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One Year Gut Check

It has been just over a year since I unleashed Renewed Belief upon an unsuspecting world. As long as I keep this thing alive, I want to do these yearly gut checks. What has the LORD done? Do I still have a vigorous pursuit of Him? Is this blog serving the purpose for which it was started? I’m going to attempt to answer those questions.

I went back and reread the first article I posted last November. Here’s how I started it.

Renewed Belief is a piece of a larger work. I don’t yet know the full extent of that work. The LORD hasn’t unpacked all of that yet. But I felt urged to start this piece now. I believe we could be on the cusp of the LORD moving in some powerful ways, and perhaps in ways that will shake our expectations. Recently I preached at my church that we have a choice. The way we choose to respond to the Holy Spirit will result either in awakening or discipline.

[If you want to listen to that sermon, go here.]

Friends, I still believe this. I still believe that our response to the Holy Spirit will result in either awakening or discipline. I still believe that Renewed Belief is part of a larger work, and no, the LORD hasn’t yet shown me the next piece. I still have an urgency within my spirit. And I still believe the LORD would like to renew His people and expand His kingdom in ways that many of us haven’t yet experienced. So, let me work my way through the questions.

What has the LORD done?

This has been one of the most interesting and exciting years of my life. Last November, though I was confident of several things, I was in a very painful place. Both I and my wife had been enduring one of the greatest trials we’ve ever walked through. I won’t unpack that here, but suffice it to say, we were both incredibly sad and frustrated. I will say that the problem wasn’t between her and I. Ironically, the problem drew us closer than we had ever been. But we were both suffering greatly.

I won’t speak for Radene, but for me, though I was in sorrow, simultaneously, last fall the LORD had given me a word about when this trial would end. That was the only time in my whole believing life that the Holy Spirit ever did that for me. It was really strange because, on one hand, I was utterly convinced that the LORD said it. But on the other, because I had never received such a word before, I couldn’t be completely sure that it wasn’t me hoping for an end to the strife.

I leaned into the LORD and put my faith in Him and in what I believed He said. It was a choice. I could’ve been wrong. It might’ve been me, but all I can say is that the LORD infused me with a measure of faith to believe Him. The great news is that He delivered!! Things unfolded just like He told me they would. And when it happened, then I knew it was the LORD!!

It reminded me of a scene from Jeremiah.

6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’ 8 Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.’ Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.
– Jeremiah 32:6-8 (ESV)

Jeremiah received a word from the LORD to buy a field from his uncle. That in itself wasn’t strange. What was strange was the timing. This word came while Jerusalem was under active siege from the armies of Babylon. It didn’t make sense to purchase real estate while the city was under attack. He had heard from the LORD before. He was familiar with His voice. That voice was telling him to do something that made little to no sense considering the circumstances. The end of verse eight revealed Jeremiah’s struggle to understand. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

Jeremiah wasn’t confident that he had heard from God until the event was finished. When it happened as the LORD told him, then he knew it was from God. Jeremiah believed what he heard, even though there was reason to doubt that he heard correctly. I felt exactly like that. I believed the LORD spoke, and I embraced it despite my doubts. Then, when things unfolded just as the LORD had told me, I knew it was Him!!

Hear me. I don’t expect the LORD to ever do that again, though He certainly can. Neither am I telling you to expect that He’ll do the same for you, though He certainly can. This isn’t a prescriptive thing. I’m just telling you what He did. He telegraphed His intentions and followed through just as He told me. It was a huge lesson in faith for my family, and we are forever changed and grateful.

Since the cloud of that trial lifted last March, I’ve had to deal with other things in myself. In the couple of years prior, I had let my discouragement affect my ministry. In many ways, I had been going through the motions. It’s not that I didn’t care. I still cared deeply, but I often found that my stamina for people would run out quickly. Part of what I’ve been trying to do since last spring is get my stamina back. That has resulted in a few sit-downs with my senior pastor to figure out the what and how my recovery.

All in all, I sense the Holy Spirit burdening my soul to come alongside people and help them carry heavy loads. I’ve followed Him in that and taken on a few responsibilities that lift the burdens off of others who need help. So far, the LORD has blessed those things. I expect that He will continue blessing them if I remain in the light with Him.

Do I still have a vigorous pursuit of Him?

I hope so. I certainly still desire Him more than ever. But rather than tell you what I think, I’ll share what my senior pastor told me in one of our meetings. He said that I don’t seem hungry. Immediately, I knew he was both right and wrong. He was completely correct because what he had witnessed in me was the aforementioned lack of people stamina that I was trying to overcome. I’ve continued to process that conversation and I completely acknowledge that he diagnosed me correctly. But by the time he and I had that conversation, I was already trying to correct things, albeit the process hadn’t been lightning-fast. I told him that I actually am hungry and I shared with him my desire to help people with heavy burdens.

These conversations are priceless to me. I invite constructive criticism. I want accountability. Do I love it? Of course not. I’m no glutton for punishment, but I know that these kinds of conversations are precisely what we all need. So, in light of that, here’s what I’ve been doing to remedy things.

  • I’m praying.
  • I’m reading.
  • I’ve taken on responsibilities that lift heavy burdens from others.
  • I’m trying different approaches to the processes I have in place for my ministry.
  • I’m doing what I can to rebuild the stamina that the last few years have drained from me.

All of this is part of my pursuit of Jesus. I still desire to know Him more, to walk in more obedience than yesterday, and to better hear the voice of the Holy Spirit as He leads me daily. I do this by retraining myself for the things I’ve done for over twenty years. I’ve already begun, but I anticipate that for me, 2024 will be a year of rebuilding, recovery, and renewal.

Is this blog serving the purpose for which it was started?

Yes, and yes. Why two yeses? It’s not just for emphasis. One of the charter purposes for Renewed Belief is that it is the first piece of something larger. I’m not prophesying when I say this, but I believe it is still the first piece. The first yes, is for that. Again, I don’t know what will follow as the next piece. I’m just going to keep building this thing until the next step becomes apparent.

The second yes is more personal. Renewed Belief isn’t only a blog for others to read. It helps me think through exactly what I believe about various things. Yes. This blog is, in some ways, a therapeutic way for me to process my understanding of our faith. Since last November, I’ve added the Foundations course, I’ve been working through the book of Hebrews, and creating free resources that you can use for your own studies.

I think we’re still on target.

Here’s how I hope we will grow in 2024. I still hope to add some regular contributors. One thing that hasn’t developed yet is having a small group of guest authors who occasionally contribute. That is still what I hope to gain. Perhaps 2024 will see that develop. I believe a diversity of orthodox thought is healthy.

I also hope to develop more video-driven content. I spent half of 2023 without a laptop, so that put a hold on that aspect of content development. Watch for more videos to start showing up. I’ll be charting a course for the 2024 content over the next several weeks. Pray for my discernment on what themes to develop.

Thank you!

Thanks for reading, for leaving comments, and for the encouraging things many of you have said over the last year. I look forward to another great year of Word and Spirit before tradition! I hope you’ll continue walking with me.

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Last modified: December 8, 2023
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