Posted in My Journey

Thankful for Miracles

Yesterday I completed my “Year of Thanks” project I had begun in 2017. During this same time last year, I had resolved to think about one thing I was thankful for daily and tell people about it. I wrote it all out on Twitter as one long conversation. Some days I was thankful for the simple things, like eating a cheeseburger. Other days, my appreciation extended to knowing just how incredible a life I live having God there to support me.

Several things I did not mention, for which I am also grateful: I am on the Board of Directors of my church, Catch the Fire Newmarket. I am on the Leadership Team, as well, delivering sermons on a regular basis. And I am a Youth Leader giving messages. Lastly, I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough, which I now realize God had led to publication.

Of course, the biggest of all events I am thankful for has to be the Christmas gift God had given my family when my son broke from his Autistic Shutdown. Our appreciation could not be any larger than when we later found out that the cause was anxiety.

But nothing compares to what I feel whenever I think about the salvation I now have through Jesus. The apostle Paul expressed it so well when he related his thanksgiving regarding the grace given to others:

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4 ESV).

No matter how small or how large of a miracle that takes place in our lives today, or this week, being thankful for all of it gives us the opportunity to know just how much God loves us. With every little miracle God grants, he demonstrates his love.

Posted in My Journey

Trust in God

Anxiety is a big hurdle for many. With my son, it had put him in the hospital for over a month. As I am learning about the effects of anxiety, I am also learning about coping techniques in order to recognize the condition. Most importantly, I now understand the difference between stress and anxiety, knowledge I previously did not possess had my family not experience what we did last November and December.

Stress is the feeling one gets when events happen all at once and need immediate resolution. Stress is not necessarily bad. Without stress, life would lack a certain amount of excitement. However, too much stress can cause all sorts of problems, including physical injury to the heart. In such a case, it would be a good idea to step away for a while as a short-term means to stem the effects of stress on the body.

On the other hand, anxiety is having a feeling that something bad might happen if a certain action does not take place. Anxiety works to saturate the mind with thoughts of “what if.” What if I did not turn off the burner to the stove after I cooked? What if I missed my rent/mortgage payment this month? What if I left the lights on to my car when I parked it for the evening? These types of scenarios could prove endless and could quench the light of an otherwise joyful life, turning it into a life of bondage filled with worry and fear.

Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mat. 6:25 ESV throughout). As a society, we tend to worry about everything, especially with social media being as pervasive as it is, leading young girls to compare themselves with waif-thin models, holding them up as standard-bearers to what girls ought to look like at that age. And young men having it in their mind that once they are out of college, their lives will be set with a high salary and job security.

Instead, as a way to alleviate the effects of anxiety, Jesus tells us to place our trust in God, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 33-34).

With God on our side, we do not need to worry about a thing. If we place our trust in God, seeking first his will in all things, he will provide for everything we need, including food, drink, clothing and anything else we might lack, because ultimately, our lives should be a reflection of our relationship with him and how he is deeply working to mold us into his image.

Posted in My Journey

Answered Prayer

My family’s life is slowly getting back to a semblance of normalcy. We are learning more and more about autism, and learning more and more about our son each day. We have a predictable schedule set for him, a list of daily activities to go through with him, and lots and lots of prayer to carry us well into the week. Had it not been for all the prayer, I do not believe we could have had the miraculous turnaround that took place last month with him. Because, really, it was a miracle he woke up as he did from autistic shutdown.

This weekend was a breakthrough weekend with him. Finally, after months of growth, I was able to cut his hair and trim his beard. I say breakthrough, since after we had come back from Niagara Falls in October, he had not wanted anyone to touch him. Now, he is allowing hugs, kisses and me cutting his hair, which is a big deal for our family.

Again, much of the successes we are currently experiencing with our son are all due to prayer. I cannot see it being anything else. Naturally, patience and a lot of determination have made a difference with Luana and me. But, I would say, prayer is the key for us here.

I remember reading about Jesus and about how the night before he died on the cross he was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying for his disciples while, at the same time, Judas was betraying him to the high priest. Throughout the whole thing, he knew what he had to do, he knew he had to give up his life for the sin of all, and with prayer, he confirmed his fate as the Lamb of God:

“Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done’” (Mat. 26: 42 ESV).

Sometimes there is no other solution than to rely on God, petitioning him in fervent prayer, not only us, but others on our behalf. He does listen. I can attest to that. Otherwise, we would not be seeing the progress with my son that we are seeing with him now.

My son dresses himself, washes his face, eliminates regularly again, speaks, answers questions and sits out in the backyard. He has come a long way from not speaking and only staring for the better part of the day.

All of it I attribute to prayer.

Therefore, if you feel there is nowhere to turn, turn to God in prayer. He will answer. My son is a living example of answered prayer.

Posted in My Journey

Renewing the Spirit

I was sick in bed a couple of days this weekend with a cold. With all that went on these past few months with my son, I was not surprised this happened to me so soon. I was running back and forth from hot to cold, home to the hospital, eating on the run, sleeping a few hours here and there that I had brought my immune system down so low. I find it funny how that happens with our physical bodies. For a while, all I was doing was functioning on adrenalin.

As Christians, we similarly have a supply of energy to carry us through the day, which is the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the spirit depletes quickly with trials. In such cases, we have to renew it in order to move forward.

The Book of Psalms is replete with examples of those wanting to draw closer to God. King David was no exception:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10 ESV throughout).

