Give Thanks to the Lord

We are quickly approaching the 4th anniversary of the date that changed my life forever. On March 11th 2017 as my wife, son, daughter and I headed to San Antonio on vacation our spring break trip was cut tragically short. On I-35 south near Waco, TX we waited in bumper to bumper traffic because of a wreck a few miles ahead. As the rain fell and the irritation of the delay set in, I looked over to my wife Cassie and said the last thing I would ever say to her: “I love you”.

I woke up to the smell of smoke and blood. I could hear the beeping in my car as if I was driving with the seatbelt off. As I begun to come to my senses I realized: we’ve been in a car wreck. Just a few moments earlier what none of us knew was that a full size RV was about to come around a bend in the highway, unable to stop in time as they plowed at a high rate of speed into the back of our SUV. In that moment, my life changed forever.

I’ve written briefly about the car wreck and the death of my 4 year old daughter Brynleigh and late wife Cassie in a devotion called Cupcakes and Rainbows. You can check it out here. The purpose of this message is not to talk about the physical suffering, the emotional destruction, or the spiritual struggle over the last 4 years. The purpose of this message is to share a thought I had over the past year or so: “God, I’ll never say thankyou for the wreck”.

In September of 2011 I surrendered my life to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord of my life. Since that day I have faithfully served Jesus in different ways, across different states, and across the world. The thought I had, the one where I said I’d never say thankyou for the wreck, came from seeing what God has accomplished in me, through me, and with me since that moment. I could feel a fork in the road coming up as Jesus asked me one day: “Daniel, are you going to let go of the pain and focus on me?”

Now Jesus didn’t speak audibly, though I know He could have. But what He said was clear to me… was I going to keep being broken, distraught, and grief stricken over all the pain, suffering, and loss… or was I going to stop and see all God has done. Was I going to believe the Scripture when it says: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV)?

Its been correctly said that grief is a journey, not a destination. Over the past four years I have experienced a progression of God’s grace and healing in ways I didn’t expect, more than I could have ever hoped for. God has allowed me to marry my best friend and wife Amber who gave birth to our daughter Annabelle about 15 months ago. In these moments I can relate to Job when he says: the Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised (Job 1:21). But what about this not saying thank you for the wreck? I’m getting there.

Recently I told my wife Amber (near what would have been Brynleigh’s 8th birthday): “There is a deep emotional struggle I don’t always get. Grief seems like a road trip. There are little stops along the way, some traffic here and there, some wide open spaces, road blocks, and unexpected U-turns. I’m thankful I’m not alone in the car or on the journey.” If you have ever experienced the loss of a loved one, you know this journey well. For those who are uninitiated, just grieve with us. Joy will come again, but right now grieve with those who grieve (Romans 12:15).

Recently, on multiple occasions, I have found myself deeply thanking God for the car wreck (exactly what I promised I would never do). I miss Cassie and Bryneligh, but I have the benefit of seeing and beginning to understand what God is doing. I wish I could have trusted Him more in the moments that brought me here to this place, but this is a learning experience. Thank God that Jesus will finish the good work He started in my life (Philippians 1:6). 

Today in honor of Brynleigh’s 8th birthday and in remembrance of the wonderful 4 years I got to spend with her, I want to make a promise to anyone suffering in a deeply painful moment of crisis: God can use this, even this, to accomplish things we never dreamed He could. The same God who formed Brynleigh in her mother’s womb knew her before that. He already saw every moment of her life. He was there to personally welcome her into eternity on the day she went home. She has danced with the angels as I have proclaimed the goodness, love, and mercy of God around the world.

As I look back I see the way which God has used this story to encourage and challenge others. I’ve seen as life after life surrender to the grace of a God who can take a broken, grieving man, and help him experience life again. If God can bring me through the hell I’ve been through, you can make it through this with His help. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to think about what Brynleigh now knows and sees, I can’t begin to even imagine in my wildest dreams. She is more alive today than she has ever been.

Today I can publicly thank God for the wreck. I can thank God for the pain and suffering. I can thank God for the fact that two people I still love deeply are now in His presence. Although some days I want to be broken over all the firsts I’ll never get with my little girl but I must rejoice because of the firsts she now knows in the presence of Christ.

The title of this message is: Give Thanks to the Lord. Today, that’s what I’m doing. I am beyond blessed and have been throughout my life. So to Cassie and Brynleigh, you are desperately loved and we miss you often. We will honor your memories as we tell our stories because you are such a huge part of it. But today I give thanks to the Lord for second chances, new moments, new chapters of my story I never imagined would be wrote. Thank you God for allowing me to live, for sparing my son and I in the wreck, and allowing us to experience life again. Thank you God for my wife Amber, my daughters and my sons. I am truly blessed in ways I still don’t fully understand.

