God is Faithful to His Promises

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

In 2006, I dreamed I was lying on the floor in a large church sanctuary, face down in a position of prayer. A lady prophesied to me in the dream. She said God was sending me to the nations – to Norway, Africa and the Middle East.

In 2014, when Leslie and I had been married a little over a year, I had another dream. In this dream, I was on a ministry trip overseas. In one part of the dream, a person handed me a large card with some checks inside. I could see the exact amount on at least one of the checks, and one of them specifically said it was for the down payment on our house.

Last year, 2021, I felt God stirring my heart to leave my job and open my own law practice, focusing on immigration law. We were hesitant to do so due to finances. We had about 4 months of income in savings and I knew that it could certainly take longer than that to have a profitable business. We prayed about it. At one point, I talked to our Life Group pastor, Jonathan Scheffrahn. He was encouraging about us taking this step. He thought it was a good move even if it ultimately did not work out. We also had what we believed were a few confirmations from the Lord. Therefore, I quit my job on October 1st and we launched the business.

I was excited about being my own boss and initially things seemed to be going well. But my fears came true. Although I did everything I knew to be successful, I wasn’t getting enough clients to make a profit.

Then, in early January 2022 our whole family got Covid for the first time. Without health insurance, I didn’t want to go to the doctor. One of the elders at our church, Israel Iyoke, paid for me to go and I tested positive for Covid.

While I was getting through Covid, the pressure of our finances started to weigh heavily on me. I wasn’t sure if we’d make it until the end of February. One morning I got out of the shower and my body started trembling, I broke out into a sweat and I was turning pale. It was a little scary. I sat on the toilet saying “Jesus”. I realized I was having a panic attack, something I had not experienced before. One of our pastors, Joey Geisel, came over that morning and prayed with me.

At this point, I was getting angry with God. I felt like we had obeyed Him but He was not blessing our obedience. There were a few weeks where God seemed totally silent. I felt very discouraged.

When we recovered from Covid, we returned to Life Group at church. But then I got the chills and was not feeling well again. I left Life Group and sat in the car to wait for my wife and the kids to finish. One of our friends in Life Group, Dave Elliston, came out and sat with me. I expressed my frustration and he was a great comfort to me.

We let our family and some friends know the challenges we were facing, but we did not ask for money. A handful of people, including a few church friends, gave us more than enough money to pay our bills for February. Praise God!

I decided to start looking for other jobs, including posting my resume on Indeed.com. On February 1st, I received a message from a law firm in Fort Worth that does immigration law. After a couple of interviews, they offered me the position. I’ll be practicing immigration law and doing exactly what I was hoping to do as an attorney. My starting salary matches exactly the amount on one of the checks I received in the dream in 2014 – and my new salary will be enough for us to purchase our first home.

During the interview with the law firm, I was asked a handful of immigration law questions apparently to assess my knowledge. When I was offered the job, I was told that they were impressed by how much I knew about immigration law for only having practiced immigration about 4 months. I don’t know if that was the difference maker or not, but if we had not stepped out in faith to start the business, I would not have gained that level of knowledge. And if we hadn’t gotten Covid and experienced financial difficulties, I may not have posted my resume on Indeed.com. God used the difficulties we faced to open a better door of opportunity.

Over the past couple of months, we have experienced what felt like a death and we’ve seen God resurrect and breathe new life into us. What felt like an open door became a closed door, but God opened up something better. God is so good!

We’ve also felt tremendously blessed by our church family. We have felt the love and support of those around us and feel grateful.

Being a part of Grace Community Church has also enabled me to fulfill some of God’s dreams for my life. I’ve been teaching the Citizenship class in our ESL program for over a year now, helping immigrants obtain their U.S. citizenship. Although I’ve yet to travel to Africa, Norway or the Middle East, I’ve enjoyed helping students from all around the world – Syria and Egypt, Taiwan and Vietnam, India and Pakistan, Palestine and Mexico.

Psalm 37 says,
Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
(verses 3-6)

I’ve waited on the Lord many years to see the fulfillment of His dreams for my life, but as I have walked with Him I have seen Him faithfully fulfill His promises. The New Living Translation renders verse 6 to say, “the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.” When we walk in faith, we want to see our faith vindicated. We want to see justice for our cause. Jesus died on the cross but his faith in the Father was vindicated on resurrection Sunday. God brought justice. When we place our trust in God, when we commit our way to Him, He will bring His promises to pass because He is faithful.  

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Jesus also said, “Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25). To those who mourn, God offers comfort. To others who apparently are experiencing joy, God says they will mourn and apparently without comfort. Is mourning a good thing or a bad thing? What does it mean to mourn? What kind of comfort does God give to those who mourn?

