A Marked Man at Age 40

I walk along the dusty ground with a full backpack.  I'm on my way to church in a foreign country, 6,000 miles away from home, nestled in a hostile Islamic middle eastern country.  This is what ministry looks like at age 40 for me.  I greet 2 armed guards packing AK-47s as I walk into the chapel.  No one gets to come into church unless they show appropriate identification.  This is quite different from my former way of doing God's work, but it is strangely more rewarding.  It's not that people aren't welcome, it's that the threat of a madman walking into the building with a suicide bomb strapped to his chest is a real possibility.

I can't believe it's already been a decade since my 30th birthday.  There's so much I could share with my 30-year-old self if I had the ability to travel back in time.  I would tell my younger self to prepare for the most challenging, unpredictable, dangerous, and most adventurous decade of my life.  I would warn myself not to get too comfortable or selfish.  I would encourage myself to cherish the first few years of both my daughter and son's lives.  I would be blunt and tell myself that I am going to break many times over the next 10 years, but leaning on God is going to put all the pieces back together. 

In my thirties I witnessed the birth of my son, traveled to over ten countries, wrote and published my first novel, commissioned into the Army as a Chaplain, and watched the sun set over Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon.  I also had lows.  My house flooded.  I was slandered by the church.  I almost got blown up.  I lost my Grandmother, and I lost my faithful basset. 

But what gives me unbridled optimism as I face my forties and the next decade of my life, knowing that it could very well be filled with similar unpredictability and trials, is that fact that I am not confined because of my inability or circumstances.  In Christ, I am cared for, predestined, unstoppable and on mission.  As a youth pastor in my early thirties, I deceived myself into thinking that my own talent and strength would be a major factor in setting the course of my life in Christ and my family's destination.  Now, I know how far off that is from the truth.  The last decade, God taught and instilled in me that IT IS NOT ABOUT ME!  He can do whatever He wants without my abilities.  However, He graciously chooses to use me.  That gives me great confidence.  Not because I believe that I have it all together, but because He does.

"From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus." Galatians 6:17

I am Christ's.  Thus, the next half of my short life is sure to have adventure, because God is always working.  I'll enjoy the ride of walking in step with His Spirit, and soak in the blessings He has given me of a beautiful and loving wife and two amazing children.  All the while, I will watch in amazement as I journey daily onto a battlefield with little to no ability to survive it on my own, but continue to push on and see lives changed because God is undoubtedly almighty, great, and amazing!