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Forgiven…Loved…..Transformed!

Archive for the tag “Christ”

Peru 2017 – Key Learnings and a Call to Action

I’ve been thinking over the past week in Peru as I have been sharing the journey with you that I haven’t been posting a lot of Scripture. It can easily make one think that I wanted to show off what we were doing and not draw it back to God.

That isn’t the case at all.

I’ve wanted to share Scripture with you but, honestly, I simply haven’t had the time to research it a lot and when I share the Word I want to make sure it is done in the proper context.

Now that I am on a flight home, I have a lot more time to think about the past week and how God moved throughout it.

And that is the first thing I realized, time is rare. In the States, we don’t have enough time because we tend to fill it all with stuff that isn’t Jesus focused. Not that any of it is necessarily bad, but as a missionary, you are at the whim of the country’s or city’s needs. You could get a call at any moment that a flood has destroyed a large section of the city or a fire is raging through the downtown of the city and won’t be put out in over a week.

Most of our days were 14-15 hours. When we got home, we had very little left to give to anything else but sleep.

I understand why full-time missionaries have a tough time communicating with their sponsors or family back home.

The next thing I noticed this year is how much God has grown me as a leader and as a Christian. I remember my first year going to Peru and we were building a house for someone and I looked down and saw an area and told our host, pastor Nick from Camino de Vida, that someone should plant a church there. He said that sounds like a great idea, simply trying to placate the mission tourist. But I wouldn’t let it go. I continued. I was saying it over and over, trying to get anyone to listen to me and finally Nick told me to calm down. I felt a little dejected. But after seeing the church in action that week and in others, I now realize that he was simply trying to help me to look honestly at the situation and focus on bringing God to the moment we were in, not to the potential future. The time I wasted trying to be heard could have been spent doing actual evangelizing that would have more of a lasting kingdom effect.

Since then, I have started looking through the eyes of our hosts, Camino de Vida. I still have my “gringo eyes” and until I immerse myself into the culture those won’t go away, but I can honestly say that God is showing me much of what the team at Camino de Vida is seeing and giving me a burden for the people of Peru.

I know I am not called to Peru, as much as I would love to be. But I have a serious burden for the people of Peru. I now know more about more people in Peru than I do people in America. My job is to bring people to Peru and let them get a taste (of the food) of the people of Peru and the highly developed third world country that really has a large part of my heart.

There are so many people that when I think of them, I start to smile.

People like Stalin and Paige Solis. She is from Arkansas and he is from Peru. She met him on mission and they fell in love and started serving at Camino de Vida. Now Paige leads the groups at the church and he teaches Spanish lessons to the church interns.

I met Paige and Stalin a couple years ago when I was in Peru and they have become good international friends, people I trust implicitly who I can talk to from time to time. They don’t take a salary from the church in Peru at all other than the money Stalin makes from teaching the interns Spanish (which he makes $10/hour to do it).

They are without healthcare insurance and are missing some things to help them do ministry better. I hope to help them get funded for at least their healthcare insurance. They need $300/month for insurance, $3,600/year.

I am going to ask my followers to support Paige and Stalin. When I think of the people in Peru whom I truly love, Paige and Stalin are at the top of the list. They have been amazing with the groups I have brought down there and have taught us all a lot about missions in Peru.

They go through an organization called Modern Day for their funding. Modern Day is an organization that connects missionaries to those who are supporting them.

From their website:

Our Vision is to help thousands of people, young and old, pursue their dreams of reaching the world for Jesus; one person, one city and one nation at a time. Our desire is to form partnerships that pave the way for people to serve in another country for both short and long term periods. We are currently working with over 250 missionaries. Since the summer of 2008, Modern Day has facilitated endeavors in 50 countries and new ones are being added on a regular basis.

I am looking for 36 people to offer up a ONE-TIME commitment of $100 to Paige and Stalin. With that money, they can afford healthcare insurance, something I think is very important in this world. If you would like to support them more than that, please do.

Please, people, prayerfully consider supporting them. Because of the work they are doing in Peru, hundreds are coming to know Christ! For a Christian, you can’t ask for a better return on your investment.

Here is the link to support Stalin and Paige:

http://stalinandpaigesolis.squarespace.com/

If you do decide to send them a gift, please drop me a line at coffeeguy777@hotmail.com. I would love to send them a note about the people who supported them.

Thanks everyone.

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Peru 2017 Day 5 – Wheelchairs and hospitals

This morning we were able to spend the morning doing the wheelchair ministry. This was the first ministry I did when I came to Peru in 2012 and I fell in love with Peru at that moment. Last year  we didn’t get a chance to do a large wheelchair ministry, but we did house to house.

When we learned our schedule for this week, we were told we would be doing house to house wheelchair ministry. When we arrived, we were told we would be doing a mini distribution at a central site. That’s the best of both worlds! We get to hand out a lot of wheelchairs but not so many that we lose sight of the personal touch.

We transported the boxes of wheelchairs from the Dream Center to the build/distribution site and we started building.

