Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Fire

Since getting that call on January 14, 2009 to serve God in ministry (I’ll share that testimony soon, it’s long), I feel like I can NOT explain to anyone what I am feeling. I am SOOO anxious to get going in ministry that often times I need to slow down and remember this journey is NOT on my time. I was trying to relay that feeling to my Coach and Lead Pastor, Jeff Maness, and he shared Jeremiah 20:9 with me. It says, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” That is EXACTLY how I feel. I love that God has given us the perfect Book for EVERYTHING!

I am reading Acts and Proverbs during my devotion time and I guess I’ve never really read Acts. Today I read chapters 4 & 5. Man, how AWESOME! I love how on fire Peter and John were. First the head priests call them into their main chambers and tell them to stop teaching about Jesus and they say, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than Him? We CANNOT stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” What boldness they approached those who opposed them with. They could NOT stop telling people. They were constantly asking God to give them boldness in preaching his word. Even after being arrested and flogged, they “left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41)

As much as I am on fire for God and can’t contain it, I know there are times (more than I’d like to admit) that I do not approach sharing God with that kind of boldness. I know there are times and opportunities that God puts in front of me to share his name and I stumble. Not because I don’t recognize it, but because I stop to think about what the person might say or think. I think too often we pretend to not pick up on those opportunities. We ignore them and act like God himself didn’t put it there and we go about our business without a second thought. Then we wonder what the world has come to. Then we wonder why teens are pregnant and women continue to get abortions, why states are making gay marriage legal, why divorce is the accepted solution to “unhappy” marriages, and why people are fighting to get every hint of God taken out of our lives.

What would happen if we approached our world, country, state, city, our home with even a fraction of the boldness and rejoicing of suffering for God that the early disciples did? As a guy that’s just starting in the ministry and hopes someday to be a pastor (if that’s what God holds for me), I can relate to John and Peter on some levels. They had followed Jesus for 3 years and learned a lot. After Jesus commissioned them and ascended, they were new “pastors”. Actually they were the first “pastors” of the new church, but the point is they were pretty new to it. I’m sure there were times they had no idea how the people they were preaching to would react. Would they stone us, run us out of town or fall on their faces in reverence? They had NO idea, but none of that mattered. All that mattered was that they shared Jesus with as many as they could and they did that. And they did it boldly. I never want to lose the fire and I pray every day for God to stoke that fire so that it burns hotter and brighter for Him every day.

What could happen if we had just a portion of that boldness? What would change? What could He do?


On Fire for Christ,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I Could Resist No Longer

THEY GOT ME!!! I know all my previous blogs have been super serious and deep (maybe deep - Deep as a kiddie pool?) But this one is just an FYI thing. With everything in the world that we let consume our lives (e-mail, myspace, blogs, work, texting, etc.) it's a wonder we don't short circuit. Well, some of us do, but that's another blog. It's not like we need to add stuff to our already cram packed life. We should do everything we can to dump some off. I have tried to resist the invitations, nudges and suggestions to join Face Book. I did NOT need another online zombie inducer in my life. But I finally cracked...I got sucked into the Face Book vortex. So now I'm on and I am shocked at how many people actually have Face Book accounts. So I'm on it and I think that it's probably a great avenue to reaching the world for Christ. (You didn't think I'd leave a blog without mentioning our Lord Jesus, did you? I thought not.)

Another Face Book in the crowd,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quit Picking on Me!

This is going to be a short one…yeah right, we'll see.

