Don't Give Up On Your Dreams
Posted on January 30, 2008
Forty-one years ago, when Brenda and I were newly weds and just starting out in the ministry, we spent nearly a year and a half preaching revival meetings in country churches from Cuero, Texas, to Post Falls, Idaho, and a half a hundred places in between. We spent hours in the car together, driving from one small church to the next. Sometimes Brenda read to me but more often than not we just talked. That is I talked while Brenda mostly listened, being a person given to few words.
Mile after mile I regaled her with dreams about our future together. Someday, I told her, we are going to live in a cabin, on the side of a mountain, overlooking a lake. I will write books and preach in churches large and small all over the world. Someday I will have a national radio broadcast and be invited to preach at District Councils and camp meetings. Someday….
She would smile and listen politely but I could tell she didn’t really believe me and who could blame her given our limited circumstances. In the course of time I pushed my dreams to the back of my mind as we immersed ourselves in the work of the ministry, serving churches in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma. I began writing and published my first two books while serving the Church of the Comforter in Craig, Colorado. In 1980 we became senior pastors of Christian Chapel in Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Lord impressed me to give up writing for a season and concentrate on serving the church. For nearly seven years I did not write a single thing for publication and I sometimes wondered if I would ever write again.
During those seven years God did many remarkable things at Christian Chapel and our congregation grew from barely one hundred people to more than a thousand. We purchased property and built our first facilities. God granted me favor with the seminary at Oral Roberts University and I was frequently invited to lecture there. I also served as a group leader in the Field Education program at the seminary. Through a truly remarkable series of events God brought me into contact with a radio executive whose vision helped me launch a nationwide via satellite call-in radio program called Straight from the Heart. Because Christian Chapel was an exceptionally strong missionary church I began receiving invitations from missionaries to minister in a number of foreign countries. Almost without me realizing it the Lord was fulfilling the dreams He had put in my heart when I was just a young man starting out in ministry.
In the spring of 1987 Honor Books approached me about writing four books for them. They had heard my radio broadcasts and felt that I would be a good fit for their publishing house. Of course I was excited but I had to pray about it. In 1980 the Lord had told me not to write until He released me and I did not want to be disobedient. After three weeks I felt released to write again and I signed a contract with Honor Books. Over the next five years I published seven books with them including The Making of a Man, which was a finalist in the Devotional category of the Gold Medallion Book of the year.
In 1991 Brenda and I bought a small acreage on Beaver Lake as a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary gift to ourselves. We resigned from Christian Chapel a year later and with the help of Brenda’s parents we built a small cabin over looking the lake.
Fifteen years ago when I left the pastorate and moved to the Lake I thought my ministry would be primarily writing. Boy was I wrong. Although I’ve written 22 books in the last 15 years I’ve also traveled almost 2 million miles and preached more than 2500 times.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because I want you to see how God’s faithfulness manifests itself in an ordinary life. I’m no one special and neither is Brenda except to me. What God has done for us, He will do for you. The Lord would have been well justified had He given up on me any number of times during the last forty years, especially during the early years, but He refused too. Even though my faith failed on occasion, He has always remained faithful for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
Take a moment now and examine your own life. What God given dreams has the Lord placed in your heart? I’m not talking about personal ambitions but dreams birthed by the Spirit. Dr. Jim Horvath, a personal friend of mine, carried a God given dream of ministering in the Philippines in his heart for nearly twenty years before the Lord brought it to fruition. Now he has one of the most effective evangelistic ministries to the islands. What God has done for Jim He will do for you.
Don’t look at your circumstances or you may despair. You may feel that you simply do not have the wherewithal to see your God given dreams become reality or you may feel that your willful disobedience has disqualified you, either way you will be tempted to discard your dreams. Instead look to God for He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and He who has begun this good work in you is faithful to bring it to completion (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Nearly twenty years ago I was facing some unusual challenges. I seemed to have reached a stalemate in my life and ministry. After several years of remarkable growth the church I was serving seemed to reach a plateau. No matter what I did we seemed stuck. To complicate matters a small, but vocal group, were critical of my leadership. On top of everything else my latest book was not selling nearly as well as anticipated. As a result I was experiencing some doubts regarding the effectiveness of my ministry.
One morning, during my devotional time, I was reading in the Psalms when I came across Psalm 138:7 and 8. Although I had read that passage numerous times before, that particular morning the words seemed to leap off the page. “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands” (emphasis added).
