Tag Archives: Deep Restoration

The Numbers Don’t Lie – Manhood Crisis

It should be no mystery to any of us that there are many in this world that have lost their way and are checked out of what’s going in their families. There are many men that have simply abandoned their families.  Think of the sheer number of households with single mom’s is staggering.  According to statistics in 2017, nearly 10 million households in US are single-mother homes.  Now lets couple that with the number of homes that have both mom and dad in the home, but all too often, dad is checked-out in one way or another.

What do we attribute this problem to?  Simply, we have a manhood crisis.  Men don’t know how to be men.  We have become so disoriented in so many ways because of agreements and lies have believed over the course of our lives.  Even largely within the church, men are present but by and large are not engaged in what is going on.  Maybe they serve in different capacities, but what are they doing to continue their growth with God and what are they doing to reach the lost and build up disciples?  For most, this is not a part of the picture.

51s-i80mvslI read a staggering statistic recently while studying The Heart of a Warrior by Michael Thompson.  Maybe this doesn’t surprise you, but it should get your attention.  Thompson shares that the typical US church is 61% male and 39% female.  On any given Sunday, 13 million more women than men attend church.  8% of churches have a men’s ministry.  In those that do, less than 10% of the men attend the men’s ministry.  I will add to this by suggesting that of that 10%, on average, less than 10% of those men are actually engaged in any real capacity.  This is from my own experience. What does this tell you?  Simply put, we have missed the mark big time when it comes to being men, and within the church, training up real men of are sold out followers of Christ, who step up to truly lead their home, has been missed big time.

I started writing something around Father’s Day regarding a fatherhood crisis.  But I never posted it.  What I feel like God has revealed to me since then, is that we have actually missed the hearts of most men.  Most men are lost in their own small stories, disoriented and posing their way through life.  They hide in their careers, put on the image of the good guy, or maybe they are checked out hiding in addictions or seeking out things that allow them to make life work on their own terms.  There’s so much that could be said here.  It’s amazing what passes for masculinity now.  Often times it’s a bad caricature of what the real thing should be.

41ebvat8gvl-_sy344_bo1204203200_So what do we do? As I’ve began counseling over the last couple of years, the Lord began to lay it on my hear to begin going after the hearts of men.  In early 2017, we hosted our first men’s weekend called The Anvil.  While a small encounter, it became apparent the need to continue going after men, not just in our local community, but beyond.  It’s a weekend that is modeled from the teachings of John Eldredge and largely from his book, Wild at Heart.  Next week, we hold our 4th weekend and the more we hold these, the more apparent God makes it, that we need to continue.

The whole point of holding these weekends is to give men a chance to step back from their world for a small period of time, just far enough to give them the chance to begin doing some introspective into their own lives.  It gives them a chance to pause and to reorient, and prayerfully gain enough insight from the Father of where they still need growth.  Every man needs more growth.

Our mission is not to compete with the church in any way, but to build of their men so they are equipped to go back and build up others in their community.  It’s all training.  Michael Thompson shared something else that is very convicting. He wrote that…

“Until the healing and training of men becomes the central mission of the church and not just one of many ministries it offers, men aren’t going to find what they need within its walls. Programs and service often land on a man like chores: he’s glad to do them (and needs to do them), but he won’t get Life from them. When sin plays on a man’s heart with guilt and shame, he will serve in the church out of a sense of obligation rather than freedom.”

There’s a reason that ministries like Ransomed Heart, Zoweh, The Noble Heart, and others exist.  Sad to say that the church, by and large has missed the mark, resulting in men that are present, but not present.  Men that are disoriented and lost.  We started launching Anvil, because it’s going to take more and more of us.  This isn’t about any one person, but about men learning to rise us and understand and recognize their real identity as sons of the Father and as men bearing God’s image.

So something is desperately needed.  There is a desperate need for men every where to realize who they truly are, get passed themselves, and learn lead as men should.  It begins with us men.  IT BEGINS WITH US.  We have to choose to risk changing.  We have to choose to stand up.

I don’t just pay lip service to this.  I have lived this out.  If you have followed this site over the passed few years, you will know that a significant transformation took place.  I used to be a man that stuck in my small story.  I hid in my work and behind my family.  I didn’t let people into my life.  When God transformed me, everything changed and it wasn’t just with me.  The change carried to my wife and continues to carry into our children as they are come alive in bigger ways. The impact God has allowed to happen simply because I was willing to trust Him and give Him my “Yes,” has been staggering.  It’s possible and it works.  I’ve seen it in other men as well, since then.

We have a choice to make, men.  Stay disoriented and in our small stories trying to figure out life on our own terms or give God your “Yes” and allow the real work to begin.  The choice is yours.  The road to life is difficult and narrow and only a few find and follow it, as Jesus said.  Will you choose follow it?

