Archives For freedom

Teamwork!

January 2, 2014 — 2 Comments

Teamwork

Cheryl and I have been a team for over 18 years now. I can’t think of anyone else who I would rather do this thing called life with. She is just simply amazing. And beautiful. And smart. And talented. The list goes on and on!

The awesome thing about all this is, we really complement each other. She’s somewhat serious and driven. I’m goofy and happy-go-lucky. But we’ve rubbed off on each other over the years – I think I heard her tell a joke the other day, and not too long ago I actually had to write a check for something.

When we met, it was just one of those things – we both knew we could do life together, do it not just well, but do it great! And time has proven this, over and over. Through all the hard stuff, illness, injuries, surgeries, loss of jobs, birth of kids, anniversaries, date nights, and the random alone times – we were meant to be together.

The question “WHY” was posed to me this morning. Yesterday, I made a goal of blogging more, and I stated that Cheryl and I would combine each of our blogs. Why are we doing this? Because we are on the same page – we have a simple message, that through Jesus, all people can become free of every entanglement. We each had our own blogs, and were hitting the topic from different angles, and seeing quite a few people respond to the message. We think we can do more, and do it better, together.

The real “why” here is – we have been through so much! Both good and bad – and still we are able to give praise to our Savior! We have been in the wilderness – for most of our marriage, most of our lives in fact – and now we are coming out of that time of hardship – healed, set free, able to minister to others.

There are two verses that come to mind – 2 Corinthians 3:17 - “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” and Galatians 5:1 – “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

We want to continually be in the presence of the Holy Spirit, so that we can continually experience the freedom that Christ has provided, and since we are free, we want to encourage each other, and you, to learn to stand firm so that none of us experience any kind of bondage every again.

The message is simple – living it can be a challenge. Which is why we need to work together, pray together, encourage one another, pray for one another, help meet each other’s needs – just like the first Christians did almost 2000 years ago. The model they left for us – “they devoted themselves to the teaching of the Word, to fellowship, to breaking bread, and to prayer” – is what we should be doing today, all these years later. I want to see my family become like this, and I want you to join us, or even start something new on your own. I want you to be a part of my team – free people, who help free others!

Why? Because no one should be left behind. Our God has provided salvation and freedom for all who ask – my job is to tell the story of the great things he’s done for me, so that others can experience how great he really is!

 

Ch-Ch-Changes!

December 14, 2013 — 2 Comments

ChangesLess than 5 years ago, Cheryl and I didn’t have two pennies to rub together. In spite of each of us having pretty good jobs, making pretty good money, we were broke. We were also *broken*. Without hope – lost. We were ashamed of where we were in life. We were in a really good church, but afraid to talk to people about our situation. We were all alone -

(Still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild. A million dead-end streets and every time I thought I’d got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet. So I turned myself to face me but I’ve never caught a glimpse of how the others must see the faker.)

I wish I was kidding about all this – but about every other week, something was getting shut off – water, electric, phone, cable. Cheryl’s car was even repossessed once in the middle of the night. I remember sitting in the dark, lighting candles for light and warmth, wondering what we could sell on Craigslist to get our heat back on. I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas. We had a tree but there was no reason to even put it up – we had nothing to put on it or under it.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes – don’t want to be a richer man. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes - Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes, just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.)

During this time, I was reminded of a similar feeling Christmas, many years ago, when I learned that my wife (at the time) was having an affair and wanted me to move out of our house. It was too late for me to make any other plans – parents were at my sister’s house on the east coast, all my friends were out of town. So I packed up a few things in my car and drove off, but the car broke down about 20 miles from where I was headed. Then there was a literal blizzard…I thought I was going to die in a 1971 Buick Skylark, in a snow storm, sitting behind a convenience store in the middle of nowhere.

One thing I knew, in both these situations, was that something was not right between me and God. I was a pastor during both these trails. I knew, more than most people know, WHO God is.

But like Jesus said, the demons know as well. And tremble.

(I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream of warm impermanence, and so the days float through my eyes. But still the days seem the same, and these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.)

As it was, we were going to lose everything. Our home, our cars, our jobs. Our lives.

We didn’t start out thinking we would ever end up like this. We had dreams! We had plans and goals! We had it all figured out and what in the name of all that’s holy happened? How did everything get so bad? It’s like our dreams had soured, and our lives had rotted away.

(Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes - Where’s your shame? You’ve left us up to our necks in it. Time may change me, but you can’t trace time.)

Even now, if I told you everything was fine, I’d be lying. Different? Yeah. Better? Way. Fine? Define fine.

We have a Christmas tree, but we haven’t put it up yet. Christmas is 10 days off. We are lethargic – mentally, physically and spiritually this year.

(Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.)

One thing is different between then and now – the way we know God. That one little thing changes all things. He is not just a god (yeah with a little “g”) that we know, pharisaically, in our heads. He is not a god who sits and watches. He is not a list of commands to keep, holidays to observe, or doctrine to learn.

Our God is real, he is One, and when I say I know Him, I mean in a way that involves my heart more than my head. The Truth is setting me free – I know this Truth and His name is Jesus – and He doesn’t care about my Christmas tree, my light bill, or whether or not I love my job. He cares that I know Him – intimately, experientially – and when I do, all these things will be added.

Our God is a warrior God who fights for what is His! And WE ARE HIS!

It just seems like there is so much trouble, so much pain this time of year. But there is more than enough hope to go around. Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in His wonderful face – and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!

 

- Lyrics above in parenthesis are from “Changes” by David Bowie, and “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

Good Grief

March 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Charlie Brown

I have felt like Charlie Brown so often. At work, when something unexpected happens – AAUGH! At home, when the kids or laundry or both have me at my wits end – AAUGH! Driving in rush hour…well my responses to that are often a little more harsh.

Think about poor Charlie Brown though – nothing ever seems to go right for the guy. Everyone’s smarter, everyone’s stronger, everyone’s more right – all the time. His response to not being as good as everyone else is to seek out Lucy for counselling and scream AAUGH!

A lot of things in my life have gone like that, and I could put some bullet points up to let you know how bad it’s been, but you, being human, already know. People we love die, people reject us, people treat us badly, parents and friends dissapoint us. Those things, for some people, are what makes them know they’re still alive. I was under the illusion for so long that I was made for suffering. I didn’t know much of anything else.

But I found out I was wrong. I wasn’t made for suffering. Suffering is part of life sometimes, but we were made for more! And once I discovered the “more” part, I realized the suffering part was not so bad as I was making it out to be.

What happened was I turned in – when something happened, I knew exactly how to react – with anger, and by shutting down, and by shutting people out.

This weekend, I learned that it’s ok to feel whatever I am feeling. I learned it’s ok to be angry, it’s ok to have grief, it’s ok to admit that you are struggling. It’s ok, and when you allow yourself to experience these things, there is help for the hurt and then you move past it.

We talked about grief at church last Friday for a while, then we were given a chance to feel it, and deal with it. I found out most of my grief had to do with past ministry experiences. I sat and thought for a long time, and God spoke some words to me – he told me what I needed to do.

At the front of the church, on the stage, were some basins of water. God told me to put the water on my head, my eyes, my lips, my tongue, my hands and my feet. I thought it was an odd request. I asked why, and he said so that I could let go of my grief and experience healing.

So, I did it – and as I walked back to my seat, every step was lighter, my tears of sadness were replaced by shouts of joy and laughter! As I sat back down on my chair, God showed me why he asked me to do this – I needed to let go of grief, grief that I had both experience and caused.

God asked me to anoint my head because my plans had become more important than his. He asked me to anoint my eyes because I saw people as things to be used and manipulated into doing my will. He asked me to anoint my lips because my words had twisted the truth and I used them to hurt people. He asked me to anoint my tongue because my speech honored only myself. My hands because my work served only to glorify myself. My feet because I had made my own path apart from God.

Also, I was holding on to pain others had caused me in all these areas. I had held onto this pain and it turned into anger and bitterness.

Now all these parts are holy and His! My past is grieved over and reconciled. I will not dwell on the pain I have felt or caused any longer. It’s done – it’s finished. It’s now a foundation that God will build the rest of my life upon. I welcome him into my life to begin his work!

You can experience this, too! Right where you are, right now. Ask God to show you the things only he can help with, ask him to show you what you have held on to that is poison to your soul. Take time to grieve over those things, then hand them over to God. He’ll take them from you and make you whole. Your whole life can change, right now! Trust him to be big enough to wade into your darkness, trust him to bring the light! He’s not afraid of your messes, he’s not intimidated by your anger, and he’s strong enough to take all the blame you throw at him. He’s YOUR God, and there’s no other name to call upon. Take delight in him – take it! He is offering it to you, and when you take it, He’ll give you your heart’s desires!