As the morning progressed, we met the people and started handing out chairs. It started with a man named Clever, he is part of the wheelchair ministry in Peru and was leading this outreach today. Clever spent about 15 minutes explaining the chair they would receive.

After that, I had an opportunity to get up and, through an amazing translator, was able to present the gospel message to them. I saw quite a few people raise their hand for accepting the gospel, but as I went around the room later, almost everyone told me that they knew Christ already.

Then we handed out their chairs and modified them for their specific needs.

Once that was done, everyone wanted pictures. The people who received their chair would get their phone out and ask someone to take our picture. We spent the next 30-45 minutes just getting our pictures taken by everyone (and, of course, taking their picture with us as well).

Afterward, we helped people get into their tuk-tuk or taxi, loaded the bus and headed back to the Dream Center for lunch.

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One of the amazing things I heard Clever explain to the people is that the wheelchair is a gift from God. As I was talking to people later, I heard one person explain that the wheelchair is a physical explanation of God. God gave His gift to us in the form of His Son. Unfortunately, we can’t see the physical form of God right now, but we can provide a glimpse of Him through the work that we do.

To many people, God is seen in the form of a wheelchair when we go to them.

Of course God is not a wheelchair, but that is a physical example, something they can touch and feel, that will remind them of the gift that is God.

Once the wheelchair distribution was complete, we headed back to the Dream Center to prepare for tonight’s ministry. Our plan was to prepare over 300 dinners to take to the hospital here. The first thing we needed to do was sift through the quinoa and make sure there were no stones or stalks in it.

After that, we had time before the food was cooked to do some work around the Dream Center. In order to keep us busy, we went through all the toys for the children’s ministry and separated them by gender and age.

Once the food was cooked, we placed it into take-out containers and then into large transporting bins. We got into the bus about 7pm and headed to the pediatric hospital.

Let me explain this. Hospitals here are nothing like hospitals in the states. The sanitary conditions are significantly worse and there is no desire to make the person, or their family, comfortable as they wait. Some people come and wait outside in the courtyards waiting for their family member to be healed or to die. Many have come from far away and have no source of income. Since Peru is a “pay to heal” environment, those family members either need to go home and continue to work or they need to find work in Lima during the time they are there.

It is all very heartbreaking.

We provided meals and took time to spend with the people there.

As it is almost 10 pm here in Peru right now, I am heading to bed as we are going back to children’s hospital tomorrow to serve over 1,000 breakfasts and have to be up at 4 AM.

Peru 2017 Day 4 – More Relationships

Today brought about a lot of amazing things. Yesterday we went to many places I have been before. Today we went to places I have never been before. And on top of that, we ended with a party that turned into church.

We started our day going to a refuge that takes care of mothers and children with HIV. We made 20 gift bags for the mothers and had a lot of care packages for the kids. As soon as we got there, we were able to hand one out but then found out the house mother was understaffed. We started right in doing the day to day tasks that need to get done. We cleaned rooms, swept the hallways, prepared lunch, checked in the produce order, and whatever else needed to happen.

It was great. The relationships we made were not with the moms and kids as much as it was the team at the refuge. We were able to connect with Carol, the house mother, and some of the seminary students she had with her.

 

We were there for a long time and realized we were on a time schedule. The Peru/Colombia game was tonight and we had to be back before dinner or we would be stuck on the streets for hours. Lima is a city of almost 10 million people, so having a game like a World Cup Qualifier round 2 blocks from where we are staying means that the roads will get congested.

We went back to the Dream Center, picked up lunch, and headed to our next destination. This would be a short stop before moving to our final destination, but it was well worth it. We stopped by a church that Camino de Vida, the church we support in Peru, is getting ready to open in December. It was an old theatre where plays and musicals would happen. They are leasing the property and totally renovating it to fit their needs. It will seat about 900 people. We met up with Nick Balcombe, one of the pastors, and he gave us the tour. They need $250,000 more to get the place renovated and opened. If you are interested in supporting the vision God has given Camino de Vida for the new church, please check out their website at www.caminodevida.com

After the tour, we went to a place that was extremely special. When we were coming down, we were asked to bring down some feeding tubes. I laughed when I said “some” because I was expecting maybe a small case of them. No, we received 6 cases which turned into 2.5 suitcases of feeding tubes. We went in and got a short orientation and then went to visit the kids. Those kids are beautiful! If no other reason, the purpose for those children on this earth was to show us gringos just how to love. They have so much love in their hearts!

I really enjoyed spending time with Augusto. He is blind and has several developmental disabilities. The way to interact with him is to rub his back. Every time I did and said his name he would smile and laugh. A few times he would reach out and hold my arm as best as he could.

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Nate, on our team, fell in love with this one kid. He is musically inclined and that gave Nate an opportunity to love this kid with the gift of music.

We left there in order to get back before the traffic got too bad. When we arrived, we starting making blankets our project on Thursday. We grabbed two very large bolts of fabric and cut the blankets. Altogether I would say we made about 60 blankets. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to make more.