I just need to get this whole being attacked by the Enemy thing out in the open. Since I have "gone public" with my God ordained passion for ministry, he has really been slamming me and my boys. Every time I turn around he takes another sucker punch. I have to say that with all the recent difficult times it is easy to feel like I have failed or that I'm not worthy to accept this calling God has placed in my heart. But it is times like these that the only way to prevail is to remember that it is not a failure and the Enemy WANTS you to feel unworthy. The truth is, God calls us to follow him, in the midst of our failures and sin, not because we are worthy, but because He loves us and He sees what we CAN be, not what we were or are. A great pastor I know (hint: Jeff Maness) said "Run to God even after you fail." That is so important to understand. We are human, we WILL stumble. But it is SO important to run to him at those times. It's like a little child that runs to their parent after falling and scraping their knee. God will provide comfort, reassurance and strength, if only we'll run to him. It is also important to remember we are not in a battle against flesh and blood, we are fighting "…against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." So it is also important that in times like these we put on the whole armor of God (It's a little long and I said I'd keep it short, so you can find it in Ephesians 6:14 – 17). The Enemy will not win (I don't want to spoil the end of the Bible, but if you don't believe me read Revelations – the devil loses). I love this next verse and it is perfect for dealing with the Enemy when he mounts an assault. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." Romans 16:20. Did you get that? God is going to crush Satan under OUR feet. The enemy doesn't stand a chance.

Running to God,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I Forget to be Angry

Let me preface this by saying that none of this blog is intended to be an excuse for why I got angry or how I handled the situation. I am fully aware of the way that I should have handled the situation and I truly felt horrible about it. To put minds at ease, me and Andrew (my youngest son), sat and talked about it, we cried, hugged and are better for it.
So here is how it went down…

Dana (my wife, soon to be my ex-wife) moved back to Alaska about three weeks ago. That move has been very difficult for all of us (Me and the boys), but has been especially hard on Andrew. Unfortunately, Andrew is not ready to tell Dana just how angry he is. A lot of that has to do with his fear that making her mad at him will only serve to have her cut off contact with him completely. Instead, Andrew often misdirects his anger toward people around him. Often times the main focuses of that anger are James (his brother) and me. He doesn’t mean it, but he doesn’t know how to deal with it (we are working on that restlessly). The last 1 or 2 weeks has been especially trying for all of us (St. V day doesn’t help – it’s a silly holiday anyway…we should show our love all the time).

So recently, Andrew has done a lot to push my buttons and I have done very well (I think) in being calm and understanding. My main focus is trying to provide a safe, secure, reassuring and comforting home life, though that seems like an insurmountable task sometimes. One of his big button pushers is arguing and raising his voice to me (very disrespectful and not often received well on my part). So yesterday, we were in the car and we were almost home. Let me just say, this car ride was the culmination to an already rough day. Up to that point, the boys (being that they are brothers and often act as such) had been under each other’s skin for almost the entire day. I was looking forward to getting home and doing some cleaning and reading (I know, I live a super exciting life now a days, but I enjoys it), and I simply made the comment about wanting to shovel a neighbor’s driveway (Jennifer Lewis, her husband Aaron is currently deployed to Iraq – please keep him and his family in prayer) next time it snowed. Somehow that simple comment turned into a full blown argument, complete with Andrew yelling and being very disrespectful in his tone and what he said. Initially I was pretty calm. I tried diffusing the situation multiple times, by telling Andrew that we needed to drop it and encouraging him to think about what he was saying and how he was saying it. But he just wouldn’t stop; it was like he was on a mission to seek and destroy my patience and he was certainly locked on target.

The argument continued for about 10 minutes and then…direct hit! I exploded in yelling. I got to the point where the only solution to his disrespect and the volume of his voice was to just be louder than him. I proceeded on a 2 minute tirade of how tired I was of his disrespect and attitude. The “attitude” continued into the house, in the form of stomping up the stairs on the way to his room. I was in NO mood for shenanigans. I ran up the stairs (I think I actually touched, like 2 of the 20 stairs), burst into his room and issued a very surprising swat on Andrew’s hind side. (Let me just say, I do not make it a habit to spank my kids, not that I am against a good spanking from time to time, but they are at the age where it isn’t that effective anymore. I probably haven’t spanked them in 7 or 8 months, but it definitely got his attention.) Today was a special occasion and not special in a good way. I had reached my emotional threshold. After slamming his door, I went in my room and slammed my door. I sat down on the floor by my bed and broke. Not broke down, just broke. I couldn’t do anything but cry. I was able to calm down and eventually Andrew and I sat and talked. Things are all better, but we all (James included) have a lot of hurt and anger that still needs to be dealt with and we are.