Fear

September 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

scared_face

Fear – not something that’s easy for me to talk about or even think about. I feel like I have to be strong, hold it all in, deal. But it’s there, showing itself in a variety of ways – panic, blood pressure, negative thinking, various minor illnesses.

My church has a wonderful healing ministry. Every Monday night, people come from all over to be prayed for, with, over. Many of these people have experienced healing from illness and injury. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

I went last week because I’ve had constant allergy problems for over 40 years, including sinus infections, tinnitus, vertigo, hives, and other pretty nasty symptoms. I was assigned to a prayer team and walked into the room and as I was walking in I looked at everything going on around me – people crying, praying, laying hands on people. There was laughter, too, and excitement and some shouts of joy. I didn’t know what my experience would be – I just wanted to be made well.

I was led to my prayer team and saw the look on their faces – there were three people all looking at me – eyes wide, mouths slightly open, like in shock. I thought maybe my zipper was down or something…And I’m going to tell you what they told me. It’s hard to talk about and I’ve been processing it all week. I’m not making this up either -

The first lady shook her head and smiled and told me there was a glow about me and something that draws people to me. The second lady said she felt calm and secure in my presence, then all three of them started telling me I would minister to multitudes of people – “thousands” they said. But at this point it is just potential – I need to deal with my fear.

This is the point when I told them about my sinus issue. It’s like they didn’t even hear that part. I was dizzy, my ears were ringing, and I hadn’t tasted anything but snot for days. Gross, right? And I went to be prayed over and experience a miracle healing event and never have to blow my nose again.

They did pray over me. They prayed that God would show me the root of fear that was holding me captive, keeping me from my destiny. They layed hands on me and prayed that I would be strong and courageous. They got on their knees around me and prayed even more that I would learn to trust God and his provision for me instead of focusing on what people have done to me or against me.

And this is when it gets weird. Some very specific things came to mind. Things I don’t think about much.

When I was five my dad walked me to school and said he’d be back to get me but he didn’t show up and I walked home by myself. I was afraid because I’d never done it and I didn’t know what happened to my dad. I didn’t see him again until I was nearly 40 years old.

I got home, and my mom was there but had to go out. She said she’d be right back. My little sister was there with me. We were left alone for several days and finally rescued by my aunt and uncle, who eventually gained custody of us and adopted us both. I saw my mom several times after that, but never lived with her again.

After that, I never really trusted anyone. I was afraid to trust. I did things to keep people away, to make people not like me. I was rude at the very least and even violent a few times. I prayed that God would kill me sometimes. I never felt on the inside like anything was right.

Before all this, I knew things weren’t perfect, but I felt loved and protected. Then that was gone. I thought it was gone forever. I’ve always, always felt that way. Even as a Christian, I’ve felt and acted like I was on my own, like I had to do everything under my own strength.

My fear is the fear of abandonment. Everybody leaves. Everybody dies. My real mom died years ago and I still don’t know how to feel about that. Sad? Relieved? Happy? My Grandmother died next. I miss her every single day. I still feel like I need her. Same for my dad – the one who adopted me. I miss them both so much.

I had a wife a long time ago, and she left too. Will Cheryl? How about my kids? They’re growing up so fast. Yesterday they were babies, tomorrow they’ll be living in Possum Trot Indiana with kids of their own.

I’m afraid that God will abandon me, too. I’ve felt like that for a long time, like he already has. I know in my head that’s not what he does, but I feel like he has anyway.

All of this goes back to the day when I was so happy my daddy was walking me to school and that he’d be there to pick me up at the end of the day. And he wasn’t. And I never saw him again until almost 35 years later. With no good explanation of what happened. I was never sick before that either. And I’ve been sick ever since.

Crazy, right? How an emotional wound can turn into a spiritual wound which can turn into a physical illness that can keep you from being who you were born to be. How it can cause you to hold people at arms length your whole life. How it can cause you to wonder if anyone really cares or if they are just saying that because that’s what people say.

I need to get past this. I know where it came from, what it has caused. And I know I can be free from this.

