Certainty During Uncertain Times

In the midst of uncertainty due to current events, we have an opportunity to live what we believe and to also find out how true our beliefs are. Jesus told us that our outward actions are a reflection of what is going on inwardly, such as how can we be kind to our neighbors if we are unkind to ourselves? During uncertain times, we owe it to others to be kind to ourselves by pursuing the One who is certain. What do we actually believe and are we certain about the One who is all truth, knowledge, and life?

I don’t find it helpful to provide a list of cliche sayings that bring  about or create a religious fog or veil over our hearts. What I do find helpful though, is to ask questions.

Times of uncertainty can be an opportunity for a massive rescue. Times such as these provide open doors of self-discovery about what we really believe that are rarely open due to the pace of life we live in these days. That pace has now slowed to a near standstill. We have nothing but time it seems. What a gift, to have our time given back to us, to slow down and dwell with the One called Faithful and True: “Then I saw heaven opened, and suddenly a white horse appeared. The name of the one riding it was Faithful and True, and with pure righteousness he judges and rides into battle.” Revelation 19:11 TPT. 

So ask yourself, what do you believe about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?

Let’s start with God the Father: What do you believe about God’s heart? Do you believe his heart is loving, wise, faithful, good, just, merciful, gracious, holy, glorious, unchanging, infinite? Do believe he is a loving father who always wants the best for his children? Do you believe that God the Father is actively working to protect you, his child? Do you believe he knows what you need and will provide what you need during good times and hard times? Do you know you can ask him for help? Do you know his true heart toward you? Do you believe he wants to speak with you and to you? Do you believe that right now, in this very moment, he wants to spend time with you, just you and that he’s never too busy to do so? Do you believe God the Father calls you his son in the same way he calls Jesus his son? Do you believe he loves you as much as he loves Jesus? Do you believe his heart is filled with unending love and compassion for you? Do you believe he is true and good all the time? Do you believe and know that he has never and will never stop pursuing your heart and calling your heart toward his? If you answered yes to any of these questions, think about why you have. Where has God the Father shown up for you in your life?

If you answered no to any of these questions, ask why and talk with God the Father about what it is that is hindering your relationship of belief in that part of your heart. There may be hurt, or a lie you have believed that someone levied on you or the Enemy planted in your heart a long time ago. Ask God the Father to reveal to you what it is you believe about him. I promise, he won’t disappoint you. If you want to know, just ask, he’s waiting.

What about Jesus: Do you believe that if you were the only person on this earth who needed to be saved, just you, that he still would have and did go to the cross for you? Do you believe Jesus is who he said he is, the Son of God and the Son of Man, The Messiah? Do you believe what Jesus said about himself? Of all the prophecies Jesus could have picked to describe himself and why he came, he chose Isaiah 61 to describe himself and his mission: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” Do you believe Jesus came to set your heart free, not to change you, but to set you free to become who he made you to be? Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sin, rose from the dead on the third day and conquered all death, is now seated on his throne of glory in heaven, and someday will return to restore the earth and bring victory once and for all over the Evil One? Do you believe eternal life is the promise he came for and offers now, to you? Do you believe Jesus still speaks and does the will of his Father today actively in our lives and in the lives of those he calls to follow him? Do you believe Jesus granted his authority to us to do what he did, to proclaim healing and life to the world? Do you believe the Kingdom of Heaven is available to his followers, whom he granted his authority and power in his name, that his Kingdom and his name has the power to overcome all sickness, disease, death, hate, despair and to restore, breathe life into, resurrect relationships, rescue, and renew humanity? Do you believe Jesus wants more than anything to walk with you, to offer you his life, his kindness, his fierce love for you, his wisdom, his friendship, freedom, healing, and for you to live and walk with him now and on the restored earth to come? Do you believe Jesus speaks today and wants to talk with you and listen to you about your day, your life, your hopes, your dreams, your desires, your pain, your purpose, your heart, and your fears? Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good-a sheep rustler! 2 The shepherd walks right up to the gate. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. 6 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. 7 So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. 8 All those others are up to no good-sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for-will freely go in and out, and find pasture. 10 A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of…14 “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. 15 In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. 16 You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.” John 10:1-10, 14-18, MSG. If you answered yes to any of these questions, think about why you have. Where has Jesus shown up for you in your life?

If you answered no to any of these questions, ask why and talk with him about what it is that is hindering your relationship of belief in that part of your heart. There may be hurt, or a lie you have believed, that someone levied on you or the Enemy planted in your heart a long time ago. Ask Jesus to reveal to you what it is you believe about him. I promise, he won’t disappoint you. If you want to know, just ask, he’s waiting.

The Holy Spirit: Do you believe the Holy Spirit is active today and working and helping as Jesus said he would? Acts Chapter 1Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. 3 After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. 4 As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. 5 John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon. 6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”7 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. 8 What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world”

Acts Chapter 2 “When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force-no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. 3 Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, 4 and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them. 5 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. 6 When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. 7 They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? 8 How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues? 9 Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; Visitors from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene; 11 both Jews and proselytes; Even Cretans and Arabs! “They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.” 14 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. 15 These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk-it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen: 17 “In the Last Days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. 18 When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy. 19 I’ll set wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, Blood and fire and billowing smoke, 20 the sun turning black and the moon blood-red, Before the Day of the Lord arrives, the Day tremendous and marvelous; 21 And whoever calls out for help to me, God, will be saved.” Acts 1:1-8, Acts 2:1-21. 

Do you believe the Holy Spirit’s power is available to those who are in Christ and that we can and will do things greater than Jesus, as he said? Do you believe we can still heal and cast out evil by the power of the name of Jesus through the power given to us through the Holy Spirit? Do you believe the Holy Spirit is your comforter, guide, and dwells in you? Do you believe the Holy Spirit wants to have the same relationship with you that God the Father and Jesus do? Do you believe your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit at all? If you answered yes to any of these questions, think about why you have. Where has the Holy Spirit  shown up for you in your life?

If you answered no to any of these questions, ask why and talk with him about what it is that is hindering your relationship of belief in that part of your heart. There may be hurt, or a lie you have believed, that someone levied on you or the Enemy planted in your heart a long time ago. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what it is you believe about him. I promise, he won’t disappoint you. If you want to know, just ask, he’s waiting.

In uncertain times, we can ask, talk, and walk with the One who is certain, Faithful and True. Take this opportunity of the gift of time we have been given to ask yourself what do you believe?! For one thing is certain, our time here is short, you have an important role to play in the grand story, and what you believe will determine where you are headed. May you discover what you believe and may it help you be certain about the One who is  always certain in uncertain times.

 

Challenge to Desire

Over the past 10 weeks I have been in a study on the book The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge. It has brought about laughter, tears of joy and of pain. And it has been one the most important things I have ever done.

As we have gone through this study, I am reminded of men who told me they no longer dreamed, at all. It has weighed upon my heart and I knew then I was not intentional in trying to help them, because I did not understand how someone could ever be in that situation. I now understand…

If you dream and have desires, that is a God given thing. There is nothing wrong with them.

Some men have been kicked and beaten down the point they don’t want the pain of failure or rejection, and do not dream anymore. Trying to numb your heart and reject dreams and desires will close you down and it will be tough to hear God when he is talking to you.

I want to make a challenge to you: For at least five minutes, write down your desires with the premise there are no limitations and no fear. What would you want to do; here on earth, or more importantly, in Heaven?

If you have been in car going 120mph and like speed, would you like to ride a slow comet going 26 miles a second (1560 mph)? Jumping on a humpback whale while he is sounding? Fish again with your Grandfather?

After you have made your list, really take a look at it and see if you got everything you want to try, again without any fear. Add to it whenever you come up with a new desire.

After this challenge, think about what it felt like to re-engage with desire and to dream about “when” not “if”. It does the heart and mind good, brings energy back into your life.

 One other challenge I would ask of you: Pass the challenge on to friends or family, specially to those that may have started closing off. At this time in our lives, it is tough to stay positive with all that is going on.

Lean into God, and bring others with you…

 

I pray blessings on each of you….Warren

Knowing

Over the past 8 months or so, I have had two continuous fears of dying.

First; when I die, will I really be allowed into heaven? All the things I have done and not done… I have worried that God would say, “You just did not do enough of the right things to enter into Heaven, Warren.

My heart’s desire to get to Heaven was clouded by my mind knowing that we live in a performance-based world.  Work, many relationships, and life in general require accomplishments. And the bar keeps rising just to meet average. Many churches I attended over the years talked about all I had to do through service to be a worthy Christian. Hard to break that teaching and training.

Jesus provided us Grace to get to Heaven when He went to the cross. Knowing with my mind now, I no longer dwell on if I am getting to Heaven, but think about what I am going to do when I get there.

My second fear of dying is not being here for my bride. Janet and I have been married just over 24 years and friends a lot longer. I have been able to provide for and take care of her through a number of illnesses and a lot of surgeries.

As I listened to my favorite song this morning, God told me to let Him have Janet. He reminded me He had her long before I came into her life, and He would take care of her until she goes home to Heaven. He also reminded me that He has had me all along too; through all the battles I have fought and those I am still fighting. He told me that all my prayers count and nothing is too big for Him.

Keep the door open” were His words.

I wanted to share this, in case anyone ever had doubts.

Until next time….Warren

Never Take Your Armor Off

Two mornings ago, I walked down into my basement and found one of our cats we had rescued 13 years ago had passed away, just laying on the floor where she liked to sleep.

After waking my wife and comforting each other, I got Cash ready to go to the vet.  Janet asked me how I could keep going, with every thing that had happened this year.  I quickly stated “I never take off my armor”.  I realized that it was true, that I am always prepared for the next battle; the next attack to steal my joy or physical pain to take my focus off what is most important.

Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the Armor of God and stand against evils, when they come. Nowhere in the bible does it tell us to drop our weapons, to give up the fight.  We are to be warriors of the Trinity.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

2019 has been a tough year for a lot of people I know, including the E6 team.  We have experienced the death of family members, cancer and other health concerns – and a brutal onslaught of pain and trials to the heart.  The volume of requests and need for prayer by people this year has surpassed anything we have seen since the team has been together.

So, I hope that you leave your armor on, especially if everything is going well.  The attacks can come at any time and you need to be ready to stand against evil.  God will tell us when to take our armor off.

I just read a short story where a son asked his father “Just how big are airplanes?”  The father pointed into the sky and said “There is one now.”  The boy said “They sure are small.”

The father then took his son to the airport so the boy could see a plane up close. “Dad, these planes are huge!”

The father then told his son, “It is much like we see God; if we have a close relationship with God, He is bigger than we can imagine.”

 

I pray that 2020 is a year with more peace and restoration for all of you.  I hope that you are able to make time to be with family and friends, to unplug from the things that steal your time and most importantly, focus on your relationship with Christ.

 

I hope each of you have a Blessed Christmas and New Year.

His Grace

Today would have been my mother’s 86th birthday. We had her memorial service last Saturday.

It was a celebration of her life here on earth and her restoration in Heaven. I was filled with sadness for losing her presence here but happy she was now with Jesus. I know she has been restored to that vibrant woman she had been; no more pain, sadness or tears.

 

To be honest, I have always had a fear of getting to the gates of Heaven and they tell me to go away; that I was not nice enough or did not do enough while alive. What a rough thought when you are looking forward to seeing relatives, friends and dogs who have passed on.

Just the other day I was flying in an airplane, looking out into the beautiful clouds and actually thought “what if this is as close as I ever get to God”. He immediately told me that He was inside me; always had been, always will be.

I heard him say “By my Grace you enter Heaven, no other way. Don’t confuse Me with people who have hurt you and caused you to distrust.”

By His Grace… Trust in Him.

What more needs to be said.

Relational Freedom

A month ago, our family went to Colorado Springs for our summer vacation. It was a wonderful time filled with laughter, awe at the beauty of God’s handiwork in the vast mountains and scenery, joy, adventure, moments of relational challenges coupled with moments of such deep love and appreciation for our family, blessing, and most precious were the memories we made together. It truly was a special time and one of those trips we wished would have never ended.

On the way driving out and back, I listened to a three part podcast series from Ransomed Heart titled Relational Freedom. Over the course of three hours of discussion, John Eldredge and Craig McConnell discuss the impact and challenges of the following idea, “The truest expression of our Godliness is how we love others.”  And the core question they asked was, “What kind of relationship do you offer to others?” 

Have you ever had someone impart wisdom to you and then ask such a penetrating question that you can literally feel your heart sink and then feel the physical weightiness of it land on your shoulders? That is exactly what happened to me.

So let me get this straight, the measure of my Christ-likeness is based on how I love others?! I don’t even know where to start to dissect this statement, but judging by the stirring of my soul, I knew I was being called into exploring this challenging truth more. What does relational freedom even look like? It appears at first glance that relational freedom only happens when I learn to love as Jesus did, so I can live freely from his love and offer relationship to others based on his love. Sounds simple, right? If it is that simple, why is it so hard for me to do then on a regular basis?

I have struggled immensely in my Christian journey understanding what love is, especially being able to receive love. I think for most of my life, I have had a very distorted view of love. My childhood story and most of my young adult life is one of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, and a lot of brokenness in the form of my own sin as a result of not dealing with the wounds of my childhood.

The good news is, I have been dealing with these wounds and my brokenness a lot over the last four years. I have received such profound healing and encounters with Jesus through the incredible ministry of Ransomed Heart, at E6 Boot Camps, E6 book studies, and through the deep relationships with my brothers at E6.

I have experienced love from Jesus and love from others many times over the course of my Christian life, which has helped me understand more what love looks like. But how have those glimpses of love translated into how I love others? And therein lies the challenge for me of honestly examining the measure of my Christ-likeness in the quality of what I offer to others relationally. The scariest question I could ask others is, “What is the impact of my relationship on you?” And then be willing to hear what they have to say.

The truth is, I have not loved well consistently over the course of my life and thus have not experienced very much relational freedom. I would say far too often, I have experienced and offered relational entrapment. I have mostly “loved” from the motive of receiving love, which is not love at all. Now, I would be contradicting myself as to what I just stated earlier if I did not reiterate that I have learned and grown in how I love others over the last four years. But to really be honest about my life by taking a look at the heart level, I have far to go and much to learn. I am excited though to learn more about what love is and how to love so I can offer and experience relational freedom more consistently.

One of the recommendations from the podcast was to read Dan Allender’s book Bold Love. A really cool thing happened when I invited my wife into this journey with me. We both listened to the Relational Freedom podcast and are reading Bold Love together. We have had some powerful discussions and are continuing in this journey of learning about love. I have discovered during my life that a journey of this magnitude is more rich in experience if I take it with someone I love than to do it alone! One of the most profound ideas we have learned so far is that love does come in different forms.

To learn what the various forms of love are, we have to explore the various ways Jesus loved. You have heard it said that love is a verb. Love is not a feeling, although you can feel love. Love is action based. Love, at its core, is the setting aside of one’s own needs and offering to meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return.

How then did Jesus love? For example, how did he love the Pharisees? One time he called them “Sons of hell, and that they were like whitewashed tombs, clean on the outside, but inside filled with dead man’s bones.” That doesn’t seem very loving on the surface, but sometimes love is telling the truth of the matter at hand, calling it like it is in the hope it will stir others to examine their motives. How did he love sinners? On one occasion, a prostitute barged into a dinner Jesus had been invited to by a prestigious and well known pharisee. Jesus rebuked the pharisee who was offended by the woman’s presence and offered the opportunity for this woman to weep and worship him as she kissed his feet and spread expensive perfume on him. Jesus demonstrated such an act of compassion toward this woman. Sometimes love is doing something that society would say was offensive, challenging the social morays of the time. On another occasion, the resurrected Jesus restores Peter by asking him three times if Peter loves him, giving Peter a chance to redeem his three denials of Jesus the night of Jesus’ arrest. Sometimes loving someone is forgiving them and inviting them back into relationship even though you were the one who the offense was committed against. These are just a few examples of how Jesus loved through his boldness, his honesty, his truthfulness, and his compassion.

One thing Jesus did well was love others, and because he knew how to love others, he offered and experienced relational freedom. Ultimately, the greatest example of his love was his passion and his death on the Cross for all mankind. The weight of this act of love on the cross alone should be enough to give us pause and reflect on how undeserving we are of love and yet be in awe of how unconditionally and radically he pursued us in love so that we could be in relationship with him. “No greater love exists than this, when a man lays down his life for his friend.”

What really hit me hard since starting this journey two weeks ago, was what the guest pastor asked during his sermon last night at our home church, “What is your hunger for the heart of God?” At the core of the heart of God is love. “God is love.” His question opened a door of conviction in my heart. Why was it so shocking to my heart when he asked that question? If the truest expression of my Christ-likeness is how I love others, then I probably should start with asking myself, “How do I love God?” As I weighed the magnitude of this question and examined my life, it occured to me that my ability to love others is tethered to and dependant upon my hunger for intimacy and connection with the Author of Life!  It was as if I had not heard this truth before! Ah, therein lies the soul level revelation for me. Do I really have relational freedom with God?

I think I have allowed, far too often, the things of life to block, interfere, divert and distort my heart, and draw me away from experiencing his love or pursuing relationship with him. I was reminded of what Jesus has to say about that, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all other things will be added to you.” At the core of the Kingdom of God is the heart of God and at the core of the heart of God is love. The question is then, what am I seeking after, what do I want? I can answer now that I have been awakened to start seeking what I want, which is relational freedom with God and with others!!

There is so much more to explore about love, how to love others well, and how to experience relational freedom, but I want to learn. I want to offer what Jesus offers. My hunger for his love is growing and I want all God has to reveal to me in this journey. So, I have decided to linger in my exploration of love and relational freedom for a season, as long as Jesus deems necessary. I am going to dive head first into the deep end. I suspect if I really allow my  heart to be aligned with and grafted into His heart then I will become more like Jesus and offer real relationship to others.

I will start first with a prayer so I can do what Jesus did:

Jesus I pray for you teach me how to love and how to have relational freedom. I pray you make the process uncomfortable for me. I pray you put people in my life that I have to learn how to love supernaturally, that only your love in me could make it possible for me to know how to love them. Father, show me how to love like you do. I pray Jesus I grow in my love for you. Holy Spirit, guide me in each situation. I surrender to your leadership and your power in my life. I ask you, Holy Spirit, to walk with me as I discover the Father’s love and how to love others as Jesus does. Help me to know, understand, offer, and experience relational freedom through your love!! In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!

 

 

 

God’s Goodness

I recently experienced a very trying time in my life. I prayed throughout the situation and trusted God to help me with it, which he did. Looking back on this time and I can now see how “what the enemy intended for evil, God used for good”. I know that God doesn’t cause the evil to happen, I also know that He uses the enemies plans and turns them on him for good in our lives. There are times I can look back and see how God used these situations, and there are times where I just don’t understand why things happened the way they did. Regardless, I choose to trust God with every detail of my life, whether I understand what is happening or not!

The Promise

As a warrior of the Trinity, we know that God is with us. Although we may fall in the fight against evil, we know and believe that God is victorious.

Even through hurt, we will continue to fight until we draw that last breath on this earth. Fighting the battle of the Lord is the worthiest mission we can hope to be a part of.

_______________________

…..I look down and I find myself on a dirt path in hilly country, with some trees off to each side of the road.

As I progress higher, there is a sword just lying in the path; old, well used, cracks in the blade, coated with a layer of dust. A little further up the path, a shield and mace are laying on the ground at the edge of the path. The shield dented and pitted from heavy use.

As the path continues up, I see whole suits of armor, even sandals, lying across the road as if someone had just stripped them off and laid them down. Some gear was covered in dust and other suits appeared to just have been placed there.

I hear swords striking each other and I see a warrior of the Trinity battling evil from all sides.  I rush to help and we push back the offenders into the shadows.  I turn around to see the warrior fall from a mortal wound.  It is only when I get a look, do I realize the warrior is a woman.  And in an instant, her body fades away and all that remains is her armor and a sword.

Continuing my walk up the road, I see more weapons and armor strewn about the area, as if a large battle had taken place right here.  Rounding another corner on the path, I see large mounds, 6 feet high and 10 feet deep, of weapons, armor, shields and helmets neatly stacked some 100 feet off the path.  As I look forward, the piles extend forward as far as I can see.

I walked what seemed to be hours and made what was to be my last turn in the path, and about a quarter of a mile ahead was the gate of Heaven.  I noticed the armor lined the path all the way to the wall holding Heaven’s Gate.

As I neared the Gate, I could see warriors; men and women, old and young, in different states of dress.  Some taking off their armor, some without it as they just appear at the Gate.  Those taking off armor were stacking it to the side of the path.

As I continued to walk closer, I could see children and adults of all ages also appearing before the Gate.  Everyone, warriors or not, appeared to have afflictions; scars, broken limbs, some bent over and limping and many crying.  Then I witnessed each one walk through the Gate.  I sped up, walking faster, to try to learn what was actually happening. Just as I approached the line of people, I was stopped by a guardian of the Gate to Heaven.

I asked why I was able to see all I had and was seeing. He told me it was gift from God.

As I looked to the front of the line, I could see the people; broken, hurting and beat down, crossing the threshold of the Gate and restored.  What were battle weary and scarred, crippled individuals before; healthy, vibrant and free people strode off into Heaven. No scars, no pain, no tears. Just Grace and Glory.

Some people were transformed as they passed into Heaven.  Some small children looked older, even adult age, while some adults became younger.  But every person appeared without pain, without fear.

I turned to the guardian and asked why some people were transformed, whether younger or older and some appeared to be restored only.

The guardian told me that God always promised us Restoration.  Those that were transformed, either younger or older, was God making them what He had planned for them.

The guardian then told me to leave since my time had not come.  He told me to tell people what I saw and to tell all that the Restoration is real and certain.

I asked on more question about the piles of armor and swords. The guardian told me in Heaven there is no need for armor, since the battles each person has fought are over.

 

So, I have written about what God has allowed me to see a few months ago.  I have not done justice to the images I have seen, but I hope you understand the delivered Promise to each of us.

Grace and Glory await us. Pain will not endure. Scars will not exist.

We will be with the Trinity.

Rescued

Being “rescued”, what does that exactly mean?  I get the dictionary definition that states “saving someone from a dangerous or distressing situation”, but what is the Bible revealing when it says Jesus “rescued” me?

So here is my dilemma. I often understand terms in my brain logically, but do not feel them as passionately as I would like in my heart and soul. For instance, I understand in my mind that Jesus came to Earth as a man to save me from eternal death and darkness, to forgive me my sins, to provide grace, and to allow me to have a close and personal relationship with my Father in Heaven. The words make sense, but what about in my heart?  Do I really feel these statements through and through? Do I feel the rescue down deep in my soul and spirit? I want to really know in my heart that I am rescued and not just saying it because it is expected or the right thing to do. I want that passionate and heartfelt understanding that He came for me on a personal level.

The word “rescue” in the Bible is not the only one that made me feel this way. It is similar to other ideas like the concept of “grace”. I understand that the Lord provides me with grace every day, but do I really know it and feel it? What about “forgiveness” for my sins?  Do I really feel the weight of all the sin that Jesus had on his shoulders when He died on the cross and how I can now live my life with freedom and healing because of His sacrifice?

I decided one way to feel more connected to and passionate about the word “rescue” was to open up the Bible and find scripture that speaks to this idea.  Here are a few scriptures that helped me understand His rescue for me more clearly:

Colossians 1:13-14 – “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Psalm 143:9 – “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in you.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “Do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and I will help you; surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Ezekiel 34: 11-12 – “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.  As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is away, his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.   But with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The words and phrases in these scriptures that are helpful to me in understanding the rescue of Jesus more clearly are ones such as deliver, transfer, do not fear, strengthen, uphold, help, search, seek and endure. Try letting these words speak to you in a personal manner. No rescue is the same.

Another way that I have learned to feel these concepts in my heart more passionately is to ask Jesus specifically to show and speak to me more clearly about them. Praying for clarity, interpretation, revelation and wisdom as it relates to His personal relationship with me also helps me better understand His love on a deeper and more intimate level.   Matthew 7:7-8 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who ask receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

A few weeks ago at our E6 Ministries Advanced Boot Camp, Jesus showed up for me in a personal manner unlike He had ever before. I had been praying prior to the event that He would give me everything that He had for me at the Camp, to hold nothing back and to speak clearly about whatever He had in store. On the second day of the event, He showed me specifically how and where He rescued me during a time of darkness in my life. It was as if Jesus and a band of His warrior angels were on a mission to rescue me and me only. The power of Jesus and His rescue were personal and for no one else. I now have a more intimate understanding of His love and what He did to rescue me from evil.  Words cannot fully describe how thankful I am to now know this part of my story. I will never be the same.

Let’s close by saying my understanding of the ways of Jesus is small. My knowledge of his commands and promises are weak. It’s a long journey of learning and character building. However, I know without a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and rescued me in an amazing way. Let’s keep asking, seeking and knocking.  He will answer!

Thanks for allowing me to share my heart.

Is healing for today?

Is it possible that healing is for today? Can it really be true that anyone who believes in Jesus Christ can pray for others and see a miracle? I have found God’s Word to be true for us today just as it was for the disciples when it comes to walking in the power of God. 

Jesus said in John 14; 11 – 12 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Paul said in 1 Cor. 2: 4 – 5 My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

This video is one of my favorites and I have used it over and over to encourage others that any Christian can pray and see God move today.

Reach out today if you need prayer or would like to learn to pray for others!

Crossing The Threshold

I am not sure if it is a common practice now, but there used to be a ritual for newly married couples where the groom would carry the bride over the threshold of the front door of the home they would be living in as a couple. There was anticipation of a new adventure and life together, and a little anxiety that the husband would not drop the bride.

Not sure many people use the word threshold now; doorway, opening, entrance, or way in have replaced this term.