The word mourn used in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 means to wail, grieve or lament. Most of us would probably associate the word with grieving the loss of a loved one. All mourning is ultimately brought about by some kind of separation. There is mourning which comes because of death, mourning due to being separated from one that you love and mourning because of sin.

Not all who mourn are comforted. Only those who mourn in Christ truly experience the comfort that God offers.

A Great Reunion

If you’ve lost a loved one, a child, a parent, a good friend, or experienced a miscarriage, you know what it means to shed tears of grief. When my mom suffered a debilitating stroke, I cried a lot. Even though she is still with us, she is not fully with us because she can no longer talk. She is not the person she once was and we feel a sense of loss. It took me some years to process my grief and I still feel the loss although the sting has faded. In my mind’s eye, I can picture her fully restored in heaven to the person she once was – full of God’s glory. That thought gives me great comfort.

We live in a world full of sorrow. Everyday news headlines remind us of the frailty of life. We may feel a sense of sadness when we hear of people dying in some other part of the world, but it is the mourning which hits closest to home that hurts the most.

The Bible says that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows (see Isaiah 53:3-4). Since Jesus bore the full weight of our grief on the cross, he is able to pour out comfort and compassion on those who feel sorrow on this earth (see II Corinthians 1:3-7). This world may lack empathy, but Jesus does not.

In Christ, grief is always with hope. We know that someday we will see those that have gone before us in heaven. There will be a great reunion. What a great day that will be! In that day, there will be no more sorrow and no more tears. Although it hurts now, and the pain is deep, we are comforted in knowing that the pain of loss is temporary and the joy of reunion will be never-ending.

Godly Sorrow for Sin

There is also mourning because of sin, a godly sorrow which leads to repentance. II Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

This kind of mourning is pictured well by Jesus’ story of the man who beat his chest and said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (see Luke 18:9-14). The repentant sinner is comforted when he returns to God through faith in Christ. In the Father’s house, he is forgiven, reconciled, restored, healed, loved, and blessed. That’s real comfort. However, those who are not rich towards Christ will mourn and weep in the next life because they did not seek true riches. Their mourning will never be comforted.

Longing for Jesus’ Return

Finally, mourning is also caused by some kind of separation. Death is the ultimate separation, but death is not the only kind of separation we feel. Jesus said that when the bridegroom [Jesus] is taken away, the disciples would mourn (Matthew 9:15). Although Jesus is very much alive today, there is a sense of distance we feel until we are fully united with Him in heaven.

If I am away from my wife, Leslie, and our boys for too long, I experience a temporary sadness because I miss them. When I am restored to them, my sadness disappears. Even if I am physically present with Leslie, but feel a relational distance, there is a kind of mourning caused by the sense of disconnection. We all experience longing for connection and sadness when that connection is broken.

Loneliness is a kind of mourning. Before I got married, I longed for a companion. There’s a movie where a woman is longing to give birth to a child but cannot get pregnant. She says, “How can I miss someone I’ve never met.” That’s how I felt. Now that I’m married, I don’t feel the loneliness I once felt because I’ve been united with Leslie. She brings me comfort.

Although we have been restored to God through Jesus, we have not yet experienced the fullness of our salvation. The Bible says that we have been given only a down payment, a deposit or guarantee on the fullness which is to come (see 2 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14). That fullness will only happen when Jesus comes back for his bride and whisks us away from this world into heaven. In the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, we will be completely and fully united with Him.

Until then, we feel a sense of disconnection. In order to maintain our connection with God, we have to invest time in praying and seeking Him. Our longing for His return is expressed through our prayers. Although He is with us, we are not as fully with Him as one day we will be. One day we will see Him face to face. In that day, we will be fully known.

A Glorious Hope

Regardless of the type of mourning we experience, we either mourn in Christ or without Christ. In Christ, sorrow is never without hope (see I Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-11). The heart of the matter is whether we sorrow with hope or without hope.

Hope is not an ethereal feeling. It is not merely wishing well or sending “good thoughts.” Real hope has a foundation in reality which is based on God’s word. Our hope is based in the reality that Jesus will one day return, those who have trusted in Him will be resurrected from the dead and we will be with Him forever in heaven, a real place. Do you have this hope? 

When Jesus approached the tomb of Lazarus, his friend who had passed away, he felt the sorrow and the sting of death. Even Jesus wept. But in the face of death he declared, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Jesus is not the God of the dead but the God of the living (see Matthew 22:32). In Christ, no one ever really dies, we simply pass from this temporary life to eternal life.

