August 14, 2017 | Blessed To Be A Blessing

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!”

These are the lyrics of an old hymn I remember singing often when I first became a Christian. Written in 1897, the words echo the declaration of King David’s song in Psalm 40:5, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

We’ve all been blessed beyond our ability to count. Even when I’m struggling with life’s circumstances and I’m having a hard day, God’s blessings are numerous. Unfortunately I often become distracted by the circumstances that surround me and I ignore or take for granted God’s blessings.

For this reason, I’m grateful that a few years ago I began writing down reasons to be thankful in my prayer journal. These moments of gratitude remind me to count the blessings in my life. Each morning before I begin my quiet time with the Lord, I try to write one or two things that I am particularly thankful in my life. And as I’ve reflected upon the ups and downs of the last year, I am so glad that I made a habit of writing these little nuggets of blessing down.

This morning I was writing in my prayer journal, reflecting upon the Psalms, and counting my blessings. Every once in a while I will flip back in my journal to see what the Lord was doing in my heart a year ago. One year ago Amber and I were in a deep season of searching. We had dealt with some tremendous disappointments and I was entering a season of depression. Let me share the words I wrote one year ago: “I am in a season of uncertainty. We’ve faced so much discouragement and frustration…”

As I read those words, my heart was flooded with every single emotion I faced one year ago. And as quickly as those feelings came, blessings overwhelmed me as I reflected upon the incredible faithfulness of our God. For eight, long months Amber and I asked God for direction, peace, and clarity about His plan for our lives. And while we patiently waited for God to answer our prayer, He tested our faith and strengthened our trust in His plan. Finally in March when we accepted the call to join you in ministry here in Cayuga, Indiana, God answered our prayer. In reflecting upon one year ago, I wrote these words in my prayer journal this morning: “Thank you God for what you’ve blessed us with here! We have people in our lives who are so kind toward us…we have so many faithful volunteers serving with us in ministry…I work alongside an amazing team…I continue to be encouraged that we made the right move.”

Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done! It’ll do your heart some good to consider what He’s done for you. You’ll be overwhelmed at God’s continued faithfulness. And while you’re counting, be sure to give Him the credit He deserves for the many blessings in your life.

In Christ,
 
Ashton

August 7, 2017 | God Is There

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
-Psalm 23:4
 
There are no good times to walk through a valley. Valleys are the difficult seasons of life that bring about despair and discouragement. Valley moments come when you least expect them and they too often come when you don’t have the time nor the resources to handle them.
 
I’ll never forget the wake up call I received on New Year’s day 2010. I looked at my phone through squinted eyes and was shocked to find that I had twenty-six missed called from one of the fellows from my men’s small group. I returned his call only to be answered by a father distraught by the loss of his eleven year old son in an house fire.
 
There’s never a good time for a tragedy.
I received another call from friend in the church whose cousin was in the hospital, on life-support due to a heroine overdose. Jordan was seventeen years old. She asked if I could go to the hospital to pray with the boy’s mother. My friend explained that Jordan was not expected to recover and that his mother would have to make the decision to remove the life support. During the 30 minute commute to the hospital, I was wrecked with what I could possibly say or do to bring any amount of comfort to this grieving mother.
 
Standing in the waiting room, surrounded by a family overwhelmed with sorrow, it hit me.
I remembered what pastor Rick Warren said in his first sermon after his son’s suicide. He said, “Pain is not relieved by explanations, pain is relieved by the presence of God in your life. When you’re hurting you don’t need answers, you need God’s presence.”
 
There was absolutely nothing that I could say that would bring Jordan back from this moment. The Lord reminded me of Psalm 23:4, specifically the phrase, “for you are with me.”
 
I love the way author Bob Benson puts it, “When life caves in, you do not need reasons…you need comfort. You do not need some answers…you need someone. And Jesus does not come to us with an explanation. He comes to us with His presence.”
 
You will never go through a valley in life by yourself. You will never go through a dark day alone. In the first part of the Psalm, David talks about God. But when he gets in the valley he starts talking to God.
 
When I’m going through the valley I don’t need to talk about God; but, I desperately need to talk to God. When you’re in the valley and you’re spent, depleted, perplexed, it’s a scary thing in the dark valley! But it can also be a time that God becomes so real. God says, “I’m with you. You’re not in this by yourself.” In fact, I’ve discovered from my darkest valleys that God will never be closer than when you’re in the valley.
 
So if you’re walking through a valley right now, take courage, for God is with you. It may not make sense. It doesn’t have to make sense. But God is there.
 
In Christ,
 
Ashton

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One Response to “Beyond Sunday”

  1. Nancy perry says:

    Thank you. It’s a pleasure to go to church now.You not only preach from the Bible but also from your heart. If I didn’t know any difference I would think you were Dr Stanley son. I watch him 3 times each week. Keep up the great work and I will be their every Sunday if Lords willing
    God Bless you and your family.

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