Over the years, I have crossed many thresholds. Some crossings have been with anticipation and some with dread and anxiety.

Carrying Janet into our home after we were married, crossing the threshold with great happiness and expectation of an adventurous life.

Entering the hospital to visit my daughter twice for the birth of grandchildren, and how much happiness it brought to my heart.

Entering a nursing home, the last time to see my father, and how much sadness I felt knowing I would not see him again here.

Entering hospitals so many times to visit my wife, with sickness and ailments, and how much anxiety and pain I felt, not being able to help.

Entering the church on a weekend to praise God and feeling joy just to be there.

Entering the church for a funeral and pain that comes from loss.

____________________________

Each time we enter somewhere, we cross a threshold. Each time we leave, we cross a threshold.

We have one final threshold to cross and I am looking forward to it. Crossing the threshold at the Gate of Heaven.

We are on this side of the Gate and know what is here; pain, suffering, scars, fear, sadness, tears and the list goes on….

But imagine what it will be like to cross THE threshold into Heaven. You will have no more fears, aches, sadness. Your scars will fade. No more pain or tears.

This will all be replaced by stillness, peace, sound body, and boundless joy.

One step and everything you have known, seen and done will change. Restoration happens. You will breathe in the sweet air of Heaven and you are transformed.

Just imagine what will change for you.  Just imagine….

Why me?

How many times in your life have you asked the question “why me?”

I know I have more times than I would like to admit. In one way, this question is naive and in another way it feels like the right question, but in totality it depends when and in what situation you are asking it.

Most often this question is asked during times of suffering, dismay, or disappointment. To be fair to our hearts, it is a very human question but a very small story minded question. What kind of story do you believe you live in? Do you live in a small story that is only about you and the things most important to you or do you believe you live in a larger story, where you are part of an incredible journey that involves something bigger than you?  How you answer either of these questions will bring you closer to the answer of “why me?”

If your story is small, than your place in this world is small. But is that what your heart yearns for, to live a seemingly inconsequential life, here for just a short time? That you are here to get the most out of life or to live in such a way that you strive to make life work for you?

If your story is larger, than you leave room for you to play a larger part in something beyond what is right in front of you; and maybe, just maybe, your story is connected with millions of other stories and your life is far more valuable than you could possibly imagine! Doesn’t this possibility make your heart stir and fill with anticipation? The idea that you matter, and you do matter infinitely more than you know or comprehend, is not just a possibility, it is reality.

You matter, you matter greatly. Your life is so important, so valued that God himself decided you were worth giving his life for. Not just dying for, but also suffering for. Jesus came to earth to live the most human of human experiences. He came as a seemingly small part in the story in form of a baby, but his life was much bigger and interwoven into the hearts of all mankind before he appeared in the story. In fact, his life was the largest story of all, and he came to invite you into his story. He came to offer you his life, his heart, his ways, his love, and his freedom. Jesus knows suffering, and the urge to ask “why me?” he knows to the core of his own humanity. He let us into his “why me?” moment while he agonized in the Garden of Gesthemene right before he would endure the worst suffering known to human history as he awaited the beginning of his journey to the cross:

“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” -Matthew 26:39 NIV

Jesus asked “why me?”  It is the most human of human questions to ask in the midst of suffering. Take notice though of what Jesus said next: “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus answered his “why me” question by choosing you. The “why me?” answer for Jesus is YOU!!

The next time you ask yourself “why me?”,  instead of asking it from a place of a self-focused, small story-centered heart, ask it from a place of being chosen, from a perspective of being worth more than life itself. God himself laid down his life so you could have life, and not just your life but his life to live the fullest way your life could ever be lived. Remember, when Jesus chose you, he chose you in the midst of his deepest agony and yet he never turned from his mission to rescue you. He answered the question “why me?” with the greatest act of sacrifice in history. Why you? Love, with Jesus, it always comes back to love.

Will you take the step towards him and let him answer “why me?” for you or will you continue to live your own way in your own small story, when his offer is life, freedom, healing, and a place in the larger story?  He loves you enough to answer “why me?” for you but he also loves you enough to let you answer “why me?” for yourself. What will you choose?

The most important relationship for every one of us is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Choosing to believe that he is who he claimed to be—the Son of God and the only way to salvation—and receiving him by faith as your Lord and Savior is the most vital act anyone will ever do.  We want life.  He is Life.  We need cleansing.  He is the Living Water.

Here is a simple prayer if you have not yet given your life to Jesus and invited him into yours:

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

The Big Game

It’s the BIG GAME! No, not the big game you’re thinking of where the two teams who’ve survived the post season get to the biggest sporting event in the world, the NFL championship. But rather the biggest game of all our lives collectively. The strategic game of advancing God’s kingdom and extending the victory over the enemy!

Are you actively participating in the Big Game? Or are you on the sidelines waiting for others to advance it for you? See, to use football as an example; you must be strategic and execute a game plan. Prior to any game, you study the opponent, identify your matchups, create plays to expose weaknesses in the opponent and play into your strengths. It’s a play by play script to defeat the opponent and advance the ball and win the game.

Our walk in faith and our efforts to advance God’s kingdom on earth is very similar. As men, we must accept our responsibility as the spiritual leader, the head coach. In preparing for daily battle with the enemy, we must prepare our game plan, be intentional in prayer to let God work within us to guide and direct us as we fight daily to lead our families and glorify God through our successes. It’s not something you take lightly. Quiet time will reveal God’s plan, his playbook for you. It will expose the lies of the enemy. The Bible is the playbook, the ultimate offensive weapon of truth and we are the skill players who execute the plays to defeat the enemy.

Are you being intentional with God to game plan and execute? Or are you simply “shooting from the hip” and feeling ineffective and frustrated. As men, we have to identify these tools and gifts God has given us. This is the only true way to be effective in our walk and in advancing the Kingdom. The best news is we come from a place of victory. Jesus’ death on the cross was a game changer. Death lost its sting, the enemy was exposed and the playbook was written. All we need to do is study in preparation and growth in our relationship with the Father, execute the plays by praying, rebuking the enemy and his lies and invoke the authority of God in our lives on a daily basis. That’s the game plan for our lives, created by the one true King! How awesome is that! So, to use a popular quote, “what time is it… Game Time!”. So, let’s go get it, Brothers!

 

Restoration

My father was never there for me as I grew up. This gave the enemy an open road to lay down many lies like, I’m all alone, I don’t matter, I have no value etc… I have come to understand that his plan was to bring self-destruction, or at the very least to make me harmless to the kingdom of darkness. Due to the healing of the pain and the lies that were in my life, I now have compassion to help other men be set free from the pain and lies they have experienced. I know that I have a purpose and a future being used by my heavenly Father in restoring the hearts of men. The deep pain I experienced continues to be healed and because of this healing I can now reach out to the men around me and share that Jesus Christ longs to draw us to Him and heal our hearts! I thank God that what the devil intended for evil God has used for good in my life. I too continue to work on my own issues as I venture thru the book studies and boot camps that we offer. This will continue to be a lifelong process for me.


We men at E6Ministries are devoted to helping others find restoration for their hearts through the healing power of Jesus Christ. I love being involved with E6Ministries and the awesome men that I have come to know over these past few years. Very few people find a band of brothers such as ours.

I will never give up fighting for the hearts of men, I am a warrior for good! 

Go West Young Man!

January 15th is my work anniversary date. So this week I celebrated my 29th anniversary with Hallmark Cards. It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by. Where did it all go?

As I reflected upon the past three decades (close enough) this week, I thought about my story and how I risked starting a new life in the Wild West of Kansas. It is a story of my Heavenly Father guiding me to a new land, my earthly father providing tough love, and a boy willing to go on an adventure to become the man he was intended to be.

Let me take you back to the fall of 1989. I was in my last semester at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It was a time of great expectations as I would soon be finishing school in December and looking forward to a new job somewhere close to home.   Home was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had grown up there my entire life and had no reason to believe that my career would be somewhere else. I loved that city and still do to this day.

The story starts with a letter from the Career Placement Office at Miami University.   Hallmark Cards was coming to Oxford in October and they wanted interview me and 13 other candidates. I showed the letter to my three other roommates at the time and we all laughed. I said to them “What do they think I am an artist?” How naïve of me at the time to think that Hallmark only employed creative talent.

As I looked over the letter, I noticed that the second interview was in Kansas City, Missouri. I had never been out of the Eastern Time Zone in my life, so why not take the chance and interview. I might get a trip out west with the cowboys and Indians (a common thought back east).

The interview date came and went and by the grace of God, I was selected for a second interview in Kansas City during November. The trip to KC was wonderful. I interviewed in both the manufacturing facilities in Kansas City and Leavenworth. The people were wonderful and the company had values that I could be proud of.

In November, I received a job offer from Hallmark, but my place of employment would be in Topeka, Kansas.  I didn’t even interview in Topeka. That seemed strange, but it really didn’t matter anyway. It was a fun trip, but I was going to find a job in Pittsburgh.

I then came home over the Thanksgiving holiday. My father and I were sitting in our living room and he asked me about the job offer from Hallmark in which I needed to give them an answer in the next few days.  I said to him, “They want me to work in Topeka. I didn’t even interview there. Besides, I wouldn’t know a single soul in an 800 mile radius. There’s no chance I’m taking that job.”

My Dad then said “So if you do not take this job with Hallmark, where will you be living when you graduate in December.” I responded in a matter of fact tone “Well, I’ll be living right here with you Dad, looking for a job in Pittsburgh.” Then there was silence for a couple of minutes, almost an uncomfortable silence. My dad then spoke to me the words that changed the trajectory of my life. He said “I am sorry. You do not have a place to stay here.  You have a great opportunity to work for a company with a good reputation. If you don’t take this job with Hallmark, you will need to get your own apartment. I suggest going on an adventure out west. Meet new people and learn a new culture. SeYou can always come back home after two or three years and have it on your resume.”

Well, that was a shock. It almost felt at the time like a kick in the gut. My mother was completely appalled listening in the kitchen. Her son was being thrown to the street by mean ol’ Dad. That tough love, however, quickly gave me a new perspective. I immediately had a new attitude. Well, maybe I could make this happen and go on an adventure.

What my Dad was really saying was “I believe in you.   You have what it takes to go on this adventure. You will make new friends. You will succeed. You are the man.” It was tough love, but better yet, it was the blessing from my father that I always needed to hear. My Heavenly Father was speaking through my earthly father. I now know that these words were directly from the Lord above.

To this day, my Dad feels guilty about the direction he provided me on this day. Let’s get this straight. There is absolutely no reason for him to feel badly about this. It was exactly what I needed. It was the best thing he could have ever done for me. I didn’t need to be coddled. I needed to be called up as a man, to be the man the Lord intended me to be. He believed in me. That’s exactly what I needed to go West with the cowboys and Indians.

So I packed up everything I owned in my Honda Hatchback wagon and followed the sun to Topeka. My father gave me one spoon, one fork, and one knife for my new adventure and sent me on my way. It was time to grow up and be a man. I thank God often that my earthly father loved me so much that he would call me up in this manner.

At the time, I couldn’t see that my Heavenly Father was directing this adventure for my life, but it is so clear now that he had a hand in all of this. God was calling me, like Abraham, out of the land of Ur to go on a great adventure with Him. I am so thankful that he did. My life has been forever changed based on His leading.

I believe the Lord has blessed me abundantly for taking this risk. As a result, He has given me a beautiful and Godly wife, six children, great friends and a long-term career at Hallmark Cards. All glory goes to my Father in Heaven. He has given me many other adventures in my new home, but those are stories for another time.

So here are a few things that I’ve learned based upon God leading me to my new Promised Land:

  • Our Lord has a mission, plan and calling for every one of us.
  • This mission is a great adventure with Him.
  • We need to be faithful in what we cannot see and obedient in his direction for our lives.
  • This means giving up control of our lives to Him. Total surrender.
  • We need to pray for this mission on a daily basis. Ask Him to expand your impact, leadership, and ministry for His Kingdom.
  • If you do so, He will answer your prayers and you will experience the Glory of God in your life.
  • Your adventure with Him is not about you. It is about His Kingdom and bringing it forth to others.

Take the risk. Go on an adventure with God. He will not disappoint!

Letting go to move forward

Our family spent New Years creating what hopefully will be a new tradition. We are calling it to burn the ships after a song that has touched us this year. The song is by For King and Country and has given us the opportunity to talk about the things that we have encountered in the past year and have allowed them to get a grip on us. The situations, comments, inner thoughts that we have, all can take hold of us and cause us trauma, false guilt, anxiety, depression and all of this can be magnified when these situations start to compile.

So this year we decided to try something different, we took newspapers and cut them into different sizes. We then took markers and wrote the “things” that had been spoken over us or that were having an effect on us. In doing this, we talked about not forgetting these “things” we put on the paper but to release the grip they had on us and allow Jesus to fill and heal those spots. We took those pieces of paper and placed them in the pot and then we released them and returned them to ashes.

This year our family will be heading into transition and change, the mission God has before us is exciting, but it is not without fear and nervousness. But through this exercise doors for talking about those fears have been opened. The communication within our family has been wonderful since walking into this night of release.

My encouragement to you is to take the time to do something as little as talk or pray together. The freedom that can come from such a small thing is amazing. We will be praying for you. So go forward and burn the ships.

BELIEF IN HIM

There are three types of people that you may come across this week, starting this new year:

  1. The ones that say, “Happy New Year” and mean it. They know it is a great time to be alive! They are genuine and are happy to see people.
  2. The type that can only worry about what they did not get done last year and add that worry onto getting everything done this year also. (Did not lose that weight or save enough money.)
  3. And the last type, the ones who just do not care. They are just going through the motions of life and waiting for their next disappointment.

I hope you are a #1 type. Life is so much better.

If you look at the three types, the thing that separates #1 from #2 and #3 is belief. Belief in God and His plan. Belief in the scriptures and the promises made to us.

For this new year – please answer the following questions:

  1. Do you believe in God?
  2. Do you believe in God as the Trinity; Father Son and Holy Ghost?
  3. Do you believe in the miracles that Jesus performed?
  4. Do you believe in the promises that God has made to us? The rewards?
  5. Do you know in your heart that you will be with God when your days on earth are done?

If I had put “Why?” after each question, what would you answer?

 

E6 Ministries is founded on the scripture of Ephesians 6 – specifically putting on the Armor of God and fighting against evil. We are fighting for the restoration of men, families and churches. We believe that any person that also believes must put on the Armor of God and fight.

Belief can be costly. You can lose family, “friends’ and opportunities for having and sharing your belief in God. The heavenly rewards promised are very much worth it.

When I was 17, myself and a couple others decided to start a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at our high school. The rejection by most of the guys in athletics was tough, specially since many had been friends since grade school. But it was worth it, the start of a great program that continues today.

Never doubt that any trial, hardship, dissention of family or friends, health issue or other is just a moment in our time. God has promised restoration and rewards for taking up the sword in His Name. This road may be tough here on earth, but what is waiting for us will make every tough day; every bad situation just wash away.

 

I had a dream the other night and would like to share with you.

I was on a dirt road, gradually climbing at every turn. Then on both side of the road were boots, helmets, shields and swords in huge piles, seems like for miles. I turned the last bend and there were the gates into heaven.

As I walked up to the gate, I was told I could not enter dressed as I was. I asked what did I need to do and the voice softly answered, “Take off the Armor of God. You don’t need it beyond these gates.” As I stripped off the armor, all pain, anger and sorrow fell off me too.

As I stepped through the Gate, the Voice said “Welcome home. You have no more wars to fight. Please join everyone waiting to see you”.

 

Folks, I believe in my heart that God let me see this just to remind me that all the pain, sorrow and troubles are really worth it. I believe and I know that God exists and waits to see us in his time.

I pray you start or continue to fight the fight, endure the junk that the earth throws at you and look forward to the day of restoration.

Belief in Him

Surrender to Live Free

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1, MSG

On November 17th, 2018, our pastor preached a powerful message and I have been living in its truth and power ever since. I encourage you to listen to this sermon for more context (https://youtu.be/0LiSkci4mUo), but the power of this message sent me on a journey of profound breakthrough. The Holy Spirit’s power of revelation opened my eyes to the truth that a surrendered life brings more freedom than a life of fighting for control. The fight to control my life, to make life work for me, has been the harness of slavery I have worn for far too long.

Three questions came to my mind from this key verse the message was built upon: How has Christ set us free to live a free life? Why do we need to take a stand? How can we never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on us? 

How as Christ set us free to live a free life? Christ can only set us free if we choose to allow him. We must surrender by asking him to set us free. Freedom starts only through relationship with Christ. There is no way around it. Becoming a Christian starts with surrender; your sin, your life, your will, and your soul in exchange for freedom and eternal life. Why then do we tend to stop surrendering when our entire Christian journey began with an act of surrender? Because our experiences in life, our wounds, pain, other people’s sin toward us, our own sin, and the lies of the enemy cause us to doubt the heart of God, his goodness, his trueness, and his love for us, so in return we take back control.

One of the key points our pastor made in his sermon was “Be careful what you surrender for things of convenience.” This simple but profound point is accurate and relevant to our behavior in today’s society. Everything in modern society is driving us toward convenience in order to achieve comfort. It’s been going on for nearly two hundred years since the Industrial Revolution began in the 1830s.

Think of all the modern “conveniences” we have in America: cars, smart phones, instant access to information, air-Conditioning/heating, online banking, indoor plumbing, voice responsive devices, same day delivery, drive-thrus, fast-food, 24 hour news cycle, airplanes, the internet, temper-pedic mattresses, smart homes, self-driving vacuums and lawn mowers. I could go on and on, but what are we giving up? Self-reliance and freedom in some ways. We are daily giving away our freedom in exchange for control and comfort. I am writing this blog post on a laptop while sitting in my recliner in a heated home listening to the Chiefs game, and yes I am very comfortable. We hardly have to think about our wants. We just click or speak a voice command and we have what we want. We have in many ways become slaves to modernity. We have become enslaved to convenience in order to control our lives so that life is more convenient. It is a circular cycle of giving away freedom for convenience. And I am afraid we have done the same with our spiritual life. I know I have many, many times.

I am not saying these things are inherently bad in and of themselves, but I am saying we have transferred those expectations to God and we are forsaking the truth that God is a God of process. When we don’t involve him intimately in our daily lives through daily conversational intimacy with him, instead we are striving to make life work for us through convenience because he’s not moving fast enough. The surrendered life is the inverse. We must surrender to him and wait on him in order to live more free. Why have I missed this truth for so long??? I believe it has been because I have lived under a self-imposed tyranny through a terrible misunderstanding of the theological doctrine of pre-destination. Thank you Jesus that our pastor cleared up my misunderstanding!!

The best explanation our pastor gave for the doctrine of “pre-destination” I have ever heard is as follows: “Pre-destination is NOT pre-determined or pre-decided; instead pre-destination is God’s foreknowledge. God knows everything already because he is not bound by time. He sees all of human history outside of time, therefore as far as God is concerned, all of human history has already happened.”  I am asking you to take a moment and let that marinate in your mind and penetrate your heart. Having this category of understanding take root in your heart will change everything. God already knows what has happened and what will happen, but he does not determine our choices, in fact he cannot determine our choices. You can now step out of the fatalistic view that your life is already scripted, that you have no choice in the matter, that you should just throw your hands up in the air and check out of life because everything has already been decided. This mindset is called fatalism and my friends this mindset is not only dangerous, but it is a harness of slavery.  There is not a drop of freedom in that way of thinking, none, zero, nada. Let’s step out of that mindset together and start walking on the path of freedom through surrender.

The next point our pastor made will give you hope beyond hope and truth beyond truth: “Everything that happens to you in life is NOT always what God wanted to happen.”  Wait, what? How can that be? How is this possible?  The answer is love my friends. This is the most important character trait of God, that he is love. Because he loves us, he gave us free will, the freedom of choice. He had to:

“7 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God8 The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love-so you can’t know him if you don’t love. 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 10 This is the kind of love we are talking about-not that we once upon a time loveGod, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.”  1 John 4:7-10, MSG

 In order for freedom to even be possible, free will/freedom to choose must exist. Why?? Because God is love and God’s love always gives the freedom to choose. Secondary, but just as important and interwoven into his character is that God cannot lie. God is incapable of lying. Follow me here; if God is love, and he is, and if God cannot lie, and he can’t, then God would be both unloving and a liar if he did not give us the free will to not choose him; otherwise we would be robots, living and waiting for his every command for what to do next. We would have no say. Therefore, God would be interfering with our choices and controlling us, and in doing so he would not be love, so that is why things happen to us in life that he never intended, because he gave us the choice to sin, to choose to do evil, and go our own way. Ironically, by giving us this choice we can actually understand his goodness and his love because we have a contrasted understanding of what love and goodness is not, which is personified in the evil we see in this world and the evil that has been done to us. Thank goodness it is impossible for God to lie or not be love.

The good news is that by living surrendered and asking him what we should do or where we should go each day brings us into partnership with him and his will. We are playing our part in the larger story of life by choosing to allow his will to take precedence over ours. Otherwise, if we live  striving to control life, we are forsaking his better judgment and desire for us. Why? Because our will is not his will and his will is not ours.  His ways are higher than ours. The more we offer ourselves to him, the more he will guide us to do what he wants which will always be better than what we want, always. Make no mistake in your understanding though, we can always choose to reject his will. Ultimately though, by surrendering to his will we are more free than not because we will be operating at the highest and fullest capacity of love possible. By choosing our own will we are actually choosing the harness of slavery rather than the life of freedom. The simple truth is we are the most free by choosing to surrender!!

Why do we need to take a stand? We have an enemy!! You have an enemy!! “8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  9 Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” 1 Peter 5:8-9, NLT

The enemy takes advantage of our freedom, tries to steal it, and bring us back into bondage. He uses temptation and tries to seduce us back into the flesh through the world. He is always trying to show us that God is not love and we are not free to choose. How does he do this? He uses religion, rigid doctrine, and he twists the Gospel into  a false gospel of fatalism or works. He tells us the lie that life is already decided, everything that happens to us is from God, and everything bad that happens in life was meant to be, so it must have been from God. Friends, that is a lie from the pit of hell. We always have a choice to receive this freedom, to live in it, to surrender to it, to allow God to love us, and to listen to his voice.  It is true however, we also have the freedom to not receive, to not believe, to live pridefully with hard hearts, to not let God in, to never surrender, and to ignore his voice. The scriptures are full of people who chose not to listen, to go their own way, to defy God’s commands, and wholeheartedly reject him and his love. Read their stories and see how things turned out for them. Even God’s very best, Moses, King Saul, and King David, to name a few, all chose their own way at times. They never lost God’s love for them, but God did not spare them from the consequences of their choices when instead of surrendering to freedom they chose to go their own way.

It is never God’s desire to choose for us. In his love he has chosen us, but he just doesn’t choose for us. He always loves, he can’t not love. He does not have the ability to not love. The decisions of our lives are always up to us. It is always up to us to choose him and take our stand against the enemy in the power of Christ!! We must choose to stand firm.

Because mankind chose the harness of slavery from the very beginning through Adam and Eve’s sin, from the second we were born we were guilty of not choosing freedom: 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, NASB.

God has always been innocent and yet he made a way for us to find freedom: 23 Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners…and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, 24 God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24, MSG. 

Because of God’s love, he provided a personal and individual way for us to choose a life of freedom, but choose we must and act we must: “9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10: 9-10, 13, ESV

He has done his part, have you?

How can we never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on us? If we confess God made a way through Jesus, we believe he made a way, and we call on the name of Jesus to save us then he will say Yes to us and no one will ever be able to put the harness of slavery on us again!! His answer to a surrendered heart will always be yes!! The freedom to surrender is ours. Freedom has always belonged to us, the freedom to choose to say yes to God through Jesus has always been right in front of us all along because God made it possible. He loved us too much to leave us in our bondage. Why? Because he is love! Our freedom calls to us to choose daily to surrender to it, if we want the freedom he offers we must surrender to it.

The last question our pastor asked, and the most powerful question I think I have ever been asked was: “If God had his way, what would my life look like?” I have been asking myself that question every single day since November 17, 2018. For me, I have decided it looks like a life of surrender:

Father, I give you my life! Have your way with me! I surrender my life to you today in order to take hold of the freedom you offer, just as Jesus surrendered before he willingly went to the cross! He chose to surrender to your will and ransom his life for my freedom! Jesus, thank you for purchasing my freedom with your life! I invite you to be the Lord of my life this day and I surrender the throne of my entire life to you today. Come and take over. I will come back to you each day and surrender again so that I may have the freedom you promise. I will live surrendered as demonstrated in Matthew 6:25-34: 25 Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:25-34, NASB

I will conquer each day by choosing to surrender in belief to the power of your promises in Psalm 91:

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.

9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”

Psalm 91, NLT

“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1, MSG 

May you find a life of freedom through surrender and never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you!

Live Free!!!

Merry Christmas to you and all your loved ones!

 

The Power of Prayer

                                               

We recently listened to a message on praying for family members and were encouraged to never give up. There is always hope when we pray for family and friends until the day they depart from this world. We know this first hand in our own lives. After praying for our son for years and not knowing if we would see him come around in our lifetime, the unthinkable happened. He hit rock bottom, turned to God and has begun a new life. His ninety day Hope City rehabilitation program is coming to a close and he is standing strong. This is nothing short of a miracle and we know this has been a result of years of prayers by many.

There were numerous times that we struggled in our faith, not knowing if our son would make it another year, a month or even a few days, but we chose to continue the good fight. It has been a battle but our perseverance has paid off, “FREEDOM” for the one who has been held captive by the enemy of our soul. I want to encourage anyone who has family or friends that are distant or in trouble, pray and make a declaration to the enemy that you will never give up praying for them. God will move on your behalf.

