began to pull out of the gas station I felt the Holy Spirit speak to me yet again and tell me to go pray with her. I pulled my car around to her pump as she was finishing, rolled down my window and asked if I could pray for her. She gladly accepted and there, right in the middle of a busy gas station, prayed out loud God’s will and prophesied God’s blessings over her and her son. She thanked me with a touched heart and I went about my day and I never saw her again. I wish I could say there was a major healing or angelic visitation that took place, but it was basically just a drive by prayer. However, I do believe there was a miracle that took place that day, because my eleven year old son was with me the entire time. He witnessed as his dad gave ten dollars and three minutes of time to a complete stranger just to bring her into an awareness of God’s love and presence. I believe it was in this moment that I myself really began to understand what God was saying in the sixth verse of Deuteronomy 6.
In these short scriptures, the Lord is commanding the nation of Israel to pass on their faith; their passion for Him. Not only that, God is instructing them to make each and every moment a teaching opportunity to illustrate their God. Every waking moment is an opportunity to share our faith. Every situation is a chance to point others toward God. I believe God is asking us, whether we have children or not, to use our daily lives to paint a picture of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The challenge we face in today’s society is that we have become so busy and our lives are so fast paced. It seems we are chasing after a goal that cannot be reached. The Bible cautions us that life will be like this in the end times (Daniel 12:4). I believe God is calling us as Jesus’ followers to recognize the opportunities that we are given to pass our faith on and paint a picture of Christ’s redemptive power throughout our daily routine. Time is of the essence and a great urgency is stirring up in the heart of God’s people. Will you accept the challenge? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to show you the opportunities you have before you? Let’s make it a priority to make the most of every moment given as an opportunity to walk out what the Nation of Israel struggled for so many years to accomplish. Let’s do this!