So this is where the message ends… but before you go, I have a question. What moment in your life from your past is robbing you of your future? What pain, shame, regret, betrayal, or hurt is keeping you from experiencing the freedom Jesus came to give us? (John 8:36) Today its time to forgive and experience the tremendous grace and freedom that Jesus came to give us. It may seem impossible now, but if you are willing to open your heart up… you might end up thanking God just like I did for the tragedy, pain and suffering because He can redeem, restore, and rebuild.

The Secret Pandemic

While we are all so focused on the COVID-19 pandemic that is changing the world as we know it, there is a much more deadly pandemic that is lurking beneath the surface. At first glance even that statement may seem alarmist but my prayer is that each of us would carefully consider the truths I want to unpack here. 

A pandemic is defined as something that is prevalent over a whole country or the world. Normally a pandemic refers to a sickness or disease that is wreaking death, destruction and despair among people. The secret pandemic that I’m talking today is just as real as COVID-19 and the affects are destroying far more than this sickness ever can or will.

As we’ve watched over the past year, the coronavirus has touched every part of the world. Country after country has struggled to contain the sickness and care for its people. Millions of precious men, women, and children have been impacted by this terrible sickness. COVID-19 has forever changed the landscape of business, the world economy, how churches meet, and every part of society. This disease continues to cause panic, fear, and despair for countless people.

I can imagine your suspicion as I speak about this “secret pandemic” but just like COVID-19, it has permanently, almost irreparably, damaged and destroyed. The secret pandemic is really no secret at all, it’s sin. Sin in its most basic form is anything opposed to the perfect will of God. Sin, originally introduced into humanity in the Garden of Eden, is a deadly killer with a 100% mortality rate. In the very beginning of time the Creator of the Universe warned our ancient grand parents Adam and Eve: “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17 NIV)

Although sin is the root problem of all sickness, death, disease, pain, and suffering in the world, I want to address on sin specifically today: sexual immorality. Recently I’ve been reading Every Young Man’s Battle which has shook me to my core. As I’ve read this book it reads like a biography of my life and sex. Page after page I see the mistakes of my past, my failures, my sin, the bondage that has help me captive for decades exploding off the pages. Simply put, this book has shown me that the secret pandemic is far more deadly than anything else we will ever see.

If you pause for a moment and honestly consider it, sexual immorality has driven more destruction among the world throughout history than just about any other sin. Maybe only pride and idolatry have had a more destructive consequence (although sexual immorality is often an outworking of pride and idolatry). Can I ask you an honest question? Have you ever really read and understood what the Bible has to say about sex?

Often sex is a taboo subject that is off limits in the church. We ignore it and hope that our kids and families will somehow learn the right way… but they don’t. So porn, sex before and outside of marriage, unnatural relationships, all the immorality the world has to offer takes the place of right Biblical teaching. The problem is that this secret pandemic isn’t simply killing lives (people are physically dying from the impacts of sexual immorality), it is destroying marriages, families, businesses, ministries, and lives.

Paul writes: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3 NIV) If I’m being honest… even over the past 9 years as a follower of Jesus, there has almost always been at least a “hint” of sexual immorality in my life. I’ve struggled with porn, lustful thoughts, adulterous thoughts, and selfish fake intimacy in ways that shock me now. 

Can you guess who taught me about sex? Truth be told… I don’t really know either. No one? Maybe multiple people who were never taught themselves? It certainly was not my mom or dad or any other trustworthy person. Once a dear friend told me: you can teach your kids about sex, or the world can. For most of us (I’d dare say the super majority) the world and society taught us about sex. The problem… they taught us wrong.

Again we find in Scripture a reminder: It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 NIV). If I’m being honest… for the majority of my life I have not avoided sexual immorality, I’ve relied on it to be a place of comfort and consistency in my life. Like the most powerful seductress, it pulled me deeper and deeper into the darkness. It is only by the grace of Jesus that I have escaped the dungeon sexual immorality built in my life. It doesn’t have to be this way… if you know about the secret pandemic you can begin to fight against it.