A Blessed Weekend

Yesterday at noon, we finished another boot camp. What an incredible blessed time for the 57 men that attended this weekend. God is always there for us, and He showed us again the blessings and mercy He has given each of us.

Our E6 team started off on Thursday morning to travel down just outside of Clinton, Missouri, to a great camp aptly named LifeChange. It truly provided each man there that opportunity, to change his life.

Men began arriving at just before 4pm to check in and prepare for the weekend. There was excitement for something new coming, with fall leaves showing God’s colorful wonder.

Throughout the weekend, men at different times, had their moment when God showed His love and spirit. Unplugging from the distractions of work, phones, email, television and cell phones gave each man the opportunity to be able to listen and, in many cases, hear and or see God. A number of men were provided answers that have had on their hearts since childhood.

When Sunday rolled around, many of the men had found friendships and brotherhood for the first time. Some men became mentors of others.

The greatest thing to see was a renewed fire in the eyes of the men who attended this boot camp. Some were beaten down pretty well when they registered Thursday afternoon. The attacks and warfare that some men encountered prior to coming to camp was overwhelming. But now they had a new arsenal to fight the enemy; to protect their family, their marriage, and their restored heart.

And they know they are not alone. God stands with each of us, no matter.

And we know in the end that the Trinity prevails.

It was a blessing to be there this weekend.

 

I get the privilege to announce that E6 Ministries will be putting on their first Advanced Boot Camp – February 21-24, 2019 at LifeChange Camp, just outside of Clinton, Missouri.

Advanced Boot Camp is for anyone who has attended an E6 Ministries or Ransomed Heart Basic Boot Camp. There are limited spots for this first-time event and I hope you will consider attending the deeper dive into the restoration of the heart with us. Registration is available now on the E6 Ministries website at E6Ministries.org.

Blessings on your life….Warren

Thank you!

Thank you for partnering with us to help men discover the life, freedom and healing that is available in walking with God daily on the masculine journey.  Donations like yours enable us to continue to subsidize the cost of our Boot Camps as well as provide full and partial scholarships to men that cannot otherwise afford to attend these life-changing events.  

You will receive a confirmation of your tax-deductible donation via email.  If you do not receive confirmation or have any questions regarding your donation, please contact us at admin@e6ministries.org.

E6 MINISTRIES

P.S.  Registration for our Fall 2020 Boot Camp is now open.  We would love for you to join us or consider inviting someone you know that would benefit from the experience.   Click here for more information.

Live for Today

“Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” Matthew 6:34 TPT

Sounds simple right?! This concept is anything but simple to live out. The world is throwing information, schedules, problems, challenges, relationships, social media, finances, commuting, parenting, marriage, conflict, and once in a while it sprinkles in some goodness.

Something has happened to us, to our hearts in the midst of the life we are striving to make work for us. How then can Jesus, in the middle is his famous Sermon on the Mount, throw in this concept as if all he has given us to understand about how to live as a Christian is able to be followed, he tosses this grenade of truth and expects to us to be able do this?

The truth is, he knows we can’t do this, or anything he called us to be in this sermon, on our own that is. He is calling us to surrender to relationship with him and in turn the outcome. He is showing us how to live as a follower while calling us to give over today to him. It is a relational call. Jesus is saying, “Son, stop worrying about the future, for it may never come, walk with me today, surrender the day to me so we can do this together.”

What a compassionate and loving thing to do!! He knows we can’t not worry about the future so he invites us into deeper intimacy and relationship by calling us to give the day to him, to allow and trust him to orchestrate our day.

Yet, I, we resist because that would mean giving up control of trying to make things work for us, giving over our ability to make a comfortable life for us. Don’t get me wrong, I love air conditioning and my temperpedic mattress, but is that really the point of life?

I don’t see anywhere in the gospels where Jesus instructed us to seek comfort. Instead, he warned us of the suffering to come in following him. So why do I resist giving the day to him? After all, he knows what is coming today. He does want to give me good things, but he also knows there are challenges headed my way. Maybe the good thing he wants to give me is a detour to avoid an accident or an opportunity to help or minister to someone in need.

Why in the world would I presume to know better? Because my stubborn and prideful flesh jumps in the way and seeks comfort and the easy path. But Jesus said the road was narrow, so why do I seek the wide path? This is the battle each day, to choose today and set worry about tomorrow at the foot of the cross.

Jesus, help us to live for today, surrender the outcomes, and walk with you in the challenges, for today has enough troubles.

Strength and honor brothers!!

Someone You and I Can Always Count On

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the town where I grew up. The reason for visiting was to help my Mom and Dad move into a brand new home in a retirement community. As I drove around the town, I noticed how many things have changed since I grew up while also noticing how a few things had not changed.

This time down “memory lane” brought to mind many wonderful memories of my time growing up. It also reinforced to me what has never changed and what has always been a rock and foundation for me. Those two things are: the unconditional love and support of my parents and the unconditional love and support of my Heavenly Father!

The two go hand in hand because as I have observed my parents throughout the last few years of my life, as they navigated many changes and challenges such as the loss of both of their parents, severe back surgery for my Dad, the selling of their childhood farm, and most recently my mom being diagnosed with cancer, the one constant has always been their unwavering faith and love for their Heavenly Father. At no time has their faith wavered, their belief in healing weakened, or their question of God’s heart toward them. They have been a rock and an inspiration of what true faith looks like.

This has been especially true since my Mom’s diagnosis with lung cancer about 3 months ago. I had always thought of my mom and dad as prayer warriors and an encouragement to others when they were going through struggles of their own, but to watch my mom and my dad walk thru this attack on her body has been something to behold. Their belief in God and how He is going to heal my mom and most importantly use her to help others as she navigates her treatments has pushed me and my faith. Watching my mom as she hands out Bibles to nurses and doctors and other cancer patients has challenged me in sharing my faith, while at the same time watching my Dad show his love and support by never leaving her side. They have been inspiration to me of what a life devoted to God looks like and what a committed and loving marriage looks like.

Even though we don’t know what the future holds with my Mom, walking thru this journey with her and my dad has already proved to be a blessing because of how it has brought our family closer together as well as brought an importance to appreciating every moment of life. It has also confirmed to me that no matter how things change or how much they stay the same, I can always count on the never-ending love and support of my parents and my Heavenly Father. He has shown once again His ability to turn what Satan meant for pain and heartache and instead has turned it into a testimony of his faithfulness and grace.

Just like my Mom and Dad, He never seizes to amaze me and is someone I can always count on and is someone you can count on too!

Beating “The Game”

Where do you find peace and rest? At your home, in the wilderness; some place of solace, right? It seems like the search can be endless, like a never-ending game of the popular Milton Bradley game “Risk.” Ahh, “playing the game” as they say, trying to make it in the world. But that’s just it, the world can’t get us there. It can’t provide that solace we seek. I know, I know. This is basic, right? But let me tell you, in the spirit of full disclosure; I struggle with this daily. I struggle to find rest, and in turn, peace. This comes from all the usual distractions and commitments we all deal with, the balancing act; “the game.”

I’m not a person who can sit still for too long. I get restless. I like to be on the move but it’s not sustainable. I get run down and begin to feel overwhelmed. That’s right where the enemy wants me; where he wants all of us. Busy! One of my E6 brothers shared with me one of the greatest acronyms. B.U.S.Y- Buried Under Satan’s Yoke. That is so true and it was great wisdom to pass along, so I pass it along to you. This is the enemy’s plan, bury us in busyness; keep us from peace and rest in the Father.

I shared earlier that I constantly struggle in this arena. It’s true. Even with all the head knowledge and the wisdom given to me through quiet time with the Father, this is where Satan knows he can get at me. My career requires me to be on the move, in front of things and always strategizing in a highly competitive and high stakes environment. It’s exhilarating but also exhausting. Given this, I struggle to maintain a time of rest and solitude in the Word and with the Father.

It’s painful to admit that. I mean, I’ve been involved in the ministry for a number of years and this is the basis, quiet time with the Father, to get peace and wisdom. But I will say prior to this revelation from the Father via his Word, the boot camps, studies etc., I would have been taken out by the enemy. Not to be seen in the Word for months or years and no relationship with the Father. Thankfully, God has changed me here, to where I can at least recognize the root cause of feeling overwhelmed and tired and I can regroup. This is the challenge for many of us. Getting lost in the busyness of day to day.

But God directs us to rest, rely on him, seek him and he will bring peace. This releases us from that feeling of being overwhelmed which comes straight from the enemy. It allows us true rest; resting in God the Father. As I mentioned, this is a constant struggle, but it just takes a small reset; one minute of quiet time or a 3 minute worship song to get this peace. It doesn’t need to be another arduous task we create. God just wants conversation. Intimacy. Invite him these small moments in the day to deliver a big presence of peace from God. Remember, Satan wants us to be so busy that we don’t take this time with God, remember “B.U.S.Y.” Keep that in mind. It was life changing for me.

So, take the time to engage with the Father; beat “the game.” Take time in the mornings when possible to have meaningful quiet time. Worship in song on the way to work. Listen to a podcast and pray. If you are on the run like I am many times, just take a few minutes here and there to engage. He’ll meet you when and wherever you need him. Just bring him in. He’s the game changer and world beater! Rest easy, Brothers!

 

Never Give Up Praying

Our son has struggled with making poor decisions throughout his life. He had been living in Las Vegas for the past three years and was going from job to job. He called us a few months back and shared that he was abusing alcohol and heroin and had been hanging around with some dangerous people. We didn’t hear from him for about a period of three months so we decided to file a missing person’s report with the police department. They suggested that we call the hospitals and the morgue, my wife called the hospitals and I called the morgue. I thank God that he wasn’t there!

To make a long story short, we eventually ended up getting in contact with him. He had been homeless for some time and had reached a place in his life where he was ready and willing for a change. We bought him a bus ticket back to Kansas City, he had no I.D. but by the grace of God, they let him on the bus anyway. A friend had told us to contact the Hope Center, (it’s a Christian recovery center) and that maybe by chance they would be able to help him. I called and they said that someone had recently left the program and that there was an opening. I was told to bring him in the day after he arrived in KC. I did so, he has been there for a few short weeks now and has chosen to serve and walk with God, what a miracle!

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sharing about my son’s life and all the crazy things he has done. The point I want to get across is “don’t ever give up praying for your loved ones”. We’ve been praying for years for our son who is now thirty-nine years old. We wondered if we would ever see him change in our lifetime, but with God all things are possible. He is on the road of recovery and seems to have made a true heart change.

Rule and Subdue

Two weekends ago on Labor Day, my wife and I decided to go shopping in order to find outdoor fencing for our home. Unfortunately, we didn’t find what we wanted. However, along the way through the endless aisles of products, we found something that we did need. This time, it was a faucet for our first floor bathroom. The old faucet in our bathroom was very old, corroded, and would not line up correctly when shutting off the water. We agreed that it was time for a change.

So, we bought the new faucet and took it home. It was about 4:00pm in the afternoon and I decided that I would tackle this project, knowing full well in my mind that it would likely take less than an hour to remove the old fixtures and then install the new ones. That’s right, how hard could this be? I am not Mr. Handyman, but I surely could handle this easy project in a snap.

After reading the directions for installation (yes, I really did), removing all of the cleaning products from underneath the sink, turning off the water to my home, and getting my tools ready, I was prepared to whip this project into shape. The first thing that I noticed was how small my work area was underneath the sink. All the PVC piping, water lines, and the parts to the sink stopper were in my way and needed to be removed.  It was so tight that I could hardly maneuver my tools to un-install the old faucet. I banged around and tried various tools, but I wasn’t making much progress. This was taking longer than I expected. With all of the man-handling of the parts, I eventually broke a shut off valve and needed to make a trip to Home Depot.   After 30-40 minutes from the of purchase my new part, it was already 5:30pm and the old faucet wasn’t un-installed yet.

At this point I was getting frustrated, so I prayed a few times for perseverance. God didn’t answer me right away. I was reminder by my Father that he is a God of process. Some times change, improvement, or in this case the removal plumbing parts takes time. We often want instant results and answers, but He doesn’t work that way. God does not work like a microwave or Google. Learning to delay gratification is part of the maturation and character building process. This project was a good reminder of how He works within and through me.

Back to the story: After reaching out to God, the old faucet eventually started to slowly come apart. There were a few parts that just would not come free, so I turned to demolition mode to finally complete the de-installation process. It was now 6:00pm and I was ready to install the new faucet.

Fast forward to 8:00pm. I was still not completed with the project. Each installation step seemed to be taking me 2-3 tries to get it right. I was running very low on patience, but I knew God was with me every step of the way. I reminded myself not to rely solely on my abilities, but to give it over to the Lord.

Did I forget to mention that every 30 minutes, my son or my wife came by and asked “How’s it going?” I knew what they are thinking, but I was not quitting. This was a test of perseverance and God was fathering me through this entire process. I was not going to believe the lie that I can’t handle this.

Its 8:30pm now, 4.5 hours into this “easy” project, when my wife came by and asked me the dreaded question “Do you think we should call a plumber?” I said to her (something like) “Absolutely not. This is a project that I should be able to handle. This is about learning and growing into something that I need for my soul. Calling a plumber at this point would be emasculating. I need to be able to rule my domain.”   I don’t think she completely understood what I was saying, but it was important to me to finish this job and to learn from my mistakes. I would not become a quitter.

To be transparent, this project lasted another three days. At one point, we even had puddles in our basement. However, I discussed my plumbing problems with several friends and eventually solved the issue. I am pleased to report that the new faucet is working great without any leaks or problems.

So what does God have to say about this issue? Does he want me to call a plumber in the future? I don’t think so.

Genesis 1:28 says “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In this verse, God gave Adam and Eve a job to complete, to rule and subdue over their domain (Creation). To rule and subdue means to have fierce mastery over something. God wants us to rule over and subdue the kingdoms that he has given us, not with an iron fist, but in a manner that will grow us up into the men and women he intended us to be.

Romans 5:3-4 says “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”.

The Father is concerned with building our character. He is not so concerned with what job we have or what kind of car we drive. These types of trials, that require perseverance, grow our character and can be used as building blocks for bigger and even more difficult challenges to be faced in the future. Growing our character is a journey through many life events and if we always choose to take the easy route, then we miss out on the opportunity to receive His blessings.

God is also very much concerned with being in relationship with us. If we outsource the plumbing or other challenges, then someone else is ruling our kingdom and we miss out on the opportunity to be fathered by Him. Adam and Eve couldn’t call a plumber or someone else to rule and subdue Creation. They had something better, a close and personal relationship with the Father.

I recognize that we do not have the skills to tackle every problem and that some things must be handed over to the experts. However, let’s not make a habit of taking the path of least resistance when challenges arise. There is much to learn, character to build, and a relationship with the Lord to be experienced.   Don’t miss out on what He has planned for you!

Like Christ

Being like Christ is something we hear and for most of us desire. For most, we want to be respected like Christ, love like Christ; but we tend to think of that love only as being respectful and caring for those closest to us.  In this assumption, we fall short of one of the most significant characteristics of Christ, an empathetic love for one another.  As Christians, we sympathetically care for one another through phrases like “I’ll pray for you” or “Can I bring you anything?” These attempts to show Christ’s love, while supportive, are more sympathetic love than the empathetic love that Christ taught us.  These are great ways to show love, to care for someone’s needs, but they are not a full picture of what it is to love like Christ.

Jesus wept.

John 11:35 (NIV)

The power of this verse is that the Son of Man brought himself into the pain of those hurting. Before he wept, he saw Mary weeping, and he was deeply troubled. In other words, the pain they were feeling became the pain the pain he was feeling.  Christ, with his amazing love doesn’t just want to provide for us and see that our needs are met, he wants to mourn with you in times of sadness and loss; be joyous with you in times of celebration and victory, to such a deep a level that all of your sorrows and joys become his sorrows and joys.

The root of the empathy that Jesus shows is emotion.  We can all identify the root of emotions be it anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, or shame. It takes our experience with these emotions combined with overcoming the fear of recognizing these emotions, again within ourselves, to experience empathically sitting with someone.  Too often we fall short of empathically sitting with someone because we fear it means surviving these emotions again, but in truth, it is a willingness to be like Christ and wear a hurt that has already been surrendered to bear the burden with a brother or sister.

Lord grant me the eyes to see those that are hurting and heart like yours to be with them as you are with us.

Amen Brothers.

In God’s Time

I have to admit that I am impatient some times when it comes to prayer; specifically, God answering them.

I know He can answer many prayers quickly, because I have seen the results, almost before I have finished my prayers… so I get frustrated when the answers don’t always come quickly.

Then I start having self-doubt, that maybe I have upset God and he just wants me to learn a lesson. I have to stand up and say no to that agreement, because our Lord is not like that. He loves us no matter what.

All our prayers are answered in God’s time, some just take longer.

We may also have been answered, but do not see the outcome as an answer. If the answer is no, maybe we don’t accept it as a final answer. We may not have prayed enough or just not for the right thing.

I have friends who have been healed by prayer and friends that haven’t. It is difficult sometimes because we want to understand the why; why heal him but not her. In God’s time…

Here is my favorite passage. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evil are gone forever.” Revelations 21:3-4

And this will be in God’s time.

 In God’s Time…. How amazing it will be to be with God and witness creation in His time.

 

p.s.   Moving Mountains by John Eldredge is a book on prayer, all types of prayer. It has been a great resource for many people, including our team. I believe it has impacted everyone’s prayer life for the better. I recommend this book if you want to learn about a focused prayer life.

Hope beyond Hope

Where is your hope set these days? A very good question asked by a well-known Christian author. John Eldredge released his latest book All Things New: Heaven, Earth, and the Restoration of Everything You Love about this time last year. I remember the anticipation of its release.  I found myself lacking understanding of what life in heaven could be like. Frankly, all I had ever heard from a lifetime of attending church was we will worship Jesus forever, like an eternal church service in the sky. I knew I was supposed to be thankful to be in heaven, so if that’s what it was going to be like, then it sure sounded better than the alternative, eternal separation from God in utter torment.  But honestly it sounded, well, kind of boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love to worship Jesus, I really do, but forever just singing all the time…that’s all there is? Or so I thought.

John’s book came along at a good time for me, but it served an even greater role this past week. In the book, John takes a deep look at what heaven will actually be like. The Apostle John described what he saw in the Book of Revelation:

 “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5, NIV.

The key phrase from Jesus is, “I am making everything new.” Jesus did not say I am making all new things. The premise of the book is we get to live on the new earth. Heaven comes to earth. John’s takes the reader on a journey about what life in heaven will be like on the new earth and with each turn of the page, I could feel my heart swell with hope, a hope I had never had before or even understood to be available.

This played out this past week in a profound way. Last Monday, I was awaken at 4:00 am by our dog, Bruno. He was not feeling well it seemed. Frankly, as was the case many times, he was acting like he had eaten himself a healthy portion of grass for dessert that night. But something was not right. I let him outside and came back in to fire up a cup of coffee so I could actually awake fully into consciousness. I gave him some time but noticed he was lying down by the fence, not really moving. That was not normal for him. I got him up and brought him inside and he took a drink of water, which was a good sign. He laid down on the kitchen floor and relaxed. I was doing some reasearch on possible symptoms that matched his behavior when I noticed his stomach. It looked like an inflated balloon. I knew immediately he likely had a twisted intestine and we had an emergency on our hands.

I helped him get into my truck and called the emergency vet. When we arrived at the vet, his situation had deteriorated and I had to carry him onto the gurney. The situation was not looking good. I called my wife and told her she needed to wake our children and prepare them to come to the vet. After examining Bruno, the vet came out and gave me the bad news. Bruno did indeed have a twisted intestine and the x-ray revealed a grapefruit sized tumor which had likely caused the intestine to twist and was likely cancerous. Emergency surgery was an option, but he would likely not survive, but if he did then he would have to try to fight off the cancer post surgery. It was clear he was facing his mortality.

Shortly after receiving the sad news, they brought Bruno out into a private room and my family and I shared our last moments with this precious, beautiful member of our family. We held him, cried, and cherished every breath he took as we soaked up every last moment we could with him. They made him comfortable, but the time came to say goodbye to our Bruno. We were with him to the very last. It was tragic, unexpected, and beautiful. What kindness Jesus showed us to be able to all be together with him for his last moments in this life.

As we left, surprisingly, hope began to rise up in my heart. I remembered the chapter in which John discussed the presence of the animal kingdom and the heart of God being on full display in heaven.  John pointedly asked the question, “why would God not include the animal kingdom in heaven?” He would destroy these magnificent works of creation and leave them out of heaven? If that were the case, why did he put them in the Garden of Eden in the first place, with Adam and Eve? One of Adam’s first tasks was to name each of the animals, so why would God not include them when he makes the earth new again? But dear friends, he will and he even says so:

“The wolf will romp with the lamb, the leopard sleep with the kid.
Calf and lion will eat from the same trough, and a little child will tend them.
Cow and bear will graze the same pasture, their calves and cubs grow up together, and the lion eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will crawl over rattlesnake dens, the toddler stick his hand down the hole of a serpent. Neither animal nor human will hurt or kill on my holy mountain. The whole earth will be brimming with knowing God-Alive, a living knowledge of God ocean-deep, ocean-wide.Isaiah 11:6-9, The Message

We know there will be animals in heaven, on the new earth, so why not also the animals who were a part of our family? I read the portion of the chapter that talked about family pets and loved ones being restored and reconciled with us on the new earth to my family when we arrived home. I wanted them to have hope restored after the loss was so fresh, as an antiseptic to the sting death had left on our hearts.

It was wonderful to see them smile through tears as we pondered about what a renewed and restored Bruno would be like. What will he look like restored? Radiant and abounding with more love and joy, which hardly seems possible given the joy and good he always showed and gave us every day. Surely this is what he will be like.

But it’s true, the hope is real. All the things we love we will have again. We could feel hope bubble up in us as a family and the rest of week we reminded one another, we will see Bruno again, oh yes, we will see him again. I could see our hearts healing and hope rising with each passing day.

Where is your hope set these days? The below video is John speaking about the book and my prayer is you will find hope too in this message.

I leave you with this from the Apostle Paul:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-25, NIV

Hummingbirds and Hammocks

For me there is something magical about encountering a wild animal. Whether it’s an 8-point buck casually tip-toeing through the forest less than thirty feet away from my temporary perch during a recent Boot Camp, or catching a glimpse of a family of five raccoons strolling through our backyard late at night from the comfort of our couch, or waking up and finding hundreds of starlings blanketing our lawn as they use it for a brief pit stop during a fall murmuration, there is a part of me that leaps to life when it happens – I can feel this mixture of joy, excitement and curiosity begin to rise up. There is a sense of, ‘I don’t want this encounter to end because it feels so true.’  For me, it is also often where God shows up.

Yesterday, it was hummingbirds. Our puppy was, once again, up at the crack of dawn ready to start the day and so I found myself lying in the hammock in our backyard rather than crawling back into bed. The hammock is nestled between our deck and a nearby maple and provides a perfect view of the hummingbird feeder hanging off the corner of the deck. It was early enough in the morning that neither the sounds of the neighborhood nor the wind had woken up, but it was not too early for the hummingbirds. I barely had time to get myself situated in the hammock before a ruby-throated hummingbird darted to the feeder for a refuel. As I watched it hover, briefly land, and then hover again, that familiar sense of wonder returned and God began to connect some dots for me.

During the past few months, Jesus’ words about the vine and the branches in John, Chapter 15, have really stuck with me.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”   – John 15:1-5

This choice to ‘remain in Him’ has come up for me in Sunday sermons, in favorite podcasts, in books I’m reading, in the wise words of trusted friends, and now… hummingbirds.

A couple weeks ago I watched an episode of Nature which focused on hummingbirds.* Did you know a hummingbird has to feed on nectar every 20 minutes that it is awake?  Every. Twenty. Minutes. For it’s entire life, which can be twelve years or more.  Their little avian fuel tanks are so small and the rate at which they burn that fuel is so high, if they don’t feed almost constantly they will run out of fuel and be unable to fly.

Speaking of flight, what these tiny guys can do in the air is nothing short of a miracle. Their wings beat 50-80 beats per second and, unlike any other bird, they can hover, fly backwards and sideways, and at speeds of more 55 mph. As I watch this little guy from our hammock I think how incredible it would be to fly like that!

To get a sense of how deeply reliant hummingbirds are on nectar, consider this. Experts have estimated the amount of nectar a hummingbird must consume daily to sustain their unmatched flying abilities is the human equivalent of eating 1,300 hamburgers a day and washing it down with 16 gallons of water.

Hummingbirds must stay close to the flower – their source of energy – in order to hover, dart and zip through the air — in order to be what they were created to be and do what they were created to do.

It’s in this moment, in the stillness of the morning as I marvel at this little guy above me, that I realize their flower is a reflection of our Father.

“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

Oh, how I long to have an impact for the Kingdom, to know Him more intimately, to bear the kind of fruit where others can’t help but see the truth and glory of God through my life in the same way that I am absolutely captivated by this hummingbird, BUT…. how often do I go more than 20 minutes without drinking from my Father’s well?

Once again, I hear Him say, “Remain in me.”  There is no condemnation, no judgment for my past and present wanderings.  It is a simple but profound invitation.  “You want to fly like the hummingbirds – you want to be what I created you to be.  You can be – even this very day – all you need to do is drink from My well – not weekly, not daily, but minute by minute.” That’s a standing invitation for each of us.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words,

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  – Matthew 6:33-34

I cannot solve tomorrow’s problems today, nor can I change yesterday’s failures, but I can walk with Him today, in every moment.  When I make the choice to do so, I know I am being exactly who he created me to be.  And so I pause in the moment and say, “Jesus, oh, how I want to remain in you. Not just each week, each day or even each hour, but every minute of every day. Thank you for this reminder through your amazing creation!”