Then the night really started. Tonight was the Peru/Colombia World Cup qualifier match. Peru needed to win or tie. They tied.

A few of the women who live in the house we are staying and their friends came over and we watched the game together and afterward we partied.

Then after we were all partied out, we ended the night in worship.

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This day couldn’t be any better.

The goal of missions is relationships. We may never be able to end all the hunger or homelessness in the world. But we can feed people the Word and end the homelessness in their hearts. We might never be able to provide clean water to everyone but we can provide people with the new wine of the Spirit.

We built long lasting relationships with people today and I love that!

Tomorrow we will be doing one of my favorite projects here in Peru, a wheelchair distribution.

Peru 2017 Day 3 – Relationships

We got a late start to the day today.

Praise Jesus!

After yesterday’s 15 hour day, it was nice to start a little later in the morning.

We started with our devotional that focused on God’s purpose for our lives and that we don’t need to be in Peru to be in mission. It is important to understand that fact because God blessed us with being in a great country with decent incomes and a lack of persecution for our faith. You don’t have to feel guilty for living in America. God is sovereign. He has a purpose for placing you where you are.

After making sandwiches for lunch we headed off for the hour and half journey to Grace House, a home for women who are broken and have addictions or disorders.

This is a very safe, walled house that is lush and green. It is a partnership between Camino de Vida and Hillsong. It is a home that holds 20 women and they are mentored to find their identity in Christ. As they find that, they realize their hang-ups and their brokenness become their testimony and they have the power to overcome what they are struggling with.

In the pictures below you can see several of the testimonies and the motivational words that are used for healing in these women.

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After spending the morning at Grace House, we got in the bus and headed almost 2 hours to Hogar de Ninos, a children’s home. Now the children here are not very young. They range in age of up to 20 years old. Once they reach 18 they have the option to go into the leadership program or they can leave.

As we got there, we got the tour and the chance to meet the kids. Then the guys started up a soccer (football) game. Let’s just say that even with the kids going easy on us gringos we were outmatched. I was sweating and breathing heavily and the kids were just moving from one side of the ball to the next with no effort.

We then played several other games and just decided to hang out with the kids until the tutors walked in with a cake for one of the kids named Milargo, whose birthday it was today. We enjoyed cake and singing Happy Birthday and then got on the bus to head back to La Victoria.

When we returned, the place was quiet. Our dinners had been made by the team there and left for us to eat. Lomo Saltado, one of our team’s favorites! Then, in one of the back rooms, there were a whole bunch of materials for us to put together gift bags of food and personal hygiene items for women at the HIV refuge.

Tomorrow we leave early in the morning to head to the HIV refuge and then to an orphanage for children with special needs and developmental disabilities.

Since it is only 7:30 at night right now, I am going to take this opportunity to finish this post and head to bed early. Tomorrow night is the qualifying round for Peru in the World Cup. The stadium, which seats 60,000 people, is 2 blocks from our sleeping area. If Peru wins, Peruvians will be partying in the streets for 24 hours straight, so that will mean no sleep for any of us.

So good night and pray for us to get some sleep.

What Does Dying Look Like?

No. I’m not. At least no more than anyone else, a little closer to the grave each day. But, as far as I am concerned, that is my prognosis.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

But the past couple of days have given me pause to reflect on death and dying. Not just in human terms, but also in the church.

My first story starts as I was waiting for a simple medical procedure to be done. I was in the waiting room, a well-lit place with gray and cream walls and these stupid molding squares every foot or so. I was in the waiting room thinking to myself as I was about to get a biopsy done on my esophagus, what if someone comes back with a terminal illness diagnosis? The place that would be seared into my mind would be an ugly waiting room with gray and cream walls and squares on the walls.

They called me back and took me into the next waiting room, a small procedural area with hospital beds surrounded by curtains and people in those curtains recovering from their procedures. I could hear almost every word that was said between the doctor and the patients.

The majority of the people going in there were getting colonoscopies. One person was in there for her very first one. She was nervous, especially about the farting afterward. But the other 3 beds were taken up by people who have had multiple ones this year. One bed had a girl who couldn’t be much older than a junior in high school. She was on her second colonoscopy this year. Another bed had an 80+ year-old woman in it and she has had 2 this year. The man who came in and sat next to me in the chairs until a bed was open was on his third for the year!

The man next to me and I struck up a conversation. It started with small talk and platitudes. He asked me what I was in for, I did the same. He asked me my age, I did the same.

But then it took a little deeper turn.

He said to me that he never believed he would have to be getting multiple colonoscopies in a year. He said on his first one they found multiple polyps. After testing them, they were cancerous. They realized that they missed one that couldn’t be removed with the equipment there and he had to have it done at the hospital so they sent him in again. During that one it had spread a little more and they removed several others. This third time he was in to see if any more had grown.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 – And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

He stared me in the face and told me that he never expected to be staring a potential life-threatening disease in the face.

Now he was upbeat about it. He said he has no regrets for how he lived his life and he was proud of the people his children and grand-children had become. But you could tell there was a tone in his voice that said he just didn’t want this life to end.