So here is what I realized. Here is why I titled this blog, “I Forget to be Mad”. Yesterday, I slept in and didn’t spend the first part of my day with God. Jeff had previously told me, “Now that you’re expressing this [my desire and call to ministry], the enemy wants to destroy it. DON’T LET HIM!” I have been praying everyday for strength and protection from the enemy, but yesterday I didn’t start my day by doing that. I didn’t read my Bible, I didn’t talk with God, and I didn’t allow God to talk with me. Because of that, my family suffered a hurtful and difficult situation. That is not to say that just because you pray and read your bible that everything will be peachy keen or that our argument wouldn’t have happened. But what I can guarantee is that the argument would not have taken the left turn that it did. The way I see it, and have seen it happen, is that the time you give to God at the first part of your day serves to put you in the right spiritual frame of mind. It is time that allows God to work on you. He is able to re-install his peace in you. He is able to reboot your spiritual operating system and allow you to refocus on him. That time spent is crucial to how the rest of your day will go. It provides focus and reminds you to stay in touch with God throughout your day. If you dedicate that time, you can’t help but deal with things the way God wants you to, the way you know you ought to. For me, it helps me to forget to be angry. During this period in my life, I have so much to be angry at; but that time is vital in reminding me of all the things that I can rejoice in. I have been so blessed that to overlook that would be like me being loud and disrespectful to God. Sometimes I am. The difference is, God doesn’t often use a huge booming voice to be louder than us, just to get our attention. He will usually let us go about our business, like WE know what’s best, all the while, calling us back to him with a simple whisper. We just have to be quite, forget to be angry and accept the peace he so freely offers. I hope that I always forget to be angry.

Trying to follow him every day,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My First Time

I just wanted to share something that I have never done, that I finally got to do today. I had seen people do it, I have heard of people doing it, but I was never bold enough to do it my self. What is it you ask? I finally, for the first time in my life, got to tell someone about my church and invite them to come on Sunday. I was so psyched!!
Last Thursday, Feb 6, I was eating lunch at Chili's with Jeff and our waiter asked if we were with a church (he over heard our conversation and it sparked his interest - isn't that cool in it's self? We weren't even trying to witness to him, just enjoying our talk, and God opened his ears and he asked us, but I digress), Jeff said yes and gave him an invitation card. All I told him was that he'd love it. So I got to see Jeff invite someone. Then on Sunday (first day of a new series none the less - Chasing the Wild Goose), our server, Maurice, showed up for second service. Totally AWESOME!!! Didn't think much about it for the rest of the week. Then on Wednesday, I was dropping off my oldest son, James, at the church for Youth Service and the thought popped in my head, "I need some invitation cards to carry with me". So I went in and grabbed like six. That night I put a couple in my money clip (yeah I carry a money clip - not much of a wallet guy anymore) so I'd always have some.
Today, I went to Wal-Mart (or the Wall) and I was wearing my Element Church Hoodie. While I was checking out (self check-out, almost the only way to go) the guy behind me asked, "Where is this Element Church?" I asked, "Do you know where Carlson St. is off of Yellowstone or Powderhouse?" He said he did, so I gave him directions, then thought -- wait a second, I have invitation cards. So I took one out and gave it to him. He said he and his wife had been looking for a new church recently and had not found one, then asked if he could keep the card. I told him absolutely and told him how great of a church it is and that we'd love to have him visit. He said, "Thanks a lot". Then I told him, no problem and I looked forward to seeing him there.
So I got to share my church with someone. It felt just so cool. I really hope he and his family come. I'll definitely be praying that he does.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Forgiveness: It’s Not Just for Them.