Job 12:7,10 says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you … In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Today I’m reminded why my heart loves seeing wild animals – because they remind me of, and occasionally even teach me about, our amazing heavenly Father and how to walk closer with Him every 20 minutes of every day.  The more I lean into Him, the more of my life I give over to Him, the more myself I become…..and the more he can use me, as he uses the hummingbird, to do amazing things that will draw others closer to Him.

* P.S.  – If you want to learn more about what an incredible miracle of creation the hummingbird is check out the full episode, of Nature’s Super Hummingbirds on PBS’ website.

Simple but profound

I just recently came back from vacation and while driving to work I saw that my engine light was on. I could ignore this, but the damage from doing so could possibly be catastrophic.

The same goes for our emotional well being. I had ignored (my emotional engine light) and pushed down my negative feelings for years and paid the price for this in many ways. I could write a book on this one but will spare you the details. My wife and I have now learned to invite Jesus into the issues of life that confront us.

We just recently faced a situation that was extremely difficult and our stress levels were very high. We talked about our feelings with this situation and then chose to invite Jesus into it. We simply asked Jesus what He wanted us to know and then we quietly waited. My wife saw Jesus sitting next to us at the meeting we were going to attend on the following day. Jesus told her that He had everything under control. I sensed Jesus telling us that He would be there with us and would help us through the situation.

We did experience some stress the following day, but nothing like we would have experienced had we not invited Jesus into this. Thank you, Jesus, for wanting to be a part of everything we do!

Two are Better than One

“Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4-9:13, NLT.

I needed this today, I so needed this today. About a year ago, I began a practice of asking Jesus what he wants me to read instead of turning to random passages or staying in one book or checking a box. So often in my life, I presumed to know what I needed and would be disappointed in the result, whether it is was reading the Bible, choosing what path to take, or saying things that made me feel better but were really hurtful to someone else. Over the past three years, unbeknownst to me, Jesus has been taking me on a journey away from self-protection and into allowing others in, especially him.

As the verses above state, being alone or choosing to be alone makes us vulnerable to attack and defeat. If you looked at my life from the outside, you would observe a man who has had many victories, a man who has a loving wife and children, a band of brothers who fight alongside him with authenticity and truth, and some close friends at work who genuinely care about his well being and think highly of him. You would look and think this man has so much to be thankful for (and he does) that he is truly blessed (and he is). But what you would not see is what is going on inside, his internal world.

Inside, you would see a man who has lived a life of self-protection, posing as confident, authentic, real, passionate, and driven, but in reality all those attributes served as a motive to self-protect, because in the end, “everyone leaves.” That is the deep, deep heart wrenching agreement I made long ago. And if you knew my story, you would understand why I have had to fight that deep place of hurt and woundedness almost daily. The Enemy sets up camp there and thrashes about laying down lies and bringing up examples to strengthen that agreement, no matter how many times I break it or fight back.

My story is one of abandonment, of family, friends, close relationships. But recently, I have begun to wonder how much of that has more so been me allowing those relationships to fade away, because I am actually self-protecting. One of the things I know about myself, is that I am fiercely loyal and I expect and even demand that in return. The good thing about that trait is that you get all of me as a friend and companion, all of me. The bad thing about that is I don’t leave much room for grace when you fall short on your end. This flaw is the self-protection part, and sadly I have lived most of my life that way. This is something I think I have always known, but recently was able to discern. This realization, about living a life of self-protection, is actually very true and one I am having to come to grips with.

I had an interesting experience last Saturday with my band of brothers. We were watching the Ransomed Heart Advanced Boot Camp session about the Poser, and Jesus really spoke to my heart about this self-protection theme in my life. It really hit me hard and started me down a path of memories and experiences where I had chosen to live a certain way or act a certain way in relationships in order to position myself to be able to self-protect. I started to ask myself why this was true and the answer was pretty easy to figure out.

My mother abandoned our family when I was 14. I made a deep vow about a year later on the day my parent’s divorce was final. I remember sitting in my room and saying, “I will never allow this divorce to be an excuse for me to fail or use it as a crutch for sympathy as long as I live.”  What I was really saying  though was, “I will be anything to anyone as long as they serve my needs and only as long as they do. I will never let anyone hurt me more than once, because I am out of there before they can hurt me again.”

As I have reflected on my life, I have either left or lost so many relationships because of this vow. Often, my motives have been self-serving to either make me feel good or to serve some need of mine. This posture of self-protection has really crept into my marriage over the years and caused much hurt for my family. They have had to work so hard to make me feel loved, and often I have been incapable of receiving their love. Somehow, I have actually come to believe that I am unlovable and undeserving of love. I took inventory of this theme and realized a hard truth, that I have such  great difficulty accepting compliments or gifts or acts of kindness. When people offer to help, my first response is always no, and I mean always. Most people have to push that offer further, because I rarely accept help. However, I am often the first to offer to help, and many times my motive is to make me feel good about myself, even though I do truly enjoy helping others. Just this week, my neighbor mowed my lawn. I know he did it as an act of kindness, but truthfully, I was really pissed. I struggled to accept it as a genuine act of kindness. I kept thinking he must have some other motive, he must want something in return. What is that all about? Sadly, thoughts like these creep into my psyche pretty much on a daily basis.

I have also realized that most of my relationship with Jesus has been this way. When he has loved me or blessed me or helped me in the way I want, we are good. But when he has disciplined me, admonished me, or not given me what I thought was best, it has created a wedge and distance in our relationship. I often go days without having time with him, because I am upset with him or feeling slighted. It has been painful but necessary to recognize this reality and the reality my deepest relationships have been mostly conditional, to include my relationship with Jesus. But that has been because of me. He is always there, never leaves, and always loves. This truth is real and the cornerstone of his promise to never forsake me or leave me.

Jesus is love and his love operates solely without condition. God’s love is unconditional, without requirement of reciprocation, and freely given. This is the only real and true definition of love. Any other definition is false, and therefore not love. So, I am now discovering how lost I have been because of this deep agreement with self-protection. And waiting in the shadows is the enemy, right there to remind me that if people, who are created in the image of God, are not dependable, then God must not be either. Oh how I fight this battle so often! It manifests itself in the smallest of offenses against me and then bam, there it is, woe is Zac; no one really loves him; no one really thinks of him; no one is really there for him; you are better off alone. How vicious are those lies, by an enemy who seeks to steal my joy, kill my relationships, destroy my life, and attempt to limit the life of Christ in me. Satan is evil and vile in every way and yet he has successfully deceived me into thinking I need to self-protect. But what he is really trying to do is drive a deep wedge between me and my savior, my loving father, my brother, my friend, and my guide. It does not get more detestable than that!

There is good news though! I can fight back! And I am not alone, Jesus fights with me, we fight together!! There is no escaping my responsibility to fight back with the armor of God and the strength of Jesus. I have an important part, with Jesus, to play in fighting back against the enemy and for the life Jesus promises.

This is why I love Jesus so much! He is right there with me, through the Holy Spirit of truth and goodness, breaking the lies, showing me truth in his word, and loving me perfectly when I least desire it or deserve it.

I so needed to hear those verses today. I feel his love, I know that was from him. He knew exactly what I needed. He knew I needed to be reminded two are better than one.

If you are reading this, know you are not alone. Jesus is the answer to any lie the enemy has laid down in your life. Jesus came to set us free, but there is a condition, not to his love, but to the life he offers. You have to listen to his voice, and follow his commands, only then will you not be alone. Jesus came so that you may have life and have it to the fullest, but he waits for you to choose him:

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.

7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:1-10, NASB.

So I ask you dear brothers, are two better than one? Will you choose to allow Jesus to be your other, or will you choose to self-protect? Join with me, and choose to let Jesus be your one so that you can be a part of two and have the life he wants to give to you.

“Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4-9:13, NLT.

Letting Go

Growing up, I was used to seeing men that seemed in control of their lives, keeping it all straight and always knowing what to do next. I tried over the years to emulate them but found it very difficult to be complete.

Then, I found out that God wants to be in control of my life! I don’t know about you, but after years of trying to control outcomes, I still find it difficult to let go of things; past, present and future.

Past wrongs in my life, both mine and others

Past jobs

Towns lived in and churches attended

Control over decisions with my business

Worries for family health

Control of planning and preparation

The list could go on and on….

 

It comes down to letting go of control.

 

It is not that I don’t trust God. I do. I just don’t know where I am supposed to be “hands off” or that point where I am supposed to help myself. Sometimes I think that I waste God’s time on the small stuff that I should be doing. I know that He has plenty of more important things to be helping folks with.

I have heard the question “How big is God?” I know that answer – He is big enough to handle anything. I just hate to bother Him with the small stuff.

But I see that if I keep all the small things from God, two things happen. First, all those small things overpower me and I become ineffective for God. Second, I take on God’s role, without thinking about it.

Like I said, it is tough letting go of control of the situations in my life, but I know that everything will be better if I do so.

So, I pray to let go of control and worry. I prepare for the answers God provides and work His plan accordingly.

I hope that you will reflect on your own actions to make sure that you are not trying to tackle all the small stuff too.

Give it to God. Just practice letting go…… It will make a difference for you.

Remembering Relationship

Less often than in years past but more often than I would like to admit, I at times find myself at the end of a day, sometimes even at the end of a few days or (ugh) a week, when it hits me.  I’ve gone the entire day (or longer) without walking with God.   That’s not to say I haven’t spent time reading a daily devotional, reading scripture, listening to a Christian-oriented podcast or reading a book by a Christian author, but rather that I’ve not invited Jesus into the intimate and endless moments of my day, that I’ve not sought or listened for the Father’s direction, that I’ve not been mindful or open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe each of these other spiritual practices are good and helpful and God-ordained.  In fact, I mention them because there aren’t  many days that go by without me spending at least a few minutes on one of them, BUT….. I have to remind myself that devotionals, scripture, podcasts and books are all TOOLS to strengthen my relationship with God.  They are NOT the relationship.

Let me put it this way.  I have three school-age kids who are wonderful and who I love dearly.  With the combined data that my wife and I receive on our smartphones from their teachers and schools and from the papers that come home in their backpacks I can read their stories, review their assignments, view photos of them in class and even occasionally watch videos of their projects.  With these tools I can learn an awful lot about what my kids are good at and what they like to do.  I can begin to understand each of their personalities and how they see themselves and others.  However, none of this actually provides me a relationship with my kids.  For that to happen, I have to spend time with them – talking to them, listening to them, spending time in their presence.

Our relationship with God works the same way.  We can spend all our time learning about God or we can spend our time in relationship with Him.  In His divine goodness He has given each and every one of us on this planet the exact same amount of the primary commodity required in any relationship – time.  1,440 minutes of it every day for each of us.  We then have to decide how we are going to spend it and, more importantly, with whom.

But I know this already so why have another 1,440 minutes (or more) of my life gone by without walking with Him?  This is a question I have to dig into – one that we each have to ask ourselves and one that I would encourage you to talk with God about if you find yourself living moments of life apart from God.

  • Do I believe in my heart of hearts that God is truly good and that He is for me? If not, it’s far easier to devote time to learning about Him rather than spending time with Him.
  • Do I believe that he would ever want to speak to me personally? Do I truly believe that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was enough to pay for my sins and make me righteous before the Father?  If not, I’ll wallow in shame or self-pity and allow the lies of the enemy to rob me of the relationship that God desires with me.
  • Do I so value the comforts of the World over God’s promises for me that I’ve over-committed my time, resources or personal energy so that I can build a better earthly kingdom to comfort myself and my family? If so, I will be more inclined to medicate my sheer exhaustion with television, sleep, or mindless games on my phone.
  • If I don’t “feel” God’s presence at any moment do I draw the conclusion that He either isn’t here or doesn’t care about me personally? If so, I am more likely to see him as unapproachable and less likely to see His presence in the world.
  • Do I attempt to manage my daily life and control my daily schedule in such a way that I’ve left no room for God to show up?  If so, I either succeed and begin to think I can do it on my own or fail and blame it on God.

When I’ve neglected my relationship with God, sometimes it’s a gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit that draws me back with a jaw-dropping sunset, or the wet kiss of a blanket of fog on the way into work, or the smell of a pine tree or the sound of a stream or the timely words of a song. Sometimes it is one of the spiritual practices I mentioned earlier that draws me back.  Sometimes it’s a comment from one of my kids, or one of the many selfless acts of my wife, or a timely word from a good friend.

If it’s been much longer than a day of not walking with God it’s sometimes less of a nudge of the Holy Spirit and more like a painful shove down the stairs brought on by my own sin.  It might begin with an unintentional, unplanned harsh word spoken out of frustration which quickly escalates into verbal hand grenades – indiscriminate, imprecise lobs of nouns and verbs exacting pain on anyone within range –  and end with regret, tears,  and damaged relationships.  There is a reason Jesus says to abide in Him.  There is a reason he says branches cannot bear fruit unless they are connected to the vine.   It is out of these experiences that I realize even more how desperately I need (and want) to walk with God from moment to moment and minute to minute.

Whether the renewal of my conversation with God begins with joy and gratefulness as I experience one of the countless ways His glory is revealed through His beautiful creation or begins with sadness and repentance from my own actions, I am thankful that our heavenly Father, like the father of the prodigal son, who, in Luke 15:20 saw the son “while he was still a long way off”, never stops looking for us to come home and never gives up on the relationship, whether it has been a day, a week or a lifetime.

 

Doubting the Father

It was the fall of 2015 when my life changed and I was no longer just a father.  Sometimes when you find the opportunity to be someone or something you grab a hold of it and do it to the best of yourself.

We were never meant to live that way, our lives were to be full of days of paradise, not of strife and struggle.  But here we are on the wrong side of the fall and we are here to try to do it on our own, or so I thought.

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come” Jesus Replied

So Peter one over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sing.  “Save me Lord!” he shouted

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.  “You have so little faith,” Jesus said “Why did you doubt me?”

You see how I saw the heavenly father was a lot like my interpretation of this scripture for far to long.  I focused so much on Peter failing and then on Jesus saying “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me”.  You see I skipped write over the most beautiful thing about our heavenly father, “Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.”  I never stopped to see that he saved him, first, that he grabbed his hand to pull him to safety before simply asking why do you doubt me.  Not the scolding punishment that we tend to put on God to often.

It is from this passage that I learned it is not about being the best version of yourself.  It is about letting the Father in, letting him shine through you.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t stumble and begin to sink in the water, but if you do I guarantee you there will be the hand there to save you and remind you that working on our doubt of the father is worth every opportunity we give it.

Men an opportunity is ahead of us.  Tomorrow morning the Fall Boot Camp will open.  If you have never been, I challenge you to get there.  These four days in the fall our one of the greatest investments you can make into your relationship with the Father.  Hope to see you there.

The Difference You Can Make

Most everyone has seen “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I would guess that sometime in your life you have asked “What am I worth” or “What difference do I make”? I know I have.

I am here to tell you that no matter where you are in life, you do and can make a difference in people’s lives, which can affect many more lives. Much of your influence you will never know about.

Your choices influence and provide guidance to your family, friends, and maybe co-workers. It is your decision to be a good or poor influence. I recommend be intentional and for good.

If you are blessed with spouse and/or children, know they learn much from you. Your spirit, passion, attitude, and goals influence each of their lives. And the choices they make in their future.

I believe in the “space time continuum” from the Back to the Future movie series. If we were to have done one thing different, much, if not all we see in our life, would not be present. Live with no regrets. From this day forward, be intentional with your relationships.

First, with Jesus. Connect or reconnect with Him to ground your existence. Set aside time daily to ask Him for guidance. Unplug from all noise so you can hear His response. Don’t rush His answer.

Next, any close family members should know who you are and what you believe in. Again, take the time to talk and listen to each other.

It is never too late to become a positive influence in someone’s life. Kind words, encouragement, and constructive discussion may provide the right direction for someone who is wandering through life, without purpose. Sometimes, you may have to give “tough love” to provide the correct influence.

As I stated earlier, each of us may never know what someone does because of us, but the impacts can be huge.

My two daughters have played roles that they will never see the final outcomes, but I can imagine what their impact has been on others.

My oldest just retired as a Flight Medic in the Air National Guard and was deployed multiple times overseas. She and the crews she worked with provided life-saving measures on hundreds of men and women injured during the war. Each veteran’s life saved provided an opportunity for their lives to be a continued influence on their families.

My youngest is helping train, through a hospital, resident doctors to learn how to ask patients questions to determine their illnesses and develop a good “bedside manner”. These doctors may one day have a great influence on the many people they see in their practice.

And on it goes……

So back to you – Are you influencing people and how?

If not, ask yourself this – Where can I make a difference? Is there someone that I can mentor?

I challenge each of you to take a step forward and make a difference in someone’s life.

Your brother in Christ, Warren

P.S.  Something is coming on May 1st.  Registration for the fall Boot Camp will open.  Hope you can make it!

The Call of My Heart

This blog is different than some of my others. I hope you are blessed and challenged to pursue the call of your heart Jesus has placed there, wherever it leads.

The last two weeks have been tough, I mean really tough. If I am really honest, the last three years have been tough. Two Friday’s ago, I sat in my office at the end of the  last 15 minutes of the work day when an overwhelming feeling of despair rolled over me like a tidal wave. As I sat starring at my computer screen in silence for that entire time, I uttered these words, “I hate this.” I could not now, nor then have told you what the “this” was, I just knew I was in trouble. From that point until I walked in my house, I could not tell you how I got home or how I even made it home.

As I drove home,  I continued to be overcome with sadness, despair, emptiness. I was numb, a total zombie. About a mile from my house is a park. I drive past it every evening. Somehow, my vehicle turned into that park and I drove to the furthest back parking space I could find. I just sat there and closed my eyes. I couldn’t even pray. I sat in total silence, reeling inside. At some point, I managed to utter “Jesus.” No relief came from the despair, but peace did come. It was going to be okay, I did not know when or how, but I knew it was going to be okay (sometimes all it takes is to say the name of Jesus and sometimes that is all we can say). After I few minutes, I figured I better get home as to not worry my family. I was about and hour late! When I walked in the door, my wife could see my countenance and she graciously did not say anything. I wouldn’t have even been able to respond at that time anyway.

Later in the evening, I went downstairs where I meet with my Father. It’s my listening spot. I sat in more silence, still unable to speak. I remember thinking, “This is not good Zac, this is not good at all.” Eventually, my precious bride came downstairs and asked the question every guy dreads, “What’s going on?” What she was really asking was, “Can I have access to your heart?” I responded, “How much time do you have?” and of course she said, “As much as you need.”

I proceeded to tell her about the struggle of the call of my heart. I have been hearing this call for many years. Some days it is deep and bellowing, other days it is subtle and faint, but nonetheless the call is daily. But, I could not define or put into words what I was feeling.

At the last three Boot Camps, the session that has called to me most profoundly has been the session on Adventure and Calling. My heart has been so stirred to action, but action never seems to come when I return home. After listening to me describe all this to her, as best I could, my wife quite possibly spoke the most life giving words I had ever heard in my life, and God was so in it. He was speaking directly to my heart through her!

She said to me with such tenderness and love, “Zac, we’ve probably had this same conversation over the course of the last three years a hundred times, and I think what I have gathered from this conversation is you are struggling to decide what direction you want to go between two Zac’s.” At this point I was very intrigued, and what happened next was the freeing of my soul in such a holy moment that can only happen when someone who knows you, really knows you and knows your heart, can give you truth supernaturally.

My bride continued with tears of love and compassion streaming out of her tender and loving eyes, “You are fighting a battle along a continuum of your heart. On one end of the continuum is ‘Safe Zac’ full of responsibility, seriousness, dependable, self-sacrificing, and predictable. But, on the other end of the continuum is ‘Reckless for Jesus Zac’ where you want to live everyday following him, depending on him, totally for him, whatever he has each day, living out of your heart, and doing exactly what he wants you to do. What I have seen is Jesus moving you closer and closer to ‘Reckless for Jesus Zac’ and you are feeling like you are at an intersection and the time to make a decision for the future is now.” It was like the Holy Spirit opened my heart and let my bride look inside and put to words what I had been searching for over the course of the last three years. I came back to life! My heart was resurrected! That was exactly what I had been feeling and experiencing!! What a whole and holy moment that was!! I was set free!! Thank you Jesus!!

But, that was just the beginning. The pursuit of my heart has just started. I have spent long stretches of time since that conversation walking this out, asking Jesus what this call of my heart could look like. I have been very intentional sitting in solitude and silence, allowing him to speak and inviting him to lead me. I have not received all the answers, but what I have learned and am still learning, is Jesus is so in this struggle and the adventure. Even though I have been dealing with this same struggle for such a long time, I have never been closer to Jesus, never more have I felt his love pouring over me in such a real way, or wanted to be in his presence more than I ever have at than any other time in my life!

I am pursuing the call of my heart with passion and zeal while I am also letting Jesus pursue my heart with all the passion and zeal he displayed going to the cross for me!

As the story goes with all of us though who are in Christ, the enemy has been right there bringing foul spirits of despair and discouragement. But, I am equipped with the truth and knowledge of how to fight back and resist. It has been intense, but I fight from a place of victory and have won every battle so far with Jesus fighting with me, right by my side!!

I don’t know where the call of my heart will lead, but I do know the call of my heart is the most real and true me there is, and I know the call of my heart is the voice of my brother and friend Jesus. I am listening intently. I am willing to follow, wherever he leads.

I will leave you with this, one of my favorite songs of all time. The truth of this song has deeply encouraged me.  I pray you are encouraged as well:

CREATING SPACE FOR JESUS

During the weekend, as I was in the process of asking Jesus about what He wanted me to share with you, I received this email from a close friend at a public high school where I used to teach. His email is part of a 27 member men’s group email I receive every morning that challenges each man in their walk with Christ.  This email group and how it started is a miracle in itself and probably a great topic for a future blog. However, that is a topic for another day.

My friend wrote…

“Friday night two of my female goats had twins. One set was doing well, feeding off the doe and the other set was alive but not eating.  Ended up the mother was not taking care of the babies (kids). I milked the mother and fed the colostrum to the kids. This is one of the most important parts in getting kids to survive, real colostrum.  This mother is a good one, had several kids in the past but for some reason this was not working. She was not producing much milk and is rather skinny. The kids need to be fed every 2-4 hours for the first few days. I went to milk the mother, whose name is Mule Goat, at 1:00am.  I had not seen 1:00 am for several years. Out to the barn I go armed with a baby bottle to collect the milk/colostrum mix. On my way out to the barn I was struck me with how much this was like life. It is written that Jesus is our shepherd. I am now the sole provider for these two girl goats. They are starting to recognize my voice and will respond when I call them. In the past when I have bottle babies it’s amazing the connection they have with me. In a pen full of goats, if I say, “baby goat” the one I raised from a bottle will be the first to cry out and start looking for me. This could be any animal, not necessarily a goat. Think of this in terms of a baby goat. How much are we like a baby goat when it comes to our Heavenly Father? Do we totally rely on Him or do we venture off and get our chunky butts stuck in a ditch or the corner of the fence? Do you cry out when he calls your name? These girl goats are only a few days old yet will settle down when I start talking to them. My voice is soothing to them! Imagine how the voice of the Lord is to us! Many scriptures use the reference to shepherd and tending to the flocks. This is only a small part of it but I wanted to share as it was not as meaningful to me when I didn’t have livestock.”

This description brought a ton of memories to my mind of my childhood of growing up on a farm and spending time with my Grandpa and Dad. We did not have goats but we did raise cattle. I remember the times when a baby calf would have trouble nursing from their mother and my Grandpa or Dad would have to bottle feed them too. As my friend described, the connection that those baby calves had with my Grandpa or Dad when they heard their voice was obvious. They immediately knew and recognized their voices and would come to them regularly.

So my question to each of you is this…are you like the baby goats and baby calves described here when it comes to Jesus and your Heavenly Father? Have you heard His voice recently? Do you seek out His Voice on a daily basis? When was the last time you heard His voice and then did what He said to Do?

If you are like me, the answers to these questions can be difficult to answer. For me, it is very much like a roller coaster for me when hearing the voice of Jesus. Some days I feel really close in my friendship with Him and I can clearly hear His voice and then there are other days where I feel extremely distant from Him as if He can’t hear me and I can’t hear Him. I tell you this that this walk and friendship with Jesus is something we have to fight for and be intentional about. We have to put ourselves in a position to hear His voice and create the needed space in order to have the kind of friendship with Jesus we have always wanted.

With this need to position ourselves and be intentional in hearing the voice of Jesus, I want to offer you a list of suggestions that I have found helpful in my daily walk that allowed me to be in a position and slow the world down around me long enough to allow the communication to flow between me and Jesus, just like you have to do if you want to have a personal conversation with your spouse. In essence, you are creating space for Jesus to be more present with you without the distractions.

Suggestion #1: Before picking up your phone in the morning and immediately looking at the news or email, talk to Jesus immediately and allow yourself to ease into the morning with Him instead jumping right into the headlines. This may be having a cup of coffee and praying or it may be just allowing yourself to say thank you to Jesus for another day to live for Him.

Suggestion #2: Instead of listening to talk radio on your commute to work, turn the radio off and ask Jesus what He wants to say to you today. Sometimes he may want you to turn your radio on to worship music or listen to an encouraging podcast, or even better He may want you to keep the car quiet so He can speak directly to you to encourage you as you start your day.

Suggestion #3: Before walking into work, wait in your car for a couple of minutes and give the day to Jesus. I have started to use the phrase, “I give it all to you Jesus. I give my entire day to you”. This has helped me from jumping right into work and instead has helped me to be more relaxed because I have now asked Jesus to be in control.

Suggestion #4: At some point during the day, take a walk outside, whether it is during your break, your lunch, or just a quick breather. I am fortunate that I work on a beautiful college campus. I have recently began making a point that I walk at least one time across campus during the day, either to get coffee or lunch or just to be outside. This has helped get me away from my computer and allow Jesus to speak to me through His Creation.