One could easily say that this man is being overdramatic. The doctors didn’t know if he had any further issues, so why would he be getting all bent out of shape?

It is because death is final.

At least here it is.

As a Christian I know that this life is simply a small vapor in the wind and then I move on to the next life. But all of the people we have come to know and love in this lifetime, we worry about how they will react to our absence.

Ever since birth, this life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. Some come for a few moments, but others come for a lifetime. It is those lifetime people that we worry about.

I went through with my procedure and he went through with his. After that moment in chairs together we never spoke. I wish I would have gotten his phone number or email or something. I would really like to be able to check in with him from time to time. But I didn’t. #Fredfail

I will always remember this man. He was stoic but scared. Peaceful but a little anxious.

John 11:25 – Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live

There are many stories like the man I spoke to while at the surgical center. Too many to count.

A lot of them are happening in our churches as well.

That leads me to story number 2.

Over the past year I have interviewed at a couple different churches with hopes of becoming a pastor. In every single instance I made it to the final round only to get beat out by someone else.

But each time that I interviewed at a church I would sign up for their email list. I like to keep in the know about other churches, I believe it makes me a better minister as I am not the smartest person on church leadership (I could have put the period after “person”, but I decided to qualify it a little more)

Many of the churches that I interviewed at were smaller with older congregations. That isn’t a problem as long as you constantly are replacing those who are dying out of your congregation.

In the past 3 weeks I have received 6 funeral notices for one of the churches I signed up for! That doesn’t even count the other couple of churches I get emails from.

The church is not an easy organization to manage. You have several demographics to hit upon and you are expected to hit them all equally as well. You are expected to be the 7-11 of biblical knowledge. Most churches don’t do that well. They are skewed to one demographic over another. They are either an old church or a young church. A white church or a black church. An English church or a Korean church.

The churches are focusing on being niche-based rather than all-encompassing.

And this leads to some churches dying while others find the right niche for the moment.

Unfortunately, the right niche is usually fad-based. Right now, the right niche is to have a great sounding worship band followed by a charismatic message and do it all in about an hour. But that is changing. We are starting to see the death of the charismatic, evangelical church now as this fad fades.

You also have a lot of other types of venues popping up like the tattoo parlor church, the movie theatre church, the cowboy church, and child-focused church.

The one thing I have noticed time and time again is that those churches need to constantly reinvent themselves to stay relevant.

Now I am probably going to get a lot of unhappy comments when I say this, but does the church need to be relevant with the fads of the day, or do we need to learn to be relevant in how to be approachable to the unbelieving public?

Revelation 3:1 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead

Let me explain.

Relevance can be seen as adding a high-powered worship band and skinny jeans and fauxhawks on the ministry team. Those will bring in people who are searching to be entertained and don’t have to worry about making personal changes to their lives so long as they get their weekly dose of entertainment.

Or…

Relevance can look like the body of believers going to church and enjoying each other’s company before a pastor gets up in front and teaches from the Bible on how to interact with the world outside of the 4 walls of the church.

That was kind of painful for me to say. I enjoy my latte-infused, Bethel Music Group energized, skinny-jean with a fauxhawk preaching churches. Unfortunately, many times they are simply places to hide ourselves away as Christians even though we say we are being a light set on a hill, all too often, because we don’t teach people how to interact with unbelievers, when the unbelievers come to our churches they simply get burned by those who proclaim to be the light.

And that is why the church is dying. Well, that’s my take at least.

If we spent a lot more time teaching people how to interact with the unbeliever rather than being safe houses for the marginal Christians, we would find that we may have smaller congregations, but they would be a lot more fruit-bearing.

So whether you are alone in a gray and cream room with ugly squares on the walls or in the most beautiful high-tech church in America, there is something in common.

Death.

Psalm 115:17 – The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence.

And many times that death is slow and painful. And even if you do survive, whether it is a life-threatening disease or a church focused on doing church in the church, you will never be the same afterward. The light goes away. It is the equivalence of losing the lamp stand in Revelation.

I’ll end with this example that I got from Louie Giglio. The last 2 letters of the word “SIN” are “IN.” Churches who are “in sin” are “in church.” The first 2 letters of the word “GOSPEL” is “GO.” Churches that are being relevant at the individual level and going to places outside of the church are gospel churches.

And that is the church that Jesus says the gates of hell will not prevail against.

Part 2 – Vision into Action

Habakkuk 2:3 – For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Last week I shared a story that is all too real to myself and well-known by those who love me. It was the transformation into the person you see today. The person who is less angry and more filled with passion than ever before.

But to move from anger into passion requires the ability to lead yourself.

I’ve led people all my life. I’ve managed up to 110 restaurants at a time across 26 states. I’ve designed and built well over 100 restaurants or retail establishments in my 47 years of life. I started, and subsequently sold, a company. I’ve led several ministries in church, taking them to the point of handing them off to the professionals.

God birthed in me a leader.

