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!