Recently I have had a huge life change. Let’s just say that after 13 years of marriage, the single life seems quite daunting. To clarify, the idea for divorce was not mine and it came virtually out of nowhere. Both my sons and I were equally confused about my wife’s sudden and abrupt departure. But out of the devastation, God revealed so many wonderful and new directions.
I think the most important is the relationship that developed between my boys and I. We have such a better understanding of each other. We spend more time together, talk more, and just the way we deal with each other is different in ways I can’t explain. Also, God has called me into ministry. It’s something that he’s been saying for years, but I always ignored. Since my wife left, I’ve heard him loud and clear. In fact it is so loud that he is really moving me to leave the military at 17 years (three years short of a retirement check) to go into full time ministry. Sounds crazy I know, but that’s another blog. The other direction he has moved me toward is the way I look at and deal with…well everything! From anger, to helping others, my language, the way I think, what makes me happy and how I handle and offer forgiveness.
Jeff (my church’s lead pastor) did a sermon series on exposing the real issues surrounding Christmas (awesome series called “Dirty Santa”, you can find it at Element Podcasts ). One of the sermons had to do with how to handle forgiveness when a family member hurts you. At the point of that sermon, my wife had only been gone 3 ½ months. Her leaving was too new for me to even be thinking about forgiveness. Both of my sons and I were still very hurt and very angry (we still are but its different now). But as always I tried to keep an open mind and heart to what Jeff was about to say.
He started out by explaining that the hurt and anger caused by a family member’s betrayal can very easily turn to hate and bitterness and poison our souls. Basically, if left to fester, hurt and anger turns into hate and bitterness and seethes inside us until it destroys us and those close to us. The only way to prevent this destruction is through forgiveness. The basic idea was sound and really didn’t sound different from what I kind of already knew. Then Jeff talked about three things you needed to do to get past that hurt (involving forgiveness). The first was to make the decision to forgive that person. He said it is not enough to just be “cordial” or “nice”. It needs to be more than that. It needs to be a real and conscious decision to forgive. Second, you have to act on that decision. Just deciding to forgive them isn’t enough; you have to tell that person. Even if they don’t care, or accept it, or even if they respond with anger you have to tell them. Ultimately you are not forgiving them for them. You are forgiving them for you. That person may NEVER accept your forgiveness, but the fact that you offered it and freely gave it, releases you form the bond of that anger and eventual hate. Again, the destructive power of unforgiveness is to devastating to not offer it. The third thing really made me angry. Jeff said to treat them undeservedly. Literally, treat that person in a way that they don’t deserve to be treated. In the case of my wife, with the way she ran out and the hate and meanness she displayed toward me, she definitely deserved to be treated with nothing less than anger. But Jeff stood in the pulpit and said I had to be nice to her and not just be nice to her, do nice things for her. I was angry to the point that I almost turned him off. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t Jeff Maness’ instructions, it was God’s. So I walked out of church that day determined to forgive her.
I didn’t know how, but I figured I’d start small. I changed the way I spoke to her. I bought her a gift card for a grocery store (I knew she was struggling financially) and I even brought the kids to see her when she had her truck taken by the bank. Through all that I figured out how forgiveness is supposed to really work. I think there are two different types of forgiveness inside us. There is the rational brain level forgiveness and the emotional heart level forgiveness. It is so much easier to convince the brain that it is important and time to forgive. In our consciousness we know it is the right and healthy thing to do. But our heart takes a bit more coaxing. Dependant on the depth of the wound, if you wait for your heart to be ready to forgive you may never get there. That is why I think it is important to move forward with the actual act of forgiveness without the heart being on board.
I really believe, much like real true love, forgiveness is an action more than a feeling. If you make the decision to forgive and do the things that show that you are forgiving, then eventually you will start to feel like you are forgiving. There is a tremendous amount of peace that comes with doing the right thing. Eventually your heart forgiveness will sense what the brain forgiveness is doing and will feel the disconnect. To me it kind of seemed like the heart felt like it was left behind and wanted to be on the same level as the brain, so it was forced to catch up. I think a lot of it is actually the whole “do something for a certain amount of time and it becomes a habit” thing. If forgiveness is more of an action, then doing the act of forgiveness over a certain amount of time forces it to become a habit. Once it is a habit, it becomes a normal part of who we are.
It’s only been 5 months since my wife left us, but I feel like I am so much farther than I should be in the healing process. At least farther than I thought I would be. But just over that last month and a half of treating her undeservedly, making the conscious decision to forgive her and telling her I did, I have a peace that I didn’t think possible. The grace of God is an amazing and unexplainable phenomenon. Truly without that grace and mercy, forgiveness for anyone wouldn’t be possible. But through His great example of forgiveness, we can learn how we are supposed to forgive. After all, without the action of giving up His son for sacrifice, forgiveness wouldn’t be there.