I don’t say that to brag. I say that with all humility because I know the judgment on leaders is harsher than on those who don’t lead. I also know that not everyone whom I lead wants to be led. Sometimes that includes family, friends, co-workers, and those with which I am in ministry.

The key to leadership is to hear all of those voices of dissention, but focus on the one singular voice that causes the wind to stop, the water to part, and heavens to shake and the sun to stop. If God is attempting to convict a leader to change direction, then it will come from God and there will be much more than a singular voice or two of dissension.

But the leading I want to talk about this week is about leading myself.

We can lead all the ministries, organizations, or businesses in the world, but if a leader doesn’t know how to lead himself then he won’t be leader for long.

The Christian journey is a personal one. We are never called to lead large churches, non-profits, ministries, businesses, or the like. We are called to lead a life that changes because of God’s impact in it.

Proverbs 29:18 – Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

When a life begins to be led, it always starts by following a vision from the leader.

In ministry and business circles we call it “vision-casting.”

The leader casts a vision that he has had and the congregation or the business all surround that leader’s vision and make it happen.

After my anger melted away and turned to passion, God was given a black box theatre to cast his vision in my life.

And cast He did.

As I emerged from my transformation, God showed me a vision of what my life should look like for Him. It included working in ministry at my home church, going to seminary and getting my Master’s degree, and leading a future family as well as my biological one.

That was a HUGE vision!

People can, and will, say, “But Fred, those seem tiny. People get remarried all the time. What makes yours a vision from God? People lead a ministry all the time, what makes YOU so different? And people go back to school all the time, that doesn’t mean you are living out a vision.”

When looked at in light of the world, those items seem pretty small. And there are even many days that I feel like I have strayed from what I believe God’s vision should have been rather than staying in the vision He cast for me.

But coming out of divorce and a carnal, anger-filled lifestyle, the transformation in a single person is nothing short of miraculous.

Yes, many people come out of divorce and get remarried. But the majority find that their hearts are so hard that the divorce rate among second marriages is not any better than first. God had to transform my heart, head and soul before I was ready to remarry so that I was sure to treat the wife He provided for me the way a princess and daughter of the King deserves to be treated.

And, yes, many people go back to school. But that education is used to get better paying jobs with amazing perks and quality of life. Admittedly, when I went to seminary I had dreams of pastoring a megachurch that was doing amazing things across the globe. And, who knows, maybe that will happen yet. There don’t seem to be any churches out there willing to hire a divorced, 47 year old who recently graduated seminary. And therein lies an issue that I still hold onto. Bitterness. I still feel bitter because of the lack of moving into vocational ministry. I still have a lot of refining to do. But that degree has been put to good use. God has used it to lead others to Christ. Even more so, God has used it to deepen my love for Him as I am able to trace the history that God has used to bring about His glory. I need to move past myself and lose the bitterness and stay in God’s vision.

So, while the visions seem small, the impact is huge.

What was the Father’s vision for Jesus?

Pour your life into 12 men so that they will go on to turn the world upside down.

Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ is the pivotal moment of Christianity and I never want to belittle it, but ultimately, it was the work that Jesus did with those 12 men that transformed all of humanity. It transformed those who follow God into overtly evangelical.

It was that vision that led to action.

James 1:23-25 – For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

And the vision that God gave me, as my anger transformed to passion, was turned into action.

Because of it, my life is done only in light of the risen Christ.

Because of His vision for my life, I am able to pour into family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors with a love that can only come through knowing Christ.

Are you at a point that lacks vision in your life? Are you angry and without passion?

Then it is time to reach out to Christ.

If you don’t know how to take that first step, leave a comment here with a way to contact you. I will be happy to reach out to you either by email or phone.

It is time to be filled with a passion for the one, true Life and the vision to see it come to life in you.

Part 1 – Anger into Passion

Philippians 3:13 – Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead

I remember the old days.

I wasn’t very religious. Quite the contrary, I was as carnal as the rest of the world.

I was married to a woman I met in college and we had 2 children. I was at the top of my professional game.

I had a salary well into the 6-figures.

We had just built a home on 6 acres.

We were traveling all around the world, taking cruises, eating in the best restaurants.

I enjoyed life.

I thought life was good.

But it wasn’t.

And I didn’t know that.

Underneath my prideful naivete was a seedy underworld that I didn’t realize existed.

Slowly but surely life started to unwind.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

First, there were physical ailments, first my wife, then myself, then my children.

Next my job started to suffer. By the end of 2008 I was award-winning and on top of the world professionally. But then I started making mistakes. Major ones. Those mistakes led to write-ups and less opportunities for me to grow.

Finally, my wife and I had major issues. Because of the states of both of our hearts, we were unable to get past it.

We divorced.

I was angry!

I hated what everyone did to me.

Little did I know that my own actions had a lot to do with my downfall.

During the divorce, I tried every outlet I could think of that would bring me satisfaction. I tried pouring myself into my work, only to realize that it made me dislike my job more. I started secluding myself from others. I spent a lot of time online. It started with video games and eventually moved into pornography (no, there is not a relationship between the two, it was done out of boredom, anger, and pride).