Joy as a Dad

I have been a dad for 20 years now.  Over half my life.  I became a dad when I was 19 years old, when Amber and I welcomed our first born, Shawn, into the world.  We were on the early parenthood plan.  By the grace of God, we’ve made it over 20 years as parents and nearly 21 as husband and wife now with 3 children.  I had someone ask me recently about want to take parenting classes.  It was serious, but I couldn’t help but laugh a little.  Not at them, but at the idea.  I’m sure there are good classes out there, but bottom line is, you learn this thing as a you go.

So these last many days and weeks, I’ve been reflecting a lot on our years as parents and on the role I’ve played as dad, or as my daughter calls me, padre.  There’s been a lot of cool and fun things that have happened over the years.  Watching these kids grow up has had me filled with so much joy.  Have there been struggles, ummmm, yeah there have, but we’ve made it through all of them.

Now some of the coolest things are really starting to come out.  Maybe it has a lot to do with them growing older and really beginning to find their own identities, but I can honestly say that I could not have fully imagined what they would have been like once they began to really allow God to work in them and through them.

Okay, by way of background, if you don’t know us personally, we have been a very closed off and introverted family.  Amber and I marrying so young and starting a family, drifted into a life of solitude.  It was us against the world, proving we could make it starting so young.  So that led to habits of being reserved and quiet when outside of our element, our home.  This was a lot of how I operated in the work place as well, even having a colleague years back tell me that I was difficult to read because of how quiet and reserved I was.  I lived as a lone ranger and I was raising a family of lone rangers, so to speak.  Of course, the kids picked up our habits along the way.  Our sons seemed to a great deal more.

After coming to faith in Christ 3 years ago, I knew something had to change.  Amber followed over the next year as did the the kids.  I began to make new connections and grow from being apathetic, to becoming curious, to finally confessing Christ in January 2015, to becoming a disciple and apprentice of Jesus, and now to equipping others.  Amber has since followed that and seeing this beautiful woman freed up as well and seeing her come alive has been so wonderful.

With that, one of our biggest prayers and concerns was now, what about our kids?  We continued to pray for them to open up and and urging them to do so.  It was not a habit easily broken.  I’ll admit, we got fairly frustrated at times.  We wondered at times, will they ever get out of their shells.  In looking back though, I realize, we were in ours for way longer.

I don’t know what that actual pivotal moment was, or even it was just a series of circumstances, but something has clicked this year.  To seem them building real, Christ centered relationships, to see them doing life, to see them getting involved in ministry and even a desire for some missions opportunities, has been phenomenal.  All 3 of our kids, in their own unique way, are starting to get freed up and see some real God style things happening in their lives.  It fills me with so much joy as it does Amber.

I have learned previously that one of the most beautiful things that God does is take time.  Nothing is instant. I just was not patient enough for that to be the case for my own kids.  So now, and I see God, with a smile on his face, saying, “You want to see something? Watch this,” and then suddenly a fire is lit under each of them in way I never fully expected.  I think if Bruce Almighty when he says, “Now you’re just showing off.”

I share this to tell all of you and I know many who worry about their own kids futures.  Yes, our kids have to step into life and figure things out through trial and error just as we all did.  But know that God is not holding out on you.  Be faithful in prayer over them and in encouragement that God can take a hold of their heart.  The outcome is not up to us and we have no control over that.  Trust in the God that made them each uniquely and wonderfully and had each of them in mind since before the foundations of the earth.  It’s never too late.

Letting God Forge the Way – The Anvil

I have been very quiet on this site this year as this will be my first post since the new year.  This year started off with a bang as I began my counseling internship in the final phase of my Masters program with Liberty University.  It has been a huge experience so far.  Needless to say, I’ve been a little busy with that.

AnvilThe big thing that has been going on however, is about take place tomorrow.  What began as a conversation over breakfast many months ago has led to the development and now launch of our first Wild at Heart modeled Boot Camp, called The Anvil Men’s Boot Camp.  God put it on my heart well over a year ago, that it was my turn to begin seeking and rescuing the hearts of men.  As time has gone by and as I began to counsel with people, I realized that so many of the problems within families stem from the father in some way, whether he is abusive, completely absent, or present but not present. This pattern is destroying marriages left and right and wounding children by the score.

The need was there, but what would I do about it.  In counseling, many of my clients are women, so getting men to come sit down one-on-one is going to be a challenge.  I realized how huge it was for me to step out of my element and go the Wild at Heart Boot Camp in Colorado a couple of years ago.  We were encouraged to take this message back home.  In the last year, I got to know a few other men who had a similar desire.  2 sages and a peer.

The conversations began.  My peer, friend, and brother, Matt and I started small with a men’s small group where we began to lead men through the Wild at Heart message.  It became evident that something bigger was needed.  I met a man named Butch just by happenstance, and we decided to have breakfast and the conversation began. He is a sage who has a huge passion for men’s ministry as well.  The idea was born.