I don’t know if this is helpful to you or not. But whatever is blocking your path, whatever is keeping you from being who God created you to be – you can’t turn it around by yourself and neither can I! Now that I know, I’m taking it to God, and he will be strong for me. He’ll tear it all down and I may just turn out to be who he dreamed I would be. You can do it too!

How do you honestly see yourself? And how do you think God sees you? God thinks you’re amazing, wonderful, beautiful and worth dying for. If you see yourself as anything less, you need to realize you’ve been lied to, and it wasn’t by God. He’s not going to condemn you or make you feel guilty. He wants to free you from that! Learn to trust him, and trust him to be everything you need. Trade your fear for freedom and be his child. He won’t let you down, you’ll never walk alone.

It was springtime, 1984. I was 18, my nephew John was a few years younger. We were mowing one Saturday, and had come to a patch of ground that was guarded by a pretty mean bumblebee. He was a kamikaze – every time we’d get near, he would dive-bomb us. We were both scared to death, and my dad was yelling at us to just get in there and get it done.

I would grab the mower, rush in, cut a small section, then run away, then John would do the same. It was going to take hours though, and we were all getting frustrated. The very last time I ran from the bee, I saw an acorn on the ground, scooped it up, jumped and twisted in mid-air, and threw the acorn as hard as I could. And it knocked that bee right out of the sky.

John said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” How right you were, John. And it’s in the top 5 coolest things I’ve ever done.

As Christians, we hear a lot about “hitting the mark.” We’ve been taught that sin is missing the mark, so we struggle and strive to hit it – whatever “it” is. Sometimes, the result of this is a theology based on performance – “I must do XYZ or God will not love or accept me.”

What I have learned is, there is nothing farther from the truth. God IS love! He already loves you, and since he is God, he could never love you any less because of any bad thing you have done, and he can’t love you any more because of any good thing you have done.

We have heard that sin is missing the mark, but what if our definition of sin is wrong? What if sin is not something we do or don’t do? What if the things we do are just the outward signs of sin? What if sin is actually a condition – the condition of being separated from God?

Definitions are important, or so I have learned, from a pastor at my church. His name is Bob Hamp, and his book Think Differently, Live Differently: Keys To A Life Of Freedom has helped me redefine a lot of things in my life. Starting with sin.

The metaphor of hitting the bee with an acorn is appropriate when discussing trying to hit the mark. I really did hit the bee. How unlikely was it that I would, though? I hit an acorn size flying insect with an actual acorn. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of deal. I couldn’t have done it on purpose, and I think the purpose of that happening is so I can share these things with you now.

We can’t hit the mark. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying, a lifetime striving, a lifetime feeling guilty when all God wants is for us to be free. We can’t wake up one day and decide we will stop drinking or cursing or lusting or whatever symptom of sin we are struggling with. We can’t exchange one set of behaviors for another and declare we are free. We can’t change ourselves. Only God can help us to think and live differently.

In Bob’s book, he tells the story of the creation and fall of mankind. Adam and Eve had a choice – life or knowledge – they chose knowledge and we have been trying to gain life on our own ever since by trading the knowedge of evil for the knowlegde of good. In other words, we make resolutions, we go to 12 step programs, we read self help books, we wear a nicotine patch, we improve ourselves by learning and even doing good things. But trading one type of knowledge for another doesn’t really change anything, when you consider eternity.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all one tree, and it’s still not life. God offers life to us, and we choose to do good things and call it even, while on the inside we are killing ourselves trying to do what we think is right.

When we choose life, everything changes. It’s like a blind person seeing for the first time, a deaf person hearing for the first time. We don’t have to have intentions anymore, we don’t have to struggle to gain God’s love and acceptance anymore, we don’t have to worry about whether or not he loves us. He does! We don’t have to worry about our lives making a difference or being important – they will, and we are!

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is what repentance is. Another definition – I was taught that repentance is me choosing to turn the other way, away from my sin toward God. This goes back to making it about me and my performance. No – repentance is me doing the only thing I can do that is right – submitting my will to God. When I give my soul to him, he changes my mind, and he frees me from the trap of being me.

What is the Spirit saying to you right now? Have you been laboring under a false definition of sin, of repentance? Let God renew your mind, let him show you a new way of thinking – not thinking different, but thinking differently. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain and all you have to do is one thing – the only thing you can do - release control of your will and give it to God.