I was cut off, and I did it to myself.

All because of anger.

I was at my lowest point. I was about to move out and live on my own. My job situation was shaky at best. My income was no longer in the 6-figures and I was looking at $1300/month in child support. I had no clue how to move forward.

All I knew is that I was tired of being angry.

Sick of it, in fact.

When I moved out I spent the first couple weeks in prayer and fasting. I hadn’t fasted in almost ever, unless I was getting blood drawn. And prayer, it was relegated to “bless the fries, bless the meat, ok Lord, let’s eat.”

But this time I was serious about it. I had no furniture. I had no bed. I had no WiFi. No usable computer. No TV.

I had my Bible and some cases of bottled water.

I prayed and fasted for the first time ever. When I was done praying, I would sleep. When I woke up, I would start up again.

This went on for almost 2 weeks.

Many who know me know that story.

But it is the next part of the story that most people don’t know.

My anger was turned into passion.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Not the passion that the world is used to. Not a sexual, carnal passion.

My anger was turned into a passion to get back on track and the only way I knew how to get back on track was by giving everything to God.

Everything.

The amazing thing is that this change happened almost immediately. Within a few weeks, my anger had turned into passion.

I felt the anger and the bitterness melt away. All that was left was a passion to see my life change for the God who I knew had saved me.

He saved me not just from the pit of hell, but from myself.

I never knew what true freedom felt like, but, at that moment, freedom was real to me. No more living in anger. No more living alone. No more pouring myself into a fantasy world or alcohol or the wrong crowd that was focused on bringing me down instead of raising me up.

So what now?

Having passion is only a good thing if you do something with it.  That passion needed to turn into vision and that vision into action.

God was birthing in me a vision for what He wanted my future to look like. That vision wouldn’t come easy, but it was needed to see a future that would be put back together, but this time, the right way.

Proverbs 3:5 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

This isn’t fake news

2 Kings 18:29-30 – This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you. He cannot deliver you from my hand. Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’

If you have been anywhere in America over the past year, you have heard one phrase thrown about a lot, “fake news.”

The Republican party uses that term to damage the Democrats. The Democrats use that to try and implicate the President in lies. The President uses that term to divert attention away from himself and place it on anyone who opposes him.

But fake news isn’t a new phenomenon.

It has been around for several thousand years.

During the time of Hezekiah’s reign in Judah, Sennacherib from Assyria attacked all the cities of Judah and captured them.

2 Kings 18:31-32 – “Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern,  until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!

Hezekiah was a good king.

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

Because of this, even though the fake news affected his people and himself, he trusted in the Lord.

They tore their clothes and went to the Lord in prayer. Isaiah responded to them with the word from the Lord. He told them not to worry because the Assyrians were evil and Judah was doing right in the eyes of the Lord and that they would not only be delivered from the Assyrians, but the Assyrians would be destroyed.

2 Kings 18:32-35 – “Do not listen to Hezekiah, for he is misleading you when he says, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’  Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?  Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand?  Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the Lord deliver Jerusalem from my hand?”

The fake news continued.

But Hezekiah remained faithful to the Lord and convinced his people to do so as well. He showed his example of being faithful to the Lord and Judah followed his example.

And the Lord showed up.

The Assyrian army was destroyed. 185,000 Assyrian were destroyed and Sennacherib, king of Assyria, ran away from his armies and to Ninevah, where his sons decided to kill him.

Today we are surrounded by fake news.

I am not going to claim to know which voice in the media is the right one. I am also not going to claim to know which political voice is correct.

But one voice has remained constant throughout the ages, God’s.

The Bible is timeless.

It holds answers to all of today’s problems. In essence, there is but one answer, Jesus.

If we as a people, a nation, or an individual humble ourselves before God and wait for Him to move on our behalf then He will show up in a mighty way. He will deliver us from our enemies. He will heal our lands. He will heal our bodies. He will heal our relationships.

All we need to do is pray and wait for Him to move.

And He will.

This message is for everyone!

Are you a politician? Seek the Lord first.

Are you clergy? Seek the Lord first.

Are you a husband or wife who is struggling in your relationship? Seek the Lord first.

Are you looking to change your situation at work or home? Seek the Lord first.

We can easily get distracted by reaching out to friends, family, coworkers, and others to get our information. But if we don’t start with the Bible, then there is a good chance we are getting fake news.

We need to go to the truth before we seek the fake.

So as you listen to all the “words of wisdom” out there, before you pick up another newspaper or another commentary or another radio show or another TV broadcast or another politician or another person, reach for the Word of God. Seek the Kingdom of God first and then the truth will be given to you.

God of First Chances

“Don’t worry, Christian, God is god of second chances.”

I’ve never shied away from phrases and statements that others would see as controversial. I also have not turned away from taking statements that church sees as slam dunk theology and review them harshly.

I do not like “easy theology.”

Just because a pastor or celebrity or politician says something, it doesn’t mean that I need to simply accept it.