I pulled in another brother and sage, Steve, who also attended Wild at Heart and is immersed in their ministry as well.  Conversations began to happen and we decided that it was something we had to do, sooner, rather than later.  Only way to learn how was to dive in and give it try.

So that’s where we stood. We knew what we wanted to do, we found the site, and now we needed the men.  Conversations with my friend and pastor, Tim, brought me to begin leading some of our men’s Wednesday night Bible studies.  Again, all of this is out of my element, but I jumped in.

I have to admit, we were skeptics at first.  We knew we would start small and opened it to just 12 attendees. There was skepticism as to whether we would get 6 or 8.  A few weeks later, I’m calling Butch and saying telling him we need a 2nd cabin.  Now with a day to go, we have a 19 men heading to Upstate South Carolina for 4 days with God.  Unreal the response we’ve had and we have more waiting in the wings for next time.

So these last few months in 2017 have been all about planning this event out.  Writing content and coordinating everything.  To see it all come together has been so huge.  I can tell God has been at work in this and we’ve made it a point to surrender it all over to Him and not let this become about any of one us.  We know that if a group a men get together like this, God is certain to show up and He already is.

I knew there would be opposition, but the Enemy has been relentless in his attacks, which tell us even more that we are moving in the right direction.  My family has been attacked relentlessly in the recent weeks.  Stating with physical problems from a baseball to my face, a concussion one week and then a diabetic seizure for one my sons, a large allergic reaction for my daughter, and a stomach bug that hit my oldest son.  All of this has put a huge strain on my bride’s heart and mine as well.  We spent a lot of time holding each other and just letting the tears flow.  We knew what it was though.  Satan was trying to use all of this take us out…to stop this weekend from happening.

We have flipped it on him and surrendered it all to God.  The suffering is hard, but nothing in comparison to Christ and we know this.  We just turned to prayer and have had an army of prayer around us, which has pulled us through all of that in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago.

southeastern-expeditionsSo now we’re ready.  All the content is written.  Final details are being nailed down and tomorrow we head to the mountains.  We’ll have some great times of learning and fellowship and times of one-on-one with God, and some adventure on the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, yes where they filmed Deliverance.  Hopefully no banjos on the shoreline.  Just kidding.

We’re just so pumped about this.  About the men willing to take the risk to head into the wilderness and we sit in eager anticipation and expectation of God’s goodness.  I know He is up to something big here and can’t wait to see what happens in the lives of these men, who range from 20 to their 60s, and then how their families, our church family, and community is impacted.  It’s all about God and He gets all of the glory here.

As Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Nothing Is Ever Lost

I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” These are the final words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, as translated by Peterson in The Message.  I find myself echoing those words in my head this week and really pondering the Truth around that.  He is always with us, day after day after day.  If we truly live in that and truly understand Truth in that in our hearts, how can we ever feel lost and uncertain?  He is always with us and always present.

When I went to the Become Good Soil Intensive back in May, a knife was bestowed to me and the other men from our mentors.  This became a very special item to receive and a constant reminder of the journey and experience and the journey for the coming decade toward becoming good soil.  This was a good tool for one and something that I kept on me day after day, carving wood, sharpening it, and so forth. It was very special to me as it was to the other men of the Intensive.

Well, barely a month later, I was at the beach with my wife and kids for our annual vacation.  During the course of that week, what happens?  I lose the knife.  While out one evening, it fell from my pocket.  We searched all over, called the location we were at to see if anyone turned it in.  Nothing.  It was gone and I was crushed.  I was actually, more or less, pissed at myself for being able to lose it so easily.

So life, moves on.  We go back home and continue on, although I thought about the knife a good bit.  I know, I know, it’s just a knife, right? Only thing was, there was no replacing it. I could not order another just like it.  So back to business.  I make use of my Gerber knife and keep that on me, as before, but it never felt the same.  Besides, my wife and kids, only one other person knew about it being lost or even what it meant to me.

So, fast-forward to this week.  It’s the middle of the week.  I’m stressed with work and finances as we get closer to Christmas and meeting the requirements for counseling hours for my Masters program.  I was pissed and frustrated and even feeling lost with it all. I break from my work and go to the mailbox and find a package in there.  Inside there is the exact same kind of knife, which I thought was cool, then I turn the box over and see a sticker on the box that says “With God, nothing is truly ever lost.” You can see a picture of it at the top of of this post with the knife.

At this point, I am just floored. My knees nearly gave out under me and tears tried to come through.  If that wasn’t a God thing, I don’t know what is.  It was like God just told me in that very moment.  “Slow down my son.  Quit with the worry and stress.  Cast it all on me.