The plain truth is that so many of us (even devoted followers of Jesus) are blissfully ignorant of how this secret pandemic of sin and sexual immorality is destroying the lives of those we love around us. Wives have no clue their husbands have a secret sin that imprisons them. Parents have no clue that their children are struggling to understand sex through the lens of a corrupt world where they have more access than ever to sex. Churches are fully unaware that leaders, pastors, deacons, and elders are held in bondage to this sin. It is destroying the power, intimacy, and testimony of the body of Christ. It has become an idol (something more important than God) in the lives of countless followers of Jesus.

So… now you know. You’ve made it this far so chances are you are personally struggling or know someone who is with this pandemic. It is robbing countless men and women of the future God created them to know. Many are stuck deep in the darkness being robbed of the freedom Jesus came to give them (John 8:36). Jesus is calling us to an abundant life (John 10:10) of freedom, holiness, peace, and relationship but this secret sin will prevent us from knowing the depth of that relationship. 

Just a few thoughts and words of encouragement:

  • Are you struggling with sexual immorality in your life (even just a “hint”)? Its time to step into the freedom Jesus died to give you (John 8:36)
  • Have you taught your children about sex? If not… the world is going to. They need to hear from God’s Word concerning sex, they are depending on you.
  • Are you creating a place of freedom where you spouse, children, and brothers and sisters in Jesus can confess this struggle so you can stand with them against it?
  • Jesus will finish the good work He started in you (Philippians 1:6)
  • You don’t have to kill this sin alone, Jesus will give you strength to do it. But its time for you to crucify these desires and leave them on the cross (Galatians 5:24-25)

Today I want to remind each of you that there is grace and mercy at the cross. Through our faith in Jesus we can know freedom and forgiveness. It is not God’s desire for us to continue struggling in the darkness. Its time for the church to rise up, confess this destructive pandemic, and face it in God’s grace. Remember: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

Word Warfare

The events of the past 24 hours have brought a childhood struggle back to the front of my mind. Some (if not most) of you who read this message have experienced the pain of insults, bullying, and unkind words. When I was young one thing I was taught to try to help deal with the pain of insults was: “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Although well intentioned, the statement is incredibly flawed and really an outright lie.

This message is perhaps the first of a few that will focus on the power of words. The Scripture teaches us: The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). The Scripture does such a great job talking about the power of words, why then have we failed so miserably in the church to understand the true power of words? As suicide rates among children has skyrocketed, bullying has become a constant topic among educators and parents alike. So often the most cruel bullying has nothing to do with physical harm but with the power of words.

As I’ve struggled with my own children and the bullying they experience in the world, the echoes of the pain from my own childhood call out to me. Words can do more to change our own perception about who we are than almost anything else. As my child sat and cried begging me not to go back to school, I could feel his pain and heartache. To be honest, the emotions I feel even thinking about his hurt scream into the depths of my heart. He is screaming out like I once did, like maybe you or someone you love right now are: help.

Last night as I tried to comfort my son, I realized how distracted I have been lately. It seemed as if his pain and hurt finally broke him inside and once the walls of his emotions cracked, everything came flooding down. How did I miss this? What have I been doing? How is it that such deep desperation in his eyes has fell on my deaf ears? I relentlessly pray for my children, how has he found himself here? How did I fail to protect him?

From his mouth a mixture of deep hurts, emotions, and chemical responses he doesn’t full understand came bursting forth. For a moment I was transported back decades and I was him. The pain and loneliness of childhood had driven me to despair. As the Lord helped me patiently listen to my son, I realized what each of you should right now: only God can truly protect those we love the most. Yet, and this is a big but, each of us should make time for those we love most to hear them.

Last night as my son confessed his hurt he also shared the thought that I didn’t care. Of course, that lie is straight from the pit of hell. I could not care more about the pains and hurts he faces. Paul tells us that as followers of Jesus we should: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV) The “burdens” Paul is talking about here isn’t the struggles of every day life. These burdens are the spiritual mountains that would crush us otherwise. Is it really possible to bare those burdens (even for those we love most) if we aren’t aware of them? 

Today if you’ve made it this far, my hope for each one of us is two fold. First, if you are hurting and have been struggling in a place where you’ve been destroyed by word warfare, please get don’t give up. Please seek out professional assistance to help you with the grief or pain your struggling in. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life, please call or text the Samaritan’s Purse helpline at (877) 870-4673. You can also visit their website at

Second, don’t assume those you love the most aren’t suffering the same fight my child is. Take the time to sit down and talk to them about what they are facing. Give them a safe place to confide in you. Don’t judge the hurt, dismiss it, or explain it away. Face the fire with them. The Law of Christ that Paul speaks about in Galatians 6:2 is the command by Jesus for every one of His followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)