Monday, February 9, 2009

It's Just that Simple

Today my son, Andrew, took a huge step in his walk with the Lord. Andrew was water baptized at Calvary Chapel in Cheyenne, WY. He had been asking me about being baptized for probably the last year or so. He really didn’t understand it, so we never really gave it much thought or consideration. A couple weeks ago, it was announced at our church, Element Church, that they would be having another water baptism on 8 Feb 09.
As soon as we left church Andrew was on it. He asked if he could be baptized. We sat and talked about it, so that I was sure he knew why he was doing it and what it meant. He told me that he knew it was to show people that you have accepted and follow Jesus as your savior. We talked about how it is a public confession of your faith and that it symbolizes, dying to your old self and being buried, then being raised up as your new self, just as Jesus died and was raised. That conversation only served to get him more excited about the idea. So on Thursday, I spoke with Jeff (our churches lead pastor, but also one of my mentors, coaches and one of the few men I look up to and respect very much), and he said he would be glad to as long as Andrew understood the importance of that very significant act. He did, so Jeff said he would. Andrew had been waiting all week for me to talk with Jeff, so when I told him his name was on the list, he replied “YES” and did one of those closed fist, arm pump moves that usually accompanies those type of “yes”.
Finally the day came. On February 8, 2009 at about 4:20pm, Andrew made his public confession of his decision to follow our Lord, Jesus Christ. I cannot, as much as I’ve tried, for life of me put into words just how proud he made me and the awe that I felt by that simple act. I’ve always known just how important water baptism was, but I never understood it the way I did today. Part of that may be because of the spiritual growth spurt I’ve recently went through. There is NO doubt in my mind, I have a deeper and more intimate relationship and understanding of our God then I’ve ever had in my entire life. But I think the fact that it was my boy that made that decision made me understand it different. I think too often we, as adults, try too hard to make everything more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe we feel the more complicated the more grown up it is, because then it’s an adult thing and only we can understand it. But the fact is that so many things in life are simple. Andrew didn’t need to have some philosophical or theological discussion about water baptism for him to know he wanted to do it. All he needed to know was that Jesus did it and it’s just one of the ways we can be like him. That’s it. It’s that simple.
It sheds a new light on what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3. He said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Obviously he did not mean to act like children, but to think in simple ways as children do. I think with that verse and seeing the simplicity in my son's act helped me realize the secret to how you achieve a deep and intimate relationship with God. The relationship that I always saw others had and that I so badly longed for.
So I figure I’ll share it with you… Are you ready? Brace yourself… Here goes. The first thing you need to do is, TALK TO HIM EVERYDAY, by PRAYING. The second is, LET HIM TALK TO YOU AND LISTEN, by READING THE BIBLE EVERYDAY! Praying and reading the bible everyday!!!! It’s that simple. What a concept, who would’ve thought. Those two little actions set the foundation for everything else. Reading the Bible provides God's direction for you. It also provides His comfort and reassurance that he loves you. It provides the blue prints to build a fulfilling and God pleasing life. The Bible provides the truth you NEED to hear (not always what you want to hear) and the knowledge on how to apply and share that truth. Earnest and consistent prayer provides the platform to build faith and trust in God. It gives you an avenue to lament when things go wrong and rejoice when you are blessed. Prayer also changes the way you think and the way you handle every situation.
I know if you follow those two steps, the results will be immediate and amazing. I know from personal experience. The trick is you can't just read it like any other book, you have to seek God's face. You have to really get into the word and ask God to show you what he wants you to know. When I started, it was like God had been waiting to talk to me all these years and he had a lot to say. On that Sunday I first started praying and reading, I was amazed and blessed immediately…I still am everyday and I’ll NEVER go back!