I went through this exercise of defining moments of my life before Thanksgiving and shared them all with my family Thanksgiving night.  Through it all, I was reminded of God’s constant presence through all of my my life, through the good and the bad.  He’s always been there.

How easy it is to forget this though.  Get back to life and the various things in our world begin to force us to lose sight of the fact that, yes, God is always there, how can we be lost if we truly have faith in that.  That’s when Jesus’ words a the end of Matthew right through, “I will be with you….right up to the end of the age.”  He has never abandoned us.  It’s not in some far off place.  He is right here with us.

God never ceases to disappoint me.  I think of Bruce Nolan from the movie “Bruce Almighty.”  At the end of the movie, Bruce is in the hospital, finds the beads that he had when his whole adventure with God began as he was crying out at the beginning of movie when his whole world was crumbling.  He looks up toward God and says, “Now you’re just showing off.”  That’s almost what it felt like.  This is why one of the things I pray everyday is break any and all limits I have placed on God.

With God, nothing is truly ever lost

Been Pissed at God?

This is a subject that has dwelled in my heart for the last couple of months.  I wanted to write about it, but was not fully sure how to really do so.  When I was at the Become Good Soil Intensive in May, one of the things that came about through my mentors was in my own brokenness was whether I was willing to forgive God, knowing that God didn’t need forgiving.  It through me for a loop at first, but in prayer I did just that, to be forgiven and to forgive.  I pondered it for a while and then at the end of June, the subject came up again and this time with a little more fire.

I was on campus for a group counseling class and in the midst of sessions, the idea of being pissed at God.  I stepped in and mentioned my dad’s death nearly seven years ago, and although I never said it out loud at the time, I was exactly that.  I didn’t know how to process it all.  At the same time, everything from my religious marinade in me said this was not something you shared.  You can’t be pissed at God, or at least can’t say it.

angerBut when this was shared, it almost felt like a weight lifted off of the class and group as one-by-one, more people were willing to share their own emotion in this regarding their brokenness and that they too, were also pissed at God at their time.  I shared this last night in our men’s ministry study.  People realized that it’s okay, even though we were at this big Christian university share that emotion.  God is a big enough God to handle our raw emotion.  Last night, we were talking about a young-man at our church whose dad died in his arms when he was 12, and in sharing his story with the whole church Sunday, he let it be known that he was pissed at God too.

This emotion is okay.  It goes to our brokenness and flesh nature that when bad things happen in our lives that are out of our control, we are quick to blame someone in our anger and all too often, it gets directed at God.  For the two years after my Dad’s death, I did just that.  I was 31 when he died and I spent the next two years lost and angry and boy did I hide it well, even posing that faith and prayer was getting me through it all.  Total B/S.

God did something though, that I never expected.  He loved me through all of it.  I was not searching for answers from Him, but He continued to pursue me.  2 years after his death, God thwarted me again.  In my own desire to figure out direction my life, I stumbled across an app on my phone that many of us use.  The Bible app from YouVersion.  He had also led me to meet my now friend and pastor, Tim which led us to visit where he was pastoring, and is now our home.  I opened up the Word and begin to read.  Starting with daily devotionals and then I began to just read from Genesis to Revelation, day-after-day.  It was a start.istock_000005343680xsmall-425x270

I was reminded that things like what happened to my dad, or this kid’s dad, or any other tragedy or wound, reminds us that we are not in control.  We don’t like to admit things are out of our control, but it’s a fact.  Everything that occurs in this life is caused or allowed by God.  He knows every little thing that happens and cares about everything that happens to us.  I was led to Matthew 10:29-31, and this is Peterson’s translation in The Message. “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even number the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.

We can be angry with God, and yet at some point, we have to accept the fact that there many things out of our control.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face.  All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.

I love that.  God will never let you down.  He’ll be there to love us and pull us through our times of pain, even when we are pissed at Him.  We have to be willing to turn His way and allow Him to Father us through our pain and grow us up a bit too.  We’re going to have pain, we’re going to experience trauma in life and sometimes, although misdirected, will direct our emotion and blame at God.  God will love you through it.  You’re worth more to Him than a million canaries.  He knows and cares about every aspect of our lives.

We have to choose to surrender to His sovereignty. To acknowledge that He is in control and trust what He doing in your life.  I sat in a class room with 40 something other future counselors and God is using each of us through our story and restoration.  I was in the mountains of Colorado with 47 other world-changing men, all of whom had trauma and brokenness of all kinds and yet, God was present with each of us and is using us.  This young-man at church has been on a broken and restorative journey since his dad died and yet God is using Him as well.cry-out-to-god

God will use us in our brokenness, pain, and anger.  It takes time to be restored, but when we reach that full surrender, you see it all, even the brokenness and trauma through a whole new lens.  It is trans-formative.  Romans 12 says, “You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it.  Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of maturity. God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (MSG)”

He will love you through your anger and will mature you out of it.  If you’ve been pissed at God before or even now, it’s okay to be, but how you respond from there and letting Him begin a work in you will make the difference in where things go from here.