Suggestion #5: Before turning the TV on to the news of the day or diving into your phone when you get home from work, take a walk around your block. This allows you to thank Jesus for helping you through the day as well as what He wants you to say to your family tonight. This walk does not have to be alone. If your kids can go with you, think of the opportunity you have to speak into their life about their day. If the weather is too cold (like it has been all Spring), turn on some instrumental music and allow Jesus to commune with you about your day but more importantly for you to say thanks to Him.

Please know that I am far from perfect at doing all of these consistently. I have many days where I am only able to complete one of them. However, I can honestly say that when I am able to do at least one of them, my ability to hear Jesus’s voice is clearer because I have been intentional in creating the space to hear His voice.

My challenge to you is this. Try just ONE of the suggestions this week and attempt to be as consistent with that suggestion as you can. I believe that you will be incredibly blessed by it and your friendship with Jesus will be renewed!

John 10

10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Loving like Jesus

Loving like Jesus means loving people where they are at & not where I want them to be or even what their potential is. He loved us while we were yet sinners, why is it my inclination is to love with expectations? Loving my wife is easy for me. It’s the not so lovely folks I meet out in the world that I judge and label unworthy. I sometimes wish I saw people as Jesus does, like the Brandon Heath song “Give Me Your Eyes” (https://youtu.be/P5AkNqLuVgY). I think the heart of that song is spot on, but for me, seeing people as Jesus does would mean I would see all the pain and suffering in everyone’s life. I don’t think my heart could handle it all. So for now I will just try to do my best try to remember every life has a story, give people the benefit of the doubt, and love them where they are.

Ramkat Todd

Pray Hard, Play Hard & Live Well!

Can I really hear from Jesus?

There are numerous examples of men and women in the Bible who speak with and hear directly from our Lord. It started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Abraham then gets instruction to sacrifice his son Isaac and Moses is told to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. How about Moses seeing a burning bush and receiving the 10 Commandments?   Noah is also told to build an ark because the world will flood. David spoke directly to God throughout his entire life.

Yes, these are examples from the Old Testament, but what about the New Testament? Well, besides Jesus living as a human on Earth for over 30 years and giving us countless instructions to live by, we have other examples like Saul on the road to Damascus when Jesus confronts him and asks “why do you persecute me?”. Saul then becomes Paul and is given clear direction from the Lord to spread the Gospel throughout the world. On and on it goes throughout the Bible, God communicating directly with his loved ones.

What about today? Does God speak to us now? Do Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us personal direction for our lives even on a daily basis? I hear some people say that hearing from the Lord is impossible and that he only spoke to people long ago.

What does the Bible say about Jesus speaking to people?

Check out John 10: 2-5 NIV – The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Jesus is our Shepherd and we are His sheep. What does this mean?   Well it says that we listen to his voice and He calls us by name. He knows us personally. He leads us and goes on out ahead of us as our Leader. We, as sheep, follow Him because we know His voice.

How about Revelation 3:20 NIV – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

If I hear His voice and open the door for Him, then He will join me, even for dinner. Think about how we interact with our closest friends and companions. We get together and “break bread” for intimate and personal conversations about life. Jesus wants to do life with us too.

I believe the Bible is clear on Jesus speaking to us directly. Here is one example in my life where the Lord communicated with me and provided specific instructions on something I needed, but didn’t want to do:

A few months ago, I was driving through the state if Illinois after seeing my son in Chicago for the weekend. On the way home, I felt the presence of God in the car as I drove alone down Interstate 55. You see, this was the location where my life fell apart 18 years ago. I became divorced and also a single Dad raising two children full time after my ex-wife had an affair with the neighbor across the street. It was a traumatic event and my heart was broken at the time. Now, 18 years later, I thought I was past the pain and the need for healing from the divorce. God, however, had other plans for me.

During the drive, I invited the Lord in to my prayer time. After a few minutes, He spoke into my heart and said I needed to forgive the man from this affair. He told me to go to his home and tell this man that I forgive him face to face. Needless to say, I wasn’t excited about this great opportunity the Lord was providing me. I wanted to get home instead of having this conversation. However, I had been asking God to speak to me for weeks prior to this day, so I felt the need to be obedient to His direction, no matter how uncomfortable it would be.

Commentary: Jesus speaks to us today in many ways if we will make time for Him. In my case, I was driving alone in a car where there was no competition from a television, a laptop or even my phone at that point. He wants to be our #1 priority. He knocked and I met Him ½ way by having three hours of quiet time on the road. This type of quiet time, even if for 30 minutes each day, is something we need on a regular basis to hear from Him. Ask Him to join you. Ask Him all of your intimate questions. He will respond if you believe and have faith.

Back to the Story: On the way to the man’s home, I looked for any excuse to drive right on by. What would I say to him? Did he even live in the same home? What if his wife came to the door? On and on the questions came as I battled spiritual warfare on how “stupid” I would look if I showed up at his door.   As this battle raged, I became more and more confident, knowing that anything was possible through Him.

So I came to the city where he lived and said “God, you need to make this clear to me if You want me to forgive this man now.” 10 stoplights in town stood between me and his home. I was looking for a red light from God, but all 10 lights turned green just as I approached each one.   Point made. I felt Jesus say, “Green means go, so go and forgive this man now”.

I then stopped outside of his home and prayed again asking Jesus to send a sign to move me on past this “opportunity” for character building. No sign came to my dismay. So, I walked up to the door and pushed the doorbell. No response. I hit the doorbell a second time. No response again. Was this a chance to leave? “Knock on the door” is what I heard next.

Commentary: Jesus can speak to us in many ways. Sometimes it is directly to us (not audible words, but a stirring in our hearts). Other times, it might be through another person’s words, or through nature, music, books, poetry and so on. It is very personal when coming from Jesus. He knows the words we need and the manner in which we need to receive it in. In my story this time, I felt His presence and words in my heart.

Back to the Story: I then knocked and the man who had the affair with my ex-wife came to the door. He looked at me in shock with his eyes becoming the size of silver dollars. I shared with him that what he did 18 years ago was wrong and also a betrayal. I told him that God asked me to visit him on that day to forgive and release him from the affair. The man stood there speechless and only grinned. No apology came as he just listened to me. I left that man’s home not needing an apology that day. It didn’t matter what he said or didn’t say. There was healing that was needed in my soul (and maybe his) that the Lord provided to me through an act of faith and obedience. I never felt as strong as when I left that man’s home that day. I could do anything through the power of the Lord. I believe that the Lord gives us what we need, even if we don’t recognize it sometimes. He knew I needed healing and spoke directly into my wounded heart. I am so thankful for His gift of a healed heart and for speaking directly to me on that day (many times).

There is no doubt that God wants to speak to us. We just need to have the ears and desire to hear Him.

ROI

What if you didn’t read that as return on investment?  What if instead it was relationship on investment?  We lead our lives trying to win the game of accumulation, we tend to think subconsciously or not of every interaction as a way of feeding the desire that is within.   But is that what we are made for?

Our relationships are built on time.  Think about young love, you want nothing more than to spend all waking hours together and those hours seem to pass so quickly.  This time is something we are willing to give, yet later after much more time together, we feel as though the relationship takes to much of our time.  The reality is that it takes no more no less “time” it is just our investment that has changed.  We have changed our focus on the one that is front of us and instead replaced it with trying to fill the desire within.

Genesis 29:20, NIV: “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.”

To often this is also the picture of our relationship with the heavenly father.  We are on fire for him and going to do whatever he calls us to do.  But when the risk becomes to high we start to doubt and ask “is this really you lord?”.  To often our prayers are answered but we question our faith by how comfortable the answer makes us feel.  But God calls us to make wise use of our time, to approach every opportunity to share the kingdom wisely.

Colossians 4:5, NLT: “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.”

God is calling us to invest our time, our greatest currency.  We must move forward with investing in those things that are before us, our families must be high on that list for the return far outweighs most everything.  The only investment that must be put above this is our investment with the Father, for the return is eternal.

 

A Backward Life

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end

Love never dies…”

1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (The Message)

I have lived a backward life for the majority of my life. In the fall of 2017 Jesus whispered to me, “Zac, you don’t know how to love. You love in order to receive love.”  Those words began a journey into exploring how I have lived my life. It was not enjoyable at all to hear Jesus speak that truth to my spirit, but it was the most loving thing he could have done at the time. This is not a blog about how to love better or how to learn to love better, this is a blog about what love is. I can write the next sentence and end this blog with one statement, because there is really not much else to say other than this, “Love is a choice.”  That’s it, nothing else, nothing more, nothing less, that is what love is, period.

You have probably heard this verse many times, and if you are married, it’s very likely this very verse was read at your wedding, it was at mine. We can all agree that Paul’s description of love is true, without question. But is it true for you? Is it, really? I thought it was for me for so long, but my view was outward, meaning I applied this truth to how others should love me. It’s so easy to fall into that trap.

Be honest with yourself, you read Paul’s description of love and said, “Yeah, love is that way, and if my wife would just love me in that way, we would rarely if ever have any problems.” But you see, that is the problem, these attributes, this wisdom is for YOU, period. Otherwise you are living a backward life.  I came across this quote the other day, “The only way love can last a lifetime is if it’s unconditional. The truth is this: love is not determined by the one being loved but rather by the one choosing to love.”

Brothers, love is on you, it’s up to you, it’s determined by you, it’s chosen by you. There is no other way, well there is, but it’s not love and it is certainly backward.  Every single attribute Paul wrote is a choice. Let me show you, if I may take some liberty with scripture to prove a point:

Love chooses to never give up.

Love chooses to care more for others than for self.

Love chooses to not want what it doesn’t have.

Love chooses to not strut,

Chooses to not have a swelled head,

Chooses to not force itself on others,

Chooses to not always be “me first,”

Chooses to not fly off the handle,

Chooses to not keep score of the sins of others,

Chooses to not revel when others grovel,

Chooses to take pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Chooses to put up with anything,

Chooses to trust God always,

Chooses to always looks for the best,

Chooses to never look back,

Chooses to keep going to the end

Love chooses and never dies…”  1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (The Message)

Think about the times in your life you chose to love. Did Jesus not make the same choice for us when he left heaven and went to the cross? “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8 (The Living Bible)

God chose to love us with the most precious gift he could give, himself. If you would let that sink in, let that permeate the depths of your soul, what would your life look like, your marriage, your most important relationships, your church, if you chose to live in this truth?

What is the most precious possession you have in your life? Could you honestly see yourself giving that over to ridicule, torture, and ultimately death, for love? Would you, really? God did! Why? Because he chose to.

That is what love is, a choice. It always has been and it always will be. Will you choose to no longer live a backward life? I am choosing to not live a backward life each day even more than I ever have before. You can too, today is the day. Choose in small ways and they will become greater ways over time. One of the best ways to love is to pray and you can chose to do so with this simple prayer:

Father forgive me for the ways I have chosen to not love. Jesus, I give you permission to reveal to me the ways and times I have chosen to not love and to come into those times and heal my heart. I ask you Holy Spirit to show me when I am not choosing to love and urge me in those times to choose to love. I call forth the Kingdom of God over my life in a new way and I choose not to live my life backward, but instead to look to you Jesus to move me forward in love. I surrender my heart to you and ask you to remove any place in my heart that is calloused or unloving and I invite you to replace those areas of my heart with your love and your capacity to love. I open my heart to you to fill it with your love for my wife, my family, my relationships, and others you put in my life. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Am I Loved or Am I Disqualified?

As I sit down to write this blog, I have just finished rocking my 11 month old daughter to sleep. Sometimes when I rock her, it is a very calm, somewhat easy process. She lets me hold her in my arms, not fighting my hold on her and eventually will fall sleep with no struggle at all. She feels and knows my hold on her and eventually gives in to the safety and security I provide. Once she allows that to happen, she is able to peacefully fall asleep, usually within 10 minutes. However, tonight was not one of those nights. This time, she fought my hold on her and was constantly trying to change positions. She cried and cried while I tried to hold her, fighting the hold I had on her and the safety and security I was providing. She kept on trying to move and was continually fighting with me and the sleep she desperately needed. It was a constant battle for at least 30 minutes until she eventually began to tire and slowly began to realize that she was safe, she was secure, and that she was loved by me. Once this happened, she was out light a light and fell into a deep sleep enough that I could lay her down for the night.

So why in a men’s blog would I share this story? Well, it goes back to the question I posed in my title. Am I LOVED or am I DISQUALIFIED? As the father of five daughters, yes I said that right, five daughters, and a husband to my beautiful wife, I am constantly being asked this question by them, may not always verbally, but in their interactions with me. Whether they voice it or not, this is the core question that is asked of all women. Am I LOVED and am I worth fighting for? Even though I have attempted to answer these questions myself, whether it is thru verbal affirmation, physical touch, physical presence, or spiritual leadership, I am aware of the fact that this question can only be answered perfectly by their Heavenly Father, through an understanding of how He sees them, how He adores them, and how He loves them. In fact He has loved them before they were ever born and that there is nothing that they could do that would ever change how He feels about them. In the same way that there is nothing my 11 month old daughter could do, or my wife could do, my love for them would never change no matter how much they fought against that thought or chose to believe that about themselves.

So how does this apply to men? I am glad you asked. As I look back at my own life and the lives of so many men I have had the privilege to interact with and minister to, this is a question they struggle with as well. Before they can ask the question, “Do I have what it takes?” they must come to grips with the fact and believe in their hearts that they are loved unconditionally first. Their value is not in their job, not in how much they make, not in sports, not in their intelligence, and not in their leadership position in church. God’s love for them is not based on anything they can do but is only based on God’s love for them.

Even more disheartening is the number of men who believe that they are DISQUALIFIED from ever being loved by God because of their past. They don’t believe that God’s grace and mercy can extend to them. This is a devastating lie that Satan has thrown at men with the goal of keeping distant from God and in bondage to their past. Think about this vicious cycle for just a minute…I don’t feel or believe that God loves me unconditionally so I have to earn it through my actions — my actions fall short and I sin (which we all do every day) — I  believe that God can’t love me because of my sin — I feel shame and guilt and despair and believe that I can’t approach God — which leads to — I don’t feel or believe that God love me unconditionally…Do you see the vicious cycle that men can get caught up in and stay on forever, all because of a lie that Satan has convinced us to believe?

For me, this was the exhausting cycle and process I found myself on for 40 years of life. This constant need to EARN God’s love but then constantly falling short and feeling DISQUALIFIED. You can only imagine how this cycle became even more life threatening when I was the first person in my family who went through a divorce, made even worse by the fact that I was unfaithful in the process. The shame and the guilt I felt was almost unbearable to the point that I considered taking my life because of the hopelessness I was feeling.  It was at this rock bottom place that I remember saying and believing with Satan that I was unforgivable and unlovable. How could God love someone like me? I believed the lie that I had DISQUALIFIED myself.

But thankfully the story does not end there…through the course of the last seven years, God has used a loving and supportive family, a group of strong Christian brothers, and an encouraging counselor to slowly help me realize that I am LOVED, that I am FORGIVEN, and that there is NOTHING I did in the past, NOTHING I can do in the present, and NOTHING I could do in the future that would change how God feels about me. He LOVED me in my past, he LOVES me in my present, and He will LOVE me in my future.

As we head into the next weeks leading up Valentine’s Day, there is going to be a lot of conversations about love. It is my prayer men, that just as you can hopefully say YES to the question of your wife when she asks you, AM I LOVED?, that you will be able to believe in your heart that your Heavenly Father is saying the same YES to you of the same question, AM I LOVED?, and NO to the question of AM I DISQUALIFIED?

If you can’t take my word for it, at least take God’s word for it by reading the following passage from Romans 8. As you read it men, let these words sink into your heart in the same way my daughter sank into my arms tonight when she fully realized how much she was LOVED and that there is nothing she could do to ever change how I feel about her. Your Heavenly Father is saying this same thing to you, YOU ARE LOVED AND YOU ARE NOT DISQUALIFIED!

Romans 8:35-39 The Message (MSG)

31-39 So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

FOMO

FOMO

FOMO means “fear of missing out”. It is a phobia or fear that you will miss out on some important social or business event.

Hi, my name is Tod and I have FOMO…. (read this like you were at an AA meeting).  While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a phobia about it, I do “feel” like I’m missing out on things.  What I really have is FOMOOG, the “fear of missing out on God”.  Much of it has to do with the pace of life that I allow myself to live in.  There are so many things that are vying for my attention, work, family, church, food, entertainment, books, maintenance on the cars and house, ministry, friends just to name a few.  None of them are bad, there are just so many opportunities and only so much of me to go around.  The list of demands is endless that are trying to distract me from what is really needed, an intimate relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I keep hearing the Father saying “spend time with me”. What I’ve been hearing in sermons and podcasts over the last 6 weeks or so are things like, you need…

“solitude with God”

“planned neglect”

“the spiritual discipline of solitude”

“seek first God’s Kingdom”

“sabbath”

“to be set apart”

“put yourself in a position to let God capture your attention”

“build stop signs in your life”

“stop and consider”

It sounds a lot like He’s inviting me to slow down. While I don’t say it out loud, I do let my actions say “I don’t have time…”  Which is a lie!  I have let the world tell me I should be doing x, y & z things.  But the real question is, am I doing what God wants me to do?  I hope so, but I suspect what He really wants from me is ME, and when he has that my activities will line up with His will for me.  Even now I’m fighting FOMO because the State of the Union address is on while I’m writing this and I’m missing out on seeing it live, but I’m choosing to neglect FOMO and spend time with God and my Beautiful Bride for the rest of the evening.  It’s a small step toward putting myself in the position to let God capture my attention so I can be fully His.  Every tomorrow will be a new opportunity for me to choose intimacy with God…I hope you will too.

Ramkat Todd

Pray Hard, Play Hard and Live Well

Leadership; bringing it home

What does it really mean to be a leader of your family? Have you ever really thought about it at a deeper level? Often leadership is confused with completing the most tasks, getting the kids to their next event, or securing a home via a stable career. You know, the provider role. As men, we get stuck in this way of thinking. While these things no doubt have an importance, and are part of being a good spouse or father; it’s by no means the most important duty of a husband and/or father. Being a spiritual leader of the home is the single most important role a man plays in the home but it often gets put off or pushed off on others.

I was tested in this recently. Our family very recently took a vacation to the mountains. As most do this time of year we planned on skiing as a family. The challenge was that three of the four of us had never skied before so lessons would be required and fears were there to overcome. As we embarked on this fun family adventure (think Griswold Family Vacation… a fair comparison) we were filled with excitement and anticipation. That excitement and anticipation turned to fear for some. Those that have skied can easily identify the intimidating factor the mountains play for a new skier. This was the case here. The fear of being out of control was real and terrifying, almost paralyzing. The enemy capitalized on this little opportunity, as he always does, and was working toward stealing the joy of our adventure as a family. It was in this moment that I felt the Holy Spirit come over me and I knew I had a battle to fight for my family.

I began to pray fervently over my family. Praying for God’s protection over them while skiing, for the blood of Jesus to cleanse them of the fear instilled by the enemy, for the enemy to be cast out in the name of Jesus and under God’s authority. It was a powerful moment and God showed up. The fear began to subside, the peace of the Father began to ease the intimidation and restore the joy we’d originally felt. This was a “stepping up” moment where it required some spiritual leadership for the family. I invited God into our adventure and made it clear the enemy was not welcome. This changed the trajectory of our trip, allowed us to fully enjoy God’s creation and beauty in the mountains and find joy in our time together as a family on a fun adventure.

The trip could have easily been derailed by frustration and fear. We would have missed an opportunity together and a foothold for the enemy could have been created. All it took was some quiet time with the Father, passionate prayer and full faith that God would deliver. I’ll be honest with you, this hasn’t always been the chosen practice for me. I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing frustration to cloud my mind, resentment of those that the enemy falsely presents as a hindrance; a full-fledged lie to steal the joy. This is how he operates. We as men have got to identify this and stand up for our families. Step into that spiritual leader role and fight the battle. That’s our God given role and we come to it from a place of victory. So let’s get after it men; and lead the way the Father designed us to lead. We’ve all got it in us!

Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Surrendering Seeds

On most days, I start my mornings by reading devotionals from a few of my favorite authors and ministries to bring myself into alignment with the Lord before the craziness of the world enters in. A couple of weeks ago, the devotional from that morning hit me right between the eyes, almost like a locomotive had run me over. You know the feeling.

The Bible verse highlighted in the devotional was Galatians 6:7 – “Be not deceived, God cannot be mocked: For whatever a man sows, therefore he shall also reap.” I had heard this verse many times, but never before did it have this strong of an impact on me. All I could think about were the seeds that I had been sowing in my marriage, with my children, at work, with my friends, and others. Why did this verse jump out at me this time more than ever before? Is the Lord tired of me going through the motions with my thoughts, words and actions? Yes or no, I certainly felt convicted.

I wrote this verse on a sticky note and placed it on my desk at work so that I would be forced to think about it each day. So over the last few weeks, here are some of the questions and issues that it has raised in my heart:

What seeds am I sowing each day? I realized that every meeting, every conversation and interaction is an opportunity to plant seeds. These are opportunities to represent Him, His Kingdom and His Word. I fall short here, but that cannot deter me. I need to be strong and courageous through Him. Every day I pray for Divine Appointments and He gives me many opportunities thankfully.

Why do I sometimes shy away from planting seeds with others? Am I fearful of their reaction or what they might say? Some of that is true unfortunately, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t matter how they react or what they might say. It only matters what I do in that situation. My job is to plant the seeds and then the Lord will do the watering and growing.

Some of the seeds I have planted have not sprouted. I have wondered if I am doing something wrong. It is painful not seeing results. I recognize that not all seeds grow and some will take longer than others. This requires “surrendering the seeds”. Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up, losing or that I am weak. Surrendering means coming under the Lord’s authority. It means relinquishing control over to Him. So once planted, it’s time to release or “surrender” the seeds over to the One who has a plan for each and every one of the seeds. This requires trust and faith that He will make the seeds sprout one day. Seeing all of the wonderful gifts He has given me over the years makes me confident that the seeds I have planted will grow someday (on His timetable).

As I wait patiently for the seeds to sprout, I can till the soil and make it more fertile with my words and actions. These are words that provide love, life, and healing; words that build self-esteem and self-respect. Yes, that is what is needed. Actions that show kindness are important; actions that bring peace, understanding, and wisdom are critical too. These seeds will require protection as well. It can all be very complicated, but as long as I “surrender the seeds” and my life over to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. He loves these seeds more than I ever could.

The Second Most Important Gift You Ever Will Receive

Christmas Day, 2017! What a Blessed Day, in any year.

It is hard to believe that God blessed us with his Son so many years ago, and Jesus is still the most influential Person to ever walk this earth.

Jesus remains to this day The Gift: to the world, to each individual. And like any gift, we have the choice to accept or not accept The Gift. Once we accept Christ, our responsibilities increase exponentially. We become responsible for telling others about Christ and fighting for the hearts of men, women and children.

I want to touch briefly on the second most important gift you ever will receive – a little more time. Does not sound like to big a deal, but it is.

Jim Croce sang “Time in a Bottle”. Here are the opening lines:

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do

Is to save every day
‘Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

Well, we can’t save time and we can’t take our time here in this earthly life for granted. If you have accepted the First Gift of Jesus, then you are here on God’s time.

We need to spend that time being better spouses, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, friends, warriors and disciples.

That means setting aside time to be all of those things, which is the challenge. It means being intentional with your time and choose wisely what you commit yourself to. It is tough to balance all the things we have to do and what we want to do.

On November 30th, I was coming back from Chicago and my wife had to have emergency surgery before I could land and get to the hospital. My daughter had taken my wife to the ER and had been with her there most of the day. I sent out a request to my E6 brothers to see if someone could go to the hospital, just until I could get there. A number showed up, met and kept my daughter company until I got to the hospital. Some stayed until the surgery was over. That is what a band of brothers does for each other. I know it took them away from family and other duties they had. I am grateful for their friendship and efforts.

 Here are just a few scriptures that address our mission in this earthly Godly life:

Romans 13:11 – And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

Romans 12:1 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

If after reading these scriptures, you have questions on how to get started, please contact me.

Now the rest of the story….

The timing of this emergency was amazing. Had it occurred 5 days later, Janet and I would have been on vacation, outside of the US. The outcome would not have been the same. We thank God this emergency happened right before our trip. We accept this as a blessing.

We accept this as our best gift this year – a little more time…….together.

Die to self, Really?

I have been hard pressed on all sides lately. Since early Novemeber, I have been met with one challenge after another. Whether it’s been work, family, my marriage, finances, relationships, this time of year, or any combination thereof, this has been a tough couple of months. I have begun to realize that it has not been those “things” necessarily, but more so about how my heart has been toward those things.

A theme has been developing in my life recently and Jesus has been very intentional in taking me to a place in my heart of deep deep woundedness while revealing my profound deeper ways of coping and masking the pain that comes with those wounds. Here at E6, we adopted term called “posing” from Ransomed Heart, which simply means to live in a false-self outside of who you were intended to be, which is born out of a single wound or a series of wounds. Regardless of the wounding, the false-self or “poser” is what most people create in order to make life work for them. Because to often the pain associated with the wounding gets stuffed or covered, the result is to live as the poser and never allow anyone to see who you really are. I became a master at doing so starting at the age of 15.

The theme Jesus has been speaking to me about has been what he said to me this past October. He said, “Zac, you don’t know how to love. You have never really known how to love. You have lived your life in such a way as to receive love, not to love.” When Jesus spoke those words to my spirit, I knew exactly what he meant. When I was 15, my parents divorced. I remember my dad coming home the day the divorce was final and crying, literally wailing in agony. I had never ever heard my dad cry, not once until that day. That was the first time in my life I heard true pain in loss. I made a solemn vow that day as I sat on my bed in my room. I said, “I will never let this situation define me or use it as an excuse to hinder my life.”