The Bible is clear about it, we need to test everything to Scripture.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to say to someone who has screwed up, “Don’t worry, we all sin. But God gives us a chance to make it right. Oh, and if you screw up again, He will give you yet another chance. You have unlimited chances, Christian.”

But is this really true?

We love to think of God as all-loving and fair according to OUR standards of those words. We think of the coach of the little kid coach-pitch baseball team. The coach throws the first ball in there and the kid swings and misses.  He throws it in there again. Another miss. A third time, yet another miss. By this time in baseball, the batter would be out and we would move on to the next ball. But the coach has bucket filled with baseballs that he is going to throw at this kid. After the 15th ball crosses the plate, the coach then runs up to the batter’s box and sets up a ball tee and instructs the kid on how to hit it.

We think of God as that coach. We miss the mark and God gives us another chance. Miss again? Don’t worry, here is another ball crossing the plate. And if you happen to go through all the balls crossing the plate, don’t worry, God will make it easier for us to hit the mark by setting up a ball tee.

But is this REALLY what Christ came to die for? Is THAT the Good News of the Bible?

It is easy to see where this kind of thinking comes from. If we take the Bible out of context, we can make the jump from right context to easy-believism. It was God, after all, that gave Adam and Eve another opportunity at life. It was God that gave the Israelites several chances to become His people. It was God that saved Jonah, even though he denied Him. It was God who still turned Peter into a great leader and evangelist even though he denied Him three times.

If I am having a bad day and screwed up, these are definitely stories that console my spirit.

But there are many stories of God only giving people a first chance in the Bible and then making the call to end their life because of the sin they committed.

Look at people like Jeroboam or Ahab. Because of disobeying the Lord, they were taken out. Or what about Ananias and Sapphira? They lied to the disciples, and to God. The Lord did not give them a second chance. They were struck dead immediately.

Just because someone believes that God exists does not shield them from feeling God’s wrath or judgment.

Everyone is going to mess up.

We need to pay the consequences for those actions.

Galatians 6:7 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

But what makes it different for some people than for others?

Best as I can tell, it is the condition of the heart. When you look at the kings of both Israel and Judah listed in the Old Testament, the conditions of their hearts defined their punishment.

What about the Israelites in the desert? God destroyed some of them because of the conditions of their hearts.

Ananias and Saphira refused to repent, thus lying to God. Their hearts were not completely given to God.

All those people did evil in the sight of the Lord.

I believe that if we constantly think that God will gloss over our sins, then we challenge His authority. And, ultimately, it is that which God is angered about.

But we, especially Christians, do it all the time!

Why, when we know the end result of what happened to Ananias and Saphira, would we challenge God?

Ultimately, it comes to us. We think of ourselves as the beginning, middle and ending of our universes. When we think of ourselves higher than we are, then we believe that our feelings, our views and our lives are greater than others, including God.

Many times we can mask that self-centeredness. We do it well.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 – But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

“I was only doing this to help someone else.”

We’ve said it many times before. Ananias and Saphira probably had the interests of each other in mind when they decided together to keep the money they had made instead of giving it to God. The kings of Israel and Judah probably had the overall interests of their people at heart when they made decisions that were “evil in the sight of the Lord.” The Israelites were thinking of their families and future families as they worked to convince Moses to turn back around and go to Egypt.

But what we fail to remember is that God will take care of us.

The is the epitome of pride.

When we believe either that we are the ones who command our destinies or that our problems are so big that God cannot handle it we say that God is insufficient.

It is that pride that needs to be broken in us.

It is that pride that leads us to make incorrect choices.

It is that pride that holds with it consequences that require a fully sovereign and loving God to heal the damage that is done.

Contrary to what the world believes, God is not filled with malice and rage. Does He get angry? Of course. But He gets angry because He loves us so deeply.

But the world, and in many cases Christians, believe that God has brought about the problems we face because He is filled with evil tendencies.

That simply isn’t so.

God loves us so deeply that He wants us to have a free choice. He wants us to experience all of His qualities. He made us in His image for that purpose.

Love.

If God didn’t love us so deeply, He would have made us robots that He could control, not children He can pour into.

And if He withheld the consequences to our actions, we would go through this life not knowing the truth about them. His power would be weakened if He chose to turn a blind eye to consequences.

Understand that growth means pain sometimes. We make our choices. We reap the harvest of what we sow.

While it isn’t easy to accept consequences, it is needed in order to grow.

So when we mess up, understand there will be a consequence to that action. God won’t necessarily stop the bad things from happening in your life. He will more than likely allow them to happen.

It refines you.

Accept it.

Allow the consequence.

Relax a little and know that God is sovereign and while He won’t remove the bad stuff from your life, He will be with you through it all so that you are given the opportunity to grow.

Hebrews 12:11 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Uriah the Hittite

2 Samuel 11:2 – Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.

If you’ve been around church long enough, you know the story. King David is walking on his roof one day and looks down to see a woman bathing. That woman is Bathsheba. David has his servants go tell her that he wants to see her. She arrives to his quarters and he sleeps with her. The Bible isn’t clear as to whether it is rape or adultery. In the grand scheme of things, that is inconsequential to the story anyway because both are acts of evil and depravity regardless of our emotions about each act.