For those unfamiliar with David’s history, he uttered those words when he was at the lowest point of his life. He had just committed adultery with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and the prophet Nathan came to David to tell him God would bring calamity to his household. Instead of fleeing from God, David drew closer to him in prayer. He recognized God’s spirit was as only a flicker of light in his heart, instead of the burning inferno he had raging within him when he first became king. He asked God for the renewal of his spirit.

We also can ask God for that renewal. Prayer, bible study, meditation and fasting are our tools to seek God with all our hearts. And it does not take long for him to respond to our request:

“You who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners” (Psalms 69:32).

As long as we seek him during our low moments, he will continually be by our side, encouraging us, taking care of us, and protecting us. Because, more than anything else, God wants to give us life, and should we desire him, how much more will he want to give us his spirit?

Posted in My Journey

Forgive Always

We put up the Christmas tree this weekend. Everyone was there except my son, who landed in the hospital two weeks ago. We are still trying to understand what is going on with him. I am sure that whatever it is, the good doctors in town will provide a proper diagnosis soon. I guess the one positive thing I can take away from this experience is that the hospital is only four minutes away from our home. Yes, I timed it.

For my final post of 2017, before I go on hiatus, I wanted to talk a bit about forgiveness. I know I have written about this subject in the past, and I have preached about it, too. And I have written a book called When Forgiveness Is Enough regarding this topic. So, I would say, I am fully aware of the details and nuances concerning forgiveness, and of what it does to the person who is doing the forgiving.

Given it is the season to be merry I find I cannot be merry if I am harboring a grudge. More times than not, a grudge eats away at the very fabric of who we are and takes away from the enjoyment of whatever it is we are doing. I cannot say how important it is to let go of the past in order to move forward with the future. Part of that also is removing bitterness from our lives. As it says in Hebrews:

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15 ESV throughout).

If we allow bitterness to infect our heart, that root will grow and spread to all our other relationships, ruining everything we have worked to build. The remedy is to let go of that root, dig it out of our hearts, and live lives free from the burden of bitterness, anger and resentment.

My sermon on forgiveness from November 5, 2017:

Yes, it is easy to say, but when has a hard thing been easy to do? The Apostle Luke has a solution we can take to heart:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28).

In other words, Luke says to do good, bless and pray for those who hate, curse and abuse us. That is tough to do, especially if some of us have experienced physical and sexual abuse. How can we forgive a predator?

As Christians, though, the act of forgiving another human being needs to be part of our nature. We cannot allow a root of bitterness to grow and fester until it is too late. We have to get rid of it, and replace vengeance with doing good. Only then will we become selfless as Christ Jesus, who gave himself on the cross as a sacrifice for the sin of the world, thereby saving us from sin’s penalty (Rom. 6:23).

That is the one message I would like to leave with you during this holiday season. Forgive, as you would like others to forgive you. In so doing, your reward will be great in heaven.

Posted in My Journey

Give, and It Will Be Given to You

The preparation for the holidays is one of my favorite times of the year. I like the hustle and bustle of shopping, eating out, visiting with friends and family, watching all the seasonal movies on TV. More importantly, I get more of a thrill by giving to those who are lacking.

I have had experiences where I have seen people give their coats to the homeless and provide meals to them on the street. Jesus said:

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38 ESV).

This principle of giving works. It actually works!

I cannot say how many times I have given to others without expecting anything in return, only to have someone give to me in the very same way I did. It is like a law of physics, except this is more of a law of giving. The more I give the more comes back to me, sometimes even ten-fold.

I guess what I am trying to say today with this post is, we cannot take what we have with us. As much as we try in this lifetime to accumulate wealth, at the end of our lives, we will leave it all behind, and in some cases, the government takes it all.

During this time of year, let us give without holding back. Let us be examples for others to follow. The more we give, the more will come back to us. Then, the cycle will continue until we would not know what to do with all the blessings.

Posted in My Journey

New Beginnings

I am pleased to announce my latest book When Forgiveness Is Enough: Making Sense of God’s Calling will go on sale October 24.

In some ways, this book is a representation of everything I have gone through these past two years, and the joy I have felt acknowledging Jesus as the one true savior by whom God redeems the world from sin.

Even more so, this book release comes at a time when my family and I are working through a great trial God has blessed us with, to which we are learning patience, kindness and self-control. I do not think the words in this book would have carried the weight of God’s glory had we not gone through the events of last month, and learned from those events.

As I sit writing this, I cannot help but think how different my life is from two years ago when God began working with me. I used to write about zombies, horror and all sorts of dark themes. My life revolved around the latest undead news, theories and resolutions. My books were sitting at the top of the charts alongside the likes of Stephen King. Who in their right mind would give up such a life in pursuit of God, of all things?

Yet, when I began to read the bible cover to cover in January 2015, completing the task in December that same year, I did not realize God’s word was changing me. Without prodding from anyone, I was praying more, studying more, and meditating more on the things I read.

It did not end there. The biggest change is that I was praying for my enemies. I no longer wanted bad things to happen to those who I felt had wronged me. I was asking God to bless them in every way possible. I prayed for their families. I prayed for their employment. And most of all, I prayed that one day they would also come to the knowledge of Jesus and have faith that he will save all who believe in him.

I cannot express just how thankful I am to have completed this book with forgiveness as its central theme. It is my desire that whoever reads this book will go on to forgive others also.