Although my situation did not immediately change I was at peace. God had spoken to me through His Word. No matter what others did He would fulfill His purpose in my life! Not necessarily my goals and ambitions, but His purpose, those God given dreams He had placed in my heart and that was enough.
As you think about your own God given dreams remember His faithfulness and take heart. “This is what the Lord says: ‘…For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Brenda and I are living God’s dream for our life, not because of our faith but because of His faithfulness, and so can you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart/ and lean not on your own understanding:/ in all your ways acknowledge him/ and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5&6). That is, He will fulfill your God given dreams!
This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.
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It's Not About Fishing
Posted on April 12, 2007
As I write this I am sitting at my desk overlooking beautiful Beaver Lake. A hundred feet down the mountain from me its crystal clear water sparkles in the morning sunlight, tempting me with thoughts of fishing. With an effort I turn my attention to the task at hand only to be side-tracked again. This time it is framed photograph sitting on the widow sill to my left. Looking at it my thoughts wonder to a spring afternoon nearly four years ago....
Killing the outboard engine, I make my way to the fishing platform on the bow of my bass boat. After lowering the electric trolling motor, I maneuver the boat toward my favorite crappie hole. In a couple of minutes I have it positioned just where I want it and I cast my red and white jig toward a pile of submerged brush near an outcropping of rocks. Before I can begin my retrieve, Alexandria, my three-year-old granddaughter, is pulling at my sleeve. “Papa,” she says, “I want to fish.”
I try to talk her into sharing my rod with me but she won’t have any part of it. She wants her own rig, so reluctantly I prop my rod against the side of the boat and tie another jig on a second pole. After casting it out I hand it to her and she immediately reels it in and hands it back to me to cast again. This time I show her how to let the jig drift to the bottom before beginning a slow retrieve. At her age she isn’t going to master the art of fishing a jig but I am hoping to distract her long enough to let me get in a little fishing of my own.
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With Pen in Hand
Posted on March 15, 2007
Like a silver ribbon disappearing into the darkness the highway stretches before me, deserted at this late hour. Beside me Brenda is asleep, her head resting against the widow on the passenger side of the car. Driving with one hand on the steering wheel, I fiddle with the radio dial, searching for a station. What I find is mostly static, not an uncommon occurrence in this remote region of Southeastern Colorado. Finally I locate a 50,000 watt clear channel out of New Orleans and I settle back to enjoy the music and the DJ’s late night patter.
The highway is straight and I push my 1968 Dodge RT past 90. It’s dumb, I know, but I am only twenty-two years old and I feel immortal. Brenda and I have been visiting family and we are returning to Holly, Colorado, where we serve a small congregation. With Sunday less than forty-eight hours away I try to focus on my sermon but my mind keeps wandering. I catch myself humming along when the DJ spins a familiar tune – Glen Campbell singing “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” or Johnny Cash belting out “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Beneath the music I hear the whir of the tires on the blacktop and the rush of the wind past the windows. Unconsciously I tap my fingers on the steering wheel, keeping time with the music. The song ends and the DJ’s voice intrudes on my thoughts. After some nonsensical patter and a weather update he says, “Here’s a new release from Vikki Carr, recorded live at the Persian Room.” Almost as an afterthought he adds, “You might want to get a tissue. This one’s a real tearjerker.”
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Marty's Latest Heartbreak
Posted on January 09, 2007
Marty’s Latest Heartbreak
I’m an avid football fan and even though the Denver Broncos didn’t make the playoffs I’m still glued to the games. As always there have been some surprises. Had you told me the Baltimore defense would hold the Colts and Payton Manning without a touchdown I wouldn’t have given Indianapolis a chance, yet they won 15 to 6. Chicago beat Seattle in overtime and the Saints edged out the Eagles in a game that could have gone either way, which brings us to the Patriots and Chargers. Once again Marty Schottenheimer came up short – a bitter ending to another great season.
Having won more regular season games (200) without going to the Super Bowl than any coach in the history of the NFL, Marty obviously knows something about the thrill of victory but even more about the agony of defeat. It’s bad enough to lose when you’ve played your best and simply been beaten by a better team, but when you beat yourself, as Marty and the Chargers did, the self-doubt and second guessing can be unbearable.
So what non-football lessons can we learn from Marty’s latest heartbreak?
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