After he sleeps with her she becomes pregnant. David then proceeds to hatch a plan to kill her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and take her as one of his wives.

I have heard this story over and over again in church settings. It has been used in two different ways. The first is about the dangers of adultery. The second is how sin always takes you farther than you want to go.

But one thing is clear during every re-telling of this story: it is always about David and Bathsheba. There is usually something that is either missing or glossed over, Bathsheba’s husband had a name.

2 Samuel 11:3 – So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

If we believe the Bible to be inerrant and infallible, then there clearly needs to be a meaning behind why we learn about the name of Uriah the Hittite. In the New Testament, can you tell me who the church leaders were for most of the churches that Paul wrote letters to? Can you tell me the names of the 70 others who followed Jesus? The Bible is filled with many times where names aren’t significant so they aren’t mentioned. But in this case, the person who is sinned against is named.

It is Uriah the Hittite.

So what do we know about him?

First, he was a Hittite. That means he was a gentile convert to Judaism. Many scholars believe that Uriah was one of the original Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem and of Hittite origin. Depending on the etymology of the word, if it came from the Hurian name Ariya then it would mean king or ruler. If it is related to the name Araunah then it would show he is a successor in leadership in the Jebusite society, possibly even the successor to the king.

Many translate the name to mean “Light of Jehovah” or “God is my light.”

Under David’s reign, Uriah was one of 30 commanders of the army in how it was divided. Many of David’s officers were foreigners, so having Uriah, a Hittite and foreigner, was not unusual. He was married to Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam. This is perhaps the same Eliam related to Ahithophel. Based on Nathan’s story in 2 Samuel 12, Uriah loved Bathsheba and was devoted to her. He was recalled from the war with Ammon around 1035 BC. David recalled him so that he would hopefully have sex with his wife and hide the pregnancy. What David didn’t expect was Uriah’s strong sense of duty. He refused to go home when his brothers in the war were sleeping alone on the ground so he did the same in Jerusalem. David sends him back into the battle and tells his supreme commander to send him on a suicide mission in which Uriah perished.

The touching part of this story is that Uriah died never knowing his wife slept with David.

The reason I bring up this story, and the reason I believe we actually learn of Uriah’s name, is because it sets up a typical Hebrew parable that teaches through repetition of contrast.  On three separate occasions we learn that Uriah is different from David.

2 Samuel 11:6 – Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.

In the first scenario, when David recalls Uriah from the war to sleep with his wife. Uriah refused. He said he could not stand to be in comfort and in the arms of his wife while his fellow soldiers were in harm’s way on the battlefield. Yet, during this war, this is where we find David. We see him in comfort and in the arms of women. This places more integrity on Uriah than on David in this circumstance. But it must only be a short lapse in judgment on David’s part, right? Surely he will make everything right.

Nope.

In the second scenario, David gets Uriah drunk in hopes that he will stumble home and have sex with his wife in the comfort of his bed. But he didn’t. He went back to sleep on the ground. Even while drunk it is shown that Uriah’s principles are stronger than David’s. Unfortunately, we find that Uriah’s principles are just the thing that is going to get him killed.

2 Samuel 11:15 – And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.”

Finally, David hatches a plot to kill Uriah. Not only Uriah, but others will also die. David hands a message for Joab, his commander, that says to send Uriah on the suicide mission. Uriah goes back into battle, not caring for his own safety but for the safety of the king. David send Uriah to die so that David didn’t have to come clean.

The contrasts in those scenarios remind me of Peter denying Jesus.

David’s response to Joab is classic humanity. Basically, David tells Joab, “Don’t be upset, that’s the way life works.”

It is amazing how we can look around and get so cynical and say, “It’s no big deal, that’s just life.”

But how often do we not see the effects of choices we, or others, make? The injustice that David thrust upon Uriah and his family is clear. And David simply says, “That’s life.”

That’s not life. David orchestrated multiple sins to make life happen in this way.

Sadly, we see a theme that those who live a righteous life often realize, these things do happen, but mostly to the righteous.

But there is even more to this story.

Uriah is a Hittite. David is Jewish.

Could this be an even deeper example of God using the lost to witness to the saved?

Could this be a Jesus example in this story?

During the entire story of Uriah, he never once mentions God. Also, since he maintained his identity as a Hittite means that while he might fight in Israel’s army and adopted an Israelite name, he doesn’t necessarily follow Israel’s God.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not the found. Those lost would be used in the future to lead people to the risen Christ.

Could this be an example of that?

This story could be used to show a person who doesn’t believe to show those who believe how they should be glorifying their God.

Many times in my life God has used those outside of the community of faith to show me what He needs me to see. But all too often, Christians close their eyes to anything that is outside Christendom.

While we need to be wary of what happens in the world, realize that God can, and will, use whatever He wants to get our attention.

2 Samuel 11:27 – And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

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