I Have Been Called Worthy

I’ve been pondering something that has been on my mind a great deal since coming home from Colorado a month ago.  Since then I have committed myself to a decade of excavation to begin getting at the core of my soul and to truly begin walking with God day in and day out.  The whole experience with my story group was probably the richest part of all I experienced, getting to glean life from men who had walked the path before me.  A truly holy time in the presence of the Father.  The things I felt and that the Lord showed me was so amazing and it set the stage for the coming decade and beyond.

What I have been pondering is has to do with something that God spoke through one of my mentors.  He said that I am worthy.  This is something I really had to learn to truly embrace.  My relationship with God has grown immensely the last couple of years, but the idea of being called worthy, for some reason was very difficult to receive and own.  I think this came from years of hearing that we were not worthy and only Jesus was.  I’ve heard years of religious speak that had been trying to pound home that I was simply a filthy sinner, unworthy of the Father.

I then think of the prodigal son.  I wrote a post last year, (Prodigal Son – A Reflection) reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son and how the Father met me on that mountain top in Colorado in January 2015, embracing me, calling me son.  My life was transformed that weekend, but still was I worthy.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:1 to live a life worthy of our calling, but still the religious guilt and teachings were ringing that my heart is forever bad and I could not be worthy of the Father.

HisFavorite-01In his latest podcast, Morgan Snyder from Become Good Soil and Ransomed Heart shared this:

Scripture says that soon in fact (1 Peter 1) the day is coming when the wine will flow once again (Isaiah 25:6), and thrilling stories will be shared at the great wedding feast of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9); and your Father will run toward you at your arrival on that day, full of strength and tears to celebrate you (Luke 15: 20-32).  He’ll say, “Welcome home, son. Welcome home.  We’ve been waiting for you. You are my favorite, and you make my heart so very happy.”

You are my favorite.  Those words really helped to bring it all home.  It is a great reminder that the Father has always been seeking us and our restoration.  We have to be able to receive what He has always believed about us and why He has wanted from the very beginning to bring us back to Him.  We are His favorite, we have been called worthy.  Because of the finished works of Jesus Christ, through is crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand, we have been been given the way to return to the Father and to who He created us to be from the beginning and called us in the beginning as the final piece of creation, Very Good (Genesis 1:31).

There’s a reason He has always pursued us.  There’s a reason, He took on a robe of flesh to rescue us through the shed blood of Christ.  There’s reason, Jesus was raised to a new life, conquering death, hell, and the grave.  There’s a reason Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father.  There’s a reason, as Paul says, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.  There’s a reason we have been called sons and daughters of the Father.  We are worthy and we are His favorite.

I am working at letting this sink in every day.  To remember each morning that I have been pursued, you have been pursued, by a Father that has loved us from the very beginning, knows every intricate detail of our being, because He created us.  He desires deeper intimacy with each of us for this very reason.  I am so thankful for this.

This isn’t self-serving writing.  This is writing what the Father revealed to me and is only possible and receivable because of the Father’s unfailing love, the finished works of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Without any of this, I am nothing.  I am not worthy and continue to be sucked into a soul killing world and open myself up to be devoured by the enemy.  2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”  We are made new and we are made worthy in Christ, who was first worthy.

The Father’s Restoration

In about 4 weeks, I’ll be loading up my truck and making my way across the country back to the mountains of Colorado.  This week, I received final details for that week including things to do as a prepared, including finding more time to just speak to the Father asking Him to open my heart to all that He has ready for me on this trip.  I realized something.  I’ve been on fast forward since last January, after my first trip out there.  The Father grabbed a hold of me transforming every part of my life.  It was real restoration.  I think at this point however, I’ve almost become overwhelmed.

Just as I wrote the other day, walking in real relationship with God requires more of us than we expect.  Since last year, my life has been moving fast.  We’ve experienced more radical transformation in so many areas of our lives, in my home, than we expected.  It’s been something amazing to experience.  I do realize however, that if we are not careful, it can be very easy to be taken out again.  It can be easy to fall back into ways of the false-self.  It can be easy to put back on the fig-leaf.  It can be easy to let the exhaustion of the pace leave you spent and vulnerable to the enemy who is seeking to steal, kill, and destroy.

tumblr_mx7ilvaljr1rii36xo1_500Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it determines the course of your life.”  This is so crucial for all of us no matter where we walk with the Father.  No matter where we stand.  If we are not careful, our hearts can easily be taken out again.  We are constantly battling with our sin nature and the enemy wants to use that against us.  If we are not guarding our hearts, we can be taken out again and again.  So the key, I found, is to pray the Father’s restoration through Christ, every day.