What has been revealed to me since October is the truth of what I did with that vow and how that vow was the beginning of the poser in my life. What I began to do was learn how to do whatever it took to be loved. I have spent a lifetime discovering what individual people liked and even loved about me and I would remember and be whatever the “that” was to them, just to receive their love or admiration.  I became so very good at doing this. Truthfully, it helped me become very successful in life, as worldly success is defined, but it is an absolutely exhausting way to live. Now, I could not have told you until recently that I have been posing in so many areas of my life, but I do know now after a couple of years of reflection that I was living a poser led life.

I was not always 100% of the time doing this, but much of the the time I was. There have been many times I have done loving things for someone with a pure heart and out of love, but this underlying posing was always present. I have a long history of moving on from relationships once I was discovered to be a poser. Whenever someone, be it a girlfriend or close friend started to not like particular things about me, if I could not figure out how to be that to them, then I would jump out of that relationship before they could leave me. That stems from abandonment when my mom left at 14, but it is very much tied to simply wanting to be loved. My poor wife has had to live with this for far to long. Thank goodness she has loved me despite myself and shown me what real love looks like. So what has Jesus been up to with me regarding this theme in my story?

First, Jesus has exposed the poser in me over the course of the last couple of years. He has slowly and consistently been speaking to my heart in this area. He has been calling me to die to self and learn to love his way, selflessly. In all transparency, this has been the most challenging and painful time of spiritual and emotional growth in my life, mostly because I can’t go back to posing even though I want to at times. It now hurts more when I catch myself starting to pose than to go through the process of becoming who he wants me to be, my true-self. Which is ironic, because my whole life I have fought to hide the real me, but now I want the real me in Christ to be more and more revealed. The hardest part is fighting through the shame of so much lost to a poser led life, but I know there is far more freedom in who I am meant to be.

Jesus talked a lot about death bringing life during his time here on earth. He spoke about death being a catalyst for life and growth, such as the parable of the single grain of wheat (John 12:24) or when he discussed how his own death would bring life throughout the Gospels.

We are currently in the Christmas season and what better example than what Jesus did for us to explore how death brings life. Jesus came to earth as a human baby. He willingly came from eternity into a finite body. He chose to be defined by space and time. The very second a human is conceived, they begin the life long process of dying. The Eternal One came to earth and immediately began to die and for the purpose of dying?! Wrap your mind around that and let that sink in for a minute. Jesus had an intentionality to teach us about how believing in him and his death would bring us life, eternally. No other person in human history has ever been able to make that claim, let alone fulfill it or live it out.

To follow Jesus is to die to self, there is no other way to life. Living for Jesus calls us to die to all kinds of things. For me, dying to self is intentionally allowing my false-self to die and my true-self to live. No one said the Christian life was easy, and it certainly has not been for me recently. Jesus himself said the road was narrow, but the narrow road is exactly what makes it so worth living. I don’t have to do all the things the world says I have to in order to live. At the end of the narrow road is life, the life we were meant to live and can live now, if we are willing to die to self. Paul said it best in Philipians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Dying to self is truth, and so often my false-self shouts to me, “What about me, what about what I want, what about what I need?”  My true-self responds, “What about it, wouldn’t you rather have life?”  I would and I do.

Each day requires a choice, not an easy choice, but nonetheless a choice. Do you want to die to self in order to live, or do you want to live for self and die with no life? You always have that choice in front of you each day.  Personally, I believe dying to self is only possible by surrendering your life to Jesus, daily.  So when I ask, Die to self, Really? For me, the answer is Yes, if I really want to live.

Let me share this portion of Ransomed Heart’s Daily Prayer to help you see how the death of Jesus will lead you to life:

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and choosing me before you made the world. You are my true Father—my creator, redeemer, sustainer, and the true end of all things, including my life. I love you, I trust you, I worship you. I give myself over to you, Father, to be one with you in everything as Jesus is one with you. Thank you for proving your love by sending Jesus; I receive him and all his life and all his work which you ordained for me. Thank you for including me in Christ, for forgiving me my sins, for granting me his righteousness, for making me complete in him. Thank you for making me alive with Christ, raising me with him, seating me with him at your right hand, establishing me in his authority, and anointing me with your love, your Spirit, and your kingdom. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind, and will. I bring the life and work of the Lord Jesus Christ over my life today, over my home, my family, my household, throughout my kingdom and domain.

Jesus, thank you for coming to ransom me with your own life. I love you, I worship you, I give myself over to you to be one with you in all things—spirit, soul, and body, heart, mind, and will. I sincerely receive all the work and triumph in your cross, death, blood, and sacrifice, through which my every sin is atoned for, I am ransomed and delivered from the kingdom of darkness and transferred to your kingdom, my sin nature is removed, my heart is circumcised unto God, and every claim being made against me is disarmed this day. I now take my place in your cross and death, dying with you to sin, to my flesh, to this world, to the evil one and his kingdom. I take up the cross and crucify my flesh with all its pride, arrogance, unbelief, and idolatry. I put off the old man. Apply to me all the work in your cross, death, blood, and sacrifice. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind, and will.

I bring the blood and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ over my life today, over my home, my family, my household, my vehicles, finances, over all my kingdom and domain. I bring the cross, death, blood, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ against Satan, against his kingdom, against every foul and unclean spirit, every foul power and black art, against every witch, and against every human being and their spirit, their warfare and household. I bring the cross, death, blood, and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ to the borders of my kingdom and domain, and I stake it there in the name of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my Life, and I receive all the work and triumph in your resurrection, through which you have conquered sin, death, judgment, and the evil one. Death has no power over you, nor does any foul thing. And I have been raised with you to a new life, to live your life—dead to sin and alive to God. I take my place now in your resurrection and in your life, and I give my life to you to live your life. I am saved by your life. I reign in life through your life. I receive your hope, love, faith, joy, your goodness, trueness, wisdom, power, and strength. Apply to me all the work and triumph in your resurrection; I receive it with thanks and I give it total claim to my spirit, soul, and body, my heart, mind, and will.

I bring the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ over my life today, over my home, my family, my household, my vehicles, finances, over all my kingdom and domain. I bring the resurrection and the empty tomb of Jesus Christ against Satan, against his kingdom, against every foul and unclean spirit, every foul power and black art, against every witch, and against every human being and their spirit, their warfare, and household. I bring the resurrection and the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ to the borders of my kingdom and domain, and I stake it there in Jesus’ name.

Are You a Proverbs 1 Thru 30 Man?

For a number of years now I have tried to make it a daily practice of reading one proverb a day for every day of the month. Even though I have not always been as consistent as I have wanted, the times I have been consistent have been very rewarding.  Just this past week as I was reading Proverbs 31, which many times is the standard to which all women and wives are compared; I was struck by the commentary of Neil Kennedy about this famous Proverb. In his commentary he said that in order to have the privilege of loving and being blessed with a Proverbs 31 woman for your wife you needed to be a Proverbs 1 thru 30 man who cultivated her remarkable gifts and draws upon them.

Now why would he make such a comment? What exactly is a Proverbs 1 thru 30 man you ask?

Well, in order to best describe it to you, I need to share about an event that I experienced this past weekend. On Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the Celebration of Life service for Tim Nixon, one of the most Godly men I had ever encountered in my 45 years of life All throughout the service, accolades were shared and stories were told of the extraordinary man, husband, father, and coach that Tim was during his life. In addition to the stories, hundreds of people packed the auditorium to celebrate the way in which Tim exhibited Jesus to everyone he came into contact with during his life, and in particular how he loved his wife Yvonne.

So what does Tim’s life have in common with being a Proverbs 1 thru 30 man? The secret is in John 15:4-8 (Tim’s favorite passage) which says,

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.” John 15:4-8 MSG

For a man to love and cherish and have the opportunity to be married to a Proverbs 31 woman, you have to be connected to the vine of your Heavenly Father. What does it mean? It means that you have a personal, thriving relationship with Jesus. If you go outside of that vine and relationship with Jesus and try to do things on your own, the consequences that follow will be devastating. However, if you are willing to develop that intimate relationship with God and be in constant communication with him, thru whatever means that gives you life, you will find yourself exhibiting the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 which says,

“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage–our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-26 AMP

My guess is that most of you are like me. There are times that you exhibit these characteristics with your wife and there are times when you don’t. What I want you to see is that when you are connected to the vine and are talking and experiencing Jesus personally, you will naturally demonstrate these fruits of the spirit with your wife and others. You will be more loving, more joyful, more at peace, more patient, more kind, do more good, more faithful, more gentle, and more self-controlled. What wife wouldn’t want to feel and experience those traits in their husband?

As you develop and consistently demonstrate these traits, I can promise you, maybe not immediately but over time, that you will begin to see a Proverbs 31 woman and wife appear before your eyes and be able to say about you from Proverbs 31:23,

“Her husband is a well-known and respected leader in the city.”                       Proverbs 31:23 CEVDCUS06                         

 You see, a Proverbs 1 thru 30 man is one who demonstrates Love, who expresses Joy, seeks Peace, practices Patience, shows Kindness, displays Goodness, remains Faithful, and maintains Self-Control. Over time, as you press into Jesus and attach yourself to the vine of your Heavenly Father, the fruit that you experience will be the kind that makes you ready to love and encourage a Proverbs 31 woman, just like Tim Nixon did with his wife Yvonne.

My goal and hope for each of you is that you will be so connected to your Heavenly Father as a branch is connected to the vine, that you can’t help but bear the fruit of the spirit and love the amazing Proverbs 31 woman in your life.

So I ask you one last time…

Are You a Proverbs 1 thru 30 Man? 

 

 

Life on Planet Earth

Every once in a while I come across facts that open my understanding just a little more about how great God is and how great His love is towards us, His creation. Our galaxy-sun-earth-moon system had to be precisely fine-tuned for life to exist on this planet. These specifications listed in the link below and explained further in the video link (just the ones we know about) give us an idea of the complexity required for sustaining this life. 
 
We will spend an eternity exploring and learning about our Father’s greatness and then would have only scratched the surface. 
What an awesome God we serve!
 
Privileged Planet:

Restoration & Reality

Restoration… What does that truly mean to us in today’s world? What’ s required in restoration? With the ever-increasing popularity of the “reality” home improvement shows, in varying platforms, we continually see a house or property transformed or “restored” to its full potential and beauty. Believe me I’ve seen many of these shows as my beautiful wife absolutely loves these shows. The excitement of seeing the personal stories, design, but most importantly the final product in all its glory. They’re certainly entertaining, and as a person who enjoys the results of hard work, I can appreciate the final product and truly enjoy seeing the reactions of the homeowners as the “reveal” occurs. I mean seriously, these are feel good stories. But the one thing I always struggle with is how easy they make the transformation process look. We’re talking about renovating complete basket cases of houses here. Not simply cosmetic work like paint and windows, but structural changes, wall removal, complete re-wires, etc. But that’s how everything is presented in “reality” TV right? Instant gratification with minimal effort.

So, do we apply this same expectation to our personal restoration? I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I know I absolutely did and still do at times. I don’t think I’m unique in that either. I remember early in my walk with the Father, I expected an immediate transformation and full restoration. All the trials and tribulations would be wiped away and my thought process would immediately offer clarity and understanding of how life works. Things would be easier, or so I thought. Well, I think we as men tend to treat our own lives like a “reality” TV home improvement show that is cleaned up, reconstructed and fully restored in 30 minutes to an hour. The struggles conveniently edited out of the final production.

In true reality, our restoration process is just that… a process. One that requires reliance on God to father us through our challenges and seasons of life. The enemy wants us to believe when the process takes longer than we expect that we’re not restorable or we’re damaged goods. But the Father wants us to have a restored heart and that can only be achieved through the healing and love of the Father. That is where the true restoration begins and continues in us through our relationship with him. Too often we get taken out by the enemy way to easily because our earthly impatience gets in the way and we want the results but don’t know the process behind it. Much like those that decide they’re going to buy a house and restore it based solely on the knowledge they gained from watching these shows… They don’t have a full understanding because they didn’t see or get educated on the full process to restoration.

In our spiritual restoration, God is our answer at every turn. He knows our hearts and has the full set of blueprints to bring the full potential he created us to achieve. We just need to rely on him, trust him and lean in to him so he can reveal these truths. In turn he exposes the enemy’s attacks and we can fully resist the lies and agreements that keep us distracted and in some cases completely taken out. As we continue in our faithfulness God, restores us through his unconditional love and healing. Now that’s a “reality” I can relate to. As we continue on our personal walks remember we’re in the middle of an epic story filled with war. And In war there are constant battles being fought. The same goes for restoration. The enemy will lie, cheat and steal to prevent restoration. He’s a sore loser, but we have been given the ultimate advantage through Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross. Always, remember that we come to battle from a position of victory. Fight on Brothers!

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you”

Jesus is my Brother

Ever since I was young, I wanted a brother.  Older or younger, it didn’t really matter.  Having an older brother would have given me someone to follow, to show me the ropes and to help train me in all that I would encounter.  Maybe it would be how to catch a football, throw a baseball, cast a fishing line or talk to girls.  The list would be long of what he could teach me since my brother would have already traveled these very steps before me.  Having a younger brother would have reversed the role.  Instead of being the trainee, I would now be the leader.  My mission would be to impart all of the wisdom that I had gained over the years to my little ‘bro’.

There is a strong bond between brothers.  They are there for each other in times of trouble no matter the time of night.  Brothers can be counted on to come through, to make sacrifices and to love unconditionally.  I’ve seen this with my friends and their brothers growing up.  Although they may bicker and fight with one another, they were ready to defend each other tooth and nail or at the drop of a hat if anyone messed with either one of them.  In other words, you better get ready to take on two if you went after one.  I love that kind of loyalty, someone having my back no matter what the situation.  There has always been something deep inside me that desired a brother, someone of my own blood who would be willing to stand by me, and me with him, through anything that life would bring our way.

But wait a second, I already have this brother, the one I have desired throughout my life.  He has been there the entire time waiting for me to reach out to Him, to surrender and give my life to Him.  His name is Jesus.

How do I know this to be true?  It says it in the Bible in various places including:

Hebrews 2:11 – “Because I am sanctified and am one with the Sanctifier, He is not ashamed to call me His brother.”

Matthew 12:50 – “For whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven is my brother…”

Luke 8:21 – “He replied, my mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice.”

Jesus wants a brotherly relationship with me.  All the things I desire in a brother He will do and so much more as long as I surrender my life to Him.  He can be counted on in times of trouble, no matter the hour of night.  He will love me unconditionally.  He will be loyal, will defend me, will teach, coach and guide me.  He already has sacrificed His life for me so that I can have eternal life.  His brotherly love is already present for you and I.

What more could I ask for, a brother who is always with me and loving me every hour of the day.  I can’t wait to see Jesus face to face one day in Heaven.  I wonder what we will talk about, what things we will laugh about, feeling a brotherly love never felt before.

Jesus is the ‘bro’ I have always desired and needed.  You can have this relationship too.  All you have to do is submit your life to Him.  Take the risk!  It’s the best decision you will ever make!

How BUSY are you?

I don’t know about you but too often I feel like I’m living the words of Professor Hinkle in Frosty the Snowman , “Goodbye everyone … I’ve got to get BUSY… BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!” (it’s after Halloween so we can quote Christmas specials, right?)

Just think about the types of conversations you have on an almost daily basis.  Perhaps with co-workers it’s something like…

“How’s it going?”

“We had a tournament for our oldest’s team all weekend. It is just crazy BUSY right now with school, sports and the kids’ activities.  I can hardly tell if I’m coming or going.”

Or with a neighbor maybe it sounds like…

“How’s it going?”

“Oh man, it is so BUSY at work right now!  Feels like I almost live at the office but, you know how it is – whatever it takes, right?”

How about with your spouse (over text, of course, because there is not time to actually talk in person) …

“How RU?” 

“BUSY!  Are you picking up kids today – or me?  Don’t forget we have to meet with the roof guy at 6:30pm after I drop off kids at practice.  SIGH, could we be more BUSY??”

Whether it’s work, home, kids, parents, neighbors, sports, or even church or volunteer work, in today’s culture it is insanely easy to find yourself so BUSY that by the end of the day Monday you are already strung out, strung up or completely unstrung.  Either because of what happened that day or what you know is supposed to happen later in the week.  Oh, and it’s only Monday.

I’ve begun to wonder if here in America we all suffer from Superhero Sickness.  No, Superhero Sickness is not a rash you develop after binge watching Val Kilmer and Ben Affleck as Batman back-to-back (even though that is enough to make one sick).  Nor does it describe the chronic fatigue from discovering yet another B-list (or even C-list) superhero has made their way to the movie theater or Netflix.

I’ve been a fan of superheroes a long time….and still am.  Ever since I was a kid and rode my bike to the local QuikTrip to buy comic books with money from my paper route, there has been something about a superhero that stirs my soul.  I think, in part, it’s a superhero’s ability to tackle seemingly impossible tasks.  However, even more than turning back time by causing the Earth to spin in reverse on its axis, or running 1,500 MPH without chafing, (both of which seem to me to be impossible tasks), I think what I love most about superheroes is their ability to ‘do it all’ while still maintaining a laser focus on their higher calling.  For example, take the Green Arrow, who hardly could be considered a quintessential superhero.  Oliver Queen is the mayor of Star City, a single dad, has run a billion dollar company and, oh, on top of all that he takes out bad guys and saves the city, if not the world, nearly every night.  Yes, he’s someone who can apparently do it all.

Now, while superheroes can inspire us and often do, there is a risk that our admiration morphs into something less healthy.   This is what I’ll call Superhero Sickness.  When we begin to feel the pressure to be a superhero in our own life.  In other words, when I experience a behavior-impacting sense that myself, my family, or my kids have to do it all, be it all, experience it all; and, that if we don’t then myself, my family or my kids will either fail or fall woefully behind everyone else.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that has made this “sickness” a way of life – where being BUSY is treated as a badge of honor.  Ask any adult to tell you how they’re doing in one word, and you’ll most likely get “Busy” or some synonym of it.  The level of BUSY-ness in America may be at an all-time high and it shows.  Rates of suicides, addictions, anxiety and depression are all on the rise.  Employees are so BUSY in today’s work environment that several companies, such as Netflix and LinkedIn,  now offer unlimited vacation days for employees.  Not because they they think employees are too BUSY but  because they know  it actually results in people working even more.  We have even have incorporated being BUSY into our internet memes because “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

This pressure to maintain a BUSY pace of life has even infected many Christians in America.  While each of us are called to serve in our church, if you find that you’re spending more time doing things for Jesus, than you are spending time with Jesus, then you’re probably BUSY and it’s time to reevaluate your church commitments.  I’m reminded of what Jesus said to Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Martha was doing all of the work preparing the meal and was upset that Mary was sitting there listening to Jesus rather than helping her with the meal.  Feeling righteously indignant Martha went to Jesus and asked Him to tell Mary to help Martha work.  What was Jesus’ reaction?  He told Martha that “Mary has chosen what is better.”  A good reminder that even my choices to be BUSY doing good things can be the wrong choice if it takes away from what is better.

Does that seem like too strong of a statement?  Consider the effect of trying to keep up with the madness of the world, and the resulting BUSYness it causes in us?  Does it bring life to you?  Does it help you develop an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus?  How about the impact on your spouse?  Or your kids, coworkers, neighbors?  What is your impact on others when you are BUSY? I don’t know about you, but it becomes pretty difficult for me to reflect the light of Jesus in a way that draws others close to Him when I allow myself to be so BUSY that I’m exhausted, frustrated, tired, or scared.

If this is the consequence of being BUSY, then perhaps it’s time we start thinking of BUSY as B.U.S.Y –  Being Under Satan’s Yoke.

Consider Jesus’ words found in Matthew 11:28-30,

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Now I know why I love all those superheroes – because all of them ultimately point to the one true superhero….. Jesus, who actually did a seemingly impossible task when he walked out of the tomb and paid the price for my freedom as well as yours.   Take some time out of your BUSY schedule, just as Mary did, and sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He has to say to you today.  You will never regret it.

 

 

 

Story to come

“All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

― C.S. LewisThe Last Battle

The battle is epic some say, that life is an adventure.  What if those people are wrong?  What if the day-to-day that we exist in is just the beginning, the title page if you will.  What if the greatest adventure, the most significant battle rest just behind the last closure of our eyes?  This question or set of questions is just a ponder, just a funny thought on a late Sunday evening.

But what if it is more than that?  Can you imagine opening your eyes on the other side to see that you are thrust into battle, and you are fighting beside some of the great people that we only thought were from histories past?  To your left, you see David in his stunning armor slingshot on one side, mighty sword on the other.  To your right, you see General Patton commanding an army of angels.  The battle they are facing is one we face daily, against the one who wants to control the world, to take down the Almighty.  We think of this battle as being on the other side that our last closing of our eyes was death for us.  But what if it was life?

What if it was just the beginning, only the opening of the book to reveal the real story and what if we had missed it by losing sight of the book.  You see we have the opportunity to know a great story but all too often we choose the other path.  We choose to not be the brave knight and have heroic courage.  We choose to sit idle as our kids dream up worlds that are absent of courage.  We choose to sit by while are wives are lost in a book of a dream world.   We choose not to engage our families, not to love them unconditionally, but most of all we choose to lose the book of our lives.

So how do we not choose that, we begin by dreaming. Now I am not talking about a really awesome nap on a Sunday afternoon, while they are great, that is not the point here.  I am talking about being the man we dreamed about being.  The one who makes your kids laugh, the one that pursued his bride, I am talking about not giving up.  I am talking about facing the cruelest enemy we will ever meet, looking him straight on and saying not in my house, not in my family.  Lock arms with your kids and wife and take aim at the battle.  Pray together, love together, and be brave together; the book is waiting, it is time to make the cover amazing.

Earthly Sacrifices

The last time I visited with you I discussed integrity and that integrity is sometimes costly. Or so it seems to us now, here in this life.

I am sure that every one of you have made sacrifices or “given in” in all kind of situations throughout your life. You may have gone to work instead of going to college to help your family; worked a second job to afford an apartment, a house, or reliable car; moved away from family and friends to take a job; or loaned money to a friend and were never repaid. The list may go on and on.

If you look back on those times, were the sacrifices you made worth it? Even if things did not work out, did you learn something that you could take with you in order to make better choices later? There is value in every decision you make. That also means taking ownership of your actions, whether you are the hero or the loser.

I have made some sacrifices in my life that have been both good and bad at the same time but always a learning experience. I can’t say I liked the bad times, but looking back, it probably was not as bad as I thought at the time.

As we step to closer to the Trinity, closer to a holy life, some sacrifices we have to make are larger and harder, because there is more at stake, so much more. Choosing Christ and taking active steps toward holiness can separate you from family, friends, and acquaintances who do not believe or even walk in faith like you do. It is tough to do, but as you go forward, the rewards will be worth it. You may not see it here, but you will see it.

This is also about the time that Satan will try to make you second-guess your actions. Do you have those thoughts or even a little voice saying, “Why should you?” or “you are just stupid, these people don’t care” or “you are worthless, why would God want you?”

I really want to make something clear, God would never say those things to you. He only builds us up, he wants us to succeed, to be with him. Anything else you hear is the enemy!

Time is the one area of sacrifice that may be the toughest to reconcile. There is no repayment, no getting it back. Having to work and miss a child’s soccer or baseball game, doing mission work away from home when the air conditioner breaks, or just too tired to do everything on your list, all of these examples cost us time in one way or another. Although tough and sometimes heartbreaking, remember these are just earthly sacrifices. One glorious day it will not matter, for when we meet God all trouble, all pain, and all tears will be gone, never to return. That is God’s amazing promise to those who are in Christ!!!

I have been fortunate to meet the eight other men in this ministry who reach out and push men to restore their hearts and reconnect with God and their families. We sacrifice time from our families but believe that the eternal rewards far outweigh the earthly costs.

Where do you sacrifice?

Joy Worth Fighting For

If you have lived on this planet for any amount of time, you know the following statement by Bruce Cockburn is a reality of life, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” I recently discovered joy is not something I can strive for, manufacture, or create. I literally cannot be joyful on my own accord. But, I can fight for joy. Confused? So was I until recently.

I just returned yesterday from an incredible anniversary weekend with my bride. I surprised her with a trip to New York City. I wish I could take credit for the idea, but the idea came from Jesus. A couple of weeks ago, I was operating out of a place of woundedness. Work was stressful, life was incredibly busy, and what happens to me sometimes is I seek my validation and emotional stability from my bride. You would think after 16 years, I would learn to not turn to her for the kind of emotional comfort only Jesus can provide, but nonetheless, I fell back into that old pattern. Let’s just say I had created an environment of unnecessary tension in our relationship.

Enter The Rescuer:

During this time we had one of those quiet mornings, which happens from time to time when my bride and I are in a place of disconnectedness. I just didn’t know what to say or how make things right with her. As I was pondering what I should do, I prayed “Jesus, I need your help, I have no idea what to do here.” I immediately heard his reply, “Take her to New York.” I was shocked at both his promptness and his response. I knew exactly what Jesus was referring to. Our 16th wedding anniversary was less than two weeks away and Jesus was suggesting I take my bride to New York City for our anniversary.

Now, one would think if Jesus offers a solution immediately after asking for help in a situation, the appropriate response would be like what the disciples did, “at once they dropped their nets and followed him.” So of course, I just said yes, right? Uh, no. I began a negotiation, more like Moses at the burning bush. I rebutted, “Father, a trip to New York is not in the budget.” To which my Father lovingly and graciously responded, “Son, this one is on me, you just go.” I knew he was right. I knew in my heart he was asking me to take a step of faith, to book the trip and he would provide. So I went for it.