There is a sorrow which will always end in laughter, a mourning which always leads to joy, and a laughter that will not be taken away. There is no sorrow in heaven, only joy. Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! (Psalm 30:5). If life is an ocean, death is but a grain of sand in light of eternity. It stings now, but it will not sting forever.

This is our glorious hope: We will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The dead in Christ will rise first and we will meet him in the air. What a glorious day! We will exchange this earthly body for a heavenly home, the corruptible for the incorruptible. A body prone to sickness and weakness will be raised up in power. Death will be swallowed up in victory (See I Corinthians 15; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Mourning will be no more. We will experience a great reunion with those who have gone before us. We will see Jesus face to face. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). For now, “comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:18). Blessed are those who mourn.

Walking with God

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
-Proverbs 4:18

Several years ago, I had a dream where a pastor I knew literally disappeared in front of a church congregation. His microphone dropped to the floor. I walked from the back of the church onto the stage and announced to the congregation, “Enoch walked with God and the Lord took him.” I understood the meaning of the dream to be a call from God to walk closely with Him.

The man in my dream pastored a church I attended while in Bible college in Minnesota. I had never known a man who exuded such joy in his relationship with God. He prayed with joy and genuine love and passion for the Lord. And he was an excellent preacher. I admired him tremendously. He grew up on the streets of Chicago, and if memory serves me correctly, accepted Christ as Savior while in prison. Even though I moved on from Minnesota and attended his church for only a short period of time, his example made a profound impact on my life.

Genesis Chapter 5 states,

“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” -verses 21-24

Enoch’s life was short compared to his contemporaries, but his life was impactful because it was a life well lived, the life of a man who was known as one who faithfully walked with God. The Bible does not tell us much about Enoch except that he walked with God, he lived a life of faith, he pleased God, and he was a righteous man (see Hebrews 11:5 and Jude 14-15). Actually, that’s quite a lot! How would you like that to be your legacy?

I would like my children to say of me, “Papa walked with God, he lived a life that pleased God, a life of faith, and he was a righteous man.” What a legacy!

Enoch left this earth when he was only 365 years old. Compared to others who lived during his time, he left at a young age as the Bible records men who lived to be over 900 years old. I think the number 365 is significant, as 365 days represents a year. God wants us to walk with Him every day, every moment, of every year. A life lived for God is a full and complete life.

My father-in-law, Victor, died when he was close to 60 years old, young by modern standards. He was my spiritual father, my mentor and my friend. I loved him dearly. My heart is broken that he passed, but he died a full man, a complete man, a man full of peace, because he walked with God. His life personified the fruits of the Spirit. He was not perfect, but his life was not lacking. His heart was perfect towards God. He walked with love, in joy and in peace. He would commonly say to me, “Keeping walking” or “Walk in peace.”

As I viewed a presentation of pictures of Victor’s life, one thing that was evident to me is how his countenance changed through the years. There is a striking difference between his face as a younger man and his face in his later years. His countenance became brighter and brighter. As he grew, he looked happier, more content, more joyful, and more at peace. His face progressively reflected the brightness of the Lord.

One of the very last things he told me was concerning his prayer life. He told me how sometimes he would wake up at night and pray. He would pray until his soul was satisfied in God. His face reflected that reality, a person satisfied in Jesus.

That’s what walking with God is all about. It’s about living a life of prayer, living a Christ-like life, impacting others for the kingdom of God, and leaving a spiritual heritage for our children and others. My father-in-law left a legacy that impacted my life. I want to live in such a way, if Jesus tarries, that I will be able to pass the baton to the next generation. I want my sons to walk in the blessing because I was their Papa.

Who will carry the baton to the next generation? Who will build a foundation that others can build upon for God’s kingdom? I will be that man! My sons will be that man!

What will your legacy be?

I have always believed that the dream I received several years ago was God’s challenge to me to be a person who walks with God. Our walk with God is something that can always be growing, day by day, moment by moment. Like my father-in-law, we can grow more and more each day as our lives become more saturated with God’s presence. We are being changed from the inside out, being transformed into His image and likeness, from glory to glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Romans 8:29).

Proverbs 4:18 says (Amplified version), “But the path of the just (righteous) is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until [it reaches its full strength and glory in] the perfect day.”

What is the perfect day? I believe the perfect day is the day of Christ, the day we see Jesus face-to-face in all His glory when we meet him in heaven. Only then will we experience the fullness of completion in him. For now, we walk by faith and not by sight. We don’t understand everything that happens to us, but we endeavor to live righteously, to seek His face, to walk by faith, and to please God in all we do.

Life is a journey, an adventure. May it be a walk with God.