I know this seems simple.  I realized though, this week, as I was beginning my preparation activities, that I allowed a little more distance to build again.  I was trying to do so much, so quickly, that I found it easy to put off walking with God.  I’d have thoughts like “Oh, I have to get work going early, so I’ll do that later” or “I slept later, so I have less time to converse with Him, read the Word, and journal…maybe tomorrow.”  This does not make me any less of a believer, but I realized that I need to make restoration and renewal an intentional thing…everyday!

Restoration is crucial for.  I realized that I need this time unplugged more than I thought I would.  It’s like the Father orchestrating another rescue of the heart.  Allowing me an opportunity to step back from the front lines and bandage my wounds and hit the reset button once more.  I’ve wrote time and again about unplugging from the matrix that this life is.  Do an honest assessment and ask yourself how often do you truly unplug?  It’s crucial.

We need restoration of the heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit every single day.  We also need times where we take days to get away from everything.  Whether we retreat to wilderness, the mountains, or the beach.  You don’t have to go to retreats to unplug.  You can get away on your own.  I realize I need this time each year.  It’s more than just going on a family vacation, which can also be full of distractions.  Find time to yourself to just be with the Father.

be-stillA friend of mine one told me he was counseled to do just that.  He had become cynical in his faith and was told to make preparations and go away into the wilderness.  Don’t even take his Bible.  Just a journal to record what the Father reveals.  He came back fully alive again, just as I did.  This life can run you down, so you need His restoration.  He wants to rescue you from this world.  Just a Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Be still.  Why is this so hard for us to do?  The Father is seeking to restore each of us.  He is seeking to walk with us and guide us.  He wants to speak to us and through us.  We have to be able to shut out the rest of the world, and allow that.  Why do you think Jesus always retreated to wilderness to be alone and to pray?  He had to allow himself to be restored and stay in connection with the Father.  This world can take anyone out.  Jesus faced just as much, if not more, temptation from the world and enemy as the rest of us.  He needed the time to stay connected to the Father and stay focus on His mission and purpose.  We need time to get away and stay connected to the Father to allow Him to Father us, restore us, and keep us focused on our mission and purpose.


Living Out Your Story

I’m very excited about seeing a film that comes out for one time showing on May 19th.  This a film called “A Story Worth Living” which follows a motorcycle adventure through the back country of Colorado with John Eldredge and his three sons, Luke, Sam, and Blaine, counselor and author, Dr. Dan Allender, and producer Jon Dale.  These six men gathered together gear and motorcycles to set off on an adventure last summer that they had dreamed about, but had never done before.  I remember seeing their posts about it and the emails looking for sponsors and equipment for the trip.  I was definitely excited to learn about and it’s pretty cool that they are putting it out on film.  You can learn more about it at astoryfilm.com.  The trailer is also at the end of this post.

The anticipation of this film has had me really thinking of my story.  In the trailer, John Eldredge opens by saying, “The human heart is made for an epic story…and when we give up looking for that story, we give up living.”  Those words alone were enough to make me think.  God has created each one of us to live out our own unique story in a way that glorifies Him.  The problem that so many of us face is that this life is so full of demands, so full of chaos that we give up on that story.  We give up seeking what really drives us, seeking what God created us for, give up living out the original assignment He implanted in each and every one of us.

For years, I didn’t think there was anything too special about my own story.  I married young…okay. We had 3 children by the time we were 23…fine.  Otherwise, I was just a working husband and father trying my best to prove doubters wrong and make it by providing for my family and building a successful career, no matter where the career went.  I lived a life of routine and never bothered to really push the envelope any, looking for some new adventure.  I was content and didn’t know any better.  Little did I know, that I was also slowly dying inside.  Love my wife and children always, but I never knew what it meant to truly live out of the story that God placed me it and seek Him through real living.  I had not relationship with God whatsoever. He, however, shook me though and shook me good.

the-sacred-romance“The human heart is made for an epic story…”  What do you think this epic story is?  For each one of us it is different.  God has placed a story in our own lives that all fit into His larger epic story.  That is the real story we live in.  In The Sacred Romance, John Eldredge and Brent Curtis wrote, “We call the final week of our Savior’s life his Passion Week. Look at the depth of his desire, the fire in his soul. Consumed with passion, he clears the temple of the charlatans who have turned his Father’s house into a swap meet (Matt. 21:12).”  Jesus lived from desire.  Desire to seek out and do the Father’s will for his life.  That’s the desire placed in each of us and it takes us on different paths and in different directions.
41jzj2b0yi0l-_sx331_bo1204203200_As Eldredge said, however, “When we give up looking for that story, we give up living.” In his book Desire, Eldredge also writes, “There is a secret set within each of our hearts.  It is the desire for life as it was meant to be.”  For many people, the concept of desire seems dangerous and selfish.  They associate it with many of the false desires that are placed in our heart through our false self and our sin nature.  That’s not the desire and story I am talking about.