Enter Joy:

When I arrived at work, I shut the door to my office, fired up my computer, and started booking the trip. With every key stroke, I could feel joy bubbling up in my heart. Oh how long had it been since I felt true joy that comes from the Holy Spirit! Along the way, I asked Jesus, “What hotel should we stay at? What Broadway show should we see? What else should we do while we are there?” He answered every question. I was doing this all in faith and it was exhilarating! Pure joy was flowing from my heart!

The best part came next. After booking everything (and by the way, I got an incredible last minute deal that was not a budget buster after all) I checked my cell phone and there was a pretty long text from my bride regarding the current state of our relationship. Talk about timing! She said some honest and tough things to me, which I needed to hear (one of those texts every husband loves to get when Jesus speaks directly to us through our wives). I simply replied, “You are right, and I have a surprise for you tonight.” When I got home things were still a little tense, but she had softened since she received my text. I initiated one of our favorite rituals when we have a surprise for one another. I had her ask a series of yes and no questions about what the surprise was. And you know what? Everything I picked to do was exactly what she said she wanted to do. I picked the right Broadway show (The Lion King), visiting the statue of Liberty, and staying in Times Square (thank you Jesus!). Talk about Joy unhinged! At that moment, all was well and the joy in my heart overflowed!

Enter stage right; The Fight for Joy:

I wish I could tell you everything was wonderful for the next couple of weeks leading up to the trip, but the fight for joy came and with fierceness. The enemy was furiously opposed to our joy, to this trip, to us celebrating our marriage. The sprinkler system in my yard mysteriously started leaking and I did not discover it for two days. My oldest daughter started coming down with what looked like strep throat two days before the trip. I dealt with some really tough situations at work. It became clear to me this trip was opposed. The enemy was trying to steal my joy. You see, this is very important to understand when it comes to joy…the enemy HATES joy and especially joy initiated by Jesus. Friends, the enemy does not admire our joy or our marriages or anything from our Father. He despises us, despises our marriages, despises our faith, and he fights against it with all the forces of Hell. Oh yes friends, the enemy is fiercely opposed to our joy. Remember what Peter said, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9, NLT). So what must we do? Fight! Fight with all you have, in prayer, with the power of the Holy Spirit, and with a band of brothers alongside you!

I prayed the daily prayer, I put on the Full Armor of God to thwart the enemy’s attacks, and I asked my brothers on the E6 team to pray with me. I knew this trip was worth fighting for. But most of all, I fought for joy. Until all this unfolded, I never truly realized I had to fight for joy. But how it was worth it! My bride and I had an incredible trip and experienced lasting joy and memories. Our Father poured out his joy on us throughout the entire trip. On the drive to the airport we consecrated our trip and oh how Jesus answered our prayer! Nothing went wrong, not a single glitch. The flights were on time, our room had an enchanting view of Times Square, visiting the Statue of Liberty was flawless, we got a bonus trip to Ellis Island, and the Lion King was the most incredible show we have ever seen. This was truly an experience of joy for us both that is forever seared into the deepest parts of our souls.

Enter Discovery:

In a Desiring God post in which John Piper explores joy, Piper quotes Jonathon Edwards  (see the full post here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-most-libertating-discovery).

“God glorifies himself towards the creatures [in] two ways: (1) by appearing to…their understanding; (2) in communicating himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying the manifestations which he makes himself…God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in…

[W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it…He that testifies his idea is of God’s glory [doesn’t] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation (admiration) of it and his delight in it.”

Piper elaborated on Edwards’ statements: “This was a stunning discovery for me. I must pursue joy in God if I am to glorify him as the surpassingly valuable Reality in the universe. Joy is not a mere option alongside worship. It is an essential component of worship. Indeed the very essence of worship – being glad in the glories of God.”

Brothers! We must fight for joy! Fighting for joy is our pursuit of it. We cannot create it, we cannot manufacture it, we can only allow it to enter our hearts. True joy can only come from the Father, through the Holy Spirit, and because of our relationship with Jesus. If that doesn’t fire you up then your wood is wet!

I leave you with this truth from the scriptures, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things.” (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT). Yes, only the Holy Spirit can produce joy in us, we are not able to produce any of these fruits on our own. But we do have a part in seeing them come to fruition. Oh yes, we must fight, and fight I most certainly will! Why? Because, “Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight.” And Joy is so worth having!

 

 

Change

Over the last 18 months or so, I’ve been trying to read and work my way through the book “To Be Told” by Dan Allender. It’s a book that explains that our life is a story. Knowing facts about a person may be good (I’m 5’8”, blue eyed, my bald head used to be blond, and was born in Iowa) but that doesn’t tell you what I’m really like. But if I tell you a story about how I used my budding leadership skills as a teenager to convince a group of teens to bury the front half of a new Cadillac in cow manure at the State Fair, that gives you some insight into my personality.

Story is how we relate to each other. Dan says that if you look into how your story has already been written, look for the common themes in your life, you might just be able to see how God has written you into His larger story. Dan invites us in his book to look at our life with all its joys and sorrows, wins and losses, celebrations and failures, laughter and tears, and then to “co-write” the rest of your story with God. We are not passive characters in the story of our lives, we are active participants. God has a plot-line all figured out for our lives that is interwoven with other characters, family, friends, coworkers, and total strangers.

What I’ve come to realize though is that things don’t always go the way the plot was originally planned. It has been that way since the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve’s fall. Just like in their story, we have an enemy that wants to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a). An enemy who wants to disrupt God’s storyline for us. He doesn’t have to attack us directly either to redirect God’s plan for us.

So many times for me (ok, read that “most of the time”) I look at the plot twists in my life and blame either myself or some other person. But, I’m learning to redirect that blame to the real enemy, Satan, and his minions (Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.) and praying with the authority that Jesus gave me as a believer to change the enemies influence and damage.

As I’ve been reading “To Be Told”, I realized that for many years I had already been putting into practice the first half of what Dan talks about; looking at my past with all its twists, turns, pains, joys, failures and laughter. I have done this through professional counseling, a program called “Oaks of Righteousness”, some intense and intentionally deep small groups, and Christian Boot Camps (Ransomed Heart and E6 Ministries). I was intentional in each one of these to look back and bring God into the pain in my past/present so He could bring clarity and healing.

To get a feel for how all this has changed my life, you’d have to know some of my story to get the full impact. My natural bent is to be an introvert. I did not feel like what I wanted or thought mattered and hated confrontation. The result was that of a self-defense mechanism. I became a people pleaser, a chameleon who could hide in plain sight. I was a poser living out most of my life as a character who was hoping to meet the expectations of others. I lost connection with who I was. I was always trying to live out a role that I thought I would not offend anyone. It was a life lived in fear. Fear of being exposed as not enough. Not enough of what I’m not sure, but I had very little if any self-assurance or self-esteem. I looked at home wherever I went on the outside, but inside I was scared that I’d be exposed.

I could look good in a suit, cowboy boots and hat, or black leather and bandanna riding my Harley. I fit in with blue collar factory workers, bikers, and corporate executives. For years, I wore what I referred to as “corporate camouflage” in my white collar job. I did not want to stand out. I wanted to blend into the background, like the chameleon image that I embraced. As new believer in my 20’s I found Proverbs 17:27-28 and hid behind it. (Proverbs 17:27-28 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.) I found that if I listened more than I talked I could at least not be thought too much a fool. I was sure that I didn’t have anything of real value to share with the world. Who cared what I thought or wanted my opinion? No one, is the answer I heard in my head.

Now, because I’ve taken Jesus back into the story and themes of my life, I’ve gotten a significant amount of healing in my life. I no longer believe that I don’t matter, that my thoughts are unimportant, and that making everyone else happy is my responsibility. While I still can “fit in” pretty much anywhere with anyone, I’m doing it as myself. I’m not posing. Confrontation is still not something that I’d say I’m comfortable with, but I can do it from a place of strength because I do matter. I wish some of the things in my life would have been different, but I wouldn’t be the same person that I am without them. I also wouldn’t have the same compassion I have for people. I like the person that God has shaped me into as He’s rounded off some sharp edges and brought healing to my heart and mind. Has it been easy? Nope. Has it been quick? Not even close.

If you find that there is something about yourself that you don’t like, there is a way to change. Significant change is possible with the help of the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit and time. You may stumble… stick with it and get up. Don’t be surprised, Jesus told us in John 16:33b “…In this world you will have trouble.” Remember you have an enemy who doesn’t want you to find healing and that enemy is not a person and it’s not God. Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be quick? Not likely. God is not concerned with efficiency like we are. He’s committed to the outcome, which is our changed/healed heart and a character that is being molded to be like His Son’s. You are unique and God’s plan for your redemption is just as unique. There is no 5-step process to being more like Jesus and the person God has created you to be. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

 I’m still not finished with the book, but then again, God’s not done with me yet either.

Ramkat Todd

Pray Hard, Play Hard, and Live Well

Are You a Lover or a Fighter?

How many of us have heard this phrase said either to us or in a movie? In many instances a man was forced to choose between one and the other. If you chose fighter, it meant that you were eventually going to be in a brawl or fight with another guy. If you chose lover, it usually meant that you were a ladies man and chose loving a woman over getting into a fight. But what if I told you that God wants us to be both? He wants us to be a Lover and a Fighter.

When it comes to fighting, I am probably the least likely person on the planet to be in a fight. In fact, I have only been in one fight my entire life, and that was in the 5th grade when a kid at school ripped my sweatshirt and we started swinging. The fight did not last very long before the principal showed up and stopped it. I remember vividly our punishment was losing a week’s worth of recess. Talk about knowing how to hurt a kid!

As far as Lover, I have always understood this part much better in my life, whether it was loving my wife, loving my kids, or loving Jesus. I have always felt a better understanding of what that meant for a man. This understanding was probably in part because my Dad is the same way. I never saw him involved in a fight but I did see him Love my mom and his family. If we are really going to be to be honest, what man doesn’t want to be looked at as a good Lover, either to his wife or his family? However, over the last 6 years of my life, I have started to have a clear understanding of what it means when God says he wants us to be a Fighter. Recognizing I am in a battle everyday between the good my Father wants to do versus the evil Satan wants to bring into my life has stirred this need inside of me. In Nehemiah 4:13-14 Nehemiah actually calls for the men to fight when he says, “Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

More than 6 years ago, I would have just read over that passage and moved on. But now, after going through a divorce, a job change, a second marriage, a new ministry, and most recently a new baby, I have come to the realization that God is calling me up to be a fighter, over and over again. What do I mean?

Fight for Your Wife: For instance, my wife and I have a 6 month old baby. Even though we both love her and can’t imagine our life without her, we have to fight for our relationship. Each day we have to fight for time to talk, fight to spend time together, and fight to be intimate. The easy road to take would be to not talk or make time for each other. Or not to say you’re sorry or ask for forgiveness. Or not take the time to text during the day or set a date night. In order to be the Lover to my wife, I have to fight for her heart and fight for her time.

Fight for Your Kids: In the same way it is with your wife, you have to fight for your kids. I have five daughters and believe me in order to have a relationship with any of them I have to fight for their time. I have to fight for conversations with them. I have to fight to spend time with them. Sometimes this is fighting with technology because of the pull it has on them. The fighting can look as simple as leaving work early to go to their golf match, or attending their FFA banquet, or watching their flag football game. I have to fight for them and also be their protector as well. It is so much easier to take a back seat and just let them live their lives, but if you want a relationship with your kids you have to fight for them so you have the opportunity to Love them and be the protector of their souls.

Fight for Your Relationship with God: And last, in the same way God calls us to fight for our wives and fight for our kids; we have to fight for our relationship with God. Satan wants nothing more than to make us passive and convince us to give up when it comes to our life with Christ. We have to fight to talk to Jesus daily. We have to fight to listen to His voice. We have to fight to treat others the way Jesus would treat them. Instead of praying to him, we want to do things our own way and tell ourselves we don’t have the time. I know for me, even writing this blog post, I had to fight to make the time to let God speak through me what he wanted me to say. As Paul says in Romans 7:19, “I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.”

We have to fight for our relationship with Jesus, especially through the lies that Satan tells us.  Lies such as, “You are not good enough.” “Why would God still love you?” “Look at the things you have done in the past.” “You are broken.” This is where God’s Amazing Grace comes in and the promise found in Nehemiah 4:20 which says, “When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!” How awesome and ironic as that! As we become more of a Fighter and fight for these things, we increase our capacity to Love because of God’s Grace and Him Fighting for us.

Final Thought: So I leave you with this final thought. You don’t have to choose between being a Lover or a Fighter. Instead you can choose to be both. As you Fight for your wife, your kids, and your relationship with God, He will increase your ability to be a Lover not only to your family but to your friends, your neighbors, and even your enemies because of His promise of Always Fighting for You!

 

“Wait” for God

 One day I happened to do a word search for the word “wait” in the Bible. This reference to “wait” is used numerous times in the Old Testament when referring to “waiting on the Lord.” There are many Christians that still believe we have to wait on God and that He will reveal Himself once we have done our part of waiting. The only reference I could find in the New Testament about waiting (waiting on the Lord) is when the apostles were commanded by Jesus in Acts 1:4 to wait for the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus changed access to God forever

When Jesus laid down His life for us it changed our access to God forever! He paved the way for continual fellowship with God. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior you no longer have to “wait” to have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

No More Waiting 

Ephesians 2:18 (ESV) – “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

 

We are the temple of God – Listen to Him

1 Cor 3:16 (ESV)- “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”  Since He dwells in me he is always available, I don’t have to wait but I do have to listen and hear so I know Him.  John 10:27 (ESV) – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

 

You have a direct line to God through Jesus – Act on it

At E6 Ministries we use this direct line to God by practicing “listening prayer” and you can too. Jesus longs to talk with you. Practice talking to your Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. One good way to do this is by asking questions and then quietly listen for God.

  • Father, what do you think about me?
  • Is there anything I have to do to be loved by You?
  • Jesus, what would you like me to do today?
  • Holy Spirit, what do you want me to know about those people at work that I struggle with?

Validation… Is it an endless search?

Have you ever sat and thought about what motivates men to do some of the things men do? I mean, think about it. Some men (ok, most men) spend a large part of their time trying to impress people they don’t even like! How insane does that sound? 

Seriously, we buy the latest and greatest to keep up with our neighbor or a coworker just because we don’t want to be seen as a lesser man. Or, we try to one up those same people by having a bigger better vacation experience with tons of pictures to prove it. Believe me, I fell into this trap, and still catch these tendencies coming back into my thought process. But have you ever really spent some time thinking about why men do these things? We’re seeking validation from other people or through the collection of things, which is an endless task without the desired results. In fact, many times this cycle can prove destructive, financially or otherwise.

So why do we put so much emphasis on other people’s opinions of us? That’s what the enemy or the “world” tell us success is, right? To paraphrase a quote that’s been widely used, “he who dies with the most toys, wins.” Really? This is the motto of men in our world. Well, truth be told, this is the work of the enemy in the world. 1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- comes not of the Father but from the world.” The enemy’s lies seek to destroy us and steal our joy. This is where Satan can get to men the easiest… pride.

This was a serious battle for me before I began my walk in faith with the Father. That’s when true growth and maturity was able to take hold. Andyou know what? All that anxiety and pressure I felt by trying to get validation from other people (again, people I didn’t even care for in most cases) began to fade. How you ask? By the grace and love of the Father, who showed me where my true validation comes from. I began to aspire to please God the Father and glorify him and him only. The same is true for you. He loves us unconditionally, with no strings attached. We don’t need the latest and greatest technology, car, or job title to earn his love and validation. All we have to do is seek him, surrender to him, and we’re free. 

Wow, what a powerful feeling… freedom, validation, and love from the Father! We are son’s of God, validated by Him, successful because of Him, and all we are and have is because of Him. It’s that easy, the search for true validation is over. It’s not endless.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a work in progress, but I pray to the Father daily and seek him constantly to continue to fight. His validation, grace, and mercy are beautiful and I love the words he bestowed upon his son Jesus as recorded in 2 Peter 1:17, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” This is the one and only true validation that we as men need. He loves us, cheers for us, and is faithful to us… unconditionally. It only takes us walking with him, trusting in him and seeking him. 

The “world” is a bottomless pit that only provides endless longing. The Father quenches our thirst and gives us endurance. Seek him and experience true validation and freedom. I promise you, it’s the freedom you seek!

Have a great week, Brothers! Stand strong.

Mike

Is Duty a Four Letter Word?

Let me start by saying I love Boy Scouts. I was fortunate to earn the rank of Eagle many, many years ago and more recently, I’ve had the joy (and pain) of serving as a cub scout den leader for an energetic bunch of boys (my son included) for three years and counting. While the Boy Scouts have had ups and downs in the past few years, they, along with the Girl Scouts, are among a handful of organizations, I’m glad to be able to say, who still acknowledge the God-breathed differences between male and female. In addition, unlike so many of the overscheduled and overstructured activities for kids today, scouting actually lets boys be boys. Like I said, I love Boy Scouts. Now for those that may not be familiar, one of the foundations of scouting is the Scout Oath which all scouts must learn and recite. Whether a brand new Tiger Cub in 1st grade or a seasoned Boy Scout in high school, most of your meetings begin by reciting (from memory) the Scout Oath. The Scout Oath begins, as it has since the first BSA Handbook in 1911, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God…”

The idea of duty, and in particular duty to God, has been interwoven into the fabric of scouting since its origin. Nevertheless, Boy Scouts, remarkably, doesn’t attempt to define what actually constitutes one’s duty to God. Instead, scouts are encouraged to discuss with their parents or faith leader what duty to God means. Thinking back to my own time as a cub and boy scout I don’t recall any specific discussions about my duty to God but 25 years later I still remember the Oath. So what exactly then is one’s duty to God?  Merriam-Webster defines duty as “a moral or legal obligation” and Dictionary.com defines duty as “something that one is expected or required to do...”

So we could say that duty is something that one is expected or required to do out of a moral or legal obligation.  Hmm, that sounds reasonable in the context of assigning household chores to my kids, or a military leader assigning responsibilities for defending one’s country, but can that understanding of duty define our relationship with God?  Having lived a lot of years of the Christian life on the hamster wheel of ‘try hard, try hard, fail’, ‘try hard try hard fail’; I have come to believe that duty alone should not define our relationship with God.

But don’t take my word for it.  Let’s see what God’s word has to say.  Surprisingly, there are not many instances of the word duty in scripture, and all but two of them are found in the Old Testament. The most notable passage in the Old Testament is found in Ecclesiastes when Solomon, nearing the end of that book of the Bible, says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV)  Whoa.  Strong, resounding words from the wisest (sinful) man who ever lived.  Could I be wrong about duty as defining our relationship with God?  I needed to look further.

In the New Testament, there is really only one reference to duty as an obligation towards God and it’s found in a passage in Chapter 17 of the Book of Luke.  At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus has some harsh words for the disciples about sin and the seriousness of leading others into sin.  The disciples, understanding the weight of Jesus’ words, ask Jesus to, “Increase our faith!”  They had seen the many miracles Jesus performed and were hoping for a bit of (ZAP!) instantaneous spiritual growth.  Instead of describing for them how to increase their faith or doubling down with an additional weighty directive, in verses 7-10 Jesus instead offers the disciples a somewhat confusing parable about a servant and how the servant’s duty is to do what he is told to do.  Many biblical commentators interpret this passage to mean, at least in part, that obedience is our duty.  Sound familiar?

So what do we do with this?  Certainly, we are called to obey Jesus’ commands. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (NIV)  However, it seems that too often the American church allows duty to be a viewed as a reasonable end point for one’s spiritual journey with God.  Actually, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that too often Christians (particularly men) within the American church settle on duty as a reasonable and acceptable foundation for their relationship with God.  Sadly, far too many guys today think duty is the only way they relate to God. An intellectual acknowledgment of the existence of our Creator has wrongfully taken the place of an intimate, personal relationship with one’s heavenly Father. Don’t think so? Take a look at the average worship service on any given Sunday morning and see how engaged the men are in worship. You might ask, “why would someone go to church if there is no personal relationship with Jesus?” One word – duty. Countless men (and women) go to church on Sunday morning simply because they believe it is “something that one is expected or required to do.”

The problem with this, of course, is that duty can only get you so far.  For starters, it can never make you right with God.  Thus, if all you have a is a sense of duty to God, and no relationship, each time you blow it you’re prone to go to shame, self-doubt and self-loathing – “Man, I [insert your sin of choice] again!  I really do suck!  why would God ever want to use me, bless me, love me?”

I suppose it’s not so much that the Boy Scouts or the American church are offering something wrong with regard to duty but rather that they are offering something incomplete.  The Christian life rooted in duty alone can be a horribly burdensome road.  I know, as I was stuck on duty as the foundation of my relationship with God for far too long on my walk with God.  During that time Jesus’ promise in Matthew 11:30 that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” seemed laughable.  Really? That certainly didn’t seem available to me.

And this is where I bristle at the “duty to God” language in the Scout Oath. While I won’t go so far as to suggest changing an oath that has survived more than one hundred years, I find myself wanting to remind my son and the boys in my den that experiencing God through the lens of duty only is like watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy on a thirteen-inch, standard definition, black and white TV  (“Umm, what’s a black and white TV, Dad??”).   In contrast, experiencing God through the lens of a personal, intimate relationship is like watching the Battle at Helm’s Deep in IMAX 3D with a bottomless tub of buttered popcorn and your best friend in the recliner next to you.

Following Jesus was never meant to be some long, boring slog through life.  Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that [you] may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) The abundant life cannot fit through the keyhole of duty alone.

Perhaps you’re asking, “What do I do if I’m stuck on duty?”  If you’re asking that question, you’ve already taken the first step – acknowledging where you’re at and that it’s not where you want to be.  One of the most beautiful things about our heavenly Father is that he is always, and I mean ALWAYS, willing to meet you wherever you are.  He is the ultimate boy scout – always prepared.

So, how is your relationship with Jesus today? Have you talked to Him lately? Ever? If the idea of having an actual, intimate relationship with the creator of the universe seems laughable to you, start there. Seriously. Tell Him how crazy you think it is that he would be interested in you…….BUT then give Him a chance to respond.  He’s dying for you to reach out to Him……..better put, He died so you could reach out to Him.  And He will respond, for He promises us in Matthew 7:8, “For everyone [yes, everyone means EVERYONE] who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

To Become King

Every man wants to be king. From the time we are little boys, there is something inside us that calls us up to rule and reign well. We only need to look within the first book of the Bible (Genesis 1:28) to see that the Lord placed this desire into our hearts by giving us the mission to rule and subdue the wild earth He created.

This desire to lead does not change as the man grows older. He wants to “come through” when the chips are down. He wants to know that he “has what it takes” to make a difference when called upon.

Not all men, however, are good kings. There is a distinct difference between what the world says is a good leader versus what God has to say on the matter. The worldly definition includes words like success, wealth, and power. The Godly king is defined by words such as integrity, character, spirituality, humility, and courage.

Let’s take a close look at a king in the Bible who portrays the image of a Godly leader in the eyes of the Lord.

David was not a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination (Uriah and Bathsheba for example), but he was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What did the Father see in this man to anoint him as King of Israel and how did He train him up in the ways of the Lord to prepare him for this kingdom? I think we get a clear picture of this training and transformational process by looking at the stages of David’s life. (The life of David can be found in the following books of the Bible: 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 1 Kings for reference).

Before David became king, God trained him up in His ways. David knew that his Father in Heaven loved him as a son. The name David means “beloved son.”  In the fields tending the sheep, David learned to be fully committed to the Lord and to live in harmony with Him by studying and meditating on His commands all day and night. Living in solitude in this manner, praying and connecting with the Lord, nurtured and matured David’s character. David lived in the obscurity of the wilderness taking care of his sheep. This created humility in David.

David’s heart was also shaped outside of the limelight. He learned to be faithful in the things unseen and unknown. David’s time in the wilderness shepherding was monotonous. It gave time to David to master the sling shot, to learn playing the harp, and to connect with the Lord throughout the day. This training also exposed David to the dangers and threats of the wilderness, including bears and lions attacking his flock. These adventures honed his skills which would provide useful during combat with Goliath and later in war. This training allowed David to have complete faith in the Lord and to have no fear as he battled the Philistine giant. David became a warrior as noted in this verse “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).

David would face many trials before becoming King of Israel. He would be hunted relentlessly by Saul and his men over a long period of time. David lived in caves for safety from Saul and faked insanity with the Philistines to save his life.

David’s character was not developed by one encounter with Goliath. His manhood was molded by the Lord over many years in the fields and through numerous difficult trials and adventures. The Lord required David to be capable in handling little things (his flock) before entrusting him with the nation of Israel.

The masculine journey is a life-long process of being molded into a man of integrity. Many battles must be fought and won. Many hearts must be saved. Courage in the face of fear must prevail for a boy to become a man and a man to become king.

David is a man I admire for many reasons. His love, connection, and close relationship with the Lord is one I desire. His steadfast commitment and meditation on the Lord’s commands gave him the strength, courage, and faith to fight in battle. I appreciate how real and authentic he was as a man of God. He didn’t care about persecution and what others thought about his beliefs. Although imperfect, he was sold out for the Lord.

Over the years, the Lord has molded and shaped my character through difficult trials and tribulations; divorce, being a full-time single father, re-marrying into a blended family, being a step-father, and more. He has taken these seemingly insurmountable obstacles and turned them into good as He has molded my character all at the same time. I am thankful for these trials as I would not be the man I am today without them and there continues to be much room for growth in my character along my masculine journey. We never “arrive” as the men God fully intended us to be. That, however, doesn’t stop us from openly accepting His training and working to be better.

I look forward to meeting my Father in Heaven someday. I envision it looking something like the excerpt from the book “The Way of the Wild Heart” (pages 217-218) by John Eldredge directly below. This short description of coming Home speaks to my soul as a man and makes me want to be the warrior son He always intended me to be.