Real Love

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

For several years, my father-in-law was a very important part of my life. He passed away in August of 2020. I called him “Papa” – I loved him and he loved me. The love he showed made a real difference in my life.

Papa believed in me. He celebrated my talents and accomplishments and often told me he was proud of me. I can still hear his voice saying, “I’m proud of you, son.” He never criticized me or spoke a negative word to me, not once, and not even in jest. He always made time for me even though he was busy pastoring his church in Mexico. He listened without judgment and gave his full attention. He let me express how I feel and then offered wise counsel. His love was real.

Real love heals the soul. Love never fails. It endures forever. Love is a gift that keeps giving for eternity. A tiny seed of love sewn will sprout and grow and become a large tree which will give shelter like the tree of life that never dies. When we give love without reservation and without conditions, it has the power to transform. Love can transform the ugly into the beautiful, instill confidence in the insecure, provide a family for the lonely, and heal the broken soul.

Jesus spent only a few years with his disciples, but he gave them everything they needed to succeed. His love changed their lives and had a multiplying effect which we experience to this day. He set them up for success and then he left. Although he was gone in the body, as promised, he did not leave them as orphans (see John 14:18). He came to them in the power of His Spirit and placed his very Spirit inside each of them. He left behind his Spirit of love.

Although painful to his disciples, it was better for them that he left because they could do more with his Spirit in them than they could do with him physically present. It was time for the teacher to trust the students to carry on his work. If he had stayed, people may have been drawn to the physical Jesus but now they are drawn to the living, resurrected Christ who is alive in each one of us.

Even though I had a short number of years with Papa, his love changed my life. And I believe that the impartation of his spirit in my life lives on in me and his children, grandchildren and spiritual children in the Lord. Only heaven knows the full impact of his love.

Love is a gift that keeps giving for eternity. A tiny seed of love sewn will sprout and grow and become a large tree which will give shelter like the tree of life that never dies.

I have been blessed to be a part of a few good churches and I’m grateful for the pastors I’ve had in my life. Sometimes pastors are not able to devote personal time to each individual in the congregation perhaps as much as they would like to due to the limited physical capacity. Thankfully, God did not set up the church for the leaders to do all the work. He set up the church for the leaders to equip disciples to do the work. Jesus touched many people with his love, and he taught many people, but he personally mentored only a small group of disciples. This is the pattern for us to follow. It is our job as the church to grow in real love and multiply that love in the hearts of others.

How can we show real love? The Bible talks about the qualities of love in I Corinthians 13 – love is patient, kind and so on. Our love will grow in measure to our commitment to Christ and His Word, as we abide in Him. Apart from abiding in Him, we cannot demonstrate real love. We grow in love as we grow in Him and develop His fruit in our lives. It takes time.

Not everyone we meet or reach out to will be a willing recipient of the love we seek to show. But we must keep on loving. I’ve tried to help some people who didn’t seem to want my help. I’ve been rejected when I’ve tried to share Christ with others. What I’ve endeavored to do is keep my heart open and move on. There are others who are waiting for the love God has called me to give.

We can love in our service, by helping others. We love in words of truth, encouragement and faith. We love by listening, love with counsel, loving by affirmation. We can love by giving our trust, love by believing in others. We can love with our prayers and love with our affection. We can love by building up and not criticizing, judging or being rude. We can love by the mercy and forgiveness we give. Love is demonstrated both by what we do and what we refrain from doing.

Jesus loved us while we were yet sinners, when he died for us on the cross. He elevated us from our lowly state to a state of honor and dignity in his kingdom. He exalted us to a privileged position in his family. I believe Jesus was able to love this way because:

  1. He was not seeking honor for himself;
  2. He was confident and secure in the love of His Father; and
  3. He was never seeking to please Himself but only to please the Father.

His love was real love. For us to grow in this kind of love, we have to grow in our relationship with God. It takes a real commitment to grow in real love.

When I was a kid, we often watched a movie called Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. It’s the story of a magical flying automobile. There’s a scene where the heroine acts like a doll singing on a music box. She moves her arms and body robotically, singing:

What do you see? You people gazing at me
You see a doll on music box that’s wound by a key
How can you tell, I’m under spell, I’m waiting for love’s first kiss

You cannot see, how much I long to be free
Turning around on this music box that’s wound by a key
While I’m turning around and around…

Many people are like this lady – they are acting out according to their programming which is rooted in painful experiences of life. They are under the spell of the enemy because of pain, waiting for love’s true kiss. The power of real love breaks Satan’s spell and sets them free to be their true selves created in the image of God. That’s the real love my Papa showed me. That’s the real love God has called us to give.