Living from real God driven desire and living out the story He placed in us is dangerous.  It’s rebellious and goes against everything that this world says you should do.  It does not follow the script of the latest trends or what the big celebrities are doing.  Real desire and living out our real story involves walking in dangerous and close proximity to Jesus.  It means a life of adventure and real living that spends each day seeking to be restored in Christ and seeking to walk closer with Him.

Living out my story and seeking the real desires that God placed on my heart, caused a complete shift in my entire life.  It took me on a wild and radical trip out west where I truly met the Father and was never the same.  It’s putting me back into the college system to seek out true God style teaching so that I am now equipped to counsel and minister to people in a way that brings out real God style transformation in them through Christ.  It is taking me on a new adventure to drive back west next month for another deep encounter with God.   It has truly become a story worth living that is now unscripted and follows where God leads me.

My life has truly become a story worth living.  It’s not without its pains as there are days when I feel like just shutting down and feel overwhelmed.  But unlike before, I know I am right where the Lord has been leading me all along, I was just running away to Tarshish like Jonah trying to hide from God.  When I gave it all to Him though…completely surrendering every part of my life, I learned what real living was, finally.  It was only about Him from here on out.  That, my friends, is truly a story worth living, when you live with a desire to seek Him and and walk with Him every day.  That’s where the abundant life is to be found; in real relationship with the Lord.

“The glory of God is a man fully alive, and the life of a man consists in beholding God” – Chuck Swindoll

Why Do We Pose?

Let’s face it, we live in a society and world full of posers.  There is not a single one of us, man or woman that is beyond this.  No matter how subtle it may be, we all pose or have posed in some way in our lives, and I don’t care who you are, you will likely do it again at some point in the future.  None of us are beyond it.  The poser has its roots in mankind from the very beginning as we all know.  Following the Fall in Genesis 3, what did Adam and Eve do?  They hid.  They hid themselves from God.  It has plagued us from the very beginning.

The question from it all is why do we continue to do this?  What is our motivation to hide and pose?  Why is it so hard to just live authentically and no matter what, let our junk hang out there for people to see.  John Eldredge wrote in Wild at Heart, that the deepest fear of of every man is “to be exposed, to be found out, to be discovered as an imposter, and not really a man.”  In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge write that “Every woman knows now that she is not what she was meant to be. And she fears that soon it will be known…

We have such a great fear of being found out that we hide behind so many things in life.  That the world will condemn us if we allow people see the issues we struggle with, the sins and addiction we are consumed with, and the wounds and weaknesses that we have come to accept and live with.  Then we fear that if we are found out that we will destroy the very fabric of everything we hold dear in our lives, including our families.

Authenticity-01cI have come to an inescapable conclusion though.  When we are in Christ centered relationships with our spouses, our families, and friends there is no need to hide.  Everyone who has grown to truly learn about living authentically and the authenticity that Jesus showed us all, knows that we have all jacked it up and posed in some way and will love you and walk with you through all of that.

I look at my wife Amber.  I was afraid of her finding me out for the poser I had grown to become and hated to see in the mirror everyday.  When it was all exposed and laid out though, she loved me through it all.  I realized, also that because of God’s radical love and undeserved redeeming grace, that He also loved me through my faults.  He knew where I was screwing up and continued to pursue me.  I remember drawing out this timeline of my life with all of the highs and lows while I was on campus at Liberty University.  The Holy Spirit revealed to me through that, the Lord’s unending pursuit and that fact that He has not given up on any of us.

We have to learn to live authentically.  To shed the fig leaf and let ourselves stand exposed and not fear the condemnation of what people in this life will say.  Know that we have all have and will screw up.  There’s no need to hide.  Deal with it directly.  Pray on it, confess it, and allow people around you to pray with you and for you and walk with you through it.  Amber and I are so blessed to have the church family that we do.  People that we have grown to love dearly and know that if and when we struggle, there are people there that will walk with us through it, just as Amber and I stand by each other no matter what we face.

Brené Brown shared that “Authenticity is the true measure of courage.”  How true this is. Look at the way Jesus walked and lived.  He lived authentically and was not afraid to be exposed.  He did not hide and instead confronted evil directly.  How important it is for each us to learn that we too can live that way.  We won’t do it perfectly, but damn it if we can’t try are best each day.  It takes effort and it takes courage to not hide behind the fig leaf any longer and rather walk in freedom of authenticity .  We are each free to live this way, but we have to choose do so.  It starts with allowing Christ to come into the brokenness and hidden places of our hearts that have we have kept away from others.  I’ve seen and experienced myself what it means to finally shed the poser, the false self, and just let Christ in.  Allow Him to come into those places, expose them, as much as it hurts, and then the freedom that comes with that healing and restoration.