“Picture in your mind’s eye an image of a great warrior, a renowned champion, returning home from far-off lands. His fame has long preceded him, and now the reports of his feats are confirmed by the scars he bears, the remembrance of wounds more noble than any tokens of honor. With dignity he moves up the main causeway of the city, lined with the faces of his people, the very people for whom he has fought bravely, whose freedom he has secured. The warrior has returned after years on the field of battle, returning only when triumph was achieved and not a moment before. This is his homecoming, and it is as a conquering hero he returns. Before him, at the head of the street, stands the king, who is his father. The scene is both a homecoming and a coronation. For the father-king will now hand the kingdom over to his son.”

Now let’s get to work! Be the man He intended you to be!

A Narrative Life

The narrative of my life contains many smaller stories, ones of trauma from abuse to stories of joy including my path to salvation. It is the intertwining of these stories that continue to develop my character, influence my faults, and drive my passions; all of this works together to make me who I am.

The narrative of my life changed Palm Sunday 2014, standing in a Sunday morning service. The congregation was singing “Great Are You Lord, ” and the Holy Spirit filled me and brought me to tears of a bawling baby. This moment is the point I share with people that the Lord hit me with a board and woke me from my slumber of passiveness. On this day, I turned from being a self-destructive and self-absorbed person to someone wanting to spread the word and wake up other passive men. At this point, I began to focus more on what the Father was speaking to me on a daily basis through his word and prayer.

It is amazing what God can do with you when you are not fighting to have your way or manipulating him into giving you your way. The redemption of Palm Sunday was a triumph, but it followed a day of a selfish choice just two years earlier. It was July 21, 2012, my birthday, and I was tired of being passed over for promotions, being used by others, and beyond frustrated with life. It is on this day I decided I was going to make myself successful, by not caring for people and using them to get what I wanted and ultimately to win. I was going to be the best, not allowing anyone to stand in my way, lest destruction. Remembering my father’s example, I decided I would out work them, and I would use my skill of reading people so that I could manipulate them. If there was nothing they could do for me, I would throw them aside to find the next person that could. There was no limit to what I would do to get there, the only thing that mattered was winning.

This way of life was working until I got used myself, and I had to face how I felt. When the house of cards you have built up by manipulating people and using them against each other starts to crumble, it can be earth shattering to your soul. At this moment you realize that all of the “victories” were empty and ultimately the person you were using was yourself. When this all went down, and I was sitting shocked and scared of how everything would work out. I realized I had nothing, no one to talk to, no one to share with, and I had to face a disastrous outcome alone. As the weekend approached I had decided by Monday, I had to find a way out. Do I run away and disappear or stand and face what I had coming to me. Thankfully at this time, Palm Sunday and the redemption of the Father came along.

God, The Father, is there for all of us, his love and compassion knows no bounds. He never identifies a point that you are not worth fighting for and he will always welcome you with open arms. I have played the part of a prodigal son, living a reckless life and on Palm Sunday 2014 my Holy Father welcomed me with open arms and helped add another chapter to the narrative of my life.

The Way of Integrity

I grew up as an oilfield brat. Our family followed my father from oilfield to oilfield across 3 states. At 16, I started working in that same oilfield, learning all I could about the gas and oil industry.

By 22, I was working as a consultant, directing exploration and completion activities for small independent companies. Money was being thrown around like it was paper, with many temptations along the way. My dad told me one time, “It takes 30 years to get a good reputation, but only 5 minutes to lose it.” He told me to choose wisely in what I would accept.

I had always known there were consequences for my actions. That statement was my first real understanding about what integrity meant and just how important it was. Integrity is just one characteristic of a man of God, but it is so crucial to our existence and pursuit of a Godly life.

From that point forward, I learned how important it is to make sure people know where you stand; where you draw that line in the sand and say, “I go no further than this.”

One definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” You have probably heard it said another way – “doing the right thing when no one is looking.”

God is always looking, so do the right thing. Make the right choices for the right reasons. Be the father who guides and disciplines his children, the son whom a parent can trust, and the man a father can entrust his daughter’s life to.

Integrity can be expensive. It can cost you relationships with people who don’t believe or respect your stance in life. In striving to live a life of integrity, you will have these types of losses and there will be more to come, but don’t change what you believe.

The disciples had integrity to continue the ministry after Jesus ascended. Most met terrible fates, but they continued doing the right thing even with a constant threat of death hanging over their lives. Their rewards, as ours will be, are not here on earth. Our rewards are waiting for us, because He has prepared a place for us. What a great feeling!

My company motto is something I strive to follow every single day:

Integrity does not stand in my way… it is my way. (WM)

Please remember one thing as you go out this week. You are not defined by your failures; rather by your attempts, your heart, your faith, and your integrity.

Until next time,

Warren

Laughter is the best medicine

I recently spent a week on a business trip with some colleagues. The purpose of this trip was a mandated leadership training for all new managers. Like all trainings I’ve been to, I took away the items that were most impactful to me personally, aaaaand I have already forgotten the rest. What I really remember about the trip though is laughter, a lot of laughter. I work with some incredible people, and two brothers in particular I have forged a solid friendship with. Soooooo, I figured our friendship would make the trip somewhat bearable. I had no idea how much so. Oh how we laughed every evening as we gathered for dinner and networking and during the day as we endured the sitting and getting. I have never lived for 15 minute breaks every hour on the hour more than I did that week. I digress…

Honestly, I was dreading the training. I was not looking forward to being away from home for a week and I am in the middle of one of the busiest work times of the year. To say the timing was inconvenient is an understatement. How little did I know this was exactly what I needed, not the training, but the trip! When I came back, I was so refreshed! I was trying to figure out why. It wasn’t quite making sense. Then this week it hit me, it was the laughter. We laughed so much and so often, the joy has lingered on in my heart. The ribbing we gave one another daily, sometimes hourly, and the sharing of stories filled us with such joy each day. We were suffering together through the training, but we endured and survived it because we laughed.

One bi-product has been my relationship with these brothers has deepened even more. Another has been my motivation and energy level at work has increased. I have looked forward to work more each morning since I returned and am reinvigorated to do my job. All because of laughter. I have even found myself laughing more at work, chuckling at even the smallest of things. This was kind of groundbreaking. Then my thoughts shifted. What if I approached not only my daily life with this lifestyle of laughter and joy, but also my relationship with Jesus with this same heart of laughter? What would that look like? (It’s okay, my mind was blown too when this thought first entered my brain. I am just glad it stayed long enough for me to write about it.)

I often wonder what it was like for the disciples to laugh with Jesus, to hear and watch Jesus laugh. I mean come on, these were men and this is what men do when they are together. These men were in Jesus’ inner circle. Anytime you put a bunch of guys together, sitting over a camp fire, talking after another amazing day with Jesus, you know they ribbed one another and laughed together, maybe even at one another (some of you are having a hard time with the idea these holy men would be having fun, maybe even at the expense of one another, but isn’t it comforting to think about how they were men, just like us?)

To laugh with Jesus, now that is an interesting concept.

Did Jesus really laugh, or was he always so serious, going around blessing people and shyly smiling, not really allowing his full humanity to come through? Is your concept of Jesus more of a highly religious man? A man distinctly more pious than the average Jewish man in first century Judea? Is it hard for you to imagine Jesus laughing? I submit to you Jesus was fully human and fully man in the most human way we know a human to be, he absolutely laughed! I imagine he had the most contagious laugh, the kind that when you hear it, it makes you laugh more, and the more he laughed the more you laugh. I have no doubt these men laughed with Jesus, the kind of laugh where you are about to hyperventilate and you end up in tears because your abs feel like you just went through two rounds of a P-90X ab workout kind of laughing (trust me, 1 round is enough to make a grown man cry). To be with Jesus is joy itself, and the purest form of joy is most often coupled with laughter. I laughed like that many times that week and it was good for my soul.

Can you imagine the laughter Jesus and his disciples shared together when Jesus appeared to them on Resurrection Sunday? Nervously laughing in utter disbelief as he stood before them and reassured them he had returned as he said he would. Jesus laughing with them, reciprocating the joy in his heart to be with them. Laughing as they listened to the sweet sound of his soothing voice once again. I can hear their laughter now, so pure and so joyful.

Have you ever thought about what it was like to laugh with Jesus? Have you ever tried? Maybe this is the first time you considered Jesus having a sense of humor? Think of his miracles. How about his first miracle, turning the water to wine at Cana. It was a wedding feast, there was laughter everywhere. Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose this setting for his first miracle?

What about his last miracle before the ultimate miracle of the Resurrection? Do you not think Martha and Mary laughed in disbelief and joy when Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the tomb? Do you not think that evening when they ate together there was laughter and joy? Can you imagine the laughter and joy at dinner that night while everyone was sitting in utter disbelief, silently and intensely watching a man, who had been dead for 4 days, taking his first bite of food and then Lazarus asking everyone, “What are you all starring at? Haven’t you ever seen a resurrected man eat a meal before?” followed by a roar of laughter. I can hear them now, “Peter, did you see the look on Thomas’ face when Lazarus walked out of the tomb?” and everyone breaks out in laughter again. What an evening that must have been!

There had to be so much laughter in both amazement and belief every single day with Jesus. What about Jesus’ seemingly daily habit of putting the Pharisees in their place? I can just hear John and Peter chuckling and saying, “Man, he just turned the tables on them. Did you see the look on their faces when Jesus healed that guy’s hand in the temple, on the Sabbath? Their jaws were on the ground.” What about the feeding of the 5,000? So. Much. Laughter. How could there not be when you are in the presence of the Creator of the universe, whose very idea laughter is?! What a comforting thought?!

So how about it? Just give it a try! Find a quiet place and spend some intentional time in listening prayer. Ask Jesus to help you remember something funny, a memory or a story, and then laugh with your Friend. Think about the smile on Jesus’ face when he sees you laugh. His heart is filled with joy when you, his son or daughter, laugh and find joy with him. Go ahead! Laugh it up with Jesus! You just might find out more about him than you ever have before! It just might be the medicine your heart needs.

Healing is for today

Did you know the Greek word for salvation is Sozo.
The definition is: to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
  1. one (from injury or peril)
    1. to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to healthBy this definition alone, if we have faith for salvation we then have faith to be healed. It is a package deal from our Father. Salvation and “healing” are for today! I have prayed for many people over the past few years and have seen most of them healed. I share this not to brag but to tell you that I’ve learned from God’s word that there is a way to pray that makes a difference. I now understand why my prayers had little effect when it came to healing. I was asking, pleading and sometimes begging for Jesus to heal. All this time He was waiting for me to act on the authority He gave me. I can’t find even one example in the Bible of the disciples asking Jesus, the Father, or the Holy Spirit to heal anyone. They went out in power and authority given to them by God and they commanded those they prayed for to be healed and set free. They didn’t pray for Jesus to heal them for He already did his part on the Cross. Jesus commanded “us” to lay hands on the sick and heal them.I came across this video and found it to be a great example of Christian’s sharing God’s love and powerIt blesses me every time I view it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KnLDsq4XXA

      We at E6 Ministries would love to pray for anyone in need of healing.

Freedom

What a beautiful word! Freedom on this day means many things to many different people. To some, it is a reminder of the freedom we have to worship, debate vigorously our different opinions, be protected through our rights, express our creativity, live peacefully in our homes, travel without interference or questioning as to where we are going or why, or the tremendous cost of freedom through the countless lives sacrificed trying to protect it. We celebrate the beauty of freedom today on the birthday of our country. God is to be praised for that and we should reflect with a thankful heart the freedom we enjoy each day!

But today, I ask a deeper question. Why is freedom the bedrock yearning inside us all? Imagine your freedom being taken away from you in an instant. Being arrested and hauled off to jail. Or being captured on the battlefield of war. Put yourself there for just moment. Can you feel the stress, the sadness, the welling up of the desire to escape, to fight for your freedom again?  Why is that there and so much a part of our emotional DNA? The answer may be more simple than you considered. Why would God hard wire freedom within the very fabric of our souls, all the while knowing the terrible possibilities we could do to others with that freedom?

Love. That’s it, that’s why. Love. How can it come down to love? What does love have to do with freedom? EVERYTHING! Bestowing freedom upon us was the most loving thing God chose to do!

Walk with me to the cross. Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane agonizing over what is about to happen to him. He knows his freedom is about to be ripped away from him, he even asks for God to take from him the loss of his freedom and for there to be some other way. But, in a twist of irony, he freely accepts and embraces love; that his loss of freedom was exactly why he came, all out of love. In that moment, Jesus freely chose love, which was the very thing that would cost him his freedom in order win ours. You see, freedom and love are intricately woven together, an unbreakable bond that requires a choice, a choice rooted in the desire to bring life.

It was love that drove those brave men to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. And out of their love was the undeniable desire to be free. It was love that inspired them to march upon the fields at Lexington and Concord a year earlier. It was love that filled their souls with courage as they fought for 8 years to win their independence. It was love that forged the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And it was love that fueled Jesus as he carried his cross to Cavalry’s hill, freely and willingly.

On this special day, remember your freedom was born out of love. The love of Father, who gave his Son, so that you may have freedom in Him. And just to make sure you know how free you are, he sent his Spirit, that you might be reminded daily your freedom was born out of love.

Happy 4th of July friends. Today, cherish your freedom in Christ born out of love and celebrate with thankful hearts the freedoms you enjoy as an American! May you be blessed, your family blessed, and may God continue to bless the United States of America!

Call to Action

Our Father is a God of action.  From the very beginning of time, he spoke then he created. God created the first man and woman for action.  That desire was passed on to us through every human since then. He never intended for us to be sedentary or to just think our way through life. He hard-wired into our DNA the need for action.

How do you explain the explosion in extreme sports and theme parks over the last decade?  What about the keen interest in action movies like the Fast & Furious movie franchises and the action gaming industry?  We crave action, we dream about action, and when we become bored we create action.

Why then, when it comes to following God’s plan for our life, we are so slow to act? It’s as if it’s too much for us to move when he asks. Is it our fear or our prideful hearts?  Have you ever asked yourself why this is the case?

It started at the very beginning.  When Eve took and ate of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam stood and watched.  He took no action, he froze, he went passive. Then God stepped in and he was required to take the most difficult action in young humanity’s life.  He had to remove us from his perfect creation, and ever since that day we have tried to remove our action back toward him from our daily existence.

Thankfully the story does not end there.  God showed why he is a God of action and his most beautiful action is an act of love.  He promises to send a way for us to become cured from our inaction. He sends love in the form of Jesus. He moved toward us by giving himself over to our inaction in order that we may be able to move back toward him. He took the first step.  Paul describes God’s action perfectly, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  While we did not deserve any other action than God’s righteous judgement against Adam’s passed on passivity in our lives, the ultimate action was taken by him. He came that we may live.  He restored our ability to act as we were meant to once again. With him, we are not alone any longer.

What action could you take first?  Could you start by talking with your Father in prayer, or ask your Father what action he wants you to take, or how about the act of sitting and listening to his incredible voice of truth and love?  What can you do today to take action to move closer to your Father?

Maybe the first action you need to take is to turn to Jesus right now and ask him into your life by praying this simple prayer:

Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross to rescue me from sin and death and to restore me to the Father. I choose now to turn from my sins, my self-centeredness, and every part of my life that does not please you. I choose you. I give myself to you. I receive your forgiveness and ask you to take your rightful place in my life as my Savior and Lord. Come reign in my heart, fill me with your love and your life, and help me to become a person who is truly loving—a person like you. Restore me, Jesus. Live in me. Love through me. Thank you, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

 

 

Unconquered Lands

What is my life’s meaning?

The very simple question we pose to ourselves has many difficult scenarios. Of coarse we tend to put the answer in our family, our church, our jobs. These are all possible answers, but if you disconnect yourself from the busyness of the world, how do you believe that God would respond to that question for you?

Think about the ways in which you have grown over just the past few years. Can you believe that this is God conquering with you lands that will lead to your inheritance? He will lead you through recognition of new talents and the availability of resources that you never saw before, to develop and fulfill the mission he has laid before you. He may have you challenging things in your community that have hindered people becoming closer to him or reaching out to hose hurting to provide a glimpse of his amazing healing power. These are often the things (lands) that are being conquered daily when we don’t even realize we are in the battle.

So to answer the question “What is my life’s meaning?” it is simple, keep conquering the “lands” God puts in front of you.  Awake daily to see the beautiful battleground God has put before us and answer each challenge with the goal of the Promised Land ahead. For the Promised Land is our inheritance of a new heaven and new earth if we fulfill the mission God has laid before us.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old earth had disappeared. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and it’s evils are gone forever.”

Revelation 21:1-4

The Fog of Religion

Religion. I am just going to come right out and say it, God HATES religion. If that sounds too strong, you don’t have to go any further than to explore the life of Jesus and his interaction with the religious crowd. God’s original intention was to foster and maintain a relationship with his creation, mankind. God so desired a right relationship with us, He gave everything to restore that relationship.  What would you give to make sure your most important relationships were sustained?  Would you give your life?  That is exactly what HE did, for you, His son or daughter. For you, he cut through space and time and history to get to you, his precious creation. Let that sink in for a minute. The God of the universe pursued you with all he had to get you back.  Do you know of anyone else in your life who has done that? And the most amazing part is, He did it all with the hope you would say yes, but in his infinite and inexplicable love, he doesn’t force you, he allows you to choose to say yes or no.  But no matter what you say, it had no bearing on his decision to come after you, your heart, the very essence of you and where he placed the very desires of life.

Now, before we go any further, this is NOT a hit piece on denominational differences or disagreements among brethren as to the interpretation of scripture.  What I am talking about is the rigorous placement of rules and regulations created by organizations and structures under the guise of Christianity  that they use to control or argue from a place of self-righteous authority in order to attempt to persuade you to submit to their vision of Christianity.

The very essence of the mission of Jesus Christ was stated very clearly.  Jesus came to bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).  But like any clear mission statement, there must be a reason behind it, The Why.  Jesus said, so that you may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  If, this is the mission of Jesus and the Why behind it, and it is, all of which is encompassed in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus; then what is religion doing but adding to and on top of us additional rules or regulations that generally cause strife and steal the very abundance of life Jesus came to give us?!

Over and over again, Paul writes about the gospel, the good news. If the news is truly good, then should it not be enough? Why is more added onto us?  To be fair to us today, this was a problem from the beginning of the ministry of Jesus and the one of the very first issues in the new church.  Sidenote: the early church was called “The Way.”  I absolutely love that phrase, because it reminds me that the Christian life is not just a set of beliefs, it is a way of living, radically different than the world. Most days, I believe the Church in America has lost its way and we desperately need to get back to The Way.  I digress.

Jesus held his most fierce criticism for the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees. Before we go off and bash the Pharisees, I would be lying if I did not include myself in that group.  Only within the last year have I realized how much of a Pharisee I have been. Wanting to follow a set of rules, knowing all along I am saved by grace through faith alone that there is nothing I can do to earn more of God’s love.  Oh how my heart has been set free. I can attribute my new found freedom to my disdain for religion.  Real, authentic Christianity is a way of living, a true understanding of who you are in and through Jesus.  No rules, no levying on regulations, rather living for HIM with a true desire to honor him with my life.  Can you feel the fresh air fill your lungs with hope and truth as you ponder on that thought?  I can feel the hope flowing in my soul.

The early church faced that same dilemma.  The first Christians, who were all Jewish, could not displace themselves from their religious past and understand why it was not a necessary requirement for the new Gentile believers to not follow Jewish laws and traditions, the very things the Pharisees had taken and expanded and that which Jesus had been preaching against.  Jesus was only trying to get the Pharisees to see that they had replaced their hearts with rules which had taken God’s place in their lives, leaving no room in their heart for him.  Jesus knew this would be an issue, so he called Saul, a Pharisee of Pharisees and defender of religion at all cost, unto himself and out of the religious fog.  He gave Saul a new name, Paul, and a new heart.  Amazingly, Paul became the Gentile’s greatest ally and helped mend this dilemma between religion and freedom through his letters and life. One of Paul’s greatest writing is 1 Cornithians 13 1-13:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

May we strive valiantly to love and turn from religion by going deeper and more intentionally in our relationship with Jesus. If God is love, and HE is, then love must be our first action.  To bring love and healing and freedom to as many as God brings to you, through the mission of Jesus, is the most non-religious act we could ever hope to do.  Love is the light that cuts through and lifts the fog of religion.

Pursuit

Why pursuit?  What does it look like to fully, without hesitation, passionately pursue?  Why would a God who has and is everything and needs nothing choose to pursue?  Yet an even better question is, why do I not?

Pursuit…this word is running on a loop through my mind tonight.  I am not exactly sure what event or circumstance or situation brought on this pondering, but it’s there for a reason, so I will explore.

When I begin to attempt to comprehend that God, the Creator, the Author of Life, authentically, passionately, and relentlessly pursued me since before time, I struggle to grasp the full understanding of what that actually means. So as I often do, I look at life through the lens of my heart as a parent. I am constantly amazed at how often my Father will use my children to show me how he feels about me.

When I watch my daughters pursue something they want and desire deeply, I see them pursue it relentlessly until either they achieve what they were pursuing or something altars the course of their pursuit that just simply does not allow them to pursue any further.  The tenacity and vigor with which they pursue is inspiring and convicting at the same time, but why? I believe they have yet to fully understand or grasp that as part of their Christian walk, they are to pursue Jesus daily, but maybe that is because they understand far better than I do that HE is pursuing them, all the time.  I have never heard them express any doubt HE is there for them or right with them, always.  Oh how I yearn to have their faith, their pure and uninhibited belief.  What has happened to my pursuit, my faith, my belief?  Am I so overcome by the world and events that I have allowed my ability to pursue be stolen from me by the enemy?

Jesus said, “I have overcome the world,” and he has.  So if he has, and I believe and know he has, then what stops me?  I sense that my faith (what I believe) has become too intertwined with what I feel.  Ed Smith, the founder of Theophostic Prayer or now called Transformational Prayer, is known for this phrase, “We feel what we believe.” I find this to be a very accurate and immensely true statement. How then can I capture what my children believe, how can I restore my belief to a place where I will pursue Jesus with reckless abandon?

I must have faith like my children. I must choose to put off the old man and put on the new man, be the child who loves his Father desperately. I must crucify the enemy within, the flesh.  You see, I am my Father’s son, and his heart is good and he gave me a new heart, so my heart is good.  Pursuit is born of the heart and the heart is born to pursue, therefore pursue I must and pursue I will, for the heart of a warrior never dies.  The heart of the warrior lives in constant pursuit.  I choose to pursue life and be the man I want to be.

 

 

Getting Dad out of your way

The difficultly of being a dad is without a question an internal struggle.  We spend too much time in our own head, worried about how we may be perceived.  This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend the weekend just my kids and I. In this time, God showed me a few things.  Being just us, we woke up and just took our time laying around, not rushing to breakfast.  When we finally got to breakfast, we made silly decisions about what to eat like goulash and taquitos for breakfast and followed that up with sloppy joe and tater tot casserole later.  It kind of set the tone for the weekend, which showed me that being a dad is not difficult.  We just have to be willing to let down our guard.  Now my kids are 7 and 5 so it is probably easier at this stage to just be a kid along with them, but there is no need for us decide that for them.  But I couldn’t help but think that this is what our father desires with us; to just be playful and carefree and know that ultimately, although we are throwing caution to the wind, he is in control.
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”  Galatians 4:17
This morning I heard “Hey Dad, wait” and as I turned here comes a flying 50lb boy with arms and legs spread out like a jumping squirrel.  He jumps with no fear, knowing that his earthly father will spare no cost to catch him.  Father where is my faith like a child? I fail to jump at so many occasions where I know you are there, out of fear.  It is out of that fear that I reside in quiet desperation instead of being the type of Dad you want me to be. So I resolve and issue this challenge to you to be the jumping, trusting, loving child God is calling us to be.  Even if your kids think you’re crazy, your heavenly father will rejoice.

In the moment

January 18, 2017  7:30 PM

It’s quiet now.  The last 30 minutes have been anything but. After dinner tonight, a spontaneous dance party broke out in our house. This happens often in our home, but not often enough that I take it in. Too often I watch for a little while and then it’s off to do something else…a practice to go to, getting everyone ready for bed, news I want to catch up on, actually have more than five minutes to talk to my wife before we both are called into a deep slumber after another long day… something inevitably  tries to get in the way of the ever fleeting “moment.”

We talk often among ourselves at E6 Ministries about being intentional, another way of saying “be in the moment.” How often I wonder, are we ever really intentional, when so many “things” call out to us, the ever present tyranny of the urgent. But not tonight, not this night. Something called me to be still, to remind me not to miss it and it wasn’t my beautiful wife this time. It was a jealous voice longing to be in the moment like my girls were. They were being themselves, in the moment. I found myself completely jealous of their total freedom. They know little of the responsibilities of being an adult and nothing of the constant churning of thoughts a parent processes in a day. No, they were being who their Father created them to be, free, free indeed.

I was reminded, convicted even through the joy of their freedom as they danced about. How often I miss it, these moments, these gifts of life. Jesus never missed a moment.  He was always looking for the joy or lesson or opportunity to love with every encounter in life. But you see, that’s exactly it. If we have chosen to follow Jesus, we are to be intentional, it’s not an option not to be. We are to recognize, even expect to find these moments and go all in.

Of course, the enemy tries deter or keep us from these moments, and attempts to pull us out of the moment with a thought or a distraction so that we may not experience true life when these moments come. Peter warned us that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but what does the enemy truly want to take? He wants to take life, but why? Because that is exactly what Jesus came to give, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” he tells us. Brothers,  Life is found in these kinds of moments and Jesus knew it, because he is the Author of life.  I implore you to Live in such a way that you expect moments, and when they come, dance or jump or fly or listen or love, whatever the moment calls for, but above all…live.