TheFather-011We are not all the way there way.  It will be a life time of prayer and daily restoration and sanctification for each of us.  We have not yet become who we were meant to be, but we can continue strive for and pursue that with each passing day.  It starts with the moment of real conviction by the Holy Spirit and confession, and then the process of healing and restoration can begin.  You no longer have to live in fear of being exposed.  Who cares what someone else may think of how you live or who you are.  Your identity is not found in that, but only in who you are, restored in Christ and as God’s image bearer.  The Father is pursuing you and wants to show you who really are and who you were meant to be.  Open your heart.  All Him to come in and expose the hidden places of the heart and the freedom you will find is greater than anything else you’d ever experience in life.  Trust me.

Here they are, Lord Jesus, my hidden sins. I bring them out of the secret chamber of my heart. I take them out of the darkness and expose them to Your light. Lord, You have promised You will execute Your word upon the earth, thoroughly and quickly. Oh God, thoroughly cleanse my heart; purify me quickly!” – Francis Frangipane

Freedom We Didn’t Deserve

I think heavily this week, as we draw closer to Easter on the overall power and meaning that this week brings.  Christmas is a wonderful day and I love to celebrate the birth of Christ and the season, but that day is meaningless without Good Friday and definitely without Easter.  I look at this weekend with so much joy with what we have been given, because of this man, Jesus.  The utter pain and torture he experienced is unimaginable.  He willingly went forward to follow the Father’s will.  He knew the purpose that was laid out before Him and went through all of this…FOR US!empty-tomb

Galatians 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.”  Because He willingly shed His blood and laid down His life and because He conquered death after a battle ensued in hell, Jesus bought our freedom.  He was the ransom paid to give us our undeserved freedom, but a freedom that was meant for us since before creation.  1 Timothy 2:6 tells us that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all”  That key word there is all.  This was not just for one segment of people.  This was for everyone on the face of the earth who hear the Good News and turn to follow Christ.  It is made available to everyone.

525724I ponder this freedom quite often.  I have a sticker on the back of my truck with Galatians 5:1 referenced.  It is a constant reminder that I see in my mirror as I’m driving.  What does this freedom really mean to us?  God intended us to be live in freedom from the very beginning, but we still face a problem where many Christians still find themselves living in bondage and not experiencing the freedom to truly live as they were meant to live.  As John Eldredge shared in Free to Live: The Utter Relief of Holiness, “The way of holiness was never meant to be a labyrinth of complexity and eventual despair.”  

We have been set free from the bondage of sin and we no longer have to live under the old laws of religion that kept the Jews and still keeps many religions in complete bondage.  True freedom lies in the fact that we can be restored and seek to live in the righteousness and holiness we were created for…Ephesians 4:24, “Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”

As a human race, we have fallen so far from grace.  We have rebelled greatly over our existence against God.  Sin infiltrated us so deeply that we have become a vile creation.  Look at what we have today.  It’s on our tv, on social media, we see it on the news with people killed every day all over the globe.  We have fallen a long way.  Yet despite all of that.  Despite the distance we created between ourselves and the Father, He still pursues us.  How awesome is that?  We are pursued, even though we don’t deserve the grace He has offered us through Jesus.

Morgan Snyder of Become Good Soil and Ransomed Heart shares something great about Jesus:

“But Jesus is different. He is not ruled by the false self, not informed by habitual reactions and pre-programmed responses (like us), crafted with sophistication over decades to disengage from real relationship, in order to self-protect and avoid shame.

He is free. Free to move in  the service of love. He lives in union with His Father. Ever accessing the resources of Heaven that flow freely into Him. Ever aware of what His Father wants to bring through Him in His day as a man walking among us, and making a particular life available to us.”

Jesus is FREE.  Jesus lived the life that we were all mean to live.  In complete union with the Father.  He did not conform to the ways of this world nor to the jacked-up rules of religion.  This is the freedom we have now.  To be able to live out lives walking in union with the Father through Christ.  Not be ruled by our false self.  Not to be ruled by sin and to be conformed to this world and its twisted ways.  freedom-in-christ

I’m grateful for everyday I get to pursue this freedom and live in it.  It’s not always easy.  We spend day after day being tempted to go in one direction or another.  To pursue things of this world that will completely take us out and kill our soul.  We don’t have to live that way.  When you realize the freedom that you truly have in Christ and what that really means, it’s amazing.  As KB says in his song ‘Zone Out,’ “Once you’ve truly seen the Lord, you’re obsessed with what you’ve seen.”  It’s life changing to find that freedom, to know what it is to be sanctified daily seeking holiness and righteousness.  We didn’t deserve that freedom, yet it is offered, because of who we are, but because of who God is and what Christ did for us.  We are free to live and free to love God.